Saturday, January 7, 2012

Saratoga Fat Ass 2012: is it winter yet?

What perfect conditions for a run, but hard to believe that we are in the middle of the winter, even in California. Dry trails and creeks, sunny skies, wonderful clear views over the Ocean. The only trace of bad weather was the numerous trees barring the trail. Since I started trail running back in 2005, I never saw so many trees and branches on our nearby trails. Someone needs to get out there with a chainsaw, actually a great volunteering opportunity to pursue since the trend is more getting toward abandoning the trail maintenance and closing our wonderful parks because of budget cuts.
Back to the Fat Ass, I didn't have much fat to burn this year, having already run 80 miles on New Year's Eve and 53 miles since, during the week. But I like the tradition and was excited to join Sean and Toshi for an early start of this 4th edition for me (2005, 2007, 2009 and 2012) but the event has been on for a few decades, becoming quite a local ultra running tradition. A special thank to David Kamp for keep this tradition alive.
For various family or work-related reasons, Toshi, Sean and I took an early start at 7:20 am. Charles (Stevens) was waiting for Chris (Garcia) and planning on starting between 7:30 and 8. The sun had just risen and the light over the hills and Ridge Trail was amazing, as were the views in all directions but especially over the Ocean.
When not stopping for pictures, videos or read and re-read the trail instructions at each intersection, we maintained a good pace until the beginning of Slate Creek Trail where we started loosing our momentum when going around fallen trees and a huge one in particular.
Per Toshi's suggestion, I took the lead all the way up on Portola Trail, we got quite a good work out! We met Winnie and Lee Jebian who were so kind to be out there to man the only aid station at China Grade. As we were talking and taking pictures, all of sudden came Leor (Pantilat) who flew by all of us.
He had taken a late start (8:20) and had already made the 1-hour gap on us in the first 15 miles, wow!
We stopped at the aid station to fill up our bottles and enjoy a banana that Lee and Winnie had left for us, a sweet idea. A few hundreds yards after the aid station we also met Dave, the Race Director, who was adding to Winnie's trail markers as a new trail has been recently added in this area and that brought some additional confusion to the course.

The next section along the border of Big Basin Redwoods State Park is my favorite and I really enjoyed it in such perfect conditions. I was bothered with our slow pace (11:50 min/mile at this point), but it wasn't a competition after all and it was great to run in the company of Quicksilver teammates.
After stopping at the Waterman Gap campground for more water, about mile 21, Toshi picked up the pace and I lost sight of him. I hesitated to push in this long uphill section in which I had so many bad experiences in the past, bonking and getting cold. But, to leverage these unique good conditions, I eventually picked up the pace myself and closed the gap on Toshi, pushing all the way up to Saratoga Gap to close the loop in 5:22:21. Leor was kindly waiting for us although he had been done for a long while as he completed the loop in a blazing 3 hours and 50 minutes! Given the 7,000 or so feet of cumulative elevation, this is yet another very impressive course record which is sure to hold for many years given the low key format of this event. Here he is with Race Director David Kamp:
Jeremy Johnson arrived shortly after us although he had taken a later 8 am start. He clocked something like 5:05 which is very promising soon after getting the Rookie Award for his first 50-mile and 7th place at the Dick Collins' Firetrails race last October. He had won a free entry into American River as a prize so we will see him again on the trails soon.
A posted a few more pictures in my Picasa album.

Great way to celebrate the end of the Holidays and the beginning of a busy ultra running season. And, that the skiers and snowboarders forgive us, we really enjoy the current weather on the trails. At least I do! See you on the trails, hope you have a great 2012 year!


Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

sorry to miss another fun (unofficial) Quicksilver get-together. i'm also enjoying the mud-and rain-free running, but aside from anticipated suboptimal conditions for a February ski trip I've already committed to, the upcoming water shortage won't be good for anyone.

GoldenTrailsDave said...

the good news is that the reservoirs got filled up pretty well last winter, so this drought could be much worse.

Keith said...

Nice run. Sorry I missed you guys out there. It was starting to cool down by the time I finished.

Toshi Moshi said...

It was so much fun running and finding our ways through downed trees with you and Sean. I gave everything I've got for that final push after Waterman Gap but I couldn't catch you! What a humbling experience. Awesome recovery from 12 hour run!

P.S. I borrowed one of your pictures to put on my facebook.

Anonymous said...

Jolie "promenade" en effet mais j'ai cherché, en vain, les arbres à terre...
C'est vrai que ce temps est étonnant, un peu plus frais (6°) cependant, chez nous ce matin