The Boss

This guy has got it figured out. He goes where he wants, gets what he wants, is loved by all, and maintains a constant position as the most comfortable being on Earth.

Long live Taz.



Spring has sprung and the ocean is calling!

Now that spring appears to be phasing in with temps in the low 80’s here, it’s time to begin looking at weekend escapes for DW and I. This morning I’m reading about a particularly amazing sounding hike through the Coastal Trail from Point Reyes National Seashore down the coast and back up, a total of about 32 miles. If we cut it up into 10 miles a day, we could spend three days meandering through the coastal forests and camping on ocean bluffs. We haven’t gone backpacking like that before, but it sounds like the perfect way to get into it!


We’ve been keeping an eye on sales and deals over the last couple years, snagging a tent here, a couple packs there, amassing the right gear to do it right and finally we have everything. I think…


So here’s to trying new things. Here’s to being self sufficient. Here’s to unplugging from the world and just exploring for a while.



Run happy and healthy, friends!





It’s been a little over a month since my last big race. I’ve run a grand total of once or twice, just enough to blow a little air on the embers of my fitness.

The truth is, it’s just taken a while to get my head right. For a while I thought it was how the race went down. You know, falling short of the full distance and all, but that’s not it. Sure I’m bothered by the fact that I didn’t put a check mark beside “first 100 miler”; I would be lying if I told you otherwise. But it’s not that big a deal to me. Both DW and I felt fine at mile 80, and if it weren’t for injury, I feel 100% certain the next 20 would have been no problem, so the fitness was there. There will be other races, some shorter ones and some longer ones, and we’ll rock ‘em as best we can.

I just got burned out. There was a nine month training buildup to that race, and an even longer 12 month mental buildup. Everything we did running-wise in the year before was in service of the higher goal which always loomed off in the distance. It became a normal state, looking forward to February 2013. So much so that when it arrived it took me by surprise. I had gotten so used to having it “coming up” that I felt almost ambushed by actually having to run it! I hear stories about Olympic athletes entering a deep depression after the games because their sole purpose in life is suddenly stripped away, over and done. I feel like I’ve gotten a small glimpse into that brand of directionless despair. For the most part it has lifted and the constant beauty of the life that I am fortunate enough to lead has driven away the darkness, but now and then I still get an uneasy feeling. It’s the feeling of expecting something when there is nothing to expect.

Physically, I have been grateful for the respite. I had ignored or managed all pain for so long that I had forgotten how to run without it. It was a constant balancing act, keeping everything intact with the only goal being to handle the ever increasing load. It’s what I absolutely love about this sport, but it takes its toll on the soul. When everything is clicking, when the wind is kissing your face and burning your lungs, when the rocks are flying up to meet you and carry you forth, it is a feeling like no other. It is a complete and vivid immersion into the immediate moment. It is living.

But when you eat nothing but chocolate cake for months, you get sick of friggin’ chocolate cake.

Taking a break from my beloved sport has allowed me to regain focus. It hasn’t become a job. It hasn’t become a burden or a penance to be paid. It is an honest friend waiting for my return. There will be countless good times in the years to come, and I aim to run faster and longer with each passing year. The only way I know to do that is to temper my tendency to sacrifice my comfort on the alter of ambition with the desire to retain my passion for it. If that requires me to pour gasoline into the bonfire at times, so be it. If that requires me to go take a walk and let it smolder, it will be done.

It’s been a month, and that chocolate frosting is looking pretty good…

Rocky Raccoon 100 Experience Report

I can’t write it.

I just can’t write it.


This is what I keep coming up with. I keep sitting down to write about my experience at Rocky Raccoon 100. I even sat down just to write an outline, just a bare skeleton of events. I just couldn’t bring myself to bring pen to paper to create anything of substance. Every word, every single thought, and every sentence which comes to mind has seemed hollow and weak.

So here’s the solution: It can’t be written like a normal race report.


I could go into detail about exactly what happened in every 5 mile segment, but for each detail shared the message would be diminished. This was so much more than a race. It was a journey. It was an ambitious adventure undertaken with all of the apprehension, excitement, and determination which such a goal deserves. During the 23+ hours we were out there, we spent a good deal of time in our own minds, and were changed. To even have a glimmer of a hope of sharing the experience, details must for the most part be forsaken and you will (for better or worse) spend a small period of time glimpsing into my head and heart as they were during the Rocky Raccoon 100.

The training leading up to it had been brutally invigorating. We had built mileage upon mileage, race upon race upon race until our bodies became accustomed to the level of pure volume they were expected to churn out, ever staying just this side of provoking injury. All of those trials of miles were etched into each ridge and ripple of our poor, weathered legs. Just as the years of a hard life are manifested in the leathery wrinkles of an old man’s face, so the passage of miles had transformed my “vehicle” in ways I had not expected. My body responded to the increased mileage by adjusting its idea of normal. I began to ache when I didn’t run, and when I did it always seemed to feel awkward and discombobulated for the first 10-15 miles, which is a bit irksome in a 7 mile run.


The good part was that when I was able to get out for long runs, a feeling of comfortable numbness would overtake me as more ground passed underfoot. At a certain point, my legs felt increasingly comfortable as the run went on. Of course, there was never really much of a chance for them to rest during much of the training schedule, but in the three week taper I felt everything heal up and become strong. I felt solid going into Rocky Raccoon, and a fire was growing in my belly. An all-inclusive sense of gratitude hovered over my life. I was grateful for a body which could be pushed, for a life which allowed me the freedom to push it, for a family who offers unconditional support, and for a wife with whom to share and chase this passion of ours.

