Saturday, March 13, 2010

Way Too Cool 2010: not completely cool

Too cool: sunny weather, crisp blue sky, outstanding competition, location (Cool), parking, car pooling with the rest of the team, Gary Gellin joining our team, Holly taking pictures during the race with my camera, perfect organization, cool volunteers standing in cool temperatures, meeting with Karl Meltzer, no traffic on the way to Cool (yeah, at 4am... ;-), running this increasingly popular race for the 5th time (and managing to get in!), the Way Too Cool special edition cup cakes, the massage by VeLoyce and his Monsters of Massage crew, the results posted in record time.

Not so cool: waking up at 3 am to drive up to the start, the food at the finish line which doesn't match any of the cheaper races, and, compared with other bad ones in the past, a moderate asthma crisis which slowed down my progression from mile 14 and led to my PW (Personal Worst) at this race...
There is actually something strange with my times at this race with a 15' pattern. In 2008 I PR'ed on the old course with 3:56, close to 4 hours. Last year, 4:14, close to 4:15, on the new and longer course. My first time there, in 2006, I clocked 4:29:50 for my first ultra, quite close to 4:30. The following year I had some asthma and finished in 4:45. So, 4:00, 4:15, 4:30, 4:45, what was left for this year? Certainly not 3:45 on the longer course, with my current little form and training, high fatigue and stress level, more than 17,000 air miles over the past 10 days, and the muddy conditions. Read on to see what happened today.

I picked Adam and Pierre-Yves up on Meridian in San Jose at 4:10 and Mark (Tanaka) on Stoneridge in Pleasanton at 4:40. At that time, there was not much traffic and we got to Cool around 6:30, early enough to get one of the last spots of the first parking (something which never happened to me as I usually drive with Agnès from the Best Western in Auburn later in the morning). It was chilly (36F) but the sun was already dissipating the fog, providing some wonderful views of the country side. We spent some time chatting with other runners and preparing ourselves, trying to get as much heat as possible by staying in the car until the last minute.

As usual with the paved and downhill first two miles, the start was fast. Leor took the lead, followed by ultra elites Max King and Geoff Roes. Both of them had outstanding performances in 2009 and Geoff got the coveted title of Ultra Runner of the Year in 2009. They were followed by Gary Gellin, an ex cross-country champion and cyclist, who switched to ultra recently and joined our team this week (he was running cross-country and road racing with the Aggies, but the Aggies don't have a team competing in ultra). Several other fast runners behind, then I settled for a 6:10 min/mile pace with Victor Ballesteros. We were soon joined by Michael Buchanan and that's how we arrived and cross the first aid station at mile 7 (Hwy 40 crossing). Just before the aid station, in the steep and slippery downhill, Eric Skaden felt and was on the side when we passed him but he said he was ok. I saw him several times afterward as he stopped to fix a shoe issue then lost him around mile 10 (he finished 8th, just above 4 hours).

I was in 15th place before the steep ascent of Brown's Bar and got passed by a handful of runners as I was walking. Near mile 14 my breath started getting shorter and I had to slow down, settling to an average 7:42 pace. I stopped for a couple minutes to the Auburn Lake Trail aid station to catch my breath and refuel then tried to maintain the pace on the loop but had to start walking on some uphills. I was only at mile 17 with 14 to go, not so cool... I kept getting passed by runners and that would not stop until the finish.

Among all the runners who passed me were Pierre-Yves, Mark, Graham Cooper and many that I didn't know. As I was making my way up Goat Hill, I got passed by Kate Evans, doing really great (she will take 3rd of the competitive F30-39 age group) then Tim Twietmeyer, proudly wearing his age on his #51 bib. He was surprised to see and pass me and thought that was the first time that happened but he passed my on this course and American River too when I got asthma in the past. When I reached the Goat Hill aid station, the birthday boy Norm Klein yelled at me: "What are you doing here, you should be 30' ahead..." We were at mile 27, 3:48 in the run and I could barely run even the downhills, much less the uphills. He added nicely: "Are you OK?" and I just had to show my chest for him to understand what was happening as I had a pitiful asthma experience at one of his Helen Klein Classic 50-mile races in November 2008.

