Thursday, August 30, 2007

Gatorade A.M. (discovery)

I discovered a new sports drink recently ("new" means I never tried it before as I have no idea how long it's been around) - "Gatorade A.M."

I am used to the fact that Gatorade (and I tried a lot of different kinds of Gatorade - their bluish Frost is what comes to mind in the first place) has a taste that is close to a laundry detergent or some pesticide - especially when it warms up while I am running :-)

But this one is completely different - you can actually even enjoy it - even when it is not ice-cold anymore. If you like Mango juice you will like this one as well...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Aliso/Wood Canyons run with James & Joe

I had a great time running in Aliso/Wood Canyons this Monday.
I ran with James (an OCTR member) and Joe (who is thinking about joining the club too).

James explained that he is more of a mountain biker and he did have a mountain bike in his trunk indeed. As James just got an archilles tendon injury (or something like that) he had to run more then mountain-bike lately.

As we started and ran the first mile together (at around 6:55 min/mile pace) I realized that there is no way on Earth I would be able to keep up with these guys and told them to go ahead. I barely managed to picture their backs as they were quickly disappearing on the trail ahead of me:
I will need to ask James next time about his injury and how I could get one like his as well to be able to run as fast as he did.

Well, at the pace of 9 min/mile or slower I definitely feel and embrace life and beauty of the hills around me much more than I do while running at 6:55 pace :-)
James and Joe again:
Most of the trail was beautiful, but some of it was totally breathtaking:
And although the trail might look pretty flat on the picture (James was complaining a lot about how boring for him the first 2-3 flat miles of the trail were), and although the day was not too hot, I was pretty soaked by the end of mile 4:
Another wow-section of the trail:
There were some pretty steep up-hills. But when you see people around you working much harder and suffering much more than you do (I am talking about mountain bikers here that manage to ride up on those hills somehow), you get less focused on your own hurdles:
The last uphill was most of the fun: it was so steep that they even did stairs on the trail to ease up climbing up for those mortals that cannot fly:

I did 9 miles overall that night at an average pace of around 10:50 min/mile.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cheating in Europe

Just read a very curious recap from Scott Jurek about the Mont-Blanc race. The most interesting thing in it is the part about cheating and shortcuts when in Europe:

"I know in mountain running they’ll take the shortest routes as they wish, but the translated race rules said to not cut switchbacks for the sake of the environment. And we were led to believe that the runners were to stay directly on the very well marked course as we would in the States. But what we might call cheating is completely acceptable...
Maybe there is an unwritten rule that the top runners don’t have to adhere to the rules as closely as the others, as evidenced also by the outside aid and pacing of some of the top runners. Cultural difference? ... When in France, do as the French?!"

Monday, August 27, 2007

It's over, Man :-)

Found this poster today by chance and it somehow resonated with me after Nikki Kimball beat most of the guys at Mont Blanc last weekend :-)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Eastern Ladera Hills

I had a chance to explore the hills that trim Ladera Ranch on the east. I was always wondering how you even get there but figured it thanks to Google Earth: you just go all the way to the very end of Crown Valley and turn right there to a small road that goes behind all the stores to the Ladera water tanks, and the trail starts right there.

The totally is totally picturesque, but pretty steep all the way without any flat sections. For some reason I thought our eastern hills are the rim of the world and there is nothing on the other side except wild hills with coyotes and mountain lions. But when I got there I spotted another town in a mile to the east from Ladera – Coto De Caza, I suppose. So those lands are not wild after all.

The fire road that goes up and down these hills has a lot of dry bushes and cactuses on both sides. And noises you hear in the shrubs here and there do not give you exactly a sense of piece, safety and tranquility. I guess I need to get used to those trails some more so that I would not picture a mountain lion under every bush :-)

Anyways the only animals I saw there were a couple of deer on the hill.

