Thursday, April 19, 2007

070414 American River 50M - Toughing out the Cold and Rain with Minimals

photo courtesy of Brightroom

Date: April 14, 2007
Race: American River 50M
Location: Sacramento to Auburn along the American River trail
Distance: 50 miles
Profile: 3,474ft gain/2,139ft loss, highest: 1,424 ft, lowest: 20ft, start: 20ft, finish: 1,355ft

Result: 8:31:56 (10:14 min/mile), 88/477 overall, 67/347 Men, 14/288 age group, Complete Results
  • Marathon: 3 hr 45 min (8:35 min/mile)
  • 50K: 4 hr 38 min (8:53 min/mile)

I somehow messed up my Forerunner 305 a few times. I'll describe this below.

I wore the heartbeat belt for the first time in a race and felt very comfortable with it. However, I had no time to monitor my heartbeat. Later I found out, the intensity during the run was about 85%.


Early this year, I had been bothered with ankle issues as the Inov8 315 was not fit with my running style. I thus avoided hill work helping recovery on my ankle injuries while staying in good shape. I probably had not trained at my favorite hilly Ohlone Wilderness Trail this year. On the other hand, I knew I was good at technical trails, but might be lack of endurance. I had run a few long training run up to 40 miles in one shot on flat Alameda Creek Trail. Therefore, I thought these long training runs should improve my performance at later miles. Yes they did. I was able to complete Ruth Anderson 100K without issues even when I caught cold a few days earlier.

Two weeks later, I'm going to do this American River 50M. Since American River 50M has less than 3,500ft climb and has the first 27 miles pretty flat bike path, I believe Ruth Anderson 100K is actually a great training run. After a few days of rest from Ruth Anderson 100K, I started to run for a day or two in the first week. During the weekend, I went to Mt. Diablo for trail work (See Trail Work at Mt. Diablo - Knowing Ultrarunning Friends and Poison Oaks). I assumed it's a kind of hill work needed since the last 23 miles in American River 50M is the hilly section.

The trail work actually exhausted me a bit. The second week, i.e. the race week, I could only run once. I needed to do this training run as early as possible in order to let my body rest more. I did a 10 mile run at the fast sub-7 :30 min/mile pace on Tuesday. It was tough as I had not run that pace and distance combined for years. I had to rest enough to recover from such a training run. Fortunately, I recovered well and it did help me to speed up in the race.

My past experience told me the Central Valley where the course was could be pretty warm during the day. The Ultrarunner List had some discussions about this. I decided to wear minimal to embrace the heat. I also did a few times of heat training run. I basically wear three thick layers of long sleeve shirts and sweaters, plus two long pants. I went out for my usual lunch time run. My body was steaming within 5 minutes. The heat simply forced me to slow down and take hard breath. It turns out it was very effective!

Other than training in endurance and speed, I was also boosted by some inspirations.

Inspiration and Strategy - Pushing to my limits and Embracing the Pains

I ran for fun and as part of survival in my the first two years in American River 50M. In 2005, I ran and walked for the first 27 miles of bike path because I had no confidence in completing my first 50 miler. With still some energy left, I sped up the hills and to the finish.

Last year, I decided to push myself a bit after I had run a few other ultra's. I no longer walked. I ran all the way with at a comfortable pace at the bike path. I was still able to speed up at the trail section and powered up all the way from the river bed to the finish. I made 38 min 20 sec faster.

There is an interview in the April issue of Ultrarunning Magazine - The Younger Ultrarunner: 100-Mile Record Setter Jenn Shelton. It is written by Tony Krupicka. Both are 23 year old female and male champions in Rocky Raccoon 100M this year.

Jenn described her approach as "I'm gonna go for it and see what happens. If I fail miserably, it's not a big deal because I know that I get stronger with each race." and "If I go out at eight minutes per mile in a 100-mile, it's not because I think I'm going to hold it for 100 miles, so let me see how long I can hold it today. But more importantly, it's because it's no fun running slow."

Therefore, I plan to be more aggressive. I'm not that young in terms of age, but everything else in myself becomes younger after years of running. This year I am going to race it and find out my limits. I would like to see how far I can hold that pace. I know it will be more pain by running faster.

I set 8 hr high standard goal in my mind. I find out Keith Blom did 7 hr 59 min 8 sec in 2005 (See 2005 split results). His split is,
  • Nimbus (mile 19.4) - 2:31:11
  • Beals Point (mile 27.4) - 3:43:49
  • Horseshoe (mile 38) - 5:48:59
  • Rattlesnake (mile 40.7) - 6:11:46
  • Last Gasp (mile 47.6) - 7:33:49
While my family are away in Taiwan during spring break, I have been watching Race for the Soul a few times every night. When being asked about the second half of the Western States 100M, Gordy Ainsleigh says "..through the devastatingly low, things would normally get better..."

The "low" means the Devil's Thumb climb and Canyons during the hottest of the day. Once a runner survives this section, the condition will get better. The temperature is going lower into the night. The terrains from Michigan Bluff at mile 55 become gentle toward the Auburn finish. I need to learn to enjoy the pain and overcome it.

Getting There

It's only two hours of driving to the start, but, as usual, I want to find out if I can get there without driving. I can take Capitol Corridor to Sacramento and then the Light Rail Blue Line with three miles of walk afterwards. However, my wife, far away in Taiwan, has some concerns.

Thanks to Rajeev Patel, aka the Poetic Runner. He picked me up from my home and took me to the hotel in Auburn. Although we left earlier, we encountered Friday traffic on the major highways. The conversation on Ultra's definitely helped us through the Friday afternoon traffic.

We arrived at the Fleet Feet to pick up our packets. Someone commended my old but favorite Ohlone Wilderness 50K T-shirt. No wonder he is Bob Bryne, the Ohlone Wilderness 50K race director. I also ran into Jerry Roninger. We'll see each other in Ohlone 50K. I bought some souvenir for my wife and daughter.

We checked in a hotel in Auburn. Anil Rao and his wife joined us later in the night. Like other nights before a race, I could not have a sound and enough sleep. We had a few alarms going off from 2:30am, but at last waked up by 3am in order to get ready to take the 4:15am shuttle to the start.

