Just last week I honestly thoguht I could not finish Mt d without hurting myself. I had 4 good days of training and was pretty amazed at how non gimpy I felt. I haven't really done any trail running this year but for some reason optimism was entering my brain. Mt Dissapointment has been one of my favorite races in years past. The race director is really cool guy and it takes place near Oak Grove disc golf course which means I get to have fun afterwards.
The day before the race I did my best to avoid all exercise. In preparation for the heat I spent over 2 hour's at the gym roasting my body in the 170 degree sauna (I try to do about an hour everyday but usually make it only 5 days a week). I came home cooked a nice whole wheat Pizza which I do about 4 nights week. I limited myself to a glass and half of wine, set the alarm and 2:30 a.m. and passed out while listening to the Greattful Dead by 9:30 p.m.
whole wheat dough, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, arugula, spinach, basil, carrots, habanero, jalapeños, Thai chili, onion, and elephant garlic. It could have really used some avocado.
I woke up content with my 5 hours sleep took a shower, pounded a couple cups of coffee, and ate 10 pieces of cinnomin toast on whole grain bread. I chatted for bit with my roomate who was just stumbling home from the clubs, took my Supermulti Vitamins, rolled out my legs on the foam roller and was out out the house by 3:07 a.m.
The roads were empty I made good time into Pasedena. Highway 2 the main attery up to Mt. Wilson was closed. We were advised to give ourselves and extra 90 minutes of time in order to drive the round about way starting line. I got there at 5:05 race starts at 6:30.
Yeah, I know the view is much prettier without the dork in front of it but mom likes these pics (lol).
The forecast was for hot weather but since the race was just a 50k (race director claimed it was 32.8 miles). The weather would not be a factor if we ran fast, we would be done before the sun could cook us. The gear I planned on using for the race has become pretty standard. from top to bottom Jamba Juice hat, Garmin Forerunner 310XT , two Ultimate Direction FastDraw Extreme Handhelds upgraded to the 26-Ounce BottleI had planned on wearing some Moeben sleeves to carry my Zen mp3 player it has a speaker built in and I wanted rock out to some Voodoo Glow Skulls to help pass the time and keep my tempo up but stupid me forgot the mp3 player so I decided to forgo the sleeve's as well. I wore my lucky USTAF short's, which I have now won 3 out of 4 races while wearing. Before my trip to Badwater, CEP hooked me up with a new pair of White Calf Sleeve's size Men's Elite (women's small) I went with the white to stay cool just in case it got warm. On my feet I wore a pair of Injinji's, and you guessed it my Vibram Kso Trek's. I thought about wearing my Luna sandal's. I had no clue what kind of condition the trails would be in or how technical they would be for that matter. This would be only my 3rd time running on a trail this year and I felt that I am bit too clumsy and inexperienced to take that chance just yet. The night before the race I had to sow up a few holes In the toes of my Vibrams. I had only worn them once running (San Diego 100) in and once hiking (Mt. Whitney) plus a little disc golf hear and there. The Kangaroo leather was tough too get the needle through I did ugly job but it would suffice.
The race was about to start I saw a few friends and wished them luck. There was one other racer going shirtless and what do you know he was also the only other guy wearing Vibrams. I think he ended up finishing a few hours after to me and sadly I didn't get an opportunity to chat with him. Gary the race director asked me if I would be okay in my footwear, I told him it was probably safer than me going barefoot. I don't think he was betting on me to win.
The course started with about a 5 mile run down a windy paved road from the summit of Mt. Wilson. I decided I needed to take advantage of this and go out fast. I went out at around a 6 min pace for the first couple miles before settling down around 6:30. Dean Dobberson jumped out of the gates even faster he was doing sub 6 and disappeared from my sites with the first 10 minutes, I didn't expect to see him till the finish line. Along this part I ran the first few steps with one of Southern California's finest runners both in in beauty and trail running ability Michelle Barton. She told me before the race that she also wanted to go out fast. I decided if I could stay in front of her I must be doing well. The whole race race I imagined she was right on my tail and I was doing my best not to get get "Chicked" (beat by a girl). There was one other guy I don't remember his name but he was from Colorado, I tried to keep pace with him but he quickly blew me away on the downhill.
