Sunday, October 26, 2008

San Francisco One Day 12 Hour Race

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 3; 19th Edition
437.5 miles raced in 2008
Race: San Francisco One Day 12 Hour Race
Place: San Francisco, CA
Miles from home: 738 miles
Weather: high 70s- low 80s; sunny

Going into this race I had mentioned I would be happy with 70 miles. However, my own personal goal was to shoot for 75 miles. I figured even with my racing in the past few months and a marathon the week after, I could eek out an easy 75. And then I saw the race day temperature forecast. Well, crap.

As it turned out, San Francisco has a near record-high temp of 82 degrees on the day of the 12-Hour race. I immediately revised my plans but still hoped that that mysterious and unpredictable San Francisco fog might roll in.

Setting up shop about 75 yards from the timing mat, I laid out a tarp on the grass, positioned a few bottles of Gatorade within easy reach and waited around for about 45 minutes after picking up my packet for the day. I had the pleasure of spending some time before the race with my friend Nattu who I have not seen since the last time I was doing a timed event, the Ultracentric 24-Hour event in Grapevine, TX. We joked that it looked like we were going to get more of the same warm temps that had hindered us (well me; Nattu thrives in hot weather running) in that race.
I also had the pleasure of meeting a fellow runner who I had conversed with previously on numerous occasions, Kent Roberts. With his own setup right across the path from mine, he generously offered any of his supplies to me to use during the race. He also offered his moral and vocal support even while racking up an extremely impressive 50.2 miles himself (nearly one per year of his life. Way to go Kent!)

As they made the countdown for the start of the race at 9 AM (I would definitely have started this race at 7 AM; or conversely, started the 12 Hour runners at 9 PM) I made one last pit stop. I ran into another runner with whom I had spent plenty of time speaking with previously, Catra Corbett. Easily recognizable by not only her tattoos and fun clothing but also her ability to kick butt in long distance-races, Catra was a really nice person to converse with. (She would go on to amass 100.3 miles in the 24 Hour run!)

First 3 Hours:

At the very beginning I saw the winner of last year's 24 Hour Race, Kermit Cuff who ran an impressive 125 miles. I knew he was running the 12 Hour version and would definitely be serious competition today. As such, I decided to both keep him in sight but also not try and race him. Today was all about running, not racing. However, in front of him were to other gentlemen who were cruising along as well. I hoped they were going out far faster than what they were going to finish in but kept them in sight as well.

After one hour, the race organizers began putting up the leaders' mileage. I was not in the top 4 when they listed them for the first time but was far from worried. I knew I had finished one lap right after an hour and therefore that lap had not yet counted. You see, this race is run such that only full laps count and if someone were to beat another runner to the timing mat, they will technically be "ahead" at that point regardless of what happens in the next uncompleted lap.

When my hostess for the weekend, Jenni, came down around 90 minutes into the race, and asked if I needed anything I was already a little perturbed that I had gone through an entire 32 oz of Gatorade. I asked her to bring me a few more if she could and in the meantime I would rely on the race's provisions. I was determined not to bonk in the sun.

By 3 Hours, I had somehow not only snuck into the top three but was leading with a total of 20.9 miles. I saw Kermit walking in a shirt that he had not been wearing when the race started and as he had completely dropped out of the top four, I assumed that maybe his day was done far earlier than he had hoped for. (This was confirmed later when he was declared to be injured at the awards ceremony after the race. I hope it was not serious.)

Any lingering cold in the air from the morning (of which there was precious little to begin with) was now gone. The day was underway. I had already traversed the perimeter of Crissy Field just south of the Golden Gate Bridge nearly 20 times.

Hours 3-6:The first time I really began to notice the time was in the 4th hour. Perhaps because I knew once I hit four hours I would be 1/ 3 of the way done with my running or because from noon to 1 pm, the sun was directly overhead and what very little shade had been provided by the hills or buildings in the distance had all but disappeared I was definitely clock watching.

During this stretch was the first time I took the time to read a few of the emails sent by so many of my friends (and many of them on several occasions!) the volunteers for the race kept everyone's "email" in a folder and when you finished a lap would say "Dane, you've Got mail!" As I stopped at the aid station for more than just 3 seconds to throw liquid down my throat, I told them I would look them over. "Good," they said. "The folder is getting full!" A few jokes, many kind words, and a notice that the webcast was not working at all (total bummer on that one) awaited me.

As the sun cruelly beat down from above, we had one wonderful saving grace: the northerly wind blowing in our faces as we finished the backside of every lap. Coming down the slightest bit of downhill, runners made an ankle-breaking 45 degree angle turn but got to at least enjoy the breeze.

