Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rio Del Lago 2011: crashing at last!

It is not easy to talk about failure or disappointment, at least for me, so better make it a learning experience as most famous quotes about failure say. Besides, as Agnès often reminds me, I'm supposed to run for the fun of it, so better put my attempts to go farther and faster into perspective of other challenges we see in this world. Like all the lives lost or changed on and since 9/11/2011, in New York City and through the Middle East.

Back to Rio Del Lago: most of my excitement was coming from the fact it was my yearly 100-miler and my number six (Western States 2007, 2009 and 2010, and Rio Del Lago 2008, 2010). I discovered and ran this race, initially created by former Western States Race Director Norm Klein in 2000, the year our Western States race was cancelled because of wild fires in June 2008. In 2010, I ran it again as a second 100-miler that same year to maximize my count of points in the Pacific Association Grand Prix. This year, our Grand Prix had 3 100-milers again on the program: Western States, whose lottery I didn't make, Tahoe Rim Trail the same weekend as the World Masters Marathon and Rio Del Lago in September. I therefore had no other option than coming back to log many miles along the American River.

If you have followed my journey in ultra running since 2006, or on this blog since 2007, you will remember that most of my challenging races happened in this area, especially due to exercised-induced asthma. Since I'm taking Singulair on a daily basis though, I got that under control and even had a good American River 50 race this April. Finally some positive experience on the Pioneer Express Trail section between Sacramento and Auburn, at last! Yet, when I saw that the course of Rio Del Lago was changed in a way that we will run this section 4 times, I got really concerned as it still brings so many bad memories, including those of my pathetic walk to finish AR50 in 2008 and my first DNF (Did Not Finish) at the same race in 2009.

With more than 10 ultra races a year, there is a routine forming up with definitely less excitement than for my first events. Less excitement on one hand but also less anxiousness which is good. To the point that I don't specifically train for a particular race and usually prepare in a rush at the last minute, between other work or family-related priorities. For my first 100-miler, it was like a 6-month project including a 5-day family trip to Squaw Valley. For this 6th hundred, Agnès and I arrived at Beals Point 2 minutes before the start of the briefing on Friday evening and had planned to leave Beals Point by midnight to drive back home on race day this Saturday as Agnès was teaching on Sunday. Indeed, my goal was to run around 17-18 hours and be done by 10 pm. Let's see how this turned out...

Molly's Race Director briefing with contribution from the father/inventor of the Western States 100, Gordy Ainsleigh:
4 minutes before the start, I was in the bathroom, battling with some GI issues, not a good start... We went off on the initial 1-mile out an back on the bike path with a small group including Brian, Mark, Jimmy, Toshi and Lukas. It was pitch dark but, not seeing Agnès before Dam Overlook at mile 25, I decided to leave my headlamp to her at mile 2. Fortunately, Jimmy, Brian and Lukas kept theirs and were really kind to highlight rocks for me as it remained very dark for I believe another hour or so and we were moving quite fast on the trail (around 8:30 min/mile). I ran very closely into Brian's steps until Twin Rocks (mile 7), then Lukas' until Horseshoe Bar where I just did a short stop to refill my water bottle. Jimmy was ahead and I caught up with him at New Rattlesnake Bar (mile 16). We left and ran a few miles together, with Lukas and Brian not far behind, then I slightly picked up the pace on this easy section, maintaining the 8:30-8:35 min/mile pace. When I reached the Cardiac aid station at the bottom of the famous Cardiac hill, or wall, the volunteers were still setting up the aid station and I still had some water left so I didn't want to stop and break my rhythm. Like my previous RDL runs, I jogged most of the hill and power walked about 25% of it. My average pace went down to 8:56 min/mile after Cardiac, this hill has its toll...
Since the start, my intestines were still cramping and I was looking forward to getting at the Dam Overlook aid station (mile 25) to make a well deserved pit stop at the restrooms (sorry to the newbies for the details...). Again, the aid station wasn't ready yet (no food on the table) and Agnès had just arrived on the parking lot after having had some difficulties locating it. While I was in the restrooms, she refilled my bottles with the water and ice she picked at the hotel and here off I was, down to the famous No Hands Bridge on the Western States Trail. This time, some food was ready and I picked a couple of pieces of watermelon before the strenuous climb up K2. With my GI issues, I knew I wasn't eating enough, and probably not drinking enough too to make up for the diarrhea. My average pace went down to 9:22 after K2 and 9:26 after the 7-mile and rolling Cool loop. It was definitely hot but I felt it was bearable thanks in particular to quite a few clouds in the morning. I was thinking with pity though of the many runners who will run this exposed section in the afternoon... I did a few improvised pit stops on this loop and pretty much emptied my intestines before going down to No Hands Bridge (mile 43). Good news but pretty late for starting the real fueling especially given the limited choices/menu at the aid stations.

