Thursday, February 21, 2013

Overgrown Fat Ass 50K Race Report: A Duel to the Death in the Mountains, Peeing my Pants, and Getting Drunk on Moonshine

This event was crazy from the start!
Photo by Jean Pommier
Where the hell do I start?

Let's start with the fact that I'm running Western States this year! Woo hoo! I was amazingly fortunate to receive an automatic entry into the Western States 100 Endurance Run this year thanks to my Quicksilver Running Club. Each year the club hosts the Duncan Canyon aid station  at mile 24. Therefore we get an automatic entry each to be raffled off among club. And this year I was selected as the club's designated runner!

So, you'd think that Western States would be my main focus this year, my A race, my basket in which I'm putting all my eggs. But oddly, while I'm looking forward to Western States and certainly want to do well, it is actually the Ohlone 50K, held on my birthday (May 19th) that dominates my thoughts. Ohlone is the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I think about at night. When I'm out on a hard training run suffering, it's Ohlone that keeps me motivated. "If you want to crush Ohlone, you need to attack this hill!".

OK, so back to the title of this post... the Overgrown Fat Ass 50K. Every year, the Sunday after the Super Bowl, Quicksilver teammates Adam Blum and Sean Lang organize a small, informal 31 mile jaunt through the mountains. The run starts in Los Gatos and runs up and over Mount El Sombroso via Limekiln and then drops down Woods Road  into Almaden Quicksilver County Park... where we turn around at English Camp and then run back the way we came, back up and over the mountain.

Since this is a "Fat Ass" run and not an formal, organized permitted race, there are no aid stations. However, Adam and Sean's wives do hang out at the Woods Road parking lot with a few jugs of water, an assortment of delicious foods and snacks, and -- for those who are brave/foolish enough to partake -- an adult beverage or two. Each year the parking lot buffet has a different theme such as Irish Pub, Mexican Cantina, or as was the case this year, Cops & Robbers (aka moonshine bootleggers).

Cops and Robbers themed aid station

This event is really just an excuse to log a few early-season miles, get a little "sloppy" in the mountains, and have fun with some good friends. No one really goes out intending to hammer it like a real race. Well, no one except me perhaps. But I've got a good reason. Each February, I like to use the Overgrown Fat Ass as a tune-up race for Ohlone in May. While Overgrown has only 6,000 ft of elevation (compared to the 8,000 of Ohlone), they are both extremely tough courses with lots of hilly and exposed fire trails.

I'd done a fair share of smack talking the days leading up to the event, announcing how I was planning to run hard and hopefully drop everyone. However, I knew that was going to be tough to impossible when I saw that Christopher Wehan (who finished 4th this year at Miwok 100K) was planning to run. My plan was to go out ridiculously hard, hoping that everyone else would go out at an easy conversational pace, allowing me to grab an insurmountable early lead.

I hammered the hell out of the early miles, racking up numerous Strava CRs (Course Records) in the early miles. But when I glanced back over my shoulder at mile 5, my worst fears were confirmed. Chris was running hard and reeling me in. I continued to push the pace to the top of the mountain, and then down the other side.

At one point, I even intentionally peed in my pants (a proud first for me) rather than losing time by stopping or slowing down to pee. This pants-peeing came in the middle of 5 mile section where I averaged 6:38 pace down the mountain. I didn't even break stride whilst wetting myself. And yes, it was gross. But yes, my shorts (and left sock and shoe) all quickly dried again within minutes. I think I remembered to wash them afterwards???

Chris Wehan taking it easy on me for a few miles!
Photo by Jean Pommier

Chris finally caught me at mile 14, just after he and I both flew through the make-shift parking lot aid station without stopping. As soon as he caught me, I gave up and was ready to call it a day. I thought about walking back to the parking lot and hitching a ride back to Las Gatos in my wife's car. But Chris was a gentleman and slowed down enough that I could jog with him for the 5 mile out-and-back section before we returned to the parking lot.

And now for the part where I foolishly drink Apple Pie Moonshine at the aid station and then stumble around the mountain for the next 45 minutes on wobbly legs. Chris, who I think also drank a shot of moonshine (or at least ate a moonshine-soaked strawberry) picked up the pace at this point and ran off up the mountain. I jogged leisurely, stopping a couple of times to use the bathroom. Eventually, after about 45 minutes, I started feeling good again and picked the pace back up. But it was too late... Chris was long gone.

I hammered the last few miles and finished in 4:21:23, about 8:37 average pace. This was nearly 40 minutes faster than my 4:59:20 winning time from two years ago. In fact, I think it might actually be the fastest trail 50K that I have ever run! Now, if I can only duplicate that at Ohlone in May :)