Monday, August 29, 2022

Headlands Hundred 2022: back at the big game with guts and glutes!

Ultra trail running and 100-miles in particular are great sources of stories. We all know some people have the guts to turn them into successful books, and even talent to embellish these stories to captivate even larger audiences. With 205 100-mile races a year per Stan Jensen's website, there is definitely no shortage of inspiration, although we certainly don't hear about 1% of the personal journeys despite so much social media activity, great coverage by Ultra Running Magazine, and a few persisting and stubborn bloggers... But when Dean Karnazes is on the entrant list, that does boost the odds! And it can even eclipse the full moon... (picture taken at 5 am on Saturday morning)

What a weekend it has been. As I start writing this race report, 6 days later, the results are still being tabulated. 12 days later as I come back at it after another work week, I'm still unsure about the conclusion, read on... While the participation was on the low side, even by our American standard, PCTR (Pacific Coast Trail Runs) put quite a production with 7 distances and 8 staged stars over 4 days: 150-mile on Thursday, 100-mile early start at , 100-mile regular start at 6am on Saturday, followed by the 75-mile     and Night Sweats Trail Runs 15K and 8K on Saturday at 8 pm! Add to this the convoluted washing-machine style and 8-shape course, we were in for seeing and crossing many happy faces.

The 100-mile being part of our North California and Nevada Pacific Association USATF Grand Prix, I joined the fun on Saturday morning. It wasn't even 5 am when I got to the start and Jennifer and Bree were already busy welcoming us to the check-in. With the last full sturgeon moon of the year, and no fog, the light over the Pacific Ocean was magic!

Despite being relatively well prepared, I still missed the emotional briefing where Greg talked about the importance of supporting our community, especially those battling the stress of mental challenges exacerbated by the pandemic in particular. When I thought I was ready, with 9 minutes to spare, I cross someone at the bathroom who wishes me luck. As he didn't have a bib, I ask if he was crewing but he mentioned he was on the 50-mile. Oh shoot, I didn't have my bib on myself, I had left in the car! There you have a good sprint as a warm up! With that, when Greg asked if I was going to lead on the first loop, I declined the offer because I wasn't visualizing the initial unmarked "white loop" from the website description.

I managed to snap a Quicksilver Ultra Running Team blurry selfie before the start, albeit without Charles that we had not seen around.

The beginning of the first loop is straight up and, this year, after last years' DNF, I was resolute not to start too hard. A blessing to see Martin forging ahead, that's our Auburn guy! I even lost sight of him in the down hill, so much that I wasn't sure I was on the right (white) loop anymore. It felt a bit long to go around the buildings/barracks but I knew we were trying to lot 2 miles before the big loops which were originally right on 25 miles when we were going under the Golden Gate bridge, but now reduced.

Before you get too confused with the confusing course, let's do a bit of course anatomy. After the initial white loop, we were following the yellow ribbons, the left side of the 8-shape course, first through Tennessee Valley, then Muir Beach. From Muir Beach, switching to the pink ribbons, starting with a new section reminding me of the start of Headlands 50K. Back again through Tennessee Valley then up to the SCA ridge, down to the Golden Gate Bridge aid station. From there, we then switch to the blue ribbons, retracing our footsteps on SCA, then taking left down to Rodeo Beach. That's one main loop. From there, we retrace the first loop in the other directions, blue, pink, yellow. Then change direction again, yellow, pink, blue. And one last time, anti-clockwise, blue, pink, yellow. Phew, now that's clear, right?

As for elevation, the following chart looks impressive but that's not even meters, only feet. When I ran 18:22 for the win in 2013, I even stated that everything is runnable. Well, now approaching 60, I'll admit this is aggressive, if not foolish... ;-) At least it's safe to say there isn't much flat (the longest is about a mile on the East side of Rodeo Beach).

After that digression, let's get back on... course, or track. And if the course configuration still doesn't make sense to you, watch the Relive fly-over (longer than usual as, after 10 years or so, I finally fell for the Relive Plus subscription which allows to edit 12+ hour runs...).

