Tuesday, June 23, 2015

San Francisco Summer Solstice 24 Hour Race Report 2015

They say that if you want to loose weight the most effective thing to do is to cut back on calories going in (eat less).  The is because of the following reasoning: You can burn about 600 calories in a one hour run.  Or you could not eat a chocolate shake from macdonalds.

What they didn't think of though was what if you ran 24 hours.  That is like 14400 calories, or about 4 lbs of body fat (1 lb of fat is worth about 3500 calories).  Of course I'm not making an exact calculation here because I'm not even talking about glycogen reserves being utilized and the extra calories taken in during 24 hours of running, but this is my blog so I can make up any math I want.

Enter the San Francisco Summer Solstice 24 hour race.  But first, a little update and what has been going on in my running world:  Since having a blast at the 4 mph challenge back in March it has been pretty quiet on the training and racing front.  First was the attack of the killer cold.  I had not had a cold hit me this hard in a long time.  Usually I can run through a cold.  Not this one.  Next, I started hitting the hills to get ready for the big vert Ohlone 50k.  I felt pretty confident with my fitness going in, but then the race was cancelled due to a freak rain we got that scared the park into pulling the permits for the race for some reason.  After that let-down I sort of just goofed off for a while because I couldn't figure out my next move.  I knew about the San Francisco 24 hour race because it was part of the PA series that our club competes in, but I had thought that there was no way that I could run it because of racing Ohlone, family trip to Kansas, and helping out at Duncan Canyon at WS with Quicksilver.  But when I studied the calendar a little closer I realized that the race actually fell on the weekend that I was going to be home alone with nothing better to do, so naturally I signed up.  

Not the most focused training around.  The bars represent the amount of miles that were run in each week. The big bars are about 120 miles.
The Summer Solstice 24 hour is a race where they give you 24 hours to run as many laps around the lagoon at crissy fields in San Francisco as you can.  One lap is about 1.061 miles.  And it is completely flat.  There are three components that one should probably have in their training to do their best at this race:  lots of flat running practice, lots of volume (many miles per week), and really long training runs (to teach muscular endurance).  From the graph above you might have been able to tell that I didn't really do any of that.   Oh well, it was going to be a new experience and I was determined to have some fun no matter what the outcome.

Here are some pics to give some life to the one mile loop:

The Lagoon

Team blue. Left to right: Stephen, Jim and Keith.
Quicksilver had six guys in the race.  Running side by side in the picture above are Jim Magil and Stephen Strauss, two men battling for the 60-70 year old age group points.  In fact, Jim said the only reason he was running the race was because Stephen signed up and he had to protect his title.  You gotta love it when the grey hairs get competitive with each other.

I think there is a bridge back there somewhere...

Alcatraz in the distance.

The promonade. Views of the city just under the clouds.

Another lap down.
I started out with a simple enough strategy:  I would shuffle two laps at 9 minute per mile pace, then one walk lap, then one fast lap (maybe 7 to 8 minute per mile pace), then a walk lap.  And repeat.  As long as I could.  My thought process was that I would be using different sets of muscles for the stride lengths and movements required, thereby prolonging muscular fatigue.  But this didn't really end up working that good.  My walking muscles were already sore by 50k, and I couldn't run fast after that point anyways.  It seems I would have been much better off if I would have done what everyone else did.  Run as slowly as I felt comfortable with for as long as I could and then mix in the walking when that is all I could do.  Ultra-running really is a fly-and-die kind of sport.  In distance running they say that the best races come from even pacing, but I think it is telling that ultra runners almost as a rule run positive splits all the time.  Some experts claim that we just don't know what we are doing, but I don't see them out there doing anything better.

John Brooks (left), is the guy that makes this race happen.

Sachin doesn't even look like he just ran a hundo last weekend...
The race venue really was top notch.  I loved the setting.  The aid station was great.  There was tons of support.  It would be a little nicer to have all dirt to run on, but you can't have everything.  While my walking muscles were complaining early on, my shuffle legs were still pretty fresh and energy was good, so I was in high spirits for the first part of the race.  Once the fog started burning off and we got a little sun I started feeling some muscle cramping coming on.  Around this time my buddy Eric from work showed up.  I had told him I was doing this race this weekend and told him he could come up to the city and check it out if he wanted.  I have been working with Eric for 10 years now.  He is the guy who I first heard talking passionately about marathoning back in 2007.  I think I knew what a marathon was, but I didn't even know that normal people would do such a thing.  Soon after he talked about it though, I ran the San Fran marathon bandit and then swore I would never do that again (but that is a whole other story).  Anyways, Eric spotted me down one of the straight aways and joined in on my slow shuffle.  We chatted for a while.  I was trying to fill him in on what was going on.  He hung around for a while and got a glimpse of our silly sport and then went across the street to check out the Sports Basement.  As soon as he peeled off and I turned the corner and tried to pick up my pace, the legs started to seize up on me.  I couldn't believe it: 5 p.m. and 47 miles in, being as conservative with my pace as possible and switching up muscle groups and everything, and my legs were roasted.  I went back to a slow walk, trying to keep my legs from crumbling from beneath me as I tried to think of what to do next.  When I got the the aid station I grabbed some salt pills and a cold drink and went and sat down for a while.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but I thought that maybe if I just took it easy and tried to get some salt in, maybe it would help.  As I walked the next lap I did little experimental pick ups in pace to see if the legs would do anything.  Fortunately I got them to do a little bit of running right on the edge of what they would take at the time.  Eric saw me during this low, but then also saw as I seemed to pull myself back together.  By the time he left for home it seemed like I had found my running legs again.  I kept taking the salt pills and they really did seem to do something.  Then as the sun went down  and the fog started rolling in, my body got stronger and stronger.  In the twilight I was reaching my high for the day.  It is funny how the highest highs seem to follow the lowest lows, but even though I was pretty beat up and tired, I felt almost giddy as my body seemed to effortlessly glide along.  I'm sure everyone was pretty annoyed with how peppy I was at this point, but I was enjoying the moment.

