Friday, April 16, 2010

Tamed, Maimed and Shamed at the San Francisco One Day, My First Try at a Timed Repeating Loop Race

Ruth Anderson ultras are coming up this Saturday (tomorrow).  My only race this month.  (The original plan was to do Diablo 50 Mile, but state budget cuts to the state parks caused its cancellation.)  The majority of ultrarunners won't (or at least don't) touch this one-- almost fourteen 4.47 mile loops around Lake Merced in the southwest corner of San Francisco.

But in terms of repetition, this is nothing compared to PCTR's timed races in Crissy Field in October.  Figure this is as good a time as ever to call it a day (or I guess call it a half-year) and finish my report as is.  Most of the bib-mug-shot action photos here were taken by Brett Rivers, the banana, here with Shan Riggs-- thanks, Brett!

Last fall's San Francisco One Day (9 a.m. Saturday 24th to 9 a.m. Sunday 25th, October 2009) was my first attempt at the 24 hour timed distance; in fact, it was the first set-timed looping race of any distance I'd done in my life.

forgot who took this photo

After finishing the Pacific Crest Trail "Hundred in the Hood"100 mile trail race in Oregon the last weekend of September (report coming), I had four weeks to switch gears and train flat.

I did a poor job. After recovering from some knee pain from the PCT100, I started running, but never managed to put in enough flat miles. When I worked a couple of shifts the 2nd week in Modesto, I ran along the Dry Creek there.  Instead of staying on the flat bike trail and dirt shoulder, I kept taking the single track trails that run up and down the river bank-- more fun.

I'll spare you a lap-by-lap chronological account.  Some observations:

24 hour runs in general

-- less incentive to push harder
In races with a set distance (comprising the overwhelming majority), pushing harder gets your closer to the goal; the end comes nearer, you're done faster. In a timed race, this doesn't happen. The end time is the same (unless you drop early). The "start / finish" area just keeps coming.

-- no hiding
It is very obvious when things aren't going well, since you're never out alone on the course.  When runners pass you multiple times, it is clear you are having an extended bad stretch.  Also (not that I've ever done this) you can't drop out of the race to remove yourself from the record books.  To take an extreme example, running only 1 hour is not a "DNF."  You finished, just early.  The 4 to 10 miles you ran gets resulted.

-- great social element
Getting to see everyone over and over is actually nice. Because my pace changed so often and to such a great degree, I had the chance to run (or even walk) with runners of all speeds.  Thus I could hold conversations with people I would never in a normal race, such as the amazing Eldrith Gosney.  Although I used it, often I didn't have to have my iPod to prevent me from even coming close to losing my sanity.  Also, I think we all got several times more photos taken of us than at a typical race.

running with UltraRunning business manager Lisa Henson

I thought I might go nuts with the repetition, the endless circling. Although I still prefer to go somewhere, I never came close to losing my sanity. On the contrary, always having people around made things not only tolerable, but usually pleasant.

this race in particular

-- the surface: half paved, half gravel.  Luckily I read on the PCTR message board a comment by Mike Weston about gaiters being very useful due to the gravel.  Saved me.
-- the course: the loop was more a long rectangle.

Because the western end was concave, not convex, there was an issue with the distance.  The USATF certification this year, as co-RD Wendell explained on the message board, required the distance be measured as the shortest possible distance between the two western corners (1.061miles) but the path everyone took to avoid the uneven surface with the grass was longer (last year's official distance of 1.067 miles).  Therefore we were all getting ripped off 0.006 miles or about 32 feet, which meant 0.6 miles for every 100 laps.  For many laps in the beginning I opted the legal, shorter, bumpier route, but eventually I gave up on this.  (The grass got too wet at nighttime anyways.)
-- the views:  the bridge, the bay, the changing colors.  As great a venue to run circles as you can find.
-- organization: awesome!  It was helpful to see our progress with each lap on this screen.
-- volunteers: great! I can't thank everyone out there for the different shifts enough. Special mention to Rick Gaston for being out there as long as we were (link to his excellent report)
-- bibs: nice touch to have our names printed on them in large font
-- emailed messages of support -- these were great.  They would get printed up and handed to us.  I got maybe 15 messages from friends at all hours. A real morale boost.  Thanks to everyone who sent me a message!
-- schwag: love this personalized ceramic coaster! (personalized, so arrived the mail later)

