Sunday, April 5, 2009

American River '09: giving up...

While cruising along American River this Saturday morning, I was thinking: "all (ultra) paths lead to... Auburn!" Well, not exactly. You may recall from last year that I had a terrible experience for my first American River 50 last year: after 15 miles of good running, my exercise-induced asthma kicked in, forcing me to walk 35 miles, resulting in a very long day. In 2008, with the excitement of seeing Anton (Tony) Krupicka running, I had started pretty hard with a 6:36 min/mile pace. To avoid the same experience, I promised myself not to start faster than 7 min/mile and that's what we were at for the first 15 miles with teammate Sean (and Rob). Unfortunately, right after the Sunrise aid station (mile 14.91) I started hearing some strange clicks and wheezing emanating from the bottom of my lungs... Sure enough, my breath got so short in the next mile, I had hard time keeping running even at a slow pace. Fortunately, I had taken with me an inhaler and took 2 puffs at mile 16. It helped getting the situation under control compare to last year when I got the inhaler from Agnès only at mile 38, but it was too late, the damage was done and I knew I would have to walk the second half to make it to Auburn. I barely passed the marathon mark with a Boston qualifier and decided to call it a day when I reached the Beal's Point aid station at mile 26.8 in 3:32. Last year was different: first, Agnès was waiting for me at Horseshoe Bar (mile 38) so I didn't have much option than to keep going. Second, I had never DNF'ed back then and thought asthma was not a good enough reason to drop. Since then, I experienced my first DNF at the French Nationals of road 100K, then an awful asthma experience (or maybe a pulmonary edema actually) at Helen Klein in November. Last and not least, my lungs processing less oxygen, not only my muscles started feeling tired, but I also got a major headache, my hands were swollen and I had hard time reading what was written on the t-shirt of runners who were passing me or running the other way. Bottom line, it was not worth the 5 to 6 hours of walking I would have had to do to reach Auburn this Saturday. There will be other races and American River editions. This Sunday morning my nose was running which indicates that I have probably made a serious allergy to the pollen. Nature is wonderful through its Spring rebirth, but there are some inconvenience for those sensitive to allergies. And I cannot complain much since this has never bothered me during training, only a couple or three crisis a year in races.
Enough about me... Pierre-Yves had carpooled with us so we had to pick him in Auburn. To draw the deception out of my mind, and while we were waiting for the rest of the Quiksilver/Rhomobile team and the Stevens Creek Striders members (Lina, Peggy and Bill, crewed by Bill and Mike), I took literally hundreds of pictures of runners (253 at Beals Point and 122 of the top runners in the last hill to the Auburn Dam Overlook). I recognized many faces, gave encouragements and quite a few runners were wondering what I was doing behind the camera today... Seeing so many different expressions helped me healing from the frustration of not completing this renown ultra race. Expressions were ranging from smiles to grimaces, joy to pain, relaxed to focused, worried or anxious... I'm happy to share them on Picasa, although please forgive me for not adding comments and names on each of these 400 pictures. And please consider buying from the Pro, Facchino Photography, Keith having made a business out of his hobby and passion for sports photography. Otherwise, if you like some of these pictures, (1) make sure to save them on your disk in case I need to get rid of this space in Picasa at some point and (2) if you include a picture in your blog, please reference my blog per courtesy.
Anyway, after our prolonged stay at Beal's Point, it was time to drive up to Auburn to see the leaders coming in. I had heard that some folks were trying to set a new course record (5:32 against Tony's 5:42 of last year) and I was ready with my camera on by 11:20 in the last section of the course, the last steep uphill before reaching the Auburn Dam Overlook parking lot. But the first runner actually came in at 12:06pm, Max King. It was so impressive to see him running such a steep hill, albeit his finish time was a bit disappointing. From an informed source, he was actually more interested in any of the top-three men Western States spots than setting a course record or an overall win actually. in contrast, Chikara (Omine), who had already made it to Western States, and in his usual style, lead for a large part of the race with a very aggressive 6 min/mile pace. I was happy to seem him coming in third. Kami Semik controlled the women race form start to finish. Interesting to note that 5 out of the 7 top women were Masters.
All the results are posted on Capitol Road Race Management's website. For their first American River, Sean did an amazing 6:51 and Pierre-Yves 7:26. Andy and Adam finished together and their time (7:51) will be the third one considered for the ranking of our team in the PA USAT&F competition. Good job guys!
Again, more in pictures in my Picasa album, enjoy! And see you next year. It took me three attempts to have a good Way Too Cool, my next American River will be the right one!

10 comments:

Sean Lang said...

Jean,

To bad that your asthma acted up, but you did the right thing withdrawing. At the least, you got in a good training run:)

Sean

Scott Dunlap said...

You made the right call. I'm wondering if perhaps there is some plant/pollen along the American that is giving you trouble? Seems to only happen on that stretch!

I hope you're feeling better, and will see you at Ruth. Thanks for the great pics!

SD
Run Trails

Anonymous said...

Ta remarque optimiste finale est bien à ton honneur après cette grande déception...
Tendrement
Maman

Eric said...

Thanks for the pics, Jean. I saw you at Beale's with your ID jersey on (and a camera in your hands!) and thought something must be wrong...

Dave - Atlanta Trails said...

Sorry to hear you had so much trouble again! It sounds like you made the right call to drop out though.

Hope you're feeling better now!

Baldwyn said...

Sorry to hear about your asthma acting up. Thanks for your gift of photos, however, they're really terrific! Wish I could have seen you, but given that I barely made the start on time, there's no way I would have seen you on the course or at the finish. Probably even if you walked! :)

andyb said...

I was one of the ones giving you a bewildered look when I saw you at Beals. Sorry you had to drop, but as everyone else commented you absolutely did the right thing. I hope you can make the third time the charm for AR50 next year. See you soon, Jean.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

I read Sean's blog first, and didn't realize you took his great photo (and a bunch of others). Sounds like I missed a great photo op! Sorry about the asthma again. I've been prescribing (via my phone job) lots of nasal steroids in the Sac area, so I can imagine the allergens in the air up there.

Jean Pommier said...

Sean, Scott, Eric, Dave, Baldwyn, andyb, Mark, thank YOU for your encouragements, this really helps. I felt so bad after DNFing, missing the great Brooks finisher jacket and dropping from the Montrail Ultra Cup competition, ouch, a lot in one day. Then I read Chihping's story and I thought I could really have walked the second half like last year. But the point is that I _should_ not have indeed, what a dilemma...

See some of you at Ruth Anderson and/or Miwok,

Jean.

Rajeev said...

Jean,

Smart man. It's only a race. Not worth your health!!

Recover fast. The trails need you. :)

Hugs.
Rajeev