Every time I sit down to write a race report, I start thinking “how the hell do I make this sound interesting?”, especially after just running seven loops around Lake Merced. I guess I could talk about the weather (perfect, like 58 degrees and overcast the whole time, light gentle wind) or the surface (mixed concrete and crushed gravel dirt path) but there’s really nothing to add outside of what I put in the parentheses.
So really, what does one talk about when talking about running a monotonous loop ultra? The next thing that comes to mind is the people; I met some really great people at the race, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a little back story on both the race and how I got interested in it.
First, Ruth Anderson is an old school runner. When I say old school I mean original school, she was one of the first female ultrarunners, starting off in 1976 at age 46 and quickly establishing herself as a force, winning the 1980 USATF 50-mile Championship in Houston with a ridiculously fast 7:10. And this came as a 50-year old. She then went on to set a bunch of age group records at various races around Northern California, and the women’s USATF Ultra Runner of the Year Award is named after her. She’s kind of a big deal.
Second, how the race came up on my radar is my desire to try to run a loop ultra- after making the decision late last year to try to become a more well-rounded runner and softening my “I only run ultras now” stance (and subsequently running the LA Marathon as well as the Kaiser Half, and that Piedmont Turkey Trot, too; last Thanksgiving), I figured this was the year I run either an ultra with a pre-set looped distance OR a timed event, like a 6- or a 12-hour loop type thing, so the Ruth Anderson popped up and away I went.
The cool thing about the race is that you basically pick the distance as you go- there’s a 50k option (seven loops), a 50-mile option (11 loops with a short out and back to make up the .75-ish mile) and the marquee event, the 100k (14 loops, oy vey). If you finish the 50k and decide to keep running, you are automatically entered into the 50-miler, and so on. If you drop at let’s say, mile 40, you DNF the whole race. Seems fair, because ultras are supposed to be tough.
When I awoke on Sunday morning, it was my full intention to run the 50-miler. I had already run 37 miles that week and felt that a 50-mile effort would be really good training for Miwok, which is 13 days after this race. I learned on loop 3 that I probably didn’t have 50-mile legs (without the possibility that it would get very, very ugly) and that a solid, steady effort would be decent enough training (I’m hoping).
I should add that a few days before the race I was contacted by Nakia Baird, a name I’d seen on some race results (usually listed above mine). He reached out via Facebook and asked me if I was interested in joining the Excelsior Running Club; and being both flattered and more than a little interested I figured I should probably see what a running club is all about. I told him I’d look for him race morning and introduce myself- we got a chance to actually run some miles together and he’s a really solid runner (4th place in the 50-miler) and a really nice guy. All the folks on the team were really cool, I wished I could have stayed around longer and hung out. I’m honored to be sporting that fluorescent yellow jersey as my race singlet from now on.
So, as for the actual race- it’s a super low key, old school affair. After parking in that main lot, the runners walk (I used this opportunity to do a little shake-out-slash-warm up jog) a half mile or so to the start. After the RD Rajeev Patel made an announcement that there was a runner here (Bill Dodson) that was going for the US men’s over 80 50-mile age group record (I believe he got it), we commenced the countdown and were sent off.
Not too much to say about the first loop, ran the first 2 miles really relaxed, settled into an 8-minute mile- wanted to run a little faster but I thought “I gotta take what I can get” and save something for the distance (I was still pretty certain I was going to run 50 miles today). I caught up to Nakia and another Excelsior runner, Paul, and chatted with them for a few minutes until hitting the first Porta-Potty about halfway through the loop. They took off, I wouldn’t catch them again for a few more laps as they were locked into a steady pace.
I came through the timing area in 33 minutes, greeted by NorCal ultra legend Stan Jensen; what a great dude- he’s at almost every race I run: Lake Sonoma, Miwok, Skyline, Dick Collins, etc. It’s a pretty cool feeling yelling out your race bib number and hearing someone say your name back to you, that’s old school.
Loop 2, pretty uneventful until about 3.5 miles in when i come up on Mark Tanaka, another Bay Area guy I’ve seen at at least half the ultras I’ve run these past few years. I told him, “shit, I’m probably going too fast if I’m running with you” but he assured me that I was right where I needed to be, and that he was running the 100k. 37 minutes for the second loop.
Loop 3, I grab my headphones and the iPod mini, take in some UCan. I hit the Porta-Potty again for a quick pee and I’m out. Again, pretty uneventful lap, 38 minutes for the third loop.
Loop 4; I think I’m losing my mind- this is right where I decided that a 50k would be the best distance for me today- a 50-miler could happen, but damn those last 7-10 miles would be ugly. 39 minutes for lap 4.
Loops 5 and 6 I honestly can’t recall being any different than the previous 4. 38 and 39 minutes respectively for the laps.
Loop 7, oh I just want to be done now. 38 more minutes, crossing the finish line at 4:24:36. I finished really strong with a 7:26 and a 6:59 for the last mile and a half, which tells me I could’ve gone longer but at what expense? With Miwok this close I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize that race, so playing it safe (and sane) was key today. It was more of a long training run at race pace to try out some new things (I’m switching over to UCan- I gotta say this was the best my tummy has ever felt in a race, felt like I coulda took down a hoagie and washed it down with a 6-pack of black cherry wishniak).
All in all, a really solid effort and a fun race- the volunteers were amazing, the RDs Anil and Rajeev were super nice (Rajeev has a great mustache, btw).
I finished 5th overall, and also won the men’s 30-39 age group, but after looking at the results I actually finished 2nd (winner Enrique Henriquez must’ve left after his finish) and I was somehow presented with a plaque for my age group win. I guess “age group win by default” I should say.
Either way, I got a cool plaque from Rajeev.
Cool happenings for the rest of 2015:
…well, me and Allyson are having our first child- baby due 10/4!
This is the reason I won’t be running a 100-miler this year (I had to pull out of the Wasatch Front 100 lottery at the end of January), which I am totally cool with. A Miwok finish will give me another ticket for the Western States lottery, which gives me 8 total for my 4th year entering. I’m gonna get in one day, might as well be next year (?)
Also, it’s probably not a good idea to just up and leave my 8-and-a-half-month pregnant wife so I can go get my ass kicked by the Wasatch Mountains of Utah; I mean I’m a selfish jerk but not that selfish.
I’m basically going to run a bunch of shorter stuff like the East Bay Triple Crown, something like the Table Rock 27k (7/18) or the Redwood Anvil 20-miler (7/26) in July, another attempt at a BQ with the Santa Rosa Marathon (8/23) and maybe finish up my season in September with the Coastal 50k (9/20).
Then the ultimate endurance race starts: FATHERHOOD!
Super-psyched to start the next stage of life with my lovely and super supportive partner, Allyson. I’ll be crewing and pacing her as she gets ready to delivery our baby, possibly a future ultra runner (if he/she has any sense whatsoever, they will stay away from this marvelous and ridiculous sport I love so much).
And thank you, the readers of this blog, for being on this awesome journey with me.