Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year Ahead

I'm making a list, checking it twice..a mix of naughty (& nice) races for 2012. I missed lottery season entirely. I want to take the first half of the year easy, with a 20K or 30K every month, trying to get faster and still have fun. In the second half--I'm eyeing some longer "away" races, like White River 50 or Where's Waldo 100K, or in my ambitious hours, Angeles Crest 100 Mile!

Races I'm not entering
Way Too Cool 50K? I've done it. I didn't think the course was that scenic.

Lake Sonoma 50 Mile on April 14--a beautiful course in a new area. However, my friend John is getting married this weekend. I just realized his wedding is on Monday, the race on Saturday, and maybe, if I didn't mind limping around the dance floor, I could do both. But registration is closed.

Miwok 100K? I did love this race. However, I thought I should give my lottery space to someone who wanted it more than me. I also just saw that the start/finish moved from Rodeo Beach to Stinson Beach, a very significant move. The course will have to add the climb/descent from Stinson to the ridge. And then somewhere else will have to be cut 5 (?) miles to make up the distance. Glad I didn't enter, and interested to see the new course.

Western States 100. Sigh. I thought my Comrades time of 11:28 qualified me. Unfortunately, I actually had to meet the "50 mile" time of 11 hours, even though Comrades is 54 miles.

Races I might enter
Pacifica 20K (maybe 30K) 1/22
Golden Gate (2/11)
Pirates Cove 30K (3/18). I'd love to get under 3:30.
Ohlone 50K (5/20) I did terrible there two years ago. Could I do better? Or will I get my toenails handed to me again?
Skyline to the Sea 50K (6/10) A good race to attempt to PR below 6:30.

Fantasy Races
Angeles Crest 100 7/21
White River 50 7/28
Where's Waldo 8/18
Dick Collins Firetrails 10/8
North Face 50 !

A big unknown is the current brouhaha with Pacific Crest Trail Runs. I've run many of their events and greatly enjoyed them. However, lately they've canceled five events (SF One Day, Santa Cruz Mountains, Montana de Oro, Redwood Park, Stinson Beach). I understand life happens, but if I'm going to plan for a race, I'd like it to happen! A new organization Inside Trail just showed up, promising beautiful Bay Area trail runs. I eagerly looked at their calendar, thinking they'd have some new options on alternate weekends and new locations. Funnily, all of their races are in the same locations and same dates as the PCTR schedule. Huh. Are two races being run by two different companies? Does Inside Trail know something we don't? Honestly, the more races the better, but it seems a little predatory for them to poach the same locations and dates. Also, the schedule seems very ambitious for a brand new company.

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 in review

In review, I am pretty darn proud of my 2011 racing season. I entered three big races (Miwok 100k, Comrades, JFK 50), and finished all three. Along the way, I also finished two marathons, three 50Ks, a relay race (with double laps), and a few submarathon trail races.

Miwok 100K. I got in the lottery (I was #201 in the waitlist the year before), and I'd already entered Comrades, which was three weeks after, with Comrades the priority as I was traveiling to South Africa. I briefly thought about dropping Miwok to focus on Miwok, but Greg said "you can do it". I decided if it was good enough for Ann Trason, it was good enough for me.

I trained obsessively for Miwok 100k, as it was local, trying to know every inch & cranny of the trail. About a month before the race, they basically flipped the course. I trained as best I could, but still got lost on the last three miles. Still, FINISHED!!! my first 100K race, still my longest race!

Comrades Marathon. I honestly could not be happier about getting to participate in this race, and place it #1 in all the races in the last five years. So much history, so much scenery, so much…pride. I am so proud I finished this race, and so happy my family contributed to me getting to the start line through their love & support.

JFK 50 Miles. I didn't think I was going to finish. I was injured. I psyched myself out numerous times leading up to the start line. Once I started running, it felt so natural. I credit the camaraderie, not wanting to drop in front of my parents, and some residual course knowledge from biking the C & O Canal for finishing in 11:07. My biggest regret is not pushing harder to get under 11 hours to qualify for Western States. Honestly, I didn't want my parents to see me when I was pushing hard. I know I'm a snotty, sweaty, incoherent mess when I'm pushing for a finish. My mom has been skeptical of ultras, and I didn't want her to see me in a messy, unable to walk state. Still don't know the right answer. I finished the race with a smile on my face, and walked 3 miles the next day. What if I'd pushed harder? What if my parents had seen me a mess at the finish? Would they still be supportive of me running? All unanswerable questions.

Other races:…

Redwood Park 50K: cold day, glad I edged out Mike Weston (for the only time this year!)

Pirates Cove 30K: miserable day, glad I dropped to 30K

St Louis Marathon: My Aunt Carol was an angel from heaven.. thanks!!!

Headlands Marathon: not my best day but pleased with my time (5:48) on tough course

Headland 100: DNF, dropped at 50. I had fun training, but just wasn't my day to run this race.

Sequoia 30K: Got significantly lost, at least was "dirtiest runner".

Ragnar Relay: picked up double legs, ran 17 miles through the night, discovered Glen Ellen.

