Saturday, October 31, 2015

Vespa: power from the good fat

I cannot resist talking about the benefits of Vespa Power again, after seeing this article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.
Here is how to read the chart: the author looked at the energetic power of various sources, using the volume of the Apple iPhone 6S battery as a reference. And, guess what, body fat comes in second position, close behind diesel fuel! But, with body fat, you don't even have to stop by the pump...! ;-)

Many of you have heard me talk about how Vespa has changed my (ultra racing) life these past 4 3 years. How does that Japanese magic potion work? It accelerates the metabolism to burn fat and use body fat as a source of energy during a prolonged effort, instead of carbohydrates. I'm not a specialist of the field but here are some basic nutrition maths which are part of the theory: while our muscles can store between 2,000 and 2,500 calories (or rather kcal), during a marathon we burn about 100-120 calories per mile. With that, you run out of fuel around 20 miles, which corresponds to the famous, or infamous, wall. To avoid hitting the wall, and if you want to only run on carbs, you then need to ingest and process 600 or more calories to stay afloat, 6 GU gels for instance.
Meanwhile, a pound of body fat corresponds to roughly 3,500 calories. Even at a 10% body fat ratio which is already low even for athletes (lower than 6% is considered as unhealthy), that's 15 pounds for a weight of 150 pounds, and 52,500 calories which could sustain more than 500 miles theoretically, quite some distance! Of course you don't want, can cannot fortunately, process all your body fat at once, but the point is that you can run 50 or 100 miles without much else.

While Vespa triggers this body fat burning, you can also teach your body to naturally use body fat as the main source of energy by cutting on your consumption of carb. That's what Peter Defty labels as 'Fat-adapted metabolic state' in the Optimized Fat Metabolism (OFM) program.

And, yes, this works as you can see through the transformation and performances of not only elite athletes, but regular ones as well, and not only for running, but other endurance sports as well such as cycling, swimming, skating, triathlon. At the 50-mile road Nationals last week for instance, the top 2 males, Zach Bitter and Anthony Kunkel, are avid adepts of OFM and Vespa.
Now, I must admit that, although the Vespa maths make a lot of sense, you have to believe in this approach: it's not going to work if you just drink one pouch of Vespa randomly during a race when you are bonking. The way I'm using Vespa in races is one pouch 45 minutes before the start, one at the start, no calorie intake for 90 minutes, one pouch every 2.5 to 3 hours depending on the pace and intensity of the race (e.g. 3-hour intervals for 8-10 min/mile pace 100K+ races, or 2.5 hours for 6-8 min/mile pace 50-mile and under races).

Ironically, I'm writing this post on the day of Halloween when the whole country is going to go high on sugary treats! Oh, well, not everybody is interested in endurance sports... But, for those of you who are, then enjoy some fat and, since you are carrying it anyway, learn how to use it as a super powerful and natural fuel! You'll be amazed at your now power! ;-)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Running Northwest of Chicago: Busse Woods

I had some unfinished business after my drop in Saturday's Nationals. At the finish line party, one of the volunteers who was serving pizzas was impressed because I still managed to run 24 miles, yet that felt to me quite like a short run, and some disappointment, by my new standards... :-/

So, on my way back to Chicago, to log a few more miles on Sunday, I stopped by the Busse Forest Nature Preserve, or Ned Brown Preserve but also known more simply as the Busse Woods, a large patch of green I had spotted in the Northwest area of the Chicago metropolitan map. With the huge Lake Michigan on the East side, Chicago has quite a lung to breathe from, yet, like Central Park in New York City, it's great to have a few green areas for those of us not able to run on water! ;-)
The park has a wonderful 7.3-mile (11.75 km) bike path loop and while it is bordered by busy highways on two sides (I-90 and I-290), you can feel like you have escaped from the city when running for a few miles in the woods. It has a convenient map online.
And, in this late October, that meant still a few amazing Fall colors on the trees, a bonus!
Apart from a couple of spots, the bike path is in great conditions, very smooth and allows inline skaters to practice before the real snow comes for some Nordic skiing. Now, on such a beautiful Sunday afternoon with blue sky and a temperature of 60F, the path/trail was quite busy with all sorts of users, and inline skating required quite some slaloming between moving obstacles: dozens of runners, a few serious bikers (I didn't see any speed limit signs, but a few sprinters were really border line), tens of roller-bladers, skateboarders, but mostly walkers of all ages.