I had seen Lukas entering the Cool Firestation aid station as I was leaving it so knew he was just a few minutes behind. I didn't see him at No Hands Bridge and ran quite a lot in the last major climb of the day, the 4-miles return to Auburn Dam Overlook (mile 47). Agnès, Pierre-Yves and Sean were there. Pierre-Yves was going to pace my from Twin Rocks, for the last 35 miles, and Sean was going to pace Toshi, for his 1st 100-miler.
I ate a bit, took the ice-filled bandana Agnès had prepared for me and left the station not feeling so well yet happy to still be in the lead and run along the water canal, my favorite section of this course. I ran down the "quad trashing" Cardiac, paying more attention to not slip on dusty rocks or trip on roots. This time, I stopped at the aid station at the bottom of the hill, to make sure I had enough ice and water for the next 6-mile stretch right in the middle of the heat. I had run the challenging first 50-miles in about 8 hours and was hasn't really looking forward the upcoming 3 section repeats between Cardiac and Twin Rocks...

I had lost a lot of salt as everyone could see on my black shorts and blue top and my legs started cramping in several areas despite my taking of S!Caps regularly since the early morning.
With his first pacer, Lukas passed me and took the lead around mile 53 before I finally reached Rattlesnake Bar (mile 56.5) to... crash. I probably stopped for 20 minutes there, trying to swallow more chips and watermelon. I was still struggling with the taste of the fake cola, while Agnès was working at cooling my body off. Lack of salt, lack of fuel, dehydration, body overheating, cramping, that wasn't looking good at all.
I finally and painfully left the aid station as Jimmy got in. He and his pacer passed me before the end of the next 2.6-mile stretch to Horseshoe Bar. Given the circumstances, I asked Pierre-Yves to start pacing me there and come with me in what turned out to be more walking than running.
My big mistake at Horseshoe Bar was not to drink more before the 6 miles to Twin Rocks. I was moving so slowly at that point that it took me 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach Twin Rocks. When I crossed them, Lukas had a 4-mile lead and Jimmy at least 2 miles. At Twin Rocks, I was getting worse and stayed for 20 minutes with Pierre-Yves doing a good job at pushing me to eat and drink. At some point, some soup arrived at the aid station and that was exactly what I needed but, the time to prepare it, it was too late and I had to keep moving to make sure we were returning to Horseshoe Bar before the night as none of us had our flashlights.
During my stop at Twin Rocks, Toshi (above with wife Judy, an ER nurse who resuscitated a runner at Horseshoe Bar...))  passed me, as well as the lead woman, Julie Fingar (RD of Way Too Cool, American River and now Dick Collins FireTrails too). I left the aid station with Juan, from Napa, who was also in bad shape (vomiting...) but still running.
I had stayed on a chair for so long, my legs were tetanized and it took me at least 15 minutes to "warm" up again and be able to run. With the food I finally managed to eat at Twin Rocks, I ran more on this section. We crossed two other Grand Prix competitors in my age group, Ray and Charles. At this time, my only goal became (1) to reach Horseshoe Bar before it turned dark and so we could meet with Agnès since no crew were allowed at Twin Rocks and (2) to drop and drive back home... Given our plans, it was out of question that I crawl the last 29 miles for at least 10 hours assuming I could even continue through the night at 3 miles an hour... This thought gave me even more respect for the back of the packers, battling with cut-off times. One thing which came back to my mind is Christian's 2010 RDL blog post in which he wrote with a lot of philosophy about quitting when there isn't fun left ("And I made my decision that from now on, I was only going to run what made me happy."). While some pain and suffering is part of ultra running, this remains a hobby and there is no reason to potentially kill yourself at it! Since there was no medical tracking at this race and I have now some relevant experience in gauging my body in such events, I waited for another 20 minutes while weighing pros and cons with Pierre-Yves and Agnès and we finally left the "crime scene" as I called it on FaceBook to rush to the closest In-n-Out to get some real food, real potato, real salt, real Coca Cola, some of the missing ingredients during this day on the trail. My weight was 128 pounds before the race and 121 pounds upon getting back home (after eating...), so I have at least one proof point to support my decision, it was safe to stop there before it could get worse.