As much as the training cycle leading up to RR100 was consumed with numbers, details, and race logistics, the race weekend was completely the opposite. As soon as we got to Huntsville with our amazing parental crew and started seeing friends, the whole thing became less about fretting over preparation details and much more about plunging into the adventure and reaping what unknown amount of endurance had grown from the seeds of our training.

As DW and I began our run on Saturday morning, it was a relief to finally be doing it. As always, any nerves that were present beforehand vanished as we headed into the forest. This was something comfortable. This was something familiar. This was something we loved. We just moved forward, resolving to run until we couldn’t, or until the finish, whichever came first.

One thing I am grateful for is that DW and I share a philosophy about running. If it’s possible to keep going, keep going and don’t whine. We’ve toiled in the same races and experienced the same hardships, both physical and mental (the latter is more dangerous in a long race). It was intimidating to take on a distance which doubled any single run we had ever done, but I felt confident that as long as nothing went seriously wrong, we’d make it. I don’t think you can approach running 100 miles any other way. Of course it will hurt. Of course it will break you down. You’re running one hundred freaking miles!

Our falls came at around mile 10, when the sun had come up to greet us and we were no longer paranoid about tripping over roots in the dark. We were in fact thinking about the 50 mile runners who had started an hour after us, imagining what part of the course they were enjoying. Within a couple miles, we had both gone down twice. Laura fell once on her right knee and after joking about not being symmetrical, fell on her left. She fell badly on her left knee. On a protruding root. She immediately jumped up and kept running, ignoring the shock and insisting that the gash was not nearly as bad as it looked. I had turned my ankle a bit, but it was minimally bothersome. I wrote it off as something I could run through. In a goal race I group things into things that will stop me and things that will not. We finished the first loop in a state of awe. We were running our first 100 miler and feeling good!

It was a relief when we both finally warmed up and started to sink into a rhythm. DW and I had scoped the course the first time, so we chatted and joked through the second loop. We kept an occasional eye on time and pace, but mostly soaked in the experience. It’s strange how much the mind can control how the body feels. When the context is that of a 50 mile race, getting to 40 feels rough because you’re almost done. When the context is that of a 100 mile race, you have to think of 40 as being warmed up for the next 60. I only thought of this every time we passed through the start/finish area. Otherwise I was supremely focused on getting to the next aid station. I began to realize the enormity of what we were doing around this point in the race. Night was coming and we both knew it was going to get bad at some time during the night. We were both prepared for it and welcomed it.


The night was really when Rocky Raccoon became an intense experience for me. Because of the darkness and roots, we planned to mostly power hike and run when we could safely. DW’s fall had changed her stride and her Achilles was exhibiting some lovely stabbing pains. We had both iced our trouble spots while our crew had refilled our packs, but we were still flirting with the edge of bad injury and didn’t want to risk more falls. That meant we could expect to spend 6+ hours on the next 20. We headed out, resolved to make use of the remaining daylight and do our best to stay positive as night fell.

We spent miles talking about our friends and family. We were grateful for parents who would travel across half the country to freeze their butts off and fill our hydration packs. We were energized from seeing our fellow Racooners throughout the day. Garbo and Mo had been wonderful to come across, although their aid station pine cones might be poisonous. Gumbo looked like a superhero every time we saw her. Jenster and Linnea had snuck up on us TWICE, looking fresh and having a ton of fun out there. John was steadily pushing ahead, and Sass was his ever-enthusiastic self. We thought about everyone who would be running Surf City and wished them all the luck in the world. You guys helped us pass a lot of the third loop. I thank you for that. As darkness descended, I became excited. We were entering new territory, running farther and for longer than we ever had before. This was the unknown; this is why we were there.

We got a booster shot for the spirit when we stopped in to our crew tent. I got a bad blister problem patched up and we got to hang out with the Loop crew while being tended to by our skilled pit crew. It was incredibly revitalizing to see our loved ones, and we rode that high for many miles.

What goes up must come down. Late in the night, the downturn we knew would eventually come did just that. As the shine of friendly faces and laughter faded, our hearts became heavy with the task at hand. As always happens in hard times, the goal became to simply move forward. We rarely spoke, only sharing a mutually understood common state.

I admitted, “I’m in a bad place, babe.”

She replied, “Me too.”

And that was it. No more needed to be said. We marched on through the dark, one foot at a time. Just hanging on.

As we made our way through Huntsville State Park, our world shrunk to the five foot diameter of our headlamps, I felt an intense respect for those who do this alone. I had DW there to hold me up, to laugh with, to commiserate with. Ultrarunning is a different experience, and it has always been one that we’ve shared. Out there, surrounded by nature, we’ve been euphoric together and we’ve been miserable together. For me, it enhances the good times and lightens the dark. Life has thrown a great deal of adversity at us and we’re still defiantly moving forward. Endurance is who we are now and that woman is what keeps me strong. Of all the things that could have been going on in my head at 2am in the dark forest after 70 miles, one thing welled up and consumed me like a fire: I love my wife. I don’t think I have ever felt something so strongly as in that moment, in that place. I belonged there, and I belonged there with her.


