American River 50 Mile Endurance Run 2014 Race Report

Hey guys, it’s been a while!


I’ve been sort of in and out of training for, oh, the past year or so. Once my stress fracture healed up I started the slow and steady build up to what I would consider normal volume. About six weeks ago I rolled and twisted my ankle on a nice run on the Western States Trail from Foresthill to Driver’s Flat, and the time since has been a mix of vigorous rehab and testing the waters on my injured Achilles tendon and sprained lateral tendons on both sides of the left ankle. I attempted to sweep Way Too Cool 50K on Laura’s birthday and made it through, although it set me back a bit. After some more time off and more quality time with a masseuse and lots of home rehab, I finally reached a point where everything felt ok.


The question was whether it would be ok for fifty miles.


Laura, Saucy and I sprang up at the stroke of 4am Saturday morning. Ok, more like staggered up in a fog. We had prepared everything the day before so all we had to do was throw on clothes and joke around until my folks (AKA Mastercrew) showed up at 4:30. The whole way there I tried to force myself awake and work my ankle around to loosen up as much as possible. I had felt a little stiffness in my first steps that morning so I was a tad apprehensive. I didn’t want to add to anyone’s nerves, but I was also certain I’d caught a stomach bug the night before and hoped I’d be able to run through it.

pre race

My plan for the day was to start the race and see what happens. Ultimately, AR50 was to serve as a training race, with my main goal being to arrive at TRT100 in July in one piece. If at any point it felt like running was causing any harm or further setback, I was firmly committed to step out. After all, its use as a productive training run would be gone. The girls were going for PRs, which was wildly different, so I planned to stick together for a while and fade back, taking pleasure in the fact that they were both running so well.


Even split into two waves, a thousand runners is a lot of bodies. The race began and the mob crowded down the paved road, thinned out a bit, then crammed onto the singletrack. We burst out onto more pavement and settled in for a smooth and fast first half. When we clocked off a couple 8:40 miles, I decided I was better off dialing it back a bit and wished the dynamic duo well. I was riding the nausea line and was paranoid about pushing my leg too intensely.


By the time the next aid station popped into view, I had decided two things:

1)      I wasn’t going to be able to eat much, so I’d rely heavily on Tailwind for calories.

2)      Since I didn’t need to carry food, there was no need to carry a vest.

Surrounded by the cheers and energy of the Buffalo Chips, who were running the station, I tossed my vest to my dad, snagged a new 26oz bottle of Tailwind, and for the first time in a race strapped on an iPod and jammed one earbud into my head.


I won’t lie; I had a really rough first half. My ankle cooperated fully, feeling better and stronger with every mile, but each time I ate something solid I soon… un-ate it. It became clear that I’d just have to focus on taking in at least a full 26oz every two hours, which held 300 calories. I figured that’d be enough to keep me going. I ran when I could and hiked when it felt too forced, trying to keep my walk hovering at least at 15min miles. Usually my “shit miles” are reliably miles 18-27 in a 50 miler, and this time they appeared to be miles 1-30.


With the help of The Gorillaz and Tool, I put one foot in front of the other until about 30-35, when I began to feel better. At that point the race is entirely on trails, and mentally I was feeling refreshed. My stomach was no longer revolting so I was able to eat a couple cookies, and my legs were finally waking up and firing on all cylinders. I had crossed the halfway point in 4 ½ hrs, so a 10hr-ish finish didn’t seem too outrageous to hope for if I could keep things going strong.


I ran into friends all day long, running the race, cheering trailside, or working stations. I saw my parental crew at each accessible station, and they were phenomenal. It was a major boost to see smiling faces, and it highlighted the fact that although I had been feeling like poo all day, I had still been having a great time. I guess that’s how you know you love something, when despite whatever obstacles darken the experience, the feeling of passion still lights your way.


I felt a little out of practice, having not run the length of fifty miles in approximately nine months. The steady mental focus I try to cultivate was waning. I had the following conversation with myself often:

“Well, this is a downhill. I guess I’d better run it.”

“But I’m tired. I’m hot.”

“Of course you’re tired, you putz. You’ve run 40 miles. Stop being a weenie and enjoy yourself!”



