Sunday, December 6, 2015

Hunter S Thompson Fear and Loathing 50: nature is calling!

Did I catch your attention with this title, especially the last part? That may not be what you are thinking about, please read on...

The first part is rather convoluted, isn't it? I had heard about this low key fat ass-style going around the City by the Bay. When I realized that there was a 50-mile option consisting in running the entire famous 49-mile Scenic Drive, and that it was the 30th edition, I was hooked! I didn't really plan on racing a 50-mile in December, I was actually happy to take it easy. I even took the entire week off running because I was nursing an inflammation (shin splits) after the fast Turkey Trot. Last Sunday I even went for a run to only turn back after 300 yards, certainly my shortest 'run' ever. Of course, with no exercise for 7 days, it disappeared and I was quite optimistic for a great run this Sunday. I spent a few hours on Saturday to review the course and all the turns and felt ready with the list of turns and the course highlighted on a AAA map (I strongly recommend their San Francisco Guide Map), in a plastic sheet protector. Because rain was expected; not too much but showers around 7am (start time) and 10am.

For some reasons, this edition became the most popular ever with more than 80 participants (45 entrants in the 50K and 36 in the 50-mile)!

At this level, the start really looked like an organized run. And surely, with all the work that co-race directors, Chihping Fu and Keith Blom, put into perpetuating this local ultra tradition, there is quite a sophisticated logistic for providing moving aid stations along the course to support runners moving a different pace. It was also very convenient to car pool with Jeremy to the start, knowing that I'll meet with Agnes in San Francisco in the afternoon.

I started running the 8 around the Twin Peaks hills like a dog, going from the front to the back of the pack to take a few pictures and say Hi to the many familiar faces from local clubs. Then I speed up in the first down hill to catch up with the front where 66-year (freshly) old Errol 'Rocket' Jones was having so much fun!

We chatted a bit and, after a few miles, it was time to get the pace back down around 8 min/mile on the long stretch on Chavez at the end of which we found Stan Jensen just setting up the aid station for us at mile 6.

We were still 5 running at the front and, carrying 2 bottles and food, I went on first on 3rd Street then Embarcadero, still stopping from time to time to take pictures. Rain had stopped at this point but resumed on Market, making for long stops for me to take off or put on my rain jacket. I reached the Japan Town aid station first, at mile 13, but just a minute before 5 other runners. We ran together to negotiate the convoluted crossing of China Town, then the short but steep climb to the Coit Tower.

I didn't stop at Chihping's aid station on Lombard, but at the next one on Marina, manned by la crème de la crème of our local ultra volunteers and race directors: Larry England, Rob Byrne, Steve Jaber. And the omnipresent Stan Jensen who arrived at the station as I was leaving.

My pace was now around 8:35 and, since mile 13, I could not feel much juice in my legs. I ran the next 5 miles with Lucas and Kevin and it was getting harder to keep up even at a 8:40 pace. The inflammation started really burning on the way down from Presidio so, when reaching the aid station manned by Hollis Lenderking at mile 25 at the Legion of Honor, I stopped for a few minutes to regroup, fill my bottles and eat a Snickers.

That was enough for Elizabeth to catch-up and not even make a stop at the aid station, she was killing it! Here is a picture she graciously took of me over Land's End, an intriguing place I had never seen before.

We ran the next 5 miles together but, at the end of the long Great Highway, the pain was so tough that I decided to call it a day as there were still 19 miles to cover and the fun was all gone. I painfully jogged the 5 miles to go back to Twin Peaks, where I found a few of the 50K finishers, in a joyful celebration despite the ongoing drizzle. It was meant to be only a 36-mile run today...

Agnes was at Max's house 3 miles away so it was easy for her to pick me up. By the time we left Twin Peaks, I was amazed to see Lucas then Kevin coming up the hill for what would be 50-mile finishes under 6:45! I was amazed because we ran the first 25 miles in 3:40. Maybe the course isn't 50 miles after all (which would make sense as it is called 49-mile scenic drive), or it's much flatter. I'll have to be back to check it. And finish it! On this Sunday evening, Kevin posted his run on Strava, reporting a 46.8-mile distance (the trace is so coarse grain that it's hard to see if they followed the convoluted tour of the Golden Gate Park, but they surely did all the turns in the City, I did witness it! ;-). Still, an amazing performance.

So, what is the deal with this title? Well, after yet another amazing season, it's really time for a break, and nature is here to remind my body to get some rest. I already logged 3,205 miles this year, very close to my 100K/week goal, I can afford taking 3 weeks off.

Here is the second reference to nature in this title: it is about time that we get some rain in the Bay Area and I better used to it, and like it! Ok, today was barely rain, they call it fog in San Francisco, but still, it was enough to get me wet. That's what we hope to be nature's wet revenge after such a long drought.

As for the 3rd allusion to "nature's call": the more I grow up (!), the more I prefer running on trails, deep into natural areas, rather than on asphalt and concrete in a city. I feel drawn by the spirit of Native Americans when I run Ohlone or Miwok, not much when paying attention to the traffic running through San Francisco. Yet, it was really cool to get to visit the City on foot and finally run most of this famous scenic drive. I'm very thankful to Chihping and Keith in particular, as well as the volunteers who made our journey possible and safe today. After 30 years in the making, long live the Hunter S Thompson Fear and Loathing tradition!

With the rain and grey sky, and the low light at the start, the pictures don't stand out, but you may still want to check a few in my Picasa album, online (click on Slideshow).

See you on the trails in a few weeks then. Well, next year! Rain or shine...


runstephane said...

Congrats for another big year of /keep-up-ultrasignup-ing/ all races. In term of mileage, I have almost the same...incredible; well in fact it is in kilometers for my side, not even 10K/day--but we must be similar in term of hours spent outside running, as you're moving at least 1.6 time fastest than me. Enjoy your break and end of year, can't wait for the next one :)

Troy Windsor said...

Looks like they did mess up in Golden Gate Park. They were supposed to turn right on MLK, right on Traverse & right on Middle Drive.

Anyway, love your blog. Bummer that you weren't able to finish the event but congratulations on another great year!

Troy Windsor said...

Oops, that should have been right on MLK, LEFT on Traverse & LEFT on Middle.