Friday, December 31, 2010

To Infinity and Beyond 2010

By Kevin

2010. The final year of the decade. The year of bittersweet memories. The moments of discoveries. The beginning of soul searching.

Exactly a year ago, I was in a tough situation (definitely not as tough as the rest of the billions of people that were having it worse than I had) or so I thought it was. I had lost my battle in my relationship as well as my battle with GMAT, yet, the bigger problem was the battle with myself. Having lost my love and much drive for my career, I needed a new discovery.

So my friend brought me to hang out with the Coyotes for New Years Eve 2009. We headed up to Los Liones and we talked about our accomplishments and our goals. It was then and there that I've sparked my interest on trail running. In 2010, I have found trail running my new passion, new love, new escape, new way to find peace and last but not least, a new discipline. It was a year that I found out what I wanted to do for myself. That I'm running for me and for an infinite more great reasons.

2011 is going to be a crazy year. It'll be filled with events I'll be doing that I hadn't even think of back in 2009 or even the eve of 2010. 100 mile races, WTF is that? Are you kidding me? 50 miles? Is that humanly possible? Happiness on the trail? How??? Running uphill is fun? Going through the lows of the lows in a race is beneficial? Are you serious? While I don't have definite answers for all these questions, I have developed some incomplete, yet satisfying half-ass answers to these questions. For 2011, my main goal is to finish Western State 100. That is my ultimate goal. Of course there is a sweeter goal, similar to my sweeter goal of Firetrails 50, to qualify for Western States 100.

Besides WS100, I also have a few other ace races that are very important to me.

Vibram Hong Kong 100k (01/15/2011 [Inaugural]): With budget, timing and training issues, I've decided not to do it. This is definitely on my to do list. This race will be very meaningful to me. Not only is this trail in Hong Kong, my home town and where my family is in, it's also because this trail started off in Sai Kung, near the grave of my late father. It's been 20 years since his passing. Till this day, I wonder if he's proud of me. I love you dad.

Tokyo Marathon (02/27/2011): This will be my second year running this marathon along side my great friend with a huge huge heart, Louis Kwan, the man that introduced me to the Coyotes exactly a year ago to date. It's always fun running with him and eating around town in Japan with him. I hope that he'll be my life long sidekick for those purposes. I love you Louis (Vita Panda)!

Miwok 100k (05/07/2011): Leading up to Western States 100, Miwok will be another ace race of mine. The Marin Headlands had taken my soul in North Face Endurance 50 earlier this month and I would like to redeem the course with June Caseria, my WS100 partner in crime!

Western States 100 (06/25/2011 ~ 06/26/2011): This will be my ace race of ace races. This will be where I will find my true self, my soul, my life, my love, what I'm made of and how much I can really endure. I wouldn't even have known this without the Coyotes, I love you all!

My pizza sauce is burning and I need to get back to it. I wish you all a safe and warm happy new year and may 2011 be better than the previous one. I love you all.

2009 New Years Eve. My first time encountering Jimmy Dean Freeman and his Coyotes.

Boney Mountain 13 miles. My first ever trail race. Loved it so much.

My first Tokyo Marathon. Had a memorable time with my partner in crime, Louis Kwan.

Completing my first ultra marathon, Bulldog 50k, with Glen, fellow Chicagoan, fellow Coyote.

My training group within the SoCal Coyotes, Erin, June, Pedro and Chris! I love you all!

Soul searching and feeling depleted at North Face Endurance 50.

My life long love and partner in crime, Tetsuko. I love you very much. I lose you. I win you back.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Ultra Me

I have been doing a lot thinking after Ironman Arizona (race report). I finished the race and I felt solid compare to the two other Vineman that I done. Yet I have regret about the race. Not because I did not PR, but because I gave up going as fast as I can after some pain on the bottom of my foot. I even felt a sense of sorrow in me.

This feeling stayed with me for a while until I ran with two ultra marathoners up the Mt Wilson trail. Not wanting them to wait for me forever I ran as much as I can, and as fast as I can. That was what I needed. I needed to spend all the energy I didn't use in Ironman Arizona. I realized out why I am upset about IMAZ. I am upset because I didn't give it my best. Not because I didn't PR, but because I didn't run as fast as I can. As I was running down the Mt Wilson trail I rediscovered the joy of racing, and the joy of going fast (and well... killing yourself with crazy heart heart of course).