The last portions of the race are beautiful, enjoyable singletrack, and I was having fun. Most runners I passed were fading, but I seemed to be gaining energy as the mileage stretched out. I was lucky to be running strong, not puking, and making good time! I reached the last 3 mile climb at 9 ½ hrs, and hoped the girls were crossing the finish line any minute. Only three miles and 1,000’ climb stood between me and the end, and I’d be damned if I was going to peter out. Speed hiking and running kept a 12min avg pace, and when I turned the last corner there was a beautiful woman in a brand new finisher’s jacket waiting to run me in. A big ol’ grin spread across my face and I felt transcendent as I cruised through the arch with my baby among the cheers of friends into the arms of family.

finish line


The Numbuzzzzz:

10:06:51 Finish Time

33 minute PR

283rd of 826 finishers

22nd in AG

1 cool new Patagonia AR50 jacket



I’m back!!!


Run happy and healthy, friends!


Strength Stories – Tony / Endorphin Dude

Hello Everyone! A while back, while dealing with my own small setback with running, I began to think about the different routes one can take when coping with the fact that things are not always the way we’d prefer them to be. I thought about it a lot. I wanted to reach out to some people I know who have acknowledged that there was a problem and found the strength to overcome and claim the happiness which it was their right as humans to pursue. This is another one of those stories. My good friend Tony, or Endorphin Dude as he’s known in the Bay Area trail racing scene, has laid his story out in hopes of helping others:



If you’ve ever run a marathon, chances are you’ve probably seen a dude with spiky hair in a cape fly by. That marathon caped crusader probably high fived you, cracked a 4th grade joke or two, and then ran off to grab a GU at the aid station. That’s Endorphin Dude, and that dude is me. I run a lot of marathons. I run a lot of ultras too. And yes, I run in a cape and you will always see a big smile on my face. I am happy to be out there on the course because I never thought that I would be able to. Every super hero has an origin, and mine is pretty dark.
Five years ago, I was an insulin dependent couch potato. I spent my mid twenties and thirties in a cubicle slothed in front of a computer. When I got home from work, I would plop myself on the couch and watch TV while shoving my face with frozen pizzas, baloney sandwiches with extra mayo, and soda. The only exercise I got was taking my dog Chewbacca to the tree right outside my front door so that she could relieve herself, and that in itself was a laborious chore. I was always overweight, but the ten years I spent in that cubicle resulted in me ballooning up to a whopping 223 pounds. Mind you, I am only 5’6″.
To make matters worse, that sedentary life style lead to many other health problems. I was barely thirty years old and had to take meds for type two diabetes, cholesterol, and high blood pressure. In my mind, though, it was ok. I kept telling myself, “Why do I have to exercise and lose weight? Modern medicine has made it easy for the obese American! All we have to do is take a magic pill and our cholesterol, glucose numbers, and blood pressure will be regulated! Give me another bacon sandwich!” Seriously, I believed that. My doctor flat out warned me that my glucose numbers had reached such an alarming level that I was two donuts away from getting my legs amputated. She punctuated that warning with this downer: “If you continue to live like this, you will not make it past 40.” I shrugged it off.
As each day of my mundane junk food filled life passed, I became sequestered in my shoe box studio apartment. Laziness and denial dragged me further into Jabba The Hut mode. The vicious fat cycle repeated itself every day: wake up, go to work, sit on my rear in a cube all day, go home, plop on the couch, shove lethal toxins in the form of Ho Ho’s and deep fried hot dogs smothered in Ranch and blue cheese, fall asleep, wake up, and repeat. The sweat from my pores turned into a glue like substance and I pretty much stuck to the couch. There were numerous occasions when I couldn’t move my toes, let alone get up to take Chewbacca out to pee. Let’s just say that for a while, my apartment smelled like a doggie urinal. Yes, it was that bad.