It was about then that our race crumbled. The injury DW had sustained at mile 10, the one that had caused an Achilles problem by mile 40, the one that had caused her knee to throb and ache more severely through the next 30 miles, finally dealt a deathblow at 77 with a horrendous calf strain. There was no running on it. There was no walking on it. There was no standing on it. The words exchanged out in the woods between a husband and wife that night are too personal to share here, but for this to happen when we were both broken down forced us to deal with a raw, unpleasant truth: we were not going to finish RR100. DW urged me to go on, but it didn’t feel right. This is our thing. We do it together.

We limped it in for the next 2 hours, stopping often when pain demanded it. It was the hardest conclusion to the hardest thing we have ever done. When we slowly arrived at the finish, the people we love were waiting with warm hugs and encouraging smiles.

It was an unbelievably bittersweet feeling


We had traveled 80 miles on foot, much further than ever before.


We had fallen short of the finish, a heartbreaking thing to accept.

Usually I have no problem letting go of a letdown. If I miss a run, I miss it. If I DNF, it was for a damn good reason and I have no regrets. I don’t carry guilt and I don’t look back.

This one won’t let me go. I simply cannot shake it. I tell myself that 80 miles is a huge accomplishment, and it is. I know it is. I just don’t feel it is. No matter how much my brain mulls it over and reasons through how proud I should be of covering the distance we did, I just don’t seem to be able to make my heart feel it.

I’m trying to look forward, to find the next target. It’s not helping, at least so far. I feel different and it will take a while to fully realize how. Writing this has helped a lot with working through it. I apologize if it is much too long.

The good part, the part that really fills me with gratitude and happiness, is that all throughout this journey we had parents there to care for us. We had friends there to share in the joy and pain. We had Loop friends sending us warm messages. I am humbled by the life that I lead and the people who are in it. I’ve made lifelong friends through this place, and I continually strive to be the kind of person who deserves such love and kindness.

Thank you.

Marshall University Marathon 2012 Race Report

Well, well, well. Look who’s finally getting around to writing a RR about this race some of you remember from two months ago!




Sorry for the delay, folks. And also for being somewhat remiss in my blogging duties. I’ve been pretty scattered, frankly. Traveling for work, ramping up training, getting back into woodworking, all these things have laid claim to a portion of my waking hours.




So without further ado, here is my Marshall University Marathon Race Report.




The air I inhaled as my eyelids rolled back on race morning was clear and brisk. It was a wonder to me that I woke up as fast as I did, considering it was a full three hours earlier than I would have awoken in my own time zone. Thankfully, DW and I had pretty much gathered our gear the night before, so I went through the automatic motions of race prep while my body got eased into the familiar feeling of motion.




Our wonderfully Sassy host was kind enough to drive myself, Californian Runnin’, Jenster, and Mildsauce to the race. What a guy! It was pretty chilly as we followed the crowd to the start area, but that only meant it would be optimum racing conditions. We met up with a few other Loopsters, but sadly missed seeing the rest before the race. I saw Bangle and we decided to find a restroom. As we ventured inside a University building, he was bounding up stairs like a pent up racehorse, fired up! He was bound to have a good race, and the fact that he was running with Mildsauce only confirmed he’d have a fun one, too.




The first few miles passed as they usually do for us on Sundays, an exercise in tolerance of creaky legs and anticipation of later comfort. We wound around the neat streets of Huntington with countless others, a crowd cutting through the usually serene Sunday morning air. I made a mental effort to really pay attention to how the course was laid out. Steve (a really great guy) had led a caravan tour around the course the day before, but running it was the only way to get a feel for how I could mentally break it up.







Call it a habit. Whatever I run, I cut it up into things I can look forward to. In this case, it was the waterfront park, then Ritter Park (DIRT!), then Marshall University. When we hit Ritter Park I reveled in the decomposed granite. I admit I’ve developed an aversion to pavement, so having those miles of trail right in the middle of the loop was an absolute gift!




I noted the distance when we left the park and enjoyed winding around town back toward the University. DW and I wondered how much the crowd would thin out at the halfway point and really soaked in the experience of being a part of this incredibly cool race. We made it a point to thank every serviceman/woman who was marshaling the course; there really was a welcoming small town feel surrounding the race.




After a few really cool twists through the school, DW and I headed out for the second loop. This time, I had a pretty good idea of the distances between certain points and there were more and more familiar faces in the sections where the outgoing and incoming runners passed each other. I sometimes tend to talk a lot, to DW, to strangers, it doesn’t matter. The weekend had been so awesome so far I was in an amazing mood. My legs had finally warmed up and I was beginning to fall into a nice groove. And BONUS: I could feel my hands again.




Shaun raced by and I glanced at my watch. “It’s gonna be close, I hope he makes it! That’s guy’s an animal!”




Dean cruised by, not even sweating. “Dean is not human.”




Ritter Park was the magnet pulling me through the streets on the way out, and once we got there it did not disappoint! There was a teenager running the marathon, and her dad was riding a bike through the park next to her, telling here what a great job she was doing and how proud he was. We ran with a guy running his first marathon and when we approached his gigantic family cheering squad his two little boys charged up and ran beside him. We literally ran through a wedding day photo shoot (we stopped, but they waved us through anyway). These things just added fuel to the fire of happiness churning in my chest that day.