See in my Picasa album a few pictures of the pre-race briefing, the start and a few other runners, although mostly Toshi and I (with all these aid stations Agnès spent more time driving around than on the side of the trail to take pictures... Not to mention the worries given to circumstances).

There are plenty of lessons to draw but, for the interest of time (I need to get back to work, and you too... ;-), I'd highlight three:
  1. Attempt - I entered this event taking the finish for granted and focusing more on a fast finish time. I need to keep in mind that any ultra race is first an attempt at accomplishing a challenge, not a done deal. For some it's an attempt at a PR, for others it's an attempt at covering a distance for the first time, or completing a series of 10 or more finishes, or just finishing within the time limit.
  2. Respect for the course - I knew the course and I knew I didn't like it, yet I acted if it was going to be fine and I didn't adjust my goals and logistic plans accordingly. I was not properly fueling, didn't get enough sleep during the week and, although not running as fast as last year, I was not paying all the respect to the course. There are many variables in an ultra race but the course is the most immutable one: except for a mud slide or a destroyed aid station requiring a last minute course change like at UTMB this year, the course is the most stable parameter and you have no excuse of pretending you didn't know.
  3. Flexibility - Since Gordy ran the first Western States in 1974, self-supported, ultra racing has come to maturity, even some popularity that some pioneers don't really like. With that, and especially living and running in North California, we are blessed with an amazing number of events involving thousands of dedicated volunteers and hundreds race directors. The support that we receive at aid stations is the key reason behind the expansion of this sport and the rise of the number of participants and finishers. Another thing which I take too often for granted is the consistency in how aid stations are set up and manned. I know that one thing which worries me about entering UTMB (Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc) is that the food is completely different there. At Rio Del Lago this year, there was differences from what I'm used to with other local races, but this shouldn't have altered my run. Another flexibility requirement is about adapting my pace to what my body can handle. This one is tough when you tend to push your limits on the speed side, that's one reason I'm so impressed with the regularity of most of the elite runners (although some of them do drop and crash too...).
That's my 3rd DNF for 190 races in my log including 64 ultras. The first one was due to severe asthma conditions at AR50 in 2009. The second was at the French Nationals Road 100K on fear of potential renal failure. I feel I have less of a good excuse for this third one, yet that it was the right decision as I never "crashed" like that before, literally from head to toe. As much as I feared the DNF concept when I started ultra racing, DNF is part of the game if you want to test and push your limits. So, on this Sunday evening, I don't feel particularly good about my failure --most of my muscles are so sore, from my back to my calves, that's actually physically painful-- but I know there are plenty of other better days and opportunities ahead to have fun and run happy!

As for the other runners, the results are not published yet and here are the only news I was able to collect from FaceBook so far: Lukas took first in 18:40 followed by Jimmy 19:29. Interestingly, they too went to the same In-n-Out right after their finish... Maybe we could get them as event sponsor next year for some food donations! ;-) Ray did finish albeit in 30 hours and before going to the hospital (where he was able to update his FB status, so he must be fine now). In the coming days, I'm sure we'll hear about other heroic stories from most of the 85 starters.

A special thank you to Agnès for squeezing this crewing exercise in our busy family plans, to Pierre-Yves for taking a whole Saturday off his own family schedule all that for only 12 slow miles of pacing (and for accepting that I DNFed...) and thanks to the many volunteers who tried hard to contain the runners' troubles with the heat with the means they were provided with.

