Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Website: www.YassineDiboun.com

This site has moved over to www.YassineDiboun.com....Thanks!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pine to Palm 100

Pine to Palm 100, held in southern Oregon, was to be the grand finale of my calendar that was chock full of races for 2011.  Last year I was unable to run the inaugural year because our daughter Farah was born three weeks prior.  It ended up being uncharacteristically cold, windy, and rainy for the time of year so I wasn't too hung up on missing it. This year my wife Erica would be chasing Farah around Portland while I made the trip down for year number two and this rugged point-to-point 100-mile mountain run put on by Hal Koerner.  Amazing how much changes in 365 days!

One of the things about 100-milers (which I told to house guest and first time 100 runner Derek Shultz) is that you have to expect the unexpected.  I think this is one of the aspects that draws me to these long and grueling journeys on foot through rugged terrain. Anyway, as we got closer I started getting really excited for my fifth career 100-mile run and was looking forward to some respite afterwards.

The race started up a paved road at 6 a.m. and I shared my light with defending champion and friend Timothy Olson. After a couple miles we turned into some singletrack and then started making our climb up Greyback Mountain. Timothy and I were feeling great, catching up on things, and celebrating our birthdays which fall on the same day (Aug. 28th...along w/ my daughter's b-day too!).

Profile Map:

As you can see on the profile above by mile 10 we already climbed about 5,000 feet and Timothy commented how we have seen some absolutely amazing vistas together in prior races, etc.  This one was intense...bright pink glow of the sunrise....looking down on mountains...seeing volcanoes off in the distance. We were both feeling so good...At this point I already feel that I've experienced the epitome of nature's beauty...another thing I love about trail ultra running.  

(Photo:  Tetsuro Ogata)

What goes up must come down and Timothy and I started bombing down the trails. I was really being mindful of not letting too much out too soon.  I let Olson go and just got into my own groove and eventually we popped out at O'brien Creek aid station at mile 13.6. I told Hal, Carly, and volunteers that I was having such a good time...really enjoying myself running the trails.  Hal told me that there was a long cruiser downhill dirt road in this next section as I pulled out of the aid station.

I didn't mind this part at all especially since it was going to connect me to more of the same trails that I just ran.  It was an opportunity to cover some ground, get dialed in nutritionally without having to constantly look down at the trail, and to hopefully close the gap on Olson a bit.  I came up next to a house that had a couple of dogs fenced-in barking at me voraciously.  All of the sudden one runs all the way to the end of the yard and somehow comes out running towards me barking.  I didn't like the way he was looking at me. I open my water bottle in case I need to do a spray/kick combo (which unfortunately I've had to do in the past w/ dogs) but a good hard yell sends him running away w/ his tail between his legs.  I smile and keep moving on in pursuit of Timothy.  As I approach the aid station at mile 21-ish I see Timothy's long "goldi-locks" about 60-90 seconds ahead on the road. I make a quick transition and keep rolling down the hills toward Seattle Bar aid station.

About a half hour later Hal pulls up next to me in his "Swagger Wagon" and tells me that I'm on 4-hour marathon pace.  We chat for a minute or two and he tells me where I'm headed, etc. and what to expect leading up to Seattle Bar.  I also knew that I'd see my friend and crew chief Todd Janssen (who just finished Leadville 100 and is an offical "Lead Man") for the first time. When I roll into the aid station I get weighed in, see a bunch of friends including Craig Thornley, Sonya, and Willie's mom....and Todd passes me everything I need for the next section.

I learn that Timothy is now like six minutes ahead  (I had to make a quick "pit stop" just before Seattle Bar) but Hal and company remind me that there's still lots of race left.  This next section is a big climb...much bigger than I expected...about 2,500 feet but it really zapped me pretty good.  
(Feelin' the burn climbing after Seattle Bar aid station. Photo: Michael Lebowitz)

We finally made it to the top where, again, we were treated with some sweet views as we ran a high ridge.  I really liked this section even though I was starting to feel some major fatigue.  Down we go again and this time it's a super steep descent. In three miles we drop over 2,000 feet and most of it doesn't involve many switchbacks. I rally down to Squaw Lakes and see Todd again as I tell him about the brutal course. He assures me that I'm doing great and that he'll see me again shortly after I circumnavigate the lake. Around the lake I go at a moderate pace.  It's beautiful and I really want to take a plunge but I plod on to the next checkpoint.

Todd lets me know that Chris Downie came through shortly after me and he was looking strong...and that Timothy was like 20 minutes ahead or so.  I was feeling rough but Todd talked me up a bit, told me I'd get through it, and walked w/ me as I ate some chips, a gel, an S-cap, and drank a cup of coke.  This combo got me fired up about two minutes later.  I started running down a long dirt road at a pretty good clip.  I was feeling much stronger at this point and felt confident about the next section of the race. Just when I start getting into some consistent running grooves I start climbing up again towards Kilgore Gulch.  I started mixing in some hiking and running and it was just a matter of time before I turned around to see the machine Chris Downie moving towards me w/ a focused look on his face.  We chat a bit and work together for maybe ten minutes and he continues on ahead of me.

