I gave up writing race/run reports over a year ago and have been totally fine with that decision. I just wasn’t motivated to write them anymore and, quite frankly, I figured I was one of only a few people who read them anyway. Then I did the Hunter S. Thompson Fear and Loathing 50 Miler this past Sunday. As someone who has only been running for four years now; after something that epic, how could I not write “something” about that experience. So here goes…
I should have known that the day would be “different” when I got out of my car at the Christmas Tree Point parking lot on San Francisco’s Twin Peaks and heard (then saw) the large group of people gathered near the overlook shouting prayers in Spanish at the top of their lungs…coupled with the smell of marijuana wafting from several of the cars parked in the darker corners of the lot. Neither group garnered any acknowledgement from me (other than from my ears and nose): my goals were the same ones I always have when I get to a race/run venue: find a bathroom, check in, wait…yes, in that very and exacting order.
During my “wait” period, I sat in my car for a bit to keep warm and dry, gathered my kit, then snapped a few photos as I waited with my fellow “fat ass” runners for the call to gather. The HST F&L has been around for 31 years (though this was the 30th running) and, this being my first, I wasn’t sure what to expect: a tight-knit group of grizzled vets, groups of people who traveled together for the event, loners (like me) who were up for the new challenge, or any of the many other categories of those one sees at running events. I had a fair assumption that this would not draw too many from the usual running crowds given its “fat ass” designation: no medal, shirt, course markings, and the aid stations were listed as “possible” in some cases. Still, there was a great cross-section of runners that gathered at the start, with quite a few who knew each other from previous iterations of the HST F&L or from other SF Bay Area ultra events. I recognized a few, but intended to meet some new folks during the day.
Before I dive into the narrative (don’t worry, it’s not that bad), I want to share three things:
- First, and foremost, thank you to RD Chihping Fu for organizing and hosting this amazing event. He is the latest in a long line of great RDs for HST F&L (most of whom were there as well and worked the aid stations) and, for a Fat Ass event, this was up there with many of the “official” ones. It was evident that you did this from a heart for the running community and, we thank you.
- Second, a massive thank you to the volunteers! Thank you Chihping, Keith, Stan, Michael, Rob, Larry, Steve, Hollis (RD Emeritus), Kap’n Kirk, Vladimir, Tom, and others for giving up a portion of your Sunday to staff the aid stations and cheer us all on – and, in a few cases, kick us out of the aid. Oh, and in my particular case, wait for me to arrive, catch a break, then plod on. A special thank you to Stan Jensen (whose site, run100s.com, I have frequented A LOT since making the jump to ultras) for giving me a headlamp at the mile 37 aid – I did need it heading up Twin Peaks Blvd against traffic in the fading daylight.
- Finally, a bit about the run – as most of us probably are not aware of this great event. The Hunter S Thompson Fear and Loathing 50 Kilos / 50 Miles event is a Fat Ass run that follows San Francisco’s famous 49 Mile Scenic Drive, taking runners on an urban adventure past or through almost every tourist spot in the City. Dubbed “A Savage Journey through the Heart of the American Dream since 1985“, as you’d imagine, given the location, terrain, route, and many other aspects, the runner does make a journey of sorts. Being a fat ass event with no course markings, runners follow the iconic “49 Mile Scenic Drive” signs for the most part as well as using printed turn-by-turn direction sheets…truly making it a run where one needs to pay attention to the standard “runner” stuff (pacing, fuel, etc.) AND the course/route you must follow. There is a 10-hour cut off, though reading the results ahead of the race (and thankfully in my case this year), there seems to be some amount of leniency on the part of the RDs.
Anyway, with final instructions given and a few acknowledgments made, we were off at 7:02 am. Woohoo – the easy part: circling the Twin Peaks, then down the hill toward the Savage Journey!
I’m not going to give a mile-by-mile assessment (quite frankly, I find those boring and really don’t remember each and every mile anyway); but, below are some photos I snapped along the way (I picked up an Olympus TG-4 camera as an early Christmas present for myself ahead of the day, so I purposely took more pictures than I do at events) along with some memories.
For the TL;DR crowd:
- Total Miles: 50.4
- Finish time: 10:08:16 – moving time was 9:36:18. My goal was sub-10 (between 8:45 and 9:30); so, ugh…but I got it done!
