Friday, March 2, 2012

Louis - Ray Miller 50 Mile Trail Race

Note: did not take any pictures during the race. Pictures are from my training runs.

Before I talk about the actual race, I want to tell everyone that I am very thankful to see everyone at the aid stations and at the finish.  I enjoy cheering so I know why people want to be there for me.  But I still feel a little strange to be on the receiving end.

I would also love to hang out more at the finish line but I was very cold so I needed to go get warm. Sorry!

My Injury

Dying at Boney Mountain Half

I have been quiet about Ray Miller 50 milers because I am injured since Boney Mountain Trail Race in January.  My right calf hurts when I put weight on.  I tried foam roller, ice bath, hot water bath, salonpas patch, resting... nothing works except Iburpofen. I thought this injury was something very bad but my doctor told me I have a trigger point (a knot in my muscle). Dr. Zamora told me I just need to get a good massage in and he also gave me an option for a local anesthetics injection to my leg.  I hate needle, but I decided to do try the injection because I figured I may need that sooner or later so I wanted to see how my body react to the injection.  Yes, the needle is long and big!  Dr Zamora asked me if I felt the medication and I told him NO, I only felt the freaking needle.  Nope, that didn't work.  So I went to my usual massage places and it did not help.  Because I did not actually have an injury (just a crazy knot), I decided to continue with my training.  While I was trying to figure out how to fix my leg I continue to train but with less speed.  I covered all but 2 mi (4 mi round trip) of the course.

A few weeks passed, it gotten a little better but nothing really improved.  The Iburpofen works but I know I need to fix it because I don't like to take drugs if I don't have to.  But if I don't take it, bad news! I am talking about running for 1/4 mile and I end up with a limp kind of bad news.

I also started acupuncture.  I heard very good things about it but it didn't work on me.

Then come Chris Tosh the Active Release Technique guy.  Coach Jimmy recommended me to check this guy out so I made an appointment with him.  Long story short, he was able to bypass my calf and work on the muscle behind it. I felt way better and I was even able to run without Iburofen for the first time since January.  My last therapy session was 2/20 and Chris told me I should be ready to go on Sat. I maybe a little sore but the pain should eventually go away.  But then when I ran on Wed it was still bad news.  I am running with burpofen.  Ray Miller is not going to be a race, Ray Miller is going to be a training run.

My Preparation
I know I need to keep a 16:12 minute per mile to finish before the cut off.  Not knowing how my right leg will reaction, my A goal is just to finish the race under the cut off so I can get my AC qualification.

I prepared a lot for this race.  I ran most of the course (except 2 mi of it) during my training runs.  I did the out and back section of the long climb just to see how I feel to climb up.  I mapped the aid stations and see how much nutrition and liquid I need between aid stations and created a time chart just to see how fast I need to go for different finish time.  I talked to my pharmacist friend about Iburofen work, how it release to your body, and of course the side effect!  I also got a brighter headlamp to allow me to run at my capable pace when I run in the dark, especially on the down hill.
Marking my own route for Ray Miller training run
My estimate pace/time chart
My nutrition plan. Nutrition can make or break your race
Going over my race plan with Coach Jimmy

After I finished my homework, I went to Coach Jimmy war room and he went over his race plan with me with added strategies.

The Course
I broke down the course by aid stations and assigned some time based on the cut off pace just to see where I need to be at different point of the race.  Because the course has 10,000 ft of gain I know my pace is going to be on and off.  Eventually I need to be 16:12 with GPS adjustment.

Aid station #1 Hell Hill: Mile 6-full aid
Aid station #2 Hell Hill: Mile 11-full aid
Aid station #3 Water fountain/water only- mile 12.8
Aid station #4 Danielson Ranch: full aid/drop bags mile 19.3
Aid station #5 Yerba buena Road: Mile 28 full aid-drop bags
Aid station #6 Turn around: water only. Aid station name: Island View 31
Aid station #7 Yerba Buena: Full aid- Mile 34.3-drop bags
Aid station #8 Serrano Canyon/Sycamore fire road: Mile 45.4 Full aid
My Race

My friend Amy Volunteering at the starting line
I got there one hour before the race and started to prepare away. The next thing I know I am running! I kept at an easy pace in the beginning even though I can go a lot faster.  I let people passed me even though I know I can run faster.  I need to run 50 miles and I don't need to burn myself out in the first 3 miles of the run.  At around mile 5 Kim (one of my wonderful AC 100 crew) caught up to me and we chatted a little.  I was at Kim's first Team In Training Marathon event and I was there when she finished her first Ironman. It's just so happened that I am also here at her first 50km event.  I got to aid station one at 1:23 with a pace of 13min/mile. I gave myself a little high five.