We left the park and started to feel a little tired. Doing a long run on Saturday was good for training and a fantastic way to tour Scott Depot and Hurricane, but it resulted in a small low spot for me on Sunday. It was about mile 23 when we approached a left turn with a bunch of high schoolers running the aid station. I faintly heard some music blaring, and as we got closer it sounded more and more intense. I thought, “I know that buildup. Where do I know that from?” Then the crescendo immediately stopped and the air was still.




“Oppan Gangnam Style…” And a dude hopped into the dance!




I laughed my ass off for a good minute after that and smiled for the remainder of the race. That was a spring board which launched my mood out of the doldrums and into a hot air balloon. Every smile we passed and every determined runner we saw pumped more hot air into it, lifting me higher and higher. As we hit the long straight stretch up to Marshall, Mildsauce and RunBabyRun were sure nice to see. They were heading back along the course to run it in with some others. The Loop camaraderie was out of control!




The run through the University was not any less cool the second time. I loved the messages written in chalk on the course to certain runners. As we came up to the stadium, I realized we had to drop down to field level and my heart sank for a second. Then a strangely inspirational thought entered my head: “At least it’s not Mt. Diablo.” Ha! We raced down the hill and onto the turf.




Man, that was cool.




Running the length of the field, chute lined with cheering “fans”, was one of too many highlights to count. We turned into the final straightaway and saw our Loop family cheering behind the line. We saw JB’s Bubba Gump hat hunched over a strategically aimed lens. I got to cross that finish line holding my wife’s hand and surrounded by great friends.




I am grateful for the life I lead, and it’s moments like this that remind me of that fact.







Run happy and healthy, folks!!!






Folsom Point 50K 2012 RR

Folsom Point 50K




October 28, 2012






To be honest, I really wasn’t sure how this one would pan out. DW and I had been taking a “This will kill us or make us strong” approach to training, doing two fifty milers in the previous month with two week intervals between, during which we did lesser mileage and focused on recovery. Add the previous day’s Hilloween escapades into the equation and the result was a whole heap of unknowns. We both felt pretty good, surprisingly, and really wanted to push the pace for this race. The feeling in my heart was optimism  as we parked next to Folsom Lake, but sometimes the legs have other plans. You can plan and hope, but ultimately the race is run one step at a time, and you’ve got to be able to adjust and adapt in the moment.




The course was relatively flat, according to the elevation profile. As some of you know, flat races are not exactly our usual routine. Ordinarily, the crazier the profile the more excited we get about it. This was a different day with a different goal. A trail race by the lake with a flat-ish course was the perfect opportunity to test how our legs would respond to being pushed hard while carrying a massive amount of fatigue from the past few weeks (This was also part of the reason we ran Hilloween the day before). The goal was simply to maintain a hard effort for the entire duration.




I kind of like races where different distances start together; you get more of a feeling of comeraderie than if the piddly number of ultra-weirdos start by themselves. In this case, there were a bunch of marathoners who started at the same time. We all formed a mob and attacked the trail out of the park and along the levee, then gradually spaced out as we all found our stride. For the first 6 miles or so, there was always someone else in sight.




This being a more intense race for DW and I, we spoke a lot less than usual. I’ll often make conversation with DW and any runners with whom we share a pace for a few miles (which is probably why we run into friends at nearly every race we run in the woods. This area’s trail community is awesome!), but on this day each sip of breath had a purpose: to fuel forward propulsion. I soaked up the experience of gliding over river rocks embedded in the soil and feeling the faint breeze come in off the water of a gently rippling lake. Being completely immersed in the moment, engaging nature with every footfall, gives me a great amount of something I can’t name. It feels like recharging batteries, like a collaboration between the earth and I in which the sum of the experience is more than the parts. I find a zest for life out there. It’s like eating an incredibly delicious meal with no end to my hunger and no limit to its quantity. Soul enriching is the best term I can think of.




Quite honestly, the race felt shockingly smooth. Fortunately, my legs had responded well to the recent arduous gauntlet of races and felt strong. All 8 cylinders were firing and the engine was humming along nicely! This is a piece of imagery I summon when I’m feeling choppy. I pretend I’m a vehicle and the goal is for each stride to have a smooth flow, not using less energy but employing it more efficiently, focusing it into forward motion and wasting none on vertical or lateral movement. It sounds strange, I know, but it keeps me smooth and gives my mind something to wrap itself in for a while.




As we hit the turnaround, I felt pretty ok. I had fallen a little behind on calorie intake, and needed to catch up. Down the gullet went a gel and a few M&Ms from the aid station (the AS worker had her adorable children giving out Halloween candy, but I just couldn’t handle a candy bar at the speed we were going) and we pressed on!




The entire second half of the out-and-back course went as I figured it probably would. It gradually felt tougher to maintain pace, so I gradually increased my effort to keep it consistent. When we walked, it was more to recruit a different set of muscles than to catch our breath. Overall, things were going pretty well. It was awesome to see our friend P working the last aid station, still wearing the butterfly wings she had donned for Hilloween!




As we departed from that station, it seemed as if a sub-6hr finish might be possible. We cranked up the heat and really tried to burn up the trail. It was getting warm out, so hydration became more important. I had been consistently doing a systems check throughout the span of miles, evaluating my current state and keeping tabs on what I needed to eat to head off possible trouble and deficiencies. It had paid off and I felt strong in those final miles, even if the wheels were getting a bit creaky under me.




