Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ruth Anderson: gone with the wind...

Is it Spring yet? One could wonder this weekend with temperatures in the low 40s in the morning and... gusting winds. When I flew back from Washington, D.C., on Thursday, temperature was 89F at mid day in San Jose. What a change and contrast in two days!
We were 48 at the start this year, a small number although about the same as previous years, except for last year's record participation of 68 runners (photo credit: Kevin Kanning). We had the wind in our back for the first mile so a reasonably fast start. However, I stayed with Michael (Kanning), Mark (Tanaka), Alan (Geraldi) and John (Burton), last year's Race Director (RD). Alan told us about his coming Badwater, this July. Sure this run would not provide much heat training for it! I asked John for some news about their baby (Amy was pregnant when directing the race last year). 8 months now and sleeping at night, on the right track! We were oscillating between 7:30 and 7 min/mile pace and I took the lead keeping a very stable 7:00 +/- 2 seconds. Actually Alan caught up with me by the end of the first lap (each lap around the lake is 4.5 miles) and I made sure not to follow him. We closed the second loop together but I left the aid station before him and was not going to see him again. (Photo credit: Kevin Kanning.)
I was still on a 7:00-7:01 average pace after the fourth lap and feeling very well except for a few needed stops by the bathroom, like last year although a bit later in the race this year. At the end of the 6th lap, I passed the marathon mark in 3:05 and thought at that time that it would too fast for a 100K but would make a good 50-mile time if I could hold the pace. However, in the 7th lap, I got really tired of the wind in the South part of the lake and decided I the run had lost the fun for me, and that was not worth continuing for 5 more laps. Another factor contributed to my decision: seeing and passing Michael walking 1.5 mile form the North aid station. (Photo credit: Kevin Kanning.)
I decided to call it a day and sprinted to the finish line of the 50K. For the non insiders, Ruth Anderson is a race where you have the option to stop at any of the three distances: 50K, 50 miles or 100K. But once you have reach one of the distances, you must either stop or have to continue to the next one to be listed in the results. Hao Liu and Peter Lubbers where the timers on the 50K and had to wait for at least 30 seconds before I made my mind as I didn't want to regret my choice (Peter whom I did not recognize with all his layers on, his cap and sun glasses on, oops! Peter, sorry about that. I was not expecting you at Lake Merced. Was very nice of you to come down from Tahoe to help Rajeev out!). 50K it was for today, in 3:44:58.
I had come with several goals: (1) have a fast road 100K time in preparation for a potential participation into the French Nationals at the end of August, a race sponsored by Brooks; (2) erase my counter performance of American River, 2 weeks ago; (3) put a good number of points in the PA USA Track & Field Grand Prix, after the fact that Way Too Cool did not count in this year; (4) close some of the 75-point gap that Mark (Tanaka) established after two races (Jed Smith while I was in Costa Rica, and a great American River); (5) last but not least, have fun with a local race and easy logistic. All these goals were gone with the wind, blown away by the gusting winds coming from the Pacific Ocean.

I was therefore kind of disappointed to "drop" down to the shortest distance today but, given the conditions, a mere consolation that was still a PR on this distance. My best 50K so far was Skyline in 3:48, with much more elevation. So a bit faster, with the wind replacing the hills. Other consolation: a very nice plaque awarded by Rajeev, this year's Race Director. Rajeev had assembled a great team of volunteers who had to endure such bad conditions for a very long day. A big thank you to all of you guys (see the post scriptum for more)! I also kept asthma under control, with just a bit of coughing on the way home. I later learned that wind was in the 30-35 mph range (more than 50 km/h) and got only stronger during the day, so had less regret of having picked the shortest route.

I was blessed to have these consolations compared to Michael's misfortune, today. Michael dropped after 6 laps, a big disappointment when you know he was after the US Junior National record for the distance. Michael is only 16 so he has some time to meet this goal, very much at reach if only he starts slower (the record corresponds to a 10:33 min/mile pace). His father, Kevin, was here to encourage him, take pictures and drive Michael who does not have a driving license yet. Since Agnès had only planned to come to see me finish the 100K and drive me back, she was not even on her way yet. Kevin was very nice to drive me back home (we live not far from each other) and, after a hot shower, I was really glad to get in the jacuzzi to finally warm up after this cold morning, thinking of the runners still on the course. Special congratulations to the 4 valorous 100K finishers, Mark Tanaka, Joseph Swenson, Charles Blakeney and Lisa Huerta, with Mark winning the race in 8:45, 50 more minutes than his time of last year.

Before closing on this report of a race named after Ruth Anderson, I found these words about her in one of the USA Track and Field website pages:

Ruth Anderson pioneered women's ultrarunning in the 1970s, a time when virtually no American women practiced the sport. She established numerous American ultradistance women's records, and in doing so became an inspiration for the first generation of American ultra women, who led the world ultra rankings well into the 1980s. Anderson, born in 1929, is the namesake for the Ruth Anderson 50 km / 50 mi. / 100 km held in San Francisco each April since 1993.

