Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Year's One Day

Instead of partying till dawn New Year's Eve to New Year's Day and then jumping into the frozen Chicago Lake Michigan like we did last year, this year, Bridget and I decided to travel to San Francisco and run from 9:00am NYE to 9:00am New Year's Day in Coastal Trail Run's New Year's One Day.
To take advantage of being back in the bay area, we arrived a couple days early and were fortunate to get reservations at my favorite restuarant, Chez Panisse two days before the race and then we spent the whole day before the race in Napa doing the Wine Train and visiting the Grgich Winery. Several glasses of wine the day before a 24hr race is good for carb loading right?
I have run this course before although not on New Year's. The first time was in 2008, which I was fortunate enough to get my first ever win and do 130 miles. The second time was in 2009, where I stopped at the 12 hour mark with around 78 miles and an achilles injury, probably brought on by going out too fast.
The training leading up to this one went very well. In October, my office moved to a building with a gym so in addition to my nightly runs I was able to start running the almost 4 miles to and from work plus workout at lunch time. This let me run more miles at a faster pace and more overall. I had several weeks in a row of 120-160 miles. My two main goals for the race were to do well competetively and best my previous distance of 130 miles if possible.
Race day was perfect weather: low 60's and sunny during the day, high 40's at night. It was great to see a lot of friends from the area running the race and cheering us on. 9:00am hits and off we go.
Right at the start two people jumped ahead of me, moving fast, really fast. The person in first seemed to be doing seven minute miles, which seemed sorta suicidal in a 24hr race. I didn't want to make the same mistake I had made on this course previously so I was determined to take it easy and just go at my own pace. Fortunately, my easy pace was still eight to eight and a half minute miles. The extra miles at faster pace seemed to have lowered my 'taken it easy' pace. I later heard that the person who jumped out at seven minute miles was using this race to qualify for Boston, then he kept running most of the rest of the race! Although he did slow down later, I couldn't imagine trying to keep running all day after completing a hard marathon.
The course is a 1.061 mile loop at Crissy Field, which is a beautiful area in San Francisco with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the bay and the San Francisco skyline, over and over and over, etcetera. It's flat and ideal for getting in big miles, although it is a mental challenge with all the repetiveness of it. Fortunately, the runners and especially the volunteers were amazingly nice and helpful which definitely brightened the day during the hard spots.
I finished the first marathon in around 3 hours and 30 minutes, well ahead of my goal pace but feeling easy. Also, Bridget finished her first marathon in under 5 hours! Amazing, especially for someone who has not been doing long distance running for long and has not run an actual marathon, she just decided to be hardcore and go straight for ultras.
By midday, things were not feeling so easy anymore. Pain was setting in big time and I was doing 9-10 minute miles. Still ahead of goal pace but feeling like there was a long, long way to go. Timed events are difficult mentally compared to distance events because no matter how fast or slow, the finish line marches toward you at the same terrible pace and I was letting that fact get to me. I was also getting lapped, and by nightfall I was in 2nd place 3-4 miles behind and getting further. I was slowing down and felt like my goals were slipping away.
Then, just when I was thinking I was going to be slowing down more and more and more, something changed. First place, Chikara Omine, suddenly slowed to a crawl. Almost literally a crawl. He must have seized up terribly because he was moving like a slow motion zombie. It looked very painful. Chikara is an amazing runner, much more accomplished than myself, and while I felt his pain, seeing the chink in his armor gave me an energy boost and I was back running a good pace. Also, my friends Devon Crosby-Helms, Nathan Yanko, Brett Rivers and Larissa Polischuck all stopped by which was great to see. Brett and Larissa even ran a few laps with me, which was really helpful. Around the 14 hour mark, I took the lead.
As New Years approached, party boats started to fill up the bay. I found out that there was going to be fireworks at midnight, cool! The 6 and 12 hour races also started so that they would be ending at midnight, so there was quite a party atmosphere. Right at midnight, about 90 miles in, we stopped for a toast of champagne, which was the first time I have had champagne at an aid station, kinda nice.
After a quick 10 minute break at midnight, it was back to the work at hand, and by 100 miles in 17ish hours, it was once again a grind. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, begging for the sun to rise. The nice part was I was walking a little bit every now and then and I would get to walk with Bridget for a while, which was nice company. I was also now far ahead of 2nd place, over 10 miles. To keep myself motivated, I pretended like 2nd place was closing in so I could use the fear for energy.
Finally, the night ended. Around 7-8am I heard someone closing in on me, I had been pulling away from the whole field since before midnight so it was a bit of a surprise since I thought I was still moving at a good pace considering the distance. It was Bridget! She was still running after all this time. We ended up doing the last several laps together, ending the race with 126.3 miles for me and 80.6 miles for her. Bridget got 3rd place for the women and I was 1st place overall. Rock!
I felt pretty good at the finish, I usually roll around on the ground in pain and exhaustion after a 100+ mile race, but I was able to stand for the awards. Bridget was definitely feeling the pain though, she was nauseated and not able to stand up. Fortunately our friend Gasper Paluzi was kind enough to basically carry Bridget to his car and give us a ride to the hotel.
Off to the next adventure! I think Bridget caught the ultra bug, because in the airport on the way home she was talking about doing her first 100 miler! We have our eyes on Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Brett said...

Congrats on the strong run and the win, was great to run a couple laps with you to bring in 2012!