Here is what I wanted to share about this crash before another busy week. Now, if you still have some time to read more on the web today, especially around failure, disappointment and perseverance, I recommend these picks from 3 elite ultra runners:
  1. Scott Jurek's thoughts on his 5 attempts at UTMB
  2. Andy Jones-Wilkins, a model of perseverance and positivism, writing about another model, blind climber Erik Weihenmayer, and the theme of "Developing the Disappointment Muscle"
  3. Hal Koerner's moving recount of his 39-hour quest to get the UTMB-finisher vest


Shir said...

great report, as usual. when you run so many great races, it's easy to forget you're essentially running on a tightrope and every well-run race is an achievement. practical lessons aside, i've found in my DNFs, crashes, and assorted failures, a retrospective appreciation for all the well-managed races i've already done and have done since. i.e., it was "failure" that gave context and legitimacy to my sense of accomplishment at the finish line.

glad you're well enough to post.


Chris said...

Hi Jean,

sorry to hear about your "meltdown," but as you undoubtedly know you grow more for the difficult experiences than the easy one.

I'm running up there Sat. the 24th in the Sierra Nevada Endurance 50 miler. Looks like much of the same trails...I've never run them and the website is pretty poor with it's description. I am planning on running it focusing on staying comfortable and healthy...even more after reading your blog. Anyhow, I'm planning on running without a pacer and I don't expect you to say yes, but I figured it couldn't hurt to ask: if you're free and have any interest I'd be honored and grateful if you'd want to come and join me to run the last 22 miles from Auburn Overlook to Granite Bay.

Regardless, all the best to you and I hope to see you out there on the trails again soon,

great blog, cheers,
Chris Calzetta

Emmett said...

I was in the 100K (and one of those "just trying to finish," even though this was my 4th 100K and 43rd ultra), and I struggled really hard. Just had to mostly walk the last 40 miles so that I didn't overheat. It took me 10 minutes trying to make my way from Twin Rocks back to the finish line (due to stolen ribbons and the apparent cheapness of DSA to put in glowsticks at intersections), but I did finish.

I know you'll get "right back on the horse," since I have always been motivated after a crushing DNF.

Emmett (The Tall Guy)

Jean Pommier said...

Thank your for the additional piece of introspection, Shir, much appreciated. Indeed, the tighter the rope, the more brutal the rupture if it breaks...

Chris, glad to see you moving up to 50 miles already! I replied to you off line for the 24th.

Otherwise, the results aren't published yet and the rumor has it that 2/3 of the runners dropped but... Toshi finished in 20 hours and Jason in 29 hours, both rookies at this distance. Kudos to them!

Jean Pommier said...

Emmet, great job persevering through the heat and the challenge of finding your way at night. Certainly, this edition of RDL will have created long lasting memories for many and opportunities to test our resilience... Without casualties hopefully!

Brian Miller said...

Hi Jean,
It was great to run with you during the early part of the race. I too suffered from some severe dehyrdation and cramping even though I felt like I was drinking and taking in enough electrolytes. After trying to rest and recover on the return to Auburn Overlook I determined there was little to no hope of recovery and decided to DNF. After hearing about the carnage from others I think I made the correct (healthy) decision. I hope you are recovering well and hope to see you out on the trails soon.
Brian Miller

Anonymous said...

Jean, Someone has to say it, you were generous that the aid stations were 'different.' Fact is this race was not well organized, there was not attention to detail and this is critical to a 100 mile race. All due thanks to the volunteers who were great, but the RD seems to have "winged it" and put together a rather shoddily planned event. This was apparent at the check in. I think the RD, who was not even in the country before the race, needs to consider if she is really up to this and if not, pass it on to someone who is. When Norm was running the race it was really spot on at every level.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for finally saying something honest. I was beginning to think I must have run a different race than everyone else! It was a disaster, plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you completely, and the comment I wrote when I got back from the race was far more critical, but I toned it down in respect to the volunteers who did the best they could. But they were not provided with adequate guidance or resources from the RD to do the job. This RD should step aside and let someone do the job with the same attention to detail that Norm Klein used to do.

Jean Pommier said...

Brian, thank you so much for running the first miles together, it was so dark, it was my first mistake of the day to leave Beals without a flashlight. I would have finished, I would have said that you saved my race. Now, with a DNF, there is less of a saving flavor... ;-)
Sorry to hear about your own struggle and DNF. The results aren't posted yet, so I still don't know how bad this turned out.
Take care and see you soon on the trails!

