Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Excesses of Way Too Cool 50k

Even though he now runs a lot of short non-trail stuff, one could argue that Scott Dunlap is like the Bill Gates of ultra trail running blogging. In a recent post, he alluded to a sex-related shoulder injury, which allows me to allude to this subject (which, like gory violence and more filthy and shocking forms of profanity, I have avoided until now to keep my PG-13 rating).

As part of my taper for Way Too Cool 50k (last Saturday, March 13th), I ran less and cleaned the house more. Even though by normal standards, our garage is a disorganized, cluttered mess, I improved it so much that she was ecstatically impressed and appreciative. I have been trying to make my wife love me more through all my ultra trail running, sometimes bringing home "the bacon"-- little plaques and other trinkets for finishing, but it never seems to do anything. But last week I tidy up the garage and throw out a few things, grab a bunch of 70% sustainably grown flowers from Trader Joe's (at least that's what the package said) and she's SO ready for me.

Way Too Late

But by the time the kids are down it's past 9:30 and I have to get up before 4 and I actually want to run my best so opt for sleep. (Yeah, that's it--what were you expecting?)

Way Too Early

Having done this for Jed Smith 50k last month, I'm able to perfectly time my drive over to Pleasanton arriving seconds before my Quicksilver teammates coming from San Jose. The only glitch leaving the house was leaving my camera, so I will have to take photos for this blog with my cell phone.

I should probably mention that I'm not nearly as sleepy and tired as I could have been, had it not been for Steve here (photo taken from his facebook account without his permission), who generously agreed to switch shifts so I could get out of the 4 pm to 2 am shift I was originally scheduled for . Thanks again, man! If you ever come to our emergency department, maybe ask to be seen by Dr. Steve rather than by me.

So my carpool teammates are Jean Pommier in his car with Pierre-Yves Couteau and Adam Blum. The more, the merrier, and we enjoy talking 100% running crap all the way up, including gossip everyone except me knew about.

Three years earlier, I drove up with Joe Swenson and we arrived pretty late, having to park 3/4 a mile down the road. This year, we're early enough that we get to park in the parking lot. This is both convenient and lifesaving because it's...

Way Too Cold

Okay, it hadn't just snowed, this probably fell off someone's car, but the point here is the snow is not melting.

I get my race packet wearing four layers. Except for cold-loving Pierre, we spend much of the 85 minutes until race start hanging out in the car. In a race this big there's tons of people I know and can greet walking around. I wish La Sportiva teammate Leor Pantilat the best.

Reiterating his facebook message to me earlier in the week, he makes clear that Max King is in a tier WAY above him, and that he has NO chance of beating him or winning. Leor's race report

get to meet in person for the first time. Ultrarunning god Karl Meltzer (and Sportiva teammate and ultrarunning god) is parked two spaces from our car, having stayed with his wife and dog in Truckee last night. He didn't have time to post odds for today's race on his blog, having just won Coyote Two Moon the last weekend only 2 hours slower than last year, despite the snow storm.

me, Karl, Pierre (photo by Jean Pommier)

The other one is John Nguyen, the "rogue" runner fined last month by the irrationally motivated San Jose Park Rangernazis about which I wrote a quick post. He spots me after I leave the Port-a-let, a place to which I generally don't bring my camera or cell phone lest I drop it in the hole, and then I couldn't find John later, so no photo. His fine was over $300, which may seem exorbitant, but will surely help pay for mowing and gasoline expenses in the park on days it isn't technically open because of lack of money, but there will nonetheless be rangers on payroll patrolling it on those days to keep everyone safe and fine(d).

Way Too Muddy

Until last year, the course was too short, so I experience for my first time the beginning stretch on pavement goes out for about two miles and then backtracks on the trail before resuming the usual course. At first I'm feeling impervious in my Wildcat GTX. I avoid puddles not because I'm scared of getting my feet soaked, but simply for better traction. An hour into the race, like everyone else who actually cared about getting their feet wet, I realize it's all the same, since the stream crossings often went over the tops of the shoes. One around the halfway point is even up to our knees.

