Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ruth Anderson 2014: moving targets

After the 1,072 entrants in the American River 50-mile 2 weeks ago, a field of 87 registered for this weekend Ruth Anderson ultra races appeared like a family run. Especially if you now consider the 35,000 participants to Boson this Monday! And, for Ruth Anderson, it's actually 3 races in one event as you can pick between 50K, 50-mile or 100K during the race.

That won't surprise many, I had a big goal for this Saturday. For those who follow my blog, I had planned on participating to the US Nationals 100K last weekend. However, the nagging injury which appeared in my tibialis a couple of days after Jed Smith 50K 10 weeks ago still prevent me from training seriously. I took one day off after American River 50-mile then had a great week running 6, 9, 12, 9, 18 then 29 miles on Saturday. The injury reappeared 14 miles in my long run, while I was at the top of Black Mountain, so I had little option than running a few more miles to come back home... I had planned on running again on Sunday but it was too painful so I tapered for another week instead, except to test my new Brooks PureFlow which I wanted to use for the 100K this weekend. 6 miles of pure bliss, the test was conclusive. Back to the Nationals, I DNS'ed (Did Not Start) or, more exactly, I even DNR'ed (Did Not Register). Ironically, there were only 33 participants, including only one local running in my age group who took the National title with a comfortable 11h36. Let me salute still the performance of the winner, Zach Bitter in a blazing 6:44 as well as 2nd place, Joe Binder, 30, in 6:56. I actually met Joe a few years ago when he set the 100K course record at Ruth Anderson in 7:00:19, 12 minutes faster than Jon Olsen, both making it to the USA 100K team. See the results of the 21 finishers at the MadCity 100K Nationals.

Pierre-Yves picked me on his way to the start, a good opportunity to catch-up and learn about his own ultra racing plans. To prepare for Quicksilver 100K and Western States, he was definitely going for 100K as well. I shared my goal of improving the American M50-54 Age Group record which has been set by John Sullivan 32 years ago in 7:38:43. As a matter of fact, I never ran a 100K that fast, so it was quite an aggressive goal, especially on the Ruth Anderson course which isn't flat. I ran 7:51 last year, faltering before the 50-mile mark so I was hoping for a better and smarter race to improve by 13 minutes. By the way, the AG course record was 8:30, so that would have been 3 records at once, include a Personal Record.
We started at 6:30, in a fresh but nice breeze and past dawn so ample day light. Enrique Henriquez was the only one to join me at the front of the race, despite my efforts to start as slowly as possible. We covered the fist mile in 7 minutes and I intentionally slowed down in the next hill to let him pass. After asking me which distance I was shooting for, he said he was on the 50-mile and picked up the pace. I was not going to see him again all day.

Race Director Emeritus, Steve Jaber, had prepared a pace sheet based on a 7h30 100K, a 7:15 pace. With my initial 7:00 pace, I was 1 minute ahead of schedule at my first of 14 passages on the finish line. Although a minute doesn't seem to be such a bid deal, I knew I was going out too fast, yet I could manage to slow down. I need to learn this skill for my upcoming 24-hour events, darn... I was still feeling great in the 3rd loop, although having strange GI (Gastro Intestinal) sensations. With my efforts of slowing down, I managed to lower my average pace to 7:01 by the end of lap 2 and 7:02 in lap 3 but the half marathon mark. I was still about 3 minutes too fast for Steve. In the 4th lap, my intestine was cramping, I had to make a pit stop at the South aid station. Almost 2 minutes, it seemed like an eternity and, I felt the urge to pick up the pace to make for the time "lost," which I did. It was not 8:30 am, the bike path had many more users on this East Saturday morning and I kept lapping other participants, receiving and sharing some encouragements. All that provided some distraction although I kept really focused on my pace and listening to my body, trying to figure out how the GI issue was developing. Here is a picture from runner Chihping Fu at the beginning of my 4th lap:
Lap 5 felt ok but not as easy as the first three, I had to recover from the extra effort spent in lap 4. I was now closer to the "ideal" pace, around 7:10 average and passed the marathon mark in 3:05, 9 minutes faster than the record pace. In lap 7, I started feeling quite tired and out of juice, so much that I caught up with teammate Jeremy Johnson but was enable to actually pass him. Not enough juice in my legs but, more importantly, not a single motivation left in my mind. I forced myself to keep up with Jeremy, my lap pace was now down to 8:20 and I knew the record attempt was gone. Actually, while approaching the 50K finish line, I thought that, if it wasn't for the team and Grand Prix competition, I wanted to just stop and call it a day. For those of you who don't run ultras, you may think that, since I was going for 100K initially, it shouldn't have been a bid deal to just go for 50 miles instead. But there is a big difference between 31 miles (50) and adding 19 more miles when you don't feel good. Then, of course, adding another 12 miles after that.

