Sunday, April 27, 2008

Rattler in the heat

We were planning on running Los Pinos today, but I had to opt out as we had friends from another state staying over with us for a couple of days and I could not sneak out this morning. After they left I went for a shorter run at around 10AM.

Not sure about the temperature – something in 90s. As I was making my way through the hills that trim Ladera from the east, I felt pretty close to what BBQ chicken should feel on a grill. There was no wind on those hills and the heat was coming both from sun above and from heated fire road under my feet. I doubt I would survive Los Pinos if I joined Kirk, Marisa and Chris today.

I met a pretty sizable rattlesnake at the Ladera Ranch reservoir. Someone met this snake before I did, and it did not end any good for the snake. I will not beat around the bush: I hate snakes and feel much better when they are dead or caged. So I did not feel especially sorry about this guy…

I had time for only 7.5 miles today. I enjoyed the scenery but running itself was painful in the heat. Bottom line: I should find time to run in the heat more often. Otherwise the only time I run in conditions like this is a race, and it quickly wears me out…

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Leona Divide 50

Distance: 50 miles / 80.5 km
Gun time: 10 hours 45 min
Bib number: 29

I got about 3 hours of sleep, woke up at 2am – I had really been worrying I would just ignore my four alarm clocks and miss the race – and left home at 3am.

I reached the start area at 5:20am and saw a bunch of familiar faces there before the race. The SoCal ultra-running community seems to be pretty tight: after just a couple of races I recognized at least 25 people – well, quite a few of were from our SoCal Trail Headz club (formerly known as OC Trail Runners) – but a lot of folks were the runners I remember from Unknown, Orange Curtain, Ridgecrest and Mt.Disappointment.

We ran first 13 miles on fire road and I was feeling great. But after we hit the single-track trail with those endless ups and downs I started to struggle. It was a mental thing – I guess I just freaked out about the fact that it is 50 miles and my legs were soar already, and I was out-of-breath on the up-hills. By mile 17 negative self-talk reached the point when I started to question why a hell I am doing ultras at all and whether I should just DNF. Luckily I ran next 15 miles after that with Pete from Bakersfield – conversing with him took my mind off all the negativity.

Aid station #6/8 was a lot of fun: they organized Hawaiian beach party there – men were wearing bras made of coconut halves, which looked pretty much the same as Charlie’s and Greg’s bra-style camelbacks, by the way :)

After the turn-around point at mile 35.5 I felt completely broken. My feet, legs, knees were in pain. My stomach went south. I felt pretty miserable and could only walk.

After the long downhill to the aid station #5/9 I felt better again as we had just slightly more than 7 miles to the finish. I power-walked most of the ascent to aid station #4/10 and even started passing other runners.

On the final 3-mile descent I maxed out volume of Metallica and Anthrax in my headsets and squeezed all the remaining juices I still had left in me. I really wanted to break 11 hours and was not sure how many miles I needed to run to the finish. I ended up sprinting downhill and crossed the finish line with a gun time of 10 h 45 min. This was one of the strongest finishes ever - I guess my pace for the last 200-300 yards was around 7min/mile.

After I finished I just felt sick... I did not drink much for the last 6 miles of the race and could not drink after it either. Neither could I eat. The hunger caught me two hours later and I had to stop at an In-n-Out drive-through on my way home were I devoured two double-double burgers with grilled onion and no cheese :)

Right now when I am closing my eyes I see this never-ending trail running under my feet. And I have to open my eyes each time: Damn! Is not it supposed to be over yet? Has not I finished this thing yet?

P.S. Somewhere close to the aid station #6 I met this little guy on the trail. I never saw anything like that before and thought it was a dead lizard someone had stepped on. I carefully removed him from the trail to make sure he would survive Leona Divide race. Do you know what it can be?

