Sunday, December 16, 2012

50K of Trails

Woodside Ramble 50K Trail Run
(Event #6 of 10)

Arrived at Huddart County Park in Woodside in the early morning light of Saturday, December 15th. It was frigid outside and cloudy. After parking at the lower end of a big meadow, I crossed the ~400 yards of lush green open fields to the registration in a sheltered picnic area to pick up my number.

After doing so, I noticed another parking lot maybe 50 yards from the finish line and 'almost' went to move the car, anticipating the shorter distance from the finish line to the car. Fortunately I knew that was absurd, as I was there to run 31+ miles,  and what difference could a few hundred yards make (even if my legs were cramped)? Just pre-race jitters.

Probably 150 runners assembled on the lawn for the last-minute instructions. They were there for 4 events, with the 50K the longest and first to start. Excited chatter, with every strategy visible for dressing (tights, pants, shorts; long-sleeves, short-sleeves, vests, jackets; caps and thermal hats), as it was likely to start raining during the run.  My car was like a running closet of choices, but I decided to wear Nike compression shorts, a long sleeved shirt, a thin shell jacket, my woolen running socks, a pair of cotton gloves and a cotton cap.  Fortunately, given the changing weather, I had chosen well.

At 8:30, we took off beginning the 50K run.

I had set my Garmin GPS watch to alert me at each 3.1 miles (5K), so I had automated splits -- and more importantly, easy 'math' as I progressed. The alerts vibrated, made an audible sound, and displayed each lap's time for several seconds -- perfect for monitoring each 5K. Better yet, each split was 10% of the run. Easy math, easy progress noted.

From Crystal Springs Trail, the ascent to the top of the mountain began nearly immediately. Up and up and up, with innumerable switchbacks --  but all under a magnificent canopy of 2nd and 3rd generation redwoods. The trails were covered with the needle-like leaves of the huge redwoods.  Great running surface, spectacular scenery. Silence except for the winds, swaying giants and running water we crossed over or saw.

Around 5 miles, we were nearing the top, and then ran along Summit Trail for around 7 miles, with additional elevation gain. By then over 3 hours of running. A beautiful, wonderfully 'surfaced'  and meandering trail -- with also some sections washed out by heavy rains and some muddy, slippery crossings, but on the whole, great running.

Given minor muscle pulls of the prior months and my therefore limited running training leading up to the 50K, I ran conservatively, both in speed and keeping my stride short. My initial 5K splits going up the first summit were around 40 minutes. This was going to be a l-o-n-g day of running, and pulls would have reduced the chances of my finishing.

At around 6.2 miles (just after my 2nd 5K alert), I saw several pink Pelicans (plastic) on the trail ahead. Yes, plastic Pelicans, but a cute and welcome marker for an aid station up ahead. Water bottle refills, and choice of M&Ms, Oreo cookies, Peanut butter & jelly quarter sandwiches, salted pretzels, and lots more. In and out in minutes, but a very nice refresher. Lots of helpful volunteers and runners re-charging.

Just before our descent from the first summit began (mile 11), we arrived at another aid station. By then my water bottle was empty and the food choices seemed even tastier. The decent was on beautiful running trails. Easier running downward, but more risky, so again I reigned in the usual impulse to go faster and controlled my run downward.

By mile 16, after some 3 1/2 hours of running, we were again climbing the next summit, up and up and up. A 3rd aid station was mid-way up -- and oh-so welcome. By then, already just over 20 miles, P&J sandwiches never tasted so good -- with Oreo cookies as desert.

I had worn my regular watch also, so I'd get an alarm every hour to remind me to take a salt pill and drink. Cramping can be race-ending, but fortunately, the salt intake and constant drinking helped.

Still heading down from the second summit's ascent (entering Wunderlich County Park) the rains began. Light at first, then heavy -- but as we were mainly under an old growth canopy, it was more misty than a downpour. My shell and gloves which I had taken off prior, went back on -- and I stayed warm.

After the third aid station and having crested the summit at 20+ miles -- and with less than 11 miles to go -- I felt good and started picking up the pace.