I realized my finish time isn't my priority. It never is. What make me feel accomplished is not so much about the time, but about the effort I put in for a race. In the world of triathlon, I got caught up with time. During a race I figure if Iwant to PR, or not to PR... if I can't PR, then go slow so I can recover faster... etc. I lost my reason to race. I race to challenge myself and to have fun. Here in Vita Panda, I renew my racing vow to give out my best effort for every race in 2011 (except Tokyo Marathon). Let's see what's going to happen in 2011.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bittersweet of North Face Endurance (Not For The Faint of Heart)

By Kevin

First of all, I want to thank all of the Coyotes that have been sending out good thoughts to me and everyone else that was racing this weekend. Without all of you, I wouldn't even know what an ultra marathon is. I also wouldn't know how fun it can be to run, how good it can feel and how empowering running can be. I wouldn't know that I could search for my own soul, through tough times, through darkness, through fatigue, through joy, through endless trails.

To The Beloved Team That I've Been Training With (or without):

Why can't this guy take a better photo for us?

Erin Maruoka, June Casseria, Chris Hays, Kam Majd and Pedro Martinez

Pedro. The witty guy that can always put up a good laugh regardless of the situation. Our training group has been worried about you. We missed having you out there with us, training together like how we did it for Firetrails. But in the end, you showed up AND you started with all of us and I think that is really awesome. Although I may not have showed my gratitude to you while I was on the course, I want to take this time to thank you for the support. I wish you health and speedy recovery. I hope to see you out on the trails training with us again soon!!

Erin. You're awesome and pretty much the smartest runner. You're always prepared for any runs for all conditions. The 99 cent drop bags! The gaitors, the sleeves, the compression socks, the attitude! I have yet to hear you complain about tough runs or annoying stairs. You always just persist and stick to it. I really need to learn more from you.

June. You're incredibly tough. You've been super strong, super solid. You always tough it out on the training run. You're the fast girl that always have a great attitude. You're also an awesome sweet tooth partner of the group! On a serious note, let's get a buckle together in your month.

Chris. You always seem to be free and have great spirit. Like Pedro, you can put up quite a few good laughs too! It's been fun running single tracks with you! Let's run more of it.

Kam! My other food partner of the group. You've been incredibly solid. I knew it since that day when we trained for Bulldog 50k with the ultra ladies. You were a warrior for doing that night run and then that early morning run with me the next day.

I wanna thank the four of you for training together with me. I feel very fortunate to have known all of you and running and pushing each other. Again, regardless of what the outcome was, I am very proud of all of us for stepping up to the starting line. Coming to the race, we knew that it was going to be tough, much more technical comparing to Firetrails and we did our best and stuck to it. Also want to thank you guys for arranging to run with Keira that one day. It was an awesome training run and I learned a great deal that day. You all are amazing and I hope to bond with you all again soon.

Jimmy Dean and Kate Martini. It was a blessing to see you both with Pedro at mile 30. The aid station crew this time around was ok, but with you two being there at Bootjack meant so much. The howling, the help with filling up my camelbak. More importantly, the runs the two of you put up on Tuesdays and Thursdays are just priceless. You two gave me great energy and spirits and I can't thank both of you enough for that.

I also want to thank those that I have trained with for this event. Annie Tenwick and Keira Henninger (Leona Divide Race Director). It was an amazing day running with the two of you through Leona Divide as training. I have so much to learn from the both of you. I hope to be able to train with you both soon again!

Last but not least, thank you to everyone else that was out there cheering for us. That includes June's man Brian, Zhi Jenny and a few more I can't quite remember as of now (sorry). You guys are awesome!

The Battle: TNF50
(Garmin Recorded Course Info)

Let's get serious here. Allow me to get things off my chest. I must admit. This race is the toughest race I've ran, one tough SOB. Well more like a thousand tough SOBs combined. However, it is very much manageable. But once you mismanage, all hell can break lose.

