Rio del Lago 100, November 7-8, 2015

November 18, 2015

Background and Pre-race

Rio del Lago is a 100 mile footrace in the Sierra foothills. It’s been about 5 years since I’ve written up a race report, but it seems like one is in order this time.

This was not my real target race, which feels kind of snotty to say. My real target race is the one I have started three times but never finished, which is the HURT (Hawaii Ultra Running Team) 100 miler, coming up in mid-January 2016. But as it has been three years since I last finished any 100 mile race (Javelina in 2012) due to a stress fracture in 2013, it seemed foolish to go into HURT without a recent successful 100 mile finish. Or as I told some people, I needed to re-wrap my head around the 100 mile distance. That this wasn’t my target also explains why I ran a hilly 50K race just two weeks before this race.

Rio del Lago is a trail race, but it is on the easier side of the spectrum of trail 100 milers, primarily due to having less than 10,000′ of climbing. There I go, sounding snotty again. 100 miles on foot is never easy. Even trail 50K’s are never completely easy. But that combined with having a pretty good 12 months (with personal records at Quad Dipsea, 50 miles, 100K, and even the road half marathon), I was hoping to have a relatively fast time. My plan was for 27 hours, with a previous personal record (PR) of 26:11:53. The overall time limit was 30 hours.

I hadn’t arranged a pacer until fairly close to the race, but Norm agreed to help. He had run this race as his first 100 miler the prior year, though on a somewhat harder course than the one we had this time. The plan was for him to join me when I first got to the aid station at the Cool fire station, at the 52 mile mark. My wife Connie agreed to be my crew, at least during normal waking hours, and even more importantly to drive me home afterwards.

I got a ride to the start with another runner that I ran into on my way to the hotel elevator, which allowed Connie to sleep in. I got to the race in plenty of time before the start, and noticed that it was a little colder than I expected.

First Half

The race started on time at 5:00 am with roughly 327 runners. The early parts of the course were the easiest, including a lot of paved paths and only a few hills. At 19.2 miles we came back through where we started. I left my flashlight in my drop bag and kept moving, a bit over 30 minutes ahead of my plan. The next aid station, 5.1 miles later, is where I first expected to see Connie. But I got there at 9:33 am vs. a plan of 10:26 am, so I missed her. Besides not seeing her, that also meant that I couldn’t get the Vespa (a product that purports to enhance fat burning, which reduces the need to take in quite so many carbohydrates) I was planning to take at 11 am. Oh well, it wasn’t a showstopper, and in retrospect I should have put it in my drop bag just in case this happened. Forgetting that the next segment was 8.7 miles and not refilling my hydration pack was a bigger mistake, but also not fatal.

I got the the Rattlesnake Bar aid station (mile 35.8) at around 12:22 pm, which was just over an hour ahead of my plan. This time Connie was there. Yay!  I resupplied, with George and Kristin of Coastside Running Club (there to crew another club member) helping refill my pack. I also grabbed a flashlight, since my plan didn’t have me reaching another point where I could do that (mile 52) until after dark. I was enough ahead of schedule that that shouldn’t be necessary, but better safe than sorry.

The segments from Rattlesnake Bar to the aid station at the Cool fire station included a couple of big climbs, which I had accounted for in my planned paces for those segments. It also included going across the famous No Hands Bridge, which is an iconic part of the Western States course. I generally kept on track or gained on my plan, arriving in Cool (mile 52) at 4:39 pm vs. my plan of 6:05 pm. Given Norm’s schedule I was pretty sure I was going to get there before him and have to run one 8 mile loop without him, but since Connie dropped him off before finding parking, he was there and ready to go. He talked me into getting my headlamp (in addition to the handheld light I had carried from Rattlesnake Bar). The parking was insane, but luckily the course followed the road that the cars were parking along, so we did see Connie walking from the car before we turned off the road onto the trail.

Second Half

Despite being so far ahead of my plan, I had been moderating my effort all day, so I still had something left for the second half. Norm got me running a bit more than I had been, and we talked while the sun went down. And when it went down it did get colder, and I started to wonder if the arm warmers I had in my pack would be sufficiently warm for the middle of the night. My windbreaker was in Connie’s car, but given how far that was parked from the aid station, I thought it might not be an option.