When I got to Aid Station 2 at mi 11 I am still maintaining a 13 minutes per mile pace.  I refilled my reservoir with my own mix (yes, I use my own nutrition for the whole race so I can keep track of my calorie intake) and I was happy with my nutrition because I was drinking on time and I was spot on with Coach Jimmy's nutrition advice.  I did what I needed and left the aid station.

refilling my reservoir at mi 11 (Race Day Photo)
As I was approaching the Coyotes Trail near mile 13 I knew I need to stay in focus because the trail is steep.  The descent was a bit too steep so I was breaking a lot.  The cloud started to clear and it started to get hot.  I regretted for not filling up my water bottle with water (I carried an empty water bottle and attach it on my pack  just so I have more configuration).  My downhill speed started to go decrease because my thigh is started to feel a little tight. I also needed a walk break here and there to keep my fluid in my stomach.

On the Coyote Trail looking at Boney Mountain (Yes, I am going down to the valley and climb over that mountain you are looking at)
I was happy to arrive at the Danielson Aid Station because I was a little toasted from the heat.  I got to the aid station around 4 hours and 30 minutes into the race.  I knew the Coyotes is running the aid station but I wasn't sure who is going to be there except Kevin.  When I got there my friends started jumping around and taking pictures of me.  I wanted to have more interaction with my friends but I was also in my Louis's zone.  I don't know if I thanks them for being there but the first thing I said was "don't tell me where everyone is" because I did not want this information to screw with my head.  Then I took off to the restroom, then I went to the water fountain to cool myself down, then Chan Chan (Chandra) said don't take a bath and I got back to the table, then I told Kevin and Chan Chan my thigh was a little tight, then I applied sunscreen while Chan Chan refilled my reservoir with my mix and filled up my water bottle with water.  I remembered Kevin told me I have nice charms on my running pack, I remembered taking a picture with the guys.  I actually don't remember if I thank them (oops).  I think I wasn't as interactive with my friends because I was just focused.  For the last 4 1/2 hours I was just focused.  I wasn't as fast as some of my crazy friends but I was definitely focused. I was focused on my pace, my nutrition, and my form.  I was paying attention to my body especially my right leg.  I was keeping track of my time and 'trying' to calculate when I will make the first cut off at 1:40pm.  I was going over my aid station plan and make any adjustment before actually going to the aid station.  So when I got to Danielson, I executed my plan and left.

Mi 19 Aid Station - Chanchan (She got #1 female at a 50km just last week!) posting next to me while I was refilling, reapplying sunscreen, etc.
VitaPanda Kevin checking on me to make sure I am good to go
Group picture with the Coyotes - Panthea, Sonya, Sarah, Chandrasekar, Kevin, and Jack
Now come the biggest climb of the course (Not part of the 50km course).  This is an out and back section so I'll see the faster people as I am making my way to the turn around point.  Being a hiker I am not too concern about the elevation gain. 2000 ft of gain and 4000 ft of gain doesn't really make a difference to me, my only concern was the cut off.  Will I make the mi 28 cut off at 1:40pm?  I stayed focus and started the ascent.  Sometime during ascent I started to develop a little bit of cramping.  I increased my endurolytes intake and tried to flush out the waste in my leg by taking quick steps whenever there is a small flat section on the trail.  It took a while but it worked.  It was nice to see Coach Jimmy and others Coyotes coming down the trail.  I gave a high five to Jimmy and continue moving forward.

The split between 50km and 50mi. 10 mi of out, and 10 mi of back!

After I ascent for about 1 1/2 hour after the last aid station I got to the flat part of the trail. I kept up with my pace because I am cutting a little close to the cut off. Around mile 25 I saw Marshall and the first thing he asked me is if I needed water.  Thanks for the Coyotes love Marshall.  After more ascent I am at the 1.5 miles downhill section before the mile 28 aid station.  As I am making my way I seen two return runners sitting on the side on the trails. They overheated =(  Then the runner in front of me fell (Illwoo Suh) and cramped.  There were hikers attending him so I told them to take care of Illwoo and continue (otherwise I would of drag his ass to the aid station)

Made it to mile 28 aid station at 1:20pm. 20 minutes before the cut off.  I saw Coach Kiley, Matthew Seng, and Jeff Biddle all at the aid station.  Matt and Jeff were just chilling at the aid station before heading to the finishing line while Coach Kiley and I were heading to the turn around.  I was kind of toasted so I pour water over my head and started to refill my nutrition from my checked bag. A piece of paper was inside my pack. It was a good luck note from my friend Jeff Sperber!  Initially I was going pick up the extra bottle in my gear bag to go for a 2 bottles configuration to lose some weight, but because of how hot it is I refilled my part of my reservoir and go out with a bottle of water.  My Ironman Coach Paul Ruggiero tell us that if we over heated we are done so I rather carried extra weight than not have enough water to cool myself down.

