Monday, May 7, 2007

Miwok 100K 2007: farther, with breathtaking views

Executive summary (for my bosses ;-). Perfect weather, cool in the morning, not too hot in the afternoon, spectacular views all the way, great field of runners, amazing times for the top ones. As per me, fast start which kicked asthma again around mile 20. Tough 20 miles then, and my pacer, Rob, helped staying afloat for the last 20 miles, a good training exercise. Overall, 10h53'53", about 1h15 more than what I was aiming at, yet a PR as I was a rookie on this distance. Thanks to the slower than usual pace and the walking on the uphills, no cramp, great food and fluid intake, no soreness the following day. Main take aways: start really slow at Western States and calm down in May.

See also:
Detailed race report

The day started early with breakfast at 3:15am, leaving the house at 3:45, meeting with Charles in Mountain View to carpool. Smooth ride, great pre-race briefing from such an experienced ultra runner. Between Tia's extensive website and Charles hints, I was starting visualizing the course. Just starting, running 100K would appear quite a different experience.

By 5am the parking of Marine Headlands was really getting packed, like we were going to see many whales that morning. Stan (Jensen) is volunteering at the Marine Mammal Center of Marine Headlands, but it's not the mammals he and we were coming to look at, it was la crème de la crème of ultrarunning, coming to compete for this Montrail Cup event. As part of his run100s website, Stan is the webmaster for Miwok.

5:30, we are all invited to cross the bridge getting us on the beach for the start. A long procession of 250 runners at dawn, with lively discussions about goals, if it will stay cold or get hot in the afternoon, coming races in May before Western States, who is a rookie today on this distance, etc. Quick briefing from Tia asking us to be fair on the course and having fun. Not sure, I think she mentioned the pain too ;-).

5:40: here we are, running in the sand. We usually don't care much about dirt and mud, but we were trying to avoid getting sand in our shoes right off the start. Fortunately, we were on the trail within a few hundreds yards, then on the road actually for the first hill, with magnificent views over San Francisco, the Golden Gate and the sun rising over Oakland. Started with what I thought was a slow pace, yet my Garmin was indicating 7:40 to 8 minute/mile pace. Chatted a bit with Mark Gilligan about our Boston marathons, and congratulated him for his win of the hilly Mt Diablo marathon last weekend. We caught up with Simon Mtuy (see below), and kept going. The 3 top females (Kami, Nikki and Bev) just in front of us, and a dozen other runners already half a mile ahead by the top of the hill. Sub-7 pace to plunge down to the Bunker Road aid station (water only) where I didn't stop, carrying two bottles and not having used too much fluid in this cool morning.

I kept Bev (Anderson-Abbs) at sight for the next hill and passed her from time to time as I was easier on the tricky down hills. Stayed with her through Tennessee Valley (11.9 miles), Muir Beach (16) and Pan Toll (21.7). Just before Pan Toll, we encountered a huge redwood tree blocking the pass. As I was 30" before Bev on this uphill, I first thought I missed a turned. I found a tricky way to "climb" the tree, while Bev found a much easier way by the right. Which I used on the way back. Anyway, it's after this little adventure which I started loosing my breath and feeling the asthma kicking in. I had the pleasure to see Robin at Pan Toll. Robin is our wonderful webmaster for our Stevens Creek Striders club [...]. He was volunteering, pacing, and his wife, Ali crewing for several other members of the club, see his race report [....].

So, learning from previous experiences, I had to let it go. First Bev, then Mark, then Whit Rumbach (see pictures of them and others, on the way back through Bolinas). Although relatively flat on the elevation profile, this part of the course is tough because the trail is very narrow. Heavy grass which masks the trail, and somehow sting your legs. So narrow that you sometimes lose balance like you were running on a string. The flowers were completing the picturesque, scenic and incredible views, but you had to keep your eyes on the trail. In one hand I was hoping not to see the family at Bolinas Ridge (28.4 mile); when I'm not in good shape like that, it makes me complain about myself. Anyway, there were not there yet, so I ate as much as possible before the long 7.2 stretch to Randall Trail (turnaround and 35.6-mile mark).