But while we were running that loop, Connie was able to repark substantially closer to the aid station, though still several minutes away. In the spirit of “better safe than sorry,” and considering that we didn’t expect to see Connie again until the finish line, we did hang around longer so that I would have the windbreaker. As it turns out I never did wear it, but I would probably still make that decision if I had it to do again.

This was definitely the longest aid station stop of the race, with the combination of the wait for the windbreaker, taking in plenty of calories (around then might have been when I first tried the egg and cheese burritos, which worked great for me), and making sure I had everything else I needed from Connie or my drop bag. But eventually we headed out for the same 8 mile loop, though this time in the opposite direction. We made reasonable time (we didn’t memorize the splits, but Norm is pretty sure the second loop was faster than the first), getting back to the Cool  aid station (mile 68 this time) at 9:13 pm vs. my plan of 10:32 pm.

Next was back down to No Hands Bridge, and then up to the Camp Flint Gate aid station (mile 75.3). This was the last big climb of the race, but definitely not the last climb. By then my first GPS finally started saying it was running low on battery, so I swapped to the second one, which I had been carrying since mile 60.

A couple more segments got us back to the Rattlesnake Bar aid station (mile 84.2) at 2:00 am vs. my plan of 3:15 am. Next was the Horseshoe Bar aid station (mile 87) a bit before 3:18 am (that is when I texted Connie that we had just left) vs. my plan of 4:03 am, so that segment was slower than planned. In that text I estimated finishing between 6:30 and 7:30 am.

Around this time Norm told me that if I needed to drop him and go on ahead, I should feel free to do so. This segment to the last aid station was a long one (8.7 miles), and we stuck together for a while, but eventually I did pull ahead and didn’t see him again until the finish. This was also a section with a lot of rocks, affectionately called the “meat grinder.” I had hardly noticed the rocks in the other direction, but they did get my attention now. But given my larger goal of finishing the very rocky (and rooty, and often muddy) HURT course, I pushed myself a bit harder than I would have normally. I reminded myself that accepting some pain, and even seeking it out to a small degree, was good mental preparation. Even so this segment took me about 25 minutes longer than planned, arriving at 6:02 am vs. my plan of 6:25 am. Part of that was caused by a twisty section that had me thinking I was going in circles and repeating the same trails. A later review of the GPS data indicates that I was not actually lost, but I know that that uncertainty contributed to my slowness.

A bit later I called Connie to tell her that even a 7:30 am finish might have been optimistic. She was already at the finish, though, so this didn’t help her get any more sleep. Oh, well, might as well keep pushing and see what happens.

The last section was listed on the web site as 5.7 miles. I should have noticed that the same section on the way out was only listed as 5.1 miles, and the shorter actual distance, combined with the much easier terrain than the prior segment, made a difference. As I got within sight of the finish I started to wonder if a PR might actually still be in reach. Based on what I could tell, it probably was, if I kept running. What I hadn’t counted on was that the course made a big loop around the parking lot before we actually finished, so I missed my PR by less than two minutes. My finishing time was 26:13:23.


All in all I was very happy with how things turned out. I finished. I held back enough in the first half to run well in the second half, moving up about 40 places from mile 52 to the finish. I pushed into enough pain to remind myself what that is like, but not so much that it required much downtime from training—I was running again three days later. I also didn’t fall.

On the “could do it better” front, I didn’t plan well for warm clothes, I took too long at several aid stations, I need to train better for the steep climbs at HURT, and I got a couple of blisters.

Bottom line: I’m back!


Oscar® Predictions for 2014

February 17, 2015

Here are my predictions for the Oscar winners for films made in 2014:

  • Picture: Birdman
  • Director: Richard Linklater for Boyhood
  • Actor: Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything
  • Actress: Julianne Moore for Still Alice
  • Supporting actor: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash
  • Supporting actress: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood
  • Original screenplay: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Adapted screenplay: The Imitation Game
  • Cinematography: Birdman
  • Editing: Boyhood
  • Animated feature: How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • Documentary feature: Citizenfour
  • Foreign language feature: Ida (Poland)
  • Production design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Costumes: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Makeup: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Score: The Theory of Everything
  • Song: “Glory” from Selma
  • Sound editing: American Sniper
  • Sound mixing: Whiplash
  • Visual effects: Interstellar
  • Animated short: Feast
  • Documentary short: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
  • Live action short: The Phone Call

My primary sources were GoldDerby and PredictWise. Best picture and director are particularly challenging to predict this year.

