Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ultra Trail Mt Fuji 2013 - Part 1: Avid Adventures

A woman once told me. "Doing an Ironman is like eating a chocolate elephant, you need to focus a little at a time".  I experience so much during this last Japan trip that it is hard for me to write down everything at once so I finally decided on breaking it by part.  I haven't figure what I want to write next but I know I need to start with Avid Adventure.

First of all I like to thanks Pauline Kitamura for helping me with the race requirement process.  I was qualified for UTMF, then I wasn't qualified.  I worked my ass off to get qualified again with another 80 km race only to run into issues again.  Pauline helped me communicate with the official to have everything clear.  For that I am very grateful.

Pauline - the girl in black jacket
Up on arriving at Nagahama Rokan I found a UTMF welcome package with a bunch of useful information. Two things caught my eye.  The stickers and the 'Complete Run' Fuji pin.

The stickers are used for the Avid Adventure drop bags. It reminds me of Ironman drop bags where you have to put stickers on the bag =)
Cool. Avid Adventure managed to find a temple and bought us some Omamori (Japanese amulets) 
What! They are handmade from one of the AA support crew! WOW
When I saw the stickers I am like... cool! It's like the Ironman stickers. I know what to do with these.  Then I found what I thought was an Omamori (Japanese Amulets that you buy at temple, I usually get them for my friends and especially my friend's kids to wish them good health).  The outside said 'Complete Run Wishing' in Kenji (Chinese Character) so I was like wow Avid Adventure managed to find a temple that does this.  From my personal understanding, Japanese don't usually say 'good luck' or 'have fun'. They say 'Please Do Your Best' or wishing you a 'complete run'.  I guess that's their way to say good luck =)  But when I opened it I found a Mt Fuji pin and I realized it is actually handmade!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Because I buy Omamori at temple and I handmade stuff for people that I really care, I really appreciate the effort.  I bought a lot of stuff from Tokyo this time, but if there is one thing that I can only take back from this trip, actually from all of my Japan trips, this pin will be the one thing I will pick.  There is no second thoughts.

When I found out Akiko (wife of Arima) spend an average of an hour making each one of these (and she made 100), my jaw dropped.  Thank You Ari and Akiko.

Arima and Akiko
Then of course there are the rest of the Avid Adventure Crew. I personally did not have the chance to meet every single one of them but here are the complete list of all 2013 Avid Adventure Support Team Members.  

Crewing (supporting racer) is not an easy thing to do.  For a typical 100 miler in United States someone usually have a crew of 3-4 people.  They basically follow you from aid station to aid station and give you support.  When I attempted Angeles Crest 100 in 2012 I have a crew of six.  For this team to manage 100 racers/supports and to provide the kind of support that they have, it was unbelievable.

These are only the surface of what I describe.  Each of the members took their time out and come to support us.  I probably will not make it to Japan to crew these members if they were to do an Ultra Marathon, but I CAN show them around if they visit Los Angeles.  Please let me know if you come to Los Angeles.  

And the one last thing that touched my heart is when they said good bye to me when I board the bus back to Tokyo.  When everyone have a car in Los Angeles (and we all park at different places), we just don't say good bye like this anymore =) Thank You.  Even though I dropped out this year, I have a very good experience and I met a lot of great people (both support and racer).  I will come back to challenge UTMF again, but probably not next year. I need a break from racing =)

Thank You Thank You Thank You.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Feb 2 2013: Ray Miller 50km Race Report

Ray Miller 50km is a training race for me.  Getting stronger does not always mean going all out at races.  There are many factor with endurance training.  Beside physical fitness, pacing, nutrition, and managing your body is also as important.

For Ray Miller, it's about testing some equipment and working on my nutrition.  Because I don't have to beat any cut off, it's a little bit more relaxing.

I loaded my running pack with 17 lbs of weight Friday night and went to sleep. Out which I have 70oz of liquid nutrition and 2 water bottles for water. Even took my hiking poles just for good measure.

I am excited because this is the first ultra marathon training race for the Team In Training Ultra Team. Of the 10 people doing it, 6 of them never done an ultra marathon before.  It's the perfect timing for me because I can kind of sweep the course to make sure all the participants are ok. Again, my goal is to do the whole race with a 17 lbs pack (and feel good doing it) so I don't need to go super fast.

=P Adventure Racer Wannabe
Come Sat, I went to pick up Roy in Santa Monica and we got to the start line at 5am.  We did some last minutes preparation and headed out for packet pickup.  Things went by pretty fast, before we know it we are minutes from the start.  The Ultra Team position ourselves in the middle. Our fastest participant Mandi was standing next to us.  "What are you doing here... get to the front"... I usher her to the front!