Despite the low light still after completing the initial 2.3-mile loop, Greg caught two shots of my passage through Rodeo Beach.

Martin was still leading as we climbed toward Wolf Ridge (notice I didn't say Coyote, only Wolf...) and I just caught up with him at the top.

Martin stated that I was better in the downhills, so let me pass, which allowed me to snap a couple of pictures, including one of him.

Carrying two bottles (water and GU2O, aka GU Energy Brew), I didn't stop at Tennessee Valley. I later learned from a special volunteer at this aid station, Agnès, that this was bad. Indeed, with runners coming and leaving from 4 directions, through 4 days and 3 nights, it got them nuts when runners weren't checking if the aid station staff got their passage. Anyway, at least Shiran Kochavi was quick enough to spot me as I flew by!

The sun was rising fast and, climbing Coastal Trail toward Pirates Cove, I recall thinking how cool it looked that we were running straight up the Moon, which is gaining so much popularity with the upcoming NASA trip.

I crossed the following 100-mile runners on my way back up from Stinson Beach. There were 5 of them running and chatting together, and I had built a lead of about a mile.

From sea level to 1,000 feet, this is the longest climb. Last year, I recall pushing a lot on that one, so I took it easier and power walked some. I got to Tennessee Valley after 2:27 of running and about 15 miles, which is typically the distance I refill my GU2O bottle at least. I was welcomed by Shiran again as well as Janeth and they asked what I wanted/needed. I replied "just my drop bag!" Oh shoot, with the later 50-mile start, drop bags hadn't been delivered yet from Rodeo. I had all my GU Energy gels in that bag and there were 26 miles before our next passage to Tennessee, that was going to be interesting... At least I still had a couple of gels left in my Ultimate Direction belt, as well as a Vespa concentrate (1 take one dose every 3 hours), plus one supply of GU2O; that will have to do.

As a matter of fact, with the cooler temperature at the start, I refilled the GU2O at Golden Gate Bridge and grabbed a whole banana.

Thanks to a short and efficient pit stop, my lead increased to about 2.2 miles when I crossed the pursuit group.

I also passed Chuck Amital who was on his 5th lap, on his way to his 150-mile win!

Stephen Strauss was doing Security Patrol all weekend as a prep for his upcoming Bear 100. At Rodeo, which I reached in 4:21 (26 miles), he offered 2 GU gels, which I gladly accepted! He even offered a pouch of Vespa but, that, I had one in my Victory Sportdesign drop bag. I squeezed it in my belt and out I was after 2 minutes.

I crossed the pursuit group again as I was retracing my way back on Bobcat Trail (note that I did not say Coyote Trail!). The lead was closer to 3 miles now or about 30 minutes as I was still averaging 10 minutes per mile. The volunteers were surprised to see me back already at Golden Gate Bridge and I didn't stop for too long which helped increase the lead to about 3.6 miles when I crossed the pursuit gang again on SCA. I still managed to snap a few pictures of the bridge and San Francisco in some fog, which I shared on WhatsApp with the family in France. They replied that the live tracking on wasn't working.

I was back at Tennessee Valley just after noon (6:24 of running, mile 38). This time my drop bag was there and I did pick a few gels as well as a ziplock of GU2O powder. And a Coke with a view pieces of watermelon I think. Look at this outstanding presentation from Janeth, you couldn't resist such an attractive all-you-can-eat buffet!

Then it was time to get back up on Miwok Trail. I love the Native American heritage of this reference to the Miwok tribes, and being carried by their spirit, but it was getting hotter and harder to run that tricky section. Poles might have helped but, before I knew it, I was running again up on... Coyote Ridge Trail. Note that I did mention Coyote now! By the way, that's where I crossed George Rehmet, current National RRCA President, who was running the marathon option:

This time, after a quick stop at Stinson Beach for some ice in my bottles and hat, I climbed up toward Pirates Cove Trail without crossing the pursuit squad and ran most of the 4 miles back to Tennessee Valley. I rarely run with my phone in the Headlands which I mostly visit for races (Miwok, Tamalpa 50K, Quad Dispsea, Headlands Hundred), this time I couldn't resist stopping to take a few shots in order to share these outstanding views with you. When pictures are worth more than a thousand words... It also gives some some scale of the area we are going through, along the Pacific. If you look closely, you'll also see in the background the steep trail coming up the bottom of Pirate Cove, one of the hardest section on this course, actually in either direction (both a tricky descent and tough climb).

