Monday, September 8, 2008

Stevens Creek 50K: heat training, from the bench

An unusual race report for me, from the other side of the fence, the volunteer angle. This Sunday, Steve Patt was organizing, directing, running and, I believe, sponsoring (through his company, Stevens Creek Software), this local 50K along Skyline, in the hills above Palo Alto and Cupertino. This is a low key event, Steve is not even taking race fees but invites participants to make donations to the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society (SCVAS) which is raising money this year to fund a full-time environmental advocate position. Limited to 70 runners, although a handful did not even start. I had put this race on my calendar, not to run it after such a busy month of August (3 races), but to volunteer.

After picking 45 sandwiches at TOGO's, I drove up the endless Page Mill Road to Skyline Ridge, where the race had started at 9 am. It was already noon when first runner, Mark (Tanaka), came through this aid station, at mile 20. I was in charge of the next aid station at mile 25 so it was time to go there and set up. Chris (Miller) was waiting for me with the ranger who had open the gate for us so we have more space for the aid station. Tom (Davis) joined us, after his morning shift at Saratoga Gap. Steve explaining his time-tracking software and system to Tom:
It was already very hot, well above 90F. A breeze was helping but we knew that would be a tough day for the runners. Fortunately I had brought my canopy which helped stay alive for our 4-hour stay in the sun. It was certainly an unusual hot day and a dozen runners had dropped by mid-day, including Steve, unfortunately.

Mark came in almost one hour after going through Skyline Ridge. He had a comfortable lead, yet, as usual, he was giving it all and suffering. Country mate (i.e. Frenchman) Pierre-Yves (Couteau) surprised us coming from the other direction. He had missed a turn and got on Skyline down to the Rapley Ranch Road. His GPS was indicating 25 miles, which was above the official mileage for the aid station. He was a bit disoriented and took his time to get hydrated, learning from his DNF at Mount Diablo before the summer. He also enjoyed my icy car wash, like most of the other runners, and that got him back on track to take second overall, in 5:44, behind Mark in 5:07. Marking flying toward an easy win:
Overall we saw 31 runners coming in, and, proudly, we did not get any drop at our station. Krista (Callinan) was the longest to stay, taking a good recovery nap (more than 30 minutes). She initially wanted to drop but we did not think it was a good idea and she finally found a companion to get her back on the trail, for the remaining 6 miles. Thanks to Steve's perfect organization, we had enough ice, fluids and food for everybody. We were supposed to dismount the aid station by 3:30 but waited for more runners until 3:50. Chris and Tom then left and I waited for the last runner on the course, Anne (Lew). After taking care of her, I locked my car and ran with her for 1 mile, on Ridge Trail, up to the junction with Hawk Trail. That intersection was marking the end of a loop which I ran clockwise to deribbon it. I had a meeting in Sunnyvale at 7 and it was already past 5 so I rushed between stopping for each ribbon. On my way back, on Ancient Oak Trail, I made sure to let the last two runners, David (Wright) and Anne, know about the turn I had unmarked. I thought I had drunk enough during our station duty but just these 7 miles got me dehydrated by the time I got back to the car so I can imagine how tough it must have been for the runners. Actually I think the combination of heat and breeze just made it worse. Here is a handful of ribbons, worth 7 miles of light marking (as Steve puts it: "I'm not a big fan of confidence ribbons"):
In addition to filling bottles, car washing and helping some runners figuring out what they needed, the flow was smooth enough to allow me to take a picture of almost each of them at Rapley Ranch. See my online Picasa album. You can also look at Craig (Heinselman)'s photo album. Like Craig put it in his album, "a happy aid station makes happy runners" (photo credit, Craig):
I quickly drove back to the finish area at Skyline Ridge to leave the signs I picked up on the trail, to Steve, and say bye to the runners still hanging out in the shade of the canopy to recover from their hard work.

On the women side, two club mates from our Stevens Creek Striders club took the top honors: Lina (McCain) and Penny (Beeston). See the complete results on Steve's website. It was nice to see many other familiar faces, and see Charles (Stevens) back on the trails after his blood clot accident. It felt good to be on the other side of the action, having the opportunity to see all the runners and helping them. For what it is worth, everybody got some heat training this weekend, after the one we missed in May. Global warming?

By the way, my running is back on track, just trying to cope with my business travel this month (two round-trips to Paris). Recharging the batteries, physically and mentally, for the coming Rio Del Lago 100-mile at the end of September. In less than three weeks now!

PS: bonus track, an aerial view of the wild fires still active in North California, from the plan on my way back from Paris, last Thursday. Hopefully we will see some rain this month!


Anonymous said...

C'était sympa à toi de passer de "l'autre côté"; a dimanche


Pierre-Yves said...

Hi Frenchie!
Thanks again for volunteering at this race. I still cannot believe how hot it was. I assumed Krista had some problem with the heat (and reading your blog I understand she took a nap at your aid station) but I really thought she would finish second as we ran together between miles 20 and 23 and I could barely keep up with her.
Good luck at Rio del Lago!

Anonymous said...

You are as gifted an aid station volunteer as a runner. Your ice water treatment had an amazing effect. Thanks for everything.
Hannes (Medic) Vogel

Anonymous said...

Your "car wash" treatment was the closest I got to heaven on this crazy-hot day! Thanks many times over for staying to sponge down and cheer up all of us stragglers.
Scott Whisler

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Thanks big time for the ice wash and being out there for everyone! If you don't mind, I borrowed some of your photos.

Ah! I suspected you might run Rio-- and make me work for the points, if not win them yourself. Will see you out there in 3 weeks!

Anonymous said...

Jean ( et Christine )

Merci Beaucoup for being at the aid station on Sunday. Great to see you there, and thanks for the ice water.

It was a long hot day, but worth while.

good luck for Rio


Drs. Cynthia and David said...

Hi Jean,

Thanks so much for taking care of us on such a hot day. I found it difficult to do anything that might generate additional heat since it couldn't be readily dissipated. And the blisters! Where did they come from?

Thanks again! You (and the other volunteers) were angels!