Interestingly enough, with the faster start, I was still "right on pace" for the record, passing the 50K mark in 3:45. I've done 50Ks much faster than that, so all things looked fine from the outside. But, internally, I knew I wasn't able to run faster than 8 min/mile now, even 8:20 felt uncomfortable. After the 50K mark, the new goal became to at least run 4 more laps and even that wasn't a good prospect in my mind. Instead of the 32-minute target, my laps were now in the 37 minute range. By lap 8, all the parties following my progression had realized that I had slowed down too much and was now off pace. There were still quite a few miles ahead so I forced myself to keep hydrating despite the lack of interest and motivation.

In my 10th lap, I was expecting Enrique to pass/lap me, would have he continued on his sub 7 minute pace for the whole 50 miles. That didn't happen and, with contrition, I turn around at the 49.3-mile mark to finish the 50-mile in 6:22:57. As it turned out, Enrique had also switched goals, winning the 50K race in 3:31 so I was the 50-mile champion, which I had not expected at all.
Although many would give a lot to win a race, I was still quite disappointed about myself, not just for the missed goals but also for having asked Rajeev to go through all the trouble of getting the event sanctioned by USATF so the records could be official. Fortunately, I wasn't the only going for such a record: legendary Eric Clifton had come from South California to also attempt a 100K record for the M55-59 age group. As it turned out, Eric missed his goal too and switched to 50-mile instead.
Rajeev was upset that I felt sorry for him and he didn't want to mention anything about that in my blog, but that's still my blog, so I'll do it anyway. ;-) My personal frustration only grew, when late Saturday evening, I check and to discover that I had also missed the M50-59 50-mile course record by 1 minute and 31 seconds. I had not check what that record was before the start, maybe that would have provided some motivation in laps 7 and 8. I guess I'll be back on that course then...

With that, what happened on the course with the others? I already mentioned Enrique's win on the 50K. The 100K was won by Nakia Baird in 9:16. While Excelsior took the team win in the 100K, we got the win in the 50-mile (Stephen Wassather, Jeremy and I) and took second in the 100K (Marc Klemnenic, 2nd overall, Pierre-Yves Couteau, 4th, and Jim Magill). And many more personal adventures, from Barbara Ash for whom it was the 386th ultra (!!!), to ultra rookies like my friend Frederique Garderes for her first 50K. Not to forget Bill Dodson's feat on the 50-mile, a few months before turning 80. Although Bill was also aiming at 100K, he very well deserved a beer from our Quicksilver President, Greg Lanctot. Here is "King Bill:"
Special thanks to Race Director extraordinaire, Rajeev Patel, and his co-RD, Anil Rao, here with their most official team of time keepers: Dave Combs and Stan Jensen and, standing, Molly, a new volunteer, Steve Jaber, Anil Rao, Rajeev Patel.
Yes, it was the first time the event was chip-timed thanks to Dave Combs new "toy:"
Here is Anil with the North Aid station Chefs:

And a warm thank to our team Captain, Loren Lewis, and Club President, Greg Lanctot, for having spent their day assisting and encouraging all of us this Saturday!

Here is Loren, with Jeremy, which is slightly misleading as Loren has actually spent more time on his feet from 5am in the morning to 7 pm, from helping at the registration to attending more than one hundred of our passages through the aid station:

And here is Greg, offering a pack of Oreos to speedster Chikara Omine for his next gluttonous challenge (Chikara has been off for 7 weeks because of an injury):
Although the conditions were outstanding, it wasn't the perfect day I was hoping for, not getting all the stars aligned. Yes, I started too fast, this is a star which I should be more in control of... The initial GI issue derailed my sugar intake. I did use Vespa but I kind of lost interest in the additional GUs to provide a few extra calories to sustain a record-setting effort. It is still pretty amazing that I was able to cover 50 miles just on 3 GUs, 2 cups of coke and 3 bottles of GU2O. As for the mental, still working on it after 97 ultras... By the way, the flexible format of the event, where you can pick your distance "on the go" is particularly challenging mentally. The injury didn't bother me during the race at least, but it's still too sensitive this Sunday for a run, can't take the risk of damaging it more 2 weeks before Miwok, then Quicksilver, then SilverSate. Yes, I know, crazy schedule ahead, we'll see how these races turn to really be training runs...

Good luck to all my friends running Boston tomorrow, the planet is watching you, seize the opportunity!

PS: a few more pictures on Facebook


Rajeev said...

No matter what distance you run you are always awesome to watch and an inspiration! I am glad you won the 50M race!!


Unknown said...

Jean, Thanks for your very honest report. I was so inspired by your tenacity as I was watching you running once I was done with my short race! I knew you were working really hard!

Unknown said...

Jean, you're amazing. You had a tough time at Ruth Anderson and only missed the course record by about 1 and a half minutes for 50 miles. And what a great teammate for Quicksilver to get points when you're not feeling well and to have such a tough schedule in May. Thanks for the reports and races that keep inspiring me.

Unknown said...

The rookie certainly enjoyed the loop format race Jean, as it was impossible for me to get lost! I will surely be back at Ruth Anderson.
Passing the finish line 10 minutes ahead of you was also a great joy for me:
I told you I would be ahead of you ;-))

Jeremy said...

Good job toughing it out!