This is where the race started falling apart for me. I didn't want to lose touch of Chris so I started cranking up the hills despite my fatigue. Then all of the sudden I feel a sharp twinge on the outside/bottom of my foot.  It stopped me in my tracks...I re-grouped...walked...pretended it didn't happen...walked some more....tried running again...and felt it again.  The more I tried running the worse it got.  It didn't take long for me to realize that my race was over.  I was so disappointed and depressed out there hobbling down the trails by myself.  I had thoughts of how Hal walked/ran his way around Mont Blanc this past August in close to 40 hours...thinking that maybe I could do that too...but then the pain again!  I sat down at times and just looked around...tired...bummed...thinking how cool of a section this would be if I were running.  Then I started getting angry with myself thinking that I raced too much this year in this first year of parenthood for me. I wasn't in a good space.  I picked up some sticks and used them as makeshift hiking poles and was wondering when other runners would start passing me.  It took close to an hour before the next runner came and I told them to let my crew know that I was done and that I'm walking my way in to DNF.

As I got about a half mile from the aid station at Hanley Gap I see Todd and Amy Sproston (who just placed 11th at World 100k championships and who was supposed to pace me at mile 80) running toward me. They were great and are awesome friends.  They were disappointed for me and concerned and helped me get situated.  Jason Hill (another crew member of mine) got me some ice and advil and wrapped me up as Todd put me in the back of my hatchback.  I was lucky to have them in my corner and to have my vehicle with everything right there.  Rennaker cut my wrist band and Pine to Palm 100 was over for me.  Then I blazed a big fatty with the rastafarian aid station workers below (joking!).

In all seriousness I think Pine to Palm 100 is a beautiful and legit course. Last year I heard some negativity regarding the race but I think it was largely due to the weather fluke.  There were some amazing views this year on the top of these mountains and magnificent trails.  Yes there were some dirt road sections but I feel that it's worth it to have these roads in order to enjoy a point-to-point mountain 100-miler.  Obviously I will have to return to get my buckle and see the other half of the course.  Thanks Hal-daddy, Carly, Hal's parents, Kelly, all the volunteers and medical help and ham radio operators. This is a race to put on the calendar...(but practice some long downhill running!).

Big congrats to Timothy Olson who shredded the course from start to finish and defended his title. Chris Downie who ran really strong again and Derek Shultz nabbed a podium finish in his first 100...well done man!  Willie Mcbride finished strong and ran a solid race...also in his first 100. Shahid Ali nailed it under 24 hours...quite impressive my friend. Everyone else that finished or attempted it...bravo!

Time to move on, enjoy some down-time from running, & let the body heal.  It's been a great season!  

Happy Trails!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Waldo 100k Race Recap

One of the many mysterious things about ultramarathons (especially longer ones) is that you never quite know what is going to happen once the race starts.  Waldo 100k, being one of my all-time favorites, was a race that I had hoped to run really well and secure a spot for Western States 100. It was my second time running (ran it in 2009) and I knew about the different grueling sections of this mountain trail race. I had somewhat of a strategy in my mind and felt like I was in decently good shape going in...although there was definitely some like-minded stiff competition.

(5 a.m. start time at the base of Willamette Pass Ski Area- All photos courtesy of Long Run Picture Co.)

(Up the ski slope we go into the dark forested hills...Always a nice way to start a 62 mile race!)

We all were packed together but I really wanted to try to remain out front because of what I remembered from 2009.  The road is really dry and dusty and I remember my mouth being caked w/ dust and dirt. So this year I ran just behind Mackey and Jace Ives and just ahead of the rest of the pack as I interspersed some power hiking and running. Eventually twilight broke and we were able to click off our headlamps and we were simultaneously greeted w/ some sweet downhill singletrack. This part was really fun for me although I did trip once, and I had to make a pit stop in the bushes, naturally.

After Aid Station 1 we started our ascent toward Mt. Fuji.  My buddy Nick Triolo and I teamed up and enjoyed some effortless miles together just like we were back home in Forest Park.  Dave Mackey was well ahead in first, Jace Ives in second, Nick and I in third and fourth, and Ian Sharman in fifth. Then there was another pack of runners not far back at all that consisted of former top five/ten runners such as Neil Olsen, Mark Lantz, and a few others that could downright run such as Downie, Kleffner, Joel Lanz, Gunderson, Aliza, Denise, etc. etc.

(The top of Fuji at sunrise is such a nice little pick-me-up...but there's plenty of running left to do!)

Another thing I should mention is that this race starts at over 5,000 feet above sea level and goes above 7,000 multiple times, topping out at almost 8,000 at the highest point. Coming from basically sea level in Portland makes it less efficient for oxygen to be transferred to the muscles that are crankin' up and down the mountains.  More on that later.

As we started descending Fuji I took an awkward jump on a technical section and felt some cramping in my right hamstring. I was really surprised and I yelled angrily and emphatically at myself, "What the bleep was that!!!"  We were only about 15 miles in and I couldn't believe this was happening.  I let Nick pass by, and then Ian Sharman, and I watched them disappear down the mountain and out of sight as I had to knock it back and re-group.

I knew I had Cheri Redwine waiting to hand off some food and a bottle of Perpetuum to me at mile 20 so I just cruised into that aid station still in the same position...just a few minutes back of Nick and Ian. I quickly headed out and started feeling a little better as time went on and I was packing more calories inside. I may have been trying to catch up while maintaining a somewhat high level of intensity and this, in turn, eventually caused some stomach distress. Neil Olsen then caught up to me and we switched out spots a couple times. I couldn't believe this was happening but I tried to stay calm and to just realize that it was a long day ahead of us still.

