Saturday, July 16, 2016

TRT 100 2016: still a beast for me

It was the third consecutive year I entered and toed the start line of this event. With two DNF (Did Not Finish) in 2014 and 2015, my main goal was to finally finish it and tame the beast as a redemption. There are two ways to look at a third attempt when the first ones failed. Of course, I like the optimistic American angle much better: "third time's a charm", meaning that luck will finally come on you if you keep trying three times. In France, we have a way more pessimistic view on that, the saying is "Jamais 2 sans 3" which means that if you failed twice already or there has been two catastrophes, then get ready for a 3rd one in the series. Amazing how our cultures think differently and, assuredly, this permeates trough all aspects of our society.

I wasn't sure about the luck, and there is nothing easy in ultra running, so I thought to myself that I was indeed hoping for some charm but it was going to be a tough charm... With that, I didn't have much of a flight plan but was hoping to break 24 hours, or 22 hours in the best case. My main goal was then to start slower than the previous years, and be conservative on the first loop. Not a very elaborate plan.

Speaking of planning, the check-in on Friday was closing at 3 pm and I made it by 3:02 pm (Mark Tanaka beating me with a 3:03 pm!). Google sent us on backroads (88 over the mountains) without considering quite a few road maintenance projects which slowed down our progression considerably. Thankfully, the volunteers were cool and quick, so it worked out, just in time to drop my Victory Sportdesign bag for Tunnel Creek too!

I also liked the fact that the briefing was held outside instead of the cramped amphitheater of the State Capitol. Here is Race Director, George Ruiz, and his wife, head of the volunteer organization:

It was exciting to meet with Simon Mtuy again.

Simon is from Tanzania and, every year, spends a couple of months, between May and July, on our ultra running scene in California, running races such as Miwok, Ohlone and Western States. He has run Western Sates 10 times (2002-2013) and that's where I got to know him. When in Tanzania, he guides expeditions around or to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro (see his company website, SENE - Summit Expeditions & Nomadic Experience).

I went to sleep just before 9 pm but unfortunately woke up before midnight and couldn't get back to sleep before my 2 am alarm. Yikes, after a few short nights during my business trip to the East Coast this week (I flew back on Thursday night from North Carolina), just 3 hours of sleep were going to make a day running in the mountains even more challenging...

Agnès drove me to the 5 am start. It was just on the chilly side, with a sky super clear and blazing with millions of stars!

Following the Race Director's suggestion, I didn't start with a headlamp. Since I had to start slowly anyway, I was perfectly fine letting 50 runners or so go ahead and staying behind a group with a couple of headlamps and a more reasonable pace as we climbed the Marlette Lake trail. The pace looked fine although we passed a few people on the way. I had no idea how many people was ahead but didn't really want to know anyway not to get caught into competition.

The bad news is that my GI system was still giving me quite a hard time. I've had some diarrhea from time to time these past weeks and I was bummed that kicked in again today, really bad timing, no charm, yikes... I had to stop in the bushes after 1 mile down in the Red House loop and saw a handful of runners passing by. I did caught up with them eventually and tied along them on the way up to make sure I wasn't going too fast. This group included Chris Zurbuch (#244) from Pomona, CA, and Ian Grettenberg from Davis, CA, who paced me last October at the inaugural Folsom Lake 68-mile.

Yet, despite all my efforts to not run as fast as the previous years, my splits were about the same. But at least this time, I wasn't in the lead...

Back to Tunnel Creek, mile 18.5, I went straight to the portapotty and spent about 10 minutes at the station. With this long stop, quite a few runners from Excelsior caught up and I even saw Simon in the station as I was returning my drop bag. I followed a few Excelsior runners and tried to stay behind Paul Broyer but lost him before the Bull Wheel aid station as I couldn't keep up the pace in the uphill sections. Paul was the 9th runner to complete the first 50-mile loop, he is on a roll!
We were less than 22 miles in the race and I had already lost most of my stamina... The next 8 miles to Diamond Peak became quite depressing. I got passed by a few runners, my guts were super painful with any pounding and that prevented me from even running the 5 miles down to the ski resort, and my mental will was fried. I had pretty much decided that this was still not worth continuing through 70 miles and 35 hours of hiking but, after crying of disappointment, decided to give some time to see if I would heal enough to rebound. Agnès and our host, Janet were very supportive and patient in the process. Ann Trason took care of me and really wanted me to continue, sharing one of her stories when she finished second to last, but finished.

The medical staff gave me a pill of Imodium but that wasn't enough to get rid of the GI pain. We waited for almost 2 hours for teammate, Frederic Garderes, in case I could help him getting back to Tunnel Creek. But Frederic also had a bad day and decided to drop too (he didn't train much these past months due to his recent move to San Diego).

With that, TRT remains an untamed beast for me and, as I write these lines in the afternoon of the race, I don't think this 2-loop format is for me. At least not until I have taken care of some bad stress I'm getting at work and which most likely contributed to the TIA in March. You need quite some balance to effectively compete in ultra running, and I didn't have it this weekend to say the least.

The race is still on as I write and UltraSignup put up quite a good live tracking to follow the progress of runners (when the input data is accurate...), and the updates give me mixed feelings. The list of drops is steadily growing and that breaks my heart. I see a few runners striving at the front, and others struggling in middle or the back of the pack and can imagine their pain hiking over the numerous slippery boulders on the trail. I'm in awe of the many runners who will finish and have finished this beast over the years.

A huge shout out for the overall organization of this race. Between remote aid stations, the extended hours, the workload at Tunnel Creek which is traversed by all the runners of the three races including 6 times by the 100-mile finishers, this race requires many super dedicated volunteers.

1 comment:

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Sorry about the gastroenteritis, Jean. Andy Pasternak and all the others in the medical tent indeed are awesome. Thanks for the French lesson!