Mi 28 Aid Station - Toasted Louis... trying to cool down
I left the aid station for this 3 mi out and back section.  The trail is not that steep but I struggled... a lot.  It was nice to see my AC 100 pacer Erin during this section of the course.  After a long time (too long) I got to the turn around point and I saw more Coyotes!  I got my water filled up and headed back.  I was faster on the returning leg but this 6 miles was slow (also found out there are 2 runners behind me)!  Got back to the mi 28 aid station (now mi 34) and refill my liquid.  While I was doing my thing I notice the girl that was at least 5-10 minutes ahead of me was sitting at the aid station.  We both left the aid station at the same time and she disappeared on the uphill.  I called her the Runner's Circle girl. 16 miles to go.

at mi 34 aid station (it's the same aid station at mi 28). Still eating and drinking. Trying to keep myself cool.
I lost a lot of time from that out and back but I cannot beat myself over it.  I was limping 3 days ago and I just ran 34 miles.  I needed to pad myself on the shoulder.  I knew I need to stay focus on that 1000 ft of climb and keep running as I am cutting pretty close to the cut off.

On the big downhill section I caught up to the Runner Circle girl.  Her name is Shangrila and she did Ironman Arizona in 2011. I told her I did Ironman Arizona in 2010 and we chatted a little bit.  Around mile 42 I saw Kiley down on the valley and I passed this older lady Susan Kang on the downhill.  After I got to the flat Shangrila took off and I passed her during the more technical section of the trail before the mile 45 aid station.  By then I did not think that I will have time to finish because I only have around 1hr 15-20 mins to cover 5 miles... with a hill!  I put on the headlamp that I started to carry at mi 34, I also put on a jacket from the drop bag and left the aid station.  At this point I thought I will not make the cut off but I wanted to give it my best.  I divided the last 5 miles in 3 different sections so I can re-evaluate my time after each section.

descending on the backbone trail. around mi 38 looking at the valley at mi 43. Refer to the picture below
around mi 43. This area is very pretty
around mi 44.5. Lot of tree, some stream crossing, uneven terrain.
I did not have another gear, but I did develop a better way to tackle the uphill.  I 'suddenly' figured out a way where I am semi running up a slight uphill. I kept at that until I hit the steep section of the climb.  I kept it up with my hiking steps and I was able to got to the fire road in 30 minutes. I have 50 more minutes.  Wait... I have a good chances.  The fire road is 0.7 miles long and consists of a uphill and a flat session.  The fire road section took 11 minutes.  With 40 minutes left, I know I can make it.  I took off the jacket and start making my way down the Ray Miller trail.

As soon as I get to the top of the trail I saw Simren and we started to run down.  Then VitaPanda Kevin and Coach Kate joined me shortly after.  Love the new headlamp because I was able to see the trail and not lose time! I kept a good pace and be careful at the same time because I did not want to fall and hurt myself.  That would suck! As I got closed to the finish line I saw a lot of people cheering.  I am assuming it was for me because there wasn't anyone around.  At 13:22:56 I crossed the finish line. Official Result is 13:25.

My First Marathon Coach Kiley, My AC 100 Medical Crew Kim (she finished her first 50km at Ray Miller), and me... ok and little Emmy
4 Coaches 1 student (from our left to right) - Coach Kate, Coach Jimmy, Coach Kiley, and Coach Juan. My friend Janna and Emmy next to Kiley
After I crossed the finish line I started to walk away because I wanted to do my cool down.  Coach Jimmy told me to come back and people started to go up and congratulate me.  Honestly I could of pay attention to the surrounding because my mind was still focused.  I was still in my little tunnel vision so I wasn't processing any information unless they were in front of me.  There were just so many people and they were a lot more excited than me =P.  I knew I can finish the race (not necessarily making the cut off)  at mi 35 so I wasn't super excited when I crossed the finish line.  I was like that with my Ironman too.  I definitely need to slow down, chill, and enjoy the finish line. Smell the flower Louis, smell the flower =P 

