Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ruth Anderson 09: almost perfect...

I ran Ruth Anderson for the first time in 2007, two weeks before Boston (one of my first posts on this blog). It was my first attempt at the distance before Miwok and, because of the proximity to the Boston marathon which I always take seriously, I switched to 50-mile option at the last minute, finishing just 2 minutes ahead of Dean Karnazes. I had a great Boston afterwards, 2:45, so I did not regret my decision. Ruth Anderson has this particular loop format in which you can decide to stop at 50K, 50 miles or got the full distance of 100K.
Last year, the weather was terrible with gusting winds. Getting to the 50K mark in first place and 3:44, I decided it was enough and called it a day although I had come to complete the full distance again.

This year, I had no excuse to to switch to a shorter distance than the 100K. First, we were running as a team (RhoQuick for Rhomobile, Adam's company, and the Quicksilver of San Jose running club). We need at least three finishers in an event to score points so the plan was to have Andy, John and Adam compete in the 50K and Sean, Jim and myself in the 100K. Second, with my DNF at American River two weeks ago, I needed to take the opportunity of running the longest distance of this low key event to score as many points.
The conditions were ideal this morning. The weather was perfect: cool temperature at the start but not cold, overcast with clouds clearing quickly in the morning, a mix of sunny and shady sections. The trail was of course in excellent condition as you can stay on the bike path (asphalt) or run on the side. The course is simple, a 4.51-mile loop with one aid station every 2.25 miles. Professional and helpful volunteers. Easy access and parking. Great ultra company: many old-timers and new comers alike. A few days, only 30 runners had registered, but Rajeev managed to gather 75 of us, a record for this event. And a nightmare for the Race Director to stock so many goody bags at the last minute (see my note about the sponsors below)

The Race

Taking into consideration the bottleneck which formed at the single toilet before 6:30 am, Rajeev was considerate enough to delay the start by 10 minutes, to 6:40. At 6:25 I was still in the line, without my running shoes on, definitely not ready. I rushed to get prepared in 4 minutes, a PR for me by far, and this extra stress might have contributed to what happened later during the race. Rajeev let us go after giving his Race Director briefing, consisting mainly in paying homage to Ruth Anderson (see her story at the end of my 2008 race report), thanking the generous sponsors and volunteers and clarifying the rules about the distance selection.

Two guys left in a hurry, as they were aiming at breaking the 50K course record. Scott (Dunlap), Michael (Kanning) and I followed in a much more conservative pace of 7:45-8:00 min/mile pace. Michael said that he was shooting for 8:15 hours on the 100K, hence aiming at an 8:00 min/mile pace. I was hoping to do 7:45 today, so I pushed the pace a bit, down to 7:15 for the first lap. In the second lap, Scott who was running the 50K, two days before running Boston with his Dad, pushed the pace below 7. I started following before getting back to reason. I was still around the 7:15 pace, in my 4th lap when, damned, my lungs started making noise again, like at American River two weeks ago. That was mile around mile 17. At the next passage to the main aid station I took two puffs of my inhaler, which helped but the damage had already spread to the bottom of the lungs, limiting my respiratory capacity significantly. I slew down, to an average 7:23 min/mile by the end of the 5th lap, 7:28 at the end of the 6th and 7:42 after the 7th lap, deciding on ending the suffering by taking third overall in the 50K just under 4 hours.

Leveraging the fact that the top two runners on the 50K dropped, Scott accomplished the feat of taking first overall, in a personal record of 3:37! Scott will turn 40 just before Miwok in two weeks so he left me the M40-49 award, just in time! Andy and John from our RhoQuick teamed sprinted right after me to also finish right under 4 hours. Adam completed his 50K a few minutes later. With Adam and Andy:
Like Scott said: "I don't know many runners who can still complete a 50K under 4 hours, with asthma." Indeed, as much disappointed as I was not to meet my goal of running 100K this morning and preventing the team from scoring on the 100K, which was a big deal in terms of points, I feel blessed to still be able to finish an ultra and, more importantly, to not be bothered by asthma all year around while training. As a matter of fact I was back to training the day after AR, and ran 62 miles over the weekend last week to prepare for RA. All that when pollen alerts are in full force these days.

Pollen, cold temperatures at the start, dryness or humidity, special plants or trees, I still cannot make sense of any correlation between these exercise-induced asthma crisis. The most likely factor I can still think of is stress. Definitely that week was stressful, to the point that I looked at carpooling options only at 6pm last night. Not to mention the rushed preparation to get to the starting line this morning. As for the stress of doing well in the race, I thought it was moderate, yet probably at 7 on a scale of 10. I need to get all the stress cursors below 5 by Miwok...

Agnès picked me up at 11:30 and we left after seeing Michael starting his 10th loop. He had a comfortable lead in the 100K with 4 loops to go, yet he was surely going to slow down as he was still at a blazing 7:24 min/mile pace when he caught up with me and passed me in my 6th loop. For those who do not know Michael yet, he is 17, has been running ultras for several years already, including 100-milers, and is in the pursuit of breaking several long-distance American Junior records.Behind, Sean was taking it easy after an amazing sub-7hr performance at American River. looking forward to seeing the results once they are published later this weekend on Stan's webiste.

Like at American River, I had the opportunity to look at the many expressions on the runners' faces as they kept passing through the main aid station. See some shots in my Picasa album.

A special thanks to our sponsors and a very special volunteer!

Especially with the inexpensive fee that Rajeev is asking to enter Ruth Anderson ($45 for a 100K, I bet the cheapest race in North America!), such event could not happen without the support of the volunteers and a few sponsors. Zombie Runner, Vespa, PowerBar, Gatorade, Fluid, lululemon athletica. But the one who topped it all is with no doubt Shannon's Moeben. As I mentioned earlier, with all the last minute entrants, Rajeev and Shanon had to work around the clock to have the so convenient Moeben sleeves printed with a nice Ruth Anderson logo and graphics, on time for this morning race. Kudos Shannon, and THANK YOU for supporting the ultra community so actively. (Picture below from this year's Way Too Cool.)
As for the volunteers, I would like to put Stan (Jensen) under the spotlight. For years, Stan has been volunteering hours to all the local events in addition to providing us with a wealth of information on his website. This was not supposed to turn to his primary job but, unfortunately, Stan has been hit hard by the crisis and he is calling for our support. If you know and use the site already, you know how valuable it is. If not, then rush to it and please consider making such a donation to show your support and some giving back to an outstanding volunteer!

With this asthma issue, the thing I liked the best about running today, in addition to the first three laps which felt great, was to blog about my experience and the event. Happy to share my passion with words and pictures, although it does not seem nice and easy some times... Hopefully, Miwok will be a good experience this year to put back some nicer stories up on this blog!


Baldwyn said...

Jean, thanks for being there with a smile on your face, despite these difficulties! You take it all in stride; it'd be so frustrating for most of us. Always good to see you. Have a fantastic run on Monday!

Scott Dunlap said...

Jean, your ability to perserve with no lung capacity is truly amazing. Karmically it should all be out of the way for Miwok.

Sorry I spread the false rumor about you going to Boston. I thought for sure you were doing both! I'll be thinking of you Monday.

Take it easy...see you at Miwok. Happy to carpool if you are interested!

Andy B. said...

Jean, great write up of the race, as always. I am amazed at how fast you run, and with asthma taking over no less. I hope you are feeling better.

I look forward to seeing you at Miwok, and wish you a fabulous day.

Anonymous said...

Décidément!Etant donné que cela n'arrive qu'aux courses, cela pourrait bien venir du stress,en effet.
Bien dur pour toi...