Once I heard the 7th 5K beep/alert, with less than 10 miles to go, I extended my stride and let it rip. Anyone and everyone ahead of me, when they first came into sight became 'prey' and each and every one I reeled in and passed. Several, as though they were standing still.

One guy who I came up upon and saw my hat from 'The Relay' race that I had run 4 years ago (a 24-hour+ team race from Calistoga to Santa Cruz) started chatting about it (as he had participated with a team for the last 3 years). He mentioned he had only started running 5 years ago, later in life. I mentioned I had more than a few years on him, and he looked over and said 'not that many'. He was 52.  When I mentioned my age, I heard a 'wow'. Then I said 'good luck' and left him behind.

After the last aid station, I passed a runner my age who I had met on a Saturday run. He was walking. Coincidently, my watch had just alerted me to completing the 8th of the 10 5K's. He didn't know who was behind him, but heard me coming and asked if I knew how much farther until the end. When runners ask that, usually it's because they are hurting. Exactly 10K (6.2 miles) to go.

My 9th split was faster than most prior. Just after that next to last split,  I came to a fork in the trail -- and there were no visible markings (yellow plastic strips hung from trees), and alone at the time,  I went left. Big mistake. I should have doubled back, but didn't, and a few miles later, finally came across an unknown meadow.

Fortunately, in it was a public information display.  Unfortunately, the plastic on the display case was 'clouded' from age and condensation, and I couldn't read it. I ran after a biker that went by, stopped him and after 5 minutes wasted of describing where I wanted to get to, we both concluded he could be of no help. My luck I meet a guy clueless where he was biking.

I guessed the direction I needed to go and saw a jogger in the distance. Chased her down, and she fortunately knew exactly how to direct me back to where I was heading. Finally I found the trail. By coincidence the distance to the end was the same.

Had I not made the wrong turn, I might have finished just under 7 hours. As it was, my time was 7:17 (7 hours, 17 minutes) on my watch. The runner I had passed with just 10K remaining won 3rd in our age group -- 'almost' mine. No matter -- I wasn't running for ribbons.

The 50K was a great experience. As the end was approaching, I felt even stronger and more confident, and I was able to up my pace. Nice feeling!

More important than any finish time, I had yesterday made it to 6 starts of my 10 planned Events -- and crossed every finish line.  Yesterday's 31.1 miles, 4,500 feet of climbing, 7 hours of constant running was a challenge.

Imagine covering over 30 miles of amazing trails in the redwoods, spanning 2 parks, in a day. What a treat -- and much for which to be grateful.

                               What's Next

Next up, training for the Ironman, with a time trial check of a Half Marathon a month prior. It is the full Ironman that is my giant reach for the unknown.

So if any of you reading this are still just 'thinking' about getting fit via exercise, what's your excuse? Time to get going -- you owe it to yourself!

P.S. McKinsey & Company (for whom I worked as a management consultant many years ago) recently ran an article about my 'journey' -- between more usual alumni announcements such as one becoming CEO of a company and another Chairman of a bank

Monday, November 5, 2012


The Marin County Triathlon 

Despite a late dinner on Saturday in the south bay, I headed out the door to the Triathlon at 6 am Sunday morning.

Lots of bustling activity at the entrance to McNear's Beach when I arrived. I had to drive back over a mile to find a place to park. Put on my backpack loaded with gear, and then biked back the 2 miles to the start of the Triathlon, along the SF Bay shoreline.

Beautiful, sunny morning. Having prior picked up my race packet, all that remained was getting my gear laid out for the 2 transitions, and having my body marked with my race bib number on my left shoulder and left hand.

But what I also got a kick out of was everyone's age being marked on their left calf. During both the bike and run segments, you'd therefore know the age of anyone passing you or those you were reeling in as you passed them!

Next was getting into my swim gear (blueseventy wetsuit, 2 caps, goggles, etc). The swim starts began at 8:00, first with the top tier athletes, followed by several male-age-groups, the female swimmers, and my group being the 4th and last start.