It is Dawn Inferna Bean checking the bus passengers. She is the main character in the film Race for the Soul. My third-grade son is interested in knowing a school teacher can run a 100 miler. I should have talked with her more, but I do not have chance until later in the race when she passed me.

The bus driver starts with a joke and heats up the atmosphere without turning on the heater in such a chilly morning. Rajeev and I chat with Jeff Barbier a bit. He did Tahoe Rim Trail 50K last year and somehow recognized me. We all agree to meet at Tahoe Rim Trail running this year when Anil, Rajeev, and myself are going to do the 100 miles.

Meeting Friends

Around 5am, an hour before the 6am start, we arrive the race checkin area. Wearing a sleeveless shirt and a short below 50 degree, I am freezing and feel reluctant to leave the bus. I soon to stay near the checkin tent where it seems warmer.

The time before an ultra event is our social time. Here we have our Ultraholics (from right to left) - Rajeev Patel, Anil Rao, and myself. We also have Rajeev's friend within us and Deb Clem at rear. I did not find out another ultraholic Shige Takada perhaps because it's too dark around. Later I know Shige was too sick to come.

I am also very glad to meet Steve Ansell, aka Mountain Man Steve who is from my town Fremont. We had a few encounters in other events before, but did not have a chance to chat. He looks like ready for his first AR50.

During the trail work at Mt. Diablo, I knew Charles Stevens, Jim Hildreth, Kermit Cuff Jr would run American River 50M. However, I only spot Kermit Cuff, Jr. perhaps it is too dark and too many runners around. When Kermit and I did the Mt. Diablo trail work a week ago, we worked together most of the time. We take a picture in front of the checkin tent. It is raining and I am freezing, but I have to give out a smile in facing the camera.

Here Marissa and I at the start. Our friend Brian Wyatt has run faster and faster each time. I love to see how fast he can run this time. However, he is not here.

We took some pictures. Glad to talk with her at her first American River 50M. She has very positive attitude with such a nice smile!

We laugh a bit and feel relaxed. On the other hand, laughing also heats up my body. I no longer feel freezing. I'm ready to embrace whatever ahead.

Within seconds to go, we are counting down and ready to start our timers. Rain is still with us.

Start => Watt AVe. => William Pond: 8.5/8.5 miles, 1:11:02, 8:22 min/mile

Off we go! I checked the course map earlier. I like the first mile of switch back loop. I expect to see other runners at different paces and I can take pictures for them. Unfortunately, it is simply too dark for my camera even with a flashlight. I have a few failed pictures.

I run with Kermit in the beginning and the pace is fast foe me. I run ahead a bit to take a picture for him.

Within a few minutes, I heard a familiar voice from behind. It is Wally Hesseltine. He is a runner that I have admired since I began to run ultra's. Look how strong a 63 year young man can be!

I skip the first aid station at Watt Ave. Before I get to the second aid station at Williams Pond, I start to feel hungry. I think I had my breakfast too early - 3 hr before the race. I had simple whole wheat bread and I should have eaten them an hour before the race or even during the run. They are easily digested into energy.

William Pond => Sunrise => Nimbus Overlook => Negro Bar
- Mess up my Forerunner 305
14.66/23.16 miles , 2:05:00/3:16:15, 8:32 min/mile

Rena Schumann is a female runner that I have admired since last year. She is running at very easy pace, while I'm pushing myself hard. I suspect I have run too fast and she'll last longer. But my plan is to push myself and find my limit.

After appreciating her when she encouraged me to "get the job done" in the Rio Del Lago 100M last year, I keep my pace and go ahead. I take a picture of her and hope she catches me later when I wear out myself.

It looks like when there is some light, my camera does not do a good job at action photo. Sorry Rena. This is a little out of focus. I promise to make it better next time. I'll see you in Miwok, Quicksilver, and Ohlone.

I don't remember when the rain stops and for how long. My thin running shirt does dry for a while. I am very focused on my fast pace and keep pushing myself. I feel like running a road marathon.

Matt Anderson catches up and we chat a little. He soon takes off with faster pace. Same with Olivier Chan, a young runner from San Francisco. Oliver also runs away at faster pace. I keep my pace without chasing anyone. I ran with Eric Berkenkotter for a few miles. I first met him at Ohlone Wilderness 50K last year. I was one minute behind him, but he got a special trophy for the third place for the age group. I then met him in the Ruth Anderson and He finished 50K. We happen to be at our agreed pace and are able to talk a lot about our hobbies and families.

I pass one aid station and another without stopping too long. I also somehow forget to press the lap button. I also stop the timer by accident. I take only Gels and I take off once the bottle is filled up. I think I stop less than 30 seconds at every aid station.

On a bridge to the Nimbus Outlook, which is at the top of the hill. I pass Rob Bryne. He walks on the uphill to stretch his legs, but I keep running and decide to walk on the steep hill at the other side. While pushing up the hill, I see runners power walk or run up the hill.

When I get to the top, it is the Nimbus Outlook aid station. A volunteer greet me with "We have Gu2O". Having my camera ready, I call out "I have a camera" and take a picture. Thank you volunteers!

I somehow messed up my Forerunner 305 - I accidentally stopped the timer and found out this 15 min later. I have to do some "adjustments" on my time and distance at that section. Hope it does not deviate too much. I also forgot to lap on the first few sections, but this won't affect it's correctness.

Negro Bar => Beals Point - Run like a 3 hr 45 min Road Marathon
3.87/27.03 miles, 39:00/3:55:15, 10:04 min/mile

I push myself and am able to reach the Marathon distance at 3 hr 40 min. It is really close to my road marathon pace - I did 3 hr 34 min in the Silicon Valley Marathon last year. The consequence is I start to feel exhausted at the mid-way of the 50 miles. This is not a good sign to feel so tired that early.

This reminds me when I ran it for the first time. Although I executed ran/walk in the beginning, I still felt like hitting a wall at the same spot. This is also the moment that I and Yuki Negoro met our pacer Rubik during our first run. So many memories from such suffering and the same place, I have Gordy's words in my mind. Once I get through this "devastatingly low", I'll get better.

