Sunday, October 24, 2010

San Francisco One Day 12-hour 2010: a great first, for me

This is my 200th post on this blog, but I will have to come back on this anniversary next week as this is not the topic of the day.

This race, the San Francisco One Day, has been very special to me. I have 175 races in my log including 54 ultras but I had never run a time-based event, even less an event on such short laps. The closest is Ruth Anderson but the loop is 4.5 miles, where as the San Francisco One Day consists in a 1-mile (1.061 exactly) loop around Crissy Field. People not living in the area who pay a lot to run with such spectacular views of the San Franciso Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, Marine Headlands, Angel Island, Alcatraz, The Presidio, the Exploratorium and the City's skyscrappers including the famous Transamerica Pyramid. I'm so glad Sarah is perpetuating this PCTR tradition since 2006. I have been dreaming of running this event but my focus on the PA USATF Mountain & Ultra Trail Grand Prix prevented me so far as the event was too close to races such as Rio del Lago 100-mile or Helen Klein 50-mile. Based on the current standings (special thanks to Gary Wang for the recent update!), I am in a comfortable position to win my age group again, for the 4th year in a row, so, with 11 events in the bag, I decided to enter this 12-hour event and skip the three remaining events of the season: the wet Whiskey Town of this weekend (Victor did set a course record there!), the Helen Klein 50-mile in two weeks, and the torturous Quad Dipsea at the end of November.
Now, it was not an easy choice because we still have our team strategy in the Grand Prix. Per my maths, we won the Men Team division again this year, but we can still improve our Mixed Team ranking if we line up a team at Helen Klein. We have enough men going there, so I'm off the hook. Then the second parameter of the decision was from the health standpoint: I spent 11 days on the East Coast last week and this week and got a bad cold on day 3, on the 12th, which was exactly 10 days before the race... I was still feeling bad this past Wednesday, barely being able to speak in client meetings, but got better on Thursday, which was also our 21st Anniversary. I told Agnès how excited I was with this race and, with her consent, went on to register in the evening. Little did I know about the forecast, which I checked just after registering...
On Friday afternoon Agnès and I drove to Zombie Runner for a delicious coffee and chocolate at Don's coffee shop and to buy some Vespa and GU2O. On Saturday, the start was late, at 9AM, so that left plenty of time for a good and much needed sleep before driving up to Crissy Field. I was so glad it was not rainy on the highway, nor at the start which I reached around 8 AM. Yet, I was already chilly with the wind and overcast sky. I saw a few familiar faces but less than usual as PCTR draws a different community than the usual PAUSATF one.
Among others, there were teammate Mark who finished third in the 24hr last year, David Pirogowicz, John Koester who volunteers with the Striders at Last Chance, Gary Sparer from the San Jose Fit, Lisa Huerta and her son Jonathan (14), and here is Mike Nuttall, co-founder of Ideo, who ran 107 miles last year and 110 miles in 2008:
I wrapped my bag and stuff into a large and sturdy plastic bag in prevision for potential rain during the day. We started right on time at 9AM and, not having run much for the past 2 weeks, I could not refrain myself of starting fast although it felt really easy on this flat course. I did many of the first miles under 7 min/mile pace, starting lapping runners or walkers by the end of my second lap. The weather was great and we even got some sun around noon. I ran 8 laps/hour for the first 3 hours which was way too fast, but I wanted to put some miles in the bank before the weather might change. Oddly enough on such a flat and open terrain, my GPS appeared to be about 5% off after a few laps so it was hard to keep track of the exact distance and number of laps. Thankfully, we were wearing a transponder (timing chip) and the computer was doing the count for us. With that, I believe I ran my first marathon in 3:10 and first 50K around 3:49. Here is a picture from Stan Jensen, just before noon:
Unfortunately, the rain started at 1 PM, 4 hours into the race, and would not stop for the next 8 hours. I did a long stop (5-6 minutes I believe) to dry, change and put a light rain jacket over a new and dry long sleeve top. At this time, I switched to running about 6 laps an hour depending on the stops at the aid station. It was not actually much about the time spent at the aid station, it was more about the time to get back into the pace as I was getting so cold and my leg muscles were tetanizing every time I would stop moving. Thanks to taking a Vespa every 3 hours and one S!Cap and GU every hour, I did not have to eat too much. Yet, I took two cups of the delicious chicken noodle soup, enjoying something warm.

I stopped at mid race (6 hours) to put on another warm layer and an heavier rain jacket, two of my warmest layers which I usually use in the middle of the winter when running in the snow... After that, I was more comfortable, yet was getting cold again every time I would stop for a minute or so at the aid station. My feet were getting soaked at each lap, going through the puddles. One highlight of the day was the visit of teammate Toshi and his wife who took picture of Mark and I, while Toshi ran a couple of laps on Mark's side. I also ran one lap with Ron Duncan and Willem Van Dam, from Tamalpa, who came to watch the competition.