After the first stretch on pavement we hit the Red Box aid station. I'd only been running for a little over a 1/2 hour, I had no reason to stop and it was on to the next part of the course. Another 5 miles downhill, this time on a fire road. The ground felt real soft through my Vibrams and I was pretty content with way my body holding up although I was getting a little sick of going downhill knowing that every step down would mean a step back uphill later in the race.
I hit the Westfork aid station at mile 10.4 in good spirits and was ready to start climbing. I thought I was charging the hill pretty good, safely holding on to my 3rd place position, when along comes the kid effortlessly closing the distance. He was running a lot stronger than me but I wasn't going to give up my position that easily. We ran together for the 3 mile climb talking about our different running philosophies and what not, I was definitely going faster than I would have he were not there. We jammed through the Newcomb aid station stride for stride about to hit a short downhill section, then a huge climb. My downhill speed was starting to slowdown and he easily left me in the dust. I was now in fourth I guess I could live with that, I had no clue how close anyone was behind me and figured the top 2 guys had about a 1 mile lead by this point.
When I started climbing uphill again I still felt pretty good the race was halfway over and nothing hurt. Since I had no music, my brain had to find it's own rhythm. Two songs got stuck in my head and neither of them I really knew lyrics to. The first song was Weezers "Run Over by a Truck" The ironic part was that I felt great and was gaining confidence as race progressed. As I sang the words to myself I couldn't help but smile at this absurdity (I felt more like the truck). The other stupid song going through my head was "Anyone Else But You" by the Moldy Peaches. I had watched the movie "Juno" for the first time early in the week and the chorus to this song has been stuck in my head ever since. During an Ultra you have plenty of time contemplate your life, here I was running up a mountain humming to myself dut, dut, ta, dut, dut, ta, dut, dut, ta, du, du, finding my happy place while trying to run the race. Both of these songs are now on my blog playlist and may soon be stuck in your head as well. (ha ha)
It was a little over 9 mile's between aid stations. I was about 6 miles into that stretch rationing my liquids just in case. It was a tough climb. The sun was starting to shine and I kept waiting for fatigue to set in but I didn't. I ran into some spectators who informed there was water just 1 mile ahead. This gave me a burst of energy I pounded what fluids I had left and accelerated up to the aid station.
Photo by Andy Kumeda
At the station I filled up quick and ran into a group about 10 pretty women who were running the opposite direction (often happens to me) training for the Angeles Crest 100 miler that uses the same trail. One of them was even wearing Vibram Five Finger's as well. I wanted to stay and chat but I had a race to run. They wished me luck and I was off.
It was only another 2 or 3 miles uphill to the Shortcut aid station at mile 23.6. I kept on trucking along. About a mile from the aid station I could see the guy from Colorado who ditched me at the start. He wasn't moving so fast up the hill. I seized on the opportunity and easily passed him during the final climb into shortcut.
Photo taken by the Mayer of Badwater Ben Jones
I saw some more friends at the aid station. Including Dominic Grossman and 2008 Ultra runner of the year Jorge Pacheco. Dominic asked "How my feet were doing?" They were doing great, but up until this point the course was almost entirely on fire roads and I could have easily ran it in my sandals. The race Director Gary Hilliard was also there he informed that I was about six minutes off the lead. I was surprised that I was that close but I was more concerned about holding off the guy I had just passed or anyone else for that matter. The whole time I thought Michelle Barton was with in a few minutes of me and I wanted to remain in front of her.
I told myself all that all I had to do was run down a little hill and then climb to the finish line. No more fire roads. The next few miles were on single track trail that was totally destroyed by last years fire. The trail was very thin, unstable, overgrown and dangerous for an inexperienced trail runner like myself. You could tell a lot of work must have been done to get the trail where it was but a lot more work was needed to get it back to the way it used to be. Although I was going downhill I couldn't really get faster than a 10 minute pace. I was doing the best I could but I felt like I was losing a lot of time to anyone who actually trains on the trail.
