Monday, August 22, 2011

3 Mile swim (Alcatraz and Back)

After our trip to Ansel Adams, Murali Krishna asked me to arrange a long open water swim in preparation for the Bridge to bridge 10K (6.2 mile) swim.

I got Gary Emich’s contact from Tandy/Doug and set up an Aquatic Park (AP) to Alcatraz and back swim for Monday August 22nd.

We got to South End Rowing Club bright and early and after a quick tour of the facilities – Gary explained the tides and the various signals he would be using to keep us bunched together. Chakri and I were still a little sore from our 50 mile run on Saturday. I was hobbling around with a few large blisters...but the cool bay waters would be good for the sore legs.

Given that we were heading out at the peak of the flood tide (6:30 AM SHARP), we had to aim to the west of Alcatraz and the slowing tide would drift us towards Alcatraz Island. Gary asked us to get suited up and wait for the horn at Aquatic Park. There we stood; Chakri, Mouli, Murali Krishna (MK) and I waiting for the large yellow RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) to show up at the opening of AP (The RIB was not allowed to enter AP). 6:30 sharp the fog horn wet off and through the murky light of dawn we could just about make the outlines of the RIB. The four of us started off and we stayed together as we slipped out into the bay. Once out in the bay, Gary pointed to the direction he wanted us to swim and off we went. Slowly, as the sun rose, we could see the outline of Alcatraz and Gary kept the boat to the east of us so we would not be sucking in all that exhaust.

Out of Aquatic Park

The going was good and the water was calm. Being a left side breather I had to make an adjustment to keep the boat in sight (it was on my right) – Mouli and MK were 5 to 10 meters ahead and Chakri and I stayed together. We had all discussed that we would stay in a group, so every few minutes Mouli and MK would stop and wait for us to catch up. Once we settled in to a decent pace we kept drifting to the east (tide coming in) and Gary would point us to the west…finally we made it to the island and stood up on the rocky beach on the west end of Alcatraz. My wetsuit had begun to chaff around the neck and was getting a bit irritating. After a brief break (about a min) we headed back. The tide had begun to shift and was now moving west (out to the ocean).


On the way GGB in the background

On the way back my goggles started leaking and I had to keep clearing them, no matter what I did it just would not seal tight! As we swam on the tide and wind picked up and Gary kept pointing us to the east. The AP opening is pretty tricky and can’t really be seen from the bay. Then we heard Gary say something but I could not hear him or follow what he was trying to say. MK said we need to swim to the wall on the west of AP, that did not make sense to me as we were to head inside AP. I kept fighting the current and trying to head to the opening...finally I swam close to the boat and asked Gary what was going on. He said we missed the opening and the tide was too fast to try swimming to it, he said 'aim for the rock wall' to the west of the opening. Off we went, I saw the buoy zipping past me...well it was actually me zipping past the buoy :-) the tide was moving really quick. I looked back and saw that Chakri was still close, so I started a sprint to the wall (I thought it was a sprint). I got to the rocks and stood up, and cut my feet on those sharp rocks. Then headed back to the boat.

As I climbed onto the boat Chakri came by and we told him that he had to touch the wall and then come back to the boat, so off he went :-). Gary looked at us laughing and said, "I'm sure Chakri is saying, 'what a bunch of bastards'..." :-). Once Chakri was on board, I patched up my cuts and off we went for a nice warm shower and back to a normal day at work.


Big thanks to Gary, he is an awesome guy.
Gary Emich web site: Lane Lines to Shore Lines

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Run-de-vous (50 mile run)

Run-de-vous endurance runs
(All photographs from Rajeev Patel's race page:

When Rajeev Patel sent out an email saying he was organizing an ultra race to celebrate the people you love, I was in. My brother had just been diagnosed with cancer and was getting ready for chemo. I signed up and said I will run to help him fight his cancer...that was April. By the time he was ready for chemo, the cancer had already metastasized and spread, and on May 24th he passed away. After coming back from India, training was the last thing on my mind and I kind of fell back on a lot training. Swimming seemed the only activity that gave me some relief. Come August and I was chatting with Anu Singh and Patel and I said that since I was not ready for the 50 miler I would skip the race...I immediately got emails from them saying I HAD to do it in Raghu's memory :-) - so well, off I went to run, jog, walk & crawl my way to the finish.

My final impetus for the race came when 15 year old Nishad Singh (Raj & Anu Singh's son, coached by Rajeev Patel) was running his 24 hour run in preparation for his first 100 miler. I was inspired and thought, 'let me go and run with him for a few hours and see how I feel'. I hung around with Nishad and stayed on my feet for about 6 hours walking, running, jogging around the tracks. That evening I knew I could do the 50 mile run without hurting myself :-). Nishad went on to run 60+ miles in 24 hours, he is an incredible kid.

Renuka and I went for the carbo load dinner at Bucca-de-beppos in Palo Alto and met all the other runners. It was great to meet Alan Geraldi after years! This is the crazy guy who helped push me towards doing my first Ironman race in 2002. After a nice evening exchanging stories with all the ultra veterans we headed back for a good nights sleep.

