Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An Unexpected PR at the Ruth Anderson 50k

Last Saturday, I had the great pleasure of joining 75 ultrarunners for the annual Ruth Anderson 50k/50m/100k in San Francisco, CA, put on by Rajeev Patel and the Bay Area Ultrarunners. Although I was supposed to be taking it easy to save some for the Boston Marathon two days later, the perfect blend of great running weather and flawless volunteer support pulled me to an unexpected PR for the 50k! It was a great day for all.

(Dragon boats out on the lake)

The Ruth Anderson 50k/50m/100k honors ultrarunning veteran Ruth Anderson, a true pioneer for ultrarunning and masters sports both on and off the field (see my backgrounder from 2006). It's a 4.47-mile loop course where you can pick your distance as you go. I was here for the 50k, in hopes to get a checkpoint on my aerobic training and perhaps pick up a few PA/USATF points. The Boston Marathon was just two days away, so I hoped to retain the sense to stick to the 50k!

(RD Rajeev Patel gives us some words of wisdom)

(Gary Cohen, Jimmy O'Neil, Buddy Pohl, Wayne Miles, and Jean Pommier await the start)

A foggy morning greeted 75 of us as we walked down to the starting line, but none of us were cold thanks to the awesome RA-emblazed Moeben sleeves in the shwag bag. Race Director Rajeev Patel propped himself up on a fence and rallied us together, giving special kudos to the volunteers who make this event so special. With a few last words of encouragement, he sent us off into the fog to make our first of 7, 11, or 15 loops (aka, the longest right hand turn you'll ever make).

(Lots of smiles at the start, and some reflective fog particles)

(Donning my WTC sleeves while Rajeev leads a cheer)

Two runners went off like banshees, including course record holder Tim O'Rourke hot on the tails of his 3:19 from 2003. I paced with Jean Pommier and Michael Kanning, both of whom were going for the 100k today. Jean was representing the RhoMobile team, who had a strong showing at this race. 17-year-old Michael Kanning was eager to better his age group record at the 100k distance, and enjoying the fact that 13-year-old Jodie Huerta was making him feel like an old timer. It was good to catch up with these guys and see how their season was going. We passed though the halfway aid station, then ran three abreast on the empty bike lane. Before we knew it, we had finished the first loop (the first loop is a bit short) in 29 minutes.

(Jean Pommier shows the proper way to run the path)

I took a cup of water and picked up the pace, leaving the wise-pacing 100k runners behind. My goal for this race was to warm up on the first lap, then see how long I could hold a 7 minute/mile pace while keeping my heart rate under 150 beats per minute. I had been training a lot in this range, thanks to the work up at the Stanford Performance Lab a few months ago that let me know this was the top end of my aerobic pace. I have spent many-a-morning locked into this pace/heart rate while Netflix movies kept my attention. If I was on track with my training, I should be able to hold this pace for 20 miles without a spike in my heart rate.

(Robert Greenhouse makes the rounds)

The air was nice and cool on this lap, and neighborhood dogs were out everywhere walking their people. I stuck to water at the aid stations, knowing my Vespa was working its magic and keeping my caloric needs low. I ran along with Michael Roberts (training for the Seattle Marathon), and then with Todd Hayes for a bit. My stride found cruise control quickly, and I finished lap 2 in just over 30 minutes (a bit ahead of 7 min/mile). Def Leppard's "Animal" was stuck in my head, so no need for an iPod. That is, until I've sung the chorus 100 times and need a change. ;-)

(Todd Hayes, who went on to set an age group course record)

On lap 3, I began to catch some of the other runners. One of the best things about a loop course is you get to see everyone - those faster than you, those slower than you - and cheer them on. There was a consensus of fun, particularly as the dragon boats came out onto the lake and started their cheering and racing. I kept the cruise control on, finishing lap 3 in 30 minutes and change again. Right on time, and my heart rate still hanging in the mid-140's.