Race Morning - Rob missing in the picture
3, 2, 1 Go. We took off.  I focused on walking uphill than running uphill.  I passed Da, Roy, and Rouman early on at the race and they passed me at maybe around mi 3.  The pack does take it toll.

Rouman on La Jolla Canyon Trail

I am just kind of doing my own thing and I got to aid 1 at 1:30, 7 minutes slower than 2012.  Because I carried so much stuff I did not stop for aid.  By this time I caught up with Da and Roy. I talked to them to remind them to eat/drink.  Sooner after they disappeared and then I am going at my own pace again.  Apparently I am very slow because no one was around.  Last year there were actually people running around me.  It doesn't matter, my focus is not time today.  I got to Aid 2 after 1:18.  So I am almost 20 minutes slower than my 2012 time.  Just like in 2012, my nutrition was good. I ate enough and I drunk my intake.  Da/Roy left A2 before I get a chance to finish my refill.  I talked to a few friends at A2 and make my way to A3.

Coyotes Aid Station

One thing worth mentioning is that my running has changed because of the 17 lb pack.  It forced me to really focus my stride because I am 17 lbs heavier.  It made me more aware of my landing and that's a good thing.  Long story short it forces me to bound less, land better, and focus on turnover rate.

Roy and Da pulling away =(
Now I am up Coyotes Trail.  I had problem last year, not this year. I felt great.  I cramped on hidden pond trail last year, that isn't a problem this year.  The weather is a little funny this year.  It's overcast but at the same time it is really hot.  I pull water over my skin and the water dried up after a few minutes.  I pour water over my head and keep on going.  Even though I am slower but I generally feel great!

Next thing I know I am at Danielson Aid Station at mi 18 (or 19).  I thought the Coyotes are going to be there. Nope, but my friend Nancy (aka cool kid) was there.  So did Roy, Da, and Rouman.  And they left again before I finish refilling.  I guess they are the Pacman and I am the ghost.  Fine, I am sure I'll catch them later in the race.

The next 4 miles are uneventful.  Well I dropped my bear bell, but I was too lazy to find it so I continue.  When I got to Serrano Canyon I can see Roy/Da/Rouman down below. Maybe 0.3 mi away. Ok I am going to catch those 3... evil laugh.

Yes, I know I can catch them!

I caught Da/Roy maybe half a mi before Aid 4 at mi 25 and I caught Rouman at the Aid Station.  I checked on them, hung out, and the 4 of us left the aid station.  5 more miles to go. Rouman was very driven and try to finish ASAP.  Roy/Da were going a little slower so they don't injure themselves.  Their goal is to finish so I left them alone.  I did yelled at the 2 when they used their phone!

Last Aid
Roman Staying Focus
Going up Fireline Trail
When I got to the Ray Miller trail head, Rouman is actually kind of far away... maybe another 0.25-.3 miles away. I decided to see if I can catch him and I eventually did.  I was very focus and I was going very fast.  By that time my pack weight about 10 lbs but I didn't feel it at all, it was nice to know.

Before I cross the finish line, I took the Mari BIB and I let it cross over the finish line first.  I just found my way to honor my dear friend Mari.  She'll always cross the finish line before I do every time I carry her BIB.

Crossing the Finish Line with Mari

A brunch of Ultra Team participants were there and they started talking to me.  I wasn't really talking to them because I was looking at the result trying to find out how Mandi did.  OMG she won the race.  I was thrilled. A little while after Da/Roy crossed the finish line.

And yes, one of my friend made me a sign. Totally Sweet!

Ultra Team

10/10.  It was a good day.

My time is about 45mins to an hour slower than my average time.  My pace was faster running the 50miles than doing this 50km.  However I felt really really good and I didn't have any problems, to me that's a win.

I can't wait until the team does the actual event. I am very excited for each one of them. Go Team.

Thanks for all those that came out. Thanks for Mr. Freeyaki for giving me a plan to follow. It's always nice to see 3 of your 6 Angeles Crest 100 crew at your first Trail Race in 2013 =)

Staying Focus On Our Training Goal
We all want to be fast and furious on the trail but things do get in the way sometime.  You may have a deadline at work, you may be sick, you may lose your motivation, you maybe stress.  Whatever it is, take the next training opportunity to work on something that will maximize the work out.

If you are sick, focus on recovery.  You don't have to worry about missing a workout or two.  Getting better is part of the training.

If you are burnt out, a big accomplishment is to just show up at the next training.  That's a win right there.

If you 'feel like shit' during a workout.  Ask yourself if you are really not feeling well or if this is something that you can work on to get out of the situation.  Sometime I turned around, sometime I kept going forward to fix myself.  Focus on fixing yourself, not pushing yourself. This can be dangerous.

