Lost Boys 50 Miler

I hope someone writes a good, detailed race report of the Lost Boys 50 Mile Trail Race. The race deserves one, and this post won't do it justice. Someone needs to sit down and describe the course from start to finish, because when I try to write down my experience, there are only small segments that come to mind.

Looking for hand-holds on the slippery granite boulders and struggling to climb up the dried out waterfall, which I thought was a joke in the course description.

Turning off my headlamp a little past dawn, and looking up at the sky over the desert hills and seeing the pink and orange glowing against the rocks, going from the small oval light of the headlamp to the fire of a desert sunrise.

Watching the thick mist and fog come in, covering the black and white skeletons of fire-damaged trees and feeling the drops as I passed under the pines.

Rice Krispie treats, two of them, three miles apart, and the salted peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Talking about how crazy ultra-cyclists are with a woman named Andi who had just completed the Furnace Creek 508.

Aid station volunteers urging me to catch the 5th place guy, saying he was only 2 minutes down the hill, then pushing hard to catch him on the switchbacks, coming within a few yards, and watching his back steadily disappear, and being fine with that.

Singing along with Kanye.

Feeling a blister form on the inside of my foot, a huge one, then feeling the pain and release as it popped in my shoe.

Seeing my daughter run towards me, kissing my wife, my youngest daughter and my son a few yards before the finish line, wanting to stop and hug them, then being pushed to the line by my wife who was watching the clock and wanted me to finish in under 10 hours.

Hugging my sister, Sharlie, at the finish line, with her oxygen tank, knowing she struggles to breathe at altitude, and being so grateful for my family -- my mom, her husband Ric, Sharlie and Ryan, and of course Sanam, Sophia, Beckett and Kaya. The feeling of running to the finish, towards my family, after doing something difficult and to be surrounded by people that inspire me is just a little too hard to put into words.

It's hard sitting down to write a race report, especially for a race where everything went right. I enjoy writing about the puking, the pain, the bloody blisters, the mental anguish, but for some reason, at the Lost Boys 50 Mile Trail Race, everything went according to plan.

I thought so many times about what I would write in a race report, and I think that helped during the day, probably what a cameraman feels like with the filter of the lens between the action and the eye, and there was so much to write, but now, sitting here, after the post-race high (and nothing is more exhilarating than the last few miles of an ultra), I can't bring myself to write a detailed report about the race, other than to say that it was run so smoothly that the race organizers, Kara Scarbrough, Paul Escola, and Jeremy Scarbrough, along with all of the awesome volunteers at the aid stations deserve some major credit.

My coach, Tim, had a great deal to do with how the race went for me. I initially decided to use a coach after hurting my knee and was worried that I was going to miss the Lost Boys race. After a thorough scouring of the internet, I decided on Tim mainly because he writes things like this, and he makes furniture out of fallen timber. I spent nearly an hour on the phone with Tim a couple of days before the race and my hand was sore from writing down the wealth of information and advice that he gave me for this particular race, and there were four or five things that directly stemmed from that conversation that had a huge impact on my race. If you need a coach, I highly recommend you contact him.

I tried to take some pictures of the race, but most didn't come out, so I am borrowing some from Kelly Gaines, who came out from Chicago to run her first 50 miler with her husband, Brian.  I think they both discovered that there are mountains in San Diego.

Running towards the mountains on the only flat section of the course

The waterfall
I'm smiling because it's the final turn
My daughter running towards me and the ambulance waiting just past the finish
My sis
My family at the finish, it was a long day for all of us

My fuel for the race
Elevation profile; lots of climbing

Best. Running. Tip. Ever.

I subscribe to all the running magazines, read a lot of the blogs, and receive 20 or so daily running emails from an ultra-running email list.  I am always looking for new tips. The running magazines will recycle their advice over the years, trends in running will come and go...try this flying buttress medial post with two inches of cushioning to avoid all your injuries, then a year later...who needs shoes anyway, run barefoot over shards of glass to toughen your feet up just like they do down in the remote jungles of the Amazon. I know it's recycled, and I know most of it can be condensed and funneled into one basic principle, just run, the more you do it, the better you'll get at it. I read the magazines anyway, looking for motivation or the next magical tip that will give my running a boost.

Surprisingly, the best running tip ever did not come from a book, a magazine or a blog, it happened completely by accident.