I try to enjoy the pain and then ignore it. After 10 minutes, I feel better and arrive at Beals Point of mile 27.4. With many people along the trail near the aid station, I felt recovered a little. I am looking for Yuki, who planned to get here directly from SFO after a business trip. He would like to pace our friend Shige Takeda. Later I know Shige is sick and is not able to make it.

photo courtesy of Brightroom

From here, we enter the trail section. I know I'm good at trails, but I suspect how much energy I have left right now after pushing myself so hard. Here I run into Barry Fisher walking with his dog. He must be waiting for his wife Lucinda Fisher coming. I first saw Barry in Race for the Soul, where he ran as a cancer survivor in 2001 Western States 100M. I also met him and worked with him as volunteers in the Tahoe Rim Trail 100M last year. At Rio Del Lago 100M last year, he refused to let me stay longer at the Auburn Dam Outlook aid station and I was able to continue without quitting due to my troubles during the day.

I go through the gravel road and THE school, where Rio Del Lago 100M and Helen Klein 50M are held. It begins the rolling hills. Amazingly, my body is like having recovered completely. Perhaps I was born to run on trails.

Beals Point => Granite Bay - Complete a Fast 4 hr 38 min 50K
4.53/31.56 miles, 44:46/4:40:00, 9:53 min/mile

When I arrive at the Granite Bay aid station, I reach 50K at 4 hr 38 min. This is again faster than what I have done in any other races. I don't worry too much because my plan is to push my self and I feel great right now.

I don't care too much about the rain because I'm still very focused on my pace and energy level. To me, it seems that the rain never stops and it rains even harder. It sometimes seems pouring rain. I have run with Rob Bryne for a while. We pass each other once in a while. I am passed by a group of female runners. One of them is Dawn Inferna Bean. I am able to chat with her a few, but she looks strong and runs away.

Granite Bay =>Buzzard's Cove: 3.19/34.75 miles, 34:07/5:14:07, 10:42 min/mile

I quickly leave the Granite Bay aid station but forget to pick up some gels. I figure out that the next aid station is marked as "water only". I am afraid the gels I have will not be enough. I confirm this with Bob Bryne running a few feet ahead. He is kind to give me one spare gel. Thank you Bob.

Buzzard's Cove => Horseshoe Bar: 3.40/38.15 miles, 41:23/5:55:31, 12:10 min/mile

When I arrive the Buzzard's Cove aid station, I find it is a simple aid station, but has more than "water". I remember this aid station has to be set up by volunteers taking boat there. There was ice cream served in 2005 when I ran American River 50M for the first time. Bob and I pick up gels and go. Along the way, we pass each other once in a while.

Horseshoe Bar => Rattlesnake Bar: 2.72/40.87 miles, 32:20/6:27:51, 11:54 min/mile

It is still raining. There are water spots everywhere on the trail. I am joking to Bob that we are getting close to the swamp. The swamp was famous in last year that runners had to run through it. Somehow, we don't see it anymore at the place. I think it's because the rain just started today. The land is able to absorb all the water. Later today or tomorrow, I think the water absorbed will flow out and form swamps.

There is still a wide water crossing. There are loose rocks for footing. I am running fast and step into the water by accident. I have no feeling about wet feet perhaps because my feet are already wet or I am focused on running.

Rattlesnake Bar => Mahattan Bar: 2.38/43.25 miles, 27:22/6:55:13, 11:29 min/mile

I'm now able to recognize poison oak and can spot it a lot on the trail. Although I applied something like ivy block before the run, I still try to be very careful to avoid having any contact with plants.

At one place, I missed a turn without notice until someone behind yelling. I find no one around and decide to trace back to find the correct route. This costs me an extra quarter mile. I try not to be upset about it so that I can keep strong mentally. I am able to chase and catch up a few runners before the next aid station.

Manhattan Bar => Last Gasp: 4.31/47.56 miles, 55:29/7:50:42, 12:53 min/mile

There is ice cream served at the Manhattan Bar. I go for my speed, so I take only gels and fill up my bottle as before. I go away immediately to tackle all the technical trails, including the steep river bed.

I power up on the river bed and pass a few runners. I know the finish is not far.

Last Gasp => Finish: 2.44/50 miles, 30:54/8:21:36 , 12:40 min/mile

I do not stop at the last aid station at Last Gasp but push myself up on the paved road. My legs are very sored. All the way, I am passed by a few runners. Up to the last hill, I can see the finish area. The last quarter mile is one of the toughest mentally. I have no way to catch up anyone, but I still try to run as fast as I can. I finally finish it at 8 hr 31 min 57 sec. Although I can not get to the 8hr goal, I'm very happy to set my PR at this course, improved by 29 min 10 sec!

photo courtesy of Brightroom

The Finish Area - Too Cold to Stay Longer

John Fors comes 30 second behind me. He says he found a camera when he finishes. I look at my pouch and it's open. John picked up my camera, which I did not know dropped. It must be near the river bed when I thought about take a picture on the steep river bed but pushed myself instead. Thanks John!

John immediately mentions the Western States 100M safety patrol. Both of us have not been paired up. We are happy to work together as a pair on the safety patrol.

I clean up myself with nice warm water. I did not notice until now that dirt covers all over of my legs. My shoes and socks are soaking wet. I meet Eric Berkenkotte again there. It is still raining and windy at the finish area. I feel freezing cold even I wear everything I have including the AR50 Polartec jacket. I'm not sure how long I can stay there and wait for Rajeev and Anil. I would like to leave quickly and Eric is kind to give me a ride to Bay Area. I explained to Norm Klein so he can tell Rajeev that I have to go ealier.

Going Home after a Long Day and a Great Run

On our way to Bay Area, we go through storm-like weather. It rains so hard that all traffic on the highway has to slow down a lot once in a while. After we climb over the Altamont Pass and leave the Central Valley and, we have a sunny weather in Bay Area.

I am dropped at a BART station and able to get to Union City BART station. I just miss a bus there and have to wait for 40 minutes for the last bus on Saturday. It's chilly and windy, so I would rather go get some Chinese deli nearby and stay warm in the stores.

I take the bus and get home. Once I can sit down for the meal after taking a shower and washing all my stuff, it is 9pm. What a long day and a great run!

