Monday, April 26, 2010

Ruth Anderson 2010: yes, faster!

I had several goals this past Saturday (well, it has been already a week since I started this post, so I'm talking about a week ago...), quite a few actually:
  1. First, don't kill my self with a 100K, one week after American River 50-mile and 2 weeks before Miwok 100K. For the non insiders, Ruth Anderson is one of these rare events where you not only have several distances (50K, 50 miles or 100K) but you can actually pick your distance "on the go." When our team strategized on Friday to see who was running which distance, I was glad to see that we had 4 lined up on the 100K (Pierre-Yves, Sean, Mark and Jim) so we would not need another backup on this distance to score 3 men.
  2. Do more than 50K, in other words run the 50M, for the Grand Prix points. This one was less obvious because, as of Friday night, we had only 5 runners on the 50K, just short of one to score a men and a mixed team. Fortunately, Dan showed on Saturday morning and was assigned the 6th spot on the 50K then.
  3. Get a good training run as I didn't run much during the week (AR rest + lot of work) and put some miles in the bank before my flight to Tokyo this Sunday.
  4. Improve the age group course record set by Scott St John in 2004 (6:20:43).
  5. Run the 50 miles under 6 hours if possible.
  6. Test drive the Brooks Green Silence on this distance.
  7. Avoid asthma, by keeping stress under control and start "slowly."
  8. Last but not least, have fun, don't get hurt, run happy! To honor Ruth Anderson, as well as Race Director, Rajeev Patel.
For those who don't have time to read on, here is the quick scorecard: 1: Checked, 2: Checked, 3: Checked, 4: Checked!, 5: Not far but not checked, 6. Checked, 7: Checked, 8: Checked (if you count the pain in the way to honor Ruth... ;-).

And a few paragraphs for more details on this wonderful day.

As usual, it started very early, waking up at 3:30 am. This time, it wasn't just for getting an early breakfast and allowing for a 3-hour digestion, but it was also to work a bit before riding up to San Francisco. I had spent a lot of time on Thursday and Friday nights confirming my trip to Tokyo and we had to decide on Saturday morning to pull the plug eventually as the trip was involving one of my team members based in Spain. Not only the trip got canceled eventually by the team over there, but my colleague from Spain would not have been able to fly anyway due to the eruption in Iceland. After spending an hour with my Japanese contact and writing a few emails, it was time to wake Agnes up so she could drop me at the Stevens Creek Blvd exit on 85.

For the ride to the start I joined teammates Sean (driving while the rest of the family was trying to finish their night) and Pierre-Yves. We made it just in time to pick our bibs and, fortunately, we did not have to go to the restrooms. We were so "just on time" that even Mark had checked us before us (unusual ;-), yet he was still in the line for the single toilet when I left to jog to the start.

We were less than 80 starters and RD Rajeev's briefing was short as the course is really simple (a 4.47-mile loop with two aid stations at equald distance). The main rule on this race is about the possibility to pick your distance on-the-go, that is to say stop at either the 50K, 50-mile or 100K mark, but not in between distances which would disqualify you.

Like at American River, and hoping this helps alleviate some of the stress which I believe may be one of the triggers of my exercise-induced asthma, I start in the middle of the pack but, given the shallowness of the field, it took only a few seconds to cross the start line. I quickly caught up with Adam, Pierre-Yves and Sean but could only saw in the distance three runners who took off at a pace close to 6 min/mile! I knew one of them, Toshi, a new addition to our Rhoquick team. Having seen Joe Binder in the list of registrants, I figured out he might have been one of the three and go for a fast 50K. But the third one?