As we left the levee for the second time that day I realized 6 hours wasn’t going to happen, but we’d get damn close. I was so proud of Californian Runnin’; she fought through a sharply painful calf problem in the final miles and sprinted with me to the finish, where ample runners, volunteers, and cowbell-shaking spectators were waiting!







Official Time — 6:01:22, a 19 minute PR!!!




A few minutes later I ran into the RD as I pulled two IPAs out of a cooler, and he lamented, “What?! I missed the Matzes’ finish?! I step away for one minute!” I guess that’s a sign that we race a lot, haha.




Californian Runnin – 1st in Age Group


Santiago of the Sea – 3rd in Age Group





A few things I learned from this race:




–          Mexican food and margaritas can be excellent prerace fuel.




–          Jumping headfirst into crazy things is the only way to find out what you’re capable of.




–          Compression shorts are awesome.




–          Having a racing partner is very helpful mentally and emotionally when you’re pushing hard for six hours.




–          Lagunitas IPA is heavenly. (Well, I already knew that)




–          My legs will not break down from fatigue. I may have to attend to the occasional imbalance, knot, or small tear, but they will not stop working. They just get numb and keep doing what I ask of them.




–          This is pretty long. If you’ve made it this far, you deserve a cookie. Go ahead and get yourself a cookie.




As always, run happy and healthy, Loop friends!!!


Hilloween 2012: Waldo’s Workout


October 27, 2012
Hilloween is an event started last year by a upstanding young man up in Auburn.
It’s a free event, but you sign up at so he can track participants and
You pick a hill.
Any Hill.
You run that hill repeatedly, trying to beat your one day elevation gain PR.
You get 10 hours to do it in.
Laura and I got together with a few friends to tackle one of our area’s most
famously brutal hills for a fun Saturday morning. We decided that since our elevation PR
was set on a ridiculous course in which we spent nearly 13 hours running up and down
11,000 vertical feet, there was nooooooooo way we could hope to match it, much less
beat it.
Throw in the fact that we had a race the next day, and the goal became to run a
decent amount of repeats, have fun, and not chafe too badly in our COSTUMES!!!
It was a misty morning when we arrived at the confluence of the American river,
by No Hands Bridge. We met up with everyone and started right in with the climbing. K2
is a 1.5 mile stretch with just over 1,000’ of gain, and we planned to run up about ¾ of
the way, then take a trail called “Pig Farm” which winds around a very shaded, technical,
more gradual descent before meeting up with the Western States trail to head to the start
Laura was a trail ballerina, I was Waldo, our friend P was a butterfly, and J was
Bacon. D came along, but wasn’t in costume… at first. He felt left out so on the second
time up K2 he suddenly said, “Well I have gold pants in my car.”
“… um… what? You happen to have gold pants?”
“Yeah, last year I was Shufflebot.”
So we took a detour by the cars the next time around and we ate some cupcakes
and brownies, distracting traffic whilst D depantsed and repantsed behind a car.
Turns out they were gold tights. You gotta rock gold tights if you wear ‘em, so
he did. He totally smoked us on the next climb, and disappeared for quite a while! He
actually ended up getting one more entire repeat in than the rest of us.
Laura and I got warmed up and started speeding through the technical parts,
and J and P stayed a tad behind behind. Apparently he had a blast asking every hiker he
saw “Where’s Waldo?”
When we reached the top of the fourth repeat, we all pretty much felt like it was
time to call it. J had to drive a long way home to run with his beautiful dogs up in the
hills, P had to meet up with her daughter for something, and DW and I had to save a little
in the gas tank for the next day.
We relished every step of the last ride down the mountain and celebrated
joyfully with homemade apple pie at the car! Some friends ran up to say hi and we all
ate together, sharing trail stories and laughing in the misty air, smiles lighting our salt
covered faces. It was great, just great.
We called it a day at 3,087′ gain in 11 miles, our legs feeling deliciously tired and worked.
That reminds me. Where IS Waldo?
Run happy and healthy, jungle friends!

