Sunday, May 8, 2011

Miwok 2011: some rest, at last!

[For those only interested in the pictures, see my Picasa album.]

It was my 60th ultra race and, more importantly, my 3rd ultra competition in 15 days. An epic start at Ruth Anderson 100K 2 weeks ago (I was still in Phoenix, Arizona when runners were walking to the start line!), a good push at the hilly QuickSilver 50K last week and the program of the PAUSATF Grand Prix dictated a 3rd race weekend in a row (not to mention American River 50-mile a month ago).

Not flying in on race day this time but a late planning on Friday for carpooling with Pierre-Yves. We were set for him to pick me between 2:55 and 3 AM. I went to bed later than what I was hoping for and got about 4.5 hours of sleep in. Here is Greg's cat, Kiwi, who is usually waking up to welcome me when I do conference calls at 5 or 6 in the morning, but not moving when it's only 2 AM: "aren't you crazy, ultra runner dudes..." is she thinking ;-)

To save a few minutes off Pierre-Yves' drive, I decided to walk onto Stevens Creek. By 3:10, still no sign of Pierre-Yves and no response on his cell phone either. I jogged back to my house and it was 3:18 when I woke his wife up on the phone. Christine said that Pierre-Yves missed his alarm but Pierre later realized he set the clock on 4 instead of 2. We were close to having another Ruth Anderson-like incident and late start, phew! Fortunately, Pierre-Yves had all his stuff ready and we made it to the parking lot in record time, around 4:25! If you read the last section of my previous race report, you know about Charles' misfortune and his serious hand injury. Just one week later, Charles was volunteering, later joint by his wife and two daughters in the late afternoon. Another example of the tight community and small world which exists in the ultra world. Here is Charles with Race Director, Tia Bodington:
As Charles painfully learned, in his own words, "runners are meant to run on their feet, not their hands...". Ironically, Pierre-Yves was going to have a bad fall too on the course today, although no need to make a visit to and spend the day at the Emergency Room, fortunately!

Tia sent us to play in her backyard by 5:40, after reminding us of the most important directives beyond this year's course changes: "Respect others. Respect the volunteers. Respect the trail. Respect the course. Respect your goal." Very nice and powerful way to summarize what's important in ultra running.
It was still dark and a bit cloudy and foggy above the Golden Gate Bridge but the sun was bright and shining by the time we came back to the Rodeo Lagoon Beach after the initial loop.
I was running with the 4 top women then and passed quite a few runners on the stairs up to Wolfe Ridge. I was feeling great although I could hear a small voice coming from my quads complaining that we were still engaged in a hilly race... how come? And we were only in the 8th mile...
Anyway, I flew down Miwok Trail to Tennessee Valley, took a few pictures of the aid station volunteers, and went up Fox Trail still running most of the uphill to Coyote Ridge. However, while I was passing runners on the way up, I was losing ground in the down hills. This was really new to me and appeared to me my limitation of the day, likely the result of some tiredness from previous races, go figure...

