Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year One Day: 6 hours and 1 second to close on 2016

Can you imagine a 61-second minute on your watch? Well, that's what was supposed to happen at 4 pm Pacific with the clock showing this weird date of 3:59:60 PM or 15:59:60 on New Year's Eve. That was to make up for some slowing down of our orbit around the Sun, quite an interesting phenomenon (read more about the leap second and other fascinating news of about time management around the world on Unfortunately, I was too busy running at 4 pm this Saturday and didn't have the opportunity to watch which online clocks did implement this leap second properly. Nor did I really take advantage of this extra second to increase my mileage, read on...

As I posted earlier this week, I still had this 100 km/week obsession all year and, between several health incidents and injuries, plus a great winter break at Tahoe this week, not to mention the extra day of this leap year, I was short of 51 miles in my log to meet this weekly average goal. I initially thought of entering the 12-hour version of this event put by Coastal Trail Runs but Agnès was really not that excited to live the same experience as December 31, 2011 again. We settled on the 6-hour then with a start at noon and a finish at 6 pm, allowing her to visit the Legion of Honor museum's exhibits with Max in the afternoon.

There had been some drizzling at the start of the 24-hour around 9 am but the weather was now supposed to be all clear, on the cool side with some Ocean breeze but perfect running conditions overall. Race Director, Wendell Doman, send us on the course right at noon.

Wendell setup the course and chip timing mat so you could pick any direction, making it for quite a confusing tracking, not to mention the 3 different time formats (6, 12 and 24 hours), and the very nice option to start at different times to accommodate various plans on this special day (3 different potential starts for the 6-hour, and 3 for the 12-hour). With that, it was like having 7 different races on the same course and the same day!

With the aggressive goal of running close to 50 miles in 6 hours, there was no time to lose and I started aggressively, logging the 17 first laps between 7:06 and 7:24 then the next 9 under 8 minutes. As a matter of fact, I was blown away to be followed by a young 12-hour competitor who even passed me in the second lap despite running that one in 7:10. In a red top, it was Ralston Louie, 27, who left the course after the 10K mark (which we reached in 43 minutes!) and reappeared after 5 pm to finally cover 29 miles before midnight.

Because of the 4 sharp turns and many people on the course, from competitors to walkers, bikers, joggers and runners, not to mention dogs, I believe we run much more than the 1.065 USATF-certified distance. At least my GPS watches have always been a few percentage points over. In consequence, it's hard to keep track of the real pace.

I was still going strong when Carlos Castro, from Kermit Cuff's crew, took this great shot at the South-East corner, probably around my 25th mile.

I reached mile 34 (lap 32) just over 4 hours and my legs were getting really tired. As I was fearing cramps, I figured out I will give a try to the revolutionary HotShot product which I just bought in November. After 135 ultra races, I'm enough of an ultra veteran to know about the adage "never try anyting new in races" but that doesn't look like a product I'd use in training. Besides, I rarely cramp nowadays as long as I drink abundantly (20 oz of GU2O / 15 to 18 miles and 20 oz of water / 15-20 miles), and take 1 S!Caps every hour. Anyway, I went ahead and took that... shot. Oh my, it was so spicy, I almost threw up and could barely move forward for the next 2-3 minutes. I knew the secret of the inventor, a Nobel prize winner, was about a combination of spices, but I wasn't expected something to burn my esophagus and stomach, yikes! I'm going to contact HotShot to see if there is a way to smoothen the experience... (I highlighted the incident with an orange sign on Strava's pace chart above.)

It was the first time I was walking and I had to stop several times on the side of the course, holding my belly, so, jokingly, Ken Michal asked if I was finally taking a lunch break with a large piece of water melon in my hand... I took a few sips of water to dilute this spicy brevage and forced myself to resume running, clocking 10:36 for that lap.

Back to the race, I covered the first 20 laps anti-clockwise and, changing direction, could see Jorma Gates twice every loop now as he didn't change direction for the 6 hours. I had lapped Jorma twice in these 20 laps and we were now on a similar pace as I had slowed down.

After a wonderful last 2016 sunset captured by Agnès from Baker Beach, we ran the last 30 minutes in the dark and I had forgotten to bring a headlamp, which isn't much of an issue on this course except, with this confusing machine washing format, when trying to slalom against the traffic of other runners wearing headlamps. With that, I had less than 8 minutes left to cover my 45th lap and gave it all but came up about 12 seconds short, which was super disappointing as only full laps count. 44 laps were enough to win the race this time (Jorma took 2nd with 42), but, although Chikara's 49-lap course record is very solid (51.1 miles), I was hoping to get closer to 50 miles than the recorded 46.9.

Agnès came back to the finish before my last lap and captured this great nigh shot of the Golden Gate bridge.

She had hard time understanding why I was so disappointed about missing a lap by a few seconds when I had won the 6-hour race. At least I had prepared and warned her that I needed to go for a few extra laps in order to run the 51 miles I was missing in my 2016 running log in order to meet my 100 km/week objective as mentioned above. I jogged these laps then finally spent some time enjoying the royal buffet of the aid station which I didn't spend much time at during the race.

We then stopped by a Mel's diner on our way back to Cupertino for our family celebration of New Year's Eve. What a way to mark the passage to the new year, a combination of hard running and great family time! But what a personal investment from the Coastal Trail Runs organizing team and the aid station volunteers to give their own time to make this event happen on such a special day and night, huge kudos and thanks to them!

I also want to highlight the high quality and professionalism of this event which offers great goodies (running 1/2 zip top, bag, colorful finisher medal), chip timing, live tracking, fully stocked aid station with a lot of variety (options of soups, fruits, salted food, candies, cookies, pizza, ...), convenient parking and a very generous $1,600 in prize money overall for top finishers! Too bad the Park service didn't allow us to use the grass area along the course, especially for those having to set a tent on the rough parking area instead. And, as a suggestion for improvement, I'd say the chip timing mat area was on the narrow side and forming a bottleneck when passing or crossing runners, not to mention the competitors stopping in the middle of the mat to check the large and busy tracking display/monitor. Otherwise, it was a perfect event put up by a team with a lot of ultra running experience. And a very friendly and supportive atmosphere with a few familiar faces and many others, showing that ultra running keeps gaining ground. Kudos to the 26 competitors in the 24-hour, 22 in the 12-hour and 65 in the 6-hour, plus the handful of relay teams.

See you for many more laps and miles in 2017!


Unknown said...

Congrats, Jean! Happy New year!

Unknown said...

Hey, just catching up on some reading... thanks for the mention Jean! I figured this 6 hr flat loop course would be a good training run for my first hundo @ RockyRaccoon. When I saw you there, I got Some extra motivation to see if I could stay relatively close. I learned quickly on the first lap that wasn't going to happen, but had a great run for second. Thanks for continuing to inspire us 40+ runners!