Jean Pommier said...

To the anonymous: yes, I decided to write my report with this angle, primarily to pay my respect to those like Gordy who didn't have as much support as we did this weekend when they invented ultra running/racing.
Now, when you get accustomed to the excellence and extreme care we get in most of the races in North California especially, any variance can derail our plans. That's why I pledged to get more flexible and resilient myself. And called it a day at Horseshoe Bar #3 not to push the envelope "too" far.
I only hope everybody is safe now. I still haven't fully recovered yet, which is quite unusual for me after three days, although, to be fair, I didn't get the two IVs I got last year (that's certainly a boost).
Anyway, appreciate the comments and the debate. It's fair to have different perspectives on that given some pre-race communication and how things turned out.

Brian Miller said...

Unfortunately, I have to agree with the anonymous comments. I don't want to blame my DNF on anyone else, as I could have been better prepared, but it was shocking to come into aid stations and see nothing there. The first time through Auburn Overlook there was only a sprinkling of hard candies on the table. It was certainly disappointing considering the RD emphasized how great the aid stations would be during the pre-race briefing. The volunteers were certainly helpful, but my guess is they weren't provided the direction/support needed. I hope improvements are made and the race continues since this was my first 100 mile race last year and I hope to run it again in the future.

The lesson I learned (which was mentioned to me by an aid station volunteer) was to not depend on the aid stations and supply whatever you think you may need in your drop bags.

Anonymous said...

That was one of the lessons I came away with. Have an abundance of food in drop bags at every station they have them. Carry extra water. The second cool area aid station ran out of water and was not replenished. The food was perfect for a 1/2 marathon. The volunteers did their best and were sometimes apologetic about the slim pickins. I have so much respect for what goes into a well organized race. I met some interesting people and enjoyed some beautiful scenery. see you out on the trails..

Anonymous said...

This was the poorest organized race i have ever run,No aid stations set up for the front runners,what were they thinking,It's very frustrating to have to stop at ever trail crossing and search for trail markers. I talked to at least 6 people running who were so frustrated they just said srew it and quit. The course lack any imangination 4 times on the same section of trail, boring. If they keep the couse the same they will be lucky to get 20 runners next year. the finishing ratio says it all.

Jimmy Dean Freeman said...

Always love your perspective on things. Also love your attitude, to have fun, yet PUSH yourself past previous limits and limitations. We're always left with 3 choices to measure improvement:

1. run the same distance, faster
2. run a more challenging course
3. run further

Continue to push yourself and appreciate the good days with the bad.

TO Anonymous/Chris & Anonymous 2 & Brian,
Joe Kulak (finisher of 30+ 100-mile races, all but 1 in sub-24) said it (to me) BEST when he said,

"NOBODY is responsible for your race but you. Not the Race Director, your crew, your pacers. S#!^ happens out there, crews miss checkpoints, aid stations aren't set up or don't have what you want/think you need. You, and YOU ALONE, are responsible to get over it, move on, and get it done."

This is a 100-mile race. I really think we've all become spoiled (complaining they don't have better food at an aid station?). It'd be one thing if DROP BAGS weren't an option, then you're at the mercy of what's there OR a good crew. But we all had options (drop bags aplenty, more than ANY other race I know, and crew options). I don't like Pepsi or generic cola, so I had COKE packed and ready for consumption.

It's 100-miles. If you want to control little things like having exactly what you want, when you want it, you're probably better suited for a 24-hr race on a short loop so your preferred nutrition is close. Or maybe 10k's?

To blame Molly for this, to suggest that it had to do with her being an ultra-athlete (and being out of the country) is CLASSLESS and cowardly. I understand being disappointed with your finish and/or dnf. But we ALL had the same conditions. Some of us adjusted, took responsibility for our race, and didn't point any fingers.

You have over 90-100 100-milers to choose from. I hope to not see whiners and finger pointers at events I run. Takes away from all the hard work done by those that ARE there. Take a look in the mirror, fellas. Look at what YOU could have done differently to be better prepared. Best of luck in your next race (hope you learned some good info in this event to move forward smarter, tougher athletes)...

With Respect,

Anonymous said...

$245 dollars for M&Ms and pretzels... sounds like a deal to me.