- Place: DFL, 9 out of 9, though there was one DNF.
- Issues: None really – it was a memorable and amazing day. I will be back next year.
- Strava activity
For the rest of us, here goes.
Photos are in three groups – click on the first photo to see the images and any comments. More details about my run after the photos…
Things that went right:
- Sticking with a group during most of the first half. I typically train and run alone, but did enjoy pacing with various groups during the first half. With a 4:45 cutoff for 50-mile runners at mile 25, I needed the pacing. From about mile 20 to 25, I stuck with a speedier group that got me there at the 4:29 mark. One cool thing that I only learned after the fact was that one of the people was Errol “The Rocket” Jones – an ultra running legend and the Patron Saint of Pacing. He was nursing a hamstring, but was still killing it and shouting directions and encouragement at the rest of the group.
- Shoes: I’m a dedicated Altra wearer and picked up a pair of Paradigm 1.5s a while back specifically for this event. I really like them and headed into the day with just over 240 miles on them. They fit great and I didn’t have any issues at all during the run. Post-run, I had one toe that was tender, but nothing serious. These are keepers…
- Fuel: I used Tailwind the whole time – 2,000 calories worth over the ten hours. Since this was effectively a self-sustained event, I did the pre-mixed solution thing in two 10oz bottles that I carried in my vest. It worked great and I felt good all day. I did eat a few goodies at some aid stations – it was hard to pass up a small piece of birthday cake for “The Rocket” at Marina Green, potatoes at Skyline, and the PB&J along Sunset.
- Supplies. Anticipating my phone would die at some point, I brought my portable charger – just in case. I ended up needing it at around mile 30. I stopped in a restroom and connected it up, dropping the zip-bagged combo back in the vest for about an hour. A must-have for all future ultra events…
- Kit: I opted for carrying a handheld and using the vest for other stuff: carrying the two Tailwind bottles (one up front, one in the back), my camera in the other front bottle pocket, and other supplies in the back. I wore my Armpocket to carry my phone for easy access.
- No Chaffing!!!! Fifty miles, in the rain (for the most part), in wet clothes and shoes, wearing a running vest – all without any chaffing, blisters, or other bodily marks counts is a victory for the day in any book. Injinji socks, Body Glide, Pro-Tec Nipple Protectors, and Vaseline…for the win!
- No injuries. Aside from the normal, post-run soreness, injury free! Four day out now and I’m walking normal again!
Things that didn’t go so right:
- Not sticking with a group after the mile 25 aid station. For all the great reasons in the “what went right” section above, I should have sucked it up and stayed with the other two 50-mile runners out of that aid station. They were faster than me, but I think if I had at least stayed within sight of them, it would have been a motivator. Again, I run alone most of the time, so that wasn’t the issue – it was just tough keeping myself motivated to run when I probably could have instead of walking too frequently. That said, given the smaller number of runners and my skill/training level, this may not be possible next time (yes, i just typed next time), so the next bullet is necessary.
- Training. Ahead of this run, I should have focused more on longer road training – mainly from a completion time goal vs. endurance one (which I don’t have too much of an issue with.) That event-specific training vs. weekend longer-distance, trail runs where I walked too much would have been better and may have ensured a better finish time (and one that I KNOW I could have accomplished.) I had my heart set on a sub-10 hour finish – feeling that I could have gritted out between a 8:45 and 9:30 finish time.
- Cell phone: It was usable, but when my case and the surface gets wet, there is no easy way to use the dang thing. Next time, I need to somehow figure out how to carry a cloth or something that can be kept dry to wipe the thing off – or just give up, like I did after a while. Sheesh, I was running anyway, c’mon dude!
Book-ending the “different” day, when I got back to my car, the group of people praying had long gone…though the smell of marijuana wafting from several cars parked in the darker corners of the lot remained… As with the morning, that didn’t garner any acknowledgement from me (other than from my nose): my goal was to savor the accomplishment, safely drive home, hug my wife, and eat a big cheeseburger and fries…yes, in that very and exacting order.
All in all: a great day. Without a doubt, my most memorable event in four years of running. Hands down. Serious. Amen.
There is probably a lot more I could write and, I’m sure, more will come to mind after I hit “publish” – but one thing is for certain: Hunter S. Thompson Fear and Loathing 50 Miler v2016 – I’ll be back for sure!