With the race course completely open to the public, and the day being absolutely wonderful for everything else on the planet but what 125 of us were doing, we had company. Dogs, cyclists, other recreational runners, sight-seers, walkers, people carrying their kayaks and sculls, tourists on gigantic-seated bikes and just about everyone else you can imagine clogged a fair amount of the rather narrow path. Enjoying the day, blissfully ignorant to the people swearing at them under their breath as they had to swerve in and out of revelers walking 4 abreast (and on the surprising occasion, 3 or so racers doing the same thing!) this myriad of humanity at least gave us something to look at during our pain. The Golden Gate Bridge is lovely and Alcatraz ominously staring down at us definitely inspired us to walk a straight line (no jail time for me please!), but after 35 miles, even these beauties get old.

Hours 6-10:

At the halfway point, I had definitely slowed. However, if nothing else I was very pleased with how I was handling the heat and sun. Easing off when I could tell I was beginning to overheat, hydrating properly and taking the correct amount of supplements undoubtedly kept me from a huge crash and burn. I have been using an Electrolyte supplement for quite some time now called Prolytes. However, I had previously only used the supplement after a workout. Here I decided to try it during the race. A potentially risky move, given I was violating the rule of trying nothing new on race day, it worked perfectly. As warm and bright as it was, I continued to sweat. While the white lines of salt caked my Road ID jersey in such intricate patterns that they looked like part of the design, I never fully felt exhausted.

While crossing the timing mat one time, I did not hear the telltale chirp of my ankle bracelet signifying the end of a mile. I brought this to the attention of one of the race directors, Sarah. She assured me they would look into it and if there was a discrepancy in lap times, it would be remedied. I felt reassured.

As the leader pulled steadily away, I was still somewhat close to second place and seemingly far ahead of the 1st female and the 4th male. However, at the next update, I thought for sure I was further along than reported. No worries, I thought. I must have just missed making a mile before the hourly update.

However, over the next hour or so, my chip only notified my presence on about every other lap. After the third such instance, I leaned over to tell the gentlemen at the timing tent. Another runner was asking him where to get soup (a curious place to make a request to be sure as the food table was just about 20 feet away but hey, I have been FAR more delirious than that!) so I patiently waited. When the gentlemen looked at me, I made eye contact with him and said, "I am not sure my chip is recording every lap." To my utter surprise he said absolutely nothing and walked away with the runner to help him find soup (or something).

With no other choice but to continue and realize that my lap times would show the obvious difference, I went right back into my groove. At this point I had slowed my pace down to about 11-12 minutes per lap (which was roughly one mile). I would jog when I could, walk when I had to and then pick up a nice brisk pace to pass all those who had done so to me when I walked. I tried different patterns of jogging and running and all seem to produce the same time result. I was pleased with what was happening and in spite of a little bout of stomach uneasiness, thought I might still be able to catch 2nd place.

At the next update, something was clearly wrong. While I figured I may have mistakenly not hit my watch on a lap (or possibly two), the leader board showed me 4 miles behind where I thought I was. At one point Nattu and I were running together and he asked me what lap I was on. I told him what the leader board said and he replied, in a completely matter-of-fact way that is 100% Nattu (and actually made me laugh in my head): "That is not correct." I shrugged my shoulders and soldiered on.

Hours 10-12:

Around 6:30 PM, or with just 2:30 left in the race, the sun sunk behind the hills of the Presidio in the distance. The wind had completely changed directions and was cooling us on the front side of the loop rather than the back half. I contemplated donning long sleeves in the cool air but when the back half revealed itself to be completely without a cooling wind (it was currently at our backs, which, while appreciated, provided very little cooling effect) and I realized I would be sweating profusely half of each lap, I decided against it.

Almost immediately, I felt like a new man. After nearly 3 hours of 11-, 12-, and 13- minute laps, I took off like a shot. In the penultimate hour, I suddenly sped up and ran a 9:45.0, 9:29.5, 10:43.3 and 10:09.3 in four laps. As many others seemed to be showing the strain of the day I sped through the aid station grabbing only a glass of Coke and a few Pringles before taking off again.

Jenni appeared on my last lap before the final hour in shorts and running shoes. After already putting in 13 plus miles earlier in the day with her running group she was here to do a few laps with me. I told her to wait one last lap as I wanted to do it solo. She immediately understood and patiently waited for me to finish the lap.

With one hour left, I appeared to have a one mile lead over the next guy behind me, at least according to the leader board. I knew it wasn't correct but had neither the energy nor the desire to dispute it. I told Jenni I was more or less going to walk the last hour and enjoy the beautiful night we had before us. Jogging the shorter portions of the loop and walking the longer portions I was doing a strategy completely different than most.