I'm not the best runner out there. I'm not the fastest. I'm not the strongest. But I want to be the best given what I have. I want to expand my potential and grow. I don't need to be faster than you. I don't need to be stronger than you. I just need to improve from time to time and progressively be the better version of myself. Most importantly, I want to execute flawlessly.

Since this is my second 50 miler, I will have to compare. Neck to neck. Experience to experience. I didn't get quite a good sleep as oppose to the night before I ran Firetrails 50. Tossing and rolling, I was only able to get in 3 good hours before everyone has to wake up at 2:30 and rush out to catch the shuttle at 3 in the morning. I've never have to wake up this early for a race. It's an interesting feeling. People usually party til late on a Friday night and early Saturday morning. By the time we got up and hit up the shuttle, those people were still partying up.

The good thing about that morning is that I didn't feel nervous at all. It was calm from arrival to the start until after the race had started. Even then I was still calm throughout. Maybe it was because the good weather for this particular morning since I was expecting a crazy downfall, pouring cats and dogs and maybe Gu's or shotbloks.

Kam and I got there early. We beat the rush and dropped off our drop bags we had prepared the night before. Since I expected heavy downfall, I lined my two drop bags with garbage bags. So I place dry clothes in garbage bags then put them in my personal bags in case everyone and their mom decide to use trash bags.

One thing that worried me was my stomach this morning. Throughout the training runs for NF50, my stomach hasn't been feeling very well. Yes, I needed to make sure there are no businesses that need my attention during the race. But even so, I know that my stomach has not been feeling the same after Firetrails. I can't quite figure out why. It could be the change of diet, not eating as strict or as healthy. Not consuming health consciously. However, ten minutes before the race, I put in my final push and it was a great success.

Right before the race started, I saw the rest of the crew one last time and took pictures with them. It reminded me of that morning of the Firetrails run. It's always great to see the team again, the people you love running with before you head out into the unknown. Yeah, that's what it felt like racing in the dark that morning, especially onto trails I've never ran on.

I have not eaten since the apple that I had at 1am in the morning. Trying to stay conscious of my nutrition, I popped in a few blocks of margarita shotbloks seconds before the race begins.

Start to 5 Mile Water Stop (5.8)
So the soul searching has begun. Everyone quickly treks out into the dark with his or her headlamps, which are mandatory. One will face disqualification without headlamp. This brisk morning started chilly but not frigid. It was rather nice. It was beautiful seeing a line of headlamps charging up the mountain and a curvature of headlamps when looking back. These lights would sway left and right, resembling a huge team of search and rescue crew, searching for their own soul.

From start to the next aid station, I took my time and walked all of the climbs and ran all of the flat and downhills. Some of the hills were quite tempting. The grade of the climb ranges from a steep version of Westridge to a less steep version of Westridge, which was very tempting. But knowing that this course is a tough one, I knew that I need to be smart and not to let my ego trip me.

5 Mile Water Stop To Tennessee Valley (3.1)
This portion of the race was relatively flat and easy to run considering that my legs are still fresh and that it was still an early point of the race. There were small climbs here and there but nothing too major. I also really enjoyed this portion mainly because of how beautiful that morning was. It was pretty gloomy while we were on the beautiful single track going down to the horse ranch, where you can hear and smell the horses as one passes by. The weather was manageable. It started to drizzle and the sky had begun to brighten up.

The destination aid station will also serve as the final 5 mile point aid station. Without wasting too much time, I ran in, downed 2 cups of water and grabbed a handful of pretzels and made my way out.

Tennessee Valley to Muir Beach (4.2)

Beautiful Dawn

This section started out as a long uphill. Again, I tried to reserve my energy as I will need it for my final push on the second half of the race. I hiked quite a bit here and tried to enjoy the scenery here and snapped a few shots. The rainfall remains the same here with slight drizzle. However, the wind started to pick up here as all runners were highly exposed. I ran hiked much of this segment.

Shortly after the climb.

A few days before the race, I commented on a picture of set of stairs that I couldn't quite recognize on Erin's wall photo. It was beautiful and epic. She told me that we'll see it on race day. I was in disbelieve and I tried to figure out whether we'd be going up or down or both on these stairs.

