Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ruth Anderson 50K

Date : March 31, 2007
Location : Lake Merced, San Francisco, CA
Race : Ruth Anderson 50K
Time : 4:59:53

What an eventful day it turned out to be!

All week long my tight hamstrings had bothered me and I had flirted with the idea of running the 50K instead of 50 miles depending on how the race transpired.

Self-fulfilling prophecy!!

4:00 am
The alarm went off and I got out of bed. I had to be ready to leave my place by 5:00 a.m., at the latest, to pick up Anil from his place and then head to the race start. I reached his place at 5:10 a.m. We loaded my car with his stuff and a cooler that contained bottles of Ensure and Clip2 (he had made them the night before). We stopped on the way to the freeway to fill the cooler with ice.

We reached the start area just after 6:00 a.m. Got our bib numbers and spent the next 20 minutes socializing with Chihping Fu, Yuki Negoro, his wife Miho, Alan Geraldi and Ron Duncan.
More about them later.

We all walked to the start which was about half a mile away from the parking lot. John Burton, the co-RD with Amy Burton, gave us last minute instructions. The course was laps of a 4.45 mile loop around Lake Merced.

6:30 a.m.
We were off!

I got into a bunch of speedy runners right off the bat! Leanne McCulloch, Carol Cuminale and a couple of others who set a fast pace in the early miles.

After about 2 miles or so, just before the only aid station (other than the one at the Start/Finish), I sped up ahead of the others. Leanne, battling ITB the past few months, had come into the race with the intention of doing her first 100K. Anil Rao was also determined to achieve the same.

I reached the Start/Finish area after the first loop in 36 minutes. I sped through that aid station and reached the place where we had started the race from. That lap was 41 minutes. The second lap was pretty much similar to the first one - 41 minutes (82 minutes, 8.9 miles).

Then disaster struck! A mile and a half into the 3rd lap, I felt my right calf, just behind and below the knee, seize up. I had never ever had trouble with calf muscles during races and this was an unusual spot for me. The tightness was such that even walking was painful. I somehow managed to hobble along until the pain lessened a bit. I came to the mid-way aid station and asked them for a muscle relaxant. No luck. I decided to suck it up and reach the Start/Finish hoping that a relaxant would be available there.

They did not have any either. What they did have were Succeed Caps (salt tablets). I promptly ingested one, wondering if the tightness was caused partly by salt deficiency. This lap was slow (44 minutes; 126 minutes, 13.35 miles).

A mile into the 4th lap the pain had almost gone. It came back now and then but was pretty much off the horizon all the way to the end. I had decided by now to limit the race to a 50K. I did not want to jeopardize the American River 50M two weeks from now (April 14). Lap 4 was done in 41 minutes again (167 minutes, 17.80 miles)

Every 2 laps I was chugging down a bottle of Ensure. The first bottle went down easy and stayed down well. The 2nd one (after Lap 4) sloshed around in my stomach and caused problems. By now the sun was heating up the course and my breathing problems reared their ugly head. Lap 5 was the slowest - 47 minutes. 214 minutes for 22.25 miles if you are keeping count.

Lap 6 was much better. Mentally I knew that there was only one more lap to go. It was faster than the previous one, in 44 minutes again (258 minutes, 26.70 miles).

The last lap was bliss. I found renewed energy and the pace picked up. With about 0.5 miles to go, I realized that I had a slim chance of breaking 5 hours. I sped up. I flew past the aid station (the 50K finish was a quarter mile further up) and willed my body to a 4:59:53 finish! Mission accomplished!!! The timer at the finish called out my bib number (202) and my finish time - 4:59:53. I showed him my watch - it had the same time!

I hung around for another 45 minutes waiting for Anil. In the meantime I took pictures of the aid station and various runners coming through. Alan Geraldi finished 2nd (I believe) in 3:53 (!) while Ron Duncan ran a 4:08. Wow!!

Yuki, not yet fully recovered from last week's 4:57 in a hilly Pirates Cove 50K, ran 50 miles. Chihping went on to complete 100K as did Anil in 12:50!

Leanne was looking strong when I left and I hope she realized her dream of the 100K.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Team Asha 5K/10K

Date : March 18, 2007
Location : Shoreline Park, Mountain View, CA
Race : Team Asha 5K/10K
Time : 22:33

My first 5K in almost 3 years. What a difference lack of speedwork makes!

I have enjoyed myself the past couple of years running ultramarathons without worrying about time. I substituted speedwork and training runs at a particular pace with long runs done purely for the distance.

I showed up at the inaugural Team Asha 5K/10K run to demonstrate my support for their cause.

My plan was to run/walk with Anu and Sam in the 5K but decided to run the distance as a race almost at the last moment.

I met a whole lot of folks from 2005 and 2004, people I had coached during my stint as a Team Asha coach (4 years, from 2002-2005). It was fun reconnecting with them.

The race started at about 9:20 a.m. The first mile felt a bit uncomfortable. I had not warmed up but had spent time chatting with friends. Mile marker 1 came and went by in 6 minutes 15 seconds. I was the first person to split from the 10K runners so I knew that I was in first place at that time.

