Archive for March, 2018

2018 4mph Challenge

March 26, 2018

A little over a year ago I had an amazing race at Coastal Trail Run‘s New Year’s One Day 24 hour race (no blog post for that one—sorry), ending up as first male with 105.4 miles (a woman from Japan went 106.5 miles), and so I was looking for another fixed time event. The Davis Two Day that a friend won last year was not held this year, so I went looking for something else. I found the 4mph Challenge, up in Whiskeytown, which is a little west of Redding, CA.

The format of this race is intriguing. I have heard of at least one other 4mph race, but in this case the route is a six mile out and a six mile back, with 90 minutes to finish each six mile leg. That’s four miles per hour. If you arrive early, you have to wait for the 90 minutes to expire before you can start the next leg. And if you arrive late your race is over. Note that I did clarify that while you can’t start a leg early, you can start late if you have something that needs attending to (like using the bathroom), but the 90 minute clock starts when it starts. There was one other clarification I should have asked about, but I didn’t realize it at the time.

In preparing I did a couple of simulations, one of 24 miles (six hours) and one of 12 miles (three hours). The biggest things I learned were 1) that 4mph is pretty slow, at least at first, and 2) to have a way to stay warm while you’re waiting for the next leg to start (a jacket for my upper body and a blanket for my lower body). I also worked on my nutrition plan, including when to take Vespa (30 minutes after every other stop, so at 3:30 elapsed and every three hours thereafter, to keep it separate from aid station eating).

The start was at 8 AM on March 17th, and it was quite cold. The forecast only called for a little bit of rain, but given the temperature I wore my rain pants, because they were the only long pants I brought for the race. I also wore arm warmers, gloves, and an ear band. The pants lasted until 12 miles (longer than I really needed them), while I think the gloves and ear band lasted until 24 miles. I kept the arm warmers with me for the whole race, in my pack if not on my arms.

The course was pretty much as advertised, with less than 400 feet of climbing per leg, and mostly but not entirely on trail. I feared that there might be a ton of mud since it had rained quite a bit the prior days, but other than a few puddles that required some care to go around, things were good. The course was also very pretty in spots. The “manzanita tunnel” was especially noteworthy, as were the frequent views of Whiskeytown Lake.

For maybe the first 30 miles everything went pretty much as expected. I pressed the lap button on my Garmin as each leg started, so that the lap speed could tell me how I was doing on pace. Since I had decided that I wanted between five and 15 minutes of rest time after each leg, that meant a pace between 12:30/mile and 14:10/mile. During these relatively early miles I was more likely to notice myself going too fast than too slow.

But eventually I started to realize that this race has a really unforgiving format. As the miles added up I was running more and walking less, and still taking a little longer to finish each leg. I have heard about “cardiac drift” for a long time, but since in most races I tend to slow down rather than let my heart rate go higher, I hadn’t really experienced it firsthand. But in this race slowing down was not an option. In most ultramarathons you expect problems and/or low spots to come up, but since the races are so long you have time to fix them. In this race there is little margin for error, at least for someone with my relative lack of speed.

At 42 miles (6:30 PM), Connie brought me my good flashlight, since the sun was going to come down before I got to 48 miles. At the 48 mile stop (8 PM) I should have gotten my gloves and ear band, but the sun had just come down, so it wasn’t cold yet.

My lowest goal was 54 miles, since I had considered running the Marin Ultra Challenge 50 instead of this race, and I figured it would be a shame if I got fewer miles here. The leg from 48 to 54 miles was “interesting” because partway through it became clear that I would need to use the bathroom when I arrived. That slowed me down, and I walked slightly more than I would have otherwise, but I did make it in time. And even better, I got in and out of the bathroom and got what I needed shortly before the next 90 minute period started at 9:30 PM.