Each start wave had their own swim cap colors, 10 minutes apart. My wave (orange caps) started 30 minutes after the first. A high school girl beautifully sang the national anthem, followed by a bagpiper in full dress playing on the beach, prior to the swim start. Way cool.

Being in the last starting group at 8:30, I could clearly see the route the best swimmers were taking around the 5 buoys floating in the sunny calm bay waters.

Even with a wetsuit, there's a moment of chill that hits you when you first get going. But soon I found my rhythm, and made sure to constantly watch where I was heading. The first of 5 buoys was soon just ahead, and the turn in direction after the 2nd was soon nearing. A few swimmers bumped into me from behind but no big deal.

Rounded the 2nd buoy, aimed for the third, and soon the 4th. Once I passed the 5th it was time to head straight for the finish (where we started). My Garmin watch showed that the 1.5 km swim (0.96 actual distance) took me almost 36 minutes, faster than I though I'd do.  Nice swim, felt great. Hey, I even passed a swimmer from the wave just prior.

The regulars in triathlons wear a swimsuit & bib outfit that they can wear swimming, biking and running, resulting in faster transitions, as all they need are biking or running shoe changes. It took me nearly 8 minutes to get out of the water, changed and on to my bike.

Off I went, up the steep hill to the main road and then east toward China Camp State Park. The bike course was a winding, hilly road with spectacular views of the bay. As all competitors had to do 3 loops of the bike course to complete the 22 miles, it was crowded in both directions at first, much less so on my last lap.

Several bikers flew by me with encouraging words, perhaps viewing the '65' on my leg. All such spirit lifts were welcome. A challenging course, but I attacked it technically (e.g. changing gears constantly to leverage the conditions) and pushed hard. Hey, I even found time to check out many of the ages of those I passed or of those who passed me. Funny, but no one older.

The bike leg of 22 miles (with nearly 1,500 feet elevation gain) took me 1 hour 26 minutes, or around a 15.1 mph average. Also on target per my estimate.

Rolled in back to the transition area, dismounted, and ran with the bike back to my running gear.

5 minutes later I was off running the 10K (6.2 miles). Unfortunately, I immediately felt the pulled leg muscle from 2 weeks prior, so I had to shorten my stride and jog rather than race the course. Which is why it took me just over an hour to run the 10K.

One guy passed and yelled out he hoped to be running anywhere near the pace I was when he reached 65. Yes, I checked, he was only 39!

Nearing the Finish Line
I crossed the finish line 3 hours 16 minutes after the start (including 13+ minutes changing).

Hey, I even came in 2nd in my age group! OK, OK, there were only 2 in the 65-69 group, myself and a 66 year old -- who swam faster.  :)

So far, 5 starts and 5 finish lines. No complaints.

More importantly, I have now passed the half-way mark on my '10-event tour de force' (words of Marin IJ).

Assuming the muscle that caused me to conservatively run the 10K leg recovers OK, next up is the Woodside Ramble 50K (31 miles), a hilly,   l-o-n-g trail run in the south bay.

Schedule Remaining 

P.S. If by any chance you are among those still just 'thinking' about getting fit, get started today or tomorrow. You owe it to yourself.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Marin IJ and Marin Country Triathlon

Just days until the start of the Marin County Triathlon on Sunday.

Similar to days prior to a marathon, nothing I do from now on can really help, and much can do I'm tapering (training time-off, extra sleep).

The Marin Independent Journal just ran a Profile about my 10-event tour de force (their words) as part of their Triathlon coverage. Page 1 even...

Now I really do have to cross the finish line. :)

Details to follow next week (from Event #5 -- my half-way point).

Monday, September 10, 2012

Alcatraz Invitational Swim

The Alcatraz Invitational Swim 

(Event #4 of 10)

If you live in the SF Bay, the former prison island of Alcatraz is visible from all shores. So secure by its island location, it’s presumed that in its day, no one ever survived trying to escape by swimming to freedom.

Alcatraz was the siren swim challenge. Not for wannabe swimmers. Crossing the SF Bay, with powerful currents, and often-unpredictable winds and fog beckoned.