Here are some more photos from the race:
LD50M 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

4620 miles, 111 days, 120 degrees and 3 men

Just read a pretty cool article about 3 guys who ran across Sahara Desert, having covered 4620 miles in 111 days:

It almost sounds like running Badwater or MDS everyday for almost 4 months in a row.

...At 5 a.m. the vehicles would rev up and the three runners would begin their journey. For the first 20 minutes, they would walk in an effort to shake off the rust. "By 5:30 we'd be running," Engle says. "Our support vehicle would go 10-K ahead, we'd catch up, have something to drink, then let it go another 10-K ahead. We repeated that process all day." Come noon the trio would take a break to eat lunch, stretch tightened muscles, and nap. "It'd often be 120 degrees in the sun," says Engle. "It was like sleeping in a sauna." From 2:30 until 9:30, the trek would continue. "Dinner was the worst," says Engle, who lost 35 pounds in the first 35 days. "Couscous and goat, couscous and goat, couscous and goat. If I ever see either again I might go into convulsions..."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Blooming run in El Moro

El Moro… El Moro is blooming! As a matter of fact it is freaking beautiful! Bight yellow hills, bright orange poppies, etc.

We started at 5:30am: Jeff, Ryan, Marisa, Lisa, Pete, Chris and me. We did our usual 10-mile loop, and then went for a smaller second 7-mile loop in Laguna Canyon on my most favorite single-track trail. I did not initially plan to stay for the 2nd loop but I can never say no to Laguna Canyon even despite I know I will have to pay back for the beauty of this awesome downhill trail at the long uphill that follows it.

Running uphill with Ryan and Jeff is difficult. It is not even as they are pretty fast and I have hard time keeping up with them. Both of them – and Ryan in particular this morning – never stop cracking jokes. Like we noticed a big black bug on the trail, and the next thing you hear is that Ryan establishes a price fund of $10 and a pack of Hummer Gel for anyone who would eat the poor thing.

At some point we lost Jeff. I turned back and saw him standing in the middle of the trail behind us, bent to the ground not being able to stop laughing. Beware: this is Ryan’s secret weapon he uses to neutralize competitor runners trying to pass him by.

Marisa was being Marisa – there is no better way to put it. Just yesterday she completed Old Goad 50-miler, got her 2nd female finisher trophy at the finish, iced her legs a little and went for an additional 12-mile run right the same evening. And after running those 100K yesterday, she looked pretty fresh this morning!

A picture of ultra runners' ghosts at 5:25am:
Blooming El Moro:
Lisa storms another hill:
Orange poppies by the trail:
Jeff, Ryan and Lisa on the 2nd loop:
Ryan's signature photo of Jeff, me and Lisa:
Two miles to the cars, Park Rangers passed by on a truck. It got pretty hot and they asked if we were ok and did not need any water. How nice of them!
More photos:

El Moro: April 13, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

GoLite Sundragon review

I have been testing my new GoLite Sundragon shoes for a while.

The experiment with them seemed kinda risky at first:
1) First shoes I bought via Internet without trying them on
2) Sole with huge rubber spikes looks pretty unconventional

The thing is I met Robo at Unknown-K, who was running in those shoes and really recommended them. Just as Robo said I found them for only $30 on eBay + $11 shipping. This feels like quite a bargain considering their MSRP is $120, and I would not imagine buying shoes like that in any of specialized sports brick-&-mortar stores at a price below $90 even when on sale. So I decided to risk it.

So far so good!
My feet are extremely sensitive to inner stitches on shoes, and Sundragon shoes do not seem to have any at all.
The shoes are pretty light: 11.8oz is on the low end of the spectrum for trail running foot wear. Compare it to 13.5oz weight of Asics Trail Trabuco 10, for example.

The sizes of GoLite shoes are pretty strange. I usually buy running shoes of 10.5 size, but my Sundragon's are marked as 10-10.5. How comes? They have a PreciseFit system, which is just 2 sets of additional inlays you stick under your insoles. So the shoes I bought are 10.5, but the size can be reduced to 10.25 or 10. This is pretty cool, except that after I used the inlays, size 10 of these shoes feels still a little too big as if it were Asics' size 11.