Even on a busy weekend, there was ample parking space at each of the 9 (!) entrances. As a matter of fact, the park map denotes 32 groves, large grass areas with nearby parking spots, plus the Elk Pasture which features, as you may guess, real elks! And shouldn't come too much of a surprise in this Elk Grove Village Township.

I parked at the Main Dam entrance on the Arlington Heights Road side. See a picture tour, starting at these grooves (26 & 27), just before the mile 2 marker (running anti-clockwise), in this Google photos album.
While you run and if that's not their thing, the rest of the family can even rent a kayak on Busse Lake, do some fishing, biking, walking or simply lay down on the grass, well, if it's not raining or snowing...
Anyway, if you are staying in the North West area of Chicago, this is a great place to log a few miles and enjoy the outdoors without worrying about car traffic.
Oh, by the way, I managed to run 28 miles at 7:06 min/mile average (3:06 marathon), a small redemption to complete 50 miles over the weekend. Did I say on Saturday evening in my previous post that I had better tapering seriously now...? Sorry for the lack of short-term memory, it felt too good to run in this perfect weather on Sunday afternoon! ;-)

Hope you keep moving too, have a great week!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Fall 50-mile US Road Nationals: one too many?

Am I too greedy? I'm sure many will answer yes, yet, I assure you that there are many other gluttons in our ultra running world! ;-)

I started this year hoping not only to win our North California Ultra Grand Prix for the 9th consecutive year, in my age group that is, which I did. But, to top that focus on local races, I set my eyes on 6 US ultra distance championships this year, versus 2 last year. Carpe diem, or you only live once, as the saying goes...!

It didn't started well as I DNFed at Rocky Racoon 100-mile in January, in TX. I had a great rebound in March in NY for the 50K road, taking the Masters title, albeit missing the 30-year pending M50-54 record by 1'48" partly due to the freezing conditions. In April, it was my first trip to Wisconsin (Madison), for the 100K, and I also got the Masters title. Fast forwarding to August for our local Tamalpa 50K Trail where I won my 3rd M50-54 title this year, and placed 2nd Masters. I had to miss the 50-mile trail Nationals at the end of May for family reason (the funerals of Agnès' mother), and I was looking forward to this last opportunity of the year, the Fall 50, also the 50-mile road Nationals.

Now, I must admit that I was really tired after my last race, 2 weeks ago, the inaugural Lake Folsom Trail, a demanding 68-mile course in the heat. It was my 3rd win in 4 weeks, I knew I was taking some serious risks to compete again, especially for such a distance on road pavement. Not the mention the rolling profile which I had not realized initially. Bottom line, I signed for it at the last minute and didn't come fully prepared.

And prepared for what anyway? A week ago the forecast gave a few light showers in the morning. Well, it's not just that, as a Californian, I forgot what rain is, even the locals admitted that we got quite a lot today. And that's even only one part of the story: the wind was also strong and blowing from the South, that meant running 50-mile against headwind.

I stayed in Green Bay, left the hotel at 4am and hopped on the shuttle at 5:30 which got us to the start by around 6:45 am. I had considered registered on race morning, I'm super glad I actually drove to Sturgeon Bay on Friday night to do it. With 15 minutes to get prepared before the start, there was definitely no time for some paper work!

We started at 7:03 and, with the thick clouds, it was still quite dark. At this point it was drizzling but the road was quite wet so I was trenched right away. At least it wasn't too cold (~55F). The list of participants wasn't published but I had heard that Zach Bitter was here to take his revenge over last year's mishap. He was running with Michael and they both went off course for almost 2 miles because of some sabotage of the course marking, and dropped shortly after. Zach is one of the fastest American distance runner nowadays, setting many records especially at the 100-mile distance. And he is our best ambassador of Vespa too! He has run 50 miles in 5:12 2 years ago so, with this level of speed, I wasn't ashamed to lose track of the group of lead runners after a mile.