Near the mid point between the two aid station, the runners face this steep drop via stairs. The view was breathtaking.

The stairs!

The downhill from this segment was pretty steep but kind of fun. Going down, I know that I need to take it easy. While it may seem fun at the moment, it would not be so fun going back up. I don't remember much else after arriving to the aid station. :/

Muir Beach to Bootjack (5.8)
Zig zags and hills would be a low key description of this portion. Leaving Muir Beach, we started out by going through a residential neighborhood for a good half to three quarters of a mile. It was cold and it started to rain harder here. My hands were cold and those orange gloves didn't quite help.

Sticky mud also played a huge role in this portion of the race. It certainly take up more energy to run through the muddy singletrack with mud that sticks on to your shoe. It can be fun depending on how you look at it. I felt like a kid splashing carelessly but not to the point that would bring me to exhaustion.

As I zig zag up this one portion of a huge climb, I saw a familiar Asian man running in front of me. This guy was steady, strong, reserved and you can tell that he is experienced. His calves are ripped. From the back side, I also noticed that he was wearing glasses. OMG, he's ultra dad!!

I have randomly found his blog online a few months back and begun reading it. This is man is a father of two and a great husband that supports his family. On top of that, he has done MANY races. It somewhat reminds me of Dean Karnazes and his mothership. In Dean's book, he mentioned how he is so blessed to have his family support him in the mothership while he runs throughout many nights. Unconditional love would be a subtle description of the mothership. But this Taiwanese ultra dad also seems to have a supporting crew of his own and I always find that amazing especially in the ultra running community.

Anyhow, I slowly catch up to him and I couldn't help myself. "Excuse me, are you ultramarathon dad???!?" He said yes. "OMG, you're awesome! I've read your blog many months ago!!" Joyous as he was, he turned around and snapped a picture of me giving out the fobby peace sign, showing the inner FOB (fresh of the boat) in me even though I'm no longer fresh. We talked briefly about the condition and he allowed me to go pass him. That was pretty exciting.

The hills here continued to give me a beating. The rain the cold the wind was bearable but it was definitely not comfortable. My strategy here remained the same, hike the hills, run the flats and downhill. Once we hit the road and go through the parking lot, we have to bear right and continue on this rooty technical portion. While it can be major fun, you can easily sprain or roll your ankles here. I hate root, so I blasted through this portion half a mile away from Bootjack. Once I got to the bottom, I have to go up the hill on this zig zag path. It was kind of steep at the time. Mainly because I feel the fatigue from all the climbs in this segment. I started to really got out of it.

When I reach to the top, I saw people but no one that I seemed to know of. I heard someone yelled out my name, but I can't figure out who he was. Then it was Pedro!!! He walked toward me and told me I look great and asked me how I was feeling. I told him that I feel tired but feeling ok otherwise. At the aid station, I downed some water, a few pretzels and jammed out of the aid station with a few PB&J in my hand. The weather was definitely throwing me off. Looking back, I know that I'm in terrible shape and that I needed to eat more and take in more fuel. I did not feel like this at mile 18 at Firetrails. Again, I'm comparing.

Bootjack to McKennan Gulch (4.7)
Out of the aid station and up the trails I go... I try to stay focus and strong here even though I'm no longer a 100% well here. Hell, at the time I didn't even know, couldn't really comprehend my own health status. It's not as bad as it sounds, but looking back, the downfall of my experience really began here.

What is this wrecked car doing here?

Nearly 5 miles, this segment is one of the most annoying of the run. It's the single track out and back turnaround point. Here, I saw elite runners marching back. The majority of this portion consists of a single track on the steep hill side. The path itself was has a slight incline, but it spans through a few miles. Each time a runner blast down, I would either have to step up slightly on the foothill or down. It felt treacherous and made this segment super long. What made it seem longer was when elite runners telling me that I was almost there when I was not that close. However, I do understand that they were just trying to encourage everyone. The funny thing is, I did the same thing to other runners on the way back and I'm sure that a few of them here and there were thinking what I was thinking as I was trekking up.