If everyone seem to make a lot of progress but you, let it be.  You are getting better. You just didn't know it.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Louis: A blog about snow running

Every winter, people ask me if they should run on snow and what equipments they need to buy.  My short answer is NO. I don't recommend it.  Not because I think it's a bad thing, but because there are so many factors about running on snow, I don't have enough experience/skill to recommend someone to do it one way or another.  It depends on your experience, your skill, your risk management, and your equipment. Weather history, temperature, the time of day, the terrain, even the wind speed all come together to determine if the trail condition is safe for you to run on.

It is the classic question. Can we do more with less?  Can we be a minimalist and forgo equipments that we protect us when we need it?

We have this conflict for backpacking. There is the Conventional Backpacker and the Minimalist Backpacker.  Conventional Backpacker carries a list of standard equipments. Tent, Sleeping Bag, Extra Clothes, Extra Food, Extra Battery etc while a minimalist backpacker may not carry a tent and just enough food to last through the trip.  The idea behind it is that weight slow you slow. If you carry less, you can cover more distance with less effort.

Then we have the traditional mountaineer and alpinist.  I do the traditional mountaineering and I wouldn't even consider myself a mountaineer because I don't have the skill to consider myself a mountaineer. I know how to use ice axe, crampons, I know how to dig people out from an avalanche provided that they have a beacon, and a few other things.  And in order to be an alpinist, I wouldn't even know how to describe it.  Think of it as the elite of mountaineer. The technical stuff they do require skills and experience that I do not have the time nor the resource to do. 

Mountaineer Going up Mt Shasta - Yes I did stuff like this and can't wait to go back

Alpinist - A different animal. You need to have more skill and experience. Note: Ice Climber alone isn't consider an alpinist, but I can't find any good picture of an alpinist!

Before I go on about running on snow, watch The ascent of Alex Honnold.  Alex is a free solo climber that does climb without a rope or other protection. He forgo weight (equipments) to gain speed. You can call him a minimalist 

So... I am very sure none of you will ever try to do free soloing because the risk is too great for most of us. You are going to pay the ultimate price if you make a mistake and fall.  Plus, none of us have the skill, experience, and talent like Mr. Honnold.

Because he has the skill and the experience to do free soloing, the risk became minimal to him.  To him this is normal.  More importantly, he accepts the risk.  I have a lot of respect for this guy.

So what does this has to do with running on snow?  Everything.  You need to have skill, experience, and you need to accept the risk when you run on snow, or snowy mountain.  In order to run in snow, you need to be a minimalist.

It's all about knowing the risk, decreasing the risk and accepting the risk.

But let's talk about my experience with snow and my successful attempt to become a hiking minimalist aka a trail runner. 

My Experience With Snow
Pre-Wilderness Travel Course
Hong Kong does not snow so I never grow up with it, thus the lack of experience.  Sometime back in 1997 (when I was 19), I went to Mammoth to snowboard. It's was fun. If I get cold, I only have to snowboard down the mountain for a few minutes and I can order a bowl of clam chowder in a living room.

In Jan 7 2006, I went hiking with my friend Sheiline.  She wore running shoe, I wore hiking boot.  None of us has traction control.  Of course, out of the few places that I know, I picked 'ICE HOUSE CANYON'.  Well, let's just say they call it Ice House Canyon for a reason. I fell a few times and Sheiline fell more than a few times. It was very icy at the Ice House Canyon Saddle.  Sheiline said her feet were very cold.

Having the experience I have today, if this place is covered with snow, we will turn around because of the fall risk. If she falls and the slope is packed/ice, she will slide down several hundred feet.
The snow here is all packed... very slippery. Sheiline needed to inch her way with my hiking pole.
This is the last time I took anyone on the snow (except the people that has experience)

Wilderness Travel Course
When I took Wilderness Travel Course, we went snowshoeing and snow camping.  It is a life changing experience for me.  If I didn't meet Katie Dunn, I wouldn't meet Grace. If I didn't meet Grace, I wouldn't join Team In Training...

Mar 12, 2006 11:27am: Snowshoeing near Mt Waterman
Me with shell pant and Winter Gaiter. This is my second shell.... too heavy!
At 12:43pm, an hour after the first picture, the weather was started to set in. Taught me to have proper clothing.

Snow Camp - My Tent
Snow Camp - It's a bad picture, but this picture illustrate how snow can have 'pocket'. In this picture half of my feet was sunk into the a hole.

Introduction to Mountaineering
After Wilderness Travel Course, I started to get into mountaineering. I took a crampon/ice axe class from SMI International. I took an avalanche safety class.  In the simulation we did not dig out any victims in time, everyone died. That's when I confirmed that this snow business is serious.  Not only do I need to have experience, the people that I go with need to have the same experience.  I also did some rock climbing and canyoneering.