I reached the station at 2:15 pm and met Agnès who was volunteering on the 2-10 pm shift. She made some mashed potatoes which I took with me on the next climb on Old Springs Trail. It was too hard to jog while eating so I enjoyed a slow walk for the next mile. Notice the cut corner of the Ziplock, which allowed me to squeeze the mashed potatoes through. First time I try that and it was a hit!

After some running on the short section of Miwok Trail, more power walking on the short (0.7 mile) but brutally steep Wolf Ridge Trail. I remained super careful in the irregular stairs of Coastal Trail then reached out Rodeo Beach again in about 9 hours and 12 minutes (~4:51 for loop 2).

I drank some chicken broth from an insulated bottle I had in my drop bag, got some ice in my bottles and quickly returned on the steep Coastal Trail. Also took a Vespa Concentrate that Vespa athlete and Club teammate, Bree, captured in this picture.

As a way to relax, I also took a few pictures on the climb back up Coastal Trail, now retracing the outbound yellow section for the second time. Views of Rodeo Beach, then the easy part of the stairs.

I crossed over Wolf Ridge and flew down on the other side, crossing Jacob Huston now chasing me alone. That was at least a 4-mile lead, some cushioning but he looked in good spirits and ready for a good fight. This time, back at Tennessee Valley, I skipped the mashed potatoes and, thanks to an efficient refill from Agnès and William (Dai), didn't lost much time before going back on Tennessee Valley Trail. With less pressure on my shoulders I did walk more sections of the Coastal Trail climb toward Pirates Cove, and descended in the cove, balancing speed and caution, to avoid a bad fall.

Nothing worth mentioning in my journey back to Tennessee Valley, but the increasing heat on these exposed trails. There was some breeze but I've never experienced such a heat on these trails overlooking the Ocean. Crossing Charles after Pirates Cove:

Another view of Muir Beach, now at 5:20 pm.

The heat led to more power walking and stopping for pictures. Look at this other gorgeous view over Sausalito.

I was really happy to see Agnès for the third time at Tennessee Valley around 6:10 pm. (Both photo credits to Shiran.)

With an average pace now closer to 11:15, and 26 miles before I return again, I told her she would probably have left by then. I took another cup of mashed potatoes in a ziplock, on my way up Marincello Trail. I like jogging this long and steady gradual up hill so I only ate half of the bag to keep moving. Because we had to have a headlamp by 6 pm, I had taken my Petzl at Tennessee although the sun was still quite high. I even recall being dazzled by the sun on my way back on SCA after coming back from Golden Gate Bridge. That's where I crossed Jacob whom I pointed at about 3.6 miles. I had experienced a loss of energy on the descent to Golden Gate Bridge, which explained the decrease, but was feeling much better now. So much that I pushed the pace on the way down to Rodeo, while still managing to eat the second half of my mashed potatoes ziplock. I noticed Jacob looked to have a pacer now, so I'd better keep moving!