The rest of the race was quite boring with a lot of mud, some sliding and mostly walking. I didn't stop on the way back through Hwy 49 crossing and jogged through the station but had to walk again in the uphill to the plateau of Cool. Rick Gaston passed me in the last stretch. It was 4:54 when I passed the "1 mile left" sign and thought that there was no way I now make it under 5 hours. Fortunately, the marking was way off and, thanks to some last resort, I crossed the finish line in 4:58:32, phew! Really a counter performance (73rd overall and 24th in my age group) but at least I finished. And, here we are, the missing 15' in my collection (4:00, 4:15, 4:30, 4:45, 5:00). With that, I'm not sure I want to come back next year and be left with the choice of 5:15 or 3:45... ;-)

Three other runners made in under 5 hours, including fellow runners John Burton and Mike Topper, then the first runner to come after 5 hours got a nice Montrail jacket. I already got one at Miwok last year because I was suffering hypothermia, so I'm actually glad I was on the other side of the 5 hour mark. See the complete results on the Capitol Road Race website. I think there were 550 registrants and the page shows 472 finishers. And, to my surprise, this is not a record according to Stan Jensen's statistics which show higher numbers for 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2003! The race was won by Leor to his surprise because he though he was behind Geoff. But Geoff went off course and, the time for him to come back on the course, took only third behind Max. Gary clocked an amazing 3:54 and took 4th overall, first M40-49! Victor took 6th and was the last one under 4 hours this year (they were 11 last year, for the new course inauguration).

I got my traditional massage from VeLoyce, who is going so deep in the muscles that it's painful but really efficient to get all the toxins out of the fibers. I slowed down and walk so much today that I was able to keep the asthma and lung irritation under control and only cough upon taking full breaths tonight. (Photo credit: Mark Tanaka)
Thank you to all the volunteers for helping us on the course and at the start and finish lines in the cold. Thank you to all the runners from the back of the pack who let us pass on our way back from ALT2, this is so nice of you as you have your own challenge to beat the cut-offs. Hope you were all able to make it back to Cool in the allotted time! Thank you to the spectators and their encouragements, this means a lot. And thank you to Julie Fingar for directing such a competitive and large field with professionalism and so much attention to the details.
Before leaving Cool and to the surprise of my teammates and co-carpoolers, I stopped at the picturesque Cool Feel & Ranch Supply store to buy two bottles of Absorbine (I need to write about this product). There was much more traffic in the afternoon compared to this morning but we had lively discussions in the car about today's race as well as our upcoming ones.
Time to go to bed to catchup a deficit of tens of hours of sleep. Especially as we are losing one hour tomorrow morning for the end of Daylight Saving Time...
PS: a few more pictures on my Picasa album. Thank you Holly for taking pictures at the start, finish and on the course!


Anonymous said...

...pas si cool, en effet.
Merci et BIZ

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

sorry about the asthma. as always, though you win on fast blogging! i sent you the photo of you at the store to your email. and thanks again for having us in your car.

Golden Trails Dave said...

I concur with Mark. At least the asthma hit during a shorter race this time...

What is your race schedule this year? How have we not met??

knix05 said...

Belle course ! J'aimerais savoir comme je passe un mois cet été en vacances si la Skyline 50k vaut le coup comme tu l'as couru l'année dernière.
A mon programme, je participe au semi Napa2Sonoma et la Wharf to Wharf. Sympa la sortie de Santa Cruz Badass que j'ai vue sur Picasa Album.

John Nguyen said...

Sorry to hear about your asthma. It was nice meeting you. I had run the Quicksilver Half back in September, and started reading you blog back then. This was my 2nd 50K, and my IT Band flared up on me at mile 26, which is "not too cool" either. I look forward to seeing you again at some future Ultras.

--John Nguyen (the guy that took your picture next to the giant frog)

Jean Pommier said...

@Dave: thanks for the note and, yes, better limit the suffering with a "short" distance. I had missed your switch of blog, glad to see you are settling in the Bay Area!

@knix05: tu es aux US? Skyline n'est pas technique mais il y a quand même un peu de denivelé. Course rapide, qui prépare bien pour Firetrails 50-mile on Octobre

@John: glad to see you are really getting the ultra bug. Congrats to having pushed to the end despite your ITB issue. Certainly, the slippery and swamped trails at the end made it even tougher.