I continued to slow down on the next leg, from 54 to 60 miles. This direction was typically slightly faster for me, but despite that my speed was close to my minimum target of 14:10/mile. The minor pain in my right knee that had been around most of the day was bugging me, and my motivation was dropping. I talked to another runner, and when I mentioned I would be running the Lake Sonoma 50 four weeks after this race, he said that he would probably have only signed up for 36 miles if he had that on his schedule. Excellent! Rationalization for stopping at 60 miles!

I got there with less than three minutes to spare, just before 11 PM. Connie was there, since I had been planning to swap GPS watches and take my daily pills. I tried to drop, saying that I didn’t expect to make it to mile 66 in time, but Connie and (I think) the Race Director talked me out of it. So I quickly swapped my GPS, grabbed some quesadilla, and left. I was about 45 seconds late leaving, intentionally skipping the daily pills, but not even thinking about the gloves or ear band until I was too far out of the aid station to consider going back for them.

The leg to mile 66 was in fact very cold. I had already given up on making it in time, and so I was moving fairly slowly, which didn’t help with warmth. On the short road section in the middle of the leg someone in a pickup truck wondered what was up, since it was almost midnight (I told him I was in a race, which he was probably skeptical of). At some point I set a goal of getting past a plank that was about 0.8 miles before the aid station before the other runners who would be coming the other way, so I didn’t have to wait for them. I achieved that easily, but eventually I did see the other runners. There were only six of them, so my first thought was that I would be more than okay with seventh place overall. (I later learned that two runners made it to 66 miles in time but did not continue, which means ninth was my best case scenario.)

When I arrived, I jogged around the parking lot since that was required to finish the six mile course, but I was about 11 1/2 minutes late (about 12:41 AM Sunday). The aid station workers and Connie got me warm by a small fire and with some broth and quesadilla, and we headed back to our rental after a stop at the other aid station to get my stuff. I had actually left my pack and flashlight on the chair at mile 66, so I had to come back in the morning for them.

The following day, a Monday, the results were posted, and I was surprised to see that I had only been credited with 60 miles, and was listed last of those who had 60 miles (I assumed because I was probably the last of those to arrive). I had thought that if you get to an aid station on time, head out for another leg, and then do not make it in time, you would still get credit for that final leg. But in clarifying e-mail with the Race Director I discovered that was not correct. This made me disappointed, since 17th place is a far cry from the seventh place I originally had in my mind, and also a little angry, since I wouldn’t have left the mile 60 aid station (and gotten so cold) if I had known.

Over time I’ve gotten more okay with it. I found out the order of the nine people credited with 60 miles was purely alphabetical, so that means I was in a nine-way tie for ninth place. Furthermore, all of the top eight people were younger than me. But will I run this unforgiving race again? At the moment I’m more inclined to find a more traditional fixed-time event, like the Davis Two Day I was originally looking for. But we’ll see…

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Oscar® Predictions for 2017

March 3, 2018

Here are my predictions for the Oscar winners for films made in 2017:

  • Picture: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Director: Gillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water
  • Actor: Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour
  • Actress: Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Supporting actor: Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Supporting actress: Allison Janney for I, Tonya
  • Original screenplay: Get Out 
  • Adapted screenplay: Call Me By Your Name
  • Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049 (is the 14th time the charm for Roger Deakins?)
  • Editing: Dunkirk
  • Animated feature: Coco
  • Documentary feature: Faces Places
  • Foreign language feature: A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
  • Production design: The Shape of Water
  • Costumes: Phantom Thread
  • Makeup: Darkest Hour
  • Score: The Shape of Water
  • Song: “Remember Me” from Coco
  • Sound editing: Dunkirk
  • Sound mixing: Dunkirk
  • Visual effects: War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Animated short: Dear Basketball
  • Documentary short: Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405
  • Live action short: DeKalb Elementary

My primary source was GoldDerby, though I also looked at PredictWise. The ones that seem to have the least consensus are picture, original screenplay, documentary feature, song, visual effects, and documentary short.