Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Miwok 100K 2012: holding strong

After Ruth Anderson 50-mile 2 weeks ago and Leona Divide 50-mile last week, that was #3 of 5 ultra races in my Spring Ultra Madness "experience," 5 ultra in 5 weekends... And the top of the difficulty in that series, combining the longest distance (100K or 62 miles) with the most cumulative elevation.

Due to planned construction at the headquarters of Marine Headlands at Rodeo Beach, Race Director, Tia Bodington, had to redesign the course and in particular the start and finish area. She took the opportunity to actually redesign the whole course across this amazing park a few miles North of San Francisco. The conditions getting in the race were no so ideal on my end: I was exhausted and some will say it's normal for someone racing so much, but it was more about a super busy week in Vegas with meetings from 7 am to midnight and more work afterwards to catch-up with emails or finalize my own presentations. Yet a very fruitful week from a business standpoint, it was very refreshing to meet with clients, partners and colleagues from around the world, including Panama, Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Portugal, France, Germany, UK, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia not to forget Canada and the USA of course!
With that, I didn't have much time to prepare for the race and the associated logistics and to make it more challenging, my carpool option to the start felt apart on Thursday. I emailed right away 6 other participants from South Bay or Mid-Peninsula but got 4 negative replies by Friday morning. Agnès cancelled a few of her Saturday tutoring sessions and offered to drive up and crew for me like in the good old times when I started running ultras 5 years ago ;-) We left home at 3 am and picked Charles in San Francisco on our way. With the winding road and the darkness, it took us 10 more minutes to reach Stinson Beach at 4:43 am for a 5 am start... There was a huge line at the check-in to get our bib number so I rushed instead to the nearby bathroom. With the line there I was done by 4:56, got my bib from Stan at 4:58 and was still getting ready when I heard Tia giving the start. I left a minute later and started passing runners, and more runners... 430 made it through the lottery back in January but, I would learn later, only 354 started. Here is how the start looked upfront:
And from the rear side... my 2nd DSL (Did Start Last) ;-)
On this new course, the race starts with a 1,800 straight climb to Bolinas Ridge. Being far behind the leaders probably prevented me from starting off too hard. However, I felt the urge of running the steep uphill while some were walking so I ended up sweating quite a lot from the hoping and quick accelerations to pass others on this narrow single track trail. On the ridge, I was following Tina Lewis and had still no idea how many runners were upfront. I still had my bib number in my pocket when I got into the Bolinas Ridge aid station and stopped for a few minutes to pin it before turning to a bandit... I passed the lead women again on the ridge and a few other runners. Adam Hewey and Adam Lint were the last ones I passed before we plunged down to the Randall Trail aid station. It was so cool to run this section on fresh legs as opposed to other years when we were hitting the ridge at mid course, around mile 30-34.

The first runner I saw coming back up from the Randall aid station was ultra favorite Dave Mackey. Dave set an amazing course record last year, breaking under 8 hours. But Dave wasn't running alone, he was with Chris Price. I was still about  4-5 minutes from the aid station so they had a lead of at least 12-14 minutes and we were only 13 miles in our run. Jesse Haynes was in 3rd. I had seen Jesse (Ink 'n Burn) at Leona Divide last week where he wasn't running but volunteering. Quicksilver Ultra Running teammate Marc Laveson was in fourth followed by Jonathan Gunderson from Tamalpa, Christopher Wehan, Paolo Castiglioni, Mark Lantz and Owen Bradley from Alabama. I left the aid station right behind Mark and David Brown from Texas. David passed me as we were approaching the top of the hill, and I passed Mark. David and I traded places on Bolinas Ridge, before we got passed by the Adams (Lint and Hewey) just before coming back to the Bolinas Ridge aid station (mile 19). I refilled my Gu2O bottle, took a Vespa concentrate before leaving the aid station, passed David in the next technical section, then Adam Lint as we hit the road, the David passed me again on the Coastal Trail ridge before I passed him before the technical section and many stairs leading us back to Stinson Beach Fire Station, marking the first marathon (and a hilly one already!). After Randall Trail, Agnès was there again and I will see her at the next aid station too, at Muir Beach. I didn't dare to ask how far behind from Dave I was (27 minutes from the webcast which I looked at after the race), I felt I was going quite slow today, around 9 min/mile average pace and was hoping we were done with most of the climbs. I saw teammate Gary Gellin at the exit of the aid station, he was going to pace Dave in the final 10 miles. The next 8 miles to Muir Beach felt familiar (a good part of the Quad Dipsea course, or simple Dipsea for the matter) and I felt OK and energized to got on the brutal climb after the aid station although I had to walk more than I wanted to in the last ups. I saw a runner closing on me a mile behind but were able to maintain the gap until Tennessee Valley.

