Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ruth Anderson 2018: not that big of a cold after all

First, let's give homage to the lady behind this 32-year long Bay Area ultra tradition, Ruth Anderson, and that's what Emeritus Race Director, Steve Jaber did in the pre-race briefing as he was assisting RD Anil Rao by stepping up to replace the other co-RD, Rajeev Patel who was traveling to the UK for business this weekend. For that, short of a wiki page for Ruth, let me include her USATF Hall of Fame bio:

Perhaps it was the thrill of the overall womens win in her first ultra, the USATFs Pacific Associations 50 km along Sacramentos Garden Highway in 1976, that has kept masters ultrarunning pioneer, Ruth Anderson running ultras for 25 years. But it was the combination of her ultrarunning accomplishments and her tireless dedication to the development and recognition of the sport that inspired USA Track & Field in the 1980s to establish and name the annual womens ultrarunner of the year award after her. Anderson even has a 100 km race named after her. In addition to running ultras, she contributes to the sport as an advisor to the MUT Running Council offering the benefit of her quarter-century national-class ultra experience, has managed the Womens 100 km Team, and regularly competes at a variety of World Association of Masters annual events.
Anderson has showed her competitive champion character from the start of her "late-blooming" ultra career that she began at age 46. She quickly progressed through ultradistance races and ran her first USATF 50-mile ultra championship race in 1980 in Houston, winning the womens division overall in a stunning time of 7:10:58 although she was competing in the 50-54 age-group.
Among Andersons most memorable USATF Ultra Championship experiences was her 50 to 54 age-group win on a 50 km trail course alone the Skyline National Trail in the East Bay Hills above her home in Oakland, CA. She is encouraged to compete in championship races by the medals awarded to masters runners in 5-year age-groups. "To be a National Champion is particularly rewarding for us in the older age groups, and show the possibilities to achieve recognition into our 70s, 80s, and even 90s," says the always motivated Anderson.

You can also read (Tropical) John Medinger and Nancy Hobbs' eulogies in this UltraRunning Magazine archive.

Although Ruth died in February 2016, 10 years after I ran my first ultra, I never had the honor to meet her. The 2016 edition and 30th run was of course doubly dedicated to her and we pinned a ribbon in her memory on our bibs.

It was only my 12th consecutive participation to this race and I didn't get highlighted in the pre-race briefing because there were much more noticeable anniversaries being celebrated.

First, Lion Caldwell was celebrating 40 years of ultra running. I had never met Lion but he is a legend in the sport, having been at the top of the National and International scenes a few decades ago, before I even knew the sport existed. And he is still the official Medical Doctor for Team USA 100K, flying with the team each year to exotic places. (As I researched more information about Lion on the web, I found this 1985 article, Seven Classified Secrets to Ultrarunning, for those who enjoy a paid subscription to UltraRunning Magazine. And even a newer version from 1995: Seven Secrets to Ultrarunning (and Staying Happily Married.)

From our Quicksilver club, Jim was highlighted for having run the 1995 edition. Although I believe he said that he actually ran in 1990 too, there is no record of that in the meticulous ones that Stan keeps on his website, nor from the ultra statistician, Gary Wang, on his Either way, still such an amazing time span, hat off, Jim! :-)

As we found out after the finish, Lion's celebration actually eclipsed another quite significant one with Quicksilver teammate Keith Blom having run ultras for 45 years! Indeed, Keith ran JFK 50-mile in 1973, when registration fee was $3 and the field 1,711 strong. Keith was 16 but admitted he had to take a break from ultra running after that, only coming back at it years later.

While Barbara Elia still holds the highest number of participations with 17 editions, another Quicksilver teammate, Charles Blakeney is quickly closing the gap as this was his 16th finish this year!
Jim is now moving to 4th place in that ranking and I'm joining Carl Jacob for 5th. Time flies...

With that, I now chronicled more than a 3rd of the Ruth Anderson races, having ran the 50-mile 6 times (2007 in 6:52, 2010 in 6:07, 2012 in 5:49, 2014 in 6:22, 2015 in 6:14, and 2016 in 6:08), 3 times the 50K (2008 in 3:44, 2009 in 3:59, and last year in 3:25), and the 100K only twice (2011 in 8:05 and 2013 in 7:51). Plus this year/post.

Enough of history, let's switch back or forward to the present, this 32nd edition!

For me, it started with a lot of incertitude. Given all the injuries leading to Boston through March and April, I was waiting for the last minute to decide and I was going to register on Wednesday despite the cold I had contracted, only to find out that registration had closed on Tuesday evening. Thankfully, there was always the option to register on race morning, which made me procrastinate on the decision even more. I was still quite determined, at least enough to go to bed by 8 pm on Friday evening and set my clock to 3 am in case I was feeling well enough to drive up to San Francisco.

At least, there were several reasons I didn't have to go the full distance this year, the first being that you can't score too many 100K events in our Grand Prix and I'm already in Quicksilver 100K next month (in addition to Miwok, but that one isn't on our GP schedule). Since I DNFed at American River, I needed to score a 50-mile race. The second benefit was that it saved me from giving a last attempt at the American 100K Age Group record, which would have been foolish anyway given the lack of specific training these past weeks. I should add that we had dropped the 50K distance from the Grand Prix so that wasn't an option this year. Indeed, this even is very particular in the sense that we all start at the same time and you can decide the distance on the fly as you reach the respective marks. Making the race quite a mental challenge because it's so easy to call it a day as soon as you reach one of the shorter distances.

