Monday, March 12, 2012

Way Too Cool 2012: way too what?

It was certainly not too cool this Saturday, temperature wise. Not as warm as the 78F we had in Sacramento on Friday afternoon though, thanks to some clouds in the sky, but warm enough for me to run with one layer on, and for a few others to run shirt less. Otherwise, it was of course way too cool to run in Cool again, partly on the Western States trail and in particular that cool race celebrating a local frog.
It was my 7th Way Too Cool. The official website was mentioning the 15th annual running but the event has been on since 1990 making it the 23rd edition this year (Tim Twietmeyer only missed 1991 and 2003 so it was his 21st!). Here is Tim (left) with Stan Jensen, at the finish:

Before sharing more details about my race, here are a few "way too..." vignettes as a summary
  1. Way too dry (part 1). I've never seen these trails in such amazing running conditions in March, barely a puddle and trace of mud except for 3 creek crossings where we got our feet wet. While it provides amazing running conditions, this really shows that we didn't get much of winter in North California. 19 runners broke 4 hours including 2 gals and 11 masters!
  2. Way too fast. With such dry conditions and perfect temperature, it was the day to set Personal and Course Records and both male and female CRs have been improved indeed (for this course which changed significantly a couple of years ago).
  3. Way too pro. I should say "so professional", speaking of Julie Fingar's management. With 200 volunteers, chip timing, an expo, big name sponsors, live video streaming, custom-made cupcakes, fully stocked aid stations, announcer at the start and finish line, the events organized by Nor Cal Ultras stand out and become has professional as the main road events.
  4. Way too crowded. This one isn't from me but I did hear it from a middle packer: with almost 800 participants on such a great course with many long single track sections, it creates long lines of runners at times.

As you might have read in my previous post, I was still in Dubai on Friday morning. The trip back home was long (23 hours!) and the connection in DC particularly stressful because of the delay caused by the sun flares/storm. Agnès picked me at the airport and we headed straight to Eldorado Hills where she had a seminar, Friday evening and Saturday. That was ideally located, 20 miles from the start which I drove to early to secure a spot in the main parking lot. That was a good move as I had to use the bathrooms several time before the start. Indeed, although I flew more than 1.5 million miles for business and can handle jet lag pretty well, the only thing which I never managed to get right after such slights is GI issues. It always takes a few days for my transit system to regroup but, unfortunately this time, I had only a few hours and the thing was pretty messed up start from the start. With that, I was still at my car when I heard the count down starting and barely made it into the pack at the sound of the gun.

The start was so crowded that we had to walk first, then sprint and slalom to reach the head of the race. I ran the first mile in 6:15 (it's all road and slightly downhill) and settle after a pack of about 20 runners around the top three gals. I ended up just behind Erik Skaden when the trail turned to a narrow single track. Around mile 7 we passed master blogger Scott Dunlap who took this amazing shot while running. Scott is really mastering the art of "backward, single hand, arm length, in action, over the shoulder" photography! All that at 7 minutes/mile pace... (photo credit: Scott Dunlap)
Indeed, I closed the first 8-mile loop in 56 minutes and probably around the 20 or 25 position (photo credit
My intestine was hurting but I was still hoping that will clear-up in the way down to the river. As a matter of fact, the pounding in the steep downhill to Highway 40 crossing just made it worse and I had to ease the pace by a few seconds by mile 13. I stopped for the first time at mile 16, for 3 long minutes which got my average pace to fall from 7:12 to 7:22 and I saw about 8 or 10 runners passing. It felt better for a few hundreds yards before the cramps and diarrhea started hurting again. I passed a few runners who were wondering how I managed to come from behind (Ray Sanchez, Mark Murray, Jady Palko, ...) and they passed me again as I had to stop again... Not a good day although the legs were working fine.

With the gastro intestinal mess I couldn't eat anything which wasn't too much of a concern as I was using Vespa. But I was also resisting the need to drink, just forcing myself to empty my GU2O bottle which I managed to do by mile 20. At the ALT (Auburn Lake Trails) aid station, a ranger helped me refill my GU2O bottle. He then proposed to fill in my water bottle and, to my surprise, it was still almost full, I had barely taken a sip of water. That wasn't good either, that's my "Way Too Dry (part 2)" vignette because I did get too dry myself indeed... I took one GU for the whole race, I'm glad fat burning covered for the rest (yes, the Vespa effect...).

I stabilized the pace just below 8 minutes/mile in the relatively flat section before the steep Goat Hill in which I passed a handful of runners. (Photo credit Nor Cal Ultras)
At the top of Goat Hill, I got a hug from Norm Klein, and a quick accolade from Helen. I apologized for being late and not having time to stop by then rushed for the final 5 miles, the intestinal pain becoming more tolerable. I passed a few other runners and finished in 26th position, missing my goal by 6 minutes (4:06:00). It was the day to break 4 hours and 19 other runners had done it today. With teammate Gary Gellin even breaking 3.5 hours, winning the race and setting a new course record of 3:27:43. That should be an age group CR which should last for some time! Here are Gary and Holly before the start:
You can check the recording of the live video streaming in one of these sections, by finish time (I'm afraid Gary went too fast to get caught by the camera...):
  1. 3:43:15 - 4:27:39: (my finish is at 22 minutes 50 seconds into this one)
  2. 4:32:35 - 5:27:45:
  3. 5:30:44 - 7:13:37:
After Jed Smith and a strong training this year, I definitely had the potential to do better to celebrate my 30th 50K, but this is still honorable given the circumstances. With all the bad exercise-induced asthma incidents on this course, it's actually my 2nd best time (3:56:47 in 2008 on a different course). I heard that many runners set PRs this Saturday, it was indeed a unique opportunity to do well in such perfect conditions.

A big thank you to the 200 hundred volunteers who assisted Julie, her NorCalUltras team and us, before, during and after the race, with such a perfect logistic! And so many cupcakes...
Special thanks to Ve Loyce and his Monsters of Massage for their deep massage. This allowed me to run 16 miles this Sunday; it's almost time to taper again before next race, Chuckanut 50K in 6... days (no, not weeks!) in Fairhaven, WA. I'm going out of my North California "comfort zone", in new territories and picking one of the most competitive field ever. Just to give you some perspective, there are 27 overall or age-graded "100%" entrants in the 700 deep field! Another indication is that Gary, who just won Way Too Cool, would be happy to finish in the top 20 there (he appears in 24th position in the past performance-ordered registrant list, I'm in 84th position...). Definitely out of my comfort zone... ;-)

Talk to you from Washington State next time then!

PS: if you live in the South Bay and like music, Max and his fellow a cappella SOBs (Society of Orpheus and Bacchus) from Yale are stopping by and will give a concert in Cupertino on Thursday evening, March 15 (tickets at or at the door).


Anonymous said...

Quel inconfort!...Tu es décidément bien courageux...enfin, ça n'est pas un scoop!

John Nguyen said...

Good seeing you out there! I've been reading your blog for a long time now. I am one of the slower runners, so I usually only see you before the races start. Good to see you're doing so well, as always!

Toshi Moshi said...

Hang in there Jean. This is one of the obligatory bad races you have in the year and it usually gets better after this. Rest well and good luck at Chuckanut!