My goal was to try breaking 6 hours (I ran a 50-mile in 5:43 4 years ago, albeit in better conditions!), and, without knowing who else was in the Masters division, I was hoping that would put me on that podium. After a few miles, we were quite spread but I could still see Camille Herron 3 to 400 yards ahead. I met Camille when she won the 100K Nationals in Madison in April. She was already quite known on the marathon circuit but that was her first ultra and, right away got her on Team USA for the World 100 championships last month, which she won in a blazing time of 7:08! Despite the rolling profile, by just trying to keep Camille in sight, my pace decreased to 6:53 by mile 7 which was more aggressive than what I had planned. And all that was under a very heavy rain!

In the 11th mile, with serious road work in Sister-Bay, we had to negotiate our way across damaged sidewalks and huge puddles. We were running against the heavy traffic of all the cars driving the first teams of runners to the start (the event has a 10-leg relay starting 1-hour after the solo race), and I got splashed by a few cars, refreshing! There is a short but steep hill at the exit of Sister Bay and I gasped for air at the top, yikes, not a good sign! My pace was back to 7:00 which I stabilized for the next 4 miles but at the top of the hill at mile 15, again, I could catch my breath and had to stop to walk for a few steps. I could feel my lungs weren't working properly and, sure enough, it got only worse in the next few miles. I did a long stop (1'30") to refill my GU2O bottle at mile 18.7 and was completely worn out after that. No breathing meant that my legs weren't getting enough oxygen and I was bummed that happened so early in the race. I kept trotting and, one I saw that the first runner to catch up with me was wearing a M50-54 bib too, I had only only one idea in mind, quit. Although, for some time, I was hoping to run as far as the 28-mile aid station, to pass the marathon distance at least, I just called it a day at the 23.7-mile aid station instead, glad that I had ran enough to even see some light (aka sun) after the first storm. I wasn't coughing too bad, but couldn't take a full breath without triggering some spasms in my lungs, to it was safer to just stop there.

Thankfully, I got the 'golden Uber' service with volunteers Dan and Barb driving their minivan from the finish to Fish Creek Bay just to pick me and drive me down to the finish. That was the first round trip for Dan today, and there will surely be many more given the conditions! It was great to chat with this super nice couple who have been helping on this race for the past 10 years, and helping organizing many other events in the area, including triathlons, for the sake of supporting and giving back to the community.

I got the finish line around 11:15 which left ample time to change before seeing the first runners coming in. Yet, and despite the conditions which turned back to heavy rain and headwind again, we were amazed to see Zach finishing in 5:17!!

I actually knew he was doing great thanks to Michael who had run with Zach in the early part of the race before also dropping at mile 24, on residual fatigue from a 100K (Lake Superior?) 2 weeks ago. But it was quite something to keep a 6:20 min/mile pace for 50 miles, and in these adverse conditions, even Zach himself was amazed!

Another surprise for the day was 2nd place finisher, Anthony Kunkel, 23, from Boulder, CO, who clocked 5:38, and ran most of the race in the rain, shirtless!

Then, 22 seconds later (!), Chris Denucci (Hoka) took 3rd overall, 6 seconds before... Camille who covered the 50-mile distance in 5:38:41, that is faster than the World Record for that distance on road !!! Unfortunately for Camille, a IAAF rule doesn't recognize records set on a course where the start and finish are distant of more than 40% of the overall distance, darn! She will have to do it again, without remembering the suffering she went through today... (In the meantime, Ann Trason still holds the record which she set in Houston in 1991.)

I spent the next hour taking care of Camille who had given it all and was so cold now. She first got a massage but I don't think that did much as she was shivering and couldn't relax. Then she asked for a glass a beer, and one of root beer, but that didn't do much either (some hot soup would have been better!). I got her to the medical tent to change (there wasn't any other place), and even that tent wasn't heated (in retrospective I'm kind of glad I dropped after all, I would have been miserable at the finish in these conditions...). She was starving for a hamburger but there was only pizzas which she didn't want. Long story short, she just wanted a hot shower so I put her in her car, hopping she could drive the 3 miles to her hotel. Amazing champion who pushes the envelope to the extreme (she had issues breathing around mile 20 too but took some caffeine and had a second week around mile 34).

So, back to my intro, what about Camille as one of our ultra gluttons, and a successful one!!!

