Friday, September 15, 2017

A quick recovery run in the park: Golden Gate XC Open

I'm so behind... Last Sunday, I posted my UTMB race report, one week after the fact. I actually had written the text on the TGV between Chamonix (well, Bellegarde) and Paris on the following Monday evening but then got caught up with work and overseas travel before I could make more time to pick and include the right pictures.

And, last Sunday, we had our PA (Pacific Association) USATF (USA Track & Field) LDR (Long Distance Running) quarterly meeting in Golden Gate Park. I'm getting more involved these days in our MUT (sorry, yet another acronym, and not even an IBM one... Mountain Ultra Trail) subcommittee, so much that I gelt compelled to drive up to San Francisco to meet the rest of the LDR volunteer gang.
Why in Golden Gate Park? Because the meeting was after a XC (Cross-Country) competition, the Golden Gate Park Open. I can't commit on running the 8 or so races of that XC Grand Prix but, once in a while, I like to get my legs moving and measure myself against the real fast guys doing cross-country. One week after running 60 grueling miles in the Alps, how bad could it be. As a matter of fact, my next big race is a 10K (Trailblazer) at the end of the month, so better return to some speed.
Because of another one-time event, the standard GGP XC course was changed and shortened to 6.02 kilometers (you've to love how they measured the 0.02 on very uneven trails in the woods! ;-). Obviously, the difficulty wasn't the distance on that one. Neither the elevation, although there were a few short climbs to go over. It turned out that it was exceptionally hot that day in San Francisco, better wear a singlet that morning, which is the default uniform for most of the XC teams anyway. Our Quicksilver Ultra Running team obviously doesn't compete in XC and I was the only one to wear the QRC jersey.

I actually arrived at the site 30 minutes before the start of the Masters race, and just in time to see the first gals finishing, with a very impressive kick from the Impala and the Aggies of course!

Winner, Teresa McWalters, Impala:
2nd place, Danielle Katz from Hoka Aggies:
And the Aggies took 9 spots of the top 20, wow!

My warm-up was short because it took just a few minutes to be completely sweaty, yikes!

I knew only one runner in our race, Jeff Hongo, also from the Aggies, and decided it was wise to stay just behind as he was in my age group and we were running with many younger Masters (40 years and above). Half way though, I felt good enough to pick up the pace and pass him and the teammate he was running with and progressively picked a few places although I couldn't see the head of the race.

On our way back to the polo field and its long track, there was a very narrow and uphill single track and I got stuck behind two runners who had slowed down, thinking I was going to lose the lead I had created in the second mile. Up on the track, I pushed the pace then, especially as I was excited to see the finish line. I started sprinting with what I thought was a quarter of mile to go and was breathless when the course monitor sent us on the first out and back we had to do in the first mile, ouch.

But I wasn't going to DNF this time, with less than a mile to go, so I kept pushing harder... At the finish line, I had no idea what my place was, I just knew I had given it all at 6:03 min/mile pace on an uneven surface (22'49"). As a matter of fact, my GPS watch was happy, celebrating with vibrations two new records since I bought it in December last year: fastest mile at 5:37 and fastest 5K at 18:17. Oops, these are far from my PRs, it shows I haven't worked at the track for the past 9 months, I'd better get back to it!

While I was cooling down on the course, I ran into Bill Dodson, 82 and took me a while to realize he was still in the race. I ran along, helping him finding his way on this convoluted course in the woods, not having any other competitor to follow.

Yet, he wasn't the last one in his heat, he had 6 runners behind him! Including his buddy David Norlander, 78, from the West Valley Joggers and Striders.
We even got cheered by teammate Kat Powell:
Later the published results showed me in 19th place and 2nd M50-59, not bad given that XC isn't my thing. There was prize money only for the first place Senior, not this time for me, and kudos to David White from Empire Runners for clocking a 21'38" on this course!
All the results on the PAUSATF website.

I must say that I was very impressed with the speed the results were published given that the whole process is manual: registration, timing and inputing the results in a laptop via a correlation between the series of finishing times and the bib stubs. Such an old way compared to chip timing but still very efficient, kudos to all the volunteers and USATF officials!

Speaking of a joyful one, here is George Herbert Rehmet, serving both USATF and RRCA:
I also had a good chat with another ultra runner, Ron Guttierez, who lives a few minutes from the Golden Gate Park and couldn't resist entering this short race either. It was a surprise to me to learn that Ron had run the TDS in Chamonix last week, yet we didn't meet over there.
The third race was the Open Men one, with the impressive and inspiring young speedsters.

Two years ago I was uplifted by a few cheers from local ultra elite Alex Varner so I was happily returning the favor this time, "Go Alex!!"
After that, and a few more miles on the course albeit not really cooling down in this heat, we had our official LDR meeting, whose content was much more formal than the setup which looks more like a picnic! ;-)

On to a new job for me in our MUT subcommittee. After winning 11 consecutive Grand Prix, it was time that I step up to release Bill from his duties, he had done so much lately to keep our subcommittee afloat, he can now focus even more on his own ultra running. And all forms of running, like cross-country last Sunday. Long live Bill and the MUT Grand Prix!
PS: Tom Bernhard's video of our Masters' race (see also the Women and Open Men ones)

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