Coastal 50K: didn't feel great, never saw the sun, still finished.

North Face 50K: PR!!! at North Face 50K course by two hours. Had fun

Monday, December 19, 2011

Unbreakable Movie Review

Saturday, December 17th was a day full of my favorite things. A beautiful clear day when I ran down from Twin Peaks to brunch (two miles, downhill!!). Brunch at Luna Park eating breakfast tacos. Wrote holiday cards (penguin photo from Comrades) to my extended family. Hiked with Greg in the Presidio. Cooked turbot & roasted brussel sprouts for dinner. And...saw "Unbreakable" the new Western States documentary.

The screening was fund-raiser at the Variety Theater in downtown San Francisco. I didn't know there was a screening room tucked in there! The theater sat around 75? people, and it was a sell-out. The tickets were $25, with part of the money going to charity. Most of the crowd was from the Golden Gate Tri club. I thought I would know more people then I did. I ended up sitting next to Rick Gaston which gave me a slight inferiority complex. I was sitting next to a two time Western States finisher! However, it was also very cool to sit next to Rick. When Greg & I were whispering about the Rucky Chucky raft crossing, Rick leaned in to tell us "the water was neck high that year!"

The movie gave a great overview of Western States and the top 4 male contenders in 2010. With in-depth interviews of Killian Jornet, Geoff Roes, Hal Koerner & Anton Krupnicka in their hometowns, pre-race, and post-race, the movie paints a picture of "the big dance". For me, to see Geoff Roes, a "big time elite" camping out and cooking over a camp stove, I was reminded how self-funded ultra racers really are. The movie also screened at Sports Basement the night before North Face 50 Mile, Geoff & Coach Ken were sharing a Marin hostel room & Coach Ken ended up in the elite shot!

The most impressive parts were the in-race footage. JB Benna (the director) ran on the course with a camera. I loved the part where the runners said "Killian looked back at the top of the Escarpment, waiting for companions". Then there's a shot of Killian, looking back, wanting a running buddy to run with! Later in the race, Anton described "Killian leapt up on the side of the trail and passed us" Anton's description didn't capture how Killian bounded like a goat, out of sight in a minute!

I also enjoyed the interviews with Gordy Ansleigh about how he started the race when his horse came up lame for the original, horse Western States.

The movie, however, doesn't show the physical & mental drama at the middle or back of the pack, or the women's race. Jenn Shelton, an awesome runner, is relegated to "Anton's pacer". The only two women finishers shown are Tracy Garneau (first) and Carly, Hal's fiancee. I appreciate the movie's focus at "the top male contenders", but for a fuller focus of the human effort of Western States, see "Race for the Soul". [Rick pointed out I missed a cameo from Carol at an aid station ]

Overall, if you're interested in Western States (or ultras), the movie is a fun watch, with exciting race footage. Even knowing who the winner is didn't detract from my enjoyment in seeing the race unfold.

Jorge, another Endurable, and Rick answered questions afterwards. I also thanked John, the host, for putting on such a great event. He recognized me! as he was at the 30 mile aid station at Headlands 100. Watching the movie made me feel like I have 100 miles in me. I didn't have it that day at Headlands, but I think I'll have it another day.

Monday, December 5, 2011

North Face 50K San Francisco

First, just the facts. 7:23 for 50K, a 2+ hour PR at the North Face 50K. I think the course was at least 2 miles shorter than when I ran it before, but I ran a smart race.

Smooth pace up Miwok, controlled descent into Tennessee Valley. When I'd walked to the start I'd seen the string of headlamps of the 50 milers climbing.

Picked up the pace down to Coastal Trail. Ran gently on Pirates Cove, strong into Muir Beach. After three runs on this route (Headlands Marathon, Headlands 50 Mile, and Coastal 50K) spent entirely in a fog bank, I enjoyed seeing the spectacular California coastline. I flew past two women who'd passed me on the uphill climb. Didn't spend too long at aid station.

Muir Beach to Heather Cutoff, and a quick porta potty break. Multiple people passed me on Heather Cutoff "ant hill" switchbacks, including one women who tried to get around me right at the only mud puddle on the whole course. I stepped square in it, soaking my left foot and dirtying my right. I tried to take it as a postive, that on a hot day my foot would be cooler. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry to jog up Coast View, I wanted to soak in the views and conserve my strength.

Cardiac to Old Inn. Not going in all the way to Pan Toll shaved ~1.5 miles off the old course. I loved Ben Johnson, and pushed it to the red line, passing back again the same two women. I was flying! I loved it. Then the pop of Lost, just as steep as I remembered. I stayed strong around the Tourist Club, resisting the urge for a brat & saurekraut, then tried to gun down the road to Old Inn. Old Inn was an 80s theme.

Old Inn to Muir Beach. The climb up Dipsea seemed far steeper and longer than I recalled, but at least it was mud free. At the top, I passed ~7 people, then flatted out at Redwood Trail Suddenly, I didn't have the hammer I wanted. "Just keep running, I don't have to be fast, I just have to keep running".