In my mind, we were getting down to the turnaround right after Bolinas Ridge. Actually not quite so, there is still a 3-mile rolling section before the "chute." Starting walking some of the uphills, even the short ones, I was expecting to cross the first runners. It's Simon who came from behind first; we stayed together for a quarter of a mile and I let him go too. Even before the steep 2-mile down to the Randall Trail aid station, I started seeing the first runners coming back. Gave a "Go Scott, Go Brooks!" to Scott Jurek who was in 8th position then. It's mentally challenging going down so steep Counted 20 runners in front of me by the time I got to the turnaround. Chuck Wilson was there again, as well as Lee and Winnie Jebian who have helped us at the Last Chance aid station the previous years. Tried to enroll Winnie again, she said only he I was desperate finding volunteers (see volunteer form if interested!).

Randall Trail aid station - 35.6 miles in, time to go back home, starting with..., well, the big hill we just went down. Yet this long 7.2 stretch to Bolinas Ridge which was really getting longer and longer, unable that I was to breath in the uphills. Among many others, crossed Chris and Charles (we do long runs together on weekends), Peggy and a few yards behind Penny (Striders), Chris(tine) Miller. This is the part of the out and back course where all the runners see each other.

Counted 15 runners passing me on this section. Was disappointed of course, and wondering if I'd find Rob Evans, my pacer at Bolinas. We had set a meeting time window of 11am-12:30pm and I was going to miss it by a few minutes. In addition, Rob has been sick all week and warned me the day before he may not show up. I was telling myself this might not be worth the ride for him anyway if I had to walk so much in the last 20 miles. Yet, I was very glad to see him as he promised. I briefly told him about the situation, as he was urging me to get some food and Coke and get off the station. Grabbed my first jelly and peanut butter sandwich which I ate on the trail. Not only my first of the day, but my first in an ultra event. Glad to see it worked out, a good test for Western States.

After Bolinas, we had a great ride downhill to Pan Toll (49.5). At least I could still run fast in the downhills, in apnea! Was good too to finally see Agnès and the boys at Pan Toll. Rob urged me to take four glasses of Coke, so much gas...! The way to Highway 1 Crossing (54.7) felt a bit longer with yet another hill and a few rolling section. Got passed by Susana (flying), back and forth with "Sam the Man" (per Rob's terms), who finally finished ahead. Happy to see Roger again at the aid station. Quick "car wash" (sponge and fresh water on the neck) and Rob pulled me in the first of the last two steep hills. Walk, jog, walk, jog, walk, etc., not used to be so slow. As we arrive at Tennessee Valley again (58.4), I was really thinking that we were done, and that the last hill wouldn't be such a big deal. Wrong assumption, it was getting worse and worse after each turn in the trail, and the clock was ticking, I had already been for 10h15 on this trail, really wanted to finish under 11 hours. Passed the summit at 10:40 and pushed as much as possible in the last 2 miles to finish in 10:53:53.

I know there is some controversy about the pacers in ultras. For sure, Rob helped me finding resources I thought I had lost by mile 20. Rob also allowed me to enjoy the last 20 miles more than the middle section, I'm very appreciative for that. In addition to his humor and understanding support, he was great at greeting the walkers on the trail, when I might not have the energy to do so. Like Charles was telling me in the car on the way to the start, pacers are important to do a good time. In this case, it wasn't such a good time, but there is no doubt Rob helped me mentally. As long as race management allows it in certain races, it's worth using this resource, like you can take advantage of the drinks and food provided at the aid stations, or decide to do the entire run without support, your choice! Anyway, a big thank you, Rob, and Kate for driving Rob up to Bolinas. We hope to see you on the trails together for a long time!