The Beers of Cinequest 2014

April 20, 2014

Cinequest wasn’t just a good time at the movies last month. I also took advantage of my time in downtown San Jose to try a bunch of new beers. First I’ll list the places I had beer during Cinequest (Yelp links, in alphabetical order):

  • Good Karma: The food is vegan, and while I enjoy the taste of animals as a part of most lunches and dinners, the one time I ate there it was quite tasty. And the beer selection seems quite good, especially including the bottled beers which I did not take advantage of (yet).
  • ISO Beers: This place is brand new as of February 2014. Their selection seems very good, though so far their traffic is not enough to allow them to change often enough for my taste. Their largest pours are only 12 ounces, which is actually a feature since it allows tasting more beers. They serve no food but because of that, they allow you to bring in outside food. They also have a nice and growing selection of bottled beers that you can drink there or take out.
  • Original Gravity Public House: This is my model for how to do a beer bar, though it’s not quite perfect. My favorite feature is that their web site is automatically updated from the same data that drives the display in the bar itself, so the web site is 100% up-to-date. My second favorite feature is that they change what’s on tap often enough that there’s is always something new, even if you drink as many new beers as I do. The minor drawback is that the wide selection sometimes leads me to beers that I don’t actually like all that well. Their second drawback is that the food they serve (mostly sausages and fries) isn’t very healthy.

And these are the beers I had during the festival (ratebeer links, in chronological order, GK=Good Karma, ISO=ISO Beers, and OG=Original Gravity; the ratings are out of 5 stars):

I actually had a couple of others not listed above, but these are the ones I checked into on Untappd (a cool social beer tracker site and app—let me know if you sign up and want to connect).

With my highest rated beers generally being imperial IPAs, imperial porters, barley wines, and a sour, it seems safe to say that I like beers with a ton of flavor.

The Films of Cinequest 2014

March 22, 2014

This was my 14th year attending Cinequest, a fairly major film festival in San Jose, California. I have generally seen 20 or so films each year, except in years when I was un- or underemployed, when I saw even more. Here is my rough ranking of the feature films I saw this year:

