Coincidentally, our friends who live near San Jose with sons the same ages as ours were having a birthday party for their older that same day. They had invited us to spend the night before, which allowed me a much shorter commute to the event.
Somehow, I felt that to be a good father, I should really try to make it to the party at Pump It Up (one of those bouncy house places) at 10:30. So when Keith forwarded me an email from Toshikazu Hosaka, asking if I wanted to join him to break the course record set at last year's inaugural race, I answered in the affirmative, but was planning on starting at 5 or 5:30 a.m. To my suprise, he was up for it.
Earlier in the week, I emailed our friends to see if we could still stay the night. Yes, but since her sister was bringing her family from LA, we would be sleeping in the living room. Both my wife and I balked, and so said we'd just go to the party from our house. Which meant I would have to wake up at 3:30 or something. But I was too busy to think about how painful this would be.
Thursday I worked 5 hours at home and then an ED shift from 1:30 to midnight, got hammered so didn't leave the hospital until 1 a.m., and went to bed around 2:30. The next day I was off, but my wife was coordinating volunteers for the landscaping project for the public charter elementary school we helped found. Hardly anyone had signed up for Friday, so I felt especially obligated to go over to the school to spread compost and then dig trenches with a pick axe and trench shovel for the irrigation system.
the easier job of raking compost
Wow, that was hard work, definitely counted as cross training. During the day, our friends called to say her sister came down with a really bad flu, so we could stay in the guest room.
We showered, hastily packed, picked up the kids and drove down in two cars, since I knew I might not finish running before the party started. Our friends ordered this huge Vietnamese meal for us and some of their family. I was starving, so ate everything without worrying about possible next day implications.
Next thing you know, it's 8:30 p.m., none of our kids were close to going to bed, and I'm past exhausted from too much mental and physical work and not enough sleep.
2nd Thoughts About My Earlier Proposed Early Start Time-- I Wuss Out Via Texting
Record of our texts sent over the course of an hour, including after I went to bed (note, only Toshi's texts are still in my phone, so I have to make up what I texted him)
Me: So we still on for early start? 5-530ish?
Toshi: Yup. Still up for it? I'll b at the parking lot by 5:30am. It'll b foggy in the mtns.
Me: Sounds good. Will also be dark.
Toshi: No prob- i know half the course!
Me (later noting further delay to getting kids down due to excitement of sleeping over at our friends, compounded by my older son getting a bloody nose, and luckily having a good other excuse to push the time back): Hey, Keith emailed me earlier, officially no parking before 6, maybe start after?Toshi: No prob. Let's start @615. I don't wanna get a ticket either.
Me (listening to my kids fight about who was on which pillow in the guest bedroom in which my whole family was going to sleep, more than an hour past their usual bedtime, sort of feeling that I should've pushed the time back farther, hoping he wasn't asleep yet): Sorry, do u mind later? like 7 or 8? i'm cleared by my wife to miss party.
Toshi (obviously all ready to go): R u still at castro valley? Then, 8 is fine. But if u r in san jose, let's start @ 7am
Me (relieved, though a little embarrassed): in Sunnyvale, so cool, thanks, will try to be there by 7 as long as i dont get lost.
Toshi: K. I'll be there before 7
I luckily woke up to pee off some of the salt load in the middle of the night, and moved to the couch, so when my cell alarm went off, it only woke up me and not the rest of my family. The google maps kept me off I-85 and had me take a more direct route going through winding, sometimes one-lane roads to the start. I stopped twice to redirect and check my bearing, but made it to the parking lot at Saratoga Gap, where highways 9 and 35 intersect, at 6:55, right before Toshi pulled up. One other runner is waiting in his car before us, Roger Jensen.
When I asked, Roger told me he left Granite Bay at 3:30 a.m. (for those not familiar with California, east of Sacramento, where Norm Klein's races begin and end), adding to my realization I am a wuss.
me and Toshi pre-fat-ass
The course is basically three out-and-back partial loops of about 10 miles each from the parking lot, the same one at which PCTR's Skyline to the Sea 50k starts. Mostly downhill going out and back uphill returning.
Loop 1, which had us go south, was technical at times--lots of fallen branches and trees, a few rocks to scramble over. But much of this course was a sweet, soft surface.
2009 photo by Luis Velasquez
I had worn my Wildcat GTX's since I thought there might be some streams to cross, but there were plenty of these bridges.
We started running and Toshi went out fast, running aggressively on the uphills too. I was quickly out of breath, and had to hint to him that I was not going to be able sustain the pace. I'm not sure how I convinced him to slow down. He backed off a little, and I convinced him even if he felt like he was holding back, it would probably give him a better time overall. We talked about a lot of stuff, including his bicycle accident in Napa last spring, when this driver hit him at about 50 mph, fracturing his clavicle, a few ribs and and messing up his ear enough that he needed plastic surgery to fix it, and after which he came back at Diablo 25k a few weeks later (finishing a few minutes faster than I.) He not only wanted to break last year's winning time of 5:26, but finish under 5 hours.
Fortunately for me, Toshi did his homework. I had printed up the maps, turnsheets and written descriptions of each loop, but he had actually studied them, and had run much of the course.
I was running so hard, I never got a chance to eat anything. On the way back, we saw a majority of the other runners, coming down. We got back to the parking lot in just under 1:49, which, assuming even loop times, translated to a 5:30 time overall. I apologized that I was slow.
my aid station, and overnight luggage
Loop 2 started down the Skyline to Sea trail before turning off left and south towards the campground we visited loop 1. The fog cleared at the lower elevations and we occasionally got to enjoy the beautiful vista below to the right.
2009 photo by Luis Velasquez
This loop I forced myself to down a gel, lest I bonk. I tried to go faster so as not to slow Toshi down so much, so am able to talk less. The last two miles, Toshi took off ahead of me and got to the parking lot 2-3 minutes before me.
As I'd suggested to him earlier, I made clear to Toshi that he should go ahead and hammer the third and final loop, so he took off as I was starting to refill my bottle. This time I had to navigate myself, which required only a few brief stops consulting the map and turnsheet. I tried to push the pace enough so that I was breathing hard. The loop ended up being about 2 miles shorter than the first two. With 1.7 miles back to the finish, I noticed I had about 15 minutes to make it in 5 hours. I thought I had a fair cushion until this short 1/2 mile uphill section that I hadn't noticed on the outbound when it was a downhill section. Funny how that works.
Toshi, who really accelerated the last loop I set him free, finished in 4:46:02, greeted me as I came in, with less than a minute to spare. I was happy I made 5 hours. I was feeling soreness in my entire back and other upper body soreness from all that manual labor yesterday, but nothing debilitating. And despite eating all that meat and veggies at dinner, no GI issues!
Since we started earlier and it's a small, informal fat ass, no continual stream of runners coming in after us, though we saw these two after they got lost on their 1st loop.
Dennis Connor and Jim Magill, after doing some bonus miles
So, missed the bouncy-house party, but timed it so both my wife and I got home at the exact same time.
As it turns out, Pierre-Yves Couteau, who won last year, finished in 4:42:39, so still has the course record. Toshi and I both saw him during the 1st and 3rd loop, but since he started at a different time, it was hard to gauge how fast he was going. Great job!
Thanks to Keith for putting this on; Toshi for the company, pace pushing and putting up with my wussy delays; my friends for feeding me; and my wife for letting me do two last month.
results ( but remember, this is NOT a race! )
Second Saratoga Fat Ass website