Friday, April 28, 2017

Ruth Anderson 2017: rushing through life!

I was going to attribute that quote to Abraham Lincoln, but after reading a 2-page dissertation from Quote Investigator, I'm confused about the origin and will leave it unattributed: "It's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."

That summarize pretty well not only the past weekend but the past weeks and years for me...

Let's look at the past weekend then...

5 days after Boston, I was going to run a 50-mile race on Saturday, as part of the annual Ruth Anderson Memorial Ultras. With all the excitement of the past 2 weeks, the business travels, customer meetings, the 100K Nationals and the Boston Marathon, I actually forgot about it at the beginning of the week and registered at the last minute on Thursday evening. For this reason, I didn't get the Race Director's pre-race email briefings.

It was meant to be a super busy weekend. On Saturday afternoon, we were invited to a birthday party of a friend at 2 pm in Palo Alto. That gave me a good excuse for not running the 100K distance, and just enough time to run a fast 50-mile. Ruth Anderson is an event commemorating a famous local ultra runner who set records in her 70s and 80s. She passed away a couple of years ago and the Bay Area Ultra Runner club has kept the tradition running, it was the 31st edition this year (first run in 1986 minus a 1-year hiatus in 1999). A special event in the sense that you can pick any distance among 50K, 50-mile or 100K, as you passed these marks. In other words, we all start together at 6:30 am and, when you reach 50K, you can decide to either stop, or, if you continue, then you switch to the 50-mile race. If you drop in between, then you get neither finish, not even the 50K. And idem for 50-mile to 100K. It makes it very tough mentally for those shooting for 100K because you've many excuses to stop earlier.

In addition to this party on Saturday, I was organizing a celebration for the 30th anniversary of my ex company, ILOG, which we started in Paris in April 1987 and got up and running for 22 years until we got acquired by IBM early 2009. More than 100 people had replied positively, so we were looking at a big party! Starting at noon on Sunday, an important detail for this race report...

Anyway, on Friday evening, I got in my pre-race ritual with some carbo loading and trying to get to bed early. With the race starting at 6:30 am I had to get breakfast before 3:30, then drive up to San Francisco (Lake Merced). I had quite a few things to prepare for Sunday so I ended up getting to bed around 10 pm and had just 5 hours of sleep. It was pitch dark when I got to Lake Merced at 5:45 am and, seeing a desert parking lot, realized that I had forgotten about a small detail: for the first time in 30 years, the race had to move to Sunday to accommodate a large boat racing event on the lake this Saturday, oops! Better showing one day early than late but, still, I was bummed. Not just by the fact of having missed an opportunity to sleep in, or for the wasted 80-mile ride, but more importantly because I had no time to run 50 miles on Sunday morning with the big party starting at noon so that meant I had to drop down to the 50K distance on Sunday morning.

I had somehow tapered by not running on Wednesday (2 customer meetings in Boston and a delayed flight back home) and Friday. I felt the urge to run 6 easy miles on Saturday to get the legs moving. On Saturday night, after the birthday party, I carbo loaded again and got another 5-hour night. This time, there were some people when I got to the start by 5:45 am, phew!

The venerable Stan Jensen, Dave Combs were busy distributing the bib numbers, goody bags and even taking last minute registrations.

The Emeritus Race Director, Steve Jaber was busy hacking the electrical system, hopefully not melding with Stan's manual timing! ;-)

I wanted to get back home by 11 am at the latest for a quick shower before going to the picnic site to setup. The meant I had to leave Lake Merced by 10:15 at the latest and basically run the 50K under 3:30. No time to smell the roses...

In the glory years, let's say 2010-2015, the race has averaged between 70 to 90 starters but it looks like it's not drawing as much competition these days and we were only 43 to toe the line this year, quite a small and friendly setting. With that, the second aid station, half way of the 4.5-mile loop has been reduced to a self-service set of water jugs. Not that this is an issue for me since I carry my bottles, but I always enjoyed the mental boost of the encouragement the aid station crew provided to us over there. Who am I to say this when I'm so focused while running anyway and don't give much feedback when digging deep. Besides, with a 14-hour cut-off, that's a long series of volunteer shifts to cover, not worth it when you pass through the main aid station every 4.5 miles, and can indeed get water at 2.25 miles if needed.

Among the starters were quite a bunch of the Excelsior speedsters like Chikara Omine, Karl Schnaitter, Paul Broyer. They said they were shooting for 100K, or 50 miles otherwise, so I figured out I'll be on my own this time. When going for 100K on this course the previous years, my challenge was to remain above 7 min/mile pace but, for a 50K, I was aiming at a 6:20-6:30 pace. I took off and never looked back, except in the last mile. It was me against the clock! I was going to run 31 miles alone, without any crowd but the cheering from the volunteers at the aid station, what a change from the overwhelming crowd and noise at the Boston Marathon, 6 days earlier!