Other Race Reports

Rajeev Patel - American River 50 Mile Endurance Run with a poem!
Steve Ansell - Everything comes together when the weather falls apart

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Trans Korea 308K, 537K, and 643K

Korean Culture and Running

Korean drama and culture is popular in Far East Asia. My country people (Taiwan) around the world (Taiwan, USA, etc) love to watch their drama and celebrities. Korean has the highest plastic surgery rate in the world, so the same become popular in Taiwan, Japan, and other countries around there. My family love Korean food as well as Japanese food. We like their variety of dishes, so called appetizer, before the meal.

On the other hand, Korean is also very competitive in long distance running in the world. I clearly remember two things. In 2002, the Korean runner Bong-Ju Lee won the Boston Marathon among the world best runners from Kenya, Ethiopia, etc. Last year, Sim Jae Duk won Massanutten Mountain Tails 100 Miles on the second day of arrival from Korea. This year he is one of the hottest runners in the Western States 100M. Have we had ever non-US runners winning Western States 100M?

I don't understand Korean language, but there is an email on the Ultrarunning List about Trans Korean. The race looks like interesting and highly recommended. I went to the web site Korean UltraMarathon Federation. I found there are three distances.

I don't know the differences between the last two because I can't read the language. I guess they are probably on different routes with 106K difference!

Here is the invitation letter for the West to East Sea 308K.

West to East Sea 308K

A Letter of Invitation

Dear fellow ultrarunners,

We are happy to introduce you to a really spectacular long distance ultramarathon race in Korea that has been a highly kept secret outside of Korea.

This is "Trans Korea 308 km Ultra Marathon race ", which has been held yearly since the year 2000. This trail / road race is a crossing of the Korean Peninsula, starting from the West Sea (Yellow Sea) to the East Sea (Pacific Ocean), with a cut-off time of 64 hours.

The whole race is organized by KUMF, the Korea UltraMarathon Federation, which has proved its outstanding ability of race organization to the world through the recent IAU 100 KM World Cup '06, Misari, Seoul, Korea.

Runners will be aided for drinks or some very basic food items every 50km and any further sort of personal needs must be met by the runners themselves.

Last year, the number of runners who ran the race were, (please don't be surprised) 203, and finishers 151. This year you could be one of the intrepid challenging runners of over 400, in view of the current long distance running boom here in Korea.

Should anyone want to challenge the absolute solitude of the Far East, enjoying the awesome wind-chimes far away from the temples in the misty moon light, why not come and join us the challenge of Trans Korea 308 km Ultramarathon 2007 in Korean peninsular, the land of morning calm!!? We bet it's going to be the most spectacular, unforgettable experience that you will cherish the whole rest of your life.

When : Sept 13 - 16, 2007
Where : Seoul, Korea
Organization : Korea Ultra Marathon Federation
Contact : Trans Korea 308km
e-mail :

Reg. fee : US$300.- per person ( Local transportation inclusive from hotel to the start then from the finish, back to the hotel )

Remarks : A Free Home Stay program will be offered for those who want to know more about Korean culture and tradition.


Park, Bokjin

Race Director President
Organizing Committee of Lee, Youngsik

Trans Korea 308 km Ultramarathon '07
Korea Ultra Marathon Federation

When Am I going to do it?

I love Korean cuisine and am interested in their culture, so I'll choose FREE home stay. I think my family will love this trip as well. In particular, it is only two hour flight from Taiwan. We can plan this on our annual visit Taiwan afterwards.

However, it will be a few years from now since I'm focusing on the races in US and it will take me some time to be capable of doing such a long distance. I'll keep in this my mind. I think I want to finish similar things in Taiwan first since Taiwan is smaller (but may not be easier). Here are my estimates,
  • West to East or vice versa 150K to 200K on three major road (north, mid, and south)
  • North to South or vice versa 400K
  • Around Taiwan 1000K since Taiwan is an island
One thing that stands out is that Taiwan is mountainous and hilly. Crossing Taiwan sometimes requires climbing over the passes at 10,000ft from sea level.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Trail Work at Mt. Diablo - Knowing Ultrarunning Friends and Poison Oaks

I was looking for an 8 hour trail work project to fulfill the service requirement for Wasatch Front 100M. This is the best time since my family are away in Taiwan for two weeks. I desperately check for local parks because I don't want to drive far. In particular, I'd like to see if I can go even without driving.

Finding a Trail Work

I talked with Harry Silcock of East Bay Trail Dogs. They had a trail work this Thursday (4/5) on the Tassajara regional park. I never heard about this park, but finally located it on my map. It is only a few miles north from Dublin/Pleasanton. I guessed I can ride my bike there from Dublin/Pleasanton BART station. However, it's on weekday and I was not sure if I could take that day off since I had been busy at work lately. Also the trail work was only a half day and not a full 8 hours. I probably can not do another one to make it up.

Same with another trail work organized by Quicksilver Runner Club in the Almaden Quicksilver County Park on Saturday (4/7). This was for the Quickcilver 25K/50K/50M event coming in May. It'll be a nice one for Angeles Crest 100M service requirement. I checked with Dorsey Moore. It's only a half day and I found no way to get there with less driving.

Near where I live, there are some East Bay regional parks such as Alameda Creek Trail, Coyote Hills, Quarry Lakes, Mission Peak, and Garin/Dry Creek. I checked the park district but they don't have trail work during these two weeks. There is also a Don Edward Wildlife Refugee. I had no luck either because they mostly had plant rehabitation or Earth Day cleanup. I did not think they would be accepted as trail work.

Finally and fortunately, PCTR has a trail work at Mt. Diablo State Park. I did not consider that earlier because it was a long drive (anything longer my daily 22 mile commute). I checked the map and found out maybe I could take BART and ride my bike. It is an all-purpose family bike with a basket at the front and a child seat at the rear. I once used it in my only one Triathlon event - Tri for Fun. It serves both simple grocery shopping and taking kids for a fun ride. I think my family bike should be able to survive 24 miles round trip. I need this trail work to be done, so I decided to do the trail work at Mt. Diablo State Park.