(The always smiling Jeanette Quintana)

On lap 4, I shed my sleeves and gloves and grabbed my iPod for some relief from Def Leppard (thank you, Bob Marley!). The crowds were out in full force now, filling the bike path with dogs, bikes, and friends. They left us to the dirt trail along the side, which was the softest and safest route. I sucked down a Hammer Gel on this lap, sticking to water at each of the aid stations. I finished the lap in 30 minutes and change once again, just on a 7 min/mile pace. I guess that treadmill work has been helpful!

(The sun broke out a few hours later)

(The aid stations were amazing and plentiful)

On lap 5, I saw a ton of runners having a good day. I passed Grant Carboni, who I suspect will be an age group contender for PA/USATF because he can go longer than most of us weekend after weekend. His lovely wife, Leslie, was also cruising along. Sean Lang was doing his part for RhoMobile in the 100k, going fast with his trademark smile and saying I was going fast! Joe Sweeney was shirtless and enjoying every minute, with Charles Blakeney not too far behind. Chikara Omine came by the other way, out for a jog in his neighborhood before hitting a 5k on Sunday. Reshu Jain and Vivek Kumar were sharing stories and laughing aloud while cranking out 50 miles. The ever-smiling Chihping Fu, the only guy taking more pictures than me (and better ones at that!). Each one gave me a smile as I went by, and I finished the lap in 31 minutes with a heart rate of 145 bps. Still on track!

(Joe Swenson on his way to winning the 100k)

Lap 6 was where I figured I would slow down, being that it's around mile 21-25. But a quick shot of Hammer Gel, some sunscreen, and a little 80's funk music kept me cruising right along. As I came around the first corner, Tim O'Rourke was walking on his way back saying something about calf cramps. I slowed to make sure he was okay, but he just waved me on and said to keep charging. I drank some extra water at the aid station, and my bladder was giving me the 10-minute warning. I kept an eye out for a port-o-potty with a short line, but didn't see one. What I did see was the #2 guy blowing up and walking to the side of the road. It looked like something right out of NASCAR, with steam pouring off of him as he slowed to a stop. I gave him a pat on the back as I went by, wondering if that meant I was in first place. I finished the lap in 30 minutes and change, and the heart rate was...142 bps?!? Wow! Then let's keep it up!

(Singh Anurahda and a fellow runner enjoy the sun)

Rajeev shouted out "Dunlap! You're gonna win this thing!", confirming I was in first as I went into the last lap. I let Stan Jensen and the others know where #2 was, and soon saw Tim O'Rourke who was hollering and cheering me on. What a great guy! I switched the tunes to some Sevendust, and leaned forward to increase my pace a bit, knowing I was going to have to stop for a bio-break. I did my best to go quickly, then eased into the 7-min miles again. Just when I started to break down a bit, I caught up to Adam Blum, RhoMobile Team Captain. He saw I was faltering a bit so he picked up the pace so I could hang onto him, and kept me entertained with jokes, stories, and techie nerd stuff. He pulled me right into the finish, where I hit my watch and crossed the finish line.

Holy cow. 31 consecutive 7-minute miles for a time of 3:37:22. The fastest and most consistent race of my life, and I felt great at the finish! What the heck just happened?!? I was supposed to be holding back for the love of Peet! Rajeev let me know it was an age group course record as well, and we laughed about how bad ass it sounded that I had to take a quick photo with my award and then leave early to catch a red eye to Boston. But I didn't fell bad ass at all, just lucky to have shared a great day running with friends.

I changed my clothes, grabbed a brewsky, and headed back to the start to cheer the other runners on. 58-year-old Todd Hayes came in 2nd place in a remarkable 3:55, setting an age group course record. Soon after him, Jean Pommier finished in 3:59, struggling with asthma and calling it a day (he's the only guy I know who could weeze his way to a sub-4 hour 50k). Leslie Carboni won the Women's division in 5:45. I would later find out that Joe Swenson (9:21) and Wendy George (12:14) won the 100k, and Sean Lang (7:24) and Jean Suyenaga (9:25) won the 50-mile. I should note that 13-year-old Jodie Huerta finished in 7:46, setting a new age group course record as well.