But the main thing about these shoes is definitely the sole:
1) Long interlocking rubber claws provide the best traction on the trails I ever experienced – whether I run uphill or downhill
2) They used combination of soft and hard rubber, which ensures also good traction on wet concrete too
3) The claws adapt better to uneven surface of trail and help to stabilize your body: they somehow smooth surface unevenness

The shoes are still available for the same bargain price from Designer Athletics on eBay:
($30 + $11 shipping)

Monday, April 07, 2008


I had been tagged by Olga Varlamova in this post.

Here are the rules:
1) Write your own six word memoir
2) Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you want
3) Link to the person that tagged you in your post, and to the original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere
4) Tag at least five more blogs with links
5) Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

I was puzzled for most of the weekend trying to come up with something original and funny, but meaningful at the same time.

I was puzzled for most of the weekend trying to come up with something original and funny, but meaningful at the same time. I did not manage to nail all three goals together and ended up with something that did not match my first two criteria. How original is it if the first half of it was stolen from a bumper sticker of iMichelle's car, and the second reminds memoir of Bad Ben? But how creative can you be if all you've got are just 6 words?

Anyways, here we go:
Life is short, don't waste it!

What I was trying to say is much better reflected in Kim's blog in here:

I will tag Jeff, Greg, Steph, Eric and Lambert.
Sorry, guys, but it is your turn now :)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Death Star

SoCal Trail Headz (SCTH) had a big group run at the Black Star Canyon again on Saturday. This time I had enough time to run all the way to the point called Death Star. It is a little summit at the Main Divide with a huge white ball with antennas of some kind – not sure whether it is meteorological stuff or TV/radio antennas. As usual the summit was covered by a cloud blanket. As we passed the Death Star, we continued running along Main Divide for a while and pretty soon where passed by a couple of young runners from a local high school's track & field team, and few minutes after that by two more guys. The kids looked pretty fresh compared to us, and to our surprise did not carry any water bottles, despite they were running around 12 miles that day. However they had a kind of an aid station – a truck waiting for them. Probably this is the secret of running without any water.

The views were spectacular: emerald valleys and surrounded with vertical rocks and huge boulders. Back Star is becoming one of my favorite trails. And it is one of the most ideal places for group trail runs as we run all the way on fire roads which allows for running side-by-side having a little chat on the way.

This time we had two guests invited by Charlie – Shannon and Olivier, who also live in Ladera Ranch. Shannon had run her first marathon and was training for her first trail ultra – Old Goad, I guess. Not sure how many races Olivier completed before, but they both kicked out butts on the ascent. I had a difficult time trying to keep up with them, while Shannon ran up effortlessly with a very consistent pace.

Charlie and Greg, SCTH twins separated at birth, are showing off their matching grey man-bras. Charlie boasted he does not take his one off even when he goes to bed at night.

Here is the 6am group once we reached Main Divide: me, Shannon, Greg, iMichelle, Keira, Chaz, and Olivier. After so called 6am group left the Black Star trailhead (well, we left it at 6:15 or so), there were at least two more waves of SCTH runners – at 6:30 and 6:45. We met a few of them on our way back, but unfortunately still missed some including Marisa, who did not turn right on Main Divide and continued on Black Star Canyon Road in North direction towards Corona.

When I got back to the car, my Garmin was showing exactly 19 miles at an average pace of 10:01 min/mile. Greg averaged at 9 min/mile. If the weather allows I will strive to break 10 next time too – I was 2 seconds a mile too slow this time. The decent was pretty easy and fast, but deceitful at the same time – my legs ached on Saturday after run as if I just ran 50 miles.

More photos from our run:

SoCal Trail Headz at Black Star, April 5, 2008