Saturday, February 16, 2013

2nd Saratoga Fat Ass: is it summer yet?

It was my 3rd 2nd Saratoga Fat Ass today. I know, a bit convoluted as a statement. First, for those who don't know, a fat ass is typically a 50K run which is scheduled at the beginning of the year to mark the start of a new season and a test for the body after some indulgence over the Year End Holidays. You've heard me talking about running a few of them either in the Bay Area or in Normandie, France where I introduced the name (no literal translation required... ;-).

According to Stan Jensen, the original Saratoga Fat Ass was in 1983 but the records resume in 1996. I ran my first one in January 2005, a very humbling experience but a great learning opportunity thanks to the many tips the experienced ultra runners shared with me (my mentors and sources of inspiration back then included Charles Stevens, 6 Western States finishes, Mark Williams, who was the first ever to finish the grueling Barkley 100-miler, Flyin' Brian Robinson, the first to be "Triple Crowned" as he hiked the three major US trails in 1 year, his wife Sophia Lewis-Robinson, Mike Topher, Pierre Tardif.

A Fat Ass is not an organized or official race: it's a social opportunity to meet others, timing is left to the participants, there may or not be aid stations, runners can start earlier depending on their goals or schedule constraints. On our team, Mark is known to do such runs when his ER duty allows, that is usually not on weekends. This year, the (1st) Saratoga Fat Ass changed date at the last minute and I was on a plane at the new date so I ran it on my own, one week earlier.

A few years ago, one member of our team organized another fat ass starting from the same point (Saratoga Gap at the crossing of Hwy 9 and 35), about 6 weeks later than the original one and on another course made of 3 different loops all conveniently starting from the parking lot, hence offering the opportunity to come back to your car to refill your bottles for instance. I ran it the past 2 years. In 2011, we got caught in a snow storm and that made for a very challenging and humbling run (5:42). Last year (2012), we started in the rain and got lost on the second loop but finished in the sun.

This year, the weather was perfect. Actually, it turned to be slightly "too" warm (sorry for those reading from the France or the East Coast... ;-). Because Park Rangers don't like these semi-organized yet unofficial group runs, the run isn't advertized on the website and that made for a small attendance.
 We started just after 8am, Jeremy, Pierre-Yves, Toshi and I, all from our Quicksilver Ultra Running Team.
The trail was really dry (we are definitely missing rain in the area) and the views gorgeous.
We did a few stops to look at the views on the first loop which made it to a slow pace (~11 min/mile) for the first 10 miles, a nice way to get my right calf warmed up.
I could feel it at the end of the first loop but it wasn't too bad. Although flying in the downhills and the rocky sections in particular with unmatched agility, Pierre-Yves couldn't keep the pace in the uphills so he told Jeremy that he'd ease the pace and we should go on.
Jeremy pushed the pace at the start of the second loop, on the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail and our average pace was down to 10:15 by mile 15. However he bonked before our second passage through the Castle Rock campground so Toshi and I continued and actually ran the whole uphill back to Skyline Boulevard. I ran half the 3rd loop with Toshi and went ahead in the last 4 miles of climb back to Saratoga Gap, clocking a 5:13 for about 29.5 miles. Toshi arrived 10 minutes later and Pierre-Yves about 30 minutes behind. Jeremy had dropped after the second loop and was waiting for us, and Toshi especially, at the car.

Indeed, they were the real heroes of the day. Not only were they running this fat ass this Saturday but also one tomorrow, in Los Gatos (my calf held on so I will join them for the back to back fat ass too). And, it wasn't enough, they were backpacking the whole weekend, starting with a 15-mile hike from Palo Alto to Table Mountain, spending the Friday night in the woods, running 30 miles, hiking another 15 miles to get closer to Los Gatos, then 30 hilly miles again tomorrow, for a total of 90 miles, and no shower!
Needless to say, they were happy to find Mister Mustard and his hot dogs at Saratoga Gap! ;-)
Overall, a wonderful weather for this 50K training run and, although it wasn't a fast one, I'm happy my calf held on. After last Saturday's long run (27 miles), I was able to run 17 miles on Sunday, 12.5 on Monday and Wednesday. Some bad sensations in the calf again after the Wednesday run so I skipped Thursday and ran 10K on Friday (some pain at the 5K mark which then disappeared, this is so confusing...). More tomorrow then with news of this second fat ass, then the USATF Pacific Association Long Distance Running Award Banquet on Sunday night in Berkeley. In the meantime, have a good night, sweet running dreams...
PS: a few additional pictures in my Picasa album.

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