I arrived at Rodeo Beach just before 8:30 pm (5:18 for lap 3), and without the need to use my headlamp. I was ready to just touch and go, or maybe just get some of my prepared chicken broth, feeling so ready to kill lap 4 when Mark Gilligan (founder and ex-owner of UltraSignup) told me I could stop my watch. Knowing Mark, I was convinced he was just teasing me but eventually, I saw the Ranger chatting with Greg and Greg confirming that the race was interrupted, suspended until 7 am on Sunday morning. If I learnt anything from 16 years racing ultras is that you don't argue with RDs, and even less so with Rangers. I still asked Mark what was the reason and it came back to a post I had seen on Friday, without realizing it was from a runner on the 150-mile race. That viral post was showing Dean Karnazes' face bleeding, with Dean mentioning he had just been attacked by a coyote coming after an energy bar he was eating. And that, like Saint Michael taming the dragon, he was able to fend the coyote off with his running poles. Pretty epic, right? From interviews to interviews, the news got amplified, spinning around the world, with Dean even adding he got so scared, he peed his shorts. Certainly, after that, it was easy for the Rangers to imagine an enraged coyote in the SCA area, which now presented unsafe conditions for the runners, although that was on Thursday night and it was now Saturday night (not live...).

I didn't make too much fuss about it, I was just disappointed the Rangers wouldn't even allow us to sleep in our cars. Agnès arrived shortly after I got in, she had driven two runners out of Tennessee Valley after the race got suspended. We drove back home (55 miles) in two cars, her following me on the highway to make sure I wasn't falling asleep. For one thing, it was so entertaining seeing the moon rise when we reached Paolo Alto, I wasn't going to miss this! Not only it's hard to take pictures while driving, but the picture doesn't do justice to the impressive size of the raising moon on he horizon.

The time to unpack and prepare for the next day, then get an hour of massage in my Normatec boots, I got to bed after midnight and slept for about 3 hours to get a new breakfast in, 3 hours before the new start (7am) and drive back up to Rodeo Beach on my own. All runners were supposed to resume running at 7 am, from the spot (respective aid station) they had been stopped on Saturday evening. At Rodeo Beach, it was only Jacob and I on Sunday morning. 2 minutes before the start, I asked Jacob when he got in, he said 9:30 pm, which showed that I had gained about 20 minutes over his last 6 miles the day before, for a total of a 60-minute lead.

By the time Greg sent us out at 7 am, Jacob still had 3 layers on and a cup of coffee in his hands, so I started alone. A few hundreds yards later, Jacob had caught up and actually passed me, after telling me he wasn't going to chase me on that last loop. By mile 3 (now 79), his lead had increased to about 2.5 minutes, then I lost sight of him in the fog bathing the ridge and SCA. It didn't help that I stopped to try to capture the grandeur of the sun piercing through the fog, on the ridge.

I kept pushing the pace on my way down to the Golden Gate Bride aid station, trying to minimize the gap at least. Just after crossing Conzelman Road, near the area Dean fell (see more on this later), Martin and I exchanged a high five, we were both on the move! To my surprise, I caught Jacob in the next switch back, just before the station, which we left together after a quick stop. Jacob mentioned he had stopped to chat with Martin. Martin seems so focused, I doubt he had stopped for a long time. I did pass Jacob and, despite a good effort, we never caught up with Martin, before he went down toward Rodeo to finish his 3rd loop, while we went down toward Tennessee Valley. Jacob was taking the lead in the uphills, and I was in the downhills. Just before Tennessee, I stopped to finally take a picture of this inspiring lady, 6-month pregnant who, instead of running the 150-miler she had initially registered to, was running the 100-mile over 4 days, 25 miles each day. She is also the person that Dean talks about in his podcast below, who also encountered a coyote, although, her not making a drama about it, just got rid of the coyote by just agitating the ribbons she was carrying to help mark the course on Thursday, and raising her voice. An extraordinary runner for covering such a distance while carrying a baby, but a normal runner from the coyote encounter.

With two bottles, I didn't stop at Tennessee though and built a good lead on Jacob in the next 4 miles to Muir Beach. He arrived at the station at the time I was leaving and I could see him a quarter to half a mile back on the Pirates Cove trail. I even stopped to capture more views of the treacherous trail in Pirates Cove.

I then pushed the pace in the downhill to Tennessee Valley Trail but lost some time alternating walking and jogging in the gentle uphill back to the station. Without a drop bag and a crew on that second day, I briefly stopped at the aid station to get some ice in my water bottle and hat, now served by our team captain, Coach Marc, who spent his Sunday helping out at the station.