The wind and drizzle picked up quite a bit here, I thought. It got me kinda cold since I've been sweating a little, or what I thought was a little sweat (maybe a tad more). My water proof jacket didn't quite help me either. While it was keeping the rain from getting into my body, it was also keeping the sweat on me inside of the jacket. Since the jacket was water proof and keeping my sweat on me, it's not as breathable as it says. But overall, it was able to help me keep warm from the strong winds.

Once I got to the top, there was a road we got on. The turn around point aid station was perhaps an eighth of a mile away from where the trail end meets the road. At the aid station, it was nice to see Coyote Craig Slagel and Coyote Kate Jobe. From what I remember, I didn't eat too much here. Half a pb&j, 2 cups of chicken broth, some pretzels and more pb&j's on the go. I didn't stay to talk for long since they were busy helping other runners. They were definitely doing a kick ass job.

McKennan Gulch to Stinson Beach (4.7)
McKennan Gulch to Stinson Beach is probably the longest stretch of downhill of the entire race. It started out with single track going down in which runners would yield to faster runners carrying more momentum going down the hill. Some people would wait for people going downhill, others would kinda ignore you and continue to march up. Once this portion of the single track was completed, runners will have to bear right and continue on. This led us to a crazy set of stairs going downhill. It was quite technical here with lots of tree roots, hairpin stairs with slippery wood edging. While going down might be fun, being fatigued and doing this task can be quite a challenge.

Besides the difficulty of this portion of the trail, this portion of the race is quite mesmerizing. I felt like I was running through the jungle or somewhere in the amazon. Tarzan was no where in sight. At the time, I kind of got over the cool idea of running over the bridges. God knows how many bridges runners have to cross. Occasionally, you can see the houses down at Stinson beach and it definitely gave me a perception that this drop will take FOREVER. Well, for a brief few minutes, that was what I was thinking to myself. Even though it took some time for me to get down this 4.7 miles, I might have gone a bit too fast and my body might have taken a toll from this.

Stinson Beach to Bootjack (3.4)
Once I got to Stinson Beach aid station, it was pretty nice to see the crowd and cheering from people surrounding the tent. Again, I felt much great spirits and energy from these people and that helped me march forward. At this aid station, I had a few electrolyte refreshments, PB&Js and some pretzels. Just like how I ran Firetrails, I took some PB&J on the get go and carry two handfuls of it along. I loved it especial how a few of them would be overloaded to the point that the PB&J would fling out of the sandwiched bread as I run. Sorry for leaving traces behind (confession). :/

As for the rest of the way from here to Bootjack? To sum it up, it would be climb climb climb stairs stairs stairs stairs ladder stairs. Yes, ladder. It started out with a major rolling up, down and up hill. Gradually, runners would return back into the beautiful amazon. No, I'm not being sarcastic. It was indeed beautiful but somewhat gruesome. The stairs and uphill seemed endless here. I tried to power hike (not slow walk) here for the most part but it was still tough. I tried to drive my hips, yet my lower back seemed fatigue and was being a tad limiting. The cool thing about having to walk up the hills is that I get to take a few pictures here and there. The guy that I've been sticking around with was doing the same thing. In fact, he was taking videos while doing that downhill heading to Stinson Beach.

This is not the worst. There is indeed a whole lot of these.

So after all the stairs and uphill hike, there was a sign that says 10ft ladder that's .8 of a mile it. I was thinking to myself that it's going to be nutty having to climb up the ladder during a trail race. That's rad but mad with fatigue. Imagine people behind you wanting to pass you on the ladder?? That would be crazy.

The OMGHI2U / It would've been fun had I not seen you after being so tired ladder.

By the time, I got up to the parking area half a mile away from Bootjack at the top of all these climbs, I felt like I was spent. It was the toughest 30 miles I had ever ran. But did I have any clue why I felt that way? I really don't know. Fatigue? Burned out? Bad nutrition? No used to the weather? The variables are countless. I walked up to the trail on the right once again and ran down the rooty downhill once again. I know that my concentration was no longer as sharp. As I walk up to Bootjack, it was sad and more quiet than the first time around. I was looking forward to see Pedro here again since I saw him at the same point the previous time. Once I got up to the street, I heard the HOWL!!! from Kate Martini. It was awesome! Yet, I was showing no emotion on my face. I high fived Jimmy and he told me that I looked good. He also gave me all of his support and asked me what I need. I told him I need water and my lower back was hurting a bit.

