Sunday, April 1, 2007

Ruth Anderson, 50K, 50M or 100K?

This blog entry title is a big question, which you have plenty to think about while running Ruth Anderson (RA). As opposed to HK (the Helen Klein run) where you have to decide on 50K or 50M before starting, and for which the course is an out and back anyway, RA gives you the option to decide on the go. 7, 11 or 14 loops.

I was going for the 100K. In order to test (and taste...) the distance before the much harder Miwok 100K in May. Yet, I couldn't keep from thinking that was not the best way to get prepared for Boston in 2 weeks. So

4:30am - Meeting Chuck and Christine to car pool from Sunnyvale. Chris entered to run the 50 miles. Chuck was just going to drop us before heading to his own hilly 50K training run in the Headlands. Nice chat on the way about their participation into the Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, and some other great annecdotes from Chuck about his long carreer in ultra, across the country. Great setup to get to the start of an ultra. The Coastal Challenge stories were particulary interesting to me as I won a free entry for the 2008 edition. Thanks to TrailRunner Magazine, and Chuck who referred me to their lottery last year. More in another blog, later this year.

With Chuck and Chris (nice shoes, Chris! ;-)

5:30am - We arrive to the North parking lot at Lake Merced, at the limit between San Francisco and Daly City. Still dark despite some moonlight. The race had filled-up with 70 registrants, so an easy check-in, at the light of a few gas lamps. Chat with familiar faces. Chuck introduces me to Stan Jensen, the "ultra statistician" and webmaster of the famous and essential Run Hundreds website. Who kept track of all our splits throughout the day, so many numbers, 44x7 (50K entrants) + 10x11 (50M) + 12x14 (100K) = 712 to be exact!

Amy overseeing the check-in, StanJ in the background (left)

6:30am - John and Amy, the RDs, gave us 15 more minutes of daylight by delaying the start to 6:45. As the start is about half a mile from the main aid station, the group heads East, in a nice and friendly atmosphere. And, surprise, Dean Karnazes joining us, free from any engagement this weekend (Dean seemed as surprised as me to be here, and the family didn't recognize him with his longer hair).

6:45am - After a last briefing from John, especially on the rules about which distance you finally decide to enter when you are done, we start just before sunrise. I decide to stay with Mark Tanaka, who I've run with several times now. We let 5 runners take a faster pace and settle on what seemed to be an easy pace. Mark tells me how last year everybody rushed at the start trying to keep up with the amazing Chikara (7:42 for the 100K in 2006 for his first 100K!). My GPS (Garmin Forerunner201) indicated 7:15 mn/mile. Chikara kept saying it was still too fast, but worth trying, and we'll slow down in the second 50K.

2.25 miles from the main aid station (the base camp), we reach the South aid station (the satellite station). First salute to the two incredible volunteers who manned the station all day, Kevin and Jim. An homonym, Jim Pommier, but from Belgium, not France, so no connection that we both know between our families. Although remote, I saw some of the Bay Area Ultrarunners and SF Dolphin South End running club fellows coming by for some company, later in the day.

First pit stop for me, I've certainly visited the bathrooms too many times on this race, and could tell I was not the only one after a few laps... (Uh, with so many laps, 70 entrants, not to mention the many walkers, joggers, runners, bikers around the lake on this Saturday morning, and only one toilet at each station, it was probably not nice to see them on Sunday morning...)

Anyway, after our first lap, Mark said that we were 1mn faster than last year crazy start, so I really wondered if my GPS got derailed, although the distance seemed quite accurate, as usual on such an open course. I told Mark he was a machine, he seemed really in such a good shape. We kept right on the 7:15 pace for 2 more laps. As I was stopping at each station to drink and eat (and sometime more...), I had to sprint to catch Mark up. By the third lap we passed three runners, one of whom stayed with us for a while.

As I was enjoying a stop at each aid station, and got tired of playing the catch-up game with Mark everytime while he was getting the pace down to 7:12 average by mile 20, I started loosing some ground. Yet I was happy with my first marathon time, about 3:10, which I felt was not too fast, although a Boston qualifier, for what it is worth in such a context. The GPS was still indicating an average pace of 7:15.