My slickest transition is at the first aid station, Highway 9, stocked with tons of volunteers ready for the huge onslaught of runners. Daniel Fabun is looking for me, fills my bottle, and I'm out. Thanks (and all the volunteers). Good to see Norm and Helen Klein at mile 27, since I didn't do any of their races last year.

So three years ago, I finished 16th overall in 4:06:42, unchicked. This despite having sprained my ankle around the halfway point which caused me to lose a few minutes as I hobbled down the fairly steep hill, wondering if my ankle was too strained to finish, and then fighting spasming in my calves during the last 7 or 8 miles. So I figured assuming the same fitness level, I should finish 2010's race in about 4:15 since the course was lengthened to make a real 50k. This year I finish 35th overall, 4:35:35, double chicked, 11th just in my age division. The mud may account for some the extra 20 minutes, but NOT the drop in 19 places. Or has the field grown that much thicker?

Here's a list of the people I remember running or talking with for any amount of time-- note that they most finished up to 13 places ahead of me, so others passed me more than I passed others. I lost a lot of time on the uphills, which is weird since they usually isn't the case.

Zach Landman (26th, 4:26)-- during the crowded rush at the beginning, he studies at my medical alma mater, talked about his research proposal to do at Tahoe Rim Trail in July.

Zach and I maybe talking medical crap pre-race, photo by Rick Gaston

Kevin Swisher (22nd, 4:22)
Ron Gutierrez (DNF'd-- something must've happened)

Beverly Anderson-Abbs, flanked by husband Alan and Joe Palubeski (2nd woman, 30th overall, 4:29)--I knew she had just PR'd and outright won in 6:15 the Pony Express 50 mile two weeks earlier

Mark Murray (29th, 4:28) buzzed past me
Benjamen Ewers (31st, 4:29)-- on the return, more of an Ironman guy, doing this to train for Utah, which has a fairly hilly run
Pierre Yves-Couteau (32nd, 4:30 )-- Rho/Quicksilver teammate. left me going up the big hill at mile 26ish on the return. Here getting massaged post-race by Jeffery Johnston, of Monsters of Massage, in Newcastle (near Auburn), before he did me (thanks, Jeff!)

Jean Pommier (73rd, 4:58)-- also Rho/Quicksilver teammate. suffering from an asthma attack, so we didn't talk on the trail when I passed him. his report.
Graham Cooper (33rd, 4:33)-- buzzed past me around mile 28. not doing States, but that Utah Ironman also.

Eric Johnson (34th, 4:35:09)-- we traded places a few times, but I couldn't match his final kick at the end, but in retrospect, just as well. Like what's 34th place? double St. Patricks? 7 x 5 is a cooler number than 17 x 2, and better matches the 35 minutes and 35 seconds over the 4 hours it took me to finish.

Cool Off
I'm nervous Adam is going to have a bad day and then I'll be late getting home, but he finishes in 5 1/2 hours.

Adam on trail, photo by Holly Harris

We all have time to socialize a bit. I find a hose and wash the mud on my legs and shoes. Tim Ruffino's veggie soup hit the spot.

Since I ran it three years earlier, I noticed new RD Julie Fingar really played up the frog theme for the race--cute, fun, and interesting. Big blow-up frog...

photo by Jean Pommier

...frog paraphernalia everywhere.

photo by Jean Pommier

And of course more frogs on the long-sleeve T and very cool Moeben sleeves we got as swag.

I grab two frog cupcakes for my kids and make a mental note not to forget I put them in Adam's box of donuts in the car.

Jean learns from his masseur about this arthritis relief gel for horses they sell at this horse supply store in "downtown" Cool, so we stop by on the way out. Jean will now be running like a racehorse.