Isaiah Jenzen (winner of the 24-hour Nationals last year) took 4th in 5:54. We then had to wait for 32 minutes and it was Tim Stieber, the M50-54 runner who had passed me at mile 20, who also won the Masters race. 5th overall and 1st Masters, that's worth $750 and was pretty much what I was shooting for, although I thought it would take a 6-hour/7:05 min/mile pace to get that. Smart race from Tim! The second Master (M45-49), Bruce Udell (orange top), finished one minute behind.

I finally got a few slices of pizza but, with the need to drive back to Green Bay and some amertume for having missed all my goals, didn't feel like staying for the mega party. With that, I didn't see anything from the team race, which is the fun part of this event.

Except for the weather, it was an amazing experience to be part of this 10th anniversary of this event which grew more than 10 folds in the meantime! A bit too much of car traffic for my taste, but I could see a few of the great sections along the coast and I know I missed a few in the second half. I was amazed how the marking and my GPS were aligned, it surely is a change from the mountainous trails. Kudos to the Race Director for such a professional event and this amazing logistic of a point to point course along this super busy road. And all that to raise money for local charities! Special mentions to the many volunteers along the course and to support such a large scale operation!

Will I be back? Maybe, although I must admit that I have difficulty returning on courses which I got into trouble in the first place (e.g. Tahoe Rim Trail 100M, American River 50M, Rio Del Lago 100M). But I would be happy to change that curse, like Zach did brilliantly this year!

My next one is in... well... 2 weeks, a 24-event format in New Jersey, so I better taper right away and fully recover this time... I may have to cut it 'short' to 12 hours anyway to fly straight to South Africa for work, we shall see.

3 out of 5 championships, that will be it for 2015, see some of you again at these events next year!

PS: a picture who those who actually 'made it!'

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Inaugural Folsom Lake Ultra Trail: which lake?

First, and breaking my tradition of thanking the Race Director at the end of my race reports, let me start with putting the spotlight on Paulo Medina and his co-race director, Clint Welch. Paulo worked on this project for 3 years and I must say it was a brilliant idea to come create this event, circumventing the entire Folsom Lake. I'm amazed at the guts it takes to organize an event of that scale, requiring 4 permits, all on the same day of course, and manning so many remote aid stations along the way. It was also original to combine an individual format with a 3-leg relay.
With such technical trails, including the famous 'meat grinder' (which I called 'feet grinder' in the past), a start at 5 am and a cut-off at 1:20 am, this also make a very long day for the organizers and certain volunteers, kudos to all! With 68.8 miles or 110K, the distance was a bit odd, but it definitely made for quite a challenging course. As for the lake, here are two pictures which sum it up: no more lifeguards needed, unfortunately...

With that, when Paulo invited me to run his event instead of Julie Fingar's more traditional Dick Collins Firetrails 50-mile which was held that Saturday, I did hesitate a bit but I already logged a record 580 points in our Pacific Association Grand Prix (9th consecutive Age Group win!) so I got really excited to run this inaugural event instead. Given the length of the course, Agnès cancelled a few of her Friday afternoon classes so we could leave Cupertino early. Well, that wasn't enough we got into quite some traffic so we missed the Friday evening briefing. Given the low number of participants though, I wasn't too worried about getting my bib in the morning.

It was pitch dark at 5 am and my new Petzl Tikka RXP worked wonders (after bad experiences with Black Diamond, finally switched to this French product! ;-). And, yes, with more than 200 lumens, this small thing shines, so long for Agnès' traditional pre-start photo!
At some point I thought I had seen Bob Shebest so told to myself 'oh well, so long for a win today...' Indeed, I had the second highest ranking behind Bev Anderson-Abbs, so I thought I had a shot at winning my 3rd race in 4 weeks! Fortunately, a few miles in the run, I realized it couldn't be Bob because he wasn't in the lead.

Right off the start, I took the lead alongside a young and tall runner who was on the 68-mile, and we got quickly joined by two relay runners which became very handy as I wasn't sure about the course but one of the two had run rehearsed his first leg recently. And it was good to have him because I had heard Paulo say that we had to be under the levee and we weren't in the first 4 miles. The first ribbon was at mile 1.5 and the second at mile 3, you had better know we needed to stay on the American River bike path at the beginning, running the American River 50-mile course in reverse.

