Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Firetrails 50 #5: The Deceleration Continues

Had it continued to rain Thursday and Friday, the firetrails in Tilden, before and after the turnaround for this year's Firetrails 50 Mile would have sucked-- thick, clumpy mud adding several pounds to each foot.  Luckily the rain we had Monday through Wednesday just softened the trails.  I would have done well with any of my Sportivas, but went with my Wildcats.  Rowr.

Unlike the three 100 mile races during the summer (reports I have yet to finish), nothing too bad or crazy happened this race.  Did not kill myself trying to talk or run with anyone too fast.  I was by my count 16th at the turnaround, but had moved up 8 places the next three splits to Skyline aid station (~mile 37).  Was feeling slightly bad-ass about this, though I suspected those 8 people were just hurting more than I.   Soon I stiffened up enough that 4 people passed me before the end, losing my top-10 spot, and as I later found out, prize schwag I would've nabbed for coming 3rd in the 40-49 male division.

Leapfrogged several times with Quicksilver teammate Pierre-Yves Couteau,
who yet another time this year (lost count), finished before me.

To my credit, I did look back while on the pavement 1.5 miles from the finish and saw someone I recognized as a 50 miler gaining on me (the Golden Hills Marathoners were mixed in with us on most of the return).  I managed enough of a kick to hold him off with just 11 seconds to spare for the prestigious 12th place overall, rather than 13th, which is unlucky unless you are into baking.

No photo of the above end-of-race kick. 
Instead a photo of me being chased by a blue balloon, which at least matches my shirt and gaiters,
into Bort Meadow Aid station (mile 44). 
photo by Baldwyn Chieh

Normally about 2 km after Bort, we get on a winding single track, Cascade Trail, but this year the East Bay Park District had decided it was too storm damaged, so the course rerouted on the fireroads above it,  adding an uphill and a small amount of distance, but making the name of this race, "Firetrails 50" more true to its name by about 1.5 miles.  (map of Chabot)  I had actually offered the RDs to trim the poison oak and other growth on Cascade Trail on Monday, but our fire alarms started beeping in the middle of the night, which required shlepping ladders from the garage up two flights of stairs and a lot of precarious reaching.  So I had to sleep in a little before heading to work, and defer on the trail trimming. This was the beginning of a busy, sleep-deprived work week, further lowering my already low expectations.  At least I didn't snip a bunch of trail foliage that we ended up not running through.

I've also decided that if running this race at the age of 60 in 9 1/2 hours is not a wimpy feat, I can slow down about 6 minutes every year and not be considered to have wimpy feet.  In which case, I am about on target, given my personal course best of 7:24 at the age of 40 (2007 race report: Halloween Horrors) and 7:43 last year (2010 race report: Bodily Fluids).

The only glitch in my schedule of age-deceleration comes from older Quicksilver teammate, Jean Pommier, who seems to get faster as he approaches age 50, and who came virtually tied for 2nd just above 7 hours, killing his own PR.  This is so wrong!  Just for that, I am leaving him out of the next section and not including any pictures of him, even knowing that he stuck a picture that included me in his report.  (I anticipate some public opprobrium for this rudeness.)   Here is his race report, which actually gives you a better description the event, and which despite flying out to Dubai Sunday evening, he managed to crank out the day before mine.

Top Finishers

I usually don't write about top finishers, since this tends to get beaten to death in UltraRunning and other race recaps, sometimes by the top finishers themselves.  But for a change I'm going to put out this report BEFORE, and not MONTHS OR YEARS AFTER UltraRunning comes out.

Dave Mackey won his 3rd Firetrails (set the record last year) and his 5th race all year.  This win was preceded this year by Bandera 100k (course record), American River 50 mile, Miwok 100k (not the course record but in 2008 he got that with the only sub-8 time ever), and Waldo 100k (course record).  All at the age of 41 and while working on his degree as a physicians assistant (PA).  I'm guessing he ran Firetrails at a pace I that maybe I could hold for a 10 km trail run.  Here I am trying unsuccessfully to look cool and fast next to him.

I would've gotten more of the scoop on his run, his year and his family (his wife showed up at the finish with their young kids), but my not-as-young boys had already grown impatient with my incessant small talk.

The portable fences set up as the finish chute make great makeshift soccer goals. 
Luckily a size 3 ball won't fit through the space at the bottom.

Speaking of soccer, my older son's assistant coach Ben Maxwell, finished his first 50 miler, in a solid mid-pack 10 hour finish.  Way to go, Ben!  And thanks for helping teach him real soccer.

Despite a lot of female talent and a lack of such on my end, I managed not get chicked this race.

Top 3 women, left to right:

1st:  Roxanne Woodhouse.  I ran a little with her at the start-- she goes out hard.  She possibly would have chicked me, but she got lost at a poorly marked road crossing at a complex intersection on the return (I even started heading the wrong way, but caught myself.  RD's please take note.)  48 years old, whoa!

2nd:  Jen Benna.  Ran with her at Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile in July before she put a few minutes (well, actually, a few hours) on me.  (her TRT report)  Her baby recently turned 1.  She didn't mention bringing her breast pump to this race.  More details on this if and when I finish my TRT report.  Her husband's Western States documentary coming out soon.

3rd:  Bree Lambert.  I think she might have been a little disappointed with finish, but she also got off-track and in any case, still top 3.  We are so lucky to have her on our Quicksilver Ultra Running Team.

Speaking of our Quicksilver Team, we may have clinched all divisions of the PAUSATF Ultra Grand Prix competition.   I think I remember from years past when I won the individual Open (30-39) Men's Division, that the winning teams get a paperweight or something similarly amazing and valuable.  Undoubtedly we will give this to our Great Leader, Coach Greg Lanctot, who gave me a Guinness from his cooler.

The fairly steep rise in the race fees under the new management (Norcal Ultras) raised a few eyebrows this year, but at least everyone's family can eat for free.  My kids claimed to have only eaten 3 Smores each. 

 Diane Forrest, post-race picnic volunteer in crime with my kids

Plus the race schwag was pretty good, this from someone with already enough shirts and jackets.  Patagonia x2 and Moeben.  Plus a nice volunteer gave my visible kids a couple of Puffins cereal backpacks.  Thank all you awesome volunteers!

Stand on your head if this bothers you.
(I don't have time to figure out how to invert it.)


John Nguyen said...

12th place is pretty freakin' awesome if you asked me! I came in 157th, but was happy just to be out there on those beautiful trails! And yeah, I'm so glad the trails didn't get muddy on us!

Baldwyn said...

Well done, Mark! To you and Quicksilver! I bet I could still PR Firetrails, despite getting older. I have to admit, I balked at the entry fee this year, but I didn't realize they had S'mores.

Watch out for those ladders. They are a death trap.

Jean Pommier said...

Congrats for your record blogging on this one, and for the fight for top 12.
One day I hope one doctor explains my defy to aging, must be the Vespa thing (or bug)!
Oh, and I won't comment on your rudeness... buddy! ;-)
Take care, it was great to see the whole family.

Sarah Lavender Smith said...

Great report, Mark! I wish I had been out there. It sounds like a challenging year with the rerouting. I'm inspired by the women's winner -- and by you!
What, no bee stings?