A few notes about some of the faster people (including the three who ran farther than I):

Early in the race, I passed Suzanna a few times. Jamie Donaldson had given her the advice of sticking to a 10:20 minute mile pace, and even as I tried not to get caught up in chasing the leaders, I was below 9 minute miles. Soon enough, she was soon lapping me, and continued this to the end of the race. I felt privileged and honored to witness her stellar performance, which was the third best female 24-hour race performance in the U.S. of all time and earned her a spot on the national team. Congratulations!

Brian Krogmann-- ran like a machine, won overall, went over 140 miles.  I ran only one lap with him, near the end, with co-RD Sarah.

Nathan Yanko-- I thought he had the best chance of winning, but I think he developed the same issues as I, and lagged behind even me.  Only later did I realize that just six days prior, he had won the Humboldt Redwood Marathon in 2:45:08.  Great enough excuse, I think.  If that's not enough, he has more than once redeemed himself through stellar performances in races since.

Shan Riggs-- came back from Chicago for this race after winning last year.  He was also flying, but got injured and had to drop after 78.5 miles.

my race even more in particular

-- GI problems, 1st time since Headlands Hundred two months prior. I was using the port-a-potty a lot at the beginning.  Thanks, Ray Sanchez for giving me some Immodium after he dropped around sunset.

the amazing Ray in front of Klas Eklof

-- Curiously, I didn't get the sleepies requiring me to close my eyes and zone out in a cot or a chair.

-- But I did getting tight.  REALLY tight.  Once that happens in this sort of event, it's hard to get over it, since you're continuing the same, repetitive motions that caused it to begin with. Prior to the race, I was confident I would be able to do at least 125-130 miles, based on my hilly trail 100-miler times.  Little did I anticipate that flat does not necessarily equal fast and easy. I was slowed to a walk more than once.  I was tamed, maimed and shamed to make it a catchy title.  (But I'm actually not really shamed, just humbled, and with more respect for this time of venue and others' performances.)

-- I think I had stupidly put on socks with little holes in the toes.  Despite the gaiters, I got debris in my shoes, then into my socks.  Gasper Pulizzi's wife, Minnie, I think helped me with changing my shoes and socks and bringing over a heater late at night.  Nathan Yanko lent me a fresh pair of socks (that I think I have yet to return).

-- My result gave me 20 points in the PCTR Grand Prix race series, to tie me for 1st place in the male 40-49 age division.  Other than Headlands, I wasn't able to run any of the other races in the series, so maybe I wasn't really shooting for this, but knew I might place.  (Unfortunately I couldn't make the awards ceremony.)

Co-director Sarah Spelt awarding me the First Place Male 40-49 mug immediately post-race.

Race links:

Other reports:


Drs. Cynthia and David said...

I think you did great. I tried the One Day event a ~year ago (signed up for 24 but quit at 12 hrs) and was dismayed at how difficult it was. I was unprepared for the mental/psychological game, and every time I passed the start and the aid station, I'd be tempted to grab something to eat or drink, slow to a walk and lose momentum. The invariant running pace and flat terrain makes everything stiffen up more, and after a while even walking was very painful. As you say, there is no motivation to get done quickly, so the mental discipline aspect required to execute strategy is hugely important. Not a trivial matter!


Alaskan assassin said...

I was following this race all day when it happened (not every second...I am not that big of a loser). I think I would make it like 50 miles of flat and then die. Hills and mountains allow muscle to rest and switch up use. I know Suzanna put in a lot of time on the flats to get her body use to it.

I am thinking of running it this year but it will most likely be a disaster.

By the way....even if they help the feet you should ditch the gaiters. Gaiters and arm sleeves are the worst for fashion. HA!