The base camp (main aid station)

By the fourth lap I used the scale I had brought to try to understand my ability to manage weight during an ultra (a big requirement for Western States). What was my surprise to see I had already lost 3 pounds in 18 miles. I'm used to lose a few pounds while training, I need to learn how to replenish better during the effort before D-day. Needless to say, I felt I was drinking and eating enough, at least more than during training runs, although not carrying water bottles with so frequent aid stations. I lost 1 pound over the next 4 laps (18 miles), and half a pound in the next 14 miles (if you wonder about the digital precision, it's a Tanita scale).

Anyway, when the family arrived on site to encourage me, I was already 50K in the race, and had decided that won't be the day for the 100K, especially as I was thinking of Boston. Thought a 50-miles will be enough as a long run. So I had 4 more laps to go with this new goal. Yet, it wasn't smooth as I was somehow disappointed by this change of goal. Who knows what would have happened if stopping to 50 miles was not an option.

In my 9th or 10th lap, something stranged happened around the North-East corner of the lake. 6 Daly City Police cars, with a few more policemen scrutinizing the bushes. I couldn't refrain from thinking of the only race report I had found on run100s' website about RA, and read on Friday night before going to bed: the accident of 1997. Unfortunately for the race report, I didn't dare to stop to ask what was going on, I had enough with the noise of the ball trap shoots, figured I'd better keep running, away from the scene!

Some walking in the last laps, although no cramps, but quads tired with a lot of asphalt (when Mark was consistently running on the side dirt path, whenever available). Losing 5 to 10 seconds on my average pace at each aid station to finish at 8:14. As I was in my last lap and slowing down, I got passed by the famous "other red hair" guy that Jim kept asking me about every time I was passing his aid station. Pieter Vermeesh, from Jim's cherrish Belgium. As I didn't see who started ahead of us, I only found out later I was actually "lapped" myself, and that Pieter was on his way to an amazing 7:27:53 on the 100K.

Anyway, at the end of my 11th loop, I got my last kick in the butt when I realized I had to speed up to beat my PR of Helen Klein last year (6:52:08). And hopefully another one when I saw Dean behind me. So I pushed on the last uphill and was happy to see my son Alex at the finish. Dean was one minute behind and, after asking who was ahead of us, decided to go back home after such a good training run, as usual the same way he came, i.e. by foot (see his book).

With Dean, right after our close finish

Shortly after I finished, Mark passed by on his way to a sub-8 100K (8:42 last year).

Nothing could stop Mark today!

6:52:03, a new PR by 5 seconds... "A few seconds over 80 kilometers, what a regularity!" said Mom, who was visiting from Paris this week. Well, my plans were much different, but I was happy to take second place overall in this small field, 1st in masters. I've yet to avoid the wall on this distance, always farther and faster.

A plaque from Amy and John, how nice!

Congratulations to Peter and Mark for their show on the 100K, to Thomas for an amazing sub-6 50-miler, to Gary and Alan for their close finish on 50K, to Wendy, Lisa and Julie for taking first in each race. And to all the others posted on the result page!

A special thank to the new race directors, Amy and John Burton, everything was perfect, even the weather! And the volunteers for their extended presence throughout the day, the great all you can eat buffets and the priceless encouragements.

If you've run the race, see also my race album, courtesy of Agnès. She didn't got all of you though, check if you are lucky!

Farther and faster,



Agnès Pommier said...

Super! Keep on running and writing, Darling!

Scott Dunlap said...

Since you only ran a 50 miler, I expect nothing more than a 2:42 at Boston. ;-)

Nice work! Sounds like you're well on track for States.


Amy Burton said...

It was great having you at our race on Saturday. All of you fast runners made it an exciting race to watch!

John and I love the race report. John planned to write one as well & send to all the runners but perhaps he'll just send a link to yours instead! just kidding. All the best in your upcoming races.

Chihping Fu 傅治平 (超馬阿爸) said...


Great run and thanks for the nice report. I enjoy reading it while browsing the pictures. I now know what's happening at the front runners :-) It seems that you and Dean must have lapped me at least once, but I only saw Mark. This is weird. I had to be either too focused or too tired :-(

Yeah. John Burton can simply show your link and album to us runners as this race report, in addition to his words.


Anil Rao said...

Congrats Jean on your Fabulous time and great run!

Goodluck at Miwok100k, I will be there as well.


Anonymous said...

Dear Jean and Agnès,
Cynci Calvin here with the Pacific Association/USATF. I would like to have permission to reprint the photo of Mark Tanaka you have in the Ruth Anderson photo album. It will be used in the coming issue of California Track & Running News - with photo credit to Agènes Pommier. Please let me know if this is OK.
Thanks.... and great blog!