Jason Reed says hi.  Views of aid station central.

People had some pretty comfy setups.  I don't know how many runners actually took naps in the tents, or whether it was just supporting crew that were camping out for the party...

The fog burning off in the afternoon.
At 8 p.m., or 12 hours in, I crossed the timing mat with 58 miles.  I didn't know whether I was going to make it to 100 because it seemed like a stretch to squeeze another 42 miles out of my body in the next 12 hours that were going to happen through the night and on tired legs, but I knew if I was diligent and just stayed steady, sort of like in the 4 mph challenge, it was totally do-able.

I was pretty much in the zone clicking off the miles until 70 when I realized my stride length was getting shorter and I just didn't have as much pop in my legs.  I decided to take a sit break, remembering the way they seemed to help during the 4 mph challenge.  Loren, our racing team captain, was there cheering us on and helping us out.  He lent me his blanket and I went and sat in cab of John's truck to stay warm as it was pretty cold and windy out.  Then Greg, our club president, who was also helping us out, came over and brought me some awesome food that he had swiped from some banquet he was at earlier that day.  He talked up my daughters who were killing it in running club at Bishop grade school this year in a program that he helps coordinate.  It is pretty hard to feel sorry for yourself or to not want to do well in the race when all of these people really put their energy into helping you...like I said before, the support is great.

When I got back into the fray, I remembered that those sit breaks don't come without a penalty.  The legs were so stiff that it took a whole lap to get them to function properly again.  But then the payoff:  they started to bounce off of the ground again and I was back in business.  As I rounded out my fifth lap post break, I noticed that I was slowing down again.  I kept at it for one more lap and then thought to myself that if I keep doing these breaks and keep clicking off miles the way I was, then 100 was in the bag.  So that was the plan for the rest of the night.  6 laps in-between sit breaks.  Chicken soup while on break, and a small cup of coke every lap.  The coke did wonders with respect to keeping my alert and awake.  I remembered my sleepiness at the 4 mph challenge and I also remembered the lack of available caffeine at that race.  The little shots of coke though were perfect to keep me going through the night.  

I got another shot of energy as the sun came up the next morning.  Then it was just a matter of finishing it off.  I reached 100.8 miles at 23 hours and 19 minutes elapsed and decided I had had enough.  I had had my eyes set on that goal and was satisfied when I made it, so I got my sweats on and sat down and cheered on the rest of the runners as they were going for their own goals (or even racing).  The aid station made me an awesome breakfast burrito that totally made my day.

I know a lot of things I could have done better, but all in all I am really happy with the way it all played out because it gave me confidence that I can actually bounce back from my legs seizing up when the sun is shining.  I think salt pills really might be the way to work through some of those tough spots, and I should really expect to be able to move well into the night.  This is a great event and I will probably do it again sometime.  Probably not next year, but sometime.

There wasn't too much damage from the race.  I have a couple of toes that got blistered up, and various chaffing that is healing up.  The most annoying thing is that I let myself get sun-burned.  I didn't even realize it with the clouds and cool temps, but being out there all day exposed will do it to you.  The muscle soreness and recovery has been average - no issues as far as I can tell yet.  

Chikara, the newly minted course record holder with 132 miles, left it all out on the course.  Including anything he ate...

Pierre thinks it's hilarious.

Garret is happy he beat me again.  He got me at the 4 mph challenge and beat me by a few miles at this one as well.  Idaho for all the marbles...

This guy.  Maybe someone who reads this blog will tell me who he is...

Every mile I was faced with a decision: which bowl to choose from...

William had a special day out there.  Something like 118 miles I think.  First in the 40-50 age group.

Jean toughed out the loops again and improved a couple of miles from last year by running 129.

I'm not usually a big fan of the chotskies but I can use every one of these: coaster, mug, 100 mile buckle baby!