At the beginning of Deer Park Fire Road, Ian Sharman arrived from behind in his flashy costume. He made running uphill so easy, I was very impressed, especially after his 3:10 50K at Ruth Anderson 2 weeks ago and his 2:42 Big Sur Marathon last week! You see, I'm not the only racing fanatic out there...! We climbed the 2 or 3 miles up to Pan Toll, trading places with another group of 5 runners including Ron Gutierrez who seemed to have a great day.
After Pan Toll, I left this group go on Coastal Trail, just keeping them in sight while enjoying the amazing views of the Ocean, Stinson Beach and Point Reyes.
I took more pictures of the volunteers at the Bolinas Ridge aid station (happy Mother's Day, Mom!) while getting some food in before the long and rolling stretch on Bolinas Ridge.
I kept my camera in my hand, ready to fire up as I was expecting the front runners to show up at any turn knowing that I was running slower than previous years, but it took several miles before they did. And, to my surprise, they were very close to each other, a first group of four led by favorite Dave Mackey. Dave was one reason I was running with my camera today, the other one being that I wanted an excuse to take it, if not easy, at least easier. Not only Dave is the fastest trail runner in the Bay Area, he is also 40 and therefore competes in my age group with PAUSATF. He focuses on very few races but hammers them down. Anyway, here they are on their way back to Bolinas (I was 31 mile done).
Just before the Randall trail gate and, as I had started stopping at every runner I was crossing to take a picture, the lead woman from Oregon passed me, then Meghan Arbogast. Between the picture stops and my issue going down hill today, the down hill seemed going for ever. Mark Lantz passed be near the bottom and I climbed back closely behind him, still taking pictures of every runner we were crossing. This photothon went on for more than 11 miles and I ended up taking 390 during the day (I had cramps in my right hand in the evening!). The challenge from a photography standpoint was the light conditions with the contrast between the redwoods shade and the bright light at mid day on the ridge. I had to use my flash which was not fast enough to recharge and fire up when runners were too close to each other. Overall, I got more than 320 pictures of the runners on Bolinas Ridge, quite a few great shots and a few misses which I left to show that I tried to get every body (blurry pictures or pictures of your back, sorry...). I actually missed the last 4 runners on the very narrow Coastal Trail as I was getting out of the way to let them pass (something they did seem to be accustom with...). Please make sure to check my Picasa photo album (375 pictures from me and 62 from Agnès).
After I was done with all these pictures, I figured out that I could push the pace again. My average pace was around 9:13 at the bottom of Randall Trail, 9:35 at the top and 10:00 when I left Bolinas Ridge aid station (at 5 seconds per picture times 320, that's 27 minutes of idle time, no wonder why quite a few runners passed me in this section, although I was still running the uphills strong). However, I found it hard to go any faster and only managed to decrease the average pace by 3 seconds by Pan Toll. Agnès was at the Pan Toll aid station, after she participated with Alexis to the Marin Human Race 5K in the morning, supporting The World Family (the association we went to Ethiopia for last year). She had seen all the lead runners coming through, quite a long wait for her today, the typical crew life... (I was 1 hour 36 minutes behind Dave Mackey already!)
I gained 3 more seconds (average pace) on the long way down to Muir Woods Road but, still lacking energy and speed in the downhills, I got passed by two runners whom I passed again on the steep Coastal Trail along Pirate's Cove after Muir Beach.
The views of the Ocean from Coastal Trail were gorgeous and the strong breeze was refreshing. The breeze turned to a stronger wind in the afternoon and, as the clouds came back in the sky, the temperature was decreasing quickly. It must have been pretty chilly for the back of the pack after a long day on this hilly trail. Agnès was also at the last aid station, Tennessee Valley:
After Tennessee, I lost my steam in the uphill, convinced that we would climb the whole Miwok trail again. However, instead of that, we had a long down hill to go around the last hill, that was the last course change and surprise for this year. Since I was not better in the down hills anyway, I was barely relieved. One last uphill before the last mile down hill to the finish at the YMCA, I was very glad to be done with what I once thought would be an easy run. But, "Respect the course", Miwok is an animal course, you can't expect anything easy on it. I crossed the finish line in 10:17:57. My GPS indicated 61.1 miles so, as opposed to previous years, I'm indeed pretty sure that was a real 100K if not 101 kilometers. And about 11,000 feet of cumulative elevation.
Dave, who already owned the previous course record with a blazing 7:53, won today in 8:03, with Mike Wolfe taking second in 8:06:00 and Hal Koerner third 55 seconds later. What a close and phenomenal finish, I wish I could see them in the last miles! It was the perfect weather and conditions for great performances, except after racing every weekend (well, Ian Sharman still managed to finish top 10 in 9:02!). I ate 5 gels, a few potato chips and pieces of watermelon, letting Vespa handling the rest, which worked for 57 miles. One of the challenges was to properly hydrate, eat and pace myself while taking so many pictures. Without training these days, Pierre-Yves was very happy with his 10:43:59 PR. Clare was third for our team taking 11 in the women race just under 11 hours. From a club standpoint, the race was obviously dominated by Tamalpa, starting with Dave Mackey and more than 20 club members competing on their training backyard.
Amazing job from dozens of volunteers under Tia's leadership, thank you to all! At least, this time and as opposed to last week, I took the time to stop at every aid station and enjoy your great support! ;-) Thanks also go to the race sponsors, in particular: Montrail, Brooks (great finisher t-shirt!), Gu (thanks for the additional samples in the goodie bag), Zombie Runner (thanks to the fast free shipping I experienced last week for my Vespa order!), Udo's Oil (thanks for the samples and cool black beanie), Ultra Running Magazine (congrats again for the 30th birthday issue!).
Now time to take a well deserved rest. Well... Ohlone 50K is in two weeks and in the meantime, I have a business trip to Europe: 14,750 miles, 8 flights, 6 countries (Spain, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Germany), 3 trains to cross Germany, 8 client meetings/presentations, 1 speaking engagement on a cruise from Norway to Germany, flying back the day before Ohlone... Not sure we can call that resting, except that I won't run much while on the... road. Maybe to visit Stockholm next Sunday...

See you on the trails again in two weeks then!


Leslie said...

Thanks for filling us in on all of this years Miwok excitiement! Merci Jean!

Toshi Moshi said...

I think you PR'd on the number of photos taken in a single run (from Firetrails 50)! Hope you get a plenty of rest before Ohlone!

Anil Rao said...

Congratulations on your Trio of back to back racing.

Peter Hargreaves said...

Jean, Thank you for taking the time out of your speedy race to take all those 376 photos. You captured the real essence of a great run in wonderful scenery.


sharmanian said...

Good to chat finally, Jean. You certainly take a lot of photos and race a hell of a lot :)

Greg said...

I looked at every single photo and everyone was happy to be smiling for you. Great pics!

Anonymous said...

Hey Jean,

I just read both this post and your last. For the record, I was in ER from 8am to 12:30, then I went and got some lunch, saw my cousin's soccer game and then went to get my car at Quick Silver. Also, the fighter shirt was given to me from the hospital as mine was tres stinky (is that french?) and somewhat unpresentable. So they grabbed one out of their lost and found. I wish I was as tough as you described! Thanks for all the great props though and great blog (not to mention run!).

Charles Zuckerman

WV:mifixess as in mi fixess to not land on my hand next time!

Anonymous said...

One last comment. I want to give a huge thank you to Marc Dube of Team Diablo who was behind me when I crashed. Five miles in and he dropped out to help me back to the start. As if this sport needed another example of how big its heart is.

Charles Zuckerman