It was great to see Stan Jensen and Agnès again at this aid station he manned for many years. This year, Stan wasn't the time keeper so he could be the buffoon around... ;-)
I fueled a little before getting on another uphill. I must admit that, 38 miles in the race, I was not so excited about climbing again. Michael Arnstein from New York had closed the 10-minute gap I had over him 14 miles earlier at Stinson Beach, I was now in 10th.
I got my bottle water refilled at the remote Bridge View aid station before the long 7.7-mile stretch back to Tennessee Valley through Rodeo Beach and on the steep Coastal Trail again. I lost sight of Michael but started seeing a runner a mile or so behind. With the never ending uphills my pace slowed down to around 9:30 min/mile. I got a moral boost at Tennessee Valley when the time keeper told me I had run the 12-mile loop just 5 minutes over Dave's time, which really surprised me. Evidently, I was not the only one slowing down but a few were keeping a reasonable pace and catching up too. I walked and jogged up to Coast Trail closing on and passing Jonathan before the summit and steep downhill into Muir Beach. I left the aid station in 9th place and kept moving through the next grassy section. I was excited to hit the final climb of the day and thought we would come back to Stinson Beach by another and shorter route. I got demoralized when I saw that we were taking the same way we had in the morning and that left me completely out of mental juice, walking a lot in the subsequent 2-mile climb, so much that Kevin Shilling (Utah) passed me in that section. I was actually satisfied to reach the end of the hill in 10th place but that's when I saw another running a quarter mile behind. It was Tim Long who ended up passing me with 1.5 miles to go.

With that, I crossed the line in 11th overall and 5th Masters (both Kevin and Tim are 44, I think I could have shaved 4 minutes for top 3 Masters would have I known... but easier said in a blog post than done...) in a time of 10:18:15. During all the race I was so disappointed with my slow pace, not knowing that Dave had himself slowed down and finished in 9:16, much slower than usual due to a much tougher course (12,750 cumulative elevation according to my Garmin, not to mention an extra mile), lack of serious competition and, according to Gary, ankle problems caused by too short socks (gasp!). So, given the circumstances, this ended up being another serious ultra performance for me, 3 in a row actually, holding strong...!
If it was tough for the leaders, the course will be even tougher for the rest of the pack with many more hours on the trail and more time between aid stations. Indeed, at least 83 runners DNF'ed out of 354 starters (77% finisher rate). Yet, the conditions were excellent from a trail and weather standpoint so I believe the issue was more about mental preparedness as many uphills are actually runnable and not that long but the number of them were just intimidating. If the course remains the same next year, and we are lucky to make it through the lottery again, we'll all be warned and given the opportunity to come better prepared for the new Miwok! My Garmin around 11,000 cumulative elevation last year so that wasn't so much less to explain the discrepancy in our performances. Here are the two course profiles. First, 2012:
Then 2011:
Anyway, in addition to the very helpful volunteers at the aid stations, I want to thank the volunteers for their perfect and abundant course marking. I liked in particular the way ribbons were carefully placed on the particular side of the trail announcing a turn in that direction. Thank you also to the runners who provided encouragement as we crossed each other, although they had much longer to go than us at the front. And a big thank to Agnès for crewing on such a long day and showing up at 8 aid stations along the course! And hat off to my teammate Marc Laveson who placed 8th for his first 100K!

Nice words with Tia, a few volunteers and runners at the finish, before Agnès and I left in order to stop by Palo Alto to vote for the French Presidential elections. Unfortunately, we ended up blocked for 30 minutes on 101 between 92 and 84 and missed the opportunity to vote for the second round. I ran 10K on Sunday morning before packing and going to Church with Greg then my trip to Riyadh turned to a nightmare but I was amazed how ultra helps me remaining cooler in such circumstances. Our flight out of SFO to Frankfurt was missing a crew (crew switch with the Beijing flight) so we boarded one hour late and my connection in Frankfurt was one hour and 5 minutes, not good... Then we lost another hour waiting for the clearance from the Chicago maintenance center for a defective break of one of the 16 undercarriage wheels. Calling United, then Amex and Lufthansa before we took off left me with the only option of spending Monday night in Frankfurt and taking the next day flight to Riyadh. 2 more hours spent upon arrival into Frankfurt (glad I didn't check in any luggage though) to learn that I got re-routed through Dubai where I discovered United and Lufthansa had booked me on a flight the next day (28-hour lay over instead of 4 hours...). After quite some negotiation and crossing the huge Dubai terminal 3 times (at least 3 kilometers...), I finally arrived in Riyadh at 3:30 am on Tuesday instead of 5 pm on Monday.... Knowing businesses are closed on Thursday, at least I have part of Tuesday to work there and make the trip worth before flying back on Thursday night.... Just in time for the 4th episode of the Spring Madness! See some of you at Pierre-Yves' run next week on our Club's home turf in San Jose!

Not as many as the 376 pictures I took at this event last year, but see a few pictures from Agnès in Picasa including mostly the leaders, a few flowers and views of the beaches and seashore, the set of the red moon at the start, a snake (sorry Mom!) and an amazing shot and "show off" of a blue jay.


Steve Patt said...

Just to be picky, it's a Western Scrub-Jay. Blue Jay is a species only found on the East Coast. It is, I admit, a blu(ish) Jay, although according to the books, it actually has no blue pigment at all, the color comes from the refraction of light from the feathers. Anyway great run!

Sarah Lavender Smith said...

Jean, I'm in awe of how you do all that you do. I was stressed out reading the craziness of your travel and logistical complications leading up to Saturday, and then the rushed start. Your stamina and productivity are off the charts. And then you crank out this blog post ... I wish I had a fraction of your endurance and productivity. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to find a time to write a blog post about the event in between work and life! Great job out there. I think it was a struggle for many Miwok veterans who were upset about their much slower times, not realizing that everyone was in the same boat.

Brett said...

That is just crazy - 5 ultras in 5 weeks. And to have these types of performances?!?!?!

Anonymous said...

Je comprends que tes amis soient épatés et que tu sois reconnaissant à Agnès!
Cela nous fait plaisir que ces exploits te permettent une certaine sérénité devant les accrocs à ton programme serré!
Oui, je préfère le bel oiseau au serpent!
Bravo et Bon courage...