Sunday, February 7, 2010

Jed Smith 50K 2010: the birth of a new season

The first race of the season, how exciting! Now, look at this list: sleep deprivation, stress, limited training after the December break, no speed work, work pressure, hectic family schedules and the residual fatigue of our trip to Ethiopia. Doesn't it look like a recipe for failure? Oh, and I did not mention the age too... Well, with all that, Jed Smith brought some good surprises to me as you will read below.

Jed Smith 50K is the first race of our local Pacific Association ultra running Grand Prix series (USA Track & Field association). I ran it for the first time last year and was not quite ready, suffering to finish in 3:51 with cramps and a bit of asthma. This year, the course was moved to a new location because the previous and original location, Gibson Ranch, is closed as part of the California budget cuts. The Gibson Ranch loop was flat and half asphalt, half dirt trail. The trail could potentially get quite muddy in this winter and rainy season, but the 8-shape of the course allowed to see all the runners, either lapping some or crossing others.

We finalized our team car pool plans late on Friday evening as Mark just landed from a week in Mexico. I picked Andy at 280 and Meridian at 5:30 and Mark at 680 and Stoneridge at 6 am. We got quite some rain on our way to Sacramento/Carmichael and mentally prepared for a chilly and wet run this Saturday morning.

Despite a perfect organization, a reasonable pricing, a variety of distance and the proximity of Sacramento, the attendance to this first ultra of the PA USA T&F season is low and parking was easy. The 50-milers started at 8:12 am and we (50K runners) started 30 minutes later. Because it was a new course, we had a bike lead to show us the trail on the first loop. I took off with Jason and, despite a fast start at 6:10 min/mile pace, there was an even faster runner in front of us, someone we had never seen before on the circuit. We were wondering what was going on and, despite my initial plans to run at a 6:55-7:00 pace, I decided to keep this lead runner in sight while Jason took the wise decision to slow down the pace once he heard the number given by my Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS.

At the 3-mile aid station and turnaround I asked who was ahead and they didn't know. After a loop I learned that it was his first 50K and that he was aiming at running sub 3.5 hours. I thought it was suicide but kept going and settled for a 6:24 pace which I maintained for the first 3 laps. I was 75" behind the front runner after the first and second loop and 40" at the beginning of the 4th and 5th 10-kilometer lap. We were still at 6:26 pace when we got on the last loop but we both slowed down and finished with an average of 6:36, in a close 19" finish, after having passed the marathon mark in 2:51.

I was really happy to have PR'ed on this distance thanks to this crazy pace which I was not aware I could sustain for that long. So, on one hand grateful to this rabbit. However, it was not pure joy because I got upset with the fact that the "rabbit" had himself a pacer for the last three laps (given the pace, that was quite a good runner to keep the pace). So, like last summer at the French 100K Road Nationals where I got mad after seeing the lead runners cheating with pacers on bikes, I could not refrain from getting upset and losing my temper. Retrospectively I think I was more mad at myself for reacting this way, since there wasn't really any particular challenge in this race. The fact is that, feeling disadvantaged by the situation, I did not get the confidence and energy to push or maintain the pace in the last lap. But maybe it was just the fatigue and lack of proper training. Now, my last PR on this distance was at Ruth Anderson 2008 when I switched from my original 100K goal to the 50K distance and clocked 3:44:58. I knew I could do better, hence last year's disappointment at Jed Smith 2009, but was unsure about sub 3:30. One more limit discovered and pushed, in the game of my personal ultra running experiences...

And what is the name of this mysterious and new fast runner? Ted Archer. He shows on Peter Zinsli's web site with 3 races including a 2:48 at CIM 2008, and a 6:38 at Rocky Racoon 50-mile that same year. So not many results but not an ultra rookie either. Good to have new competition, keep us on our toes!

In terms of nutrition (more for my records/recollection, but some may find the information useful), I got one pouch of Vespa CV-25 45' before the start, and only 2 GUs for the run, with two S!Caps and 1.5 x 16-oz bottles of GU2O. Plus 2 small cups of water and 2 small cups of Coke (or I think it was Pepsi...). Of course, with the temperature and humidity, hydration was less an issue than for the summer races...