Rock’n River 50M 2012: A Jump Into the Unknown

Rock’n River 50 Miler

October 13th, 2012
One year ago, this was the race DW and I spent months training for. It was our first 50 mile
race, and we put in countless hours doing long midweek runs and back-to-back long runs on weekends,
pushing through the pain and staleness of tired legs and building the base to handle a distance like 50
This year, we approached it having run several ultras since then and just generally putting in
mad miles with a whole spread of local ultrarunner friends we’ve acquired along the way. Still, 50 miles
is a long freaking way and should never be taken lightly. DW and I met up with our parent crew and
headed to the start. It was chill, the norm for ultras around this area. Just a scraggly group of trail junkies
pulling themselves together and rubbing the sleep from our eyes, looking forward to the hours of nature
We got a quick rundown on course markings (ha! More on this later) and took off on our
adventure. Instead of following the American River 50 course, as it historically has, the new organization
running the race rerouted it to run along the levees of Auburn, trading fire road for singletrack and a
trip down the infamous “Cardiac”. I felt like a kid playing flashlight tag, my headlight illuminating the
singletrack for which my legs were hungry!
The first few miles flew by in a blur of sleep-haze combined with the surrealism of night
running. Eventually the darkness lifted and we were greeted with the beautiful sight of the American
River rushing to the left as we barreled down embankments and charged up inclines. In all honesty, we
probably took this first 15 a little fast. I felt it but resisted acknowledging it, placing a little trust in our
training and having faith in our ability to recover physically later on.
As we got to the first aid station, I was surprised to see that it was just two guys and a water
cooler. Pretty odd for an ultra. Fortunately, we had our trusty crew there waiting with lots of goodies,
like Wheat Thins, grapes, Ensure, etc. Good stuff.
“That’s it?”
As the race went on, it became more apparent that the aid stations were not to be relied
upon. Most of them were a couple coolers and a single cup of almonds. (WTF?) I wondered what our
registration had paid for if not basic supplies. Later on, an aid station had peanut butter. Yes! But no
jelly for sandwiches. Boo. Lameness all around. Our personal mobile support crew really saved the day,
providing us with everything we’d packed in our cooler and bringing ice for our packs and bodies.
We hit a span of about TWO MILES without course markings! I couldn’t believe it. The only reason we made it is that we know the trails and know the right direction to keep heading!
The first half felt a bit rough, but sometimes there’s an upswing for me at about 27 miles, so I
really wasn’t that worried about it. I was just hoping for the best! As we reached the end of the trail part
of the course, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the marathon of pavement ahead, but I looked at
it as an opportunity to practice mental stamina, cutting the time into small segments and focusing on
the immediate moment.
There were a few times when I felt pains crop up, and just kept moving forward in the hope that
they’d ease off and my muscles would settle into a comfortable rhythm. It actually worked out! By the
time we reached mile 35 or so, everything was firmly fixed in a nice groove. DW and I had come up with
a run/walk ration on the fly, and it was occupying our minds as the miles passed underfoot.
Near the end, DW’s calf began to cramp, so we eased off a bit. During these races, I find it
very important to keep the big picture in mind. Whether the current race is for training or a goal vastly
influences whether I decide to push it or not. This essentially being a training run, we took it easy and
incorporated more walking. As the end drew near, it was too tempting to pick up the pace, and when it
was time to run we RAN!
In sync!
The finish kind of snuck up on us. It was strange, since last year the race ran past the finish line
for a mile out and back. This time we rounded a corner and simply had to run up a little incline and turn
a corner. BAM! There it was. We both scooped up the last ounces of guts from our souls and ran it in like
there was a bear behind us!
PR! 11:04
Sorry for my whiteness. I lost my shirt quickly as it was quite gross.
This race was an unknown for us. We’d done the Day On The Green 12 hr track run just two
weeks prior and this was the first time we’d attempted to run two 50 milers two weeks apart. When
DW first brought up the idea, I thought “That’s crazy, but we’ll never know what our limits are unless
we try to hit them.” I’ve been thinking this a lot lately. I mean, the worst that can happen is we fall apart
and DNF; the best that can happen is our bodies respond well and we get fitter and add to our store of
endurance. So far we’ve been lucky and reaped the latter!
We even won some swaaaaaag.
I’m behind on bloops, so please bear with me as I play catch up over the next few days.
As always, run happy and healthy Loopsters!!!

Day on the Green 12hr Night Run RR: Exploring the Unknown!!!

“It’s a 12 hour night race on the track. C’mon, it’ll be fun!”