  1. Kiss Me, You Fucking Moron: This Norwegian coming-of-age movie just totally worked for me. The program categorizes it as a comedy/romance, but there was definitely some drama in the mix as well. The main characters are mostly part of a youth (15 to 18 years old as I recall) theater group, plus an alcoholic actor who the main character manages to talk into helping them put on a far more gritty play than they have ever done before. This was the U.S. premiere.
  2. Heart of a Lion: This Finnish drama was very hard to watch and punches you in the gut, but in a good way. The main three characters are a racist skinhead, who falls for a woman, who turns out to have a black child from a prior marriage. You know bad things are going to happen with this combination, but the character transformations that happen along the way all feel plausible and definitely moving.
  3. The Rugby Player: This is a documentary about Mark Bingham, who was on flight United 93 on 9/11. After discovering a love of and talent for rugby in high school, he went on to play at U.C. Berkeley, and somewhere along the way he came out as gay. The film talks with the people who knew him best, including close friends and his amazing mother. I had tears in my eyes on at least one occasion.
  4. East Side Sushi: This local Bay Area drama may have been improved by the world premiere vibe and all the filmmakers in the row immediately behind me. It was somewhat predictable in many ways, but not completely, and I definitely enjoyed it.
  5. Return to Zero: This drama about a couple who suffer a tragedy early on in the film seems likely to get a release. I was very impressed by Minnie Driver‘s performance. This was the world premiere.
  6. Sex(ed): The Movie: This is a documentary about sex education films throughout history, from as early as 1910, and it was a lot of fun. An earlier showing at the festival was the world premiere.
  7. The Grand Seduction: This was the opening night film of the festival. It reminded me in some ways of Local Hero, and while it was enjoyable it definitely wasn’t as good as that great little gem.
  8. SlingShot: This is a documentary about Dean Kamen, best known as the man behind the Segway. This film focuses on his work to use technology to bring clean safe drinking water to the parts of the word that need it most. My ranking is estimated since I had a conflict and missed the first half hour.
  9. Deep City: This is another documentary, in this case about a long-gone soul music label from south Florida. It was good, but didn’t measure up to Standing in the Shadows of Motown or the recent 20 Feet from Stardom.
  10. Under the Same Sun: This is a documentary-feeling fiction film about a Jewish businessman working with a Palestinian businessman to both bring more solar power to the area, and to be a catalyst for peace. While it would be very good if this could really happen, it seems unlikely.
  11. The Farmer and the Chef: I chose this documentary because it’s very close to home, meaning where I live. It’s about a small biodynamic farm in the Santa Cruz mountains, and the well known chef who works with the farmer. This was the world premiere, and the film could not be found on IMDb when I was writing this blog post.
  12. Hunting Elephants: This Israeli comedy had some good moments, but suffered from cartoonish characters (all but the lead character) and an inconsistent tone.
  13. Bite Size: This documentary about childhood obesity was fairly good, especially in how it showed families, friends, and society all conspiring to make change difficult. The actual documentary style was fairly straightforward, however. This was the world premiere.
  14. Above Dark Waters: This Finnish drama seemed pretty good at the time, but it has faded very quickly out of my memory so I dropped it down a few spots.
  15. Small Time: This was the closing night film, about a used car salesman whose son decides to work for him. It wasn’t that bad, but somehow I never really cared about any of the characters. This might have been the world premiere, but the program is slightly vague on that subject.
  16. The Illiterate: This drama from Chile is probably better than I’m ranking it, but since I slept through a fair bit of the running time, I’m putting it here.
  17. Life is Love: This documentary is about victims of human trafficking, and an inspiring woman in Cambodia who helps them. The subject matter is very important, but the film itself felt totally uninspired, so I was checking my watch frequently. An earlier showing at the festival was the world premiere.
  18. Class Enemy: This Slovenian drama didn’t seem believable and therefore didn’t really work for me, though I think most people liked it substantially better than I did.
  19. Inercia: Through maybe 2/3 of the running I time I was on board with this Mexican drama, but it fell off a cliff (in my opinion) after that. An earlier showing at the festival was the U.S. premiere.
  20. Cheatin’: This animated film by Bill Plympton had some great images and a few engaging sections, but would have been better as a short.
  21. It’s Only Make Believe: Since I almost always like Norwegian films, I was especially disappointed that this drama didn’t work for me. It was hard to watch and totally not worth it. An earlier showing at the festival was the U.S. premiere.
  22. Funny Money: This Vietnamese film was nominally a comedy, but I didn’t find it funny at all and I left about halfway through. This was the North American premiere.

My top four films have what seems like a common thread, namely characters (or actual people in the case of the documentary) who grow beyond what they would have imagined possible at the start of the film.

I wanted to list a few notable short films that I saw during the festival, in alphabetical order (literally ABC, as it turns out):

  • Adrift is simply a sequence of time-lapse (meaning faster than real time) shots of fog in the Bay Area. It’s beautiful, especially since most of the shots are taken in places where I have been when running or hiking, or that remind me of such places. And here’s the small world connection: I actually first saw this last summer, at an event at the Nojiri Lake Association in Japan.
  • The Brunchers was recommended by an ex-co-worker, and narrowly beat out Adrift as my favorite short of the Shorts 7 collection.
  • The Closest Thing to Heaven was shown before Sex(ed): The Movie. It’s about the life and love of a gay man, and the punch that put it over the top at the end (spoiler alert) was seeing a tombstone with my exact birthday (year included).

I also have an IMDb list of these and other Cinequest films, though definitely not all of them. You can find it here.

I hope to follow this post with another one about all of the beers that I tasted in downtown San Jose during Cinequest.

