Sunday, January 28, 2007

070127 Fremont Fat Ass 50K - DNF after 33 miles

DNF means "Did Not Finish". I DNF at this Frement Fat Ass 50K because I dropped at about 4 miles before the finish and ran home for family matter. I did feel a little loss for not finishing it and joining the post-run social. However, since I have run about 33 miles, including the 6 mile run from my home to the start, I am very satisfied with such a great training run.

I think I should be able to complete the entire 43 mile training run by April as I planned prior to Fremont Fat Ass 50K.

Fremont Fat Ass 50K

I wrote an introduction for this run - Fremont Fat Ass. As Catra puts it, "a FA is a race that has no fee, no aid, and no markings. There is no wimps or whining allowed". As a minimalist ultrarunner, I really like this attitude, although I've never done such an event. I think the closest one is Steven Creek 50K last year. During that run, I was worried but then amused at the creek crossing. I did imagine it as Rocky Chucky since I was not lucky enough for a Western States 100M entry.

I live nearby (6 miles away from the start) and the Fremont Fat Ass course is actually entirely on my training route. I think about doing it without driving - always trying to reduce the environment impact though not significant. I would like experience it with other dedicated ultrarunners, while trying to make it a 43 mile training run - 6 mile from my home to the race, finish 50K, and run 6 mile back home.

Mental Struggle and Preparation

It's the day and I felt a little nervous a few hours ago on my bed. Why, this is not a race! I was nervous because this is my first group (or race-like) run in the year after weeks of "rest".

I felt nervous because I've not been able to get up early these cold days. One morning when I walked with my third grade son to school, I explained "global warming" why we should go on foot to school. I think I should have appreciated the cold days. Queen once described Under Pressure "These are the days It never rains but it pours". Then humidity takes away a lot of body heat, reminding my goosebumps during several winters in Taiwan. Since we have tried not to turn on heater, I felt freezing the day before as I took a day off staying home idle on web site design for a non-profit organization. I felt reluctant to get out of my warm bed. With my 5am alarm, I did check the time a few times until 5:40am when I felt it's time to go through the morning ritual.

I always wear the 2005 Ohlone Wilderness cotton shirt in my training run. It may become rainy and can be windy, so I add one more layer with a New Balance long sleeve tech shirt. My legs will be moving a lot and should be fine with a short. Since this is a self-supported run, I have a Fuelbelt hydration system with two extra pouches fixed on the waist belt in order to carry some food - 10 GU gel, five packets of real food (salty and tasty garlic bread from Costco chicken salad leftover), a packet of salt tablet, a packet of sea salt, and a small bottle of GU2O powder.

After finishing two bananas and a can of V8, off I went.

Get to the Start

I'm really not confident if I can complete the planned 43 mile run, but now I'm going to run 6 miles to the start - Quarry Lakes. The first two miles are on the street before get to the Alameda Creek Trail with the last mile on the pavement into the park.

With such ultrarunning gears running on the street (flat and boring), I don't feel right. In particular, the two pouches on my waist keep bouncing on every step. I think this is because the waist belt from the Fuelbelt Hydration System is not designed for carrying things, but balancing the back pack. While running, I try to move stuff around in order to make the pouches lighter and reduce the bouncing movement - inner energy waste! After dealing these hassles for 15 minutes, my body is magically used to it and perhaps just feels numb. I should appreciate how body functions like this.

It's now on the straight Alameda Creek Trail. I feel great about running after a little warmup on the street. I feel nothing about the extra stuff I carry. I don't feel cold or sleepy. I am in high spirit, expecting a great long day!

The creek along the trail is alive with water flowing and birds busy for their breakfast. It has become a famous spot for migrating birds. Well, perhaps it's only famous to those birds but unknown to most of our city dwellers. More people go to the Fremont central park and are attracted to the Lake Elizabeth. They are familiar with lots of fowls there. I am full of appreciation with the knowledge that water is the origin of life and how life solely depends on water.