I recently bought some new road shoes online.  I found the site with the lowest prices on the shoes that I wanted, and for this particular pair, they were at least $20 cheaper than anywhere else. The only problem was that the discounted pricing didn't apply to the stealthy cool-looking black version, or the understated white version, no, those were the full-priced models. The discounted models were orange, and on my monitor, they looked like a dull, autumn, buttery orange...not too bright, but just bright enough to be $20 off. When the box arrived and I opened up the new Saucony Kinvaras, I had to shield my eyes, it was like that scene in Pulp Fiction where they open the briefcase and you never get to see what's inside of it, you just see the glow covering the face of Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace. These shoes were strikingly orange, a shade of orange that doesn't exist in nature, and I pictured a pair of black shoes on a conveyor belt going through the nuclear reactor in Springfield and these coming out the other side.

What the shoes looked like online

What the shoes look like in person
So, that brings me to the best running tip EVER:

Buy the brightest effing shoes you can find.

I just got back from my first run with these monstrosities, my best tempo run in months, and I flew. It is hard to run slow in these shoes, partly because I want to run faster than the speed of sound in order to not hear the comments as I ran past people on my early morning run through the Carlsbad campground, and partly because you just can't run slow in bright shoes. It's some kind of law. Just like you can't swim slow in a tiny speedo; only a fast swimmer can get away with some crack showing. My neighbor and world-class duathlete, Kenny Souza, knows all about this law of running.

Kenny "Kaboom" Souza knows what I'm talking about
I have never received so much attention on a run as I did this morning, running through the campground full of bored kids waiting for their parents to make them breakfast. Most just said "nice shoes," and I'll put the over/under on sincerity at 25%. Some just looked at me, smiled, then looked down, and quickly looked away. The older kids got a little more creative, asking me if batteries came with the shoes, and another telling me he could see me coming a mile away. By far the best comment came when I was running by a campsite and some college-aged kid took a break from waxing his surfboard, looked up at me and said "there's no place like home."

You just have to run fast when everyone is looking at you, and someone, I think it was my mom, used to say that nobody cares what you look like as much as you think they care. This morning, on my run, I proved that is complete and utter bullshit. Today, everyone seemed to care, and in my head, as an eight year old boy stared wide-eyed and open-mouthed as I past, I hoped this is what he was thinking:
Wow, that guy is flying, his feet are like a cartoonblur of orange circles. He's holding a 6:15 pace for the last 4 miles of a ten mile tempo run, all below his lactate threshold of 165 bpm and an oxygen uptake at threshold of 44.1. It must be the shoes.
What he actually was thinking:
Why is that jogger wearing clown shoes?
There's the greatest tip ever, use it, it's free and I hope it will save you thousands of dollars on books, magazine subscriptions, and coaching. I personally guarantee it will take a full minute off your 5K PR and 20 minutes off your marathon.

It's gotta be the shoes

Cactus to Clouds Day Hike -- Pictures and Video

On Saturday, a group of seven of us set out to summit Mt. San Jacinto, which is only at 10,850 feet elevation, but when you start on the desert floor at about 500 feet, this turns into a brutal day-hike, listed as the 5th toughest hike in America by Backpacker magazine.  We started at about 5:30 AM, as the sun was rising above Palm Springs and I could feel the blanket of heat from the desert chasing us as we climbed up the steep trail starting behind the Palm Springs Art Museum.  Most of the group hit the tram station at 10 miles, and after over 8,000 feet of vertical gain, they were done, an accomplishment in itself, and by far the toughest part of the hike.  Jess, a notorious sandbagger and our guide up the trail, Renata, and I set out for the summit of Mt. San Jacinto, a twelve mile round-trip from the tram station.  It took us about four hours and we ran the last couple of miles.  All told, the hike is just under 23 miles with over 11,000 feet of elevation gain.

This really was a tale of two hikes, the first 11 miles of desert scrub and a never-ending climb to the tram station (the steepest vertical cable rise in the U.S., and second steepest in the world), and the second section of a pine-layered, shaded trail to the summit.  It was a great and painful day with beautiful weather and amazing views.  My wife proved to me, as she does daily, that strong women are beautiful as she struggled through exhaustion, pain and nausea to reach the tram station.