Anonymous 3

mark vishnevsky said...

Excellent race report! It was enjoyable (and painful) to read your report. I could understand how you felt as I hurt pretty good as well.

It was also nice meeting you and Brian while running with you guys and Jimmy and a few others in the beginning. I must say the first few miles were my favorite. I would have ran with you guys a little more but I mistimed my girlfriend giving me my water bottles/fuel belt as we went by the start, so I had to wait a couple minutes for her.

Originally I had signed up for the 100k then thought to myself, I might as well just try the 100 miler if I was gonna run 38 miles shy of it anyway. So that last week before the race I switched my entry to the 100 mi, knowing full well that even if I didnt finish the 100 mi, they will still count the 100k (as long as I make it that far).

I made it 67 miles (65 officially) before I said no more. After getting lost (with my pacer) in the dark and going 2 miles further, because someone took off the ribbons between horshoe and twin rocks I decided not to hike the 10 hrs in the dark to finish in 30 hrs. I came to run, not hike. The treacherous section between horseshoe and twin rocks was almost impossible to run safely. I also did not feel like playing "lets try and find the course". The heat definitely took its toll, as it did on all of us.

Is it my fault that the ribbons were missing and they didnt have glowsticks out like they were suppose to? No, the race director should have went and fixed the course (when I told her about it) and made it so people dont get lost. More glowsticks should have been placed.

If it my fault that the RDs decided to change the course to have people run through the horseshoe twin rocks section, three times? No, the RDs screwed up there. Even Gordy got sick of that part hurting his knees as he made it to mile 75 (I believe).

Some of the things I liked about the race: lots of ice at aid stations, nice volunteers, some food at aid stations, lots of drop bag locations, a good challenge (probably too good because of all the DNF's).

Some of the things I did not like: meager supplies at the aid stations (after hearing the RD say they really stocked up the aid stations I was thoroughly disappointed), that part of the course that we hit three times, the heat (uncontrollable weather factor), all the DNF's (after the RD said she wanted to have as many people finish as possible), and getting lost on more then one occasion...part 1

mark vishnevsky said...

part 2/2

"I think the RD, who was not even in the country before the race, needs to consider if she is really up to this and if not, pass it on to someone who is. When Norm was running the race it was really spot on at every level."

I wouldnt call these statements from Anonymous cowardly nor classless, even though it is somewhat speculative. Nor was it rude, demeaning. Cowardly and classless are powerful words and not appropriate here.

"NOBODY is responsible for your race but you. Not the Race Director, your crew, your pacers. S#!^ happens out there, crews miss checkpoints, aid stations aren't set up or don't have what you want/think you need. You, and YOU ALONE, are responsible to get over it, move on, and get it done."

Not entirely true here. If a runner gets lost because of poor course marking or completely lack of course markings then it is not his or her fault. We paid big bucks for the aid stations to be set up, we paid big bucks for enough food at the aid stations. I came into one and was very disappointed to see most old fruit on the table. For 245 bucks I better see some Dominos pizza or something. A runner I spoke to also mentioned that they were running out of gels and salt pills at aid stations.

Yeah stuff happens out there. Some of us dont have fancy pacer, with fancy crews and fancy food. I personally had one drop bag with not a lot of food in it at Cardiac and had my girlfriend waiting for me at mile 56 with more food. I was disapointed with the lack of food at the stations, most definitely.

"This is a 100-mile race. I really think we've all become spoiled (complaining they don't have better food at an aid station?)."

Its easy to say this having a good race but when the majority of the participants did not. Ive seen better food at a 50k's.

As far as the 90 plus 100 milers to choose from. That is a bit of a misnomer. Not many people are 100 mile ready all year round, which makes timing a big deal. Distance can pose a problem as well. Im not sure everyone has the fund to travel anywhere in the US to participate in a 100 mi race. Limiting the 100 milers to Ca, near us limits those races to a lot fewer to choose from. I think its almost easier to put one on ourselves and run it.

If people are really upset I suggest getting together and asking for a partial refund (which I doubt will happen). Least of all we should email the RD's and explain the problems, so next year they can make the appropriate changes. I will say this, I will most likely never run that race again nor participate in any of the Desert Sky races because of what transpired last weekend.

Anonymous said...