(Anthony overtakes me)

Just before the 2 mile marker (it took a long time in coming; I believe the 2 mile point was actually more like 2.1 miles), Anthony Vendhan overtook me. He looked strong while I was fading. 2.1 miles went by in 15 minutes.

(Jose and I battle in the last few steps)

The final stretch, with the Finish line visible straight ahead, was about 0.3 miles long. I could see Anthony powering up ahead. I continued to lay it all out on the line and was 4-5 paces from the Finish when a runner named Jose zoomed past me into 2nd place. What a race he must have run!

I finished in 22:33, a minute and 27 seconds slower than my 2003 5K PR of 21:06.

I was happy as I always am. Running is a gift and I am always happy to start and finish a run without injuries.

(The 5K trio above)

The race was a lot of fun. I hung around for the award ceremony (I got a $20 gift certificate from Sports Basement for my 3rd place finish).

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Way Too Cool 50K

Such is the hubris of the human mind:
I've done 160, what's a 50K?
On those trails the hubris was left behind
As the steep climbs and the heat had their say!
The first few miles went by in tearing speed,
As though this mind had to be somewhere soon!
Slow was the call to which it paid not heed.
'Twas like it was playing a different tune.
Half done but the speed was slowly fading;
Came the time to dig deep and summon grit.
And so it went those last miles of running:
Tired legs the mind having to outwit!
Every race has something to offer
That goes right into the knowledge coffer.

Date : March 10, 2007
Location : Cool, CA
Race : Way Too Cool 50K
Finish Time : 6:00:40.8

Friday, March 9
Anil and I decided to start from the Bay area at 7:15 p.m. in order to avoid getting stuck in traffic out of the Bay area and around Sacramento. It proved to be a good choice. We were in the hotel in Auburn by 9:45 p.m. We laid out all our stuff, filled our bottles with Clip2+Succeed and hit the sack. I was asleep by 10:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 10
We got up at 6 a.m. and hit the road by 7:05 a.m. after our usual breakfast of bagel with peanut butter and coffee. We found parking almost half a mile away from the start! It was chilly and I was shivering as we made our way to the Start area to pick up our bib numbers. We met Yuki, Nicole Whiting, Chuck Wilson and a bunch of other folks there.

(With Anil and Yuki before the start)

By the time we got back to the Start after walking to the car to put away our plastic bags, it was 7:50 a.m. The race started on the dot at 8:00 a.m.

Way Too Cool is one of the few trail races that uses chip timing.

The early miles flew by. Literally! I was running at anything between 7:45-9:00 mins/mile pace. It felt great to be 13 lbs. lighter and be able to fly up and down hills with gay abandon.

I would pay later but who cared at that moment?

(Approaching the Hwy 49 aid station the first time, 6.5 miles into the race)

I had decided to lay it all out on the line in this race. I would crash and burn later but so be it.

Mile 10 went by in 100 minutes. The halfway point came by in 2:40. At mile 14.5, my blood sugar was starting to drop so I switched to Coke from there on out.

Then the debt collectors came a calling!! The early fast pace had to be paid for with interest. My breathing turned ragged and my legs started to tire. I would ride the sugar highs when they happened and the pace picked up to an echo of the early miles. I felt great then, in groove. Then the sugar would drop and I would slow, hanging on until the next high. And so the miles passed by. There were a few good climbs (10-12%+ gradient) that rested some muscles while working others.

I rolled into the final aid station 5:45 into the race. A 50K is 31.8 miles. My mind, doing the math, had come up with a 6:15-6:20 finish. Imagine my surprise when we were told that the finish was only 1.7 miles away! I had failed to notice, in the mileage chart on the Web, that the race was a mile shorter i.e. 30.89 miles. I was spurred into action.

I ran the first 0.25 miles, power walked the short climb that followed and then started running as fast as I could at the top and did not stop until I had burst past the finish in 6:00:40.8. Failed by 41 seconds to go under 6:00 but I had no regrets.

This race reinforced so many things. There are no "small" races. A race is as hard as one chooses to make it. There are times when a race will make one dig down deep and face up to one's demons. This one did not throw up any demons for me but it sure made me dig! All races feel great in the finish area. The harder the race the sweeter the finish!

Anil had a semi-tough race. He had stomach problems mid-way through the race but gutted it out to yet another sub-7 finish (6:55). What a strong runner he is. I've never ever heard him complain or whine. He is always cheerful, even after a hard race.

Yuki ran this race too since the course is part of the Western States 100 miler that he will be running later this year in June. He had a nasty fall, injuring his elbow and knee. he somehow picked himself up and continued to finish in 5:16. Superman is a good nickname for this man! He had run the Tokyo marathon two weeks earlier in 3:05!!

This race was John Martin's, Nicole's husband, first ultramarathon. He ran it in 5:13!! Wow!!!

Anil and I then chatted with Don and Gillian in their Zombierunner booth. They are a fantastic couple. I thank them for their friendship.

The race was wonderfully managed thanks to Greg Soderlund and his amazing crew of volunteers. You all make trail running so much fun for all of us.

Good luck to all of you out there in your future races and endeavors.

(Photos courtesy of Yuki Negoro and Leanne McCulloch)