Friday, July 31, 2015

Redwood Anvil 20-mile: so glad to be back on our hills!

It has been a few days already, but what a come-back weekend in California! I was really excited to run the inaugural Redwood Anvil 20-miler following an invitation from the 4 Race Directors. My Wednesday flight from Paris got cancelled but I made it on Thursday, leaving plenty of time before Sunday's race. I even decided to go for a run upon landing, and another one on Friday, planning on enjoying a 1-day taper on Saturday...

Saturday morning was meant to be quiet, with only one business conference call with an IBM team at 10 am but I could barely made it to the end of the call, starting shivering and having to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes to pee. A few hours later, I was diagnosed with a bladder/urinary infection and put right away on antibiotics. I then spent 4 hours alternating a few minutes of sleep and sprints to the bathroom throughout the rest of the afternoon. By dinner time, I felt slightly better, yet the odds seem pretty slim for a race the next morning.

I woke up at 4:30 am, took another antibiotic and a light breakfast and decided to give it a try anyway. I got to the start by 7 am, allowing for some time to meet the race directors and a few other runners before the start. This race not being an ultra, nor a PAUSATF race, there weren't too many familiar faces for a change.

The 10-miler started first at 8 am

And the 20-miler kicked-off at 8:15 am. I only knew two runners in our race, Ron Gutierrez and Michael Fink. Although I have run on some of the course trails at other local races such as Skyline 50K and FireTrails 50-mile, I didn't quite visualize the convoluted course despite an amazingly detailed and neat description on the race website (worth checking for yourself, Moongate Racing is setting the bar high for other race directors! ;-). Between this novelty and my health conditions, I figured out that I will run the first loop conservatively then hammer the second loop eventually, after having discovered the profile.

A runner took off and disappeared from our sight in the first mile. In the first hill and series of switchbacks, I stayed behind Ron, in 3rd and in a small pack of 6-7 runners. We were not even at mile 2 when we started catching up and passing the tail of the 10-mile race. By mile 3 I felt good enough to pass Ron and push the pace a bit in the final steep climb up to the ridge.

I didn't stop at the Moongate aid station, mile 4.9, and did my best in the subsequent steep and technical downhill, trying really hard to avoid a fall. This was so uncomfortable that I was relieved to get to the next climb! 

The course was extremely well marked with a mix of bright orange ribbons and many arrows on the ground. So many arrows and so much flour that it took me 30 minutes to erase a dozen or so of these arrows a few hours later in the Park, after the race was over, thinking of Sarah (Lavender-Smith) who was sweeping the rest of the loop for us (next time I'm sweeping, I need to think of bringing a broom! ;-).

I completed the first loop in 1:16 and didn't even stop at the aid station to ask how far ahead the lead runner was. I was already pushing hard enough anyway, I wasn't going to speed up. At mile 13, I asked a group of hikers if they had seen a runner and they replied with a "oh yes, he is less than a mile ahead" which wasn't so helpful because it meant between 0 and 7 minutes. At Moongate, mile 14.8, a volunteer pointed me at 3:40, too large of a gap to close in 5 miles. I kept pushing and using the side of the trail to run as much as possible in the shade and was quite happy with a 2nd place and a time of 2:36:27.

Christian Fitting, 38 from Berkeley, had won the race, missing the 2:30 mark by 30 seconds. Lance Doherty completed the podium with a 2:44:53 finish.

On the women side, another local, Anna Zielaski, won in 2:54:47.

20 miles look short compare to ultras, but the 3,600 feet of cumulative elevation made for quite an athletic effort.

The field was small but the race was professionally organized like the best events in California! For one thing, Moongate Racing had partnered with the Queen of race direction, Julie Fingar and her NorCal Ultra crew. Even the timing was super pro, with Rich Hanna's Capitol Road Race Management (CCRM). And to top that, very nice and helpful volunteers at aid station and wonderful smells from Bob's Breakfast Bar open throughout the morning.

We are really blessed to have all these events in our Bay Area backyards, I highly recommend this new race which provide the perfect tune-up before the early August Skyline 50K. Very professional organization, great sponsors and goody bag, friendly and relaxed atmosphere, many and big thanks to the 4 Moongate Racing musketeers! Thank you for the opportunity to... hammer it again and push our limits!

[Missing on the pictures below, David La Duc who was up at the Moongate aid station]

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