By mile 32 I started coming around a little and made it there a few minutes faster than I anticipated which made made me feel good. The way I was strategically planning was that Mackey and Sharman already have spots to WS100 so I just need to finish in third place. I thought that maybe Jace and Nick would falter a little as the race went on and I would be there to scoop up third and it would all come together as planned.

The miles kept ticking by, the temperature was definitely getting a lot warmer, and unfortunately every time I tried turning it up a notch I felt like I was going to cramp again! I just couldn't shake it no matter what I did!

The crux of the race is the second climb up to the Twins roughly miles 37-44 and I knew this going into the event. Despite knowing this and my goals I had the worst time up this section. I could not for the life of me muster up any power on the climbs, the snow (and heat) were slowing me down even more, and some negative thoughts were starting to creep in a little. So much of this sport is mental so I knew to stay strong and to re-focus.

Just after mile 44 I came rippin' around a corner and I see Jace Ives sitting on the ground! "Jace what's up?!!" He said that he was dropping out even though I tried encouraging him to take a break and to finish up if he could. He looked pretty worked and told me that Nick was about ten minutes ahead. I felt for Jace but this got me jacked up....Here I come Nick! Where are you?!  

Miles 44-49 are mostly downhill and I tried to hammer as much as I could but every time I tried to kick into a faster pace every muscle in both legs wanted to cramp.  Very frustrating. At the base of Maiden the volunteers told me that Nick still remained 10-11 minutes ahead and I knew we were about to tackle one of the most difficult parts of the race--a three mile 2,000 foot climb from miles 50-53!  At first I actually thought, "well, if I try to mix in some running with strong power hiking I might be able to clip off a minute or two and then I can hammer the last eight miles to the finish and maybe Nick will fade a little".  It sounded good theoretically until I attempted to run some of Maiden. By halfway up the mountain I was walking so pathetically slow that, now, I think Nick was putting time on me!
Finally I made it to "Leap of Faith" (another brutal exposed, rocky section) to find that Nick indeed put a minute or two on me.  Despite my supreme suffering at the top we were afforded some breathtaking views of the expansive area...WOW! so awesome!.....and then all of the sudden I hear someone yell from below, "MAKE IT STOP!!!!"----Who the heck is that??? And then I see Chris Downie with his muscular and tattooed torso moving toward me.  He moves past me and buries me as he disappears down Leap of Faith at a dangerous pace. I felt so deflated mostly because my quads were fried and I was literally walking on some of the downhills, which I never do!

The final eight miles were a little better at times as I was able to get into some decent running grooves again but any time I hit an uphill section I started walking. I know I lost a lot of time in this section as well but I knew the end was near. I just hoped not to be passed again with only a couple miles to go.

(Body language says it all....Disappointed!...and tired!)

I finally made it to the finish line in fifth place overall and fell into RD and friend Craig Thornley's arms. I got another Waldo hat and despite the hard-fought 10.5 hour journey I let Craig know that I think Waldo is one of the best races in the world. It may seem like a grand statement but this course is so magnificent, challenging, well-organized....the volunteers are top-notch (so helpful and funny!). I think people in the Pacific NW are so used to this type of beauty, etc. that we take it for granted sometimes.  Waldo is a special race for sure and I can't wait to return again someday.  Thank you so much Craig, Curt, Meghan, volunteers, aid station workers, and search and rescue...It really shows in how much passion you put into this race.

Just like every race there is a take-home lesson. I'm not going to sit here and type in detail the excuses of why I had a sub-par race...The bottom line is that some days everything is clicking and other days you're a little off. If the weather were perfect all the time then you wouldn't appreciate it as much.  Same for racing...you gotta take the good w/ the not-so-good. I am grateful to have experienced the 2011 Waldo 100k!

Shout-out Section:

      • First and foremost a huge congrats to friend/training partner/neighbor Nick Triolo...definitely a breakthrough race...Ran strong from start to finish...Super proud of you...There's no one I'd rather see grab that WS 100 spot out from under me!
      • The top two on mens and top two womens side- World Class athletes! Congrats Dave, Ian, Aliza, and Denise!
      • Downie made a strong close...nice work! Friends Kleffner and Willie ran strong races
      • Cheri Redwine for crewing for me...Thank you so much...you were a big help!
      • Rob Hendrickson in your first 100k...strong work man
      • And to all that attempted and/or finished that burly mountain 100k!!!
Results are HERE
More pictures/splits/info about race HERE

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mt. Hood Circumnavigation- August 9, 2011

(A great shot of me running down the trail catchin' a little air!  All photos: Joe Grant)

I had been wanting to do this run ever since I moved to Oregon back in August 2009 but something always seemed to get in the way. There is a short window of time when one can circumnavigate the mountain so the days are somewhat numbered. Coordinating with everyone's race schedule, personal schedules, and the condition of the mountain wasn't as difficult as I thought it was going to be.  I think everyone was just yearning to get out there and I am so glad we made it happen.  It was honestly one of the most special runs I have ever been on and from the pictures you can get a sense of why.  Words or pictures really don't do it much justice so I'm just going to leave you with a few pics, some links, and some facts and thoughts about our run.

(This looks like something out of "The Sound of Music"!!!!! Pictured: Me, Ian Sharman, Nick Triolo, Joe Kleffner.)