She became active in the national federation's fledgling distance running committees. In 1986 she was a founding member of the first Ultrarunning Subcommittee of USA Track & Field. Anderson continues today as a USATF committee member and volunteer for long distance running in general, and ultrarunning in particular. For her pioneering accomplishments in the sport and her performances, Anderson was the inducted into the USATF Masters Hall of Fame in the initial class in 1996 and is one of four ultrarunners in the hall.

Surely the best way to remember her is by running this event, and I hope more will join in the future.
On Sunday I wanted to put the missing miles in. On my way up to Black Mountain, I got on the course of The Relay, on Stevens Creek Canyon Road. The Relay is a very special race taking place every year: a 200-mile run, from Calistoga in Napa Valley down to Santa Cruz, with teams composed of 12 runners, each of them running 3 legs, between 3 to 9 miles each. 190 teams or 2,280 runners, raising money for Organ 'R' Us, a beautiful running event. It was fun to see some runners on this road, with the ballet of their accompanying vans and crew. I got into the excitement and, instead of Black Mountain, ended up at Skyline Boulevard at the end of Highway 9. In addition to crossing Cupertino, I had run leg 28 (labeled as hard), 29 (very hard) and 30 (very hard), for 12.2 miles of most up hills. At the top, among the crowd, I ran into Stan Jensen who was volunteering again, with the Palo Alto Running Club, providing security oversight along the exchange on this road with a lot of dangerous traffic. Stan had spent his Saturday carefully recording our splits at Ruth Anderson. In addition to his very informative website, Stan is everywhere on the running circuit and I will see him again at Miwok in two weeks.

The way down was much easier and I totaled 55.6 miles over the weekend, good long runs in preparation for Miwok (hilly trail 100K on May 3rd).

See you there!

PS: from Rajeev's follow-up email, a praise to all the volunteers at this year's edition:

David Sirbiladze
He partied till 1:00 am Saturday morning and woke up again at 3:15 a.m. to drive with his nut of a friend, Rajeev Patel, to Lake Merced where he, single handedly, out up the 10x20 volunteer tent.

Steve Jaber
I learned so much from this amazing man about race directing. He was everywhere, taking care of all glitches.

A friend of Juliane Scheberies, was amazing all morning and many hours past noon. She was the heart and soul of the North aid station.

Anu Singh
She boiled a load of potatoes the evening before before sitting down to make the goodie bags. She then got up real early to drive up with me to the race where she volunteered in the North aid station.

Lily Patil
She too drove up early with me and helped out in the North aid station until she had to leave around 10:00 a.m.

This man was like my personal genie - he manifested all the things I needed within minutes! He was there from 5 a.m. until almost 3 p.m., all the while helping get stuff for both the aid stations.

Arul's wife, helped out in the North aid station, all the while warming hearts with her beautiful smile

Cori, Mohan, Anil, Chandrakala (CK), Renuka
These hardy volunteers braved the gale force winds in the South aid station with an ever present smile and a helping hand.

Nicole Whiting
She showed up just after noon and spent the next 4-5 hours helping man the North aid station. She made and handed out hot soup to the runners and other volunteers and had a smile for everyone.

Manjula Jonnalagada
Manjula helped out in the North aid station and worked tirelessly for all the hours she was there.

Deepa Ramam
Showed up with a sleeping child and her parents and helped out including getting sandwiches for all the volunteers.

Stephanie Huynh, Wendy Hong, and Danielle Cha
These 3 young girls showed up at 6:15 in the North aid station and helped out until they had tpo leave at 10:00 a.m. These young girls are from a local school, Lowell High School, displayed great spirit and a willingness to help.

Hao Liu and Pete Lubbers
Your 50K timers, along with Jeff Jones, sat all by themselves timing your 50K finish and did it with a smile.

Shekhar Hemnani and Rajeev Char
Your 50M timers, they helped bring down Race Central after the race and were there till the end helping the last 100K runners finish.

Hollis Lenderking
Shouting out bib numbers in the morning, he came back again later on to get stuff for the race. Thank you Hollis.

Dave Combs and Stan Jensen
The numbers duo. These two manned their timing tent with an efficiency that I could only stand and admire. Knowing that they were in their tent crunching numbers let me spend my time with other race matters.

Jeff Jones and Lyal Holmberg
Jeff helped out in the North aid station, manned the 50K finish area and then headed to the South aid station where he and Lyal worked until the very end.


Alan said...


Great report - love the title :)

You ran an awesome race. After lap 2, you were gone!

Good luck at Miwok, I will most likely be volunteering for that one (but afterwards may have to get some advice from you regarding UTMB as I will be doing that this year a month after Badwater).

Anonymous said...

Lu avec bcp d'intérêt car nous connaissons les lieux et avions bien pensé à toi.
Bravo, et pour le lendemain

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

There is no way I could've kept up with you, even if I just ran 50k. Congrats on a fast win, and your 3-legged-and-some bonus run on Sunday. See you at Miwok.

Anonymous said...

great report, Jean. this is hao. i was the other 50k timer that worked alongside pete lubber. it was awesome to see the way you ran in the gusting wind. very good effort. i'll be volunteering at mi-wok again, at stan's station. see you at Tennessee valley in two weeks. good luck to you preparation.



Dave - Atlanta Trails said...

Congratulations! It sounds like you did the smart thing and listened to your body.