As we were walking toward the aid station tent. He broke the news to me. "Guess who got into Western States", Jimmy said with a big smile. I thought to myself, "No fucking way". Jimmy told me only two Coyotes was selected in this year's lottery. That was June and I. I was in disbelieve. What are the chances? It has to be slim. But seriously, me??? Pedro was taking pictures of me as Jimmy was breaking the news to me and as Kate was congratulating me. I said to them, "I'm not sure whether I should be happy about it right now (I felt as if I was bonking already)". I told him about my back and he had me do some lower back stretching. My stay at this aid station lasted a few quality minutes.

As Jimmy filled up my camelbak, I noticed that he only had to fill up 1/3 of my camelbak. I notice I was somewhat dehydrated there. I could be in some trouble. So I downed a cup of water, an electrolyte drink.
I had a few potatoes with salt, some pretzels, a brownie and a few PB&J to go. "Embrace the suckage here", Jimmy said. "WS is going to be much worst!" There I go, heading back down where I came up.

Bootjack to Old Inn (5.6)

My vision (not really).

This segment was one of the toughest segment I've gone through. I probably have gone through the lowest of the lows. Though, I must say that I could have felt worst, had I not seen Jimmy, Pedro and Kate. After all, they have given me positive energy. The first mile of this segment felt alright, mainly because I had something to distract me, mainly the news that Jimmy broke to me earlier. It's unbelievable. However, I started to feel weaker progressively. Normally when I have fresh legs, I can run down the hills, but at this point, I barely have the energy to walk. I tried to drink more water and have a few shotbloks, but it didn't seem to help. The sweat in my water proof wind breaker didn't help either. I was cold and tired. Whether it was going uphill, downhill or flat, I had to make stops intermittently. I felt confused. I couldn't get my eyes to focus on the trail as it wanders off. Occasionally, I even have to bend over and rest my hands on my knees and try to regroup. It's during these moment that I think to myself how fortunate I am to be loved by so many. I also thought about many other things while struggling to get through this segment. If I feel like this at mile 30+, how will I be able to make it through that race in June. This would barely be a third of that. Barely. I couldn't stand it but I had to compare to what I had done on my first 50 miler. I felt so good then, but now, I felt miserable. I felt like shit and time doesn't seem to be on my side. Let's just say, it felt like the longest 5.6 miles I've ever moved. It took me an approximate whopping 1hr and 40+ minutes to complete 5.6 miles.

This portion also had a few tough climbs before runners hit up the winding pavement shortly before hitting the aid station. At some point, there was muddy uphills that was clammy and heavy on the foot. Every step seemed to be a drag and at times, one would slide downwards. It was quite tiring.

With .1 mile left, I saw the aid station and I decided to pick up my pace. I felt the urge to get there and my mind had been long lost. I spoke with the aid station crew there and someone had told me that I'm far from the hard cut off. However, I couldn't quite understand them and thought that I may get cut off soon and I felt the urge to go. This cutoff or not cutoff conversation seems to have went on for a minute or two. I was so out of it I barely understood. I told them that I couldn't focus and that I felt very nauseous, cold and sleepy. They sat me down and took a look at me. The crew there was extremely nice. It was heartfelt. I received unconditional love and care from strangers. Of course, strangers that understood what ultra runners go through when moments were tough. I was offered blankets and this girl in the crew even gave me her red beanie. She claimed that it was too big for her even though I know that she was really offering her kindest gesture.

The crew there didn't let me go until I had down a good 3-4 cups of chicken broth, a cup of coke and then some food. I was there for a good 20 minutes to half an hour, sitting there, being cold, watching passerby runners which include ultra dad. At this point, the outcome didn't seem to matter. On a positive side, I know that I'll make to the end. That was something that I highly doubt right when I enter this aid station. As I depart this aid station slowly, the crew gave me a round of applause. I'm deeply touch for that and for what they had provided me. It's this kind of support that gets me to strive for more ultra events, to get to know more of these tough runners.