If you’re a normal human being, you greet this type of statement with the proper sense of skepticism.
If your last name is Matz, you think, “That sounds brutal. It must be beneficial! Sure, I’ll be there!”
DW and I have a friend who coaches XC at the same high school I attended, and he decided to put together an event to raise funds for the team. Starting at 7am, they had 6th graders through high school students running the track. Actually, the high schoolers didn’t run at all, their job was to just hang out. The younger kids ran in teams of ten, each running ten miles to earn a shirt signifying that they’d run 100 miles as a team. I hear those kids were stoked!
Instead of sleeping in we decided to volunteer at a trail race in the Berkeley area, so we rousted ourselves at 5:30 to drive out to the bay in time. The plan was to take it easy and sit as much as possible, but fate had other plans! Due to either a mismarked course or some course vandals, everyone was diverted from our aid station. This meant that the half marathoners didn’t get aid until mile 9! Everyone else ended up running wacky distances, since part of the course was cut off and the course designer tried to make up for it. Long story short, I got some trail running in while trying to correct the course markings and figure out where to divert runners to get them back to the start.
DW was quite busy herself with running the aid station shorthanded while I was away.
When we finally got back to Sacramento we had a couple hours to get ourselves together and pack provisions for the night’s run. We headed over and got our personal aid station situated a bit before 7pm, the start time.
Trying to calm some pre-race nerves
            We wanted to run this race mainly for exploratory reasons, and because of that fact the anticipation made us more nervous than usual. We wanted to discover three things during the hours between sunset and sunrise:
1)      How our bodies would handle being forced to run when they’re used to sleeping.
2)      How our minds would handle being forced to focus when they’re used to dreaming.
3)      How our minds would handle running repetitive laps instead of a sprawling course.
In addition to these, we’d have to adjust mentally for running a variable distance for a specific time, not running a specific distance in a variable time.
Honestly, this seemed just as crazy as we crossed the starting line as it probably sounds to you all right now. Nearly everything was unknown except two things; that DW and I were going to run together, and that as long as we were functioning we would be still be moving come 7am the next morning.
We agreed that we’d need some type of methodical strategy to break up the monotony into smaller segments while allowing us a structure to maintain so our minds could wander a bit and escape for a few minutes here and there. We decided to set a timer for 15 minutes and run, then when the timer beeped we’d finish that lap and walk one lap.
The first 20 miles or so pretty much went by in that rhythm. It took about 8-10 miles for me to really start to feel warmed up and smooth, but once I did the running felt really good. As far as tracks go you can’t beat a dirt track for this kind of thing.
We also had quite a few surprise visits! One friend (who’d run the Berkeley race earlier that day) dropped by with a gift of fruit smoothies. Another came by and tracked down some pretzels and a toothbrush for us. A friend who lives down the street walked his dogs over and ran a bit with them until nature called (for the dogs!). Perhaps best of all, my brother showed up around mile 18 with a pizza he’d made special for us. “I tried to make something that won’t make you barf.” Bahaha! Boy that pizza was good.
Side note: Sometimes I think back to the days when all I’d eat while running was gu’s and water, and thank the stars I found trail running. Now I eat cookies, Cheezits, jelly beans, turkey rolls, pizza, and pretzels along with my S-caps and gu’s! Trail life is a buffet!
After we’d walked a couple laps with the bro and eaten, we switched to a different mode to work different muscles and break it up even more for the wee hours of the morning. We ran the straights at a pretty good clip, then walked the curves. Simple, varied, perfect.
We hit the 6 hour mark at 25 miles.
1:00-3:00 was actually pretty nice. DW and I were starting to get a little punchy and during this period everything seemed hilarious. I was rambling about the ways in which different types of dinosaurs were terrible houseguests, generally trying to be as ridiculous as possible. DW was following suit, so we pretty much spent the whole time laughing while adding more laps onto the pile which had already passed underfoot. Fortunately, we’ve gained back most of our cardio since our accident a while back, so we could maintain the silliness through our sprints. Even while walking the curves, we were averaging about 2:30/lap!
What goes up… must come down.
3:00 came, and our moods crashed like a freight train over a cliff. I’ve heard this is the hardest time for a lot of runners, and I guess we’re no exception. It was bad. Suddenly everything was sore, every step was immensely tiring, every breath was labored, and every ounce of will had to be focused on moving forward. We hardly talked, we just decided to walk an hour and try to run then. For much of this hour, I didn’t want to think about what I’d have to do when 4:00 rolled around. I didn’t want it to roll around. But it did.
4am arrived, and I decided I had to change my mental context. I wasn’t tired from the miles behind, I was warmed up for the miles ahead. I wasn’t stuck in a dark wasteland of nighttime bewilderment, I was running in anticipation of the sunrise! I imagined a lightening glow off to the East (even though we wouldn’t see the sun for 3 more hours).
We began running the straights again.
It felt… GOOD!
By now there was only one other guy who’d been out there the whole time, churning out miles in the moonlight. The other runners had been sitting out for a while, taking naps, coming out for a few more miles, and so forth. I loved how low-key the whole event was.
Anyway, we resumed our steady rhythm and POOF! We hit our minimum goal of 40 miles with 2 ½ hours to spare. So we kept going. As we continued, two things happened. One was that we realized 50 miles was totally doable if we could keep pace. The other was that we started to see things that weren’t there.
You heard right, hallucinations!
I saw people running in the shadows, lizards skittering across the track in front of me, and at one point even blinked and suddenly saw nothing but a thick layer of banana slugs wriggling underfoot! I shook my head, told myself it wasn’t real, and they were gone just as quickly as they had appeared. Apparently, even if you’re awake sometimes your brain still dreams.
I found it incredible that not only were we still moving, but we were able to move fast. My legs felt better the longer we were out there, settling into that nice warm rhythm of what I can only describe as “efficient exhaustion”. The wheels just kept turning, and I was grateful.
Having lost an hour of running, we made it up and then some, hitting 50 miles with about 20 minutes left to spare. We walked a cooldown to the 51 mile mark before calling it a wrap just a couple minutes shy of 12 hours. I suppose that means we ran a negative split?
Everyone left at the end, a supremely cool group of people
The purpose of this race was to prepare us physically, mentally, and strategically for Rocky Raccoon 100 in February, and I believe it did just that. I learned that as long as DW and I stick together, we give each other strength.
It’s important to have someone who helps you to endure.
And also believes that clump of grass is a misplaced hedgehog.


Marin Ultra Challenge 50 Miler 2012 RR: The Ups and Downs of Life

I was nervous about this race.

I’m not usually nervous about trail races. I just show up and enjoy the relaxed vibe, hanging out with fellow dirt addicts and looking forward to feeling nature all around me.

Not this time. This time the excitement over the epic trails ahead was peppered with doubts.

This time I was stressed out for days, biting my nails with apprehension about the upcoming challenge. What had we gotten ourselves into?

Perhaps it was because my left hip has been bugging me for weeks. It loosens up sometimes, but tightens up again without warning. I’ve been keeping Rolio handy and rolling daily.

Perhaps it was because this race touted an estimated 10,500’ of elevation gain, its constantly mountainous course making a mockery of the other two 50 milers we’ve run. And those were hard!

Perhaps it was because my last month of training looked like this. Between working out of town and long days while in town, not to mention organizing things for an upcoming race, my mileage has been absolutely abysmal. Even counting this race, that’s SIX DAYS of running, 3 of which were races. At least they were mostly on trail.