This is the endless fire road going into the hills:

The trail is parallel to Antonio and takes you pretty far from Ladera Ranch:

More often than not signs "Stay on the trail!" are not required. You can see that you are not welcome on the slopes yourself:

Ladera Ranch from the top of one of the hills:

Friday, August 24, 2007

Grass Painting

I have had a very unique first-time-in-my-life experience this morning: I saw people painting the grass lawn under our office windows.
Yup, the lawn turned a little bit yellowish and they are painting it green using a sort of a multi-tube spray on wheels.

I just found it ridiculously funny. I never heard about anyone doing something like that since I read Alice in Wonderland when cards had to repaint white roses into red :-)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Garmin Forerunner 50

Just noticed Garmin plans to spit out a new model of Forerunner around the 4th quarter of 2007. This new Garmin is smaller than other products in the Forerunner family and … has nothing to do with the GPS at all…

Yes, you got it right – as oxy-moron as it might sound – it is a non-GPS-enabled Garmin!
It has a foot pod, which is similar to the Nike+iPod sport kit.

On the other hand it is good news for city dwellers: my GPS-enabled Garmin never picked up the signal in Manhattan (not even in the Central Park let alone the streets), while this one should work just fine in there.

This new Garmin will be available in three packages:
Forerunner 50, Heart Rate Monitor - $106
Forerunner 50, Foot Pod - $160
Forerunner 50, Heart Rate & Foot Pod - $213

And here is the main piece of news about it:
Every package comes with a USB ANT stick, which is a wireless receiver that will automatically synch up your Forerunner 50 with your PC.

With Garmin’s innovative ANT wireless technology, your workouts are automatically transferred to your computer when your device is within range. No cables, no hookups. The data’s just there, ready for you to analyze, categorize and share through our online community, Garmin Connect, or our Garmin Training Center software.

All we need to wait for right now is the next version of a GPS-enabled Garmin Forerunner (200 are 300 series) featuring ANT wireless synchronization…

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gary Hilliard

On Sunday August 19, our Race Director (from the Mt. Disappointment race) Gary Hilliard, was involved in a motorcycle accident. He is currently recovering at County/USC Hospital in Los Angeles. While his injuries were very serious, doctors have expressed optimism for his recovery. For more details please check Gary's Blog.

This is very sad and disheartening. I really hope Gary will get well soon!

Monday, August 20, 2007

The North Face Arnuva 50 Boa (review)

OVERVIEW: Built for the athlete who runs trails, dirt paths, even road, and offering the cutting-edge Boa lacing system for a rapidly-adjustable, secure fit. These are the shoes that were developed by The North Face together with Dean Karnazes and the shoes Dean was wearing when he was doing his 50 consecutive marathons in 50 states last year.

PROS: Boa lacing system is really cool. You do not need to re-lace your shoes when they get untied. All you need to do is to turn a little bit a wheel on the back of your shoe to tighten them up. So you are not loosing any momentum stopping and re-lacing your shoes – nothing irritates me more than untied shoes on the run.
Another great thing about these shoes is their outsole with a very good system of claws, which provides you an excellent grip on downhill slopes.

CONS: Although these shoes have some “rear foot compression cage” and even “Ultra lightweight compression molded EVA midsole”, you do not get much cushioning at all. At least it feels much harder than Asics trail shoes with their gel cushioning.
Also the outsole is very flexible. On one hand it improves the grip. But on the other hand you feel every sharp rock you are stepping on almost as if you are running barefoot.
The tightening wheel tends to get stuck from time to time and it becomes pretty difficult to pull it off to take off your shoes after a run (not every single time though).

One more downside is the outer mesh that does not provide you enough protection off the trail. Once I had to run through a meadow and got a lot of hay stems that got in though the mesh. Those stems were pretty difficult to get rid of afterwards and were bugging me a lot for the rest of my run that day.