With such a good weather, and apparently amazing times for the top finishers (results not published as I write down this blog), a great ambiance was reining around a wonderful BBQ. Chatted with Greg Soderlund about details for the Last Chance Aid Station at Western States which I'll be co captain for the 4th year, along with Bob and Marsha, although not there on D-day but on the course this time.

A quick consultation with Scott Jurek about the Brooks Cascadias, and telling him I got selected into the Brooks Inspire Daily program. Scott admitted he didn't run as fast as usual because he mostly trained for road 100Ks this year. I didn't know it was making such a difference in training, glad to be back on the trails for the spring after the Boston training (see my Boston marathon race report).

And some dreams of hiking Kilimanjaro after chatting with Simon. Simon comes to California every year for about 2 months to run a few ultras including Western States. He really did a good job at describing his expedition business in Tanzania, we now have this destination in our family to do and "to go" list!

Kudos for a perfect organization. You can tell Tia not only knows the area perfectly for having grown up here, but also she is an expert at ultras from running them. Amazing volunteers, with so many familiar faces now, such a change from the impersonal crowdy marathons. The ultra community is still quite a small and connected world, such a gift. Thank you to all, the organizers, the volunteers, the runners, the pacers, the crews, for such a wonderful day, beyond the pain, and above the gain which comes with it!

Back to the title as a conclusion:

  • Farther: the good thing when you are a rookie at a given distance is that, as long as you finish, you set a PR. So a PR it is on this "farther" ever distance for me!
  • Breathtaking views: with such a weather, the views were really breathtaking as we say. So much that I lost my breath, really, literally. I was able though to slow down enough to contain the asthma and avoid coughing. I just couldn't take two breaths consecutively, which prevented me to jog in the uphills.


Adelyn said...

Congrats on the finish of a tough but beautiful race!!! Sounds like it was a hard one, with plenty of unexpected challenges (as seems to usually happen in ultras) but you did a great job!

Congratulations :)

Jean Pommier said...

Way to go, Addy, thanks for stopping by the blog, and more importantly for volunteering at Miwok. I see in your blog that you know how much it's getting addictive to get to see ultra runners at these events. I'm still "hiring" for Western States (Last Chance) BTW, ask Terry about it.
Best of luck with your ultra dreams.

PS: more than 1,200 visitors to your blog in 5 weeks, is it your future students checking your pages on? What a popularity!

Anil Rao said...

very good report Jean. Goodluck with WS. you are in great shape.


Adelyn said...

Hmm...hiring for WS? I'm intrigued :)If I could make logistical sense out of it (I'll be living in So Cal for the month of June) I'd be sorely tempted. I think I'd just about be in Heaven to actually work at WS. Just a few steps from running it myself ;)

It is really funny/strange that so many people look at my blog :) Not sure who all they are, but glad that I'm not writing into thin air!

What's next on your racing agenda?

Robin said...

Jean. It's amazing you can pick up and finish strong over 62 miles after setbacks at mile 20. It's a long way when you feel great and even further when you don't! Outstanding. I think your strategy for WS sounds right. Start slow, then slow down!

Thanks for recognising the contribution of Ali and I to the proceedings. It was a really great day out. Perfect weather, beautiful trail and amazing scenery.

Scott Dunlap said...

Great run and great report! You couldn't ask for a better pacer than Rob.


Jean Pommier said...


Yes I'm recruiting for Last Chance aid station, mile 43 on the WS course. See Striders.
And South Cal is not an excuse, there is a car+trailer coming from LA!

Next race? Likely a 10K this weekend (Human Race in Mountain View), my left foot tells me we shouldn't go to QuickSilver. Then Ohlone 50K on 5/20 before WS training camp at the end of the month.

willgotthardt said...

Good stuff Jean, enjoyed the you at Ohlone.

Cheers, Will G.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Hey, Jean, great job, and great blog too (just found it). We'll have to control that asthma, huh? See you at Ohlone, which looks way loaded with really fast runners this year.