Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Race Across The West 2012 - Chris O'Keefe Crew Report

As a long time fan of the Race Across America, I jumped (a little cautiously, but it was a jump all the same) at the chance to crew for Chris O'Keefe in the Race Across the West, version 2012.  As the race progressed it became obvious that there were a lot of great stories to be told, so I decided to take on the role of guerilla correspondent for the O'Keefe team.  Below are some interviews I recorded throughout the event.  I wasn't planning to take on this role, so I wasn't fully prepared and made some rookie mistakes.  For example, I didn't realize that I needed to hold my iPhone horizontally while recording, and I didn't figure out how to improve the sound quality until late in the event.  Nevertheless, the thoughts of the subjects resonate despite the amateurism of the "film crew" and I hope you enjoy hearing from these folks who raced or supported the race.  Enjoy!

For those who don't know, Race Across the West is an 860 mile continuous bike race from Oceanside CA to Durango, CO.  Riders (and crew) deal with wind, heat, sleep deprivation and all sorts of other maladies in their quest to complete this race.  It follows the course of the Race Across America (RAAM), at the same time as that race.  When we're not racing, fetching drinks, fixing bikes or getting food,  the crew has the chance to enjoy the space, beauty, and quietude of the American West.  From the Pacific Ocean to the Mojave Desert, on to the Navajo Nation, the mountains of Flagstaff, Sodona, Monument Valley, the red rocks of Utah, and the lower rockies (7,000 feet), we get to experience some beautiful, if unforgiving, scenery.

First up, here is a short pre-race interview with "The Talent", Chris O'Keefe.  This was my first effort and I didn't realize the benefits of using the headphone/microphone, but I'm glad I got some thoughts from Chris before the race.  You'll also hear an insightul question from the well known "Germarican" reporter and O'Keefe crew member Martin Brooks towards the end:

That's it or pre-race! Wish I'd done some more stuff before the race, and I will next time.

Afterwards, inspired by the event, exhaustion, and a couple of beers at the final awards banquet, I interviewed a number of participants and got some great stuff.

First, I talked to Jim Ryan.  Jim won the over 50 division and gave Chris a run for his money for 3rd place male despite contracting a case of "Shermer's neck" a day into the race.  Jim give a great overview of the race, the malady, and his crew's MacGyver-like ingenuity:

The next interview is with Jim and Sandy Dannis, a husband (racer) and wife (crew chief)  team from Northern New Hampshire.  They describe the challenges of coming from the east coast to race in the desert, and they also do justice to the wedding vows they uttered a few years ago, which must have included a few additions beyond the standards: "through sickness and health, dehydration and saddles sores, flat tires and headwinds..." You get the picture.  Besides a great experience, Jim was the 3rd male finisher in his age group
(ed note: The wind gets really bad on this recording, but bear with it, it does die down)

Next up, we talked to Chris on the drive home.  Sitting at a booth in the Race Day Cafe on the outskirts of Las Vegas, reflecting on his 3rd place finish, Chris describes the physical, mental, and nutritional challenges he faced in RAW 2012.  He also gives a little praise to the crew, though I felt he short-changed us a bit as we were clearly exceptional ;). Seriously though, following Chris for 3 days gave me a deep appreciation for not only the physical challenge of this race, but more importantly the mental outlook that is required.  While it sounds cliche, the racer must understand and accept that quitting is not an option, not a thought to consider, and that the only thing on his or her mind needs to be: what's next?

The last racer I interviewed was Sarah Kay Carrell.  Sarah finished 2nd in her age group, 3rd female overall, and first recumbant.  If you don't know, her Bacchetta Recumbant looks something like this:

This was a big group to interview, and I realized afterwards that there are quite a few accomplished cyclists on Sarah Kay's crew. Hopefully someone reading this can give some details on the palmares of this talented bunch. (ed note: no, that is not Sarah Kay, I'm having trouble changing the thumbnail image on this one)

Finally, here is an interview with Jim Ryan's crew.  I couldn't get them to dish too hard on Jim, but "off-camera" it was great swapping stories with them and reminiscing about the crew life.  We leap-frogged them on the road for the last day or so.  Keep in touch guys, we may need to combine forces if/when one of "the talents" makes his RAAM assault! (ed note: I held the iPhone properly for this one!)

To all who view this and for those who followed my tweets, thanks for all the support and encouragement.  While this is a niche sport, there is something very appealing about witnessing someone endure such an experience.  It's exciting to watch, it's liberating to be on the road with the event, and it's ultimately inspiring for all of us as we realize we need to challenge ourselves daily, because, as Martin put it so succinctly, "our lives aren't hard enough."