The traffic conductor guided me across the street. He ran back out to the street but ran back to me to double check with me to see if I'm REALLY ready to leave. The crew there also told me that I will receive some more special love at the next aid station. I continue on to the next aid station.

Old Inn to Muir Beach (3.3)
At the start of this segment, I felt loved but still fatigue. My attitude is much different though. Mentally, I felt rejuvenated and strong. I know that I can crank through this 3 miles plus as long as I put in the work. With all the rain that had been drizzling on and off, this path became super gooey to run on. No, not gooey like smore. OK, maybe it is, but no where nearly as pleasant. The gooey mud really made my Mizuno feeling heavy, but I had to will the power it through. Once I got my cranking going, it was actually fun. Perhaps, it was because it was so slippery and it helped me keep my mind alert and focus. However, I did lose balance at one point and fell on the mud. That fall did me more good than anything, I continue powering through and was able to pull 10 minute and change miles. It's not stellar but it's better than 23 minute miles for sure. Once I cleared the trails and went through the neighbor, I entered into Muir Beach aid station.

The crew chief there on the walkie talkie got all hyped up when I got to the aid station. "61 is in. 61 is in. 61 will receive medical attention." By this time, I have fully regained my cognition. My focus and consciousness had been regained. I jokingly asked him, "What for?", as if nothing had happened before. So this was the extra love I get for looking so bad at the previous aid station. Again, they sat me down and check it out for me. I asked for chicken broth again this time as it seems to be the magic to my recovery. Once again, the ladies here gave me lots of love and there I go running off with Brownies. Bud brownies?

Muir Beach to Tennessee Valley (4.8)
Muir Beach to Tennessee Valley probably has the most ridiculous climb of the entire race, with the exception of some of the stair we had gone through prior to Bootjack. Right after I left the aid station, the climb began almost immediately. Imagine a rolling hill on a rolling hill after rolling hills. At the moment, that was what it seemed like to me. The good thing is, I'm not the only one facing this SOB. There were other people working on it. Since I have regained my focus, this was my greatest opportunity to continue to catch up to some of the people that had passed me while I was dying at Old Inn.

I don't remember much else while working in this segment. Besides being brutal, I can recall the windy condition and the tremendous gloomy view of the ocean West of the trail. Shortly after I had climb up midway through, I caught up to ultra marathon dad, Chihping Fu. Even though his legs were facing fatigue issue, his spirit and attitude remains sky high and I truly admire that. I spoke with him for a little bit once again, told him my situation. Then I continue on with my journey in hopes of bringing down my time and pass up more fellow runners that had passed me.

Tennessee Valley to Alta Water Stop (3.1)
Running in, there was a group of children cheering for all the runners in this gloomy day. It was amazing and it brought me smiles and positive energy. Tennessee Valley was the second to the last aid station. It was also the last time I saw Pedro cheering on the course. He came running toward me right when I got to the aid station. Unlike how I unintentionally lied to Pedro at Firetrails, he told me I have one big hill and one small hill to climb. He was very helpful. Once again, it was awesome seeing you out there Pedro!

After receiving much encouragement and what was left on the course, I got back on the groove and once again, try and catch up to those that passed me early on when I was dying. This hill was not as bad as the one started back at mile 40. It's might have been runnable but it is still steep and a long climb. It's a steeper version of Westridge with two notable peaks, at least that was what it felt like at the time. Looking back I should have hike run it a bit more than I had done. At this point, I felt pretty calm and strong mentally even though I was fatigued. What fueled me was probably the sense of urgency. That is.. the urge to finish strong, the urge to pass the remaining runners on the course and most importantly, to continue to do my best given what I had.

Alta Water Stop to Finish (2.7)
At this final stop, I received some words of encouragement from a fellow runner that I caught up to. As I downed two cups of cola, he told me that he saw me back at the Old Inn aid station and thought that I was not going to make it. He seemed really happy for me to be able to come back and really fed me some positive energy. With 2.7 miles left, I really have to give it all and try my best to pass as many runners as possible before we all hit the finish line. In a way, it's a mini redemption. It's my only hope to make up the time I had made myself lose. And really, most importantly, try to put the fun back into the race, the last fun downhill, the last stretch. Near the finish line, I was running along this girl in orange skirt. I didn't really care for the time anymore, I was a few hundred feet away from the finish line. I said, "Orange Skirt, good job! Let's finish strong!" She told me she was going as fast as she could already. I didn't want to pass her and be an ass about it so we finished together.

