Sunday, May 10, 2009

Quisksilver 09: a great one, at last!

At the end of my Ruth Anderson race report, I invited you to visit my blog for a better ultra running story and experience with Miwok. Well, as most of you know, that was not the case at all as I experienced hypothermia on the legendary course through the Marine Headlands, just North of San Francisco. Keep reading and you will see that I just missed the schedule by a week. I am happy to report that this Saturday run was the good one, my first prefect race of the year! At last! Assuredly, ultra running is all about trial and errors and cannot work perfectly every time but, what gratification it brings when it does.
Although the Park is less than 30 minutes from home, and so close to San Jose, Quicksilver is not part of my train runs. I had some knowledge of the trail from running the course last year, self-supported, during my improvised local "Western States Memorial Day Weekend camp." Back then, I got dehydrated and completed the course in 8:33. So I knew what to expect in terms of elevation for instance (below), especially that the last 19 miles are quite brutal, but I did not know much about the appropriate pace.
Again, I came to the race with as few expectations as possible after a series of tough ones. I knew it was not going to rain and hoped the dryness of the air will please my lungs and keep the exercise-induced asthma away. Although I managed to take an earlier flight from Las Vegas, I did not sleep much during the week, less than 6 hours of sleep per night. Not to mention the "hotel food" through the week: you know, too good and too much... At least the week at IMPACT has been very productive on the business side, my "first job" -I call running my "second job"-, with an amazing coverage of the recent acquisition of ILOG. Additionally, TPSA, a professional association, confered me their first ambassador award, at their conference on Wednesday. Busy week!

The race directions said that the parking lot would fill quickly; I arrived there at 4:25 am and the gate was not open yet (4:30). I was actually the first runner to show up, most of the participants arriving around 5 am. It was still quite dark despite the full moon and, indeed, the parking filled up before 5:30. It was a bit chilly but everybody was prepared to experience heat later in the day. Overall it was a bright sunny day, with temperatures reaching 85F and a nice breeze over the hills and on the ridge, making it a perfect weather for an ultra. Finally, after Miwok, you could tell it was Spring indeed! Here we are at the start, photo courtesy of Hao who used my camera while crewing for his wife on the 50K (thanks Hao!).
Right off the start, Chikara (Omine) took off. I followed him with Simon, then was John Mintz, and I could hear Mark (Tanaka) and Victor (Ballesteros) chatting not far behind. I continued the discussion Simon and I started in the first hill of Miwok. The first mile is composed of serious uphills, which we ran conservatively as a warm-up. I was still in second and seeing Chikara when Victor passed me in one of these initial walls. I thought that I would not see him again and that, with Chikara and Victor, the course record of 6:35 that Graham (Cooper) had set last year was in jeopardy. However, I was surprised to catchup with both Chikara and Victor in the steep downhill which completes this initial 2-mile loop.We left the few spectators to get on one of the nicest trail of this course: New Almaden. Single track, rolling and whirling, a few bridges, in the trees, this is the nirvana of trail running. I felt really good and, although I was wondering if I was not going too fast, staying on Victor's heels, my Garmin was indicating a 8:30 minute/mile pace, so I thought I was safe. I heard at the start that Victor had forgot his Garmin today and he actually felt more relaxed. For the ones who do not know Victor, Victor took second in last week's Miwok, thus qualifying for Western States through the Montrail Ultra Cup spots.

Victor and I ran together up Mine Hill, Randol, April, up to the ridge. On the way down to the second passage through the Dam Overlook aid station, I saw Chikara and pointed him with a lead of 4 minutes. Victor was about a minute behind me then. Going through Dam three times was cool as the station is manned by my fellow Stevens Creek Striders. I did not stop for the first two passages but did the third time to get my Gu2O bottle refilled (thanks Peggy!). It was also nice to cross other runners during the climb up to the ridge (Bull Run trail). Chihping stopped to take a picture of me (below), and he posted a great coverage of the race. He told me I was still 0.5 mile or 4 minutes behind Chikara. From the initial 8:30 average pace when I first went through Dam, I was now down to 8:00 min/mile after 25 miles.
I flew down English Camp trail and through the Englishtown aid station (first passage) without stopping. I ran as much of Hacienda as I could although I had to walk some of the walls in the roller coaster section marking the end of the 50K. I told myself that, if I run the uphills, I had a chance of improving the age group course record on the 50K! But that would then have provided a good enough reason to drop at the 50K distance... For those who do not know the course, all the 50-miler runners go through the 50K finish before embarking for another 19-mile strenuous loop and it takes guts to leave the start/finish area when you have the option to score in the 50K instead. Anyway, I reached the finish line in 4:03. I thought that the age group course records were 4:01 for the 50K and 7:01 for the 50-mile so, with 4:03, my mind was all set to keep going on the 50-miler. Checking the records back tonight, I see that Francisco Gutierrez' 2000 CR is actually 4:04. So I know it is at reach for next year...!

