Saturday, May 7, 2016

Miwok 100K 2016: a great start!

It was my third ultra race since the March incident, and Race Director, Tia (Bodington), wasn't thrilled at all when she heard I had a... TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) recently. I promised to be reasonable and not push too much since doctors have ruled out every possible cause they can think of, leaving us without a firm explanation.

Back in March I wrote that nothing will be the same and I can tell some people are quite uneasy indeed about my ongoing racing. Time will tell how long this will last. In the meantime, I'm myself embarrassed when people expect a performance and I have to ask them not to get too excited and demanding...

Anyway, I was particularly pleased with my start this Saturday morning as I conservatively stayed behind a group of runners who did walk the stair sections on our first way up to Cardiac. I even got passed on our way down Cardiac so I assumed I was likely way behind 20th place. I think it's the first year that I don't even see the front runners in the out and back to Stinson Beach at mile 8. I even pointed Mark Richtman (61) and Ron Gutierrez (48) half a mile ahead of me already and was resolute not to try to catch them.

However, on the next section which is also my favorite climb, Middle Green Gutch, I couldn't hold myself from running it all and passed a handful of runners on the way. I was still unaware of my position but didn't stop at the Tennessee Valley aid station, to the dam of a few teammates who were volunteering or crewing today and couldn't get a picture of me, then ran the whole Marincello Fire Road climb, catching up with Ron at the top and now seeing Mark 200 yards ahead.

I stopped at the Bridge View aid station to refill mu GU2O bottle and it took me more than a minute so I wasn't surprised that I had lost sight of Mark. Except that he came from behind on the Coastal fire road after a pit stop at the aid station. Mark passed me, stating that I'll catch him back on the next climb, Rodeo Valley Trail, which was the case indeed. We then ran together down to our second passage through the Tennessee Valley aid station, then a section of the next climb on the long Coastal Fire Road, toward Pirate's Cove. We had been running under the clouds since the start, but the views of San Francisco and the Pacific were gorgeous.

I arrived a few minutes before Mark at Muir Beach and refilled both my bottles, plus got some Coke and a few pieces of banana. I had told Agnès I should reach that aid station around 9:40 but if wasn't even 9:20 so I left without seeing her. I was hoping to get a Vespa pouch from her but I was carrying a few doses of concentrate so I took one, albeit rather late in the race for the first one, my bad.

Mark caught me just before Cardiac and we started climbing together. I took some distance at some point but Mark remained very close, less than a minute separated us when we go to the Cardiac aid station at the top. At this point, we were now running in the cloud and it started drizzling. I was hoping to get more GU gels from Agnes but I still had 2 left so decided to skip the aid station to avoid getting cold after the solid climb. Mileage was now around 35 and I started feeling tired and depleted but kept going. After the miss at Muir Beach, Agnès was told by the volunteers to rush to Pantoll which is probably what I told the volunteers I was expecting to see her, although I meant Randall. It was really an awkward moment as Agnès had been waiting in the rain to catch me but I told her crewing was forbidden there so I kept moving. although I was eager to pick a few additional GUs. But the rules are the rules.

As we were getting deeper in the misty fog, I was feeling weaker and it didn't take long for Mark to pass me, touting that he was really liking this weather (that's his backyard trails...)! I kept moving but had a lot of difficulty maintaining even a 10 minute/mile pace, that didn't look good. I wasn't really feeling cold but I was getting wetter, especially going through the wet high grass, which gave a sensation of running through a car wash.

I was delighted to make it to the Bolinas Ridge aid station (mile 42.5) after 6:37 of running and having lost only a couple of places, now in 8th! But I didn't feel good and was looking forward to recharge. Drops were pouring from the redwoods and it felt great to stay under the tent. I drank 3 cups of Coke, grabbed 2 cookies and, after a few minutes of staying still, started shivering pretty bad. I was offered a chair and a blanket and, at this point, my mind decided I wasn't going to go for 20 more miles in this rain. There wasn't much value in trying to run 6.5 miles to Randall, so I asked the volunteers and radio to let Agnès know I was dropping and that she could pick me at Bolinas.

The volunteers of the Coastside running club of Half Moon Bay were manning this very wet aid station and they were super nice and helpful. Franz Dill offered me to stay in his car with the heater on, which quickly took care of my hypothermia. And Ron Little provided me the blanket which made a big difference while being under the tent and spending 15 minutes deciding about dropping, never an easy decision...

I don't feel I started too fast today but I barely train on hills this year so far, that I'm seriously undertrained for such a race. Furthermore, I had heard about the rainy forecast but didn't plan accordingly and, given my sensitivity to cold and wet conditions, that was inconsiderate. Last but not least, there were too many question marks in my head to really keep pushing and engage in a potential death march just for the sake of finishing. Yet, I do have a bitter taste in my mouth tonight as I feel this was a waste of a very unique opportunity to complete 9 consecutive finishes, especially given the difficult getting in nowadays. Oh well, I'm alive, that's what matters (to me and a few relative anyway... ;-).

I carpooled with Pierre-Yves super early this morning. Suffering from his left hamstring, Pierre-Yves didn't run for a month and he was really unsure about making the cut-offs, especially at the Park Rangers asked Tia to reduce the one at the finish from 9 pm to 8:30 pm. I'm stoke to report that he finished in 14:06, with almost 90 minutes to spare. A big moral booster to resume training before his Tahoe 200-mile of September!

I left the finish area before the first runners came in but, after only 8 hours, there were already 50 DNFs which is quite unusual. Surely, this is a tough course and the wet conditions didn't help. As I write these lines at 8:30 pm, 285 runners finished within the time limit, with 45 in the last 30 minutes! Many fights against the clock... That still leaves about 140 DNFs (~30%) I believe.

Chikara didn't win this year but took 2nd in 9:13, behind Cody Reed (9:04). Coming in 7th overall, Mark was the second Masters, at 61! On the women side, Aliza Lapierre won (11th overall) and Quicksilver teammate Bree Lambert took 2nd in 10:55 and an impressive 21st overall.

Next week is Quicksilver 100K, which should be dryer and warmer, if not hot, conditions which suit me much better. Hope these 42 hilly miles will provide some of the much needed training at least!

Congrats to all the finishers and big thanks to Tia and her crew of volunteers for the organization of this race in such an exceptional area! Hope to get the opportunity to at least start a 10th Miwok next year, if God allows me...


Jeff said...

I'm late to the game but did your med team check for PFO? I was a runner who had an unexplained incident.

Jean Pommier said...

Thank you Jeff (?). Yes, heart has been heavily scrutinized as well, with a few tests to check and confirm there was no hole(s), but thanks for double checking, much appreciated!