Getting to Mt. Diablo State Park

I got up at 4:30am and left home at 5:30am in order to ride 6 miles and catch the 5:56 BART from Union City to Concord. It's over 1 hour on the BART to get there. When I get to Concord at 7:01, there should be enough time for me ride 7 miles to Michell Canyon visitor center in Mt. Diablo State Park.

As I arrived at Concord, the ride was along Clayton Rd. This is a beautiful moment in early morning. The street is quiet with very little traffic. All the way is the fragrant smell with lush green along the road. This may cause people with allergies headache, but certainly helps relax me a bit on the slow climb toward the right turn at Michell Canyon Rd. From there, it is a 1.5 mile into the visitor center. The climb becomes obvious and there are actually a few roller coaster hills. I struggle to paddle the bike forward. Around 10 minutes before the designated time 8am, I am there.


There is only one car there. Jim Hildreth and I introduce ourselves. Within next few minutes, we have almost everyone of 20 people or so, including Wendell and Sarah Domain. With legs crippled from Barkley Marathon, Wendell could not go with us, but gave the brief for today's trail work. They are also busy at signing our trail work forms. We have forms for Western States 100M, Wasatch Front 100M , and Angeles Crest 100M. Including myself, there are 3 for Wasatch Front 100M, the most among the races. This is probably because Wasatch Front 100M requires "trail work" only. They don't accept volunteering at aid stations.

Picking our tools, we are organized into two groups. All our three Wasatch participants are in the group on the long way to Mt. Olympia for the full 8 hour work. We have Charles Stevens from Stevens Creek Strider as our leader.

My Group to Mt. Olympia

Let me fast forward a bit to show our group. When we get to the top of Mt. Olympia 2900 ft elevation. There are father and his 8 year old son Josh picnicking there enjoy the panoramic view. We wait for Chris (don't know his last name) until we are ready to leave. Five of us warriors take a picture, showing off our weapons.

From left to right, here is our team,

Jim Hildreth - Wasatch Front 100M after his amazing 26 hour finish in the hottest Western States 100M last year! He tells us a lot of this trail since he finished Diablo 50M last year in twilight. I have little memory of my run two years ago when I ran the Marathon option.

Chihping Fu - Wasatch Front 100M. Myself

Charles Stevens - Will do Western States 100M this year and Wasatch Front 100M two years in row. He is from Stevens Creek Strider and becomes our group leader. He has a few (actually "all three") sub-24 hour Western States 100M under his belt.

John Koester - Has done a lot of PCTR runs - I mean a couple of dozens! Who else has more PCTR runs than John? He will try his first 50 miler at Headlands 50M

Kermit Cuff Jr. - like me, he just finished Ruth Anderson 100K last week. He was fast and got third place overall in 100K. After finishing Javelina Hundred under 20 hours and 5th place overall last year, he'll run Angeles Crest 100M and Headlands Hundred as well. Kermit and I spend a lot time hiking together at this trail work. Both of us are in American River 50M this week have the same 8 hours goal. It should be an easy job as he did it 8 hr 15 min last year. To me, it will be very challenging!

We have Chris in the group. He is a PCTR veteran. He is not in this picture because our pace is a little faster than his. We leave the top and hope to meet him somewhere. Going down, we meet Chris. It's very steep technical trail with loose rocks everywhere. It's very slippery, a good test for our trail shoes. Walking down is difficult. I guess we'd better run it. I don't remember how I ran here when I did the marathon two years ago. I know I'll be here three weeks from now at the Diablo 50M.

We lose Chris behind again. At one left turn, which is not obvious, John made an arrow in case we have to leave and Chris can find the way. Without such a sign, Chris or any one else can just keep going on the wide fire road without making the correct left turn here. We also think about leaving all our tools and gloves to show the trail. Then Chris can carry them for us :-) How about placing a bunch of poison oaks to block the fire road so Chris would know to make a turn?

Anyway, after a while, we can see Chris coming. He and Kermit stay at the arrow for me to take a shot.

It's time to rewind back to the beginning after introducing our group.

Off We Go for the Trail Work

On our way, we meet groups of hikers.

We start with climb. Everyone is happy about the cool weather.

Perhaps being ultrarunners, we are in great shape and move far away from the group of hikers in a few minutes. The background is a mountain ugly chopped for mining aggregates for construction. Sigh!

There are a lot of overgrown Poison Oak along the trail. Here is a big one. All of us are busy cutting it off the trail. We also need to do this very carefully to avoid having any contact with it.

Even if Poison Oak is not friendly to human, I would like think about alternatives. It is said goat love to eat them. How about bringing some goat to eat these poison oaks? This can be delicious to goat but we are destroying them. East Bay park district has used goat and sheep to do park maintenance. I have seen this a few times at Coyote Hills.

There are also full of wild flowers. We were told to cut them as well, but sometimes hesitated to do so. They are simply gorgeous!

But we have to be flower killer once in a while. Sigh!

About mid way, we can see cloud looming on the peaks - Mt. Olympia and North Peak. You need to witness this to be touched by the scene.

We finally get to the top of Mt. Olympia 2900 ft elevation and take a group picture as seen above when I introduce our group.

When we went out in the morning, it was chilly. I even thought that I might feel miserable when I get to the mountain where it can be windy. That's why those cold blood animals would rather stay homes and take cozy sleep. Coming down from the mountain in the afternoon, we can see more visitors walking with family. We see a few snakes around on the trail. We have to poke them to move out of the trail. There are traffic of hikers and bikers and they can be run over. Here is one snake that kids of a family are excited to see and Kermit helps it to go into the bushes.

About Angeles Crest 100M

Kermit and I also see Jonathan Kimura, a young runner from Cupertino, doing his 15 mile training for the coming the marathon distance in Diablo 50M. He was coached by the Angeles Crest 100M record holder Jim O'Brien. We talk a lot about ultrarunning. Jonathan did Angeles Crest 100M back in 2001 and has great experience with it. I introduce Kermit to Jonathan since Kermit will do it this year.

I hear about those interesting things about Angeles Crest 100M and how to face the big hills coming at last few miles, how the mind set plays a lot in running Angeles Crest 100M, and how it is easy to miss a turn and get lost at some section full with boulders and crowded with people . According to Jonathan, Angeles Crest 100M is one of the few "runnable" mountain 100 milers.

