Saturday, February 14, 2015

2nd Saratoga Fat Ass 2015: or is it dumb ass?

A barely took a break in December, just a few days while traveling through France and the Czech Republic over the Holidays, my ass didn't really have the time to put some fat on. Since the beginning of the year, short of eating an apple a day, I've been running at least an ultra a week, hoping that keeps the doctor away...

Agn├Ęs being in Austin, TX, this weekend with Max who is going to run his first marathon tomorrow, I was out of a Valentine today, a good excuse to spend a few hours on the trails on this Valentine's Day! After the first and original one, Keith Blom is also perpetuating that second Saratoga Fat Ass tradition and today was the day!

I thought I'd focus on speed at the track this weekend but my strategy this year to avoid last year's minor injury, is to ensure some variety in my training. After the fast Jed Smith 50K of last weekend, I ran 50 miles on concrete this week so it was time to hit the trails again.

Mark Tanaka had run the course yesterday (he was on E.R. duty today) and Chihping Fu will run tomorrow. Here is the group for the 8 am start:
The weather was gorgeous, actually even on the hot side for a winter run. And the trails were in perfect conditions, just soft enough from last week's rain, with a few branches and down trees here and there to make the run more interesting.

In these conditions, and profiting from the fact that Leor Pantilat never ran this fat ass, I was going after Pierre-Yves Couteau's "course record" of 4:42. After making sure everybody else had the course instructions (me included!) I took off in the lead and alone. The first loop is really trick when we get down over the huge boulders at the end of Ridge Trail as well as on Saratoga Gap Trail. Despite some pushing, my average pace was around 10:30 min/mile, from which I shaved a few seconds on the way up to Highway 35 on Loghry Woods Trail, then on Skyline Trail, back to the start.
I got back to the car with my GPS indicating 10.5 miles and 1:45 of running. A quick stop to refill my GU2O bottle, eat 1/2 banana and it was time to hammer down the second loop. I saw Keith 3.5 miles in that second loop as he was hiking it in reverse direction with a heavy back pack, training for the John Muir Trail (JMT) in June.
Everything was going fine, including the cruising on my favorite trail in this area, Travertine Springs Trail. While a few creeks were flowing, I was alarmed by how dry the area of the spring is this year. I've had my feet and legs really wet a few year ago in this area, not today! At the end of Travertine Springs Trail, I found the new bridge and I was actually so hot that I took the time to go down to the creek, under the bridge, to cool off my legs and head. A first in winter!

I felt refreshed and pumped up to hammer the way back up to Hwy 35, so much that I went 1.5 miles off course, all the way up to Indian Rock road, almost back to the Saratoga Gap parking area. Since I was going after a record, and like any good ultra runner would do anyway, I decided to go down to find where I went off course. If you see these signs, then you know you went way off course too!

I found another service road but it didn't seem right to run beyond these signs, would you agree?
Anyway, that seemed the only option so 1/2 mile up I went again, to end up in a private dead end, fortunately without any dog, phew! I retraced my path back and was pleased to find the rest of the group, as lost as I was the first time at this intersection. At least, my experience saved them the 4 miles I had run left and right and up and down on that road!

I led the group down to the sharp U-turn we had missed on Travertine Springs, after the new bridge. There was really no sign to be found, making it a very non intuitive turn. As I'd find out later, even Keith missed the turn but he thought it was just because he was doing the course in reverse direction.

With so many extra miles (4.4 miles exactly), worth 51 minutes including the discussions, plus the fact that I was now missing salt (I had lost 1 of my 4 S!Caps), I decided to just finish this loop, do a few more miles to Charcoal, to still make it an ultra.

Kevin Moore followed me on the way up from Travertine Springs and I gave him the water I had left as he was running with a 4-oz bottle only! I left him at Charcoal, then ran back to the start/finish. On my way back, I cross teammate Andy Benkert, from Santa Cruz, and Rida Chow (in Brooks!) who looked great. I was back to the car with my GPS indicating 28.55 miles, 4:52:22 and +/- 5,950 feet of cumulative elevation. Here is the course, including the section not to go on:
It was the year for a PR, but I felt like a dumb ass for having ran more than 4 miles off course on such trails, with the map in my hands...! Yet, it was a perfect opportunity to get some hill training which may get handy when pushing the pace again at the 50K Road Nationals in 2 weeks on Long Island. We'll see... At least I'm happy that I was careful enough on the first loop to avoid any injury. A bad fall would have been even dumber in retrospect.

A big thank to Keith for organizing this unorganized (has to be from a permit standpoint) and unofficial run. I'm glad I could run it for the 4th time (2011, 2012, 2013), and look forward to another opportunity to clock a good time, although I'm not going to wish we have such a summer weather next year. The worst drought in 1,000 years is the new headline, this is scary...

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