I looked at the leader board several times and saw that I was not increasing my 4-lap lead over Shiran Kochavi. With such a blazing start on my end, I had thought the lead would have been more important and I was therefore forced to go to the end of the 12 hours to make sure I was at least taking first since the course record was now out of reach. Of course, it was quite audacious to even think about a course record for my first attempt at this event format, and especially given who set the record in 2007: Akos Konya has finished 2nd three times in the grueling 135-mile Bad Water, won Lean Horse 100-mile a couple of times and already logged 85 miles in 12 hours or 146 miles in 24 hours. Anyway, my new goal was now to win, log as many miles as possible, hoping to run 3 marathons within the time limit. As the rain was going on, the puddles were increasing both in number and size. The aid station was muddier at each passage and I was glad that Agnès did not drive to the race (I learned later that she tried to convince Alex, but he had too much school work in addition to the College apps and essays).
I put my headlamp on around 7 PM. It was more to avoid the puddles as the course had no difficulty at all. There were actually quite a few runners just running at the lights of the city, and the full moon above the thick clouds. I completed my 74th lap after 11 hours and 57 minutes of running (78.5 miles, so just over 3 marathons indeed). I put another 10 minute/lap in the last hour but, otherwise, I was going slower and slower, so it was time to stop...
Between the start at 7 min/mile pace, the pit stops and the second half closer to 10 min/mile, my overall average pace was 9:07 and I finished 5 miles behind the course record Akos set 3 years ago in a much nicer weather and at the age of 32, so very satisfied with my first attempt at this format. I was glad I had not signed for the 24 hour this time though and that gave me a lot of appreciation for the runners going on for the rest of the night. Among them, my team mate Mark Tanaka who deliberately started slow but was running like a metronome and managed to win the 24-hour event!
I was really cold at the finish and was anxious to drive back after the award ceremony to get a hot shower and soak in our hot tub. This Sunday, my entire body is sore of all the shivering... I know this is kind of ridiculous to say as the temperature was really not low yesterday (60F on the parking lot when I left at 10 PM), but that's how my body responds to the effort and the humidity.

Overall, I enjoyed the format of the race, especially the length of the loop, very close to 1 mile. Running for 12 hours on a standard track and passing the finish line 4 times more often would be overwhelming, while the 4.5-mile loop at Ruth Anderson would be too long. As noted above, the views are wonderful and changing with the weather, there are many runners and joggers going on the course in the morning, and going through the aid station at every mile provides a lot of variety and distraction. Unlike some people may think about such a format, I never got bored. The organization was perfect although I learned this Sunday morning that the webcast updates were a bit frustrating for the ones "watching" the race online (lack of regularity). I'm particularly appreciative of the volunteers who continuously manned the aid station for hours, in the rain and the wind. With this format, there is always runners going through the aid station, for 24 hours non stop... Thanks Sarah and the extended Pacific Coast Trail Runs (PCTR) team for all your hard work to provide us with so much "serious fun!" ;-)
Bottom line, it was tough as I pushed myself through new limits, and I am eager to give it another try. In a more clement weather if possible... ;-)


Anil Rao said...

Congratulations Jean, wow in such conditions you posted a awesome total miles out there. Indeed you never get bored of that location and people around you.

Sarah Spelt said...

Congratulations again, Jean! An honor to have your join us this year, and fantastic to see you running so strong the whole time!

We know that there were issues with the results and online updates. The storm was so bad throughout the night and on Sunday morning that we lost three of our four pop-up tents and most of our aid station supplies to the wind and rain. So, at times, the computer end of things suffered, too.

We have plans for some neat improvements in 2011 - including a webcam...and a date change to avoid bad weather. :-) Hope you can join us again - we'd love to see you running again!!

Thanks and great job, once again.


Jean Pommier said...

Thanks, Anil!

Sarah, what conditions you got through the night, I'm so glad I "only" signed for the 12-hr option this time!! ;-)

Thanks in advance for any improvement you can bring to an event which is very professionally managed already. From the times where UR Magazine was the way to hear about the results of a race a couple of months later, to live updates and web/video casts, the expectations keep getting higher...

See you,


Thomas Reiss said...

I can't believe it man, you are an animal.

All those races in the last few weeks from 10k to 12 hour. Right after Rio Del Lago. And all of them in great times. You rock. I don't know how you do it to race that well that often.

My respect goes out to you on an outstanding season.

See you out there.

Thomas Reiss

Jean Pommier said...

Thanks for the nice words, Thomas (well, not sure about the animal part, although it looked a bit like the Duracell Bunny ad doing laps after laps... ;-).

All this racing is a good escape from the work pressure and to set up goals for sustainable training. But I'm looking forward to my annual break.

Hope you recovered after FT and see you again on the trails!


Shir said...

Great post and great run. Glad I was able to keep you honest this time but doubt I could do that again. Confident that with this year's experience under your (fuel)belt, you should be able to break the record next time, with or without meteorological support.

BTW: Thanks for the Firetrails 50 pics. It was certainly a surprise to see a runner stop to take my photo and I was glad to see I wasn't the only one acknowledging that surprise with a goofy smile.


Drs. Cynthia and David said...

Really great job! That sort of race format really tests the mental fortitude.


Anonymous said...

J'approuve ce qu'écrit Thomas Reiss et apprécie ta réponse.
A nouveau...bravo

Scott Dunlap said...

Well done! We thought of you SF 12- and 24-hour folks often as the storm battered us all day. You guys are warriors! Congrats on a great finish in the face of such tough conditions.

And for your PA/USATF win!

Trail Runners Blog

brigitte said...

espérant que ma seconde tentative de deposer un comment sur ton blog sera couronnée de succès, je te félicite pour cette brillante premiere place, quel dommage , une panne internet et les vacances m'ont empechée de suivre cela de plus pres.
Décidement aux US tout est plus grand, beau etc... ici on se contente d'encourager les amis lors de la course mythique ( tout de meme) des Remparts ( 18 km) et du vetathlon mais l'ambiance est vraiment très sympathique et nous plait bcp aux filles et à moi.
Ma capacité à déchiffrer tes articles ne s'améliore pas mais je crois avoir compris ce que te disait Thomas et je suis d'accord avec lui,
Félicitations et chapeau bas Monsieur Pommier!!
bises provinoises