Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Eve 12-hour: running celebration

A few years ago, I was intrigued when I heard about the race called "Across the years." I initially thought it meant running for several years but you don't have to run for that long to go across two years, you just have to start your run the night of New Year's Eve and keep going after midnight. That's what a few dedicated race directors propose at the end of December, offering their time and recruiting valorous volunteers so a few runners can take on this challenge of running across the years. In Arizona, Across the Years has actually a few events (72, 48, 24 hours), in Florida Peanut Island has a 24, 12 and 6-hour, which correspond to what Wendell has been offering for the 2nd year in magic San Francisco. Even for locals and even more for out of town visitors, it is amazing to have the privilege to run in the City with majestic views of the Golden Gate, Marin Headlands, the Presidio, the Financial District and the Transamerica skyscraper in particular, the Palace of Fine Arts, Angel Island, Alcatraz, ... With such a touristic set, no risk of getting bored running tens of laps! ;-)

If you are not single, the hardest thing with such events and ideas is to get the family on board. A few couples and families were actually running together through the night (the 24-hour started at 9 am on Saturday, the 12-hour at noon and the 6-hour at 6 pm), which solved their challenge. On my end, Max had already left a few days for another tour on the East Coast with the SOBs, his Yale a cappella group, and Alex had a 6 am flight for DC on the first to join the Georgetown rowing team for a winter training camp, so he wasn't up to spend the night partying anyway. Agnès, Alex and Greg invited friends and had dinner at a Thai restaurant, downtown.

I drove on my own in the morning, getting to Crissy Field around 11 am. Noon was an unusual late start for an ultra, most races starting between 6 or 8 am when not at 5 am. And it felt strange to get to the start while quite a few participants were already running since 9 am, kind of the feeling I had when I got to Ruth Anderson 100K more than 2 hours after the start because of a missed connection the night before... Local elite Chikara Omine was flying through the start/finish area every 7 minutes or so, that got me excited to join the fun he seemed to have! Quite a few familiar faces were gathering for the start of the 12-hour, yet I was amazed at the number of new faces too, this definitely shows our ultra running sport keeps growing.
Here are (Tropical) John Medinger (right) and Lisa Henson, respectively Publisher and General Manager of UltraRunning Magazine, with Race Director and Coastal Trail Runs' founder and owner, Wendell Doman. Wendell has run at least 100 ultras himself and more than gave back to our sport, organizing more than 200 ultras himself!
He sent us on the course right at noon or more exactly at the 3:00:00-hour mark on the clock. With a simple 1.061-mile loop, with course marking (thank you Mike!), the pre-race briefing was... brief.
As you can see, the afternoon was gorgeous! Here is Mike, focused on pouring water in the mini cups, who has volunteered from 7:30 in the morning to 4 pm I believe, most of New Year's Eve daylight!
We then started running in circle... With Jason and David at the front we ran the first lap just above 8 minutes. For those who missed my previous posts, I took my usual running break in December and, except for the nice fun run organized by Mike for Boxing Day, that was my first run after three weeks of resting. I did listen to Scott Jurek's advice and follow the three topics of his recent article publish in Competitor's November issue: "Don't run, gain weight, hang out!" Speaking of the second advice, I did gain about 6 pounds over my optimal racing weight, and mostly fat which I was looking forward to burn thanks to Vespa!

With such eagerness and joy to get back to running, I was feeling excited and so good that I did pick the pace, clocking 16 laps in the first two hours (7.5 minutes/lap). That was more than the 8 minutes I had initially planned for, and certainly not the smartest strategy for such a long long run as I was going to quickly find out. I started getting quite tired in the 3rd hour and, realizing that there were many hours ahead, I scaled down to a 10-minute/lap pace after maintaining sub 9-minute laps until lap 28. I was still passing a lot of participants who were running or walking, but, after passing Chikara twice, it was his turn to lap me twice which was particularly humbling as he was competing in the 24-hour event!

I kept moving and became concerned not to see Agnès and the boys whom I was expecting around 3 pm, the time I needed to refill the two GU2O bottles I had drunk in my first marathon (slightly over 3 hours). Around 3:30 I decided to make my first stop at the aid station and Stevens Creek Strider, John McKiernan, kindly assisted me while I picked a few potato chips and a small piece of banana. A good move as the family arrived around 5:30 pm and stayed for 30 minutes.
It was already dark when they left and I put one more layer and my headlamp on. After a sunny and windy afternoon, the sky was clear and the half moon kept us company for most of the night making the surroundings even more magical between the lights of all the cities around the Bay, the ones on the Golden Gate and the contrast with the dark water and Alcatraz (that reminded me the story of the prisoners hearing the New Year's Eve celebrations in the audio tape of the visit of Alcatraz...).
With such a lap format, you are never running alone, always having the opportunity to exchange a few words of encouragement or, for others, do a few laps together. I passed the 50-mile mark after about 7 hours of running. At that time, my splits stayed in the 9:45-10:45 range with only 7 laps above 11 minutes when I did stop to get some hot soup (3 times)

