Sunday, January 4, 2009

Steatopygous Quinquamillia

Not sure who named this run this way but it is assuredly more poetic than the raw "Saratoga Fat Ass 50K". Not sure either where the Fat Ass tradition started, but this local one is clearly an old tradition in the Bay Area, with trace of years 1996 and even 1983 on the website. For detailed information on the run, see Stan Jensen's website (the ultrapedia...).

I ran this Fat Ass for the first time in January 2005. It was only the second time I was running more than 26 miles. I was still focusing on the marathon and road racing and, 3 months later, I even got on the Boston podium. My first official ultra race was only a year later, at Way Too Cool 2006. Needless to say, I found this run difficult, especially in the cold rain of early January. I passed on in 2006, ran it in 2007, and missed it in 2008 but replaced it with a fat ass in France, where I introduced the concept along with a run organized in Rouen by Annick, with a few other ultrafondus.
This year, the weather was ideally sunny although chilly in the canyons and woods. We drove back from Tahoe on Thursday evening, where I ran three times in addition to two days of skiing. I ran up to the Mount Rose pass (20 miles) and ran 10 miles in the snow on New Year's Day. Despite this acclimation to low temperatures, and like the previous years, I was cold all the way and could never warm-up but in the jacuzzi... This confirms that I do better in hot weather.
On Friday evening, I hesitated joining a few other ultraholics on the East side of the Bay for the Epiphany Run. That is another fat ass format (informal ultra to burn the calories accumulated during the Holidays), to commemorate Tropical John's birthday (the Quad Dipsea magi!). I finally opted for the local run, a shorter drive from my house. Per the webiste instructions, I was set to go at 9am, the time corresponding to the fast runners. Surprisingly though, there were quite a few cars on the Saratoga Gap parking lot but everybody seemed to have left already. Even Brian Robinson whom I recognized the hybrid car and whom I suspected to have come with Sophia and their local friend Whit Rumbach.
By 9:07, Kristina Irvin showed up from the trail. Like me, she was surprised nobody else was on the 9am start. There were only two names on the log sheet left on his windshield by race director, Dave Kamp! We left together and Kristina told me more about herself, for instance that last year's Western States was supposed to be her 10th one, that she ran 7 100-milers over last summer, including PRs at Hardrock, Leadville and Vermont! And that her fantasy goal is to PR at Western States, 16 years after her first run there. We ran the first mile together and then I ramped up the pace to see if I could catch-up with earlier runners. And warm-up a little as it was quite chilly despite the bright sun over the trees. I stopped a few minutes on Hickory Oaks Trail to capture a few shots, including this 360-degree panoramic view (click on the picture to enlarge):
The rest of my run has been very solitary, passing a few runners on the way. It was great and recomforting to find the aid station set up by Winnie and Lee Jebian at China Grade Road. There, Pat was trying to warm-up in a little spot of sun light. She was really cold and decided to join Lee in his car to let Christina continue on her own. A couple of miles later I saw Winnie and Linda, then Ed and David P, David K, then Penny and Lina at Waterman Gap.

Race Director, David Kamp, on his way to Waterman Gap:
Like the previous years, I bonked on the way up to Saratoga Gap. Cold, nauseous, bored, I was glad to see a sign indicating only 6.4 miles to the finish from Waterman Gap. Overall my GPS gave 29.2 miles for the course after downloading the data in SportTracks. It might have been tricked by the elevation, the trees, the canyons and the switchbacks but I doubt this is a full 31-mile, 50K course. I completed the loop in 5:47, including the time to take pictures, 10 minutes at the China Grade aid station and 17 minutes to cross the creek and find the Iverson's Cabin Site at the maintenance yard (mile 9). So, not great but better than my previous two editions.
I found Chris and Charles on the parking lot. They had started at 8am. Then saw many names on the log sheet including an impressive 5:07 by Whit, 5:12 by Brian, 5:45 by Adam Blum and Sean. I put the heat on in the car and only got warmer soaking in the jacuzzi for 20 minutes. I already look forward to the heat training at Ohlone in May!

A big thank to Winnie and Lee for driving the minivan around and offering a well stocked aid station. With that, the ultra season is officially open, let's get back to training and racing seriously, and have a great 2009, all!

PS: see more pictures in my Picasa photo album!

A nice loop, illustrating the wonders of the Bay Area: so close to the urban area (North) and wonderful views over the Pacific Ocean, with precious hills and woods in between.
A challenging course, starting with a long and easy downhill, followed by a steep uphill of about 6 miles and 6.5 miles up to Saratoga Gap to finish:


Anonymous said...

un peu technique pour moi, mais les photos sont très belles en particulier le panoramique.
et je te plains d'avoir eu si froid

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

I think it was correct to stay local (a little less carbon) given the choice. Looks nice, maybe I'll try version 2 next month if I'm free. Happy New Year.

Anonymous said...

The photo of "David Kamp, RD" is actually of Ralph Hirt, the oldest finisher of the Recover From the Holidays Fat Ass Fifty 2009. The history of the Fat Ass goes back 25 years when Joe Oakes, then living in Los Altos, CA, needed a qualifying 50 mile run for his entry into the Western States 100 miler. He entered the Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz 5-person relay as a solo runner, using 5 variations on his own name to make a "team". He then adopted the course as a low key ultra following the holidays, offered to the burgeoning ultrarunning community, an antidote to the organized ultras. His conditions: no fee, no aid, no awards, and no wimps. The tradition continues with the Saratoga, CA 50K version we use currently.

Anonymous said...

"Steatopygous Quinquimillia" was the name given to the Recover From the Holidays Fat Ass Fifty by Joe Oakes when a letter to the editor of UltraRunning magazine complained that "Fat Ass" was in poor taste, so Joe went to the Latin: steatopygous is the fatty rump of a pygmy, and quinquimillia is fifty-thousand steps, about what it takes to traverse fifty miles.