One day, the routine was broken by an unexpected event. I came home from work and collapsed on my living room floor. I thought I was having a heart attack. I felt numbness on the left side of my body and sharp pain in my chest. Chewbacca barked and ran around in circles as if she sensed she was soon going to become an orphan. I seriously thought my time was up. Fortunately, this was only a heart attack scare and not the real deal. After everything settled, I got up and took the dog for a walk. When I returned, my little dog snuggled up with me and gave me that don’t-ever-do-that-again sad puppy eyes. This was the turning point. I knew I had to make some changes in my life. I took Chewbacca for a longer walk the next day. The following day we went further. Before I knew it, my little mutt and I were pulling out multi-mile urban hikes throughout San Francisco. The weight quickly dropped and I found myself feeling better, both physically and mentally. Walking my dog became my therapy.
Later that summer, a friend of mine said he was going to run the San Francisco Marathon. I told him I would be at the finish line cheering him on. This was brand new to me. I seriously thought a marathon was 10 miles! I also thought a 5k was a tax form. I knew nothing about about running. In any case, when all the runners came flying through the finish chute, I felt that second hand high. I wanted that feeling of euphoria for myself. I turned to the random stranger next to me and proclaimed, “I’m going to run this marathon next year!” I needed to say it out loud so that I would be held accountable. I stayed to the end and cheered on every runner. When the last marathoner crossed that finish line, I went home and researched all that I could on training for marathon.
Because I am not a naturally born athlete, I had to start from scratch. I remember running that excruciatingly painful first mile. I went out way too hard. I didn’t know anything about pacing. It took me a few weeks to find my groove. I kept at it everyday and after many weeks of training, I successfully ran my first half marathon in October 2009. When I crossed that finish line, I felt like I had just won the Olympic gold medal. All my hard work was coming to fruition and it excited me even more to continue the marathon training.
Once the endorphins wore off, reality sunk in and I quickly realized that running 26.2 miles was a lot harder than the half marathon. I finally understood what runners meant by “the wall.” It frustrated me to no end that I could not go beyond 18 miles! It got to the point where I had to play mind games to get me through those tough miles. In my head, I created an alternate world where I transformed into a superhero who needed to save the world, one couch potato at a time. During my training runs, I played this video game in my head, and every time I reached another mile, I would receive an energy pellet. I rewarded myself bonus points for dodging cars, knocking out coyotes on the trail, and side swiping bikers. All of a sudden, the pain I endured from miles 15 through 22 turned into a fun little quest to get to that finish line. Endorphin Dude was born!
On July 25, 2010, I ran my first full marathon in San Francisco. When I crossed that finish line, I saw all the blood, sweat, tears, and GU flash before my eyes. What an incredibly surreal moment, one that felt like a euphoric out of body experience. I had never ever felt runner’s high to that degree. I knew that day that I would replay that moment in my head, over and over again, for the rest of my life. I was on that runner’s high for days, and I admit, I wore that medal around my neck when I took Chewbacca for her walk. My legs, knees, and thighs may have been completely banged up, but my heart kept yearning for more.
The San Francisco Marathon was supposed to have been my one and done bucket list race, but running makes me feel like a super hero. I am Endorphin Dude!  Who would have thought that the guy who had a heart attack scare would become the Marathon Caped Crusader?  I am definitely experiencing a cardiac infarction of the euphoric kind these days.
Since that life changing day back in 2009, I have run over 100 marathon and ultras, with two of them being 100 mile endurance races. I really didn’t think about it at the time, but I owe a lot to my little dog. Every time I cross that finish line, I think about how my trusted side kick saved me.  Chewbacca is a rescue dog with a pretty troubled past.  She was a pregnant stray when the Peninsula Humane Society found her.  There was probably some abuse that went on as well.  Thankfully, the kind folks at that shelter took very good care of her. People tell me all the time that I did a good thing by rescuing this dog, but the reality is that she rescued me.
I truly appreciate every aspect of life now. I really like the person I have become. A healthy dude is a happy dude. Life is good!
Tony before after

