Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The 2012 Hermosa 24,

There is no place I would rather be than running on the beach of the South Bay, Southern California.  This is where  grew up and nobody makes more footprints in the sand than me.  Some people go to church to find themselves, 

 I Run on the Beach.
The Stanley cup of Beach running trophies)
I enjoyed your company for the last year and I hope to see you soon.

Kind of looks like one of those ads peddlers give you while walking down the strip in Vegas

Two Years ago my friend Christian Burke came up with the idea for the Hermosa 24, a 24 hour soft sand run between the Hermosa and Manhattan Beach piers.  His daughters school was strapped for cash  and he decided to try and break the world record for Greatest Distance Run on Sand  in 24 hours in an effort to raise some money.

At the time I had been been putting a ton of miles in on the sand and was maybe in the best shape of my life but unfortunately for me this was not a race, (yet) it was a solo event and I had already signed up for a race that day anyway.  I was able to come and pace Chistian a few laps and was also there to see him finish and watch his daughter run into his arms at the finishline.  He had a great run, rasied a bunch of cash and was able to set a new world record at around 81 miles.

I was really proud of my friend. It made me wonder what I could do if given the chance?

Well lucky for me Christian gave me that chance last year when the Hermosa 24 became a full fledged event.
It didn't come easy and my training had been hampered by injury.
I gave it my best shot and was able to claim the record for myself by the slimmest of margins.

Like last year my training felt like it was sub par.  Injuries had kept my mileage down to about 75% what I would like in  the months leading up to this years event. All year it seems I had been walking the line between pushing my body too hard and maintaining competitiveness in an event.
(pretty damn frustrating)

 slowly I was starting heal :)

So far June had probably been my best month of life race wise. I had run 5 races winning 3 (2 on the beach)  finishing second in one  (by two steps) and it took a blow out in my sandal to prevent me from winning the  5th race but I still finished 4th.  
If I could defend my tittle at the Hermosa 24 that would be icing on the cake for a great month

Christian Burke one week prior to the Hermosa 24 at the Manhattan Beach 5k

The Local Paper's "Showdown on the Sand" "Runners push for a Successful Hermosa 24" were hyping up the event as a battle Royal between Christian Burke The former world record holder and golden boy of Hermosa VS the barefoot Lunatic from Manhattan, not to mention the 30+ other runners battling it out for the world record.

Last summer Christian flew the coup moving to Spain. I suspect he did this so he could train in secrecy, use HGH, take estrogen and inject all kinds of steroids that are can get you thrown in jail here in the states :)
"look how ripped the little dude is."

Christian was coming off  a recent win
in Europe where he ran 100km in around 8:30 which meant he had the speed to break my record but did he have the endurance for 24 hours on sand?

The week leading up to the event my Sister and my two nephews were headed out to the Grand Canyon and Parker AZ for their summer vacation. They really wanted me to go but they wouldn't be back until late Friday the day before the Hermosa 24.  At first I said no because I wanted to get more time in on the sand.
(that's Stupid)

I'm not really one for tapering.  It's not that I think it's a bad idea it's just that I love running.  I've stated it before and I'll say it again races are cool and all, I dig the comradery and competition but its the training that I love.  Racing is just a way of validating the counltess hours doing what I love.

The one thing I love more than than running at the beach is my family and perhaps a little time away would a little spring in my step
(although it may soften my feet for ho sand?)

It turned out to be an awesome trip full of
Beers, Bears
And Dinosaurs
My Luna Sandals were perfect attire for the canyon's
And rivers.
Without a doubt it was the right descion to spend the week with my family.  During the week the week I only got a few runs in, one at the top of the Grand Canyon and a final  training run, spinning my legs for a sub 16 min 5k on an outdoor treadmill in 115 degree heat just 2 days before the event.

Race Day

 The race didnt start till noon but if you wanted a good spot you could set up your camp starting at 8 a.m. I was too excited to sleep, I arrived at 8:05 and even found primo parking spot just a few steps from the beach.

Time to fraternize.
One of the first friends I saw when I arrived was Kara Lubin founder of the 100 mile club. Along with  another Ultra runner friend Mieko.
Kara is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met and the 100 mile club was hosting a kids competition where they could run one lap of the course anytime during the event.

Captain of my Ragnar team and one of my favorite people to play paddle tennis against Denise Winner.  She was thier as the captain of relay team "Mickey's Winners that I would have surly been apart of if there had been no solo division.
 My Best Friend Dan Westergaard was also on Denise's team.  I would be pacing Dan at Badwater for the 4th consecutive year 2 weeks after this event.
 (guess what my next blog post after this will be about?)
Fellow Mas Loco Tom
When Caballo Blanco went missing earlier I rode with this dude out to Wyoming to go search for our missing friend.  It was nice to see Tom under happier cicumstances

Now on to competition. 
 Last year I had it pretty easy winning by 22 miles but this year would not be the case.