We had a few hesitations at mile 4 as we reached that levee and couldn't see a ribbon. Again it was great to have our guide with us (sorry, I didn't pick the name)! Running on the lake bed was like what I imagine would be running on Mars: sharp rocks, dust, uneven ground, sand. At that point, our pace increased from the (crazy!) 7:30 min/mlle to a more sustainable 8:00 when our guide and I reached the second aid station, Brown Ravine at mile 6.7. Carrying 2 bottles, I didn't stop and took the lead, creating a gap in the next 8 miles. I did a long stop at the New York (where does that come from ? ;-) aid station where I got David Lent and two volunteers refill my GU2O and water bottles (special kudos to David for manning that aid station in the morning, then Granite Bay in the afternoon!!). My pace went down from 8:06 to 8:13 with that 1 minute 40 second pit stop, yikes! I pushed in the next miles on a great shady single track but only regained 1 second for my average pace. The first rays of sun hit me when I was at mile 20.5 and I was thinking of the back of the pack runners who were going to be in the heat for many more hours than I intended to be (another perk with the gift of running faster, I often say that I have a lot of respect for these runners who are on their feet for much longer).

There was still plenty of shade on the trail and, with that, I reached out the Salmon Falls aid station still in the lead. 22.4 miles in just above 3 hours (8 am), an average pace around 8:30 by the time I left the aid station after refueling a bit and, more importantly, getting more ice in my water bottle. It was great to see Agnès there; who rushed after a quick breakfast at the hotel to grab my precious (well, expensive) headlamp. What stunned me is that, while I imagined being welcomed by dozens of runners waiting for their teammate finishing their first leg, I only saw one! Oops, maybe I was way too fast then... But I knew the next section had a grueling profile, so it seemed ok to have run the initial 22-mile leg faster, at least there was no way to run an even pace all along on that type of course.
From Salmon Falls Bridge, we went down the boat ramp (with an empty lake, certainly no boat loading this year unfortunately) then, on the lake bed again.

This time, it was a field of uneven pebbles making our progression quite challenging. I had seen a picture of runners crossing a river on the race website so I was wondering what was coming up, seeing the rushing American River on our right. As you can see on Agnès' pictures, the colors of that early morning light were amazing.

Thankfully, we only had to cross a very shallow, but that was enough, as well as two previous creek crossing where I missed the rocks meant to keep our feet dry, that was enough to fix all the dust on my relatively new Brooks Racer ST5 (the ones I also used at Ohlone). Speaking of which, there were so many rocky sections that I got quite a few free foot massages today in these racing flats! So long for the matching Royal Blue color with all the dirt:
With that, I was glad that the course got us on a large bridge in the middle of nowhere to cross the American River. I couldn't see anyone behind anymore, yet free from that pressure, decided to keep pushing the pace in the next section, including the first super steep climb at mile 26 in which I admit I walked for the first time. That side of the canyon was quite exposed to the sun so I was glad when I got to Flagstaff Hill at mile 28.4 (at that point, my GPS was off the course description by at least half a mile). We reached that station after a mile on a rare fire road, yet, such a rocky one that I wouldn't want to drive my car on it! More ice at that aid station as the temperature had increased significantly, and my second GU2O refill. Yet, there was some nice refreshing breeze from time to time. I was surprised when the aid station staff sent me out with the message 'stay on that road until the next aid station.' I thought they meant the fire road but it was a paved/asphalt road instead. Wow, what a change from the trick trails we had been on earlier! Being a polyvalent runner, I certainly enjoyed that relief and took the opportunity to get my average pace down to about 8:24 on the long downhill. Now, I had not dared to ask how many miles away the next aid station was and too busy running to reach out to my aid station chart in my pocket so, after a few miles of this without seeing any ribbon, I started doubting. I crossed a pickup and the driver was kind enough to tell me 'yes, keep going up, you'll see a bridge and sign "Runners on the road"', that was comforting. Well, maybe not the uphill part though, because it was a few miles long, phew! Thinking of all the training I do on the 7-mile climb to Black Mountain on Montebello Road in Cupertino, I was well prepared and managed to run--and gut out-- all of it! Although I was relieved when I reached the Oak View Drive aid station at mile 36 (37 on my GPS), thinking it marked the end of the climb. Well, not quite, the following 2 miles before we reach the Cool trails were hard to run after that, so I did some walking, except when chased by two barking dogs, yikes!
It felt really great to be back on these smooth and flat trails which I ran on in a few occasions (Way Too Cool, Rio Del Lago, ....). And, even more so to see Agnès waiting for me at the Cool aid station, along with 3 very nice volunteers who gave me more ice to... cool (!) down a bit.