Everything was kind of a blur for me.  But Coach Kiley was there.  We both did it.  We both now have our 50 miles qualification for AC 100.  My SGV family was there.  Coach Jimmy and Coach Kate were there.  VitaPanda Kevin was there.  My AC 100 pacer Erin C was there.  K Robot was there.  The rest of the Coyotes was there.  There was just a lot of people =)  And then there was Kim, my AC 100 medical support.  Kim did the 50km in under 7 hours.  She had been working a lot so I did not expect her to be there for Kiley and I.  She told me she waited because she is one of my crew.  That was the sweetest thing I heard!  I know I picked the perfect crew for Angeles Crest 100: Kevin, the two Erins, Coach Paul, Sarah, Saveria, Stephen, and Kim.  Kim just reinforced the idea that I have a wonderful crew =)

By this time I gotten very cold so I said bye to everyone, and went to my car to get warm.  Panda Kevin was carpooling with Chandra so I asked Kevin to see if he can drive my car to Santa Monica to have dinner with the Coyotes.  After dinner I drove home and slept.

Coyotes at dinner
Honored Teammate Virgina and I at LA Marathon 2011 - She taught me courage.
Ray Miller Preview Run: Me and my AC 100 pacers - Kevin, Erin C, Erin M

After Thought
Again, I like to thank all the people that help me get to where I am at.  My Wilderness Travel Course Instructors, my first marathon Coach Kiley, my first Ironman Coach Paul and Rad, my ultra marathon coaches Coach Jimmy, Coach Kate, and Coach Bev.  My hiking friends, my SGV friends, the Coyotes, VitaPanda Kevin, My circle of friends that helped me get back on my feet when I was (still) lost.  There are just too many people that I want to say thank to.  Ultimately I did everything on my own.  But my interaction with different people help shape me into who I am today.

In turn of the actual race I am happy with my performance.  I run the course without having that leg pain so I cannot ask for more. I felt like I did a great job with my nutrition.  I carried most of my nutrition for the first 28 miles and that paid off big time.  This is not a race, this is a training run. The purpose of this race is to try different things and see what work and what doesn't work.  I want to see how my body react when I run for 13 hours.  I played it smart and I played it safe, perhaps too safe.  I maintain an all day pace and that allow me to keep my energy level though out the whole race.  I felt so good at the end I felt like I can run for another 10-15 miles.  That also means that I need to run harder next time.  Now that I know how it feel to run a 50 miles, I can push more next time.

I also learned a lot about what I want and what I want my crew to help me with at each crew access point.  But I'll save that for my crew digest that I send to my crew.

With Ray Miller out of the way, I can really focus on my healing.  I need a healthy mind and a healthy body to train.  This recovery period will allow me to get ready for my Angeles Crest 100 training.. Ray Miller is a warm up before I start really getting into Angeles Crest training.  I am getting ready to ph commit start my AC 100 training.

Ray Miller is a business trip, and I got it done.

What's Harder? Ironman or a 50 miles run?
They are both very hard if you do them fast.  With a slow poke like me, they are both very durable.  I had some major issues at each of my last 3 Ironman and I was able to build a cushion and finish the race.  With this ultra marathon I did not really have much issues.  The only hard thing was that I needed to keep up with my pace to make the cut off.  I stayed focus, my nutrition went well, and I did not burn myself up.  I did a few training run on the course and I studied the course so I have a very good race plan.  And honestly, I gotten a lot stronger since I started running with the Coyotes.  More importantly, I follow Coach Jimmy nutrition advices.  Otherwise I will probably stop at mi 28.  My NCAL Ironteam buddy Anna told me ultra is tougher on your mind because you don't see a lot of people the whole day.  Fortunately I am used to being by myself on the mountain so that does not bother me one bit.

So what's harder? Ironman or 50 mi run?  In turn of suffering, doing the mountaineering trip up to Mt Shasta is still the toughest thing I ever done.  That will change when I do AC 100, that's why I am training the hell for it.  I think I need to do Mt Shasta again so I can have a better comparison.  But then again, the most challenging in life is often not measurable by any physical mean.

Mt Shasta - 2007


  1. Proud of you Louis. This is as much a game to train your MIND as it is to train your body. Keep up the great work. Oh yeah, and don't forget to "Smell the flower Louis, smell the flower" along the way.


  2. You are AWESOME Louis! What a journey! Congrats on 50 mi!!! Sam

  3. GREAT work! Excellent training for AC, RM was a fun and tough course. See you soon.