Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pure Endurance -- My 2nd SF One Day 24-Hour Race

I am convinced that the 24 hour race (and it's even gnarlier cousins the 48 and 72 hour races) is the purest form of running endurance challenge.

Generally held on small closed circuit courses, you lack the sense of going anywhere. Minimal scenery change. Progress is measured by a number, not a place, or even a time.  Such a race is guaranteed to be, at least some of the time, psychologically grueling.

Throw in inclement weather, and you can at least triple your pleasure.

photo by Toshikazu Hosaka
Before last year's PCTR San Franisco One Day, I dreamed at least twice about it beforehand.  Knowing what to expect this year, I must have had less unconscious anxiety, since I had no pre-race dreams.  Last year I worried that I wasn't training enough off hilly trails.  This year, I realized that running on completely flat surfaces was as impractical as relatively unenjoyable for someone who lives where I do.  So I stressed less.  This race was going to be a fun, challenging change of pace.

pre-start signing in, when still dry

I knew I probably went out too fast last year, hurting my overall performance (just under 118 miles).  This year I would be more controlled.  Indeed, I was able to do this from the start, making no move to fun with the front pack.  There was nothing close to heavy breathing, as I averaged about 9:30 per mile for the first hour.

Jean Pommier, running his first set time running event ever, the 12-hour race, lapped me twice that first hour.  He went on to pass me multiple times, and win that race.  his race report

There were puddles all over the course even before the first rainfall, complicating the path of each circuit since running with soaked feet that long is never advisable.  We enjoyed maybe 4 hours of pleasant dry weather, before the first rain the afternoon, while running several laps with Toshi and a couple with his fiancee Judy.  They were going to see Madame Butterfly in the city.

photogenic happy couple after Firetrails 2 weeks earlier

The rain didn't let up, so rows of chairs set up near the timing mat for a wedding were put back into a large truck.  The rain made things tougher-- I wanted it to be light while it was daytime. It helped that I still had the competitive race to spur me on.  I started gaining on the 3-5 runners ahead of me around mile (or was it lap?) 40, and by lap or mile 60 or so had assumed the lead.  (Need to finish these reports faster while this stuff is still fresh!)

Through the rest of the night the rain would start and stop, along with a wind, with gusts up to 30 mph or more.  I switched out of my black Sportiva jacket to a pseudo-water proof one (couldn't find my Gore Tex as I left home that morning, whoops).  That became soaked, I grew no less skinner and so colder.  Finally I asked for a garbage bag, which I popped over my head.  It was a bit restrictive, but did the trick.  The rain and wind would stop, I'd get warm, I'd take it off.  Off and on several times through the night.

sporting my mega-hip bag-jacket post-race

Around midnight, the increasing pain on the top of my left pinkie forced me to pit stop-- I needed to cover the blister before it wore down to the bone (my toes are exactly fat).  Maybe it took 10 minutes to tape it and switch my drenched socks, almost a lap.  Thanks for volunteer Mike for helping me out.

And yes, half my toenails are nasty anyways.

At home 2 hours post-race, my early trench foot was still both swollen yet shrivelled

Toshi ran back from downtown SF to Crissy Field to run with me my last laps.  Last year I was able to crank out a several laps at a decent pace, but unfortunately, this year the last hour or two I had lost the ability to run, so it wasn't much of a workout for him.  He wasn't really dressed for the rain and cold, so I felt bad for him, though being of tougher samurai blood than I, he said he felt fine.

On the last lap, I saw the cones on the far side of the course.  Since I knew I wasn't going to finish my last lap before time ran out, I thought I'd do the RDs a favor and pick them up and bring them in.

action photo by Toshi Hoshizaka

As wet, windy and cold as it was, Sarah called off the post-race awards ceremony, a big extended love-fest photo-op last year.  So no post-race socializing or picture taking, but I'm sure we were all relieved.   My prize schwag:

Mike Nutall, age 61 and 3rd place overall, quite impressive:

Winning is often less an expression of my talent and more a function of who doesn't show up.  Last year Suzanna Bon mega-chicked me.  This year, she skipped our local PCTR event to do a 24-hour race in Oklahoma for a 24-hour race the same weekend, and went almost 8 miles farther, gigo-chicking me (and everyone there).  Wow!

1 F Suzanna Bon             SONOMA CA           137.78      143 23:56:25 

Thanks to the RDs Sarah Spelt and Michael Popov, all the volunteers and fellow runners who braved it out there that weekend.  You make me feel more normal for still having fun!

race results
race website
last year's report


Rachel said...

Congrats on winning...major kudos for that mileage in rough conditions! Those look like some gnarly blisters; hope they heal quickly.

Anonymous said...

Those conditions were amazingly challenging. Impressive job!

Ric Munoz said...

Great report, Mark! Thanks for sharing all the photos, too. They brought back the memories of all that rain. I experienced "trench foot" myself for the first time that day -- I'm glad I wasn't the only one. Belated congrats on your well-earned victory -- I hope you'll return in October to defend your title!

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Thanks, everyone! @Rachel, they took a little over a week I think to close up.