"The Crew": Left to right- Trevor Hostetlor, Joe Kleffner, Nick Triolo, Me, Joe Grant, Willie McBride, Ian Sharman)

"The Facts": 
  • Start time 6:30 a.m. at The Timberline Lodge (6,000 feet above sea level) and we ran it counterclockwise. 
  • About 41 miles with about 12,000 feet of climbing for the run.
  • 10.5 hours at a casual pace for the entire circumnavigation.
  • Elliot Glacier was tough to cross because of a major washout so we had to do a little "rock climbing"!
Joe Grant was like a hummingbird running ahead of us and lagging behind capturing the most quality pictures...I still find myself re-visiting his page over and over in awe of the beauty of Mt. Hood and it's surroundings.  
You can see the amazing photos by clicking HERE 

We all bonded quite a bit during the 10 hour run, and before and after, and I feel that we created some really great memories out there.  I am grateful to have experienced that with you all.

 This run is an instant classic. Now...on to the next!!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mt. Hood 50-miler Race Report

Two years ago I ran my second hundred miler (100 in the Hood) on the same trails (PCT) as the Mt. Hood 50-miler, which is now being directed by Todd Janssen.  I was new to Oregon at that time and I feel that my running has come a long way since then as well.  When I ran 100 in the Hood I literally didn't know more than a couple people, and I ran half the race on an injured leg.  Needless to say I didn't have the greatest journey out there but I still got my finisher's buckle. Fast forward almost two years....and many miles later to this past Saturday and that whole experience was redeemed out in the same beautiful mountains and trails with lots of like-minded friends. The whole event and day turned out great!...and I was home before supper!

Off we went into the trails and cool air at 6:30 a.m. I ran with Amy for a mile or so... then Trevor and I reminisced on how these were the exact same trails we met on some two years ago. It was a tight little pack for a while and I could hear Kleffner, Nick, Trevor, etc. talking behind us as I stayed out front and eventually pulled away a little bit.

After Aid Station 1 I had to pull over into the bushes and I was passed by a runner with a mohawk (Mike). I caught back up to him and learned that he was from Florida and this was his first 50.  We ran together for a bit until the turn-a-round and then I started pulling away sensing that he was fatiguing a little bit.

(The trails were so soft and cushy and the scenery was amazing for the first few hours)

I'm not super crazy about double out-and-back courses but one positive side is that you get to see everyone multiple times.  Charles was doing  his first 50 and I gave him some words of encouragement and saw many other familiar faces as well.  The pack of Nick T., Joe K., Trevor, etc. were only a couple minutes back at the turn-a-round and the temps were starting to rise a little at this point.

A couple miles later I was having some gastrointestinal issues again and I had to make another pit stop into the bushes.  I can usually get in and get out pretty quickly and when I was getting back out into the trail my friend/neighbor/training buddy Nick Triolo startled me.  I was happy to see him running so well and we started back at it going after 1st place mohawk Mike. Pretty soon Joe Kleffner caught up to us and we all ran together for a bit.  After a couple miles we caught Mike at the aid station and Nick and I zoomed past him.  We were having fun out there...yellin...making animal noises...talkin' gibberish....until I fell pretty hard and nailed my back on a root...Thankfully Nick was there to peel me off the ground and help me up!
(Nick and I going for broke...Is there any other way to go?!?!?!  Photo: Jason Leman)

We hit the start/finish at mile 28 at around 3hours 20 minutes which seemed pretty quick for me. As I do in most races I wondered if I stepped over that threshold.  I grabbed my bottle of Perpetuum and re-stocked and Nick and I made a pretty quick transition heading south on the PCT.  This next part of the race was the lowest point for me.  Miles 30 through about 36 just sucked for me! I even walked some short portions and this is a race that doesn't involve much elevation change (only about 5,000 feet of climbing over 50-miles). I honestly thought that I wasn't going to be able to hang with Nick.  We rolled into the Red Wolf aid station and as soon as we got in who do we see/hear coming in behind us???? Uhhh...oh yeah...I forgot...that guy that has the fastest 100-mile time on American soil.....Ian Sharman!

Nick and I weren't moving nearly as quickly or efficiently as Ian and he strolled right past us and bounced out of sight. We just continued onward and the heat was really starting to take a toll on us now.  Luckily we came across a knee deep stream after our descent where we splashed our heads with the cold water.  That really refreshed me and eventually we made it to our turn-a-round at about mile 40.  When I saw 10 miles to go sign I felt motivated and the food there combined w/ the cold water energized me.  I pushed on out of sight with an attempt to go for Ian.

I felt that I nailed that climb pretty well given that the last time I did it was in the middle of the night at like mile 92! Needless to say it was much easier this time and I felt like I was getting into some good running grooves after the slog from miles 32-36ish.  I was getting updates from people that Ian was 5-7 minutes ahead...then the closer I got to the finish the farther I was getting away from him!

I came in right at 6:45 flat and I found out that Ian put 10 minutes on me in the last 5 miles....the guy was sprinting to go under 6:30 and he just made it w/ a few seconds to spare! Nice work Ian....Thanks for not killing me in an Elvis suit or something similar! Apparently we both broke the prior course record and I felt really good coming up over that finish line....just like I did in 100 in the Hood...The whole race brought up a lot of memories for me and I think it helped fuel me too.

A few minutes later Nick came in looking just as strong as he ran all day and then the rest of the amazing athletes came trickling in as well.  Good job to friend and ultra phenom Amy Sproston who crushed the course record for the win, and there were many other inspiring runs out there this past weekend.  