Heading Home

I'm about to go home because it will be a long way up to two hours - 30 min to the Concord BART station, 1 hour BART, and 30 min from Union City BART station to my home.

Going back downhill is a very nice reward to my tired body. However, riding on Clayton Rd is now a horrible job. No fragrant smell and the street is neither quiet. There are a lot of traffic. I am eventually forced to ride on the sidewalk, which sometimes has wide pits here and there. I hurry up in fast gear. It becomes stunts until I safely get to Concord BART station.

On the BART train, I am very tired and fall asleep a few times. I wake up quickly for fear of missing the transfer in Oakland and getting to San Francisco.

I am so hungry when I get out of the Union City BART station. I stop by Ranch 99 Asian grocery market and buy a few deli. I am not able to enjoy the longly waited dinner until I take a shower and get a vegetable soup done.

It is 7pm now. What a long day! But I get acquainted with a few great ultrarunning friends and recognize the vicious Poison Oak. I got poison oak twice last year for the first time, but still had no confidence in telling which is poison oak. Now I know it very well!

On the other hand, I never knew trails are such a hard work. I can not imagine how we can have a machine to create a trail and maintain it even in this modern technology age. Doing trail work may not be as intensive as running on a trail, but it requires the same effort in order to do it well. It is such a precious and rewarding activity. From now on, I think I have totally new experience with my feet on the trails - full of appreciation and respect.

With such a trail work experience, I should be able to easily get into the four such volunteer work to be done next year.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

070331 Ruth Anderson 63 Miles - A Training Run Without Walk

Date: March 31, 2007
Race: Ruth Anderson 100K
Location: Lake Merced, San Francisco
Distance: 63.16 miles
Profile: 1,400ft gain/loss
Result: 10:29:53.85 (9.58 min/mile), Complete Results

  • Marathon: 3:51:48.55 (8:55 min/mile)
  • 50K: 4:42:06.04 (9.04 min/mile)
  • 40M: 6:09:44.24 (9:15 min/mile)
  • 50M: 7:58:05.79 (9:34 min/mile)
  • 100K: 10:22:05.03 (9:57 min/mile)

Accrued TimeCalories


40 Miles406:09:44.24

50 Miles507:58:05.79




This time I decide to complete 100K without quitting at 50K like last year. Doing 100K equivalent to nearly 14 laps around Lake Merced becomes a lot of pressure.

I have been thinking about the strategy at my spare time these days. It's all about drinking and eating. In training runs, I usually start to drink at mile 10 and eat at mile 14. In the race, I'll over hydrate myself before start and try to extend the first unstopped section of run. I also need to consider the intervals among the two aid stations.
  • start to eat and drink after three laps
  • eat only gels
  • eat one gel around an aid station, i.e. two gels each lap
  • drink at least one 20 oz bottle of salted sports drink each lap
  • take three salt tablets at every other lap
  • eat, drink, and fill my bottle only at the finish aid station
  • skip the other aid station

Get to the Race

As usual, I felt reluctant to get up that early with pressure. I got up at 4am and left home at 5am, hoping to get everything ready. I had two banana and one can of V8 done at home before I left for the race. Since I had cold and have been headache for some time, I take one Contact tablet and carry one. I plan to take that one when I get to 50K.

On my way, I was thinking that I can take BART and walk another 3 miles instead of driving, but it need planning and it's too late. Maybe I can do it this way next time.

Last year, I drove around the lake to look for the start. I was luckier this year as I only missed a turn and had to drive half of the lake.

It's darker than last year because the race is 3 weeks earlier. However, the large parking area looks like nearly full. I was lucky to find a parking near the course. I can see there is a long line in front of the only one bathroom.

I met a couple of Ultraholics friends there - Rajeev Patel, Yuki Negoro with Miho, Alan Geraldi, and Anil. Ron Duncan is there. He is training for Boston and Comrades.

It is cold, but gets better after a half mile walk to the start. The RD John Burton briefs for minutes, relaxing a little the atmosphere. Off we start.

Lap 1 (mile 0 ~ 3.98): 3.98 miles/33:55:04, pace: 8.31 min/mile
Lap 2 (mile 3.98 ~ 8.48): 4.50 miles/39:04.86, pace: 8.41 min/mile
Lap 3 (mile 8.48 ~ 12.99): 4.51 miles/39:46.93, pace: 8.50 min/mile

The first three laps I ran with Yuki and Ron at an easy pace with our fresh legs. I am able to run fast and take a picture for runners behind - Yuki, Ron (in red), and 15 years old Michael Kanning (front).

We also run with Eric Barkenkotter. He recognizes me. He is the one who was one minute ahead of me in the Ohlone 50K last year and got the age group award. He says he wants to try 100K and hope to run a 100 miler in near future. He is definitely faster than I, so he pulls away later and finishes a fast 50K at 4 hr 33 min.

Both Yuki and I wear a Forerunner 305 GPS watch. While we are running at sub-9 min pace, we are joking that we also race with the watch. I was told that the battery can last only 10 hours. Since I plan to run this 100K at 10 hours (Yuki has 9 hours in mind), we would like to see either we finish first or the watch dies first. I also think we probably need to collect three watches for a 100 milers - one in a drop bag every 33 miles.

Ron is a fast guy but he is enjoying the run and prepare to speed up later. He kindly takes a picture for us when we just finish a lap.

As planned, I do not drink or eat, and skip every aid station. I do stop at bathroom once and then catch up Yuki later. I feel amused at the porn drawings in the bathroom.

So far so good. I am ready to get resupply once I finish the three warmup laps.

Lap 4 (mile 12.99 ~ 17.50): 4.51 miles/39:44.98, pace: 8.49 min/mile
Lap 5 (mile 17.50 ~ 22.03): 4.53 miles/40:59.17, pace: 9:03 min/mile
Lap 6 (mile 22.03 ~ 26.20): 4.17 miles/38:17.62, pace: 9:11 min/mile
Marathon: 3:51:48.55, 8:51 min/mile

Now I feel like racing - I start to eat and drink regularly according to my plan. I eat one Gel around every aid station pass. I stop only at the finish aid station to refill my bottle. I drink every half mile. These pretty much follow what I did in my training and it worked well.

