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First Timers at Cool Canyon 50k

Posted Jan 23 2009 6:01pm
This past Sunday I finally got a chance to catch up with a couple of friends who ran their first ultra at Cool Canyon two weekends ago. Both are great athletes and both understandably were anxious and excited about the big day. Here and there they asked me questions and I was only happy to help. Heck I was honored.

Sunday morning I met up with John when he came to join our group for the club trail run. I spoke with him briefly Thursday night but wasn't able to hear more about the race. John's an older guy, I would say mid-40's. He looks like he's been active most of his life, I know that he did at least 4 Ironmans. Caught me by surprise when he told me he was doing Cool, I had no idea he was looking into doing an ultra. He was worried about his mileage and admittedly he could have put in a lot more so we just talked briefly about pacing during the race. "John walk your hills" exactly what I told him. His mindset was right in line with his fitness, he just wanted to finish in one piece:) Came in at 6:21. One observation he made which made me laugh. At the parking lot he noticed there was like 30 Subaru Outbacks. "Is this the vehicle of choice for the ultra folk?" I dunno John but I can see why; spacious, rugged, sure footed and comes in a variety of outdoorsy colors.

Then Sunday afternoon I was at church and caught up with Tim. Tim is a fast cross country runner, trains and races every year. He's older too, 40's. He mainly does 5k's and his longest distance for a race was a half-marathon. Belongs to a local running club here in the city but also hangs out with the Tamalpa runners over in Marin. I think those guys insipired him to run an ultra. At the Quad Dipsea last year he was at the finish waiting for friends who were racing and it was shortly after that when he mentioned about entering Cool. His issue was nutrition and hydration, his runs are so short that he doesn't need to carry a water bottle or bring energy gels. The thought of carrying those items wasn't appealing to him, sure I don't blame him but I also told him "Tim you need to train long for this race and to train long you need to keep your body hydrated and fed. If that means carrying a bottle and a couple of gels you should do that or run circles around your car". One afternoon he was beaming in the pew. He had just done a 3-hour run, he had never done a 3 hour run before. So you know I figured he would do okay but not great. I figured that all his training in the short distance would get him to the finish at a good time but issues with food and hydration would play a factor in slowing him down. Well I was wrong. I came up to him and said "5 hours". He looked at me puzzled, "5 hours for what?...oh Cool Canyon, I did 4. Sucker pulled a 4:03 for 14th place. It was a loaded field! Did he even know the people he passed to get to 14th? I was very impressed, almost speechless and embarrassed a guessing 5. What do I know, I'm a mid-packer. His major beef was that it was too hilly, "Rick the hills were steep enough on some parts that I had to walk, I'll consider doing another if it wasn't so hilly". So I told him "That's how it is in ultra" but I forgot to tell him that the 50ks here in the Bay Area have even more elevation. If he ever got serious with the 50k distance he would do well in ultra races but I think his heart is in cross country and the shorter distances. But what an impressive performance, speaks volumes about his experience, speed and training.

I was excited for these guys and I'm glad they came through in high spirits and intact, no injuries and no traumatic moments:) I hope they do another but if not I'm just glad they experienced it for the first time. To experience an ultra trail race full of great runners, excellent people, exceptional volunteers, great aid stations, amazing scenery, good camarderie, etc, etc, etc. They picked a great race for their first one.
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