Congratulations to ALL that ran the Mt. Hood 50!

Thanks so much to Todd Janssen and all the volunteers...You guys really put on a fun, well-organized event....Great food...Chiropractors....Glass pints...nice shirts....oh yeah...and very well marked!....and thanks to Inov-8 for being one of the main sponsors and for them giving out so much schwag.  

Full Results from the race can be seen by clicking HERE

Friday, July 29, 2011

3 Non Joggers: It's 39! "No Meat For Old Men"

(Red track suits aren't just reserved for Run DMC...Carl The Mailman rocked his at Forest Park 50k)

I made another guest appearance on the entertaining podcast by 3 Non Joggers here in Portland, OR.  Not only did I laugh a lot but I scored a mason jar of home-made gazpacho from Carl's wife. Thanks!
Have a listen HERE...and see why people are going NUTS about these guys!

I am featured on episode #39- "No Meat For Old Men"---Enjoy! and don't forget to pass this along on twitter and enter for prizes.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Floradix Iron Supplement

As a vegan endurance athlete one of the most important nutrients that I need to keep an eye on is my iron levels.  Iron leaves the body much quicker in athletes because we sweat so much and a deficiency can definitely compromise endurance and overall energy levels. Even though an iron shortage is much more common in female athletes I have been taking this product Floradix for a couple years now.  I take it not only for the iron but for the other vitamins such as B and C. Floradix Iron and Herbs is one of several top notch products that I regularly take made by Flora Health.  This past March I was lucky enough to take a tour of the facility to see the attention to detail put into each and every bottle. They grow the herbs right on their own farm in northern Washington state and methodically extract the nutrients into the iron mixture.  Besides the fact that it is vegan and easy on the digestive tract, one of the best things I like about this product is the absorption.  Flora claims that each dose contains 10 mg of elemental iron from 87 mg of ferrous gluconate. This form of iron, being chelated with an organic acid, has a higher absorption rate than most other forms of iron.

So if you are feeling tired....you may have an iron deficiency!  

Check out this number one selling iron supplement made by the same company that brings you Udo's Oil

(Plants and herbs being grown on the farm just minutes from the facility.  Photo: Joe Grant)

(Getting ready for the Udo's Oil factory tour with Shane Hart. Photo: Joe Grant)

(Joe and I obtained so much valuable information straight from owner Thomas Greither)

If you have a few minutes please watch this inspirational and informative video on the history and philosophies of the amazing family/company.  Thank you Flora ! ! ! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

San Diego 100-Miler Race Report-- 2011

A few months ago I decided that I wanted to run my next 100-miler in San Diego based on the location, the timing of the event, and the popularity of the race. I also had the plan to simultaneously raise money and awareness for the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp-- an organization that I am affiliated with that helps students and adults with disabilities. You can learn more about that whole mission by clicking HERE. When I initially met with Terri Taylor, the Communications Director for the camp, she asked me what goals I had in mind for the run. I told her that I wanted to raise a certain amount of money to help financially incapable students, and that I wanted to win (it is after all a foot race!). She later on told me that she thought that was awesome. Fast forward a couple months, over $3,000 in donations, and lots of solid training I showed up at the starting line in the mountains at 6,000 feet-- an hour east of San Diego, CA.

(Moments after the start...Dylan Bowman in yellow, me in center, Rod Bien on right--Photo by Brett Rivers)

I didn't tell many people about it but about a week before the race I was having some Achilles tendon pain. I had some anxiety about the whole situation but tried to stay calm, do some self-care techniques, and I got some work done on it such as acupuncture and massage. By race day I was feeling great but still had some apprehension about running 100 miles on a possibly compromised tendon that you can't really run without!  My acupuncturist in Portland Ruth Oclander gave me a small piece of advice that stuck in my mind throughout the week and the race. She told me to imagine a bright white light (which signifies healing) around my tendon any time I feel a slight twinge, or if someone asks me about it, or just in general thoughts or anxiety about the issue.

The first few miles when you are rested, tapered, and well-trained just seem so easy. I effortlessly glided into the first aid station in first place after running alongside some deer through some gorgeous early morning single track.

(Cruising into Aid Station #1 at mile 7.3 all smiles...so far so good! photo Devon Crosby-Helms)

During this time I thought I felt a couple little possible "blips on the radar" regarding my tendon but really focused on staying loose, relaxed, and the white light imagery. When I saw my wife Erica at the next aid station she emphatically asked, "is your leg ok!?"  I told her that I felt it a tiny bit but that I thought I'd be okay. It was much of the same through absolute picture perfect trails until mile 23 and by now I knew that I was in the zone and was going to finish this baby! Erica passed a bottle of Perpetuum to me and I gave her and baby Farah a quick kiss and I strolled out of the aid station still leading the way.

The course was much more exposed, rocky, and technical than I expected and the sun was rising higher with the temperature with not a cloud in the sky. In the next section I could look back down the valley a bit as it twisted around and climbed and I would periodically get a visual on second place Coloradoan Dylan Bowman. At one point he gave me a fist pump in the air which I took as "we were both rockin' out". He was probably about five minutes behind me at this point.

