Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Firetrails 50 Race Report

Just after the turnaround.. mile 28 or so. Jean Pommier photo.
Since I had such a great time running at Firetrails I decided to write a report up. A bit late but hope you get your read on.
Last year I ran Firetrails with no expectations as to finishing well, as I'd raced a 50K two weeks before and knew I wasnt recovered. I still ran a fast time though in 6:30, but dragged ass on the last few miles around Lake Chabot reservoir and missed the CR. This year, I hadnt been training nearly as much, and basically crammed all the training for the race into the previous 2 months, but luckily some of it in Colorado. It was a fun experiment this year to see how quickly I could recover with only about 75 miles per week over those 2 months, with only two long runs of 5 hours and 4.5 hours one month before. I like the "low mileage" though as it keeps things fresh and fun.

I have had such an insane semester at school with unprecedented levels of stress and non-running focus, I didn't think I would have a good day. Turned out that stress was a key factor in success this year, which is unusual. Ellen and the kids weren't here this year, which was also bummer. I even sat in car, 10 minutes before the start thinking about school, and basically flipped a coin as to whether to start running. Luckily, I won the toss, so I ran.
The race started out pretty chill. Just like last year, guys go out way too fast at a pace that would put them under 6 hours at the finish. This happens at every ultra though and it always amazes me how ultrarunners, at least the male ultrarunners, are the worst at pacing themselves. For the first few miles, I sat back at what I thought was about 6:30 finishing time and just focused on easy effort over the first 5 miles. As the daylight came up, I saw that Chikara Omine, who was a rabbit last year, was just ahead of me and I was impressed at his patience.

My only real goal this year was to run the entire course, which I did, and on the hills after the first aid station, I caught up with Chikara, Leigh Schmidt, and Gary Gellin. Gary said we were five minutes faster than last year's time, which I didnt believe at the time. We all chatted a bit, and as the first real downhill started Leigh and I ran together and talked a good part of the way until Skyline aid station. I thought I would see how I felt after the turnaround on the climb up (1800') at the half way point to determine my efforts back to the finish.

After Skyline I left Leigh and kept feeling better and better. This was one of those races where it just kind of "happens"and I never felt like I was killing myself to keep going. It was hot in the sun, so I made sure I drank plenty of fluid the whole race, especially early when it was cool. I knew the heat (well, "hot" for me is about 75 degrees) would take a toll and luckily this awesome course is in the treed shade for the most part.

On the way down to the turnaround the Golden Hills Marathners were coming up, and it seemed that I passed Leor Pantilat earlier than last year. I didn't even keep splits last year and this year, and didn't really care to, but I guessed that Gary was correct that we were fast this year. At the turnaround I grabbed a bottle from John Medinger that Vicki Richtman had left for me, and put my nose to the grindstone to run the whole way back up the hill. At the top, I still felt good, but prophylactically I gobbled 4 ibuprofens at the aid station and stuffed a handful of electrolytes in my pocket. I'd been taking E's along the way, and the whole race I only carried oen bottle, a couple gels, and the E's in my pocket.

The rest of the race was a blur more or less, but I had an awesome time just keeping pace, passing people coming toward me in the 50 and passing marathoners going my way. The 50 mile runners coming towards me would step aside on the single track, and I had no problem giving way to them as well.

80 percent of marathoners stepped which is real nice to let me pass, but many of them had headphones on and didnt hear me saying "on your left" two or three times until I was right behind them. A bit annoying, but if this were a close race I'd have been a bit more tweaked. I am on the fence about whether headphone should be allowed in singletrack races like Firetrails.

The rest of the run was real fun and I had my eye on my time coming into the last two aid stations knowing I had to run sub 7 minute miles to finish close to 6:20 overall. After one big climb, the last 7 miles are pretty flat and fun. Last year I cratered here and had to steal a gel from Wim Van Damme to finish. This year was way easier to cruise around the reservoir, and even with an extra gel in my pocket. I tried to push a bit more to go under 6:20, and in hindsight could have cut another two minutes off my time if I'd had to over the last few miles of the race. I was thrilled to finish in 6:19:39, just under legendary Carl Anderson's 17 year old 6:26.

Surprisingly, Chikara came in only 4 minutes after me! I had no idea he was even that close, as I had no clue how close anyone was except on the halfway turnaround. Chikara said he was making time on me on the flats, but I'd pull away on the hills, so no net loss of time. He was also under Carl's old CR of 6:26 as well.

Ultra trail races, especially singletrack, are so fun. I've missed running them the past two years. The BBQ was excellent, good folks all around, tons of volunteers giving their day to others (which I need to do ALOT more of). Anne and Carl do an awesome job at Firetrails. The race entry is steep for a fifty miler, but the BBQ rocks. Over the years Firetrails has not been a National race, but I think this will change in the near future. My CR will go down in the next year or two I bet.

Post race thoughts: I need to volunteer more at races. Thanks to Tamalpa Runners of Marin for having me on board their team, paying my USATF fees, and for the singlet, hat, and shorts. Ran in my old Pearl Izumi Peak XC, that are almost years old; I still love em. Ate about 6-7 gels, 3 Clif Bloks, 3 bananas and other fruit, 10 E's, 4 Ibu, aid station drink and water. Leor Pantilat won the Golden Hills Marathon in CR time as well; that guy keeps getting faster and faster. Mark Richtman turned in another elite time as well in third place.