SUMMARY: Although I love Boa lacing, I would not recommend Arnuva 50 shoes for trail running. The North Face has two more models of shoes with Boa lacing – Endurus XCR Boa or Amp Boa – and these are made specifically for trail running, while Arnuva is positioned for endurance running. Still as those two other models are likely to have the same cushioning system issues as Arnuva, let’s hope that other trail shoes manufacturers will pick up the trend and will license the Boa technology as well.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Good Times: photos from Mt.Disappointment 50K

A billion-dollar view from Mt. Wilson:
This is what Mt. Wilson looked like when I arrived there at 5:25AM

Long line to men's restroom (at the same time there was no line at all to the lady's one):
The parking lot is filling up:
Waiting for the race to start. I am the one on the very right. You can see my race cheat-sheet on my left arm:
Gary's most famous "Listen UP people!":
Gabor Kozinc and Gary's "last word" before the race:This is how it all started:Barefoot Ted McDonald (I could only say "Wow!" when I first met him at Clear Creek):Barefoot Ted's famous feet:
I never enjoy a race more than during long descends:
Eric is leading the pack:
This is Eric again and he's really enjoying the trail:
This is me. Despite low resolution you can clearly read "are we there yet?" in my eyes:
Steph is enjoying it more than I do:Genuine poison oak from our trail's whereabouts:

These photos were illegitimately stolen from Andy Kumeda’s and Badwaterbenjones' online photo albums... I am so taking my camera next time :-)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Beware: Poison Oak

I saw quite a bit of poison oak on Mt. Disappointment trails. Here are some hints for those who are not sure how to recognize it.

The leaves are divided into 3 leaflets, 3½ to 10 centimeters long, with scalloped, toothed, or lobed edges- generally resembling the leaves of a true oak, though the Western Poison-oak leaves will tend to be more glossy. Leaves are generally bright green in the spring (or bronze when first unfolding), yellow-green to reddish in the summer, and bright red or pink in the fall. White flowers form in the spring and, if fertilized, develop into greenish- white or tan berries.

Its leaves normally consist of three leaflets with the stalk of the central leaflet being longer than those of the other two; however, occasionally leaves are composed of five, seven, or nine leaflets.
Here is what the skin will look like after a contact with poison oak.
The pictures of blistered skin are as gross as it gets. If you are sensitive about things like that, do not open the links below:

Some useful hints:

Although all the hints are self-evident but it does not hurt to check it all over again. For example,
"If you come in contact with poison oak, wash immediately or take a shower, not a bath, using strong soap or detergent."
This one is evident only when you think about it: bath might spread the poison to other parts of one's body.

Here is what it looks like:
Spring and early summer: green phase
Late summer: reddish phaseFall: yellow phase

And here is where poison oak, poison sumac and poison ivy grow:

Basically we should expect only poison oak here in California.

Western Poison-oak is found only on the Pacific Coast, where it is common, and ranges from Southern Canada to the Baja California peninsula.

It is one of California's most prevalent woody shrubs but also climbs, vine-like, up the sides of trees. The plant is often found in oak woodlands and Douglas-fir forests. Along the Avenue of the Giants in northern California, the vine form may be seen climbing many feet up the trunks of Coast Redwoods.

It can also be found in damp, shady areas near running water and out of direct sunlight. Any trail leading to a waterfall on California's coast will most likely be home to western poison-oak.

Back on Track

Yesterday's night I had my first run since the Mt. Disappointment. Although my legs are still sore I can run again and even enjoy it.

Where: Sienna trail
Distance: 3 Miles
Music: Iron Horse's tribute to Metallica
Time: 0:28:50
Average pace: 9:37 (it totally felt like 7:30 or 7:)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Mt. Disappointment 50K Trail Ultra Marathon

August 11, 2007: Link
Place: 79 (out of 145) -
Overall results
Bib: # 131
Distance: 31.5 miles / 50.7 km
Net Time: 7:55:23
Average Pace: 15:05 minutes / mile
Elevation Gain: 5600 feet
Blisters: 5+
Black toe nails: 2
Running Shoes: North Face Arnuva 50 Boa

Mountain Disappointment race was nothing like any of those I tried before. It was definitely a way more difficult than any of my previous races. But the strange thing about it is that it is the only race when I did not promise to myself not ever do it again and quit distance running as soon as I get to the finish line. This is exactly how I felt during my half-marathons and marathons in the past – although that feeling goes away as soon as I reach the finish line. Strange thing I did not feel like that during this race. Whatever the conditions were I was actually enjoying most of the race and in any case did not curse this one while I was running.

