Thursday, February 28, 2008

For Fun, For Poo, For Whee! -- Three Motivations to Run

Delinquent blogger am I, but at least I have been running, and for at least 3 different reasons: fun, poo, and whee!

(note: it seems that all the photos I uploaded were initially viewable, but now aren't. sorry for the graphic deficiency)

1. (for fun): Fremont Fat-Ass 50k

The last Saturday in January I joined a handful of others to do the 2nd annual Fat-Ass run in the southeast Bay, along Alameda Creek, and in and around Quarry Lakes and Coyote Hills Regional Parks. Catra Corbett fresh from HURT 100 mile the weekend before was still game to organize this with Mike Palmer. Here is a link to her Fremont Fatass 50 blogsite with better pictures than these (including a bonus shot with my hands caught in my pants!)

No jacket, no prizes, no fee, just hanging out running and a good time. I was actually prepared to get rained on, but not only did it stay dry, the sun was sometimes out and for a beautiful crisp day.

I had worked late the night before in Fremont, slept badly in a call room, and drove the few miles to Quarry Lakes. I couldn't figure out where we were starting and drove back and forth to different parking lots. Luckily I saw Chihping Fu, running several miles from home to the start, who directed me so I barely made it. Chihping never made it back to the start, but he definitely gets credit for running fat-ass ultra.

Catra and some of us, before the start

Steve Ansell actually bought a new jacket for the rain, but didn't need it. his blog report

I ended up running most of the way with Rob Byrne, the Ohlone 50k RD. He was looking for a nice training run before heading to Nam (as in Vietnam) to do a multiday race a couple of weeks later. Without gunning it, we ended up in the lead, but didn't cross a bridge around mile 13 and so had to backtrack a couple of kilometers. So then we caught up with Catra, Mike and a few others and decided to take it easy and chat while doing the loops in Coyote Hills. Then we headed off, catching up with a Clare and Scott from the Peninsula.

Brian Koo, who got back to the parking lot, me and Rob Byrne at the finish. I think Rob is the shorter one.

2. (for poo): Point-Mongering at Jed Smith

Sure, it would be fun, the race is very well organized, and I'd get to see people. But the bottom-line was anal and mercenary. I wanted PAUSATF points. If I can win my division again in the 2008 Ultra Grand Prix, I can get half-off entry to all PAUSATF Grand Prix races, which allows me to run way too many PAUSATF races without spending way too much money, and thus helps my chances of winning my division again, perpetuating the vicious cycle. Makes too much sense, right?

Actually, having moved up into the 40-49 Masters division, there are more competitive runners that sign up and run a lot of PAUSATF races, such as Jean Pommier (just finished 2nd in the Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica with a great report, Mark Lantz and Ron Gutierrez, among others. So I figured, the only way I can stay in the game this year is to go back to Gibson Ranch Park on the north side of I-80 northeast of Sacramento.

Joe Swenson, my carpool buddy for some of these Gold Country races, was a little ambivalent the day before. The weather forecast kept hovering between rain and showers. On Friday, it was predicted Saturday would be windy (25-30 mph) and in the 40's. Even if it was going to be in the 30's and hailing, I was planning on going. Maybe dressed in a ski jacket, but I was going to run it. This must've motivated Joe, who finally committed.

These were some bad-ass geese.

There are a lot of belligerent and loud ducks and geese by the parking lot, when we arrive, on time, which means 45 minutes before the 50k race starts. I scope the crowd out, recognize some fast runners from my old age division, like Michael Fink, but don't recognize anyone fast in my new age division. We get there and Mark Lantz is helping out. He's running, but doing the 30k. The course at Jed Smith is described as a figure-8, but it's actually more like a deformed 3.3 mile dumbbell. The start/finish is on the upper ball. For the 50k, we all do an out and back to get the extra 1.3 miles, then proceed to do 9 circuits. The bent bar of the dumbbell give plenty of opportunity to see people coming the other way, and you can track your relative gain or loss with any particular runner based on when you meet him or her during the bar. That actually makes this race more social and interesting than one in which everyone runs around in a circle and so you only see people when you pass them or get passed by them. They tell you to register by 7:45, and so we have more than enough time to set up our chairs with our jackets and aid. Last year they had no gels, so I brought about 10 and used them until I noticed there were Gu's at the larger of the 2 aid stations. It was cold. It looked like it would rain. I put my number on my shorts, but kept and decided to start running with some loose fitting long sleeve running pants. Above I had a long sleeve tech shirt with a fleece vest and a Gore-tex like jacket. There were several runners dressed only in single layers shorts, looking at me funny. Lap 1. Jasper, Chikara and 2 others I don't recognize shoot out as a pack. I hang back.