Without having to ingest mashed potatoes this time, I jogged a good part of Old Springs Trail and even some of the insanely steep Wolfe Ridge Trail. But, catching Eldrith who was finishing her 50-mile, I could not resist to stop to spend some time with her, snapping a few selfies and teasing her for the 122-year age profile on UltraSignup. Apparently, running and completing such hilly ultras at 81 isn't enough of a fame for her, let's go with 122! Of course, she had no idea about what I was talking about, this way to discreetly and humbly hide her age wasn't deliberate! Like Jim Magill or Roy Pirrung, she is one of these models who make us say: "when I grow up, I want to be like..."

With that social encounter, I completely missed the fact that Jacob had closed the gap, literally didn't see that coming. We finished the climb together as well as the subsequent downhill on the short paves section but I let him go as we approached these tricky stairs where I do fear on the way down (one of the reasons I can't compete anymore in the Alps). I kept pushing on the way down to Rodeo Beach and could see Jacob crossing the finish line. Checking on my Garmin, I realized I could still make it under 19 hours, way under my wildest dream of breaking 20 hours this time (4th loop in 4:28). Speaking of time, I'm still astonished with the difference between my Garmin watch giving a total elapsed time of 18:58:01 and Strava giving a moving time of 18:00. I didn't feel like stopping much at aid stations but going through them 20 times do add up: an average of 3 minutes each.

Now, two weeks later, I'm still unsure about what just happened. On one hand, the pure joy of having met more goals than I had even dreamt about for this edition. Finishing/not DNFing: checked and checked. Winning my age group: checked. Breaking 24 hours: checked. Breaking 20 hours: checked. While I ran 18:22 and won in 2013, even discounting the aging part, I'm still painfully coming back from that 2018 injury. Checking all these boxes at once was certainly a big success in my books and pure joy right after finishing.

I had told Jennifer that I would run for and thinking of her this time, you can see her communicative joy as well on this picture.

On the other end, I didn't see all the detractors coming. I had seen that Instagram video of Dean Karnazes circulating on Facebook on Friday but hadn't even realized he was running in the Headlands, and much less at that event, on the 150-mile. I'll come back on that below. As the Chair of our Pacific Association USATF MUT committee, I had to deal with the question about scoring. While there was only a small contingent of PA members enlisted on the 100-mile, most of them were counting on the generous 33-hour time limit for the 6am start. As a matter of fact, some actually took advantage of the Friday 8pm early start, giving them 43 hours to cover the distance. Now, with the Saturday evening interruption, some were just half way after 13 or 14 hours. With the new 7am-7pm window allowed by the Rangers on Sunday, some decided it wasn't worth coming back on Sunday to see how far they could go; others might have had other plans for their Sunday afternoon as well. Bottom line, not counting other participants who had started on Friday evening, only three PA members made it to the 100-mile finish by Sunday evening: William, Charles and I, spanning two PA clubs, Pamakids and Quicksilver respectively. That easily addressed the question of team scoring: no clubs (teams of 3) getting to the finish given the circumstances, no team scoring. Regarding the individual scoring though, I have to admit I was blown away by non PA runners even complaining about unfair it would be to publish results for a 100-mile race ran over 2 days. That it should be called a multi-stage race with the 10-hour or so interruption mandated by the Rangers to the Race Director. That it was unfair vis-à-vis other runners having ran real 100-mile races elsewhere. Like you can compare two 100-mile races ran on completely different hilly courses, or in different weathers, at different elevations. Like there was even something important at stake, like prize money or a global ranking. Well, if you even discount the first reason we run ultras for the personal challenge and joy of testing our limits in the outdoors, committing to the Grand Prix is certainly important for some, worth a few hundreds dollars. And then there is the consideration for the Race Directors, or lack thereof, who had to scramble to preserve the value of the runners' investment given the changing directions and instructions. All this thanks to one man's action...

<rant> (warning: beginning of quite a rant section, in HTML markup language...)