Rain has stopped. Running on the Alameda Creek Trail, I can see dense fog ahead. While day light gradually takes over the cold night, the vapor from days of rain moves up looming around the start - Quarry Lakes. Looking afar is misty. Hey, we might start within cloud. That's exciting!

I figure the time is enough for me to get there by 8am, so I try to run slow and feel how my feet and legs respond my pace. This is a nice moment that I can focus on my rhythm.

Where are They?

Within an hour, I get to Quarry Lakes by the planned start 8am. Quarry Park is a nice multi-purpose park - swimming and fishing along with hiking and picnicking like other parks. On both sides of the entrance booth, there are large parking areas with only a few cars. They must come for fishing stay beyond my view under the bank. Otherwise, I can not see any one.

I am figuring where the runners meet and finally go to ask the ranger at the entrance. At this moment, Joe and Mylinh are driving in. They are amazing ultrarunners. I just met them a week ago and ran together from Sunol back to Fremont on Ohlone Wilderness trail. I have been impressed with their dedication and determination to this sport. Btw, Joe and Mylinh will go for the amazing Chamonix Mont Blanc 158K in France this year along with other 22 ultrarunners from USA, including the Ultrarunning Magazine's runner of the year - Karl Meltzer !

I am happy to see companies, but they have no idea about the exact place. I follow their car and found a few more runners, including Linda, who is a Badwater finisher. I met her in Tahoe Rim Trail 100M last year when she passed me at mile 85. I also met her in Rio Del Lago 100M, where she was generous to give me a ride to the nearest train station after the race. We did not talk a lot but I can always feel our common positive and optimistic attitude from her.

We are at the swimming area parking lot, where the restroom is locked. We have to move to the parking area at other side as I remember seeing a restroom when I ran into the park. Over there, we find more runners and this is actually the place to meet. I quickly met the RD Mike Palmer. We exchanged a few emails but never met before. There is Clem with his friend. I also spot Catra and Mike's Fremont Boy - Jerry. They both just finished the grueling HURT 100K two weeks ago. These are amazing and respectful ultrarunners.

While we are excitingly chatting, the low cloud naturally becomes a little drizzling. In a few minutes, my friend Ron and Paul come in. We meet during our lunch time run from work. They are fast marathon runners. They both are going to run Boston this year. Ron has several sub-3 marathons under belt. Paul has done some trail runs and perhaps has some idea about how we ultrarunners are like. He showed his interest when I told him this run. On the other hand, Ron plans to do the 89K/56M Comrades Marathon and would like to do some training distance beyond marathon. I confirmed him that this is a nearly flat course and he will be able to blast and enjoy. Ron looks like ready for today, while Paul is preparing his water into a back pack.

Immediately, Catra make us a group photo.

The Fun and the Run

It's 8:25am. Time to go. The fun starts immediately when Catra leads us and misses a turn! People or even avid outdoor enthusiasts may rather stay home in such weather, but it is a perfect one for ultrarunning - Cool and drizzling. Well, I really forget if there is rain as I'm writing the report right now. It is just full of fun and excitement.

The first mile is in the park. Jerry leads the pack to show the turns. I quickly catch up with him and talk about how he measured the course with his Garmin toy (2/3-05). He explains the jitter comes from noises and suggests us that perhaps we should run up and down on the actually flat course in order to make it like such a profile. He also gives credit to the high reception quality of the GPS watch. It's working properly under such a low cloud. No wonder a lot of running friends have it. I guess I should get one as well.

The first turn is a trail called Wood Duck. I feel amused because it's my home street name. Jerry runs back to the trail sign and confirms it. Now he is in the pack and I am left between the front and middle. As we progress, I'm in the awkward position in the run. I have Brian and Kirk 20 yards ahead and the rest about the same distance behind. I can read Kirk's T-shirt from behind - "From sea level to Mt. Everest and back", "Hardrock Hundred", and the course profile. I do think about this amazing 100 miler during the run. Perhaps it can be described as "from Indian Ocean to Mt. Everest and back", which includes both the distance and climb.