Another remarkable thing about Mt. Disappointment is that it is the first trail ultra marathon in my life.
Yahoo!!! I am officially an ultra-runner now :-)

I arrived at the start area at around 5:25, about an hour before the start when it was still dark. The road to the start took longer than I thought it should and I even started to wonder whether I had missed the right turnout from the Angles Crest Highway to the Mt. Wilson. When I parked, there have been already a hundred cars on the lot and a lot of people with headlights in the morning dusk.

I met a number of fellow runners from Southern California, whose blogs I have been reading – many of whom are members of OC Trailrunners club: Eric, Greg, Kevin, Steph, her friend Amanda, Suzy Degazon and a few others.

After Gary’s foreword he called up a dozen of names of the people that were to start the race – these were the Marines.

First 2.5 miles went very smoothly as they were all downhill. Then we had a small uphill part and a very big and steep downhill again. That was a pure 100% fun. I was running pretty fast making big (and sometimes quite scary too) leaps across (and sometimes high above) boulders and roots on the trail. The first aid station (Red Box #1) was quite unremarkable except for the volunteers that very totally excellent – I did not refill my backpack or a bottle once during the whole race. It was all done by volunteers on every station while I was enjoying cold orange and watermelon slices.

After Red Box station we made our way on a very mild and extremely picturesque downhill trail through the woods. It was not steep enough to fly above the trail but extremely breathtaking!

When jumping on the way to the Red Box station I got a lot of dirt in my shoes, something I did not pay proper amount of attention to due to my overall over-excitement. As the result I got a burning sensation in both foot soles by mile 9 and had to ask for help at the Clear Creek aid station. They did not have any duct tape there but one of the volunteers – god bless her kind hands – helped me to clean my feet and apply bandages to my developing blisters, which really helped.

I also met a guy at the Clear Creek, who was running the whole 50K race without any shoes – barefooted. He mentioned there is a bare-foot race sometime soon and he will participate in it. Well, best of luck to him! I can hardly imagine how this guy was running at all, as many parts of the trail were completely covered with sharp rocks!

One of the least enjoyable parts of the course was the Strawberry uphill part of the trail. First of all it was an uphill, second of all my blisters started to bug me again and third of all I did a mistake when I put down the list of the aid stations with the mileage to them. I was absolutely sure we are finishing our Strawberry loop and hitting Red Box #3 station at mile 18.9. Around 18.2 mile I passed by a runner on the trail and to make him feel better mentioned that the Red Box is just around the corner and we have less than half of a mile to go to it. Little did I know back then that the Red Box was located at mile 21.2 and, we still had 3 miles to go. As I said I was expecting to hit Red Box any minute – even despite the fact that it did not feel like Red Box area as we were still too high in the mountains. I was getting more and more impatient, angry and tired. My blisters were very sore and I almost fully ran out of water.

I slowed down and started to walk again. Even on some downhills I should have been running on. A bunch of runners passed me by, including Suzy who looked pretty strong and fast. When I eventually reached the Red Box I could barely stand, and volunteers asked whether I needed anything at all, I only asked for more duct tape.

I spent at least 10 minutes at the Red Box #3 station – changed bondages on my feet, ate more watermelon (I could have eaten it in unlimited quantities, especially when it is cold and it that hot outside) and had volunteers to refill my bottles.