The Lake Merced loop is rolling, just a few hundreds feet of cumulated elevation per lap (~130), but enough to break the rhythm and create a challenge to maintain an even pace. Rather than a long report, since a picture is worth a thousand words, what about a picture of the course, 31 splits, pace, elevation and cadence charts? That must be worth 10,000 words at least! And save you a lot of boring reading...! ;-)

While the pace slowed down at the end, I was pleased to see that I was able to maintain my cadence mostly above 180 for 3 hours, with an average of 186. That's some good leg speed. And it looks like I passed the marathon mark in 2:49. And, no, it wasn't easy, I still wore a mask as Keith Blom captured in his picture.

But, overall, it worked out quite well. I was clocking less than 29 minutes each lap which put me on a 3 hours 20 minutes pace but, between the rolling nature of the course, the lack of strong motivation and competition and of course some fatigue from a lot of back to back racing in April, I slightly faltered in the last 2 laps, losing respectively 2 and 3 minutes, for a finish time of 3:25:19. I had not checked what was the previous course record for our age group but guessed it was around 3:40. I got a good surprised when Race Director, Rajeev Patel, announced that I had broken that record by 32 minutes (not sure if everyone can access Rahul Pandey's video on Facebook).
 Co-Race Director, Ani Rao, giving me the traditional coaster with my finish time:

Actually, Stan Jensen updated the Ruth Anderson page on his website so quickly that I had to look at the Internet archive to find what that record was, here you are:
So not quite 32 minutes, but 30'31", I think this one is going to hold for a while. Maybe next year I can tackle the M50-59 100K course record... In red are two records which were out of reach for me in my 40s (ironically, I would run a 50K in 3:18:05 at 52, go figure!).

No cramping either and, like Boston, I could have used an extra gel, which I was actually carrying the whole way but didn't take the time to open. A GU Energy stroopwaffle 20 minutes before the start, one GU around mile 15 and one more around mile 24

At this point, I have a huge apology to make: in ultra running, there is a nice tradition to hang out and support other runners as they keep coming in through the station or the finish line. I'm certainly ashamed to have expedited my stay at the finish line to mere 15 minutes, because if my other engagement that day. I left the parking lot as planned by 10:15 and was back home and showered by 11:03. Yes, per the title of this post, rushing through life...

Chikara was running really fast but didn't hold the 100K distance, winning the 50-mile in 5:58:20 with Adolfo Andrade taking 2nd in 6:39, Karl 3rd in 7:18 and Paul 4th in 7:30. 6 finished the 100K with Matt Ward winning in 9:03.

On our Quicksilver Club side, Corinne Poulsen and Kat Powel completed 50K in 6:12 and 8:01 respectively. For the first time, Jim Magill ran 50 miles instead of 100K and finished 6 minutes before Stephen Strauss in 9:59, easily winning his M70 age group. To round up our club finishes, in a suboptimal manner from the Grand Prix points, Joe Swenson and Charles Blakeney took respectively 2nd and 3rd in the 100K.

A huge thanks to the dedicated team of volunteers who served and cheered us all day! And special kudos to Rajeev and Anil for keeping this amazing ultra tradition in memory of the legendary Ruth Anderson. Here is the traditional picture with the chief staff:

Thank you also to Quicksilver teammates Keith Lubliner and Keith Blom who came not to run but to volunteer and support us. Keith graciously posted many high quality pictures of all runners on Facebook.

The afternoon reunion was a huge success, with 90 participants, many who had not met for 10 or 20 years.

That included in particular 5 from our original founding team in Paris in 1987, 
Time flies! Especially when rushing through life at that speed, so many things have happened over the past 30 years, the past 18 years since I moved to the US, the past 10 years during which I ran 140 ultras, or even the past month...! ;-)

Anyway, after three road races in April, it is now time to completely change the theater set and backdrop with 3 hilly trail races, back to back in May. I feel I get some good baseline conditioning, no doubt about that. As for the hill training, oops, that I don't know, it has been a while since I climbed anything serious. Wish me luck... ;-) And looking forward to seeing more of our North California ultra community at these races then (Miwok 100K, Quicksilver 100K and Ohlone 50K).

1 comment:

POMMIER said...

Très intéressant
Bien apprécié les photos de la course puis de la rencontre ILOG Merci Maman