After a few mile's of switchbacks I arrived a very rocky stream. I had to jump from boulder to boulder following orange ribbons tied to tree limbs, as I tried to avoid stepping in the water or planting my feet incorrectly on an unseen rock. It was here that I was thankful I did not decide to run in sandals. Most trail running shoe's have rock plate guarding the arch of your foot. When the trail gets technical it's inevitable that every step will not land exactly as planned. When you step on the wrong sized rock, landing on the arch of your foot in a pair of Vibrams, you feel it but if I was worried about pain I should not be running ultra's. Following the stream was fun trying to strategize each step. I felt like I lost a little bit more ground here but I knew I had enough juice left to give it good push up the final climb and I really wanted to hold on to 3rd place.
I popped out of the stream bed sooner than expected. My GPS was tracking short and I had reached the final aid station Westfork about mile before I expected it. I filled up my bottles and decided to try something new. On the table they a cup full of a liquid I did not recognize. They told me it was Rockstar energy drink. My body felt stroung, I was properly hydrated, I figured a little caffeine boost might do me some good. I found out later other runners were offered Beer (No Fair)
In years past this final climb up the Kenyon Devore Trail has totally destroyed me. I think I've psyched it up so much in my mind by the time I arrived at it this year it didn't seem so bad. I had conserved my energy and was ready to charge it with vigor. The caffeine from the rock star provided a good boost as I sailed through the first mile. It was at that time I ran into Dean Dobberson. I figured he would probably be close to the finish line by now. I stepped it up notch and as I passed him he told me he was cramping. I inquired about how far the leader was in front of us, dean told me "he was about 1 and 1/2 in the lead." I went from complacent with just holding on to third to thinking I could actually win this thing. A surge of energy rushed into me, I told Dean I was going to catch leader as I bolted up the mountain.
I really hoped that surge would propel me to the finish line, but I was going too fast and the mountain was too steep. I kept it up for about 2 miles. If the guy in front was only 1 minute and 1/2 in front I thought I should have caught him by then.
There were less than a couple miles left in the race and I was running out of steam. I kept looking over my shoulder to see if Dean or anyone else was sneaking up on me. I had just about reached the top of the climb and was starting to get excited about the race being over. I caught a glimpse of the leader.
With less than a mile left to go a new race had just began. Fight of flight kicked in, as I emptied the tank in pursuit. The kid in first later told me that he did not see me coming partly because I was not wearing any bright clothing and was camouflaged by my surroundings. I think he had thought the race was already over by now. I was within 100 ft when he first saw me approaching. He looked startled as he broke out into an unplanned sprint. I felt like a cheetah chasing a gazelle in the Serengeti. We were flying. Both of us had nothing left we were running on pure emotion. It was getting dangerous as well I wasn't concerned about where my feet were landing, the single track was rocky and one misstep at this speed could result in injury and second. place. I was gaining on him and was right on his heels. I said to him "It's getting fun now" and it was. There were a few spectators who didn't see us coming that had to literally jump out of our way as we raced to the finish. The trail is only about 3 feet wide I needed to pass but didn't know how. I wanted the lead and had to make my move before it was too late. I made a bold decision leaping off to the side of the trail, over a bush and into first place. Now I would be the hunted. I some how managed to find another gear, that he did not have. I wasn't sure if he was regrouping for one last charge or if he was done. I kept pushing through the last quarter mile as hard as I could., and crossed the finish line while throwing my bottles out of my hands and my arms up in the air victoriously.
Pushing through the finish line
Photo's by Michelle Barton
You can almost see a hint of bicep.
What the hell just happened. I thought this was an Ultra not a track meet. The final sprint at the end I'm sure I'll never forget.