Troy assisted me while I was changing bottles, taking two new ones from my cooler, drinking one pouch of Vespa, and he informed me that Chikara was now 10 minutes ahead of me. Certainly, I was not going to chase him and I was more thinking of Victor chasing me, imagining him just a few minutes behind. Back on Hacienda we go against the flow of runners, up to Englishtown. They were all very nice, providing encouragements especially in the 2-mile steep uphill to the Englishtown aid station, where the volunteers filled in my bottles with ice, such a treat! The temperature was above 80 but a breeze was making the heat bearable. At this point we leave the 50K course to go East on Wood Road into Sierra Azul. We then cross Hicks Road to keep going 4 miles on Wood Road (fire road closed to traffic).

I crossed Chikara about 15 minutes from the turnaround. At the end of the course, I found my RhoQuick teammates, Andy and Pierre-Yves, who were manning the station. More ice in my bottles, cap and singlet and I was flying down again for the last 9 miles. Photo credit, Pierre-Yves Couteau: I saw Victor about 2.5 minutes from the turnaround and that kept me pushing on the rolling Wood Road. Agn├Ęs missed me at the Hicks Road aid station by a minute then rushed to the finish. Crossing the 50-milers provided more motivation. Finally, when getting back to the Englishtown aid station for the third time, I just flew by, thinking that I might have a chance to improve the age group course record. As I was sprinting and pushing as much as possible in the last up and down hills, my quads were wondering what was going on but remained docile and cooperative until the finish line. I crossed the line in 6:49, improving the AG CR by 12 minutes. On one hand it seems slow compared to the phenomenal 6:15 overall course record set by Chikara this Saturday (but did I mention he is 20 years younger than me? ;-). On the other hand, my time is only 4 minutes off legend Ann Trason's best on this course. So I will take it as my best perf for this year. That was definitely a great day, at last for this season!
Great post-race party, mixing the 50K and 50-mile finishers, their family and crew, the volunteers. I stayed for two hours to enjoy the food, the ultra company, the dicussions and seeing many happy faces crossing the finish line. Kudos for a very smooth organization by the Quicksilver Running Club of San Jose, and special thanks to the volunteers at remote aid stations! It was my first official Quicksilver and I am already looking forward to coming back!


Unknown said...

Congrats Jean! Smashing the course record by 12 min, Bravo. It was nice to chat with you after the race while enjoying the BBQ.

Have fun in Paris.

Dave - Atlanta Trails said...

Congratulations on setting this record...NICE job!

Peter Lubbers said...

What a fantastic run, Jean! Keep it up!

Pierre-Yves said...

Congrats Jean, I did not realize you would beat the course record when I saw you at Sierra Azul (you even waited patiently until I reached for my camera!). I wish you many more races like this one.

Anonymous said...

Bravo, Jean...nous t'attendons impatiemment
Tendres baisers de nous deux

Anonymous said...

Congrats!!!! Wow, you always look so spry when you are running and smashing course records to boot. I hope I look like that someday!

Michael said...

Way to go Jean. I really enjoyed the RR. I would kill to run a course that fast - keep it up my man.

Steve Patt said...

You looked awesome when I saw you, congratulations again on a great race.

As for your comment about dropping at 50K, I wish! I was having a hard time with the heat, and I did drop at 50K, and was told in no uncertain terms by the scorers that I was NOT allowed to switch races and score in the 50K (although I think I would have placed or even won my new AG 60+; results still aren't posted).

One reason I dropped is my toes were really hurting. The steep downhills on that course can be really hard on your toes! I've been wearing Cascadia 3's for a year and a half or so and love them. How do the 4's compare?

Anil Rao said...

Congrats Jean, wow what a performance.

Scott Dunlap said...

GREAT!!!! I can't believe you could even walk after Miwok. Congratulations!


Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Way to break your rut, and congrats on the master's course record!