Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ruth Anderson ultras 2015: quite a few loops, again...

Since I started running ultras in 2006, that was my 9th consecutive participation to the Ruth Anderson ultras (2007-2015), a long ultra tradition per Stan Jensen's records on his informative website. This event is quite special in the sense that it has 3 distances to chose from, 50K, 50-mile and 100K, and you can do so during the race. The only trick though is that you can't revert to a shorter distance in case you kept going and not reach the next one. This brings a very interesting mental challenge which I must admit, I have struggled myself repeatedly. Subsequently, and for various reasons, I've run a variety of distances here, respectively 50M, 50K, 50K, 50M, 100K, 50M, 100K and 50M. In 2011, I even missed the start, still being on the tarmac in Phoenix, AZ with the whole family after a missed connection on Friday night, yet managed to finish the 100K that day! I titled my race report: DSL (Did Start Last)...! ;-)

By the way, the race is held in San Francisco, on a very scenic 4.5-mile around Lake Merced. The 100K option was the first one and has been offered since 1986 making it 29 years this year (the event didn't occur in 1999)! The 50-mile since 2001 and 50K since 2002.

This was also my 3rd of a back to back to back race series this month. I must say that was quite aggressive given the 3 events: American River 50-mile, MadCity 100K Road US Championships and Ruth Anderson. I decided to play safe and not go for 100K but "only" 50 miles today, and I now look forward to one (!) weekend without a race before another monster back to back to back in May with the grueling Miwok 100K and QuickSilver 100K, and my favorite race, Ohlone 50K.

What I didn't see coming though when I put together this ambitious race plan is that I would be traveling almost every week from February to June. This is exhausting and certainly tests my limits, beyond the ultra running ones. And that's I often talk about living an ultra life... This week I was in Ohio again. I actually didn't come back home last weekend as I was racing in Wisconsin. I saw Agn├Ęs for a few hours before she left this Sunday for Europe for a week, and I'll see her for a few hours next Sunday between two planes, another tiring sub 4-hour red eye to Chicago...

Anyway, with the race starting at 6:30 am, I was good for yet another early wake-up call at 3:30 am, mind you some Sunday rest. It was still quite dark when I got to Lake Merced and I wasn't even the first one. As a matter of fact, the time to chat with a few familiar participants, I barely had 10 minutes to prepare and I even had to come back to the car before the start because I had forgotten my sun glasses. In a typical San Francisco fashion, the sky was cloudy but last year it dissipated and turn to a very warm day. I was expecting the same although it didn't happen today, keeping the temperature ideal for a long run and avoiding sun burns.

Race Director, Rajeev Patel (along with co-RD Anil Rao), gave his colorful and humorist briefing. This year, that included a life-time award to RD Emeritus Steve Jaber who has volunteered hundreds of hours to this even and many other. And a "tired loopy" award to Barbara Elia, now 70, for countless participations, Rajeev mentioning about 190 laps of racing on this course for Barbara (below, in white).
We started at 6:30 am indeed and Chikara Omine and Enrique Henriquez took off at a sub 7 min/mile pace. I wasn't surprised for either of them, guessing Enrique would go after the 50K win again, but unsure about which distance Chikara was rushing to. I was in third and lost sight of Enrique first then Chikara in the second lap. I was trying hard to slow down but couldn't get my pace lower than 6:52 in the first two laps which I knew was too aggressive (I was aiming at 7 at most). At least, I was pleased to run at ease: no trace of the heel injury which got me to stop training for 3 weeks in March, no trace of the knee pain after American River, and not even any apparent fatigue from last week's 100K Nationals. I actually went for 9 miles on Thursday and I felt really good. With that, I had even formed the ambition to run a sub-6-hour 50-mile today...!

I clocked about 31:40 +/- a few seconds for each of the first 5 laps. In the 6th one, I did a quick pit spot (pit as in pee-t...) and Karl Schnaitter passed me. I stayed behind for the remainder of the lap but lost him in 7th lap as I was unfortunately slowing down. My average pace was now right on 7:00 min/mile and I couldn't even hold this. Getting close to the 50K mark, I was tempted to call it a day but first, my second goal was to at least improve the age group course record which I had missed by a few seconds last year, after a fail attempt at the 100K M50-54 American record, and not even knowing what the M50-59 50-mile course record was (6:21:28 by Joe Schieffer in 2002). Second, our team strategy was quite muddy this year, with very few participants, but, since I had committed on the 50-mile, I didn't want to take the risk of jeopardize our scoring.

It was really painful to get going... and slowing down. But, although I'm ashamed of the slower pace, I'm proud that I didn't walk a single time today. I thank the other runners who encouraged me on the way, returned a few encouragements as well, and kept moving.

2 miles before the end of my 10th lap, Chikara flew by me. In other words, he had lapped me and I thought he was sprinting to a blazing 5:32 or so 50-mile finish. To my surprise, he didn't turn around at the 50-mile mark and kept going for the 100K win instead. At least, since I had another lap to complete myself, that was better for my UltraSignup ranking, phew...! ;-)

It was a relief to be in the last lap and, although I couldn't really run faster, at least I was able to now stabilize the average pace at 7:24, at least that was what my Garmin GPS was showing. 7:30 min/mile was enough to get me the age group course record so I did check my watch quite a few times in that last lap. As I started the final out and back of the 50-mile, I see Karl coming back and letting me know that the 50-mile turn around was nowhere to be found. I replied that we had ran over it (the marking and 3 flags) 10 times already, so I knew where it was. Poor Karl ended up running up the hill to the old 50-mile finish, for probably 2 additional kilometers. Thanks to a comfortable lead though, that didn't prevent him from winning the 50-mile (I thought he'd go for 100K today), but, with this mistake, he missed breaking 6 hours (6:05:56). I took second in 6:14:12 and Brian Purcell, also from Excelsior, took 3rd in 6:25:42.
Excelsior's captain took 4th, rounding up another Excelsior team win.
I had time to change and see a few other runners passing through the finish aid station before seeing Chikara finish his 100K in a blazing 7:06! I believe this is the 3rd fastest time on this course (both Jon Olsen and Joe Binder both qualified for Team USA here). Unfortunately, this may not be enough to make it to the team this year as quite a few runners already qualified at the World championships last year with fastest time.

Far from the 32-year speedsters (Chikara and Karl), Bill Dodson, at 80, was again shooting for a M80-84 American record, this time for the 50-mile distance. Last week, he shattered 2.5 hours off the previous record for 100K. And, today, he shaved more than 3 hours of the 50-mile record! See these M80-84 records, I bet Bill has also an eye on the 67 hours (!!) for 100 miles!

Many thanks to Rajeev and Anil for putting up such a friendly event, and for volunteers extraordinaire, Dave Combs and Stan Jensen for the many hours keeping count and track of all our laps and times!

For our QuickSilver team, it wasn't what we used to score a few years ago, but we managed to get a mixed team on the 50K (Kat Powell who PR'ed, our Captain Loren Lewis who came one week after running Lake Sonoma to round a team up, Harris Goodman who took 3rd and Stephen Strauss who dropped after 8 miles with an injury), and a Men team on the 100K (Mark Tanaka, Charles Blakeney who joined our team yesterday, and Jim The Shuffler Magill). Here is Keith Lubliner who ran the 50-mile.
It was another wonderful ultra experience and I now look forward to returning to the soft trails after the 135 or so miles on asphalt of these 3 races this month! See you on the trails then!

1 comment:

Jay Mijares said...

Great job on Sunday! Here's a link to the photos I took that day...