Oct 28, 2006 - Rock Climbing at Alabma Hills
Jul 1, 2006 - Canyoneering at Mt Baldy with Alpine Training Services

Mar 11, 2007 - Avalanche Course: Measuring the slope to evaluate avalanche danger 
Mar 11, 2007 - Avalanche Course: Temperature Test in different snow layers

Mar 11, 2007 - Kurt (Owner of SMI) runs a card through the snow to find different layers of snow.
Mar 11, 2007 - Load Test to see when the snow give way
Mar 11, 2007 - Rescue Simulation - We buried some dummies at this location. Everyone died.
Jun 17, 2007 - Then of course there is my famous picture of climbing up Mt Shasta

Me and my ice axe
Transformation from a hiker to a hiking minimalist (aka Trail Runner) 
In the hiking world, there is something called the Ten Essentials.
1. Map
2. Compass
3. Sunglasses
4. Extra Food
5. Extra Water
6. Extra Clothes
7. Headlamp/Flashlight
8. First Aid Kit
9. Fire Starter
10. Knife.

I always carries these items during my hiking day.  Since I started trail running, I stopped carrying the 10 essentials and only bring the one I need.

1. Map (When I go to new places)
2. Compass
3. Sunglasses
4. Extra Food
5. Extra Water
6. Extra Clothes (Most of the time)
7. Headlamp/Flashlight (Most of the time)
8. First Aid Kit
9. Fire Starter
10. Knife. (Sometime)

So I go from this... Louis the hiker to

May 16, 2007 - Echo Mountain - I carried my big backpack as conditioning
This... Louis the Trail Runner
Angeles Crest 100, 2012 - Me, David, and Summer. You can't see my small running pack, but I like this picture =P
Transformation from mountaineer to a snow trail runner?
Well I am not there yet.  Because of my mountaineering experience, I know how dangerous winter travel is.  Clothing and stuff I can deal with. Avalanche stuff I have an idea.  Terrain? On the most part I can tell if something is fishy.  About all, I can always turn around if I don't feel safe.  I think my biggest problem is the fall.  For a person who use crampons for traction and ice axe to stop a fall, those tiny running spike just doesn't feel that safe to me. I will probably still carry my axe, but I need to ditch my crampons and use one of these running spike... thus the minimization.

Petzel Crampons - my equipment
Kahtoola - one of the popular brand for running spikes.

Upon looking at the disclaimers of the product, it make me understand better about what this spike is capable and its limitation.

"Kahtoola, Inc., has designed its traction systems to enhance the safety and security of people walking, hiking, running, and climbing nontechnical mountains in icy and snow-packed conditions. For each use, you must determine whether your expertise, combined with the equipment and weather conditions, present a risk of injury. This product is not intended for use under extreme or “high risk” conditions.
Do not use these products in situations that present a risk of serious injury or death in the case of a fall. Some situations may require specialized footwear, technical training, and/or instruction in the use of safety lines, self-arrest devices, and/or technical ice-climbing crampons. You alone assume responsibility for the safe and appropriate use and fitting of these products and any risk associated with their use. Always exercise your best judgment and seek professional instruction and training if in doubt."

So to summarize it, "Do not use these products in situations that present a risk of serious injury or death in the case of a fall"  Well I do have a good idea of what those fall are, so we'll see. I'll try them on non-techincal terrain and see if I like them.  If they don't meet my standard, I'll return them. I accept the risk of falling with my axe and crampons. Not so much with the running spikes.

There are a few places that I want to go in the next few months, thus the reason to try snow running.  Regardless of me using crampons or spikes, safety come first.  I am taking things slow and see if I can make this 'safer' in my standard. I may, I may not. Regardless of the outcome, I will make sure I don't show up in news like these *_*

Three Hikers Resuced at Islip Saddle (fall 300ft down an ice shute)

Hiker and two dogs slid off trail down a 30 foot ice chute

Two hikers injured on Mt Baldy, one fell off from Devil Back Bone Trail

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Echo Mountain + Inspriation Point

Garmin Profile


Start From COBB Estate
After 2.7 miles you will hit an intersection. Take the trail to your left 'Cape of Good Hope, Mount Lowe Road'
After 0.8 mile you will hit the Mount Lowe Fire Road, and a right and go up the fireroad
After 3.5 miles you will hit the saddle, bend right and continue the fire road to Inspiration Point.
Follow the fireroad to Inspiration Point. Do not follow the single track. That's Idle Hour trail, part of the Angeles Crest 100 trail run.
Inspiration Point. After Inspiration Point go back to way you came to the saddle
At the saddle, follow Sunset Trail back to Echo Mountain (it's 2.7 mi). At the end of the trail. Make a left to Echo Mountain
After Echo Mountain, turn around. Walk straight, make a left to Lower Sam Merril Trail and back to way you came.