My pace was now 8:38 (8:41 after exiting the station) and, at that speed, I was trending on the overheating side, yet feeling quite good physically and mentally.
There were barely a handful of spectators, quite a change with the buzz on Way Too Cool race day!
Leaving with a few ice cubes in my hat.
Between the heat and the fact that I had still to cover 29 challenging miles, I certainly didn't run my best time for going down to the river. I was excited to get back to the famous No Hands Bridge on the Western States trail and even more saw by the subsequent climb. The aid station had limited ice but I got some and they were going to get more (I was still in the lead so, surely, there would be quite a few followers requiring ice in the peak of the heat). It wasn't even 10 am for me, I was moving and, again, my thoughts went to the rest of the pack.

Enjoying every second of the bridge crossing, I went on the traditional climb, the one we get for the Western States finish. But, bummer, after a couple of miles, and half way up, we were sent down a sandy, slippery, dusty and super narrow trail, so narrow in places that horses are washing it out with their horseshoes. After going down again to the river, the subsequent climb up to Auburn was exhausting. It was great to see Martin Sengo (photo credit) and Paulo, near the top.
I had to walk several times and my pace was 8:58 when I got to the Gate 142 aid station in Auburn, which was also the transition area between legs 2 and 3.

Agnès was there, as well as Ian Grettenberger, who offered to pace me, on Thursday. I had not planned to get paced, but Ian contacted Paulo with this offer and I replied 'why not?' Out of 120 ultras, I only got paced less than 10 times and I certainly learned to take care of myself, plus build even more respect for the 'screwed' format of ultra running, as my teammate Mark Tanaka puts it, that is when you have neither a pacer or a crew. Well, today was both crew and pacer, for a change! I didn't know Ian except for some professional information gleaned over the Internet. Now, as other have figured out in the past, I'm certainly not a talker when I run (well, in life in general), one more reason I enjoyed the solitude and silence of these long runs. Besides, with my accent and soft voice, and me running in front, it's actually impossible to hold a conversation while I race. Long story short, we didn't talk much for the next/final 23 miles, but it was great to get company, most especially to check the course marking which, after being excellent in the first half, was now getting less consistent and sparser. A good thing we were finishing on the American River and Rio Del Lago trail which I know so well after having raced on it 15 times or so.

The last climb up to Auburn had its toll and I started feeling really tired but it was good to go back down to the river. The next aid station, Oregon Bar, was only 2.4 miles after Auburn but, thankfully, we stopped to fill up my bottles as the next section was 6 miles to Rattlesnake Bar. It was now early afternoon and getting hot when not in the shade. I was so tired but still moving at a reasonable pace that I felt twice in that section. Nothing bad, but too tired to avoid getting down. In the second fall in particular, my legs cramped and it took me a minute or so to get back up, my average pace falling from 9:09 to 9:11 min/mile. Back on the trail, things were different, I was still running most of the uphills but everything was becoming really painful and my stride shorten. After 7 hours of running, and this change of allure, I started losing exact track of my Gu and S!Caps intake. I think I got the sodium intake mostly right, but I ended up low on the carb side. Thankfully, Vespa was handling the fat burning for me so I could keep moving.

The marking before Rattlesnake Bar was quite confusing and I hope nobody got lost there (Ian moved a few ribbons to make it more obvious, and we asked volunteers of the next two aid stations to notify the race director). After 6 miles, I certainly didn't want to miss that strategic aid station. Even if the next one, Horseshoe Bar, was only 2.7 miles away, I'm glad that I refilled because it seemed like taking for ever to get to it and I had to drink way more than usual with this heat. We had now reach the infamous 'meat grinder' section, which I can still get a hold on after 15 times. When I used to get exercised-induced asthma (before getting it under control thanks to Singulair now), that's the section I had my worst death mark in my first American River, with half the participants passing me. While it looks almost flat on a course profile, it's actually more than 6 miles of shorts ups and downs but, more importantly, countless large round boulders which you have to hop over. With my short legs, not to mentioned tired ones at that stage, walking was even difficult! I couldn't imagine how the last runners would have to go through this at night!