Joe Swenson getting his number and timing chip.

Laps 1-3:
I watch a pack of 4-5 including Chikara, Jasper and some others I didn't recognize. After the first lap, Mark Lantz, who hasn't started his 30k race yet, tells me to take off some layers. I was scared of being cold in the rain and overdressed. After a couple of laps, I'm running with Ed Randolph, 38, who's only run 50k once before and, Gary Cohen who tells me he's 50 years old. Eventually I lose Ed when I have to stop and tie my shoe, laces flapping for several miles. Have to find those lace locks.

me and Ed Randolph, post-race

Laps 4-6
Gary loses it early. I catch up with Ed Randolph, and when he stops to pee, I leave him behind. But the mud really slows me down. I'm definitely not going to run faster than last year. It drizzles.

Laps 7-9:
I start seeing Jasper Halekas coming the other way. He keeps telling me there is a pack of 4 not far ahead. I'm noticing I'm slowing down and not terribly motivated to kick ass. Despite my wussy (rhymes with cat-prefix) attitude, I end up passing a couple, including Chikara Omine, who normally leaves me far behind but hasn't been running long distance much, and Eduardo Vazquez, whom I don't know, but Jasper keeps mentioning his name. Meanwhile, I notice that Jasper is looking really good, and it seems like he's closing in on the 2 people in front of him (though I'm not timing this).

The funny thing about all this is that the first time I met Jasper (link for Dunlap interview), we had this short conversation coming into Beals Point at AR50 2 years ago. He was commenting that the flat path portion was painful and that really, he was a "trail purist." After that, I pulled ahead of him after Beals Point and he never caught up. That would be the last time I'd ever think of beating Jasper. After the race, he explained that he was having posterior knee pain from last year, so it was too painful to climb fast, so he might try to make the 100k team at Mad City. Definitely something to shoot for--good luck, dude! I will forgive his lapse from trail purity.

Mark Lantz, 2nd in the 30k (ran much faster than I can). Jasper Halekas, 1st in the 50k.

Jason Reed, 4th, 3:39:35. I passed him near the end of Quad Dipsea last year, but this time it was his turn, quickly passing me with about a lap to go, looking very good.

Michael Kanning, now 16, was doing the 50 mile run, and kicked ass, coming in 2nd overall (would've won had it not been for the following guy). link to Michael K's blogged report

Michael Kanning, on pace for a sub-7 (hour 50 miler).

Michael Kanning's proud and dedicated father on left, with start/finish line volunteers, whose names I forgot to get.

As it turned out, the guy in the orange who passed me was Steve Stowers, the very fast runner who has recently returned to the ultrarunning scene, winning Skyline 50k last August. Apparently, he was trying to finish the 50 mile race under 5 hours 40 minutes, which would qualify him for consideration to be selected to the national 100k team--probably a more noble and impressive goal than getting my 40 points!

Joe and I decided to stick around to see if Steve Stowers would make it under 5:40. Check this out:

Steve still catching his breath.

I'd cheer Michael and other runners on, but it's freezing and I have my family waiting at home. Thanks to all the dedicated volunteers who were out there for reasons than I.

Swag gallery. Tech T-shirt, missing last year's cowboys & buffalo, in which I ran last November's Quad Dipsea. The embroidered cap is an age group award, I think they give out to top 20% in each division. How did such a skinny daddy produce this plump baby with the crazy hair?

link for 2008 Jed Smith race results

3. (for whee!): Northstar-at-Tahoe Sprint repeats

I know I should do more speed work, but sometimes it's hard to get motivated to all-out sprint, especially since I didn't run any road marathons last year. Fortunately, my older son has a little relentless drill sergeant in him, or just simply likes speed.

A couple of weeks ago, after a couple days skiing (I was boarding) with friends, switching off childcare with my wife (okay, she did most of the work during the day, but I have no boobs), I sprinted up and down this slope near the new rental condos at Northstar. Gentle, yes, but with the altitude, the ice (running on worn down running shoes without any tread) and pulling my relentless son (let's do it again, Daddy!), I got an ass-kicker quality half-hour interval workout before we packed the car and drove back home. You could say I tried to make up for my lack of boobs by moving my legs real fast. Mommy was impressed and amused.