I'm running by myself, but it is not what I expect in such a run. I would like to meet other ultrarunners! Since this will be a long run to me, I decide to keep my pace - neither dashing to the front with Kirk and Brian, nor slowing down to join the rest. I think I'll definitely slow down as more mileage and people will catch up with me.

Within the first mile, we leave Quarry Lakes at Niles gate and continue on Alameda Creek Trail. We'll go through the same Niles gate when coming back to the finish in the park.

On the Alameda Creek Trail, one side is the creek with water strongly flowing after days of rain, and, of course, birds. The other side is the urban area neighboring with community parks and some large backyards of traditional houses compared with the crowded attached housing lack of yard nowadays. With such sizes of yards near the trail, they would inevitably keep a few aggressive dogs. Dogs are waken up by our passing. They climb up high at the other side of the fence, threatening us with all they can bark, as if ready to jump over and bite us down. Most of us seem not annoyed with this and enjoy the run in this early morning.

Within a mile, we need to cross the creek on a bridge for the first time. It is on a busy street - Mission Blvd, but comes with a narrow sidewalk - only 2 feet wide. Alameda Creek Trail actually runs on both sides of the creek and separate the cities of Fremont and Union City. One side is a paved bike path. The other side is a dirt trail, which is our course. One nice thing about Alameda Creek Trail is that it winds around Fremont and crosses a lot of street, but it also provides a underpass for each crossing. People do not need to face the traffic. We step on the bridge sidewalk crossing the creek at Mission Blvd. At the other side, we go down to the underpass.

Cruising on Alameda Creekk Trail

Within less than a quarter mile, we get to the turnaround at the Niles. It is also one end of the 11 mile Alameda Creek Trail. The other end is at the bay. It is a community park with water and restroom. Most of us simply turn around and continue the run since this is early of the run. When I trace the route back and get to the bridge again, I find Paul 20 yd behind me. The narrow sidewalk can be a dangerous site as it can become crowded. Runners need to deal with the coming runners along with possibly busy traffic on Mission Blvd. There should probably be a volunteer in an organizing race.

I come to see the dogs again and they are now even angrier. Before I trace back the Niles gate, I spot a water fountain. I stop to have a few mouthfuls even I have water in my pack. Runners behind me are now closer. This is fine as I try to make it a comfortable pace.

The trail borders along Quarry Lakes. About a mile or so, I spot another water fountain. I don't feel thirsty but still stop for a few mouthfuls. Paul is behind and stops as well. When I'm ready to leave, I have a call from my wife, checking my progress. It's still early in the run, so I reply that I'll call her at 10:30 when kids finish their Saturday Chinese class. Retrieving and packing the phone is not easy since I have to secure it nicely. Finally it's done, but Paul passes me. Within a minute, Ron flies by and so does Zack. Zack is a fast ultrarunner and wins Stevens Creek 50K, Plain 100, and 4th place in Hardrock 100.

Those fast legs are now in front of me, but I still keep my pace. This stretch is long without any water for over 8 miles, including most of the hills in this run. The next water is in the Coyote Hills after finishing the steepest hill. We also need to do one creek crossing on a bridge at Union City Blvd.

Exploring Coyote Hills

The side walk is now wider - about 5 feet wide. I'm moving closer to a pair of runners. One is with the Hardrock T-shirt (Kirk). They somehow just cross the road instead of staying at one side of the bridge and crossing the road from the underpass. This is longer, so I'm a little more behind them. After two miles, I enter Coyote Hills and catch up with Kirk on the first hill in the run. It's the mile 9 from Niles end or 2 miles to the bay. The woman running with Kirk turns around back with smile, seeming satisfied with the run so far.

I meet Kirk at the hill as both us are walking. I am excited to know he is Kirk, another Fremont ultrarunners. In the past, I normally found out only a few ultrarunners from Fremont at race result pages - Catra, Kirk, and myself. I was eager to know who Kirk is. Now here he is - a 17 years veteran ultrarunner! We certainly exchange how we love this sport and share our training experience in Fremont. It's all fun!