At around mile 30-ish we dropped down into a canyon where we were supposed to run a five-ish mile loop back to the same aid station before climbing out a couple miles up a steep paved road. Honestly this was one of the most difficult parts of the race for me. I was extremely hot and everyone was greeted (attacked) by swarms of gnats or flies on roids. I tried everything including taking my shirt off and swinging it around my head like a helicopter, and tying my shirt around my head like a bonnet. They were relentless all the way to the top of the paved road where they finally tired out a bit.  I was so thankful for that and for the lady with a cooler full of popsicles! I kept pluggin' along toward the 50-ish mile aid station still in the lead with Dylan a few minutes back.

When I came into the half-way point aid station my new neighbor and buddy Jason Hill helped me re-stock my pockets and mixed up another bottle for me quickly which was a huge help. I was definitely feeling the heat at this point but Jason, with his South African accent, encouraged me to keep killin' it! I badly wanted to take my shoes off and dump out the sand and tiny rocks and particles out of my Inov-8 X-talon 212's but kept the forward progress.

At the Stonewall Mine Aid Station they told me that I would be ascending the steep Stonewall Peak and then I would be descending the other side. I was also told by Kim Gaylord (who helped me so kindly throughout the race) that Rod Bien was puking and that her husband Topher was having a rough time as well. I knew Dylan wasn't too far back and despite my fatigue I felt really good about how I power hiked and ran this section. It was this point in the race where I was starting to draw on things like the campers from the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp. I thought about how we once took a bunch of students on a vertical one-mile hike up from Timberline Lodge to Silcox Lodge, and how they all persevered despite issues I can't even imagine dealing with on a regular basis. I was sweating profusely and the sun was beating down on me and the dusty exposed mountain. I knew I had to be getting close to the top and came to a "Y" in the trail where I was almost sure it said "Straight Ahead".  I kept powering up...running...hiking...grunting....sighing a little....until I thought, "I haven't seen a ribbon in a few minutes". Then I saw some people up at the platform at the top overlooking the vast land.  "That must be where I go down the other side, right?" I asked a hiker heading up the same way if there was a way down the other side and she said, "not unless you're a rock climber". I panicked at this point.  "I'm off course!" I started scrambling all over the place and heading back down the trail toward my competition...something that you never want to be doing in a race!

I finally, which felt like forever, got back to the "Y" and realized that this is where I was supposed to descend. As I came across a couple hikers I asked if a guy in a yellow jersey came running past and they confirmed that Dylan had passed about 10-minutes prior.  I was so pissed at myself and I just didn't have a ton of energy to muster at this point.  I let gravity take me down to Paso Pichacho aid station at mile 64 where I was told by Kim and others that Dylan left seven minutes prior to me arriving confused about the whole situation. I needed calories, caffeine, and the incessant encouragement and motivation wasn't doing anything for me. My attitude was just kind of deflated but I got out of there relatively quickly and I knew that there was still a lot of race left.  I made sure I didn't try any surges to soon in order not to burn out at one of the toughest times of a 100-mile race.

The miles seemed to just drag on at this point but finally the temperatures were starting to drop a little and we were in some shaded trails. I eventually made it to to grab my night gear and was getting regular  updates from people that Dylan was consistently between 7-10 minutes ahead. After I donned my headlamp it became a different race...the trails are different and you just seem to get into a different frame of mind.  You realize that you've been running hard since early in the morning and now, on one of the longest days of the year, you are running in the night! It's a crazy place to be mentally, physically, emotionally....you sometimes just want to say, "I'm done...I can't do it anymore...I'm cold..my feet hurt, etc. etc." but you have to stop the chatter and just keep pushing through. I thought again about the campers at Mt. Hood, their parents, and how much I want to finish this run for them...and for myself.

I came into the mile 80 aid station and stared at all the food and could not imagine eating any of it. My digestive system was just shocked and nothing appealed to me...I think I choked down a Powerbar and a potato and another gel and disappeared back into the darkness. I had passed the only relay team who were honoring their friend who passed away and I felt that I was just on my own for the rest of the run/hike. Honestly I just felt fine with taking second place and was focused on beating my prior best 100-mile time of 18:53...but didn't rule out the idea of something happening to Dylan and me still winning.  I kept looking back every once in a while to see a couple head lamps off in the distance behind me and I just thought it was the two relay guys. Another hour passed and the lights were getting closer and I could hear their voices. I thought, "wow these guys are really moving pretty well!"  As they approached me from behind around mile 87 I moved off the trail and said, "Strong work guys!"  Then as I shined my light on the first runner I see a Patatgonia shirt and Rod Bien's face!  I thought I saw a ghost!  I yelled, "You're back!"....Rod yells to me, "I'm back from the dead!" and scurries past me with his pacer David Easa.  I was so shocked and yet again deflated at that same time and I wondered if there were more runners reeling me in as well.

Despite this unexpected pass by Bien it really energized me and I picked up the pace to try and latch on the back of those two. There were like 30 mph winds up on the Pacific Crest Trail and we were approaching the 87.5 mile aid station. Then something happened that completely took me off guard.  When I entered the lighted aid station I was yelling out my number and that I needed water and then I see Rod standing there looking at me.  He turns to me and says to me right as I enter, "Hey Yassine...Do you just wanna finish this thing up together?" I think we both were pretty fried literally and figuratively from running 15 hours and what we had to endure throughout the day and without hesitation I said, "Let's do this".  Rod introduced me to David and we kept powering onward as we got some cheers from the aid station volunteers.  I was shocked again when Rod encouraged me to hang with them after I suggested them pushing on without me. I just didn't seem to have the same pep in my step as Rod was showing but I dug deep. Eventually the three of us started getting into some decent running grooves and the human contact helped me immensely.