I had slowed down so much now that I had emptied both my bottles after just 3 miles, and there were 3.4 miles to go before the Granite Bay aid station. I kept looking at my GPS that didn't make the distance move faster, just the pace going down to now about 9:45. Clint had told Agnès that I had created an hour gap by mid race but I had lost an hour in that 3rd section already so I became worried about getting caught. Assuming the followers weren't going through the same nightmare as I was now in... It was such a relief to get to the Granite Bay aid station, with only 4 miles left! I was out of GU2O powder and filled my 2 bottles with fresh water, which I needed so much, being so thirsty after running the last 3 miles without drinking. We were finally on very runnable trails, including the three flat levees we were finishing on, and where I even pushed the pace, to the point that I managed to lower my average pace from 9:54 to 9:52, yeah!

8 miles earlier I had told Ian that I had nothing left so, now, I had to admit that I was lying, since I could still run that way to the finish. But, it was hard to know for sure what was left in the tank during my low.

With that, I did get this third consecutive win I was after today, albeit in a non-competitive field. Yet, I certainly pushed as hard as if there was competition, creating my very own pressure.

I was hoping to break 11 hours today but obviously that didn't work out. After this hard push at the end, I fell in Clint's arms and I need this big hugs from the RDs! ;-)

I'm sure someone can improve my time in the coming years, but maybe the 50-59 course record will hold for a while, unless Rich Hanna is tempted to race around his backyard lake in the coming years! ;-) I didn't stop my GPS right away but I think my time was about 11:23:30, just below 10:00 min/mile pace with a 68.5 mile distance (my GPS ending up with 69.50 miles).

Very nice award, I certainly didn't have any trophy like that one on my shelves! And I'm glad I didn't have to fly with that in my suit case...

 Paulo even teased me and said that was my finisher medal to wear:
Short of a conversation, Ian had a nice last slow long training run before his upcoming 50-mile race next week (Twin Peaks 50 in Corona, CA). Hope that was worth it, Ian, and thank you again for proposing to volunteer this way!

While I was recovering and waiting for the next runners to come in, Agnès drove him back up to Auburn where he had left his car. The next runner arrived an hour after me, she was part of the winning relay team. We waited more but, Agnès and I both starving for an In and Out burger, we left around 6:40 without seeing any other runner coming in. It was going to be a long day for the organizers... And, maybe, I had put extra pressure on me when I was fearing to get caught in the last 8 miles... With that, I hope everybody made it back home safely (early Sunday morning, the results are of course not posted yet).

This Sunday morning, my legs are sore so I don't feel like racing hard at the 50-mile Road Nationals in 2 weeks, but 2 weeks is a long time, so who knows... I'm not in yet anyway, but I'm already registered for the New Jersey Trail Series One Day, in 4 weeks. Yes, as I mentioned in previous posts, that's a busy Fall season!

Big thanks to the volunteers, especially those manning remote aid stations, in the sun, all by themselves! To Paulo: I wouldn't change the start and direction of the course. First, since it's an inaugural event, the following have better to have the same format for comparison sake. Second, changing direction would mean much more running in the sun/heat on the East side of the Lake in the afternoon. Third, Beals Point provides ample parking and easy access. To the point of access, you may want to add to your event page more instructions for the crew to access the aid stations they are allowed at. Thanks to Vespa, I don't eat much but I felt aid stations could have been more stocked, especially those in the last section after Auburn since it is such a tough one that late in the race. Apart from a few turns before and after Rattlesnake Bar, I found the marking very good. It was especially important for me who had never ran the East side of the Lake up to Auburn.

Again, what an amazing opportunity to circle the entire Folsom Lake, I strongly recommend this event, kudos to Single Track Running! Of course, after these 4 years of drought, there wasn't much lake to be seen, but let's hope there will be plenty in the years to come, making this event an even more enjoyable ultra experience. And, for those vetting the Western States qualifier events, this is to me definitely a good one. Despite the few miles of road section which are matched by countless of rugged and rough single track miles, I found it tougher than Miwok 100K or Quicksilver 100K, just to mention two.

Run Happy all, and considering this great run around Folsom Lake, next year. Rain or shine as we say, maybe California should switch to a Rain AND shine version of it...