As I mentioned above, it has been 2 weeks and the dust hasn't even finished to settle. Earlier this Saturday, as I was coming back at this post and doing more research on the topic, when I got into this recent podcast from UltraRunning Magazine yesterday, which looked to finally get the truth out. After all, as opposed to the community and amateurs blogging, you can expect some good journalism from an established and specialized magazine, right? Well, forgive me for being either naive or negative, but I'm not just disappointed but shocked by the content. While I was really eager to hear about the real story after so many different versions spinning from direct sources of information delivered by Dean, I couldn't help noticing even more contradictions, for instance:

  1. Dean's multiple use of the words "highly groomed" and "wide" to describe the area of the so-called attack. For anyone who has run this course, you know how narrow the switch back is between the road and the aid station, plus the irregular stairs at both ends, not to mention the tricky roots just before and after the station, especially under the trees at 3 am.
  2. Just before that it was Dean boasting that this was the first edition of this 150-mile race. Well, while it's irrelevant to that story, that's not true, there was one last year. Maybe Dean didn't know, although he most likely knew since he is so familiar with the area and this race in particular. Again, not helping in a segment which is meant to be factual and... finally truthful.
  3. Then we hear about "face cut open". Sure, nobody can deny the bleeding in the video but, less than 2 weeks later, no trace? Or maybe it was just a bruise (indeed, any bruise on the face can get quite bloody)? No need for stitches?
  4. What about Dean denigrating coyote specialists by wondering if they even have experience of trails. How a specialist of coyotes can even be a specialist if they stay in the city or roads. So, yes, if you are a specialist of these wild animals, then
  5. After hearing Dean depict the coyote "healthy looking" and well fed, he mocks the Rangers for asking him if he saw a tag, arguing it went too fast, he couldn't see anything in the dark. Given the close encounter at 3 am, certainly can't blame for not seeing much, but why being specific on certain aspects, then denigrate the Rangers for asking? If you didn't see a thing because if was dark and so quick/short --I'm surprised I haven't heard if there was fog that night, or a clear sky with the full moon-- just admit it!
  6. I had to rewind quite a few times to try to make sense of the account at 6 minute, then another account at 11, after Scotty asked again "but what really happened?" In 5 minutes in a single podcast, I feel the story event changed. In the first round, "I heard quick foot steps behind me and thought it was a dog" (doesn't matter this is the noisiest part of the course, above 101), and "I got slammed to the ground because I wanted to get out of the way". Then "the thing was in front of me, I used my hiking poles and it was gone" (I have to assume the it refers to the beast here, not the cereal bar). And more "I got slammed to the deck, hurt my rib, cut my face" while "I was shuffling along, chewing and holding a bar."After this first round it's hard to understand how the coyote moved from being behind to in front of Dean shuffling then falling flat on his face. The second round at 11 is more picturesque and contains more action. Now we have "it was freaky, it went for the food", "the coyote lunging, it hit me, it bounced off me." Now, yes, that's really getting freaky. In the initial Instagram we had "I got attacked by a coyote, it's a first, it knocked me down, I was running with poles so I whacked it and it run away." Should we remind the audience how muscular Dean is? All this would leave Sherlock Holmes quite perplex I'm afraid...
  7. As for the shark attack, come on! So, one day, Dean was spearfishing in the Keys in Florida and a shark stole the fish he just got caught. And he is calling this an attack? Close to an area sharks do attack surfers so badly, and he dares to describe such encounters to attacks, when this one looks like an unfortunate fall with no trace of cuts 2 weeks later. Sorry, still not buying it. Not saying he hasn't been surprised by a coyote right after the switch back, maybe even tripping in the poles he was holding while his other hand was holding the bar, all that in a blink of an eye. But, if you turned because you heard a coyote walking on a trail (I've hard time believing coyotes make noise with their pawns on dirt tails when hunting), then turn around to face it, then how do you fall flat on your face when you want to get out of the way. More questions and inconsistencies for Sherlock...
  8. Last but not least, before I could keep going with more observations, how smart to conclude with "look, there are only two people knowing the truth: Dean and the coyote." With that, I certainly feel completely screwed because, as far as I know, a coyote isn't a person that we can interview so we are now down to only one person. And yet, we would love to hear about the real, raw, unedited, non manipulated and embellished truth. Eventually...