(Vivek Rao shows he is still running strong)

As I sat on the plane to Boston, I was still scratching my head singing that song from The Producers - "where did we go right?". I guess some days it just all comes together. I hoped the same karma would come together for my Dad's first Boston Marathon on Monday, or at least enough to find the finish with a smile. As I looked through the pictures from the race, I realized I still got more satisfaction from 31+ smiling faces than 31 perfect miles. Maybe somewhere in that feeling is the real secret to a PR.

Off to Boston!

- SD


  1. This is probably not the best way to contact you but here goes:

    I recently made a simple website tailored at Runners who use Twitter or Facebook.

    This is a simple site I created which does 2 things
    a) It tracks how long I've run and how long it took (and generates reports later).
    b) It creates a simple Tweet for users of Twitter and posts this to your Twitter account.

    Twitter is a very popular social networking site which lets you share a 140 character status of what you're doing with your friends.

    If you use Facebook you can link Twitter to Facebook and anytime you post a new status (aka a "Tweet") your Facebook status will be updated.

    I made this site for myself as I have a lot of friends on both systems who enjoy running and we often post on Facebook or Twitter things like "I just ran a 10k in 45mins". This is great but over time I can't track or analyse the data. It also doesn't help me connect with other runners.

    That's where comes in. By entering the time and distance your data is saved for analysis later and you can share it in one shot.

    It'll also track personal best (measured through pace) and give you a nice report (example ) I noticed you post your monthly totals so perhaps this might be a nice tool for that?

    Best of all you don't need to register with this site. If you have a Twitter account you're good to go. The site respects your privacy and use a new system called Open Authentication to single sign on with Twitter so you never have to enter a password into TweetARun.

    I hope you or your readers enjoy this service. It's proved useful for me so far and I guess it's time to share.

    If you have suggestions or improvements I'd love to hear from you.

    warm regards,
    -Francis Shanahan

  2. what was your previous pr?

  3. Congrats on the win and PR!

    You continue to get better every year. Impressive!

  4. Amazing. You are getting better as you age :)
    So, Scott, do you run during the week, or are your races your only runs now?

  5. Awesome win man! I had a blast working the south aid station all day. You looked solid from start to finish - your descriptions of Rajeev and the other racers were spot on - such a great group of people.

    Keep up the great running!

  6. You continue to amaze me. Just goes to show that good guys do finish first.

  7. Congrats on a fabulous win Scott!

  8. Great race and even better report! I know what you mean about leaning forward to combat the late race posture problems. I tend to start leaning back and holding my arms too high when I tire and everything falls apart after that.

    I'm really looking forward to the next two reports! Hope you and your dad did well...

  9. Scott,

    Thank you for gracing the race. 3:37! I was in shock. That's blazingly fast man!! Slow down lest you create a sonic boom!!!

    In awe.


  10. Incredible!

    Good job, Scott.

  11. That's awesome Scott! I think you've definitely had a win coming your way, and an age-group course record seems an appropriate way to say goodbye to 39. Nice job, and at Boston as well. Have fun at Big Sur! (I hope you still have some legs left!)

  12. Congrats! that's fantastic. I hope you had fun in Boston ( as if you where capable of holding back) I am looking forward to the next race reports. Peter and you just keep getting better and better


  13. Hi Scott, I am with Thorlo in North Carolina. Not sure if you are familiar with Thorlo socks, but I am reaching out to a few bloggers to see if you would like to test a new product that just hit the market. If interested, please contact me directly at I look forward to hearing from you.

  14. Congratulations, Scott! That really says something about your current training when you can go out with the idea of just going easy and even, and you run a PR and with the race. Pretty awesome!

  15. Congrats Scott! Looks like the work is paying off and you're having a blast doing it. Let me know when you want to come back into the lab.


  16. I'm so impressed, Scott. Great job and great write-up.

    I kept an eye out for you in Boston. I see you ran Boston in 3:45 (bib #1454). Thank goodness you didn't set a marathon record, too -- you're still human! :-)

    See you at the Miwok 100K -- I'm volunteering at the Bolinas Ridge aid station (miles 28 and 42).

  17. Awesome job Scott! You just keep getting faster and faster as time goes on! An inspiration to us old(er) guys.

  18. Scott, was good to meet you at Boston and our chat got me in the mood for that great race (maybe too much in the mood since I went off like a rocket and then had to have a gentle 2nd half). Hope you enjoyed your run with your Dad.

    Am sure I'll see you at races in the future since I'm moving to California towards the end of the year and I'll certainly be doing WS100 at some point. I'll also have my first Californian race in September at the Lake Tahoe triple, which I'm really looking forward to.


    Ian (from London)

  19. Thanks for coming by!

    My previous 50k PR was 3:52, set at Ruth Anderson in 2006. So I went 15 minutes faster. So the theme is "come to Ruth to clock a PR"!

    Kate - I took the day off after Ruth, then ran Boston (a leisurely 3:45), then took two days off. Now I'm doing my usual 6-8 miles in the morning at a casual pace, then will determine the morning of Big Sur to figure out how hard to go. My guess is rest 1-2 days after, then hit the trails for 3-8 miles each day before Miwok.

    Zach - Thanks for being there for us! Your aid station was impeccable all day.

    Dusty - Ain't it the truth about bad form. My semi-coach from Stanford told me that my mile repeats should be focused on holding my form when I'm tired, more so than speed or heart rate. The culprits - leaning back, bringing your hands up to your shoulders, and slowing your turnover. Focus on those three, and you save minutes.

    Phil - I'm going to do another lab check in mid-May, so we can compare. Should be good to see if this is "real" or placebo. ;-)

    Ron - I'll see you at Miwok!

    Adam - You played a big part in my PR, so thanks! Given what Todd Hayes did, our best years are yet to come.

    Ian - Great to hear from you! Good luck at London this Sat. Definitely look me up when you come out this way...


  20. Superstar RD Rajeev sent out a thank you to the volunteers and runners, and I thought it was worth reprinting the list of great volunteers. It takes a village to put on a great show like the RA!

    [from Rajeev]

    Steve Jaber
    This man is amazing. He was everywhere, taking care of all the minutiae. I have learned so much from this once RD of Ruth Anderson. I hope he shows up for many years to come. :)

    Stan Jensen
    Mr. Ubiquitous is how I perceive him. I see him in Auburn, in Sacramento, in Marin County ... His is an asset to the Ultra world. None bigger than him though. His capable handling of the scorer's duties left me with one less thing to worry about.

    Dave Combs
    He of the Ultra mailing list moderator duties. He of the volunteering in races as far flung as ATY and Coyote Two Moon. Mr. Peripatetic. Another numbers whiz, like Stan Da Man Jensen. Another person one can lean on.

    Karen Hanke
    She designed the race logo for me. What an amazingly gifted individual!!

    Vandana Thirumale
    She boiled and patiently cut up 2 large bags of potatoes. The same one Chuck Amital enjoyed eating late into his 50M! :)

    Anu Singh
    She boiled the other 2 bags of potatoes. Instead of resting her legs for her 50K the next day, she bustled about helping me. Then ran a PR, by 1h 45m, in the 50K.

    My Mom
    She helped me make the goodie bags 2 nights before the race. Very patient. Very organized. Thanks Mom.

    David Sirbiladze
    Like last year, he loaned me his friend's generator. It powered Stan Jensen's laptop and the electric kettle that boiled water for the post-race instant soup.

    Kshama Rao
    She woke up real early (3 a.m.), after helping me load her SUV with race supplies the evening before, and drove to Race Central with me. She started off by helping Steve set up the tents before heading out with Zach Landman to set up the South Aid Station.

    Bob Cowdrey
    I had not met him before. He drove up from San Mateo, in the wee hours, to volunteer. All on his own! What a guy. He was the first one calling out your bib numbers as you made it into the North AS.

    Zach Landman
    A sweating runner, complete with a headlamp, appeared out of the 5 a.m. darkness. Zach Landman making his appearance in the North Aid Station. He, along with John and Candace, took care of the runners in the South AS all morning.

    John Brooks and Candace
    They, along with Zach, made the South AS work seamlessly with the North one. A wonderful couple who are always smiling. I befriended them in the Coyote Two Moon race. Wonderful friends!

    Darshan Thaker
    He had pinged me a month or so before the race, ouof the blue, asking me if I could use his help. What a trooper! In spite of having the Diablo marathon to run the next day, he spent countless hours on his feet helping the runners and other volunteers. He managed to have a good run the next day. :)

    Carol Cuminale
    Having twisted her knee while pacing in the AR50 two weeks ago, she wisely decided not to start RA. She showed up with her usual lovely smile and infectious humor and eventually became your 50K timer.

    Diane Forrest and Keara Forrest
    Diane promised to come down from Sacramento, along with her daughter Keara, to help right after we both finished AR50. True to her word, she showed up on time and took over the capable duties of being Stan and Dave's phone person. She would answer the phone and get the finish times and bib numbers of the 50K and 50M runners. In between she doubled up as the official awards photographer.

    Keara was the star of the day. Helping constantly, she never got tired or bored. What a volunteer!

    Karen Bonnett
    My RDL buddy! She showed up around the same time as Diane and Keara and joined Carol Cuminale as the 50K timer after which she helped out in the North AS. Very capable.

    Mohan Thirumale
    He picked up all the sandwiches for the volunteers along with other supplies that I called for while he was on his way to Race Central. Thank you sir!

    Pallavi Ramam
    She and Mohan not only kept us volunteers fed but also helped bring in supplies for both the aid stations.

    Deepa Ramam and Nayan Ramam( 3 years old)
    Deep, while keeping an eye on Nayan, helped out in the North and also went to the grocery store for more supplies. Thank you love.

    Shishir Ramam
    He was my go to guy for the first part of the day. He was everywhere in the Aid Stationa and also the guy who made trips to pick up supplies. He was then unceremoniously dispatched to act as your 50M timer. he finally came back in the late evening and was with me when Laurie Woodrow finished. He had to be! I was his ride back to the South Bay!!! :)) Thank you boss!

    Maria de Vincenzi, Matt de Vincenzi and Cailin de Vincenzi
    My personal trainer showed up around noon and volunteered, along with her 2 children, in the North AS. She was the one who went and got us extra gasoline for the generator! Thank you Maria.

    Manjula Jonnalagada
    I coached her 2 years ago for the Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF) Half marathon. She is one of the ket SEF volunteers. She has reciprocated the past 2 years by driving up to volunteer for a few hours. Thanks!!

    Chandrakala Kappana and Vivek Rai
    CK and Vivek - hugs to you both! You are the first ones to offer to volunteer and do so with a smile. Thank you both for taking over the South AS during the peak hours of the late morning.

    Anil Vaidya, Renuka Char and Pratima Gupta
    These 3 had a lot of fun. They replaced CK and Vivek in the South AS and from various reports I've gathered from my spies (a.k.a runners), they were kicking up a storm of fun and good cheer there well into the late evening. Thank you, you fun loving devils you.

  21. Hi, this is the first time I'm reading your blog and ultra runners amaze me. I would love to move into ultra running, but I haven't brought myself to run over a half marathon. Congrats on the 31 7 min. miles. Thats impressive!

  22. Bahaha! Sevendust!! "I'm home..leave it to me!"

  23. amazing job out there ... looks like a great race. congrats on the PR and hope you enjoyed Boston!

  24. Scott - we saw you and your amazing dad finish at Boston - we hollered and tried to get Larry's attention but he was too focused on the finish to be interrupted. You are an incredible guy and athlete but I think this time your dad deserves even greater kudos - what a great finishing time for him. (It turned out to be a nice Christmas present you gave him!)

    Take care, Lonn and Erik from Eugene

  25. Great job, 31 x 7 minute laps, now that's consistency!

    Congrats again


I LIVE for comments! Please add your thoughts, let me know you stopped by, etc., and be thoughtful of others. Always best if you sign your name, of course.

Latest Excursions