All in all, the race was a great experience. It was tough. Very tough. There were plenty of things I could've done better. I am happy that I finished, but I was also very bummed out and kinda mad at my result. I KNOW that I could've done so much better. I also believe that my nutrition was one of the issue that I was having. I was not eating enough, drinking enough. I simply didn't replenish enough. I'm happy for my finish because I could've not make it all the way to the finish line and end up dwelling at some aid station and get cut off. Throughout the few days after the race, I was still feeling unhappy with regards to the outcome and overall performance of my race. On a positive note, this wasn't Western States and if it was, I would've been cut off already. This was also a great lesson for me because I was able to confirm myself how serious I need to be with my nutrition (not that I was fucking around at all). I know that I need to get it down. Simple as that. This race also opened my eyes and informed me indirectly how important hiking is. Coming into this race, I knew that I was a slow hiker (especially after running Leona Divide with Keira / Thank you sooo much!!). Hiking is definitely something that I need to work on. Besides that I am confident and I was confident that I can finish that 50 miler.

Mr. Ultramarathon Man a.k.a. Karno!!!

No, I'm not looking for sympathy or encouragements. Yes, there are plenty of positive aspect I can pull out of this experience. Yeah, I wish that I could have done better, but at the same time, I wouldn't want to have this weekend any other way. Having Round Table pizza with Jimmy Dean and many Coyotes the night before NF50 which was co-hosted by Dean Karnazes. How cool of a coincidence was that (if you read his book, he talked about its pizza)? Learning new lessons throughout the race. Finished in 11:24, nearly 2 and a half hours slower than Firetrails (8:56). Being able to snap a shot with Dean (Thank you sooo much Ruth!!!)!!! Trained and ran another race with Pedro, June, Erin, Chris and Kam!! How awesome was that? I'm so proud of all of us for stepping on the starting line and putting in all we got given the situation. I'm very fortunate to have these people and I can't ask for more.

RAD Videos (On related race!)

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Coming of VitaPanda

Back in the Aug 2003 I bought my Subaru Impreza WRX Station Wagon. Naturally I wanted to know more Subaru people so I started going to Subaru meet. After a few meets I befriended Kevin who also drives an Impreza WRX Wagon.

my 227 horsepower WRX!!!

Sometime down the line we ran the Chinatown Firecracker 10K, then a 10 miles run. Next thing I knew I was climbing mountain and Kevin was doing triathlon. I remember seeing him at his first Olympic distance triathlon and I thought he was crazy.

Feb 2007 - Chinatown Firecracker 10K

In 2008 I joined Team In Training and ran LA Marathon as my first marathon. Kevin and I ended up running the San Diego Marathon together. Well not literally together because he finished 1 1/2 hour before than me. Luckily I had the car key.

San Diego Marathon 2008

Fast forward to 2010. I am now a 3 times Ironman and Kevin ran a few ultra distance events. As both of us were planning our 2011 races we realized both of us are doing an endurance event on the weekend of June 25, 2011. Kevin is doing The Western States Endurance Race (A 100 miles trail run) and I am doing Ironman Coeur d' Alene myself (swim 2.4mi, bike 112mi, run 26.2mi).

Aug 2010 - Kevin at Bull Dog 50K

Nov 2010 - me at Ironman Arizona

We thought it will be fun to put our training in one blog so we created VitaPanda.

Vita stands for Vitasoy because we think this product represents Hong Kong. Well, we can use something else like Lee Kum Kee but that sounds kind of salty so we dropped that idea.

Vitasoy - yes... we still drink it!

As for Panda? Initially we wanted to say Coyotes because both of us belong to Jimmy's Scal Coyotes. However we wanted something more original so we picked Panda. Panda = Chinese... get it?

This blog is about all about eating, swimming, biking, running, and training. It's going to be an awesome 2011.