Baby Steps, But I’m Back!

It’s been quite a while since I took my last steps at a “more than walking” pace. In fact, my last run was Double Dipsea, which could not have been more perfect. Beautiful place, charming people, and followed by an entire night of working at the Western States Endurance Run.


For anyone with an urge to flip through their calendar, that was on June 29th, exactly four months ago today. A couple weeks after that I finally succumbed to my better (smarter) half’s insistence that I go to the doctor to get my “muscle tear” looked at. As I suspected, the mere act of entering the hospital elevated the injury to catastrophic status and I was benched for months with a femoral stress fracture. Nothing good happens in hospitals.


The frustrating thing about the recovery timeline is that while most stress fractures heal up quickly and cleanly, allowing the athlete to quickly return to their previous training, mine was in a very bad location.

Being at the interior side of the femoral neck, it was at a weak place structurally. Even when it should have had enough time to patch itself up, I still had to stay on crutches for quite a while to avoid refracturing it. I decided early on that this injury would not be an excuse to give up and let life pass by in a haze of self pity (although it was tempting at first, if I’m to be completely honest). I decided that it would serve as an opportunity to build mental strength. I learned to focus my restless energy into other pursuits and find fulfillment in areas of my life that had been somewhat neglected during all those 50-70 mile weeks.


I also changed quite a few things about the way I viewed food. Instead of a hunger to be satiated, eating became a chance to nourish the machine which was being slowly repaired. Like putting premium quality fuel into a classic car you’ve spent hours restoring, I researched what I needed to consume to accelerate bone growth and cut out everything which inhibits the absorption of those nutrients. A few key changes to my diet and I was feeling good and noticing a slow but steady improvement in how my hip felt. I found a supplement comprised of all of vitamins and minerals in the correct ratio and quantity for “therapeutic” use and took it religiously.




image [1)




The gym became a much more frequent presence in my life than before the injury, mainly because weight lifting was all I could do. It was sometimes tough to muster up the will to drive there and crutch from machine to machine, but it gave me a much needed outlet and a means to get a few trickling endorphins into my system.


The week of the West Virginia Trilogy is when I stopped using crutches, partly because I wanted to and partly because I simply couldn’t use them in the muddy campground. I was worried that it was too soon as I noticed some dull aching, especially when I rested at night.


You may have noticed that I am using the past tense to describe this whole experience. Well, my friends, that is because it’s OVER!

I got a call about my MRI the other day and my ortho specialist was surprised to report that the break is, well…


“It’s… GONE! No swelling, no edema, it’s just… completely healed. I honestly didn’t expect to see this. You’ll have to slowly build back up to carrying heavy loads, but for the most part you’re good to go!”


I’m not out of the woods just yet; I still have to take my time building back up to the level of exercise I was accustomed to, but I’m cleared to do just about everything but trail running right now. The plan is to take about a year to build mileage to what I was doing before, and I intend to enjoy all the distances between with gratitude and appreciation.


Last night I hopped onto our treadmill for a quick test. 1/2 mile. It was awkward. It was clunky. It was tiring.


It was wonderful.


However Long It Takes…

Hey guys! I hope everyone is having a great Tuesday.

I have had two conversations in the last few days which have severely altered my expectations for what the next few months will hold for me running wise. So far I’ve been on crutches for about six weeks, with the hope to get off soon and at least walk normally and cycle. We’ll see how that pans out, but I’ve been reasonably successful in keeping busy with other things in my life and have no cause to believe I wouldn’t continue to do so.

I do miss running, but I know it will be there whenever I can return. The thing I miss the most is running with my wife. It’s hard to explain; it’s not that I miss spending the time with her. We spend a ton of time together in our daily life. It’s that running was a chunk of our collective experience. It’s something we shared, and through that we shared joy, hope, ambition, adventure, pain, sorrow, regret, anger, frustration, vindication, exhaustion, victory, and satisfaction, and all of those things made us stronger in life. I always have the feeling that I’ve lost something or forgotten to do something, and today I finally put my finger on it: that shared experience is not part of my life right now. That’s the thing that’s missing.

Anyway, it’s a temporary condition and not the purpose of this blog, so let me redirect!

Last week I emailed the guru that’s been coaching us and asked to discuss a long term plan for my recovery. I realized that not only have I never come back to running after a several month injury, I’ve never even broken a bone before! I laid out the races which I’m signed up for and asked what he thought was possible.

This is a portion of his reply:

“I would strongly suggest not considering anything longer than a half marathon for 4 months.  You’ll be starting from zero and I’ll have you on a 6-8 week program where you’ll be running in a tight heart rate range, every run, all the time.  Not to mention, we’ll be doing 2 weeks to start with simply walking – walk/jog – slow jog before we even get to the 6-8 week period I mentioned before.”

I didn’t know he even had a plan, though obviously he’s put some thought into this. I’m glad to have some solid direction, but the timeline is longer than I had originally hoped for.

The other conversation I had was with a local running buddy who called to see how I’m doing. He has a close friend who sustained the same type of fracture as I did and in the same location. That guy is on his third hip replacement. His leg is now a full inch shorter than the other.

He tried to return to skiing too soon and broke it further, requiring screws to hold it together. When the screws backed out, he needed a bracket put in. He got an infection and a series of surgeries resulted.

That’s not a path I want to experience.

No matter how long it takes, that’s what it will take. I expect up to a year to be required to safely build to the kind of running I was doing before, and it’s worth every minute to avoid the caliber of problems which can arise later if I don’t act wisely now.

I’m looking forward to crewing Laura in some crazy adventures.

Run happy and healthy, friends.


Strength Stories – Cassandra

It’s funny how happiness is less connected to events than it is to attitude. Some people are miserable despite having everything they’ve ever worked for. Some are constantly beaming sunshine in the face of hard times. It’s all in one’s outlook, and one’s outlook depends on how each and every thing in life is handled.