Saturday, September 8 finally arrived. I set 3 different alarms for 4:00 a.m. to be sure to wake up on time, but somehow I looked at the clock at 3:45 -- and immediately got up to begin my day.

Prepared my usual strong morning coffee, plus 2 bowls of hot oat cereal. By 4:45, gear thrown in car and off to San Francisco. Empty freeways and local streets, until approaching Aquatic Park -- and then the incredible contrast of nearly a thousand swimmers, all heading to check-in or getting ready.

The commaderie of people about to embark on the same swim journey was universal. People starting conversations with anyone nearby -- everyone open and willing to converse, jabber, release some nervous energy. First time? Bay conditions? Suits or Skins?

Skins are those who are regular open water swimmers without wetsuits, and generally faster swimmers (as time spent in the SF Bay’s cold water is key). From what I saw, I’d guess 10-15% were without wetsuits, but most wore wetsuits (i.e. the 'Suits' -- including myself).

Race check-ins closed at 6:15. At 6:30, still dark out, all swimmers gathered in front of the South End Rowing Club’s entrance, where ‘Sharko’ the race Director gave last minute rules, tips and mandatory procedures to a mass of swimmers for the venerable (founded 1873) South End Rowing Club's 17th Annual Alcatraz Invitational Swim.

Moments later, around 7 am, the trek to the ferries (about half-mile) through Fisherman’s Wharf began. If a Suit, nothing other that what you'd hit the water with was permitted en route. (Skins could bring some clothing and check a second bag for later pick-up.) Shoes, clogs, flip-flops piled up as swimmers abandoned them as they boarded the ferries.

Equipment needed, 8 items: wetsuit, goggles, favorite swim cap, yellow race cap (mandatory), ear plugs, waterproof timer chip, colored ID band to get on the ferry and a watch. A mustached man in full plaid kilt was playing a welcome on bagpipes as we approached the ferries -- nice touch to calm the jitters. It was amazing how fast the 2 ferryboats filled up, top and bottom decks -- packed with expectant and excited men and women swimmers.

During the ride out, lots of chatter. Some were sitting on the floors, some seated, most standing. But a buzz everywhere, with positive vibes. Lots of nervous but positive energy with ‘can do’ attitudes conveyed to anyone in need of encouragement, especially first-timers (like myself).

By 7:30, both ferries arrived to the east of The Rock, and pointed their bows to the SF destination.  On each side of each ferry, there were two gangways. With 2 boats, that meant 8 exits. Swimmers lined up at each in 3 lines, as 3 jumped off simultaneously into the cold water, from each of the 8 exits. When it came your turn, there was no time for second thoughts. Jump and immediately swim away from the boat. Within 5-6 minutes, nearly a thousand swimmers were on their way.

After the shock of the cold water (water temp around 59-60 F degrees ), I checked to see that my Blue70 Vision goggles and my 2 caps were on OK -- and it was time to head to San Francisco! The waves were heading to the east, constantly slapping against my face, as I took in air to my right. I needed to find a swim rhythm, which I fortunately found shortly after starting.

I was watching the Rock as I swam, noting how little progress I seemed to be making….but soon I forgot. My watch vibrated at my 880-yards-preset (1/2 mile) 23 minutes later. There I forced myself to stop and look around. Quite amazing views to enjoy: the SF city skyline, the gleaming Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito hills, the San Rafael and Bay Bridges….and lots and lots of bobbing yellow caps!

The Balclutha, with Alcatraz at the rear
Slower swimmers were advised to aim for the SS Jeremiah O'Brien (a still functioning World War II Liberty Ship), farthest to the east of the entry to Aquatic park -- given slower swimmers needed more time in the water and the currents by then would be heading out to sea. Faster swimmers initially navigated off of the Balclutha (a three-masted ship of 1886 vintage) closer to the entry to Aquatic Park.

Scores of kayaks headed out to The Rock manned by volunteers, with safety and communications equipment to help swimmers if needed.