There was much more light on the trails from all of our headlamps and we got to know each other.  Conversation is kind of strange at mile 90---you are just completely raw nerves....your brain doesn't work as well...it's cold, windy, you grunt, cuss, piss, fall, etc. etc.  There were also periods of silence or negativity (mostly from me and occasionally from David) but Rod stayed positive and led us toward the finish.  A 100-miler is so difficult to articulate and so is this experience of camaraderie I experienced with Rod and David.  Instead of separately working against each other we worked together in a race against the clock abandoning the notion of placement, etc. It's kind of strange that Rod and I are both living in Oregon  and we actually never met in person prior to this race.  Like Rod said, "This is a cool bond that we will always share."

We finally made it into the finish line area with big smiles on our faces crossing together, tied for 2nd overall, with a time of 18 hours and 12 minutes...a personal best for Rod and myself!  Race Director Scott Mills put a medal around our neck and we were so happy to be finished with the 10th annual San Diego 100-miler! It is such an amazing, indescribable feeling that you get from crossing that line.  I am still trying to process it all...it seems like a dream...almost a blur...but it definitely happened and I learned a lot during this race. This run had so much meaning behind it not only for the charity fundraiser for the camp but for a lesson in not giving up and sportsmanship. 100-milers are a trip for sure!  Thanks Rod and David...I'll always remember that....Big thanks to Scott Mills, all the volunteers and workers...and to my wife Erica and daughter Farah for being such troopers.  I also want to thank everyone that donated toward the camp and made the whole weekend such a huge success.

Results---Photos---Stories, etc. from the San Diego 100-miler can be seen HERE

Thank you to my sponsors that fuel me and help make my life and training so much easier:  Inov-8, Udo's Oil, Drymax Socks...I really appreciate it!

Congrats to Krissy Moehl and Dylan Bowman who ran such killer races both taking the win...and to everyone else that endured the race (which was much more difficult than I expected!)

See Rod's race report HERE and his pacer David Easa's report on "Sportsmanship" HERE

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

San Diego 100- Bigger Than Just a Race

It's been about three full days since I finished The San Diego 100-mile Endurance run. The race was epic indeed--a long day in the sun navigating rugged trails overlooking beautiful vistas in a part of the world I've never visited.  However, the way in all unfolded was definitely not the way I expected. I will have more of a detailed report soon but as I am here on the east coast on vacation with my family I will leave you with a quick summary and some powerful glimpses into this wild and crazy sport of ultrarunning.

*I led the race for 61 miles....got off course for about 7-10 minutes and blew the lead to Bowman....Deflated
*I kept motoring on knowing that there was still a lot of race left....finally the sun went down giving us cooler temps.
*Mile 85-ish....Rod Bien passes me w/ his pacer David.  It blew me away as I thought he was not a contender (I got updates that he was puking all day)
* Aid station 87.5 I came in about 20 seconds behind Rod to find him standing there waiting for me. He asked if I wanted to finish this thing up together.  I was surprised but didn't hesitate to say, "Let's do this!"
*Finished much faster than I would have alone in a time of 18:12 and made a strong connection along the way. I learned a lot last weekend...and I still got a PR in the 100-mile distance.

In a response to why or how we finished together here is what Rod wrote...:

I'll try and answer as honestly as I can from my perspective.  I had a tough day.  Nothing was coming easy to me on Saturday.  Not sure why but it felt like a lot of work.  The course was tougher than I thought.  It is a harder course than WS.... or slower anyway but not as tough as AC.  It was just quite technical and that caught me off guard.  My first 50 miles just sucked.  However, when I came into mile 58, I heard Yassine had gotten off track and had lost the lead after getting lost for about 10 minutes.  I felt bad for him as he had been in the lead all day.  At that point, for whatever reason, my stomach turned and I was able to run hard.  At that point I was 45 minutes behind Yassine.  However, I was pretty sure during the next section, I was putting time on him.  I was just running well and would have been surprised if he was running as fast as I was, without a pacer, and considering he had lost the lead.   When I got to mile 63, they said I was 25 minutes behind and that definitely got me fired up.  I ran the next section as well as I have ever run in the second half of a 100.  When I got to 71, they said Yassine was about 10 minutes up on me.  At this point, I knew I'd catch him as it is much easier to be "the hunter".  I was surprised that I didn't get catch him on the climb at mile 75 or so as I ran every step.  When I got to mile 80 (?), they said I was 3 minutes back.  Anyway, at this point headlamps were on and we were running on a cold and very windy ridge (PCT) and I could see him looking back at me (and my pacer).  I assumed (correctly) that he thought I was part of a relay team (there was just one out there... long story), and would have no idea it was me.  I finally caught up to Yassine at about mile 87.  I think it definitely surprised Yassine as I was pretty destroyed earlier in the day.  I quickly passed him and headed towards the aid station.  On my way there, I realized that it had been awesome having him as a "goal" but I really had no real interest in beating him.  I know.  I should be more competitive and a lot of times I wish I was more like Browning or something.  But, in the end, I just thought it would be cooler to finish with Yassine.  Its actually kinda weird that we had never met before this race.  And, given the choice, I'd rather become a closer friend with him because of this position than to work my ass off to try (and maybe he would have beaten me) and put a couple minutes on him and secure second place on my own.  He was just behind me when I got to the aid station so I asked him if he would just like to hop on the train with us and finish together?  He said it would be great to have the company as he had been alone all day.  It was cool to run the last 12 miles in together.  Its a cool bond that we will always have.  There is no prize money and no one is ever going to remember any of this shit, so why not create something a little bit bigger.  Maybe it is just a cop out that I'm not competitive enough or maybe I was scared he would come back and beat me.  But, really and truly, it just sounded cooler to finish together.  I'm glad I did it and I hope he is glad that he agreed.  100 milers are powerful stuff.  That's why we do it, right?   It was a great race and we both had to overcome a lot of shit and setbacks.  It seemed fitting to finish together.
Sorry, LB, we didn't hold hands though.  Thanks again, Yassine.  That was a cool run.
I should also mention that I believe that if Yassine had not gotten lost, he probably would have won.  I think we all know how tough it is to get lost while in the lead and to get back on course, especially if you don't have a pacer.  Those last 20 miles are tough in a situation like that.