Pre-dawn in Palm Springs

Sanam on the trail

Jess, Renata and Sanam

Me and Sanam

This kind of sums it up

The summit

Riding the tram back to the desert

Running through the pines on the way back to the tram

Elevation profile

Las Vegas -- Bleeding Ears and Tired Legs

GBV (stolen from Pitchfork)
When I heard that Matador Records was having a 21st birthday bash at The Palms in Las Vegas with some of my favorite bands from the 90s all sharing a big, lo-fi, indie-rock stage together, I emailed a couple of friends, thinking there was no way they would actually commit to this multi-day event. We all have jobs now, are much more responsible, with kids, and bellies and receding hairlines. One sentence in the email, what do we have to do to make this happen? They both got back to me that day saying they were in. An ulterior motive for this trip was to get to run some of the trails in Red Rock Canyon, and since I have regularly scheduled workouts now, I was going to force myself to stick to my plan and get up and run in the mornings, and in Vegas-time, morning is a loose term for the hours between sunrise and 3 PM, when most of the other concert-goers were waking up.

Things not to do before running Red Rock Canyon in 100 degree heat

  • Get to Vegas and head straight for The Palms pool and drink a couple of celebratory beers
  • Eat at Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs for lunch
  • Go to the VIP open-bar party at the Hardwood Suite and shoot hoops while drinking a few more free beers
  • Eat at the Steakhouse where a small portion is the 20 ounce steak, pass on that and order the filet and lobster and mix in some fatty creamy lobster mashed potato goodness and dust off a bottle of wine
  • Hit the show at about 10 PM, stay until the last band finishes their set at 1 AM
  • Roll into bed as your friend explains where in the maze of Las Vegas hotel parking lots he parked his car, the one that you are going to borrow at 7 AM tomorrow, when the rest of the Las Vegas world is asleep or still awake from the previous night, and you only remember something about a Subaru on the ground floor

Waking up in the morning I found a Subaru on the ground floor of the parking lot, a grey Subaru with an Obama bumper sticker, which would make sense because my friend is left of Mao, and some nice Yakima roofracks on top, which wouldn't make sense because my friend doesn't ride. I tried the key and it didn't work, the unlock buttons didn't work either, so I tried the door and the passenger side was open.  I got in and started to rummage around the inside to make sure it was my friend's Subaru. I found a bunch of stuff from Santa Monica and my friend lives in Fresno, so I figured it wasn't his, plus the key didn't work. So I called him and he said it was parked in E1, which was where I was, in the East garage, which was where I wasn't. So I went to E1 in the East garage and found the cream (not silver) colored Subaru. This time the key worked, but somehow I triggered the alarm and couldn't get it to turn off. Finally, after holding down all the keychain buttons, it finally stopped wailing. I am very disappointed in Las Vegas security, who, if they were paying attention to their video monitors, would have seen a guy in short shorts carrying a hydration pack and wearing funny-looking red shoes and a white hat who was obviously trying to steal a Subaru and sell it on the very lucrative Boulder, CO Subaru blackmarket.

The drive through Vegas in the morning was a headachy blur and as the city dead-ended and the Mojave Desert began, I grabbed a trail map and hit the Grand Circle Loop in Red Rock Canyon. It turned out to be a great run, tough, hot and hilly, but a lot of fun. I drove through Red Rock Canyon with the three kids, the wife and my sister/babysitter in the car last year and they weren't really appreciating the majesty of those red sand cliffs that rise out of the desert heat, so I opened all the windows and found the rarely listened-to Sirius opera channel and I cranked that shit as we drove the loop, drowning out the complaints and the fighting with the majesty of opera and red rocks. It was a different experience this time, running through the desert trails with a faint glimmer of daytime Vegas in the distance, it was nice to clear my ears out and breathe notcasino air.

The rest of the weekend went by in a sonic blur, but I did take advantage of the gym and the indoor/outdoor whirlpool that overlooked the hedonistic playground that is the pool at The Palms and remembered the $5 smoke- and sweat-filled shows that left ears ringing and sinuses black, those days when I smoked all day and would have slept in and laughed at the suggestion of a morning run in the desert. The good ole days weren't that bad.

The highlight of the show was the original line-up of Guided By Voices and their 2 1/2 hour set that started at midnight. Watching elementary school teacher turned indie rock god Robert Pollard jump, kick, drink and smoke through 2 1/2 hours of straight up rock and roll was amazing. Do your ears a favor and check them out, they may not be with us for much longer.

Guided by Voices

The $25,000/night Hardwood Suite

Soaking the legs post-run at the pool

Pavement's last show

Ratings and Recommendations