Oscar® Predictions for 2013

March 1, 2014

Here are my predictions for the Oscar winners for films made in 2013:

  • Picture: 12 Years a Slave
  • Director: Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity
  • Actor: Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club
  • Actress: Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine
  • Supporting actor: Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club
  • Supporting actress: Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave
  • Original screenplay: Her
  • Adapted screenplay: 12 Years a Slave
  • Cinematography: Gravity
  • Editing: Gravity
  • Animated feature: Frozen
  • Documentary feature: 20 Feet from Stardom
  • Foreign language feature: The Great Beauty (Italy)
  • Production design: The Great Gatsby
  • Costumes: The Great Gatsby
  • Makeup: Dallas Buyers Club
  • Score: Gravity
  • Song: “Let It Go” from Frozen
  • Sound mixing: Gravity
  • Sound editing: Gravity
  • Visual effects: Gravity
  • Animated short: Get a Horse!
  • Documentary short: The Lady in Number 6
  • Live action short: Helium

My primary sources were GoldDerby and Awards Daily.

Oscar® Predictions for 2012

February 24, 2013

Here are my predictions for the Oscar winners for films made in 2012:

  • Picture: Argo
  • Director: Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
  • Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln
  • Actress: Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook
  • Supporting actor: Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook
  • Supporting actress: Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables
  • Original screenplay: Django Unchained
  • Adapted screenplay: Argo
  • Cinematography: Life of Pi
  • Editing: Argo
  • Animated feature: Wreck-It Ralph
  • Documentary feature: Searching for Sugar Man
  • Foreign language feature: Amour (Austria)
  • Production design: Anna Karenina
  • Costumes: Anna Karenina
  • Makeup: The Hobbit
  • Score: Life of Pi
  • Song: “Skyfall” from Skyfall
  • Sound mixing: Les Misérables
  • Sound editing: Skyfall
  • Visual effects: Life of Pi
  • Animated short: Paperman
  • Documentary short: Open Heart
  • Live action short: Curfew

For the first time in 17 years, I have not seen all of the Best Picture nominees before the ceremony, though I have seen seven of the nine. My primary sources were Awards Daily and GoldDerby.

Play and The Island President

March 10, 2012

Play is a slow film. There is really no way to sugarcoat that. It also relies primarily on static camera shots. I checked my watch a few times. The strange thing is, despite all of those strikes against it, when the film ended it really seemed like it had kept my attention and meant something. It was definitely more than the sum of its parts.

One reason it kept my attention was a sense of dread. The main characters were all children (I suspect they were newcomers, since all but one of the main characters had the same first name as the actor), and there was a chance of something bad happening very frequently. And by the end I felt like I got a better sense of both bullying and of native/immigrant relations, so I’ll give it a strong  out of .

The Island President is a pretty depressing documentary. Oh, sure, there is gorgeous footage of the Maldives, which is a nation off the coast of India, consisting of 2000 islands surrounded by beautiful waters, reefs, and fish. We learn that the well-loved President (Mohamed Nasheed) survived being a political prisoner, becoming a world leader in the area of climate change. The focus of the movie seems to be the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009, where Nasheed speaks eloquently about how climate change could completely wipe out his country (the average elevation is only 1.5 meters), and how even now it is having a major effect. But, and these are possibly minor spoilers, the outcome of the conference is far from what was hoped for, and the film’s epilogue is a major downer.

There was a short question and answer period with the director after the film (there may be spoilers here, if a documentary can have spoilers):

  • Update on the political situation:
    • Nasheed resigned on 2/7/2012, after a mutiny within the police and military
    • There is material on YouTube
    • Things have calmed down a bit since then
  • Nasheed was educated in England, which is not uncommon in his class
  • The islands stretch over a span similar to Florida, but with a total land mass less than Rhode Island
  • The director did not originally come to this material from an environmental angle, but more about the leader—this was way before the Arab Spring—Nasheed put the environment in more human terms
  • I think I heard that the film does have distribution

The film was preceded by an animated short called “Monarch,” which was fine but nothing special.

Both seen on 3/5/2012 at Cinequest.