Regarding electrolyte, I have to add some salt into my water bottle because I found I need more salt than usual. I have a small bottle of affordable kitchen salt, so I drop a little at every bottle refill. To add some flavors, I mixed the salt with Gu2O powder and GreenToGo. It tastes great! Besides, I remind myself to take three salt tablets every other lap.

We ran from the pre-dawn darkness. Now we can see daylight coming up. The lake is beautiful at different shades of lights. Look how happy Yuki is at the sunrise!

At mile 20, I am passed by Alan, so I wish him well. Then I catch up John Mintz, who is the 50 mile winner last year. He normally shows up (and wins) in many PCTR events. He seems to have some issues. We run together to the other aid station. He stays there, but I wish him good luck and keep running. Then I am passed by Mark Tanaka. He is flying by. Within minutes I can see him catch up Alan far ahead. I look at my watch and figure out they are running at 3hr marathon pace! This is Alan comfortable pace, but I can not imagine Mark will run this pace for his 100K. Anyway, such a fast pace is usually out of my comprehension :-)

At the marathon distance, I carefully press the lap button. And I finish it at 3 hr 51 min 48 sec - 7 minutes faster than my training run. I am satisfied about it because I feel better and this course has some small hills, compared with the flat Alameda Creek Trail.

Lap 7 (mile 26.20 ~ 31.35): 5.15 miles/50:17.49, pace: 9:46 min/mile
50+K: 4:42:06.04, 9:04 min/mile

Once I pass the marathon distance, I know the 50K is not far - less than 8K to go. But somehow my 50K lap is at mile 31.35, a little over 50K. Perhaps I press the button at the 50K finish line and my 50K from the GPS watch comes before the 50K line. I felt much better than last year when I struggled a bit to finish only 50K. I guess I have trained better so far thanks to those 30-40 miles training runs in previous weeks.

At the half-way aid station I meet Anil. He seems very comfortable, but I am thinking where Rajeev is. They both plan to run 50 miles today. It turns out Anil finishes 100K. What a strong determination in Anil!

I made this 50+K 6 minutes faster than the 50K in my training run. It's even improved by over 10 minutes from last year.

Lap 8 (mile 31.35 ~ 35.35): 4.25 miles/42:31.12, pace: 10:00 min/mile
Lap 9 (mile 35.35 ~ 40.00): 4.40 miles/45:07.08, pace: 10:15 min/mile
40 Miles: 6:09:44.24 9:15 min/mile

Now I set my target to 40 miles since I have done a 40 mile training run. Because I caught cold early this week, I take one Contact tablet, which can last 6 hours, in case I have headache.

I see Rajeev happily at the finish area. He turns out to have leg pain. He has to stop at 50K and save for the American River 50M two weeks later. He kindly takes a picture of me.

I catch up Michael Kanning. He now runs without shirt.

We talk a while. Like Yuki, who made an unbelievable 50K PR in Prirate Cove 50K a week earlier, he did it as well under 6 hours. His photo is on the Ultrarunning magazine Jan/Feb issue for the report of Helen Klein 50 miles, when he ran it at the age of 14. He plans to run Rio Del Lago 100 miles this year as his first 100 miler at the age of 15. He said the current record of the youngest 100 mile finisher is age 16. If he finishes it, he'll be the youngest 100 mile finisher. I wish the nice young man good luck and pull away.

At one moment, I suddenly start to feel thigh cramp. I don't know why because I have taken salt tablets regularly. Perhaps it's noon time and I'm sweating more and losing more salt. I swallow two salt tablets right away. The symptom goes away after 10 minutes. I'm glad to carry some salt tablets with me.

When I reach mile 40, it is 6 hr 9 min, well faster than my 40 mile training run of 6 hr 40 min. I start to feel tired but much better than in the 40 mile training run. At least I can keep moving at 10 minutes pace.

Lap 10 (mile 40.00 ~ 44.65): 4.65 miles/49:01.15, pace: 10:32 min/mile
Lap 11 (mile 4.00 ~ 8.50): 4.50 miles/40:00.00, pace: 11:06 min/mile
50 Miles: 7:58:05.79 9:34 min/mile

Now my target is 50 miles. I have run races of longer distances. However, if I see today's run as a training run, this is an unheard territory for me. I start to struggle, but I feel great mentally. Since my training is up to 40 miles, anything beyond that becomes the test of my mental strength.

Near the end of the lap, I see Ron Duncan. He has finished 50K with 4hr 8min, third place overall. He comes to run with me. We talk along the way, but I am too tired to say much. After finishing one lap, he has to go and head home. Thanks Ron help me pass one lap.

When Ron leaves, I see my friends Alex and 崝萍 at the finish aid station. We knew each other back in Taiwan long ago. They just live in Daly City near Lake Merced. They told me they'll come around between 9 and 10 in the morning, but I did not see them. Now they show up and I am really excited. They quickly join me for the lap. I am still too tired to say much with them. They follow me behind.

Mark Tanaka passes me again. I thought he was doing the shorter 50K since he ran so fast when he passed me for the first time. Now I'm sure that he's running for 100K. He is slower than earlier, but still much faster than my pace. I am thinking that if he can call me out before passing me, I can turn around and take a picture for him since I have carried a camera all the way. I don't want to interrupt him and I have no way to catch him to tell him about this.

When I finish 50 miles, it's about 100 yards before the official finish. My time is 7 hr 58 min. This will be my record. I am happy about it, but I'm also worry at the same time. Two weeks from now, I'll run American River 50M and my goal is 8 hours. I think I need to run harder to make it because American River 50M has more hills and can be warmer. Anyway, I'll try my best. Perhaps today's run is really a training run that helps me run better in American River 50M.

Lap 12 (mile 50.00 ~ 53.65): 3.65 miles/39:59.57, pace: 10:57 min/mile
Lap 13 (mile 53.65 ~ 58.13): 4.48 miles/40:00.00, pace: 11:47 min/mile
Lap 14 (mile 58.13 ~ 62.50): 4.37 miles/51:32.32, pace: 11:48 min/mile
100K: 7:58:05.79 9:34 min/mile

After 50 miles, I actually solely rely on my mental strength. I keep counting down the laps whenever I pass the finish area. I see Yuki at the finish area ready to leave. Yuki just finished a speeding 50K a week ago. He has some leg pain and have to stop at 50 miles. I think it's only me to run 100K (without knowing Anil is working hard at 100K as well). There are much fewer runners on the course right now.

