Sunday, August 12, 2012

Skyline 50K instead of TRT 165M: necessary trade-off

For those who didn't follow my blog over the past weeks, it has been a bumpy ride since I broke two pieces of my humerus in the shoulder 8 weeks ago at the end of a 39-mile run on the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) (you can even check my x-rays! ;-)). I was looking forward to experiencing what the trail was about with my own 3-day TRT training camp with both goals in mind: running TRT 100 (miles) then, more importantly, joining Gary Gellin's epopee with his attempt to break Killian Jornet's TRT FKT (Fastest Known Time) of 38:32 (yes, that's 38 hours to cover 167 miles of rugged trail and 28,000 feet of cumulative elevation!). To put things in perspective, Gary's project corresponds to the recent US record at 24-hour set by Scott Jurek in Brives, France, on a flat course, plus 1 hour for each 2,000 feet of cumulative elevation (and nothing left to take into account the rugged terrain...).

I was still in my sling (5 weeks total) when TRT 100 occurred, so this one was easily ruled out. After 6 weeks of inactivity, apart from a few hikes in France, walking the original Marathon in Greece and some work at the gym, I resumed training pretty intensively with a 124-mile week including some trail and hills. I met my orthopedist on Wednesday and, while he wasn't completely against the idea of exercising and running, he said "but you can't fall!" I had only 3 falls and no running injury for 29,800 miles and 14 years of serious running, but running for 2 days on the TRT would have just increased the chance of a second fall so, with much regret and the feeling of passing on a lifetime opportunity, I decided it wasn't worth it and that my presence could actually jeopardize Gary's project which wasn't an option given the years of preparation he put into this project.

So, after considering a group of 7 runners at the beginning of the year, only 4 will start at 5:30 am this Monday morning. Gary, local Victor Ballesteros, Adam Hewey of Washington State and Ben Lewis from Colorado. Since you are now done watching the Olympics, you can "watch" then on the live webcast: courtesy of Ted Knudsen! Again, that's this Monday with updates every 3 or 4 hours when Janet's van see them at one of the aid stations (there are about 40 people helping out up there, crewing and/or pacing, including Agnès). And Gary is definitely ready on all marks: an amazingly thought out logistics down to the minute, great community support, and also physically and mentally. Wishing him and the gang all the best! Here is Gary at Way Too Cool in 2011 (photo credit Agnès Pommier):
By the way, Gary's project include a fund raising for the TRT Foundation. If you are inclined to, Gary suggest for instance 5c/mile pledges (or more!). Here is the link to the donation page, and please make sure to add "TRT SPEED RECORD" before you complete the transaction in the Comments box so the Foundation can track it back to Gary's initiative.

In the meantime... I couldn't stand still and decided to enter the fast and mostly groomed Skyline 50K. That was my 6th edition (2007-2012) and a good opportunity to put some hill work while paying attention to not... falling again. Mission accomplished for the latter and definitely a good training run, but I ended up quite disappointed with my finish time, not even breaking 4 hours. It is actually my second time over 4 hours: in 2008, I did something stupid... I had a minor muscle issue in my quads after training on the UTMB course with Scott Jurek and Team Lafuma, and used a non-elastic bandage tape which strangled my entire muscle, making me limping not only during the race but for several days (and ending up in a 4:14). This year, I believe the shoulder fracture might make be eligible to use that as an excuse: while it was good for 5th place overall and 2nd masters thanks to a dispersed field, I finished in 4:07, far behind Leor Pantilat's amazing course record (3:32:05), improving by a 32 seconds the best time legendary Tom Johnson set 15 years ago (credit and thanks to Stan Jensen for maintaining so many useful archives on For his first appearance at this race, Leigh Schmitt from Tamalpa took second and first Master in 3:42 (photo credit: Noe Castanon) and Tera Dube won the women division in 4:36.
Great BBQ party at the end: I thanked them in person but I'm redoing it in this post, thank you, thank you! Although I didn't stop much at the aid stations, a big thank you to all the volunteers on the course and helping before and after, for instance with the abundant marking! Speaking of aid station, I couldn't carry a water bottle in my right hand because of my weak shoulder, so I didn't drink enough which might have also contributed to my counter-performance. Anyway, I also told Race Director Adam Ray how much I was appreciative to him for putting up such a great event on this very runnable course. As Leor's performance attest, the weather was perfect, with some fog at the start and for the first hour or so, then a very sunny day but not too hot in the shady French trail. Thank you to the sponsors: North Face (which gave us the opportunity to see Dean Karnazes at the start, on the course and very furtively at the finish...), ZombieRunner, SportHill (cool age group winner hoodie!), Honey Stinger (chocolate waffle) and the Sock Guy (nice pair of running socks). I even thanked two Park Rangers for letting us run and enjoy their trails, I think they got surprised! ;-) Not many pictures today (it's still painful for me to raise my right arm and hold the camera...), but here is one that Noe Castanon took of our first 3 "Quisksilverettes" finishers! ;-) (Oops, nothing on my camera card, I'll include Noe's picture later then since he also took one with his camera...).
Here is a shot by fellow Quicksilver and volunteer, Chihping Fu, around mile 20:
So long for wearing the coveted bib #1 but I'll be back, I really like this event and want to continue the strike. Still quite far from Mike Palmer's 16 finishes, but counting... ;-) It was my 75th ultra race and 34th 50K race (versus 38 10Ks and 21 marathons). Glad to be back on the trails, racing and seeing many familiar faces! My next trips include one week in Mexico City and one week in Hong Kong this month, so the training won't be optimal. That's (business) life...