After the first 10-20 minutes of swimming, it was the rarity that another swimmer was nearby.  Visible if one stopped or looked, but the feeling was mainly swimming alone in my quest to cross the Bay.

My Blue70 Reaction swimsuit kept me warm and buoyant, with just my feet and hands initially feeling the chill. But constant movement was the counter – with strokes and kicking to make it across.

By my next ½ mile alert, I could see progress, though still a ways from the SF shoreline.  I stopped again to ‘smell the roses’ and take in the views. My confidence was building, as Aquatic Park was now visible.

Home Stretch -- with Golden Gate 
Steady but slow, I continued, but now aiming for the Balclutha until I was nearing the entrance to Aquatic Park. The currents were definitely pushing past the entrance and west towards the ocean, and when I came nearer the entrance, I poured on what I had to get into the calmer Aquatic Park waters. After entering I had just 400 yards to go, so I continued my ‘sprint’ to the end.

As soon as I could stand, I raised my right hand as a signal to friends and family waiting that it was me -- and raced                                              under the Finish Line arch and over the mat recording my time. 

Breathless, I barely noticed a Volunteer removing my Velcro-attached timer chip above my ankle, but I did remember the Volunteer placing a Finisher’s Medal around my neck.

My 2 teenage sons, wife and several friends were there to greet me. Great feeling, all smiles!

Checking-in, putting on my wetsuit, boarding the ferry and jumping off the ferry into the Bay all required mini-leaps of faith -- as I had never done any swim event prior, much less one in open waters such as the SF Bay.

My watch recorded the distance I swam at 1.67 miles (vs. 1.25 miles as ‘the crow flies’) in just under 1 hour 14 minutes (@ ~44minute/mile pace).

Given that less than a year before when I started swim training (3 months after my accident) and found it trying to do just 100 yards (4 pool lengths), I had much for which to be grateful.

What’s Next?
The Dipsea Race, the Double Dipsea, the California Death Ride and now the Alcatraz Invitational Swim. 4 Events, 4 finish lines crossed. No complaints.

With 8 months left in my 65th birthday year, 6 more to go:


Sequencing and spacing the dates for each Event, pacing during each Event, and avoiding injury will all be key to my crossing the 6 finish lines remaining. My coach friends are being consulted, and I hope to have the revised Event schedule ready soon. You're invited to follow the blog and @fitatallages on Twitter.

Now, finally, back to my early morning runs!

Yes You, You Are Next
If you are reading this and by chance still just thinking about getting fit, it’s time to get started – even if it’s just a brisk walk around the block.  Fitness at all ages is a choice we all can and should make for ourselves. 

Also, do share your stories & comments. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Next Up: Alcatraz Swim

The Race Director (nicknamed a reassuring ‘Sharko’) of the Alcatraz Invitational Swim has sent detailed emails with lots of tips, suggesting first timers visualize jumping off the Blue & Gold Ferry at the Rock (Alcatraz) "…with you exiting the water and crossing the finish line." Yes, that's the plan.

Not worrying about sharks, curious sea lions, or playful dolphins (whose fins might suggest otherwise). Nor swimming in or out ‘on the flood’ (low tide change with mass of ocean water from under the Golden Gate rushing toward the east Bay), just get used to it.  Also be prepared for some ‘crabbing’ (swimming against a current) by adding speed as needed.

Though the swim is ~1.25 miles as the crow flies, the average distance (given currents, possibly choppy waters, and how-could-it-be poor navigation) will be ~1.5 miles. Thus we’ve been encouraged to train for 2 miles. Hey, that’s only 144 crossings of a 25-yard pool. Given the helpful motivation of fear, I have done so, several times. (Thank goodness for my watch that counts laps.)

Try out your wetsuit prior to race day also seems like a good idea. If it’s too tight, you can’t get a full breath, making it hard to breathe. Or if too big, water rushes in.

My Blue70 Reaction wetsuit arrived today, 10 days before. Plenty of time to try out, no? Tomorrow, I'll take the plunge into nearby Lake Anza, and maybe also an open water swim before the 'Rock' as well.