Faust and Twittamentary

March 10, 2012

Faust is a Russian film by Aleksandr Sokurov (Russian Ark), though it is mostly or entirely in German. I really don’t know how to describe it. After some establishing scenery shots (largely if not entirely CGI, but gorgeous nonetheless), the next shot is of a human penis, which is attached to a dead body being disassembled by Doctor Faust. The setting is medieval, with dirt, rats, and general filth. It pretty quickly becomes apparent that everyone is hungry, and in general you get a feeling of hopelessness.

Things get really weird. The other main character is a very strange old man. He is listed in the credits as the moneylender, but he is really (possible minor spoiler) the devil. Things get more and more surreal as the film proceeds. Some of it works, at least enough to keep me interested, but the whole didn’t quite measure up to the sum of the parts for me. I’ll give it  out of .

Twittamentary is a different film than I expected. It followed some stories (especially the homeless woman) through most of the film rather than being purely made up of short vignettes, and it didn’t cover the real Twitter celebrities, though they would be different today than when this was filmed (mostly 2009).

It was also a trip being encouraged to use our phones to tweet during the film, though I found I didn’t tweet every interesting point since it would take my attention away from the next story, and I’m glad that most movies do not encourage that. I didn’t learn all that much, but it was fun, and I would give it  out of . An earlier showing of the film at the festival was the North American premiere.

There was a short Q&A with the director, Siok Siok Tan (a.k.a., @sioksiok) after the film (there may be spoilers here, if a documentary can have spoilers):

  • She originally hoped and expected to make a global film and to cover more Twitter celebrities, but she likes what it turned out to be
  • One story that didn’t make it was about an ex-con who wants to help keep young people out of prison
  • The road trip was in late 2009
  • The song guy was @ihatemornings, and the songs were all written in one hour
  • There was a possible story about a woman tweeting through childbirth, which might have counterbalanced the death story well

The film was preceded by a comedic short called “Zoltan: The Hungarian Gangster of Love,” which was pretty fun. I’ll give it  out of .

Both seen on 3/4/2012 at Cinequest.

King Curling and Stormland

March 4, 2012

King Curling is a Norwegian comedy. Team Paulsen, led by Truls Paulsen, is the winningest team in the sport. The sport is one where millimeters count, so his obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a benefit. Well, until he goes off the deep end and is committed to a mental institution. His wife is assigned as his guardian.

I won’t go into more of the plot. This is definitely a comedy, with more than its fair share of quirky characters. It’s quite fun, especially in the curling scenes with the over the top music. I’ll give it a strong  out of .

Stormland is an Icelandic drama. The main character is named Böddi, who is a teacher, would-be poet/author, and big fan of an Icelandic outlaw named Grettir. The film opens with him holding three people as hostages at gunpoint, and then flashes back to more normal times. He is way out of step with the locals, who are as materialistic as he is not.

I liked many moments in the film, but for whatever reason this one didn’t really connect with me. I’ll give it out of . The program says this was the North American premiere, but I think we were told this was actually the world premiere of the international version of the film.

Both seen on 3/3/2012 at Cinequest.

Sons of Norway

March 3, 2012

Sons of Norway is a Norwegian drama, but it starts out feeling more like a comedy. A couple of young boys dressed as punks, including safety pins as piercings (ouch!), throw a bottle that hits a man as he is giving a speech. Then it jumps back in time to before the young boys became punks. It’s the late 1970’s, and the parents of Nikolaj (one of the boys) are complete hippies. I loved the father’s argument that since we descended from apes, Christmas dinner should be centered on bananas. He even decorates the tree with bananas!

I don’t want to say too much more, except to emphasize how much the comedy and drama feelings are blended together, which can be challenging. It’s also a film I probably wouldn’t suggest seeing with people like parents, co-workers, a first date, etc. It worked for me, though I have a hard time putting my finger on the reason why. I’ll give it a low  out of .

I looked up the actors who played the parents, and the father was one of the two leads in Elling, one of my all-time favorite Norwegian films, and the Danish mother was a lead in Villa Paranoia, a film that I liked quite a bit several years ago at Cinequest.

Seen on 3/2/2012 at Cinequest.


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