Eventually about a minute later the second place finisher arrived with the help of his father. You wondered how a gimpy fool like myself could win a race, check out my competition. J/k this was from the kids race afterwards.
The guy in second was real nice and supportive after the race. When he ditched me at around mile 13 He said something about probably seeing me again before it was all over, I think he was just trying to be nice but he was right. Dean Dobberson hobbled his cramped up body into third place followed by new friend Josh Spector in forth.
On the womens side Michelle Barton ran a great race but finished second. Sada Crawford would not be beat. I saw Sada before the race, she was doing short sprints in parking lot (something I had never seen anyone do before an Ultra) she had come to win and succeeded.
After the race a lot of people were inquiring about my stupid shoe's. "How do you feet feel ?" "How do you like them?" I tried to answer as nicely and politely as I could. My feet felt pretty damn good and they felt a heck of lot better 30 seconds after the race when I got the vibrams anf injinjis off my feet. I had no blister's and my feet were in near perfect shape. I was excited to have them out of there restraints and I found some tree roots for some impromptu acupressure . My stitched up vibrams had held up acceptably. This may be one of the last races I run in vibrams however. Although they may be one of my best options they are far from perfect and I am too poor to be buying shoes that only last a few runs. It's gotten to a point where I can not use them for training in risk that they may fall apart before a race and I'm using their most durable product. I have now won a 5k, a marathon and an Ultra in Five Fingers and they don't seem to care one bit about my constructive criticism. I hope they get their act together and start making a better quality product very. I may be switching over to the New Balance Mt 101's or the Terra plana Evo very soon. My training is almost all barefoot now and hopefully some day I will toughen up and ditch the shoe's for race day as well.
After the race I sat around for couple hour's having fun with the other runners. The cafe at Mt Wilson was giving out sandwiches "Avocado and Hummus or rye with Horseradish" why the heck not. Eventually it was time for the awards. Gary the race director personally hand crafts every award and it seem like he had made enough for every runner. I was the last one to recieve his. I shook Gary's hand and thanked him for putting on an awesome event.
Gary and I at the finish line
For winning the race I was also entitled to a free pair of Brooks shoe's, everyone chuckled as Gary gave me the certificate. I was pretty stoked, my sister's favorite shoe's are Brooks and I owe her big time for the kind things she done for this year. It also turned at that Gary ended up with enough merchandise from the sponsors that everyone who stuck around got a prize. I ended up with some Electrolyte pills, and some Hammer gel.
I think it's going up on wall next to my signed picture of Vanilla Ice.
It case you don't know where Mt. Wilson is it's the big mountain above Pasadena where all the local Los Angeles television antennas are placed.
All that was left to do now was drive down the Mountain to go play some Barefoot Disc golf at Oak Grove the world first pole hole course
This pic is from a few years ago Mt Wilson is the peak to the right of the Basket
Former glory at Oak Grove
Before getting into Ultra running Professional Disc golf was my passion.
Lead card in the pro division final round of the 2006 Wintertime Open at Oak Grove, check out the cool threads sweats under shorts, gaiters, football turf shoes and a collared shirt.
Oak grove parking lot, the antenna's of mt Wilson are off in the distance. I've been coming here since 1997 and I'll be back this Saturday, it turns out the Oak Grove parking lot just happens to be the meeting ground for Angeles crest 100 trail work
I only ended up playing one round at Oak Grove. I started off strong making birdie in three of the first 4 holes. After that I could'nt sink a putt everything was on line but fell short (could have really used a 150 class putter) with four holes left to I was still 3 under with no bogies. I played through a family who were questioning my decsion to go barefoot. I quited them up real quick by parking the last 4 holes to end at minus 7. I was happy with how I played and I was happy with how I had run. Normally I would play more golf but I was getting thirsty and I could really use a shower.
On the way home from the days events I picked up some 108.5 proof bourbon and some hoppy ale. Time to relax and be lazy. Life is good.
Americas Finest City 1/2 Marathon 8/15
in San Diego
I think it's gonna be my first race in Luna Sandal's