Blue70 is now my second sponsor (after Ice Chamber) in tandem with a sports magazine article in the works re my Comeback 65: Challenge for Good. Details to follow.

If nervous (who me?), Sharko suggests a breathing technique: "...alternate nose breathing (cover one nostril and breathe in through the other deliberately and excel through the mouth, do this say 8 times and then switch to the other nostril). This will relax you and saturate your muscles with O2…. walking to the boat as well as just before you jump." 

Sure, I’ll remember. Then post jumping, look around, take in the view – and no hyperventilating! Relax.

Navigation tip: Don’t follow the swimmer in front of you, as they might be heading the wrong way…. Just look at the landmarks and get some sighting practice ‘in choppy open water.’

But remember too, that fitness at all ages is a choice we can all make -- and then just do something.

Sharko does say that when we complete the swim, walking up the beach, remember that those cheering will be doing so for a ‘hell of a great accomplishment." May it so come to pass. 

Upcoming List of Events 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Death Ride

The Death Ride 
California Tour of the Alps  
(July 14, 2012)

Not a wink of sleep the night prior, heading out from the motel in NV to the Markleeville CA start prior to daylight. 

With Markleeville itself at 5,500 feet, the entire course is at altitude. Would it affect me? Altitude hadn't in years prior, but only time on the bike would tell.

Bikers galore, literally hundreds, starting out in the dark with red tail lights flashing, on the journey from Turtle Rock Park and through the sleeping town of Markleeville in the eastern Sierras -- all bikes heading to the base of Monitor Pass. 

The sunrise was spectacular -- and the morning temperature in the 50's. 

Good road surface, fresh legs, morning light....up and up. Reached the summit of Monitor (8,314 feet) in a good steady pace. Refreshments at top -- and then a spectacular bike ride over and down the other side, with briefly-viewed vistas flying by on 10 miles of downhill wonder. 

Despite what I thought was a heck of a pace, more than a few bikers flew by me like I was standing still. 

Just prior to heading back up, a group of high school boys were manning a water and Cytomax aid station. You gave your bottle as you passed -- and hoped they'd refill and catch up prior to your having to stop. One of the adults announced each 'runner': there goes 'Tom Smith', congratulating each when they completed the handover to their biker. Fun, entertaining -- and a nice convenience.

Up, up, up again on the 2nd ascent. But on Mile 32, my front tire went flat. Managed to fix it in non-record time (and regretted I hadn't made room for carrying a second spare tube). 

My bike was the same Trek 2100 I had used 15 years ago, as was the hand pump...BTW, not so easy to get to 115 psi by hand. Certified 100% Vintage. 

The views at the repair site were great, and with my under-seat bag emptied, out came the mobile and a photo of where the flat happened.

Heading up Monitor (location of flat)
Off I went again into the flow of an amazing kaleidoscope of colors, riders, bikes, helmets, outfits -- well lit by the morning light. In the 'rush' to get back into the flow, I had put down my new sunglasses (for eye safety, as I rarely wear sunglasses), realized my error, headed back down to the spot (probably 1/2 mile back down), and discovered someone had already acquired a freebie. Headed back up again, sans glasses.

As I was heading up, I saw a SAG (support and gear) guy on a motorcycle helping another biker -- and asked to borrow his floor pump to get the psi tire pressure needed. Wishful thinking, I asked if he might have a spare -- and out came exactly what I needed, just in case. Great support! 

Off I went, more time wasted, but a happy camper. Unfortunately, less than 3 miles further up, my rear tire then went flat. Though a faster tube change this time, still no fun.....Soon off again, but this time with no spare. 

Hey, but what are the chances for a 3rd flat in the same day? No worries, right? I later saw another SAG helping someone else and I asked to use his floor pump and if he had a spare (but he didn't).

The ride down Monitor's initial ascent was also amazing.....I kept it under control and even managed to enjoy some of the views. Legs resting, hands on breaks and balance -- for 10 miles. Simply incredible. 10 miles downhill is quite a coast.

The day was heating up....and I paid a lot of attention to drinking, salt pills, constant small snacks. This was going to be a l-o-n-g day. Monitor (up both sides) was just 2 of the 5 ascents.