When I took off from the Red Box I was feeling pretty strong again and even passed by several slower runners. But heat of the day started to get its toll on me. As I was going through the last section of the road with a very mild downhill before hitting Kenyon Devore steep uphill trail, I caught myself dreaming about Kenyon Devore more and more – as there I will not have to make myself run anymore and can legitimately walk all the way to the finish, while on the downhill I felt I did not have enough excuses to switch to walking.

I made a quick nature stop, and as I was coming back to the trail out of the bushes, I scared another runner almost to death – he evidently took me for a bear :-)

The last aid station #4 at the West Fork was a lot of fun. Gabor Kozinc was one of the volunteers there and did a great job cheering the runners up. At that point we all finished a standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles. 50K runners had their last 5.2 climb (which seemed pretty insurmountable for most of us) and 50-mile runners were just half way to the finish – many of them a bit behind the schedule – probably just 30-40 minutes ahead of the cut-off time. Gabor finished Badwater this year and told us some stories from the race. He also mentioned he often drinks beer on his 50- and 100-milers. As someone doubted people would ever do that he actually got a couple of bottles of Foster's from a portable fridge to our surprise.

The last uphill stretch was not as bad as I expected. I knew it is really the last part of the race and was walking most of it anyways. The good part was most of the Kenyon-Devore trail is under the trees and sun does not really get to you as much as on the open sections of Strawberry trail or Red Box fire road. A part of Kenyon-Devore trail turned out to be pretty scary as it is completely surrounded with poison oak bushes – one wrong move (or got forbid – tipping over) and you are right in it.

At mile 26.5 I caught up with a couple of runners. They tried to step aside and make way for me to pass by, but I just waved at them and said “No way, guys!” – and was right about it, they lost me in just half a mile after that.

Around mile 27.5 I discovered that I ran out of HEED in my backpack. I was totally surprised by that as I was less than two miles away from the West Fork aid station where Gabor had refilled it. I discovered I got a leak in my water bag only later at home…

Around mile 28 I met two more runners moving uphill pretty slowly. I joined them was trailing them for a while. Soon after that Kevin Nasman (another OCTR member from Aliso Viejo) joined us and pretty soon we passed by those two guys in front of us and were walking together. I guess I would not finish in under 8 hours if Kevin did not help me during the last 2-3 miles of the race. We are talking about what he does (he is a software engineer), what I do, about old good assembler times, and things like that. It all kept my mind away from the trail and race, and thus helped me a lot to run through (well, mostly walk through, to be honest) the last miles of the course.

After we saw antennas on Mt. Wilson, Kevin suggested running and I sprinted ahead. In fact, I was running pretty slowly but it felt fairly fast to me at that point.

Finishing on Mt. Wilson was fun too. I reached the area of the parking lot and did not know what to do. I could not see arrows or standard orange trail markers or anything else that would suggest where I should go next. I reached the building where I got my bib earlier that morning and saw a bunch of runners on the patio waving to me.

“Where should I go?” – shouted I. “Where is the finish line?”
“Turn right and go around the building,” – I heard back from the patio above me.

I did go around and again did not see any signs of finish line or any other runners heading to it.
I was getting desperate – I knew that if I am going to break 8 hours I will break it by just few minutes and I was loosing time and did not even know how far I was from the finish.

“Where is it?” – shouted I again impatiently.
“Go around! It is just around the corner!”

And here it was. The finish line was actually at the entrance to the building. I put myself together and managed to run the last few yards… and finished the race under 8 hours just as I was dreaming about during the last few miles of it!

Red Box #1 -- 00:58:44 -- Mile 5.7 (4640 ft)
Clear Creek #2 -- 02:00:32 -- Mile 10.8 (3650 ft)
Red Box #3 -- 04:52:53 -- Mile 21.2 (4640 ft)
West Fork #4 -- 05:57:34 -- Mile 25.9 (3050 ft)
Finish -- 07:55:23 -- Mile 31.5 (5650 ft)

Photos from the race: