Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cherry Pick'n in the Santa Cruz Mountains: 2011 PCTR's Big Basin Redwoods 50K

I was ultra lucky to win my age group in an ultra for the first time.
Snapping a pre-race shot of running river and moist area. Gonna be fun!
Or, was I just Cherry Picking (to select the best or most desirable)? It's Saturday night (8pm-ish), one week after Miwok 100K. I put into motion "Operation Cherry Picking". I had no idea that the race I was going to cherry pick was the next morning. Here we go... my first Cherry Picking race.

I think where I got lucky was the fact that for some reason I got on my laptop and starting looking for upcoming races. I went to Ultrasignup and then to Pacific Coast Trail Runs for a peak, and there it was PCTR's  "Big Basin Redwoods 50K". Normally, there are so many runners in there 30's or 40's at ultra events. At this race, there were only two other male runners in my age group 40-49.
Driving in to park before the event. Notice wet ground. It's been that kinda year.
First, let's flash back to my race the week before - Miwok 100K. Of the 350 starters, only 287 finished. Actually, that's a record number for finishers at Miwok. See Miwok history. And of the 287 finishers, 83 of them were in their 30's (30%) and 119 (40%) of them were in their 40's. Check this out... 202 of the 287 finishers (70%) were in those two age groups. I was around 70th of these 119 male and female 40 somethings. I was also, 170th of 287.  See, I am not that fast.My point is this... THIS IS PRIME PICKING!
Start -Finish to a great day. So glad to have crossed that bridge.

On the PCTR website, there was only ONE  40 year old (male or female) of 34 entrants  the night before. That's 3%. It was a male and my initial thoughts were, I could get second in my age group. But, then I thought, "Maybe I could get first in my age group." Never done that before.

So, I cross reference the lone 40 something male with Ultrasignup and noticed he had only one finish and it was a 3:39 marathon. If I ever run a marathon (went from 10K to 50K), then that's about what I would run. Giddy up! I got this dude. Little did I know that there was another 40 something male registered for the event, but he wasn't close either. On race day, some 25k's moved up or some other cherry pickers showed up for some hardware to bring the total of entrants to 40. Not only did I win my age group by I finished 5th of 40 starters. It had rained the night before which made the course a bit fun but not overly wet. About 3 hours in the event, a cold front dropped in and shared some hale for about 15 mintues. Yeeeeeeee-haw!

In first place for the men with a time of 5:05 was Tamalpa Runner, Brett Rivers. Winning it for the women was Ashley Lindsey in 6:32. I came in at 6:47 with a huge smile on my face. When I got there, Sarah (Co-owner of PCTR) was making grilled cheeses and tomato-basil soup. Yum. Mike and Spencer were also great to hang out with for a while, so I thank you all. Even Adona Ramos (Quicksilver Teammate) was hanging out at the aid station after running the 25K (second place woman). Thanks for helping me with my transitions Adona "Summer" Ramos.

Speaking of Adona, something funny happened to us at the start/finish line before the race. I sort of got busted the morning of the event. I ran into one of my Quicksilver Ultra Racing Teammates, Adona Ramos. I said, " what are you doing here?" and she said, "What are you doing here?" "Busted", I said, and we both chuckled because we both wanted a high finish against what we knew to be inferior competition. Nothing against PCTR, but we race in the Pacific Association's Norcal Grand Prix of USATF. Races include, Western States 100, Miwok 100K, American River 50M, and more... which feature some of the most competitive men and women's ultra racing athletes in the world.

Selfish me, right? You're right. I am bummed that my ranking suffers because I run with the thoroughbreds and Phillies of the Ultrarunning world. I get my butt kicked out there and my ranking goes lower and lower as I enter these high profile events. LOL

I AM REALLY NOT THAT SERIOUS, I am just trying to make a point. I am competitive, but run to race in the most beautiful places in the United States with such great people. The bottom line is that it's what many of us think but don't say. Nobody wants a D+ (68%) grade next to their name. I will admit it because I don't want to train harder or more than 3 days per week, I will cherry pick to 70% and explore new events :-)

My next big race will be Tahoe Rim Trail 100M  July 16, 2011. Then I will hope to be ready two months later for Hal Koerner's 100 miler in September - Pine to Palm. So, if you are between 40-49, stay away from these races. LMFAO Somewhere between now and then, I will be running a few for 50K's prime for picking.

I met a new friend and Lawyer (Yes!), Michael Weinstein (multiple Marathoner) from LA. He ran his first ultra in 6:50 (Awesome because there was 6,840 ft of climbing with a slightly wet surface) and also left his lights on and needed a jump.
You may recognize Mike as the caveman from those Geico Commercials.

Seriously, this is why I run, so I can eat and drink. You know from previous blogs that I love to over-indulge is tasty treats.  I, like you, love to eat at In-N-Out Burger after ultras, but something else on my way home caught my eye...
El Pollo Loco and Foster Freeze... together! YES! So, I get two chicken burritos and one Large Reese's Blizzard Ice Cream party.
This isn't going to look good to my personal training clients. But, they all know that it's okay to enjoy yourself from time to time. Especially after running for miles and miles. This little drive thru experience inspired my first poll - which is your favorite "combo fast food" restaurant (see on side of blog).

Since the theme of this blog was Cherry Picking, I must add this how-to part.

Ultrarunners: How-to Cherry Pick Ultras.

The first thing you need to do is sit down at your computer look for races on the same day or near "the popular events". These popular events usually attract the best of the best and the best won't be in the same place at once (they're not that good) and they often won't run back to back weekends (but I have met many that run back-to-back-to-back).

The other thing you need to do is check to see if they have an entrants list. Most races do these days and include ages for your cherry picking pleasure. You older guys, shame on you for looking for 21 year female entrants to advise and assist in an active warm-up before the event.

You may also wish to search for events in rural areas that aren't hot beds for ultras. They usually have low turnouts and great campgrounds.

You also want to look for first time events. Specifically, look for ones produced by non-elite ultra runners in states not including Washington, Oregon, or California. Once you have identified a race with minimum entrants you now need to look at the entrants themselves. By searching there name on or or other meta-ultradata sites, you can see what races they have run and make an educated guess about how you will size up against the competition. Once you have done this, then register for the event and don't tell anyone, not even your dog.

If this doesn't work, then I recommend planning, promoting, and producing your own event. But, you must enter it and win it at all costs, (even cheating) to get your 100% ranking. Which leads me to...

What the Ultrasignup ranking has created is an insecurity among runners, including me. I can admit it. But can others? Rightfully so, I understand the percentage associated with their name is directly effecting races one enters and races one completes or "FINISHES". I know first had from speaking with enough people that they are worried about there ranking for fear of loss of sponsorship or image amongst other runners. I won't go as far to say that this is a huge problem, but I must remind those that finishing a race or "fun run" (as ultra running friend Chris Scott says) is more important in the eyes of your peers not your percentage.
Do as I do, go cherry picking, finish races, and you will be happier than you know. Trying new ultra's and meeting new people is what keeps me out on those trails and what should always inspire you.

See you at the finish,

Greg Lanctot