Is it common for out of state corporations to manage 100 mile races and do they usually invest alot of the profit in the races for food etc. or as little as possible?

Jimmy Dean Freeman said...

You make a lot of valid, insightful points. And as far as some of the speculative nature of the other posts, I will clear up a few points...

1. Norm's race(s) were NOT without incident. Course sabotage has been happening between Twin Rocks & Horseshoe for at the very least, the past 7-years. It happens to Sierra Nevada (which also was a sister-race to RdL up until 2009). Getting lost is common in 100-milers. It happens at EVERY race, independent of how well the course is marked. It's 100-miles. Even if every single intersection is well marked, people, animals or weather (wind/rain, etc.) can destroy or remove markings. The RD is expected to make a good faith effort to mark courses. A choice was made to not put glow sticks because they are the MOST tampered with course marking (at nearly every event I've been to). It is the responsibility of the athlete to know the course. Yeah, it's not practical to know 100-miles of course, but going into these things HOPING it's well marked is foolish. When I ran Sierra Nevada in 2005, I heard/understood the course markings were tampered with, so I stuck with 2 runners who knew the course, running slower than planned, and I STILL got lost around Rattlesnake when I ventured off on my own. It's a part of this sport. 100% the athlete's responsibility to know the course. It's that simple.

2. Norm retired, and terminated this race. Sierra Nevada was picked up by NorCal Ultras (and RD Julie Fingar, this year's RdL winner). She had little desire to RD Rio, and 100-miles of course tampering, thought 52-miles (a straight out-n-back course) was more manageable. RdL was retired. Molly, who ran RdL as her 1st 100, brought it back. Norm aided Molly last year, and there was still course tampering (I was there last year to help remark sections, while I crewed my brother-in-law in his 1st 100-miler). RdL will likely always have this problem, no matter who is the RD. It's the problem being so close to houses/neighborhoods, and it's not unique to this race nor this sport (there are triathlons & mountain bike races happening on these trails too).

You pick ANY Cali 100-miler, on trails, and you'll face the same challenges/problems in navigating 100-miles of mountain trails. Western States, Angeles Crest, San Diego, Rio del Lago, Headlands, Chimera, they all have runners who get lost/disoriented... cont....

Jimmy Dean Freeman said...

PART 2...
As far as the aid stations, I won't argue that. I had hoped for more too. But I utilize drop bags when I don't have a crew. When I do rely on a crew, both times I've run this RdL, they've missed me at a check-point or two and I've had to make do with what was there.

Said previously, the onus is (and will always be) on the runner to pull themselves up by their own shoe laces and get it done.

As far as your "big bucks" paid come with "expectations" on course markings & aid station foods, that's pretty funny. Some events are now approaching $1,000 (said $1k event has NO course marking at all, nor any aid stations, it's completely self-supported). Ironmans boast a $500 price tag, sometimes more. $250 is a drop in the bucket.

And if you think I had a good day reflective of finishing position, you're sorely mistaken. I had my own problems. Heat sickness, vomiting, disorientation. I just didn't whine, complain about it or quit (I wanted to drop out when my stomach problems started at Mile 22). When I feared my body was shutting down at Mile 85, I resolved to walk the rest of the way in (while dreading it at the same time). GOAL #1 for me was finish. There are high points and MANY low points to each and every 100-miler.

Mark, YOU could have finished, and chose not to (since you didn't want to walk thru the night to a 30-hour finish). I would be frustrated about that too. I just wouldn't point the finger at tampered with course markings. My friends and I joke that Brian Krogmann adds at least 5-miles to EVERY 100-miler he does. He even ran 2.5-miles down a mountain in the wrong direction at Headlands, turned around, climbed back up that 2.5-miles, was pissed off at himself, then he finished the race.

Like any great challenge in life, when personal responsibility is taken, one's odds of success greatly increase.


PS- I wish you luck at your next crack at this distance. I firmly believe when you commit yourself to finishing (no matter what the circumstances, pace, etc.) you will. When I thought I'd have to walk the last 16-miles, I rebounded and was able to run again, then fell apart and had to walk again, then rebounded, then had to walk again.) Relentless forward motion. It's all we can control (not the pace, but moving forward). Every race I have dnf'd, I've made plans to go back and finish (and finished both those 100's). I invite you to do the same. That said, it'll never be the Twin Rocks/Horseshoe section 4-times again.