Weather wise, conveniently (or should I say miraculously) the rain stopped just before we started and resumed when we were in the car, driving home. In these conditions, I took off my jacket after the first lap and was happy with my choice of shoes: with the trail and the rain, I hesitated between the Casdadias and Racer ST, and finally settled for the latter, which was perfect for some speed. Ideal weather then for the 50K and 30K runners, but some of the 50-mile participants might have gotten soaked in the rest of the afternoon unfortunately. Speaking of the 50-mile, Michael Kanning won the race in an amazing time of 6:15, and a light field (12 finishers).

In the 50K, unlike last year, I resisted to Michael Fink's charge who finished 3rd in 3:37:15. In our Quicksilver/RhoQuick team, Mark finished 4th overall in 3:51, Andy 7th in 3:58 (PR) and Jim 9th in 4:47. A good start of the season after winning the team competition (Men) last year. See all the results: 30K, 50K, 50M.
A special thank you to John Blue, the race director, for a perfect organization and all the freebies in each age group. For the perfect weather on the 30 and 50K at least. And for keeping the event up despite the late cancellation from Gibson Ranch Park. Great new course, I hope we can keep Jed Smith there for some time.

Thank you also to all the volunteers, many from the Buffalo Chips club, who gave their Saturday in this chilly and humid weather. Weather was good for us, as we were running and moving, but tough for the ones standing still for hours.

Sincerely, this event organized by the Buffalo Chips deserves many more participants!

Several of the runners (Jim, Andy, Jason, Bill, myself) finished the day at the Pacific Association award banquet organized by the West Valley Joggers and Striders, in Cupertino, a dinner gathering the whole team (I will post more on that later, it's Sunday but I need to get back to work...). Four weeks before the next race (Way Too Cool 50K on March 6), this should give more some time to catchup on some belated stories (Ethiopia, a running interview with Bree Lambert, a run with Greg and Max, my recent "Brooks Christmas" including 3 pairs of new shoes, my first runs at Alviso, ...) over the coming weeks. And maybe more time to train too, who knows... Stay tuned and Run Happy in the meantime!

PS: see a few Jed Smith pictures in my Picasa album as usual. (Note to the reader regarding the times on the finish line - (1) Bibs are orange for the 50-miler, yellow for the 50K and blue for the 30K. (2) The clock started when the 50-milers started. They were followed by the 50K runners 30' later, and the 30K runner another half-hour later.)


Anonymous said...

J'espère,comme toi, que tu vas trouver le temps de nous relater les sujets que tu évoques, tout en te préparant pour le 6 Mars...

Anonymous said...

Nice run out there, Jean. We really did luck out on the weather. Thanks for coming out to our race!
John Blue

Scott Dunlap said...

Wow! That's a speedy time. Sounds like you have a start to a solid season!


Jean Pommier said...

Well, Scott, sounds like you too have a great start of the season with your PR at yesterday's half. Interesting how we can push the limits, isn't it? Which limits anyway? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Tu es vraiment trop fort, Jean! Bravo! Apres avoir lu ton article j'ai decide d'essayer ce fameux VESPA dont vous (Scott et toi) parlez souvent dans les blogs. J'espere qu' on se croisera bientot (American River 50, peut-etre). Et merci pour la photo!

Todd Oesterman

Jean Pommier said...

By the way, thank you for the readers who reminded me that Way Too Cool wasn't the first weekend of March but the second (3/13)! One more week to train, or to rest/tapper.

I already showed up at a race one day before race day (Skyline 50K), would have been really embarrassing driving all the way up to Cool one week in advance... ;-)

Run Happy out there!

Janine Mitchell said...

My name is Janine Mitchell. I am a broadcast journalism major at Emerson College.
My partner (Kayla Harrity) and I are looking to do a news package on preparing for the Boston Marathon.

Would you want to speak with us on camera about the preparations/training process for running the Boston marathon? We would like to conduct an interview on Wednesday night, February 24th.

Please let me know asap if you are interested and/or running the marathon this year!

Thank you,
Janine Mitchell
603 548 4778