Friday, October 31, 2008

San Francisco One Day

I started this blog to update friends, family and anyone interested in my preparations for the Medals 4 Mettle, Windy 2 Indy run. With that run now in the rear view mirror, I think I will use the opportunity to keep a record of all the new ultra stuff that I do (And maybe regular marathon and even other stuff, who knows.)

Since Medals 4 Mettle, Windy 2 Indy in June, I have moved to San Francisco, so I finally have real hills to train on. Two weeks ago I ran the Chicago Marathon in 3hrs and 7mins, and this last weekend I ran the San Francisco One Day 24hr race, organized by Pacific Crest Trail Runs.

San Francisco One Day:

The SF One Day is a 12 and 24 hour timed race run on a 1.067 mile loop in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. I thought the format would play to my strengths of running very long distances on flat surfaces. (I am not sure if I am completely acclimated to the San Fran hills yet.) I ran in the 24hr race, the events sold out with approximately 65 people in each event. The participants were the usual ultra tough motley crew with a wide range of ages from 9 years old to over 70.

This is the first time I have run a race with this kind of timed format. There are some distinct advantages and challenges to running 24hrs as compared to running a 100 miler. On the down side, its boring, although it was in a beautiful location, inevitably it comes down to running around in circles all day. Luckily, after a while the pain takes up so much of your attention that it’s hard to be really bored. The other thing that makes a 24hr challenging is that the format really entices the runner to be slow. In a 100 miler, if you walk or stop, you feel like you will never get to the finish line unless you get moving. In a 24hr race, the finish line comes at you just as fast whether you are running 6:00 minute miles or sitting on your butt. On the plus side, there is more of an opportunity to get to know your competitors, since we don’t get spread miles and miles apart. This also breeds a clear feeling of camaraderie. It is also a lot easier on the crew since they don’t have to travel miles and miles into the wilderness to try to bring you a gel and a bottle of Heed. However, having Abby there was really important for me, without her help I never would have been able to go as fast, she made it so I never had to slow down at the aid station and basically stayed up the whole night with me.

We started at 9:00am Saturday. The first few laps I did around 8:30mins/mile pace. I feel like my most efficient stride is just over 9:00mins/mile. At that pace, I can breathe normally without the need to open my mouth and keep a nice easy stride. After the first few laps, I slowed to 9:00mins/mile and planned to keep at that pace for as long as possible with only a few short walk and bathroom breaks mixed in. My goal was 120 miles, I knew if I was going to hit that mark, I would have to do the largest chunk of miles in the first 10-12 hours, because I knew aches and pains and exhaustion would eventually slow my pace significantly.

My steady pace plan worked well through the morning and into early afternoon. PCTR had a leaderboard set up so I could see I was in 3rd place. However, by early afternoon it was getting into the low to mid eighties and I was having serious problems putting in calories. I never expected San Francisco to be so hot next to the water in late October. I was able to keep the pace up, but I was feeling really terrible, and knew I was going to have to slow down soon or risk overheating. I also knew that if I slowed down, the chances of picking my pace back up later were not good. Around 3:00, I stopped for my first and last 5 minute break.

After another hour or so of running, Abby walked with me for the first significant walking break of one lap. The backs of my legs hurt so much during that lap that I decided it would hurt less just to run. (I know, its nuts) So into the evening I hobbled at 10:00-11:00 minute miles.

Once nightfall hit, I started feeling much better. I was able to down some food and kept my pace at a steady 9:00-10:00 mins/mile. I was in 3rd place, close behind 1st and 2nd all the way through the 12 hour mark with just over 70 miles completed.

9:00pm-3:00am, the hours went by slowly but consistently. I decided I would have to start walking some, but I wanted to keep my pace up enough so that the adrenaline would keep pumping the pain away. I started breaking down everything into “manageable” 2 hour blocks, in which I would run 9 miles and then walk one mile with Abby. By 3:00am I had reached 103 miles, which means I passed 100 miles in approximately 17.5 hours, a new 100 mile PR. I think I was still in 3rd at this time, although I was getting very close to 1st and 2nd place. “Only” six hours left to go.

Somewhere between 3:00 and 5:00 am, I realized that I was in first place! It was actually quite nerve racking, I had never led a race before. Still, I kept going at my 5 mile per hour pace. Around 5:00am, I asked Abby to check on the other runners to see how close they were. Apparently both of the guys that had been close all day had stopped. I was now at least 10 miles ahead of the nearest competitor. It was hard to be motivated, I would easily reach my pre-race goal of 120 miles and I was well ahead of my nearest competitor. So I asked folks at the checkpoint what the course record was. It turned out to be 127 miles. It would be hard, but reachable. So now I had a new goal.

As the sun came up, I continued running and by 7:30 I passed the record. I finally slowed down and walked for most of the rest of the time. I think the relaxed pace allowed the pain and exhaustion to set in, because by 8:30 I was feeling really horrible. The RD had to convince me that I should stick it out for one more lap to make it 130.2 miles. And after a 25 minute walk, Abby and I finally finished just in time; I no longer had the strength to stand.

I am excited to have gotten my first ever 1st place finish. However, first place finishes aren’t really what running ultras are about. Just participating and finishing an event like this is reward in itself. The prizes are nice though; a coffee mug with “San Francisco One Day 1st place finisher” on it. Totally worth it. J

On to the next event December 6th: North Face Challenge 50 Miles. True test on hills!


Abby said...

Shan ran an incredibly disciplined and steady race, and with a great attitude the entire time. It's a good thing, I don't put up with much whining at 3am :)

Thought I would add a couple of things that I found interesting... being new to SF. The race was in a park next to the Golden Gate bridge, beautiful setting for sure. Around 11pm, I woke up to Shan calling me after a short nap, and the fog had rolled in over the Bay while I was asleep. I was disoriented a little, and I couldn't figure out why I couldn't see the bridge. Did they turn off the lights? (It was the thick fog blocking my view.) And what the hell was that noise? I met Shan for his walking lap, and we decided the 2 distinct fog horns were coming from the cruise ship and tanker we had seen earlier on the water. It took us about 5 hours to figure out the position of the horns was not changing... must be coming from the bridge? Brilliant.

It was spooky at first and then utterly annoying to hear the fog horns all night!

Also, we met some great people at the event. Cali has a great running community... which I'm sure we are going to get to know pretty well.

Yay Shan!

Jo Lynn said...

That is a great report, Shan. I volunteered at the event and got to witness you going so incredibly strong. Congratulations on a job well done.

Anonymous said...

Great running Shan. I was the guy who ended up behind you in 2nd place. I remember seeing you towards the latter part of the race as you passed me as if I were standing still.

Congratulations. I'm sure I'll see you around.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

thanks, Shan for the write-up. haven't been doing my homework, so i figured i should read up on what's out there. your 130is an awesome distance; should be cooler this year.