With one last lap to go, I am standing in front of the table. I look blank for a while and can not move until Mark Tanaka calls me to go. He already finishes the 100K at 7 hr 57 min, 46 min faster than last year. He is 2nd place overall.

I appreciate he urges me to keep going. Once I move forward, I am able to pick up the slow but good 11-ish min pace. At this last lap, I say goodbye to the volunteer at 50 miles and at the other aid station. I feel great to get to the finish area. About 100 yards before the finish, I press the lap button at 62.5 miles, i.e. 100K. I get to the finish, but decide to keep running. The RD John Burton catches up and I explain that I want to run to the start to make it exactly 14 laps.

Lap 15 (mile 62.50 ~ 63.16): 0.66 miles/7:28.82, pace: 11:18 min/mile

I now run at comfortable pace and it's downhill. This half mile feels like a mile! When I get the to start, I can not run back. I'm totally done. Walking back is slow and it's uphill.

It's over 10 hr and I find the Forerunner 305 indicates 2 levels out of 4 of battery power. It seeems that it can last over 12 hours. I think I'll use it in Miwok 100K as well.

When I get to the finish, it's nice to see my friends there. I don't know why, but I was set to lie down on a chair. It seems my cold symptom comes out since I am no longer running and the medicine is gone after 6 hours. With the chilly wind and wet clothes, I have a little hypothermia and start to shiver even with some blankets. I had a cup of hot chicken soup to warm myself, but it helps only a little. I chat with Charles Blakney, who volunteers the finish area.

My friends generously invite me to their place to take a shower and chat. We have great time chatting and I get to know their gentle cat. My kids must love her.

I recall I really like this loop course. I never like a loop course, but this one is in the city. Although the course is the same, the surroundings keep changing all the time - people, cars, streets, etc. The lake is beautiful. The 4.5 mile length of the loop is appropriate for every resupply. I would like to do it every year in future. I think I will shoot for faster 100K time such as 9 hours target or plan to run 100 miles instead - starting midnight and complete 22+ laps. Let me call it Ruth Anderson Midnight 100 Miles. I'm looking forward to this wonderful run in future! Thanks John and Amy Burton and all the volunteers.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

My Ultra Biography

After reading the Ultrarunning List for months and learning how to write an ultra biography, it's time to complete mine and introduce myself on my birthday.

Name:Chihping Fu
City/State/Country:Fremont, CA, USA
Occupation:Software Build/Release Engineer (aka. SCM)
Weight:160 lb
Birthplace:Taipei, Taiwan
Date of birth:4/3
Years running:10 (since 1997)
Years running ultras:3 (since Quicksilver 50K in 2004)
  • Mile - 5:40 (speedwork)
  • 5K - 18:50 (Oracle 5K in 2004?)
  • 10K - 39:55 (Mercury News 10K in 2002, a bandit runner)
  • 1/2 Marathon - 1:29:43 (2004 Home Depot San Francisco Half)
  • Marathon - 3:19:19 (2001 Silicon Valley Marathon)
Shoes I run in: any name brand running shoes marked down to $40.

Favorite running surface: wooded trails

Some ultras I have completed:
  • a couple of PCTR 50K's in SF Bay Area (since 2004),
  • Stevens Creek 50K (2006),
  • AR50 (since 2005),
  • Ruth Anderson (since 2006),
  • Miwok 100K (since 2006),
  • Quicksilver 50K/50M (since 2004),
  • Ohlone 50K (since 2005),
  • TRT 50M/100M (since 2005),
  • RDL 100M (since 2006),
  • Firetrail 50M (since 2005),
  • HK50 (since 2006),
  • Quad Dipsea (2005).
Favorite ultras: Those I've run and others trail ultras I have not run.

Ultra achievement I am most proud of: finished strong weekly ultras in 2006 - Miwok 100K, Quicksilver 50M, and Ohlone 50K. The same challenges come again this year by adding Diablo 50M.

Typical training week: 8-10 miles daily during weekday and 20 (hilly Ohlone Wilderness Trail) - 40 miles (flat Alameda Creek Trail) on Sunday

Injury history:
  • shin splints for six months in my first year of running (1997-1998).
  • ball pains lingering for a year after finishing San Francisco Marathon in 2002.
  • None for trail running except ankle twist when wearing Inov 315 this year.
Favorite ultra foods: salted potatoes, brownies, juicy fruits, all brand and flavors of gels, chicken soup.

Favorite ultra beverages: any sports drink, coke

Things I like most about ultras: people, stories, trails, camaraderie, accomplishment, and cheaper than road races ($$/mile).

Things I hate most about ultras: No but I normally spend time figuring out how to get to the race start and return home with minimal impact on environment

What got me started doing ultras: I was kind of idle and lack of motivation after running road marathons for years. A friend (Eric Belden) mentioned about Quicksilver 50K in 2004. I began to train on hills but still had doubts in myself. When I finished the race, I was glad to run beyond marathon and appreciate the terrains. I started to get addicted to run ultras.

Why I do ultras: a great way to reveal myself and enjoy the most of trails in short period of time with the help from volunteers (Thank you all).

Where I found out about the list: told by my friend Rajeev Patel (the Poetic Runner) when I was looking for a ride to my first 100 miler - TRT100 in 2006.

Short-term ultra goals: Complete my this year race calendar listed on (just did Ruth Anderson 100K), in particular, my target race - Wasatch Front 100, and four ultra slams next year when I'm in WS100 for the first time (a two-time loser).

Long-term ultra goals: Keep working on my Ultrailrunning Family Man blog. Complete most of the USA 100 milers and all ultra slam series listed in And the beautiful Tour du Mont Blanc.

Fantasy ultra goals: run beyond time (day and night and my age) and beyond distances (> 100 miles). For example, multi-day solo run touring an area such as run across or around Taiwan, etc.

Favorite ultra quote(s): I actually enjoy reading other's "favorite ultra quotes". They always inspire me!