Of course, when it starts with "Dean Karnazes, arguably one of the ultra running most accomplished runners", you know the journalist isn't biased. Sure, Dean enjoys an amazing fame built upon outstanding and super well marketed accomplishments, but after looking at the duel between Kilian Jornet and Jim Walmsley to only take two runners of an exceptional UTMB edition last night, or ultra running queens like Ann Trason, Camille Herron or Courtney Dauwalter, there are quite different levels at play here in terms of ultra running accomplishments. Besides, while we can fall for Dean's ability to make ultra running more extraordinary and intriguing to a large audience with his books and interviews, I'm pretty sure many others in our community wouldn't use "genuine and authentic" to describe Dean and the accounts of his achievements and adventures.

Editing this post to add a link to the Park Rangers' statement on Twitter, the following Wednesday, after their own official investigation of the events:

"While we appreciate the coverage on this, we want to emphasize that the injuries shown were caused by a fall. The coyote did not bite the individual involved in this encounter."

I get it, it's not popular to question popular people with such a huge international audience but, after hearing from other supporters of Dean's multiple versions of that story, it feels a bit like a cult. And I feel it's important to voice concerns about how some people leverage a skill to distort reality to their advantage. It's everywhere these days, I do fight this at work on a daily basis and of course we all on social media as well. I know I'm screwed because I still want to believe in the value of raw truth, we all have a weakness... And screwed because this divisive event undermines and damaged our ideal of a supportive ultra community.

Sadly, in this case, it would have been anyone else than Dean tripping while surprised by a coyote, the race would have most likely just proceeded without any complication. What a waste of time, money and energy this generated, all that for some additional fame for one person!

</rant> (end rant)

So, what this leaves us with? So much bitterness across this year's Headlands Hundred edition, and confusion. Complications for the event organizers. And division within our ultra running community. Discord between those who managed to finish on Sunday and those who claim it's unfair because they didn't have enough time with the reduced time limit, that they didn't even dare to come back on Sunday.

Has anything like this happened before? I pinged quite a few people but couldn't find anything exactly matching that situation. In 2013, Miwok got shorten at the last minute from 100K to 60K because of fire risk, but the decision was made the day before. In 2021, at Silver State 50-mile, some runners were stopped for 20 minutes at aid stations because of risk of lightning in some exposed section, but the rest of the field did proceed. A few years ago, the UTMB course got swallowed by sim mud slide and the organizers re-routed the runners and shortened the course. Last year, a runner died during the TDS (Tour des Ducs de Savoie) and the Race Directors decided that those ahead could finish their race, while those behind had to stop. This looks the closest to our case here. Actually, the same thing happened to be at a Marathon National in France where they had to send the police to enforce the decision by the Race Directors to let the front of the pack finished the race while calling the race off because of the heat, for most of the field (I was lucky to made that cut-off again, but no written account as it was in June 2005, 2 years before I started blogging). Despite consulting with ultra historians, I'm sure there must be more cases like that. The only rule which remains common among all these cases is that Race Directors do rule, and they have to comply with higher governing and official agencies.

I'm so bitter about the spoiled opportunity to celebrate another alignment of stars, finally after almost 4 years of penitence since I fissured this hamstring tendon in November 2018. I was going so strong at the end of lap 3, I'm convinced I was going to at least break 20 hours. I might have not hold the 1-hour lead over Jacob who had the support of a pacer, but that would have made an entertaining last lap at least. But I'm even more bummed that the incident did cost our Club a Men win and potentially a win for this season. And bummed for the other PA members who had committed on that key race, despite other odds. And bummed for Greg, Jennifer and the whole PCTR gang for such negative outcome. Grateful to them for allowing runners to finish their race in an open format until October but, of course, such a different flavor and taste.