 1st up the race director himself Christian Burke.
More than anyone else (including myself) he wanted to win this event.  He had been here before, trained hard and seemed ready to kick some butt
(not to mention all those roids he'd been injecting lol)
 The Kid Alex Mendoza.
Last year was the first time he had ever ran an Ultra and he ran 62 miles! He has ran a 2:55 marathon in Luna Sandals and runs track for his high school. Now a year older, stronger and wiser he was someone I would deffinetly have too keep my eye on
The Jester Ed Etinghousen 
This dude is tough.  Ed has ran 7 100 mile races in 7 weeks and many 100 milers in unders 24 hours.  He's not super fast but he is steady if he can make the transition from cement to sand  smoothly he could be the one to beat.
Yellow shirt Solomon dude.
For some reason I never caught his name but whatever it was he looked fast.  The dude was sponsored by solomon so I'm sure he's done some amazing things in the past, I just don't know what they are and I'm too lazy to look it up.
 The dude on the right Jake Rome.
More than anyone else (other than myself) Jake had been training for this event.  Many times we would cross paths on the sand and although he was only shooting for 50 miles, perhaps something magical would happen.
Tatsunori Suzuki
I had never met this dude before but chatted briefly before the event.  He told me that he once ran 127 miles in 24 hours.  He was wearing Hoka's on the sand.  The shoes were designed with tons on cushioning to damper the impact of running on the body.  "Doesn't the sand already do that?" They are extra wide meaning more surface area on the sand with each step something that would be beneficial.  Perhaps he would be the one to beat
Rachel Regona.
This girl looked fit and she looked fast. Maybe a woman would win this year
Aviva Gat
She came to the race to crew for her dad but at the last second decided to enter the event herself.  Anyone with cajones big enough to sign up for a 24 hour event on whim gets my respect.

Game plan
  This year I planned on taking things slow.  I was disappointed with how I preformed last year suffering throughout the night.  I figured that maybe if I paced myself during the day staying around a 45 minute lap I could really kick some butt after dark.

I have a very analytic brain.  I am constantly trying to calculate odds  adding up splits.  If I'm not listening to music during a race I'm probably doing math. I try to have game plan going into every race sometimes it can be as simple as "Run as  fast as you can for as long as possible."  
(actually that's usually the game plan.)

I wonder if I'll listen to myself this year and go out slow?
(not likely)
How am I supposed to while other runners have technology like this strapped to their feet?

11 a.m. Mandatory Race briefing. 
1 hour till race time
Burke was hamming it up a bit, something he does well but it took for ever.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"
Burke and I were the only ones so lazy they needed a chair)
By now the sun was starting to beat down. I Christian was making me sleepy before the race had even began.
Was this part of his master plan to wear me out with his words?
If it was I think it was working.

A few momenets before race time My Nephewa arrived.  I was really excited to have them their to boost my moral. 
Finally the time had come to race.  It felt like I had already been at the the beach all day

10 seconds into the race Christian Burke sprinted in front of everyone. (what a a dork)  before retreating back into the pack with a big grin on his face. In the back of my head I knew that be the last time he would have the lead!

Time to implament my strategy of going slow right?
Yeah right.

Last year I had ran the first lap faster than any of the runners including those in the relay I guess I could push the tempo a little bit. I know Burke wanted to go slow but I also knew his ego would keep him close to me.
He stayed about 40 feet behind me as we joked along the way.  I paced Christian 2 years ago when he broke 80 miles and learned that he loves more than anything to run in fresh foot prints he was now using mine to his advantage.
As we approached the end of the first lap I sped up a little bit so Christian couldn't sneak past me as he did in the races beginning. Right of Christian's heels was yellow shirt dude, Alex, and Tatsu.

Annie Seawright
I expected Annie Seawright's relay team to pass me on the second lap but I managed to hold them off for most of the day.

By the end of the second lap my lead was starting to grow but really wasn't that big.  I was setting the pace much faster than it needed to be which I don't think bowed well for my competition. As for me I felt pretty good other than the hot sand which was starting to take a toll on my feet.
My Nephews decided to join me on the third lap.  I twas cool running with them for that first 100 yards.  I felt bad leaving them in the dust but not as bad as they would have felt if they tried to keep up with me.
It was tough work for nephews to finish the their lap (heck its tough for anyone). I could tell they were struggling but when they saw me their faces lite up and so did mine.  It really meant a lot to me to have them out there and I was very proud Uncle.

My mother and sister tailed behind them and I guess it was nice to have them out there as well.

The weather was perfect and beach was packed with beautiful women.  Unfortunately for you I was busy running my ass off  and my sister had the camera, that's why you're looking at a pic of my dumb ass rather than some babe in a bikini. But you see the smile on my face? That's from all the beautiful ladies

With each lap my lead got bigger and bigger. As early as the second loop I began to lap other competitors and I wasn't gonna let up until I had lapped every runner.

Mr Burke had gone out to fast trying to keep up with me causing an old injury in his foot to flare up during the the 3rd or fourth lap.  causing him to drop out the race.

I was feeling much better than expected and having a lot of fun out there.  I loved sharing smiles with other racers as we raced in opposite directions and it was really cool to see so many kids running a laps for the 100 mile club.