Back at the bottom of Monitor, we headed out a few rolling miles alongside the East Fork of the Carson River to the start of the ascent of Ebbetts Pass (8,730 feet). I had heard this was the more beautiful of the ascents (it was not part of my first-ever bike ride, the 'The Detour' of 1997, as Ebbetts was storm damaged and closed back then). 

Ebbetts is beautiful, with waterfalls, mountain lakes, and lots of trees (even shaded at many points). But it's also a tougher climb up than the 2 ascents on Monitor. Around 12 miles up, and up and up, with a 12% grade at the end for nature's sense of humor.

As luck would have it, halfway up Ebbetts, my newly replaced front tire tube went flat. How could this be? So I pumped and pumped, hoping it would hold. A few miles later, it didn't. 

Fortunately, another SAG eventually passed and I waved him down, and he too had a spare, his last. So I did the repair, borrowed his pump, and off again.  I checked my tires and psi at many of the rest stops, but all were also out of spares at those locations. Sharp pine needles and steel filaments from car tires were apparently the culprits. 4 flats? No way. 

But my focus had to switch to surviving, i.e. my legs.

Looking out on the first ascent of Ebbetts

Made it OK to the Top of Ebbetts and was actually looking forward to hit the last steep piece, as I knew the summit would be near. But by then it was 55 miles and I felt it. 

Great rest stop at the summit -- but for some reason, my appreciation of each rest stop kept growing -- as did my intake. Lots of food such as mini-bagels & peanut butter, cut bananas, cookies, potato chips, all kinds of drinks (even cold V8), Clif bars, GU and much much more.

The ride down the western side of Ebbetts was also beautiful, though the road surface was challenging. But down is easier than up. Reached the bottom and turn-around, stopped for replenishment, then started back up. 

But by then, the sun was out in full, temperature in the 80's, and it felt even hotter. Fortunately, the 2nd ascent of Ebbetts was 'only' 5-6 miles (shorter than the other side), but 'trying' would be a polite description. I saw other bikers taking mini-breaks in the shade along the road -- and figured out that such 2-3 minute breaks standing, drinking, eating helped.

Finally made it back to the top of Ebbetts, and knew the downhill would be beautiful. I just didn't appreciate how beautiful. Truly memorable.

Not as hot, and a long winding scenic road down, but with many, many 'switchbacks' requiring serious slowdowns. When you first see signs in red, that say, in sequence Slow then Slower then Slowest -- you get the picture real fast. (In fact, the next day I drove back home via Ebbetts and met a Sheriff who was driving and then hiking around the bends -- just to make sure he didn't see any bikers who might have flown off the road the day prior. Seriously.)

However, as I neared the flats but still on a slight downhill, my left hamstring started up with incredibly painful spasms. I couldn't get off or even get my foot out of the clip. Never ever experienced anything like this before. I'd been hydrating, taking salt pills...but the temperatures, by then over 11,000 feet of climbing and the 80+ miles had taken its toll. Given I was slowly coasting (fortunately), I forced myself to try rotating the legs in cycling motion, and by the 3rd or 4th painful rotation, it helped -- and the pain subsided. (I'd guess like 'stretching' -- somewhat alien to my training regiment).  Way lucky -- and grateful.

At this point, I knew the lunch stop was just up ahead, and 4-5 miles past that was my parked car where I had started. Given I had cool drinks in an ice chest in the car and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches stashed (in case I chose to skip the lunch and save some time), I decided to head for the car. 

Time was ticking away. I wasn't sure if I could make the next 2 cutoffs for the 5th mountain summit (8,580 feet, the 'Kit Carson Pass'), whether my legs would hold -- and ditto for my willpower. 

I was being put to the test.

My feet also were burning by then from the distance and the heat, and as I was biking to the car, I imagined pulling out the ice chest and dunking my feet for relief. I also wasn't sure that if I did so, if I'd ever put the shoes back on (given I'd be at the car already, you get the picture) I never did act out my feet-soaking reverie.