I admire Greg's resilience in such adversity. He was so upbeat to celebrate our finish and podium, look at all this beer! ;-)

I can't resist including an image of another podium of that weekend, in France. Apart from the failed backdrop --you can't beat Rodeo Beach for that-- spot the 6-pak of mineral water. Ok, time for me to confess that I do prefer water over beer as a matter of fact... I know I don't fit with some ultra circles on this... ;-)

And look at who joined PCTR as a business partner, Chef Yaku! Under his big wing, there is no coyote to fear! ;-)

What a family PCTR has been and is for our local ultra and trail running community!

For more prosaic lessons learned, at least for my own records, nutrition worked very well thanks to a consistent taking of Vespa every 3 hours, as well as a new addition on Saturday afternoon: mashed potatoes. Reading about Jeff Browning's OFM and Vespa experience at his amazing Hard Rock (5th overall at 50), I increased the intake of carb calories a bit (Coke and GU Energy gels). I also drank quite consistently, close to my 2 bottles/15 mile (one with water, one with GU Energy Brew). It was a warm edition and I enjoyed ice in my bottles and hat throughout Saturday, and even on Sunday morning. Unusual for a run along the Pacific Coast. For one thing, there was less fog than usual, maybe another sign of global warming... :-( Despite all the sweating, no major cramps thanks to a consistent taking of Succeed's S!Caps. Actually, a couple of times during the run I could feel cramps coming in laps 3 and 4 but I used my new technique of hyper ventilation and that did the trick! Overall, the only glitch I experienced is a sun burn on my forehead, and my lips.

I'm so grateful for the support of aid station volunteers through Saturday and Sunday, what a dedication to support such an event spanning more than 3 days, and nights! And for Agnès' presence at Tennessee from 2 to 8 pm on Saturday, helping out between the 6 minutes of crewing across my 3 passages. Here is Tennessee Valley Aid Station Captain over the weekend, David Thomas, with his Saturday crew:

I'll write more on this in another post but, and while not sponsored by Brooks anymore, I am blown away by both the bouncing comfort and the grip of the Caldera. I had used the original models, this time I went with last year's version 5 which I got on sale just before the race. I can't wait to try the model 6 which advertises an even more bouncy nitrogen-infused sole. While Hoka has pretty much bought all the major ultra events and elites, this is quite a response from Brooks. Worth considering.

Beyond a perfect race, it was so good not to feel a pain around this hamstring attach this time, that pain which got me to drop last year while I was leading after the first loop. I took the following Monday off to recover then ran 85K for the rest of the week. And this past week, another 100K, even going back to the track on Saturday for some speed work and sub-6 miles. Finally! Indeed, so much work to regain all I lost the past 3.5 years, while it's remains critical not to go too fast. For 20 years, I used to take being injury-free for granted, but I now know potential injuries are just around the corner, ready to show up on every mistake you can make. And, with age, they become even nastier and harder to fix. For instance, this week, I took Thursday off because I could feel something off in my knee (actually something which started bothering me back in June). I used to be in the camp of those proudly saying that "age is just a number" but I'm more careful now. Maybe even a little be wiser? I can only hope...

Again, sorry for the rant, I had to take that off my chest, I couldn't remain silent and passive about this notable episode for our ultra running community. Dean is the guy anyway, the only ultramarathon man, he can keep controlling the narrative and the noise he created, to his own benefit and advantage. Our ultra running sport is in constant evolution, we'll see what we all make of this experience.

Back to the title, I'm really pleased how my glutes behave throughout the race, you certainly need some to handle this hilly course. And it was also a good test for our guts, how we all handled adversity throughout a long weekend. To the next ultra test!

Finally, for those who read that far, here is the promised enhanced flyover, a whole blog post concentrated in 3:30 video, without the rant at least... (click on image below, or this link)

And a few bonus pictures...

We got a Victory Sportdesign Cougar II this time, why did some make a big fuss about coyotes...?;-)