At the end of the first mile, I caught up with Jon who was running a "conservative" 7 min/mile pace for his 100K. Sean joined us for the first lap which we completed at an average 6:56 pace. At the 3rd aid station (meaning the second passage at the station on the other side of the loop/start) Sean stopped to the restroom and I kept going as I was carrying a bottle of GU2O with me. My average pace was 6:55 at the end of the second loop. Of course I was feeling good and naturally pushed the pace a little to settle to 6:46 by the fourth lap. I felt great for the next 3 laps, almost maintaining that pace and got to the 50K mark in 3:33. Not my PR which I recently set at Jed Smith last February (3:25), but dangerously close considering that I was going for the 50 miles today. I stopped to ask who was ahead and the time keeping volunteer, later joined by Bill Dodson, told me only one runner was ahead. As I had passed Toshi in the last lap, and Toshi indeed finished his 50K just behind me in 3:34, that meant there was a another runner ahead, from the three I had seen taking off at the start. But who was he and would he hold this fast pace until the end? I quickly stopped asking these questions to focus on my form as I had still 4 laps to complete or 19 miles... I did a mental checkup and thought I was doing fine although started having some doubts about the sustainability of my pace. I slowed down a bit and completed lap 8 in 33 minutes instead of the 30-31 minutes of each of the first seven laps. In lap 9 the fatigue got to me and I lost another 2 minutes (35 minutes) and so on for the last 2 laps, in respectively 38 and 39 minutes. My pace increased so much in the last laps that I ended up completing the 50 miles at an average 7:21, in 6:07:34. My PR on this distance was 6 hours and 22 minutes (Helen Klein, November 2007), so quite a good improvement. Besides, the previous age group course record was 6:21, so also a good improvement on this end although there is no doubt that can be improve if Victor Ballesteros or Gary Gellin decide to run this race in the coming years.

Jon Olsen passed be as I was starting my last lap. He won the 100K in 7 hours and 32 minutes, with Pierre-Yves coming second in amazing finish to get 12 seconds under 8 hours (7:59:48)! Our team did really great on that race. On the 100K, all our entrants finished and took 2, 3 (Sean), 4 (Mark) and 10 (Jim) out of 11 finishers. On the 50K, 2nd (Toshi), 7th (Dan) and 17th (Keith L). And the most amazing happened with our mix team: first with the female win of Miki (5th overall, 4:07:43). Then Suzie's participation and finish, just one week after American River. But the hero of the day was Adam who started walking in in 3rd lap on a potential stress fracture but got all the way, walking 5 laps out of the 7, to ensure we had 3 finishers in the mixed team. Way to tough it out, Adam!

You will not that I did not talk about my crew yet. Agnes and Greg actually stopped on their way to see a car to replace our minivan wrecked on the way to American River, and they missed my finish by a few minutes. After the race, we went car shopping for the rest of the day, I actually prefer running than negotiating with car dealers... With that, no picture in this post, sorry.

Overall a great experience, the best of my four Ruth Anderson runs (2007-2010), with a special thank to Rajeev and his faithful crew of volunteers. There is only 2 aid stations to man, plus 3 finish lines to record times, but the shifts are very long spanning from 5 AM to 8 or 9 PM. At least the weather was great, with a great mix of breeze and sun in the morning. Next year will conflict again with the Boston Marathon weekend but Ruth Anderson's appeal may have surpassed Boston for me now. Who would have thought about that a few years ago... Must be the nice trophies that Rajeev spoils us with! And the ease of access, the course set for great performances (although not completely fat), the family and friendly atmosphere, or the cheapest-ultra-by-the-mile of the whole US (or at least in the West)!

My trip to Japan got postponed to mid-May so it does not explain why I'm late in posting this report. I'm now on the East Coast this week and will be back on time for Miwok this Saturday. In the meantime, I stopped by DC to see our Congressional Page, Alex, and managed to run 24 miles Sunday morning on the great W&OD (Washington & Old Dominion Trail), from Dulles/Herndon to Vienna and back. Flat miles though, leaving the hills for the end of the week!


Jean Pommier said...

Please make sure to check Rajeev's race report (from the other side of the fence). It also contains numerous links to picture albums.

Scott Dunlap said...

Wow! You continue to get blazing fast. Congratulations.

Golden Trails Dave said...

your performances continue to amaze me!