Another Strider, Dennis, ran half a lap with me when I was experiencing quite a low (sorry, Dennis, for not having more voluble...). And Toshi, from our Quiksilver Ultra Racing team, ran one lap late in the night, before spending quite some time assisting Chikara who, very unfortunately, got injured in his quest for a great 24-hour distance (he dropped at midnight, not able to even walk anymore after 91 laps in 15 hours). Another teammate, Amy, was on the 24-hour and ran 95 laps, that is just over 100 miles!
After the 16 first laps and realizing that wasn't sustainable, I was now planning on settling for 6 laps/hour and still hoping to run 78 laps or 82.75 miles, still short of the 83.4 miles Akos Konya ran on this course in September 2007 (all in daylight though). Speaking of daylight, this was the longest I actually ran in the dark, even including my 100-miles: not only that made me relate more with what most of the participants in such events experience, but also realize that I have to get better at running through the night if I want to keep getting longer and farther...

Keeping doing the maths with laps slightly above 10 minutes and a few stops at the aid station, I had to revise my goal down to 77 then 76 laps. My first and only attempt at this race format was last year when I logged 74 laps (78 miles) with the last 8 hours in the rain so I was really looking forward to not only do better than that but also pass the 80-mile mark. Unfortunately, that meant that I had to run a handful of laps around 9 minutes each and I couldn't find the energy and motivation to do so and was glad enough to improve my PR by one lap and one mile and take first as a bonus! I ended my 75th lap in 11 hours 56 minutes and 45 seconds, just in time to grab a cup of Champagne before watching quite colorful fireworks above the Financial District at midnight.
A performance good enough for a nice mug (running 3 marathons in a row for a mug is something which actually surprises a few of Agnès' students... ;-).
Shan Riggs won the 24-hour event with 126 miles, followed by Daniel Gallo (116 miles) and Matthew McKinney (110 miles). Amy took first in the Female division and, at 76, Bill Dodson logged 90 miles!

In the 12 hour, Brandon Chalk got 73 miles and Andrew Foster 69 followed by Nancy Morehead with 66 miles. Battling a foot injury, Jason still managed to log See more results at that temporary URL or on the Coastal Trail Runs NYOD page in case the URL changes.

One more word about Vespa: according to both SportTracks and Garmin, I burned slightly more than 8,000 calories during the run. I ate a few potato chips, a small piece of banana, half a brownie, 7 GUs, 11 S-Caps and drank 3 cups of soup, one cup of Coca Cola and 5 bottles of GU2O, less than 3,000 calories total, Vespa helping me to efficiently switch to fat burning to keep the balance. And, for the ones who have seen or will see the Vespa ad in the January issue of UltraMagazine, I still buy the products (available at ZombieRunner)! ;-)

A big and sincere thank you to all the volunteers who gave up their New Year's Eve so we could run happily and safely this weekend, across the 2011-2012 years! Not to forget those who spent all night up to assist the valorous 24-hour runners who kept going after we left and went to bed... And a special thank you to Agnès for having accepted to plan around this "yet another" and last race in 2011...
I was definitely tired after such a long run and intense way to resume my racing and training season. Like Scott Jurek says, take a good break for a month then resume training slowly... Well, we'll see how bad my decision was to do 80 miles as a first run. Although I didn't cramp during the run I was actually quite sore on New Year's Day, from shoulders to calves. It still hurt today (January 2nd) as I ran to the top of Black Mountain (2,800 ft) and back, for a 23-mile "recovery" run before next weekend's Saratoga Fat Ass. Yes, we all ran across the years and it's time for another season! Once again, all the best to all of you for 2012!


Toshi Moshi said...

Congrats! You looked really strong out there. 79.6 mile is nice, but if CTR allowed partial distance, you would definitely have reached 80 miles. See you at Saratoga Fatass! I'm starting at 7am shooting for a sub-6hr.
Btw, I didn't assist Chikara at all. He was in a really bad patch and I barely got to talk to him!

Jean Pommier said...

Sorry, Toshi, I didn't mean that you helped Chikara, but it was actually nice you walked with him while he was such in pain in his last lap.

See you on Saturday morning then!

Anonymous said...

Merci pour le récit de cette nouvelle et superbe aventure, si bien réussie...