Monday, 25 April 2011
Ruth Anderson 50k
After using a double-header weekend in April last year to get ready for Comrades (Salt Lake City Marathon on a Saturday then Boston on the Monday), I wanted to do the same this year. But the closest I could fit in was Boston on last Monday then one of the Ruth Anderson Ultra distances on the Saturday. It was just a case of choosing what distance would be the best for me as well as the most fun - 50k, 50 miles or 100k. All I knew was that previous times were fast and it involved running around a lake in San Francisco, although I wasn't sure whether it was on a trail or if it had any hills.
Lucky, Race Director Rajeev Patel was really helpful and I opted for the 50k (on a basically flat bike path, it turns out) since I didn't want to be too tired to train well for the last few weeks before Comrades. It's against my general principle of running the longest distance if there's a choice, but 100k was really a bit much and something shorter and faster made more sense.
The course is around Lake Merced and all the distances involve combinations of laps and part laps of the accurate 4.47 mile route. I'd never been before so it was a good excuse to see somewhere new and not too far from home, plus it's a really fun race with a great, friendly atmosphere (well, it's an ultra so this isn't unexpected). Rajeev definitely knows what he's doing and it's a very efficient and effective operation.
All the races started together soon after sunrise and I found myself running in the lead with a French guy, Martin, for almost three laps. The trusty Garmin was there to keep me honest around a 6:15/mile pace (3:14 in total for the 50k) but Martin was pushing me faster and I couldn't help but stick with him.
Laps flew by and the legs seemed to be fine, even after a run up and down Mt Diablo two days before (Western States fear is kicking in as it's not far away). I managed to keep the pace even throughout, which is the main aim of a training run, but I couldn't settle down into Comrades pace at the 6:15s. It was weird but every time I tried to correct my pace I'd go too slow so I just had to stick with something a little closer to 6s since then I could then keep it even. As issues go, this is certainly better than if I could only settle into a pace that was too slow, but the main aim was to focus on learning the right pace.
The aid stations were great and everyone was really supportive as the laps ticked off until I got to the finish feeling a little more tired than I'd intended and having tried harder than I meant to. But I got a course record in just under 3:11 and felt like I could have kept going, although not for 40k more, as at Comrades. However, I'm really happy with my progress so far this year and it was very enjoyable. I did feel a bit left out when I saw everyone keep going but I'll wait a few months before doing a road 100k. Joe Binder knocked out an impressive 7:00 and a few seconds for a great win although I'm sure he's disappointed to get so close to breaking 7h. Full results here.
I've been mentioning Comrades more on the blog recently because I'm definitely getting more obsessed as it gets closer, and now it's just five weeks away. But if I can hit the target time of 2:41 next weekend at the Big Sur Marathon (to fill in one of two remaining gaps in my marathon minute game, as mentioned in earlier posts) then I'll feel like all's perfectly on track after about six weekends in a row of long races at a decent pace. Which will just leave the Miwok 100k the following weekend, but that's going to be at a much more comfortable pace and the leaders will have washed and showered by the time I finish. It was one of my most enjoyable runs last year and this year should be equally as good, plus I'll know a lot more of the guys this time around.