Saturday, February 13, 2016

2nd Saratoga Fat Ass 2016: still missing winter!

As the name states, we do have 2 yearly Fat Ass events organized at Saratoga Gap. This year I missed the first and original one due to a business trip to the Middle East. In the meantime, I did a few 50K runs already (including a fast road one last week and a fast one on the treadmill in Chamonix), but that was actually my first hilly trail run of the year, it was about time...!

I'm leaving this week for 10 hectic days in Vegas (no, not what you think, it will be intense work), so I didn't want to miss this opportunity to log a few miles before this trip. We had friends for dinner last night for a raclette which isn't the best way to carbo load, and I got less than 5 hours of sleep. So, when I woke up and heard the rain, I hesitated to get back to bed, but thought that was too pussy and got up. What a great decision, the cloud was just over the Bay and the cloud cleared as soon as I left Cupertino and entered Saratoga, quite unexpected! Here is still a bit of a cloud patch over Saratoga but you can see the ridge completely clear (Agnès told me afterwards that the sun broke through only around 11 am in Cupertino).

The attendance was quite low, maybe explained by the fact this is a long weekend for those who get a day off for President's Day on Monday (not my case at IBM). There were 2 early starters, plus this joyful group ready to fire it up at 8 am!


Here is the event/race director, Keith Blom, showing what a great photographer sometimes has to do.

Using a super strong flash light! ;-)

Getting acrobatic and flexible to take low angle shots.

Or even lower... ;-)

5 of us, all from our Quicksilver Running Club, ran the first half mile together before Pierre-Yves and I picked up the pace down Loghry Woods Trail: Keith, Pierre-Yves Couteau, Andy Benkert and Keith Lubliner.



It was great running with Pierre-Yves again (he raced Jed Smith 50K too last week) because he knew every turn by heart, it made a big difference from last year when I got completely lost on the 2nd loop and ended up adding 4 miles and eventually not completing the last and third loop (the three loops are different but all start from the Saratoga Gap parking lot, making this spot a natural self-service aid stations at our cars).

Sweeping views from Ridge Trail over the Santa Cruz mountains.




Overall, the creeks were either dry or still really thin, we can't emphasize enough how much more water we need. Still very much a drought in the meantime and, back to my title, the absence of winter conditions with temperatures above 75F most of the past week and still in next week's forecast! Here is the tiny waterfall under Saratoga Gap Trail's viewing platform.

We ran all the uphills sections and completed the first loop in 1:46 after passing the two early starters: Myling Nguyen and Chow Pham.



Pierre-Yves was really excited with our pace and didn't stop at all at the parking lot. It took me about 2 minutes to refill my bottles, and a mile on the Skyline to the Sea trail to catch-up with him.

Steve Patt had gone on the second loop while we were running the first one, to mark a handful of key turns and avoid the errors a few of us made last year. Although I had Pierre-Yves's course expertise today, a big thank you, Steve for your initiative and volunteering duty! Steve posted a few pictures on Facebook today showing that, like us, he vey much enjoyed the gorgeous weather, views and trail conditions.

We met 3 of the groups who were running a combination of loop 1 and 2.

At mile 15, Pierre-Yves mentioned his legs were getting tired and I waited for him at the top of the service road, near the noisy Los Gatos Rod & Gun Club (I still can't get used to all these shots, make me think of all the wars around the world...).

From there, I picked up the pace on the Skyline Trail section back to the car where I filled my bottles for the last time. I waited for Pierre-Yves for about a minute but didn't see him coming so decided to hammer down the 3rd loop, hoping to at least break 5 hours this time. With more stops and some walking, my second loop was 1:54 so there wasn't much time to lose (I left the parking lot after 3 hours and 42 minutes of running).

I flew down Charcoal Road and I'm even credited with the all-time 'course record' of that section on Strava tonight! Given that I was still very careful about my footing to avoid a bad fall, and it was after running 23 miles, something tells me some people haven't tried that hard... ;-) Besides, that Strava section is just one mile so 7:27 isn't that great.

Anyway, while it made up for some time, the clock was still ticking and, at the bottom of the Table Mountain, I had about 40 minutes left for 4.5 hilly miles, yikes. I swallowed a Gu gel and tried to do my best in the uphill but, this time, my legs were getting tired too, not sure what did I do last weekend to make that happen, not to mention the 53 miles I ran since then, including an intense speed work out at the track on Thursday, phew!

Back on the final stretch of Saratoga Gap Trail, I almost got hit by a mountain biker and could barely breath after this stressful encounter, but that did cost me just a few seconds to be honest. 500 yards from the finish, I crossed Keith Lubliner who were starting his 3rd loop. Poor Keith, I was pushing so hard in that final downhill to the parking lot that I didn't even give him some encouragement, ouch, sorry Keith. Despite that final surge, my final time was... 38 seconds... over 5 hours, darn!

At least I'm really pleased that I got to run the complete course this year, at least I have the trace which I can load back into my GPS next year. Sure I feel I can shave off a few minutes on this course (Strava gives 4:44 of moving time for my run today), especially in the perfect conditions we had today, but I'm still amazed by the 4:42 which Pierre-Yves ran in 2010. By the way, my GPS indicated 29.1 miles for the whole course which seems to correspond to the indication on markers along the course. Not quite 50K but still a great workout with around 5,500 feet of cumulative elevation and a few technical sections.

Special thanks to Keith for organizing this event. This year was the 8th edition, making in on of our local ultra early season traditions and what a wonderful course design taking advantage of all these different trails while offering a very convenient central aid station.

And thank Pierre-Yves for making sure I was staying on course in the first 2 loops!

Glad to be back to trail running. After these first 6 weeks of the year focusing on speed on flat terrain, it's amazing how running hilly trails make other muscles work. And the mind too, in a very different way, especially while running uphill. The wonder of ultra running: its diversity!

Stay healthy and injury free out there, and, for the locals, enjoy these Spring/Summer conditions while it last, but hopefully not too long. We need this darn winter and El Niño!!!!!

3 comments:

Andy Benkert said...

Great write up, Jean! You'll get that sub-5 hour time...next year! But damn, you were so close this year.

Pierre Couteau said...

Nice running/trying to keep up with you Jean. You hammered that 3rd loop!

Pierre Couteau said...

Nice running/trying to keep up with you Jean. You hammered that 3rd loop!