We got to the start at 5:15am and after setting my things up, I headed to the start line where Race Director Rajeev Patel was giving some last minute tips. On my request he played the Beatles song 'In my life' in memory of my brother. That was a really nice gesture and I thank all the other runners for indulging me this request. 6:00AM sharp we were off, whooping and cheering in a chilly, foggy morning. I had decided to run a fast(ish) 19 miler in training for Twin Cities Marathon on Oct 2nd, 2011, then slow down to a decent pace for the next 10 miles and then jog/walk the rest. The race was around a flat 2 mile loop and it was nice because you got to the aid station every 30 mins or so and there were always plenty of folks cheering, helping and ready to walk a few laps with you.

I kept to the plan and then walked a few laps. Alan and I kept company for a while then he took off. It was nice talking to the other ultra athletes, a few of them were regulars at the 100 mile circuits and it was great getting race and training tips from them. Nishad was in fine form and he had his AWESOME friends with him. These kids must have each run well over 45 miles for sure. Bill McCarthy was there too running his first 100 miler, Bill has always been a big inspiration and it was nice meeting him. Anju came by and she kept me company for close to 6 loops (may be more) and it was nice catching up with her and hearing about her recent world travels.

The miles just melted away, and before I knew it I was done with my first ultra. The only damage was a few blisters on my feet.

Next morning Renuka and I came back to help others finish their 100 mile races. It was humbling to see all these folks pushing and willing themselves on, they had been running through the night! I walked with Alan for a few miles and then cheered as all of them came in to finish. Such an amazing bunch of folks. After helping Rajeev Patel and his crew wrap up all the stuff, I took a bike ride around the 2 mile lap to ensure that there was no trash on the trail, I must say that the runners were very good at keeping the trail clean.

Big thank you to Patel, all the volunteers and folks who came to cheer the runners. This was a fun race and I'll probably be back next year again.

Rest In Peace Raghu, you are missed...more than you you know.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ansel Adams Wilderness: Lillian Lake Loop (August 13th to 15th

Ansel Adams Wilderness: Lillian Lake Loop (August 13th to 15th) Thanks to Chakri for inviting us to the Lillian Lake Loop backpacking trip. This was Renuka's first backpacking trip and I was hoping that she would enjoy the awesome experience. The planning involved about 80 emails :-) but we finally nailed it down to 7 of us (First timers: Renuka & Megha, Chakri, Stan, Abhijit, Krishna and I). We left the Bay Area around 3:30pm on Friday Aug 12th and stayed at the Sky Ranch in Oakhurst, CA. As soon as we checked in we worked our way to the bar. Sky Ranch is a nice cozy place tucked away in a corner of Oakhurst. The bar (The Branding Iron) is supposed to be part of a 100 year old converted mountain ranch, and has a nice old bar feel to it. The walls around the bar are covered with dollar bills signed with memories of past patrons. As we walked in the bar was closing, but the extremely friendly bartender Johnnie Rae (an Elvis impersonator) opened the bar for us. All of us has a few drinks, Abhijit and I had a few few more :-) - The evening was great with Johnnie bringing out his guitar and singing a few Elvis songs for the 5 of of still at the bar.

We began our drive up to the trail head at Clover Meadow at around 9:30am. The road to the trail head was really bad, most of it was potholed and in terrible shape. After squeezing into the packed trail head parking lot we set off on the Walton/Fernandez trail towards our first campsite, Flat Lake. With about 30lbs on our backs we made our way up to Flat Lake. Some of the climbs were tough but by and large the 7 miles there were beautiful and everyone made it without any issues. The only problem we had was the immense amount of mosquitoes in the area...just swarming. Thankfully we all had head-nets and plenty of repellent. Once we got to Flat Lake we set up camp and found a nice fireplace build with rugged stones. After we were all settled, I took a quick dip into the lake to freshen up and were all set for an evening with a small fire, a sip of vodka and some dried 'Mountain House' food packs.
We were up and packed by 10am the next morning and made our way back to the Lillian Loop (Flat Lake takes a small detour off the main trail and is on an extension of the Fernandez trail) and continued in our anti-clock wise direction towards Lillian Lake. The route to Lillian was a bit more challenging than yesterdays trip to Flat Lake, so Stan, Abhijit and I did some out and back runs to relieve others off their backpacks for short steep climbs. We made it to Lillian and hung around for an hour. Then we made our way towards Staniford Lakes. Once at Staniford (around 12:30pm) we stopped and tried to figure out our next step. So Chakri, Abhijit and Stan decided to head up to Chittenden Lake (our next campsite) and set up a few tents and then come back for the rest of us at Staniford. Megha, Renuka, Krishna and I climbed our way to the largest of the Staniford Lakes and found an awesome spot to rest and swim. The water was clear and cool, I'd hazard it was in the low 60s (F). Stan, Chakri and Abhijit joined us about 2.5 hours later and after we all had a good swim we headed for Chittenden Lake which had a decent climb and an unclear, rocky trail. The climb there was one place a lot of us were not very comfortable. Some of those ledges seems a bit hairy specially when you have 35lbs on your back :-). But the campsite was awesome, Chittenden Lake reminded me a lot of Minarets Lake, rocky, clear and edged with snow. With all the tents set up we settled in to watch the sunset and moon rise and then for another nice evening with a campfire, jokes, a few drinks and food.
By far the highlight of the day was the swim at Staniford.
The next morning we headed back to the trailhead with a brief stop at Vandeburg Lake (we skipped Lady Lake as we were getting a bit tired) - The trip back was easier as we were dropping from the 9000s back to the 7000s.