Muir Beach to Tennessee Valley. I was so thirsty, and the climb seemed endless. I wanted to curl up on the side of the trail and look at the waves, not labor to climb 1,000 feet to Coyote Ridge. EVERYONE seemed to pass me. I sucked on my water bottle and told myself just to keep moving. At the top of Coyote, three fifty milers passed me. I saw the descent ahead of me, and I DROPPED THE HAMMER, with ~ 8 minutes for 1.2 miles. Then I trudged up TV road, telling myself how many times I'd done this in training, and I couldn't walk.

TV to Alta. Most welcome of all, Greg & Karen were at TV!!! I refilled my Gatorade, and Greg walked me about 4 minutes up the hill. After Greg turned back, an out of town runner asked what he was seeing, and I gave him a brief audio tour.

"Across the Bay, that peninsula is Tiburon, a very wealthy community. Over there is the San Rafael bridge. Just below it is San Quentin Prison, where Death Row is. Probably over a billion in land value there, but it's occupied by a prison. You see, over there, that mountain peeking up? That's Mt Diablo, where other races are held, and you can look across and see Marin. The road we're walking up now, was built when this whole area was going to be a subdivision in the 60s.. They were going to build thousands of houses here, and supermarkets and churches. It would have looked like Daly City. Luckily, this was Marin, and after massive protests, the development didn't happen, except for this fire road. So we owe this scenic beauty to some 60s hippies."

"That tree right there is the top of Marincello (the failed development) fire road. This concludes the audio portion of your tour, please begin your planned descent".

Alta to Rodeo Valley. I didn't have the hammer, but I had the will to finish. I saw Nate Yanko, then ran across the finish line, spiked my water bottle at the end, saying "All Day". Karen claimed first hug, and Greg poured water over me til I felt less overheated. I caught up with Jim on course geekery.

Things I did well:
Even when hit bad patches, kept moving.
Electrolytes every 30 minutes.
Dressed appropriately--short sleeves, compression socks.

Things I did not well:
Got overheated at end. Probably should have dumped water on myself at Alta.

Friday, December 2, 2011

North Face Endurance Challenge, Course Preview

The fifth running of the North Face Endurance Challenge is tomorrow! I've run it the past four years, moving from the 50K distance in '07 to fifty miles in '08, '08, and '10. The course has had modifications every year, but the most dramatic have come this year. The 50 mile course last year felt long (~53 miles), and this course feels shorter at 51.2 miles (by NFEC). I predict a course record. Here's Jim Vernon of the Endurables awesome flyover of the 2009 course.

Hostel>Alta Water Stop> TV> Muir Beach look identical to prior years. However, before this was 13.1 elapsed distance, now 12.7. I think they moved the aid station at Muir Beach.

Mile 12.7 to Cardiac 18. Last year the aid station was at Bootjack (mile 18.9) in guide. I thought they hadn't wheeled it all the way up to Bootjack and the course was actually 20 miles to here. So definitely .9 mile shorter.

Cardiac 18 to McKennan Gulch (22.8). Again, I didn't think they'd wheeled the distance from Bootjack back to PanToll last year, and the official distance of 23.6 last year was short.

McKennan Gulch to Stinson Beach. Last year labeled as 4.7. This year labeled as 5.4. I think the 5.4 is more accurate.

Stinson Beach to Cardiac (formerly Bootjack). Last year 3.4. This year 3.7. Cardiac is 3/4 closer than Bootjack. Again, I think last year was never properly wheeled.

Cardiac to Old Inn. last year 5.6, this year 6.0 I ALWAYS thought this one of the toughest sections. Bootjack trail was super technical, and Lost Trail climb can seem endless. Bootjack is being reconstructed, so the trail is rerouted on Ben Johnson, a smoother, less technical trail. Distance is probably accurate now.

Old Inn to Muir Beach. last year 3.3, this year 3.7. I think the aid station must have moved to make up the .4 distance.

Muir Beach to Tennessee Valley. last year 4, this year 2.9. A killer climb up Coyote Ridge. The route used to continue ALL the way up Coyote Ridge, then around on Miwok. Now it descends immediately on Fox Trail, cutting out ~200 feet and some technical descent on Miwok. Definitely faster.

Tennessee Valley to Alta Water stop. Last year 3.1, this year 3. Maybe this finally got wheeled?

Alta water stop to FINISH!!! Last year 2.7, this year 3. Either they wheeled this, or the finish line is in a different postion in Fort Barry.

Total 2011 official distance: 51.2
Total 2010 official distance: 50.4

In working through the numbers, I think the 2011 mileage might be fairly accurate. This makes 2010 at least 3 miles under-reported.
2 miles longer for using Bootjack rather than Cardiac
1.1 for using Miwok rather than Fox.

The weather Friday was unseasonably warm, with a sunny 73 degree day in San Francisco. It's supposed to cool off to the 60s tomorrow, but still warm for December. It also hasn't rained, and the trils should be less muddy than prior years. I still predict (easily) a course record from the changed course.