“A happy life consist not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.” –Helen Keller

I first heard this quote a few months ago, and I haven’t been able to shake it since. It is just undeniably true. Fighting for a purpose develops focus, determination, and toughness. Overcoming obstacles fosters pride, perspective, and humility. Through dealing with challenges and loss, a person grows. It’s not something that can be phoned in. It’s dark. It’s painful. It’s real.

Cassandra is a friend and a notoriously bubbly personality in our Auburn-to-Bay Area trail race scene. She is always smiling and cracking jokes, as she undertakes bigger and bigger challenges. She is one of the running junkies who uses races as a way to tread new ground, both on earth and in her life.

On October 15, 2012, Cassandra was diagnosed with IDC-Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, a common type of breast cancer. She has battled it ever since, undergoing chemotherapy while steadfastly refusing to compromise her lifestyle and goals. Cassandra has gone through every emotion a person can feel, and has used the challenge as a springboard to accomplish more, find love, and live life more fully.

She carved out a little time from her insanely busy schedule to give us some insight:

How did you feel at first?

Shocked. Numb. Pissed off. I found it difficult to believe that someone like me who lives a healthy lifestyle and runs long distance could be diagnosed with cancer.

Did/do you feel any sense of loss or grief?

Yes. I went through the ‘why me’ stage when I was first diagnosed. For the first five months I didn’t go public with it. I only told a small handful of people because I didn’t want to deal with the questions, pity or emotions that the questions may evoke.

What has been your lowest point emotionally?

When I realized the chemo really was going to take my long hair and my eye lashes. My long hair was part of my identity for most of my life, and to lose it felt like I was losing a part of myself.

Was there a specific turnaround moment? If so, what triggered it?

When I completed a trail half during chemo and saw all my old buddies again. I felt strong and I felt loved. I realized that I CAN live life on my terms. I went public with my diagnosis after that race in March and felt stronger for it.

Do you feel as if you are running toward something or away from something?

Both. I’m running towards the bling at the finish line (as always) and running away from my fears, leaving all the garbage behind me.

Is it difficult to maintain your determination? Are there times when you feel overwhelmed?

It is only difficult when I am not working out or running. When I am not active, my thinking gets muddled and I lose focus and perspective on everything.

Yes, there are times when I do feel overwhelmed. Right now I am trying to plan my wedding, which may be 18 months to 2 years in the future. Being this young in my diagnosis and trying to look that far ahead is quite a task for me and can be very overwhelming at times.

How do you motivate yourself? What kind of goals do you set?

I keep races on my schedule, volunteer at races and keep in contact with all my running friends. I draw off their energy and enthusiasm from their races and training. I am trying to pick up where I left off last year when I was diagnosed. Always having a race to work for keeps me training and working towards something, instead of just aimlessly running.

What or who has helped you along?

My mom, my fiance, a few close friends and RUNNING!!!!

In retrospect, what has been the hardest part?

Admitting that I have cancer.

What has been the most rewarding part?

Taking on the challenge of beating this thing.

What has brought you joy during the journey?

Having people share their stories with me about themselves or loved ones going through cancer, and finding out who my friends are and discovering that I have so many people who love me.

What have you learned about yourself and the way you handle things?

I am stronger than I even I knew. This is teaching me patience and how to rely on meditation and relaxation techniques.

What has it changed about you?

I have stopped taking things to heart. While I care about my friends, I am not changing who I am for anyone! Gone are the days where I worry about what others think about me. What other’s think of me is really none of my business. I have a life to live. I am focused more on living and getting the most out of each day. I have stopped rushing through my day and now appreciate the small things in life and believe in the song “Love Like Crazy”.

How has it affected your view of other things in your life?

I don’t take anything or anyone for granted.

Do you consider yourself a better or stronger person for having gone through the experience?

I don’t know about being a better person, but as I approach my one year mark (Oct 15) I know I am a stronger person. You can’t deal with cancer, chemo AND run an Ultra and not come out a stronger person! 

Cassandra recently completed her second 100 miler at Run De Vous here in Northern California, which is exceedingly appropriate in that the race is pretty much a gathering of friends who support each other as they all struggle to reach their goals. It is about loving the journey and living life on your own terms, with your own goals.

Life isn’t fair, and often it throws difficult things at us, but knowing that there are people in this world like Cassandra can serve as a reminder that it doesn’t have to rule you. It doesn’t have to steal your identity. You can find strength you were unaware of and deal with hardship with tenacity, hope, humor, and class.

Thank you, CC.

P.S.: I will supply her with a link to this blog, so feel free to leave any thoughts or reactions for her here.