Perhaps it was because I had come down with the flu right after Double Dipsea and didn’t feel 100% over it yet. I had to fight to keep my lunch down the day before the race.

It was probably a nice combination of all factors. But what are you gonna do? Not try? Psssh! Plans were in motion and the race was going to be run.

At least the first part…

DW and I rented a room in San Francisco the night before and after the race to avoid a 2 hour drive before a 6am start. We got up race morning not having slept too well and pulled ourselves together for the race ahead. The task before us loomed and for some reason neither of us could really summon that buzz, that race morning electricity that makes you eager to get out there. After we arrived and got our race packets, we agreed that if after the first 8 mile jaunt (after which we’d pass the car) we didn’t feel up to continuing, we’d call it a day and find something more enjoyable to do. After all, this is supposed to be fun, right?

An announcer spoke for a minute about how excited they were to unveil this new course and how they had made it as brutal as humanly possible. It sounded as if it was going to fully live up to its name: “Marin Ultra Challenge”. I must confess, this is where I first felt a stab of adrenaline.

I thought, “This is why we’re here, dammit, to test how far we can go on a relentless course. Hills, give us all you got. We’ll give all we’ve got. Let’s see how they match up.”

We were off. The first 8 miles were more or less in a fog, literally. It was a big loop that climbed a small mountain and came back down to pass by the start for our odyssey toward Stinson Beach and back.

The air was moist and I couldn’t fully catch my breath. It was a fight to resist pushing up those hills, but we had a loooong way to go.

By the time we got back to the starting area, I felt ok. Not great, but holding steady. DW felt the same, so we pressed on. As long as neither of us got worse, we’d be ok.

The experience of these trails is never disappointing. Every time we return to the Marin Headlands I realize that I’ve forgotten how incredible it is. I focused on that fact as we wound our way around ridges, over summits, down gullies, across bridges, and through dense patches of redwoods.

To be honest, I was occasionally getting strange waves of dizziness and felt pretty weak and achy. I kind of felt like hell. DW told me that if I got worse we’d step out, but I replied that I was still plugging along and if I waited a while it might pass. I’ve found while running ultras that unless something is torn or broken, pretty much everything will pass if you wait long enough. You just have to ride out the lows and trust in the eventual upswing.

You have to endure. You have to endure relentlessly.

By mile 22 or so we reached Cardiac, part of the Dipsea course. The friendly fellow there kindly scooped some ice into my pack and I grabbed some nourishment from his glorious buffet, looking forward to the dense forest that would enclose the route down to Stinson Beach.

What a difference that ice made! Once I started drinking cold liquid and lowering my core temp, I felt like a new man. There were lots of fun technical downhills to tackle and the shade was keeping it nice and cool. By the time we snaked our way through Stinson I was psyched up for the climb to come, the biggest of the day.

Holy crap, what a climb! Last week we’d run Double Dipsea and climbed Mt Tam via switchbacks and steps. This time we were led around to the backside of the Mt and followed a singletrack path straight up! And I mean pretty much a straight line directly to the top, a two mile climb at nearly 45% grade.

When we finally reached the top we got to follow some rolling ridges until coming back through Cardiac at mile 32. I got some more life-giving ice and chews and DW grabbed some finger sandwiches. We strolled down the hill munching on a nice lunch on the go. I mused that miles 20-26 are always hard for me in 50’s, but the grass always gets greener on the other side of 30. I get to a state of comfy exhaustion, which sounds weird, but I can ride that state for some time. I don’t numb out, but it’s like my body stops trying to get me to stop by telling me I hurt. I know the pain is there, but I can choose to ignore it and trust that this body will keep on truckin’.

My recollection of the next few miles is not exactly crystal clear. I remember a lot of spectacular views and alternating murderous climbs and speedier downhills. I remember feeling lucky to be out there and fortunate to have someone great to share these things with. I was living purely in the moment and perceiving things in an intensely immersive way.

The fog had rolled back in and it created a somewhat surreal atmosphere.

By mile 44, the extreme downhill into Tenessee Valley, the miles were accumulating on my body. I had to adjust the strategy to more immediate goals like “Run to that tree? Ok.”

The stretch to the end was familiar because it was the way we had headed out that morning. It was a big climb, but the fog had rolled back in and we were never able to see the whole thing. In retrospect that helped, since we could easily break it up into sections. After that many miles and that much climbing, it’s really helpfully mentally to tackle small distances, then regroup and focus on the next.

The last descent was just great. It was land our feet had tread many times, and because it wound its way down into Rodeo Cove, everyone at the finish could see us half a mile out. They were cheering! The RD was yelling into his megaphone and volunteers were whooping and clapping. This was almost 13 hours into the race and they were cheering like mad for every single runner approaching! Incredible.

I don’t know how, but in that final stretch every ache disappeared, a surge of energy flowed through us and we all out sprinted across the finish line!

It’s now three days later and I’ve almost wrapped my head around it. It always take a couple days to get back on a normal sleep schedule and walking gait after a 50M, and it’s hard to believe we made it through this particular one. It was a completely different beast than anything we’d taken on before and we made it to the end with smiles.

This race was an incredible experience and lit a fire in mah belly for 100M training!

Cheers to crazy goals and finding out what you’re made of!!!

Run happy and healthy, friends.