Monday, April 4, 2011

HARDWARE, BABY!! Oakland Running Festival 2011

Yessir, the key isn't race tactics, it's picking the team and picking the race. Here is a recap of the 2011 Oakland Running Festival: We have had an informal running club at SanDisk for several years (“RunDisk”), and we like to think that we are building a nice tradition and running culture. We run together several times a week (well, at least some combination of us) and we also meet on weekend mornings to do longer runs and occasionally participate in races. The RunDisk idea was spawned by Craig Rotbert, Fred Valeriano and Jose as a way to train together for their first marathon, and as the group has grown we’ve continued getting together as a way of maintaining our motivation, keeping the runs interesting, and getting outside a few times a week. We welcome new runners: we don’t have a set schedule due to SanDisk work responsibilities, but we do stay in touch via e-mail and try to organize a group run several times a month. By getting together regularly, we’ve met many new people at the company, and have made great friends and also strengthened work relationships along the way. This is the second time a “RunDisk” team has participated in the ORF relay, but this year we decided to focus on getting a good result, both overall and in the SF Business Times Corporate Cup event. Speaking for myself, once we decided to “compete” there was certainly some pressure to represent the company and our running club respectably, and I would say that we all gave a solid effort. Luca (SanDisk’s fastest runner) lead us out, staying close to the leading marathon runners and giving us a little cushion. Next, Jose ran a strong leg through the hills of Oakland, ending with a glorious downhill mile. Gabe powered through a long, straight run while enjoying the occasional calls of “hey sweety!” from the women of West Oakland, and I finished the run by trying to hold off whatever teams were behind me. Luca joined me after his leg and paced me through to the finish, making sure I didn’t blow our lead, and helping me through a tough 7 miles. We were second overall, and first in the corporate division. As a result we were presented the cup from Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, and it was a kick to be called onstage in front of the assembled masses to receive the trophy while representing SanDisk. As Jose carried the trophy back to the car, we were impressed by how many female fans asked him which race he had won – lots of cheers and whistles! I tried carrying the cup for awhile too, but somehow I didn’t get the same effect! In any case, we left feeling like we’d accomplished what we’d intended to, and we hope to have a chance to defend our title next year.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


I'm looking at my 3 week anniversary of contracting shingles, which has been painful, uncomfortable, and ultimately a little disabling with respect to my training. The right side of my torso has been extremely sensitive to touch (and to any movement from my clothes, etc.) and my stomach and back muscles have started to contract as a result of me constantly clenching up. Sore back, painful stomach, painkiller haze, and too much wine to assist my sleep, and as a result I'm back out of training after being on pace for a 140 mile January... Done with this!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Summit Park Half Marathon and two months of racing

Hardest course I've ever done. 2 hours and 33 minutes, a PW by over 4o minutes (50?) running a 2:33, but it really was a great day to be in the Santa Cruz Mountains, running the Summit Rock Half Marathon.
First the good: these local mountains show very well on misty days. Under the redwood canopy, the greens are rich and vibrant. The trails themselves twist up alongside deep ravines and if you're brave enough to take your eyes off the trail you have a long look down into an area you don't want to end up.
The bad? Well, I was not in great condition after picking up my first sinus infection of the year. Running in the wet with enflamed sinuses makes me feel prett water-logged, and running downhill tends to jostle the painful area, so I was running more gingerly downhill, and with less energy uphill.
But adjusting for that, it was a great day: I met up with Murphy in Saratoga and we drove up to Sanborn park for the 9AM start. The race itself was very well organized and had a professional feel to it. Timing chips, a start/finish banner, really nice shirts, and lovely medals too.

The trail was mile-marked as well, a first for me on a trail run, and they also had 3 aid stations on the out and back route, which meant five opportunities to refuel.
A lot of runners competed, several hundred, which seemed like a good number for a trail run. The gun went off at nine, and we set off at an easy pace.
Long story short, I had intended to run easily given the course, but the whole field was walking the hills within a mile. For the first four miles I would guess we walked at least half the time, and getting to the top at Skyline took easilly 50 minutes (four miles). At three and a half miles, the course started to roll, and occasionally I could settle into a rhythm. Still and all though it was a super slow day, with even the downhill miles taking 9+ minutes.
After two and a half hours on the trail, Murph and I were pretty cooked and we grabbed some snacks (including and it's it!) and headed out. Was a very memorable day and a good race to finish out the year on.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Week in review, 7/18

Sunday, 7/18: Bike, Home to Soda Springs, then up SS to weaver. About 20 miles total, not a ton but mostly uphill, including the Joseph trail (dirt)
Monday, 7/19: Run, 5 miles with Murphy at lunch. Hurrah! First solid outdoor run in a long time, and the achilles is feeling OK!
Tuesday, 7/20: Swim at Milpitas CC (lunchtime). 1780 yards... Did an interesting set, 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300, all repeats holding the same pace.
Wednesday, 7/21: outdoor run #2!! 5 miles. Ran with a few different folks including a fast half mile with ryan, Jose, Kris, and then finish with Fred:
Thursday, 7/22: Spinning Class
Friday, 7/23: 5 miles at lunch, sub 40!; 2400 yards with Masters swimming, finished with 5 x 50/25/25 doing a 34 second 50
Saturday: Another double day - ocean swim ~1000 yards, then 40 on the bike, Santa Cruz
Best week in awhile.

Week in Review, Week of July 11

Not a particularly heavy week, but a week where I decided to start increasing the workouts and stop being so lazy:

Sunday, 7/11: Nothin'
Monday, 7/12: 1500 yards swim
Tuesday, 7/13: 3 miles on the treadmill
Wednesday, 7/14: nothin'
Thursday, 7/15: nothin'
Friday, 7/16: Masters' swimming 2700 yards. Some stroke work, lots of fifties, finished with easy hard repeat 50s with my hard repeats at 34 seconds
Saturday, 7/17: 4 miles on the dreadmill

The big decision was to take the family to Hawaii in August, so this will be very good motivation for the next few weeks!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tomatoes in

potash: low
Nitrogen low
phosphorous OK
Alkaline OK

Hoping to improve on last year's hugely disappointing crop.