With each lap I was that much closer to being done with the day. Feeling rather refreshed, I was still quite pleased to be done. The day had been a long one indeed. I was excited to get texts messages about Penn State winning in Ohio State for the first time ever as a member of the Big Ten and began to cheer on every person I passed or those who passed me. In our semi-delirious states, in now mostly pitch-blackness, everyone said thank you or waved their hand without once looking to see if they actually knew the person cheering for them!

I planned the last 4 loops perfectly, expecting to finish RIGHT at 11:59:59 of running. However, about 50 yards from the finish, I glanced over my shoulder and hard-charging out of the darkness was the guy who had been one mile behind me just an hour ago. He seemed to experience the same rejuvenation from the sun's setting and was about to crash my little party. So I took off in a cloud of dust and made my final right-hand turn before crossing the finish line with 11 seconds to spare at 65.1 miles. George, the guy behind me, finished just 4 seconds back. What an awesome finishing kick for George!

Awards Ceremony:

After throwing on a fleece to protect myself from the almost inevitable teeth-chattering coolness which would set in, I tried to find George to congratulate him. However, my movement was limited and I assumed his was as well. So I just decided to wait until the awards. I could not remember how the awards were going to be given but I fully intended to ask if there was a possibility that George and I could share the 3rd place award. Well, it didn't matter.

As it ends up there were only overall award winners and age group award winners. George ending up winning his age group, and with the 2nd male overall being in my age group I ended up empty-handed. Jenni and I laughed out loud at, not only at the crazy nature of racing and how you can be third male and 2nd in your age group quite easily and not get an award, but also the way in which the Race Director (the one who ignored me at the timing table) seemed to almost contemptuously spit out my name in such a way that not a single person knew what to do. Jenni said "We cheered for every single person but you!" The woman next to me, Diana Rush (a 48 year old who ran an astounding 63 miles) said, "Aren't you the third male?" I nodded my head and said, "I think so."

When I looked over some of the results the next day with split times included (which I had to search over hill and dale to find) I was quite happy to see I had not gone crazy. Right before my chip did not beep, I had run laps of 11:33.8, 14:21.2, and 10:43.5. Then on three straight trips, the chip clocked me at 27:54.5, 25:18.6 and 25:01.6. Right after that I had another stretch of 11:51.3, 12:41.4 and 12:51.5. It had indeed missed three of my miles at least. While it made very little difference overall, I was happy to know I had not imagined the discrepancy.

All told two gentlemen with the surname of Sanchez (but I think who were unrelated) dueled it out for 76.8 and 74.7 miles. The first overall woman, one Juli Aistars had one helluva day in legging 67.2 miles!
I just wanted to take a second to thank all my friends (and a few people I haven't heard from in ages!) for taking the time to drop me an email. Without a doubt your kind words were not unappreciated. It is the little things that make life great and it is amazing how often those "little things" end up being huge. Thanks!

Addendum: When irked, I call a spade a spade. I also dole out compliments and praise when necessary.

As such, I would like to point out that I recently received information for the San Francisco 12 Hour Race that they corrected my mileage and (more or less) apologized for the error on race day, saying that anxiety of not knowing whether laps counted must have been high.

So, for those who read my report where I talked about this lack of course management, I wanted to point out that a correction was made.

That said, and I make this edit many years later, it came to my attention that said race director, Sara Spelt, spent no time trying to disparage my name in her running circles for - actually I am not sure.  I guess for trying to make sure they ran their race correctly and I got credit for what I did. *shoulder shrug*


Anonymous said...

Wow...sounds like it made for an interesting day! That's some admirable mileage and it sounds like you had a great time rubbing shoulders with old and new friends. Great work Dane!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dane!!

Great meeting you this past weekend. You were so full of energy and good wishes for every runner. I am not sure how you were able to do so AND keep running yourself. But thank you for cheering me on. :)

Yellow Scuba said...

Great job, D. I'm sorry it wasn't your day, but you did well and certainly should be proud of your race. I will never understand how Race Directors of fairly small races think it's okay to dismiss the concerns of their PAYING racers. That's unfortunate. And, we all know that if Nattu says it's not right, well, then it's not right! :) Congrats on a job well done. Oh, and GO PSU!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dane!

Congratulations on a great race! Sorry I missed talking to you out there--somehow I never manage to meet everyone :). Could you send me your email at I want to ask you something. Thanks. Juli

George Rehmet said...

Hi Dane,

Thanks for the kind words about me. In the waning hours of the 12 hour race, I was determined to hang on to you. Your description of my finishing kick was dead on.
It was great to see you at the San Francisco Marathon expo and buy your book. You're a great inspiration. I hope to see you in Long Beach this month.
George Rehmet