With a few insightful/articulate emails, we can ALL make this race better for future participants by letting Molly & Desert Sky know what we didn't like, what we did like and our suggestions for improvement. My email was sent prior to even reading Jean's account of the race.

Anon 1, 2 & 3, I doubt ever had the intention to send an email about it. It's easier to fire blanks in a blog than actually take the effort/time to help improve something. THAT mentality is what I called cowardly (in the speculative comments about Molly being out of the country).

Jimmy Dean Freeman said...

"Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment."
-Mark Twain

Not preparing oneself properly for ANY aspect of a race (nutrition, navigation, race planning, pacing, mentality, etc.) is always a valuable opportunity to plan better (and have more awareness for WHAT to plan for) for future races. I consider my two dnf's my greatest lessons. Both led to better planning at RdL this year. I hope all can learn from their mistakes and help Molly have more awareness for what y'all want. But from an RD perspective, there's no pleasing everyone, not by a long shot...

Anonymous said...

Thanks everybody for the great info. I will definitely skip this one. The RD sounds like a real winner.

yujun said...
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yujun said...

Hi Mark,

I believe we met on the trail when you got lost. Luckily we managed to find the way out. Yes I could not get Gel and electrolyte after Cool (Mile 40). I understand your frustration of being lost since it happened to me before. It was nice talking to you and hope you will get over it soon and enjoy your next race.

On the way back Horseshoe Bar, I told everybody that most of the ribbons were stolen for the last 0.6 mile and how to find the way to the aid station. The next day someone thanked me for the help and that made my day.

It was a very tough day for me. I had difficult from Cardiac Hill (mile 80) to Horseshoe Bar (mile 89). However I finally finished the race and it was my first 100 miler.

It was also a tough day for Molly. I saw her busy working at start line, Rattlesnake Bar, Twin Rocks and finish line. I also saw her drive a car to deliver ice to runners from Cool aid station to Knickerbocker Hill. I believe she tried her best. And I really appreciate her efforts.

Before the race, Jim from the Quicksilver Team wrote an email on how to prepare for the first 100 miler. My friend Larry forwarded it me. In the email Jim wrote: "Plan on no Crew, be self sufficient with ample drop bags." I followed it and that was really helpful.

Happy running and hope we might meet again in the future.

-Yujun Wang

Anonymous said...

Voici, Jean, que j'ai enfin lu ton émouvant récit.
Très sage, la leçon que tu tires de cette aventure... et nous te souhaitons donc encore bcp de bonheur dans des conditions plus favorables.
Touchante aussi la présence d'Agnès!
Mille baisers à vous deux

mark vishnevsky said...

Yujun congratulations on completing the arduous race!

Yeah, I was frustrated at first but then decided to take action. Ok guys, don't laugh but I seriously might have went a little drastic...

I started my own racing "company" to save money and transportation and lodging fees. Mostly 5k's (mostly $15) and one ultra event so far. Its a 50k and 50 miler coming up this weekend on Sunday. The price for the 50k is 35 bucks and the 50 mile is 55 bucks (pretty much cost of food and awards), a lot less then the others. If you guys are ever around the Long Beach area and wanna run one of the Rocket Racing Production races, just let me know.

Can't say I'm in it to get rich, more just to run races without paying outrageous fees as well as to help get the community together and be active.

Here is some of the info for the the upcoming ultra road "time trial" race:

Misc info.
Time Limits- None
No DNF's here: A person, at anytime, can drop down from the 50 mi to the 50k. If a person does not complete a 50k, then we WILL make a distance that the person completed in increments of common standard distances: 5k, 10k, 10mi, half marathon, marathon.

If you want more, then an optional 100k is available for the truly die hard ultra runners.

Awards will be mailed in order for the engravings to be completed. EVERYONE gets an award. EVERYONE WINS.

Send us an email letting us know what you would like at the Aid Stations, we will try and personalize the food as much as possible.----------

If you guys got any ideas, wanna run any of the races (or want me to make a specific race) or need a place to crash before the race or any other time, just let me know:

It was an honor guys and no hard feelings on my end.

keirahenninger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.