With that, I was free to run the 50-mile as a good tempo run, without much pressure given the limited field of 53 registrants this year.

With the absence of speedsters like Chikara Omine, I took the lead and only looked back twice in the last lap (the 50-mile is 11 4.5-mile laps plus some). I tried to aim at a conservative 7 min/mile pace but, as usual, and with the difficulty of setting an even pace on such a rolling course, I got slightly under, clocking quite a few miles in the 6:40-6:50 range, averaging 6:51 after 4 laps. I recall feeling great around mile 10 and thinking, "oops, I'm going to regret the sub 7 min/mile pace later but also, if this keeps going and I break 6 hours on the 50-mile, I'll have to keep going" (our American M50-54 record is at 7:38 for 100K). But I knew I hadn't it in me anyway, and that I will end up slowing down at some point.

I actually kept the 31 minutes per lap rhythm for quite a while this year. I was the first to pass the 50K mark at 3:37 after clocking a 3:00 marathon, faster than 5 days ago at Boston, exacerbating the frustration of a missed opportunity last week, again. That was 7 laps, with 4 to go, and I had a 30-minute lead on 2nd place, Karl Schnaitter, whom I thought might go for 100K. Still feeling quite good and upbeat (and flying!) on that picture of Sarah Lavender-Smith who was walking the course in reverse direction with Clare Abram.
I even lapped 3rd place, Paul Broyer, in lap 8 and finally got Karl in sight in lap 9. But I was never able to close the gap because that's when I started experiencing cramps. I tried to keep up throughout the 10th lap, now down to a 8-8:30 min/mile pace but had to stop as I was unable to even walk, my calves crippled by cramps in every direction and side. A few runners checked on me and saw me taking one more S!Cap which helped me go back to some slog. With that, Paul passed me so the three of us were now on the same lap.

I only had one more lap to go but I barely made it to the aid station. The fact of the matter was that, still struggling getting my electrolytes right since I changed diet to Optimized Fat Metabolism, I had drunk only half of one bottle of GU2O so far against my traditional 1 bottle per 15 miles, a formula which I had been used to with much success for 10 years. My electrolytes were so out of balance that I could run again as soon as I had taken the remaining 10 ounces in that bottle, pretty amazing how fast that worked out, phew!

After the scary incident at mile 44, that allowed me to maintain a 9 min/mile pace on the last lap, enough to claim the win with a time of 6:20:14. As I put in Strava "not too bad given the circumstances". Christine Chapon even caught me checking if I was going to break 6:20 with a last surge sprint...

If you are not afraid to get dizzy, or bored with the 11 laps, you can watch this aerial view of my race, courtesy of (click on the image or this link):
And here is a visual summary showing my struggle with only one lap to go...
Throughout the race, I only took 3 GUs, 1 bottle of GU2O, 6 S!Caps, 2 small pieces of banana, 1/3rd of a can of Coke, 3 pouches of Vespa, less than 500-calorie intake overall for an energy spending above 5,000 calories so I definitely ran on fat! My issue wasn't bonking for the lack of energy but getting the electrolytes out of balance by playing on the too low side this time. At least I learned that I could fix the issue much quicker than I thought, another ultra lesson learned!

Christine took great care of me to ensure I was recovering from the effort, and she helped many others as well, while taking pictures too.
It's Sunday and I still have a few symptoms of the cold, plus the stiffed neck; I'll take the week easy and use Miwok in 2 weeks as another training run. As a matter of fact, we have our Pacific Association USATF Long Distance Running committee quarterly meeting next Sunday, right after a 5K. Which I may enter since I have to drive back to San Francisco again. A short race for a change!

With this shallow field, the 50K was won by Jordan Sakala in 4:06 and Christine Chapon in 4:58. Emi Yasaka won the 50-mile in 7:46:14 and Matt Ward won the 100K 8:47.

Here is the Men podium for the 50-mile, with Karl and Paul, this season is again dominated by Excelsior on the team side:
Temporary and incomplete results (as of 3:30 pm when I left):
And a few more lines on Eileen Francisco's later post on Facebook:
With Agn├Ęs out of town this weekend, and no business travel planned for this week for a change, I was able to stay for a while, thank the volunteers, encourage other runners, take pictures and catch-up with finishers or spectators. Like in the good ol' days when my first ultras were such a big deal that I was allocating more time before and after.

Special thanks to the sponsors which are even more essential to keep this ultra tradition alive given the low turnout at this event mainly Hammer nutrition for their generous goodie bag donations, and Palo Alto's ZombieRunner.

And a special mention to the Bay Area Ultra Runners (BAUR) musketeers of the day, with a thought for Rajeev who was missing in action exceptionally this year: Anil and Steve whom I mentioned in the intro, and ultra volunteers and time keepers, Dave Combs and Stan Jensen.

With the generous cut-off on the 100K, a very long day of volunteering for then, starting way before dawn...

Great to see many familiar faces, along with people getting their first ultra yesterday, what a great tradition!

PS: bonus pictures!


Robin said...

Jean: I just don't know how you do all this stuff! The running, the blogging, the travelling, work, family. Boston in the rain/wind, Ruth Anderson with cramps ... and more and more. To say inspirational isn't enough.

Jean Pommier said...

Hey , Robin, thank you for the nice note/words. Living the ultra life indeed! ;-) The trick? Maybe do everything at 99%? ;-) Just kidding, there are things I don't manage to do like spending hours watching TV, and going to the movies more, or getting back to playing the piano. Only 1,440 minutes in a day... ;-)