After cruising the scenic but rolling Bay View trail, we arrive together at the biggest hill at Meadowwalk - steep climb on a paved road and wind down on a dirt trail. We meet Paul and Brian, who are looking for the correct route. They are able to run with us at this part.

At this moment, I also run out of water in my pack. It's time to test my capability - how far I can last without drinking. Coming back near Diary Glen, we see Clem ahead having similar problem. it turns out he and his friend came from different route and also miss the Meadowwalk climb. They have to go for the climb to make it complete. Brian, Kirk, and I soon get to a water fountain. I fill out my pack and add GU2O powder. Kirk also changes his clothes as it's getting warm.

Now we head toward the entrance, where we will make a left turn to the tree area on a dirt path. All these are my familiar bike-run paths when I run and my son ride his bike exploring Coyote Hills. I slow down a little and enjoy everything around by myself. After about half mile or so, the trees are replaced with march land. Both sides of the trail are hoursetail. After another a mile, we go back to the visitor center of Coyote Hills. There is a small museum, where I and my two kids love to visit on a bike tour. It has a display of how early resident lived at the bay.

I meet Paul there. When he moves away, I also make a call to my wife only to find her sound out of energy. It's the flu season and she has been sick for days. Several of my co-works are also sick and sometimes I have to stay with them coughing in a meeting room. It seems that I already become better immune after years of running. I seldom have a flu while people around me keep getting it.

From the visitor center, we are on a slowly climb paved road for about half mile and then descend back to Alameda Creek Trail. When I get to the highest on this climb, I can see runners ahead. I spot Paul and Brian moving fast on the straight Alameda Creek Trail.

Run Back Home

Now I am on the Alameda Creek Trail. It is another 1.5 mile before getting to the Union City Blvd, where we run on the sidewalk to the other side of Alameda Creek Trail. I am thinking whether I should keep going to the finish in Quarry Lakes. Then I either run 6 miles back home or have my wife come to pick me up. Then we need to make the 3pm Kung Fu performance for my son.

Thinking about my wife's sound in the phone call, I think she is sick and tired. I would like her to take more rest. So after a while, at about 4 miles to the finish, I call my wife saying, I'll quit and run back home. After I have made this decision, I feel more comfortable and relaxed. When I get home, it's only 12:30pm. We have plenty of time for the rest of the day. I do think about how other ultrarunners cheer at the Quarry Lakes and miss it a lot, but I feel satisfied with what I have done so far today. With my wife staying rest at home, I take care of everything for our Saturday. At the Kung Fu performance, I feel proud to see my son have the 3rd place.


I am happy to know that both my friends Ron and Paul enjoyed this run. Even Paul refers my neighborhood Coyote Hills as "remote".

Fremont is a fast growing city and now has 200K in population. The city is very diverse with a lot of cultures - American, Chinese, Indian. But don't forget, it is called Afghanistan capital in US.

I don't think there is any other city in Bay Area with such a rich landscapes near in the city - Mission Peak, Lake Elizabeth, Quarry Lakes, Alameda Creek Trail, and Coyote Hills.

Fremont is really an unknown gem in Bay Area.

Results (Courtesy of Mike Palmer)

Zack Grossman4:27
Ron Duncan4:32
Brian Koo5:00
Paul Osepa5:01
Kirk Boisseree5:02
Dorothy Galubski5:14
Steve Ansell5:14
Earl Looney5:36
Jerry Roninger5:37
Dr. Fun Kay5:38
Clement Choy5:39
Christine Shiinoki5:45
Judge Linda McFadden5:55
Ernesto Matalsol5:55:07
Dave Wright6:09
Michelle Rowe6:47
Catra Corbett6:47
Barb Elia6:47
Mylinh Nguyen7:24
Chau Pham7:25

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