Wow, I'm still humbled and blown away by all of this. It definitely made for a weekend that I will never forget.  Thank YOU Rod and David, and to everyone else at San Diego 100 this past weekend.

For more insights and perspectives read Rod's race report HERE
and his pacer (and a stand-up guy) David Easa's post on Sportsmanship HERE

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Forest Park 50k Race Report- 2011

The 2011 edition of "Ultramarathon Sunday" (seen on signs intermittently throughout the park's race course) went down in my backyard training grounds and it was really nice to see so many familiar locals and friends.  The weekend started off with a 25-mile run in the gorge that included the summit of Larch Mountain on Saturday, and then a pre-race-mountain-of-a-meal with Glenn Tachiyama at one of my favorite vegan restaurants called Blossoming Lotus.

It was fun and kind of strange to be in my living room less than an hour before race time on Sunday morning. I was a little nervous how it would all go down with this last back-to-back big weekend before San Diego 100, but I assured myself that it was just a training run race, as I tried to alleviate some of the pressure.  I rode my bike over to the start about a mile away and met with some friends before the start at Lower Macleay Park.  The weather was perfect and I knew the course well so I felt really comfortable in that regard.  Just before "go time" I looked over to see Erica and Farah and that made the smile that was already on my face a little bigger!

The 20k and 50k runners started together up the Macleay Trail to Stone house (Wildwood) and I found myself behind about ten runners who were mostly 20k runners. Todd Braje and I ran together for a bit but then he pulled away about ten seconds ahead. I knew that he was the man to beat in this race and he and I have run many miles of trails together in the park. 

(At the junction of Wildwood and Macleay Trail sits a landmark called "Stone House")

Strangely after about three or four miles I started feeling supercharged with energy. As we climbed a little I started clipping off 20k runners one by one, and then I passed Todd. A little voice in my head said, "what are you doing Yassine?", but I decided to just go with the feeling. The endorphins were in full effect and I eventually came across my buddy Rob who was just behind the two 20k leaders, brothers Martin and Joel Dieterich. I was feeling so good that I passed them as well and really didn't say much more than, "good job guys".  I think we were all pretty surprised at that move...especially when I surged on out of sight!

I was the first one to come into aid station 1 at Firelane 1 and was greeted by Rick and my friend Joe Kleffner who were volunteering....thanks guys! and good to see you out there. I continued to just push the pace on the familiar muddy trails of Forest Park and the Wildwood Trail. Wearing my Inov-8 X-Talon 190's also gave me some confidence in the sloppy conditions and I just decided to see how much ground I could cover while I was still feeling strong.

Finally I made it down Oil Line Rd. which I knew was going to be a potential butt-slide all the way down to Leif Ericson fire road.  Of course Glenn picked that spot to photograph all the runners but I managed to wipe out just before I came into his view. He got some great shots of people....CLICK HERE to view all the excellent photos Glenn Tachiyama captured last weekend, and the Oil Line slip-and-slide photos are definitely comical!

Miles 21-24ish I really started fading and I was very surprised that I hadn't been caught yet. I just kept plodding on and welcomed any climbs as my hamstrings were kind of hurting from hammering for so long.  This was only my second 50k that I've ever run that had less than 5,000 feet of climbing in it so I knew there was potential for a PR (3:52). Just before the last aid station I got past the rough patch and started running really well again. I ate some food, downed some drink quickly, and headed for the finish. A few minutes after I left I see buddy and new neighbor Jason Hill coming toward the aid station at this out-and-back section! I give him a high five and start hammering home knowing that the last 10k is pretty fast being mostly downhill.
The 50k Elevation Profile...about 3,200 feet of climbing

I also knew that I was going to go sub 4-hour, unless something drastic happened, but was wondering if I could get that PR. Just like early in the race I seized the opportunity and went for it! "On your left!!!!" I yelled at hikers and other runners and hopefully I didn't come off as too obsessive or rude!  Eventually I made the last turn at Stone House and I see my friend Todd Janssen walking his dogs. He tries saying something to me but I just blew past him maybe giving him a high five. About a minute later I realized that I wasn't going to make it, but still ran strong to the finish in 3:54....First place overall. 

See full results HERE

It was a fun day and I was happy to run so well on my home turf.  I met some really nice people and I was satisfied with how I ended my training leading up to San Diego.  Thanks to the race directors and volunteers and to the Forest Park Conservancy. 

Congratulations to all that raced on "Ultramarathon Sunday" in one of my favorite places to run....Forest Park!