During the week I told Pierre-Yves that, despite being our team match with Tamalpa in the ultra Grand Prix, I was not going to push too hard this time for several reasons:
- First, with a lot of racing these past 4 weeks, great performances and pushing for speed (3rd at Rio del Lago 100-mile, first overall at Trailblazer 10K and 3rd Masters at the Rock'n'Roll San Jose half-marathon);
- Second, another series of short nights because of hectic work and other family activities. By the way, Agnès is recovering amazingly well according to her doctor, although she wished it would go even faster;
- Last but not least, as I wrote last week, I had checked the competition and felt it was really out of reach to place or get much points this time.
With that I decided that I would carry a camera during my run, something I had never done in a competition before but that bloggers Scott Dunlap or Chihping Fu for instance are famous for. I thought that would be the best way --or excuse!-- not to get caught up in a fast start, have an even more enjoyable run and share views of everybody. If you cannot read the full race report, you can jump right to my Picasa photo album. I you did run Firetrails this year and cannot find your picture, it may be because you were in the bushes at the time our paths crossed... ;-)
Our RhoQuick (Rhomobile / Quicksilver) team was very well represented this Saturday: Gary, Sean, Toshi, Mark, Bree, Pierre-Yves, Amy, Keith (Adam injured his foot again earlier in the week and was a no-show). Gary started off with the top runners, Dave Mackey, Leigh Schmit, Victor Ballesteros and a few others. One minute in the run, Chikara Omine passed us. He wasn't on the entrants list and, to follow his own tradition, registered a few minutes before the start! I ran the first miles with teammates Sean, Mark and Toshi, whose race was the first 50-miler (FireTrails has a nice rookie award for first timers which I got back in 2006).
A few miles later we started passing some of the early starters (5:30 start) and I stopped and turned to take a shot of each of them, the FireTrails "project" was on! For one, I stepped backward and almost felt off the trail, scaring of the runner I was taking a shot of, and me too... I did not stop at Big Bear Gate either (mile 10.5) except to take a picture (of course) and give an accolade to the other "Mr. Pommier" (on the right in the picture below) who I first met at the same aid station 4 years ago (his family came to the US from Belgium a few generations ago).
I did not stop at Sibley Park either except to take a picture, then passed Sean on our way up to Steam Trains (mile 21.7). Second stop, this time to refill my GU2O bottle.
He was followed quite closely by Chikara who was having a great day. Leigh was third and Gary fourth. Gary proudly said "look, 4 guys under the course record pace!"
Ultrarunning Magazine and Race Director of the grueling Quad Dipsea). I left to John my sleeves and my second layer which I had removed on my way up to Sibley Park as the heat was picking up. The temperature was actually very nice with some breeze, just getting hot when running up hill.
Sean caught up with me after the station and I let him pass as I was still stopping to take shots of the back of the pack. Once I thought I was done and stored my camera, I picked up the pace again and passed Sean just to find out that there were still a few runners going up to Steam Trains, for whom I got the camera back to work. After that, I passed Lee and Winnie (Jebian) before Sibley Preserve, stopped at the aid station to get y water bottle filled with ice water (cool!) and went on, running most of the hill up to Skyline Gate and passing a few marathon runners. At this point, the intestine pain was bearable but I was evidently suffering from dehydration. As a matter of fact, focused on the picture game and running with the camera in one hand, I was not paying as much attention to fluid intake as usual, for a pace which was still quite fast. Thankfully, apart from the hill after Bear Gate, there isn't too many difficulties after Skyline Gate, although all the runners will tell you that the finish is definitely not flat, especially after having run 40 miles!
I experienced a big low in the hill up to Bort Meadows for which I alternately walked and jogged. Thank to drinking much more after Sibley Preserve, I was able to pick up the pace on the rolling section to Bort Meadows and after, with a pace oscillating between 8 and 9 minutes/mile. In the flat section after Bort Meadows, I passed this tall black guy who was yelling and smashing the bushes. Thankfully, he stayed on the side of the trail and I did not stop to take a picture, way too risky! I was told at the finish that he was hallucinating and a runner managed to get him to leave the trail and collected by the local Police. John and Carl were joking about which other unexpected event may occur in the next race... It is so hard to plan for everything with that many runners out in the wilderness for a day...
Still working on fixing my hydration, I got more ice water in my bottle. Stan teased me and asked for another picture but the game was over, I was now focusing on finishing in a good time in case we still had a chance against Tamalpa as I did not know how the lead runners did. I stopped for a few seconds at Bass Cove just to take a picture, thanking the volunteers and yelling my bin number as I was exiting the station. 4 years ago, this is the point where Rob Evans caught up with me then passed me with 2 miles to go. I was determined to run and push to the finish now, which I did, even getting the pace below 7 minute/mile on the bike path.
After such an effort, we had the pleasure to enjoy the famous Firetrails Café, with its grill, salads, soup and abundant table of delicious desserts (I must have missed them the previous years).
By the way, it is not the first year but I heard the rumor that Ann and Carl may turn the page of this long 18-year string of race directing this race. In any case, long life to Firetrails and this Bay Area ultra running tradition, and a special occasion to thank you, Ann and Carl, for having set it up and made it live for 18 years already, in honor and memory of Dick Collins!