Once back at the car I gingerly got off the bike (around the 85 mile point), inhaled a bottle of ice cold chocolate milk, then a bottle of ice cold water, then a bottle of ice cold Snapple -- which helped. I munched on my English muffin and peanut butter & jam sandwich....but time was wasting. I unloaded the extra weight from clothing I had packed on the bike for the rain, hail or snow that sometimes hits the passes when thunderstorms come through (as predicted on race day) to lighten my load (though I did add an extra spare tube that I hadn't taken).

I checked my watch and was confident I had time to make the next cutoff if I didn't stay long (about 12 miles away), but the 5th ascent was the unknown. If I missed the last cutoff, I couldn't make the ascent and finish the Death Ride. So off I went, in less than 10 minutes. I made the next-to-last cutoff with time to spare...but at a 'painfully' slow pace. 

In prior years, if you made the last cutoff, you were golden. Rest, take all the time you want, then head up to the last peak. No longer. I arrived just 15 minutes prior to the last 5:15 pm cutoff -- that I even got there prior was super! Felt great. I had made it. Now for some rest and replenishment

But within minutes, officials were already asking all riders to get going -- as they wanted the Rest Stop cleared of all bikers -- so that all others arriving after 5:15 could easily be turned back.

So 5 minutes later, off I went, now past 100 miles, and climbing Carson and climbing Carson and climbing Carson. Unlike the other 4 summits where the roads were closed to traffic, that was not the case with the ascent and descent of Carson. Crummy road surface and traffic.

At one of my mini-rests, probably 5 miles from the summit, another biker was waiting for a support pickup, as he had fallen and broken his wrist. No fun. He had made it almost to the end, but could no longer work his gears.

Finally, the end was nearing...hopefully. At that point, anyone passing became a target for my 'chatter' to divert thinking of my fatigue, and I 'met' several riders on the way up the last miles. Anything to keep going. Now, no longer worrying about a time cut-off or another flat (given I had a spare). Just keep going, but easier said then done.

The last mile of the climb is mostly visible....There's a good side and a bad side to that (e.g. 'No way?') But I continued until the summit and finally crossed the 'Finish' line, where they rang cow bells as you arrived, checked me in and put the 5th and last sticker for the 5th completed pass on my race bib -- and handed me my finisher's pin and an ice cream sandwich (part of the Death Ride tradition). 

While still on on the Carson summit, I signed the official huge poster of the 2012 Death Ride (along with the some 2,500 other prior and yet-to-arrive finishers) that will hang in the Markleeville City Hall.
Though I knew I'd make the 19 miles back to the car (mostly downhill), at the end, there are 3 miles rolling of hills. I somehow kept seeing 'my' car parked along the rode, over and over again.

Finally I arrived at the actual 'my' car, s-l-o-w-l-y got off the bike, hit the ice chest for more drinks...and took my sweet old time changing clothes. A very humbling day!

This year's 2012 Death Ride poster is above -- and also the finisher's pin.

15,900 feet of climbing, 129 miles, nearly 13 hours on the bike and 15 hours (including rests, tire repairs, etc.) from start to finish.

From a long-time runner and biker friend, now a college professor (who years ago did the Death Ride): 'You old [edited] got guts and commitment that I don't think can be taught.'  Nice.

Glad for the experience. Glad I could still walk the day afterward. Glad it's done.

What's Next
How about jumping off a boat at Alcatraz island and swimming across the bay to San Francisco (1.5 miles), with the winds and currents heading out under the Golden Gate Bridge? The Alcatraz Invitational Swim. Are you kidding?

Nihil temptatum, nihil adeptum. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

10 months to go in this 65th year. Now back to early morning runs and many pool yards of swimming.

More adventure stories of the 'Events' promised.

Do add your comments, click to follow the blog, post/like on social networks, help spread the word.

And more importantly, remember that being fit at all ages is a choice we can all make (and should) for ourselves and families.

Thanks for your good wishes, shared laughs and support.

Blog Directory Fitness Blog Directory Blog Directory Online Marketing