Because of the articles in local papers the week before may of the beach goers knew who I was. I encountered at least 100 strangers who new my name and wished my luck.  Since I did not wear headphones I could also hear numerous murmurs  "that dude has the world record on sand." or "that guy 's been running that pace all day." (looks can be deceiving) or "that guy again?" after I had passed one group of people a bout 5 times they stared giving me a soccer chant "olah olah olah" and even preformed the wave during one of the laps.

It all helped helped distract me from the fatigue in my legs and giant blisters forming on my feet.  By nightfall it looked like I had 14 toes.  The blisters would pop, my foot would get soaked, sand would creep into the wound and I would be in pain for few steps and then the cycle would repeat itself.  
At least this may help keep me awake I thought?
After their lap my nephews left the beach. They returned just before dark so that they could camp in my tent  on the sand something that is only allowed during the Hermosa 24 since they were an integral part of my crew.
The night was kind of blur (and so were the pictures) My buddy Dilg paced me around 10 p.m. It was nice to have some company but like last year my speed slowed when I had a pacer.  The next lap my pace was back to normal.
By midnight my pace was slowing down fast. and I planned to take a 15 minute break to fuel up on some calories.  
Perfect timing Paisono's pizza had just delivered a few pies.  I had an Oaked Arrogant Bastard Stone Ale  in my cooler and after ripping the cheese off the pizza had one of the best meals ever.

My break took longer than expected and after the first mile of my next lap I hit the wall.  As hard as tried I could only run a 25 minute mile. (yikes)  I had already run over 60 miles in the sand but at that pace breaking my record would not be possible and chances are I was gonna get even slower.

What to Do?????

I decided to gamble and take a nap.  I had never intentionally slept in a race before. I remembered how fresh Alex Mendoza had looked last year after a nap. If it worked so well for him maybe it would work for me?
At around 2:00 a.m. I slipped into my tent next to my nephews and set my alarm for 2:45.  If I got back on the course at 3:00 a.m. I would need to average one lap an hour in order to break the record but if my pace didn't increase I had no chance.

I woke with an emphatic Homer Simpson like

When I stood up I felt surprisingly good.   I got back out on the course and was running between a a 12:30 and a 13:30 pace which I would maintain for the next 4 laps.  The gamble had payed off and my sights were now back  on breaking the record.

the night had taken it's toll on the runners
(In a weird synchronic twist my buddy Dan happens to be one of Alex's track coaches and the only one the encouraged him to compete in this event) 
By morning we were all feeling the pain

Even the relay runners looked beat.
 But if you wanna set a world record you gotta keep on grinding way
( maybe I have too much Arrogant Bastard in my blood stream or perhaps just the right amount?)

My night time laps were faster than I had anticipated and before I knew it, it was around 9:00 a.m. and I only need one more lap to break my record and the second place runner was about 20 miles behind.  I asked Christian if he would to join me  as he did last year?  His foot was still hurting but being the good dude that he is he was already counting on it.
Christian had put his heart and soul into this event and without him none of this would be possible.  Needless to say I was really stoked that he joined me
Near the end of the lap I was handed a giant American  to carry through the finish line for a photo
I really had to focus not to let stars and stripes touch the sand
What a wimp I am  compared to this chick who carried a much heavier flag the entire race.
Like last year the news was waiting for me. After a quick interview I went out for one more lap.
My buddy Dan joined me at the start and My Nephew Lucas Jumped in with me as I crossed the line with a total distance of over 94 miles or 150 kilometers.

At the finish line I was greeted by very warm embrace by friends family and strangers which I won't soon forget
Time to sit in a chair and watch the other runners finish
 Congrats to Tatsu on his second place finish
Way to go Alex on increasing your distance by 10 miles over last year and finishing 3rd.  You got bright future in Ultra running. 
Congratulations Rachel on winning the woman's division.  She ran a great race and even stopped to feed her baby in between laps. In a strange twist of fate I ran into Rachel at "The Counter" a local burger joint in El Segundo (arrogant Bastard on tap)  about an hour after leaving the race where we both enjoyed Large beers.
Mickey's Winners defended their title in the relay division.  barely defeating Annie Seawrights team.
Aviva finished with the same smile I saw so many times out on the course.
 And this dude Finished in a Sports Kilt

Thank you to all the other runners who helped generate money for Hermosa beach schools.

Thank you to my friend's and to everyone in community who cheered for me along the way, it rally helped keep me going.
Having my family at the event this year meant the world to me Thank you guys dearly for your love and support. 

The Hermosa 24 Is one of kind event.  It is the vision of one man who wanted to make a difference in his community.  Thank you to Christian Burke for putting together such a top notch event. I 'm stoked that I was able to raise the bar a bit. I encourage anybody who thinks they have what it take to come jump over it.  This event will continue to flourish and I can't wait till next year!

More press coverage


If you know me you know you know I like to pick up random crap left on the beach when I run. Here is a small sample of what I picked up during the Hermosa 24.  I found an additional shovels which I gave away while running as well as soap bubble pipe which mysteriously disappeared?

 I think Burke took it