Picking Up the Pace Post-Race

To prevent from getting motion-sick on the curvy 5 miles to Auburn, I volunteer to drive and end up driving almost 90 minutes until the 680 turn-off when Pierre takes over. The flow of traffic is luckily usually 70-75, so I can make decent time. I end up getting home at 4:50 pm, take this super-quick shower, dress, then run to the car as our babysitter arrives at 5. Sprint work. We arrive at the BART station doubtful we made the train and I drop off my high-heeled wife and go park the car, only to find that I gave to the key to her when I handed her the case with my cell phone. I would just leave it unlocked but there's a printer in the trunk we are donating to our kids' future school tomorrow, and I think someone might actually steal it.

I SPRINT up to the platform, to see her smiling: "We made it by 3 minutes." I grab the key from her purse, run down the steps out to the parking lot, lock the door, back in and up. So add another third of a mile, sprinted, to the day's running total.

Way Too Over-The-Top

Leaving my wife alone with the kids all day so I can run erases all political capital I had accrued through the garage cleaning, so I am more than happy to treat her to this extravagant 9-course meal at this up-scale restaurant.

My wife realizes that I give her jewels she can eat. It's actually 18 courses since I get, on the server's suggestion, the alternate choice to everything my wife picks. I make the mistake of ordering the wine pairing; my wife doesn't help me that much with the wines, which will make me hungover the next day.


The meal takes over 5 hours to finish.

We get home at half past midnight, our babysitter is totally dressed up and ready for her delayed night out. I then realize that it's daylights savings time. While I enjoy the extra hour of daylight, I realize I'm screwed since I'm watching the kids all morning and then have to work from 2 pm to midnight. (Little do I realize that I will feel sleepy and tired for a whole week due to being way too busy, until the following Sunday morning (the 21st) when I finally finish this report.)

Garmin Connect map of my run
split times (though the finish rank doesn't make sense to me)

other reports and photos:
Rod Bien (7th overall)
Auburn Journal recap

with John Souza, with whom I'd run in Modesto a couple weeks prior

Amazingly, Rick Gaston had never run this race. Here with his new Tamalpa Running Club jersey. Rick's race report


Rod Bien said...

Mark, that cracked me up. Good write up. I'll give you 3-5 minutes for the mud but 20 might be a bit excessive!! :)
Nice run and hope to bump into you at AR.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

@Rod-- thanks! well, somewhere between 3 and 20, and even just 1 would put you under 4-- way to haul ass-- you put me to shame! i'll post a link to your report.

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

Great report and pictures. (and we thought we were going to get a recount of some juicy pre-race fun too! You better make it up to her.) I heard it was a tough day with all the mud. And I suspect the field is just getting deeper, hence your lower placement. No reflection on you!

I'd be interested in your take on this MD's position that endurance running is unhealthy (either due to chronic inflammation/overtraining, or poor eating habits, and that running does not prevent atherosclerosis, and is at best neutral). He references a couple of studies that suggest that runners actually have poorer atherosclerotic profiles than control subjects. I don't buy it, but suspect that there may be some truth to it somewhere. What do you think about this? I'd love to talk with you or any of your MD buddies about this as well.



Golden Trails Dave said...

hey man,

great write up as usual. I may meet you at RA. Haven't made a decision yet between that race or doing S2S again. We'll see...

Let me know when you want run some time while my schedule is still flexible...only two more months until I graduate...

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

@Cynthia-- sorry took a while to respond. I have heard/read similar in the past; I think these studies are too few and obviously not prospective, so the data veru inconclusive, but I totally welcome further research. I'm not beyond the possibility that going extreme distances might not be all healthy (take former Ironman champion David Welch), but we're all pretty sure that the health benefits outweigh the risks of a sedentary lifestyle. The sickest patients I see in the ED don't exercise. I rarely see ultrafit people for anything other than occasional musculoskeletal complaints (which usually get seen in clinic anyways). Obviously there is a sampling bias involved since only so many ultraendurance athletes out there.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

@David-- will do, let's try to coordinate on fb.