Saturday, February 5, 2011

Jed Smith 2010: a new and sunny course

With some shame, I'm going to start with an anecdote which shows that I was not raised here and I still have some work to catchup with the history of my new country... I ran this race, Jed Smith 50K, in February 2009 and 2010. 2009 was the last year the event was held at Gibson Ranch State Park before the Californian budget crisis led to the closure of the park to the public. I had a tough run, finishing in 3:51:03. Last year, we ran along the American River and I set a PR (Personal Record) on that distance in 3:25:13. Anyway, the anecdote is that I always thought that, like Ruth Anderson, Dick Collins or Helen Klein, Jed Smith must have been a pretty famous ultra runner in the area to have an ultra race named after him. Until... two weeks ago; Greg had left his History book open in the living room at the Life of the West chapter. I read the whole chapter and learned a few interesting facts about the Californios, the Mountain Men, Missionaries, Pioneer Women, Mormons, Forty-Niners and Chinese, all these groups who shaped our current environment and our trail system in particular. And I then switched to the previous chapter which mentions the discovery of Oregon at the time California was still part of Mexico quoting History Alive!: "The route that Lewis and Clarke had followed was too rugged for ordinary travelers. There had to be a better way. In 1824, a young fur trapper named Jedediah Smith found that better way. Smith discovered a passage through the Rocky Mountains called South Pass." Here is my ultra runner, the founder of the Oregon Trail!
After last year's great performance, and some good speed work in January, I had high expectations for this year's edition of Jed Smith. I had exchanged emails with co-Race Director, John Blue, about the new course and the only thing I needed was a good weather, something which is not a given in Sacramento in February. Sean and Heidi picked me at Meridian Avenue and we had a smooth ride to the start, getting there 40 minutes before the start of the 50K (the 50-mile had already started 20 minutes ago and the 30K starts one hour after the 50K).
The time to park, get the bib and timing chip, setup a "base camp" near the start line as we were going to pass through the start/finish area 7 times today, visit the restrooms, I was barely ready when John called us on the start line. I'd say we were about 50 at the start, with quite a few familiar faces and many Buffalo Chips members (this is their race and the club has more than 400 members!). Sean, I and a tall runner from Fleet Feet Racing Team took off fast. We were joined by Jason Reed who hanged with us for half a mile like last year. Each lap was 4.88 miles (certified course) so we had to run an 1.72-mile out and back to make it 31 miles. I had seen Chad Worthen's name at the top of the list of entrants on Ultrasignup, but the site was only showing 5 or 10-mile races in his results pate, and I thought he was quite aggressive to start at that pace for his first ultra. Well, read on...

After three miles, I let Sean and Chad take some distance, trying to settle on a more reasonable pace (we were at a sustained 6 min/mile pace) but they both slowed down a mile later so I took the lead again. However I stopped at the end of the first loop to grab my GU2O bottle and this time, stayed behind. I wasn't actually sure of my average pace because I had messed up my stop watch at the start. I think I started it 3 minutes before the start then stopped it when we started and it took me 2 minutes into our fast start to find that out. With that, my GPS was showing an average pace of 9 minutes/mile, which was certainly off. It took me 2 laps to get it below 6:30 min/mile, while I was hoping to run today's race around 6:22. As for Sean, he was running without even a watch, just following his instinct. He stayed with Chad for three laps, still at a very fast pace, slightly over 6 min/mile.

In the fourth lap, I started seeing Sean again at a distance but no more sight of Chad. I caught up with Sean at the end of lap 4 and my calves started cramping really bad as we started lap 5 together with 10 miles to go... The clock was showing 2:20 (after subtracting the hour of the earlier 50-mile start). At that point, my laps were around 31-32 minutes, but there was no way I could sustain that with the frequent cramps. I took a second GU and another S!Cap (4 in all), but the thing is that I had not drunk enough fluids, not even 1 16-oz bottle of GU2O and a few cups here and there at the aid stations. 55 ultra races and still not doing this properly, getting caught up into the speed, shame on me! Sean was apparently not getting better than and I had a 500 yards lead at the end of lap 5 with still no sign of Michael Fink behind. Still cramping, I tried to maintain a good pace although my stride was quite impacted and not as smooth. I started the 6th and final loop after 2 hours and 52 minutes of running, right on the marathon mark. At this point, I knew that I would miss my goal to be faster than last year as this was requiring to run the last 5 miles under 6:30 min/mile. I indeed crossed the finish line in 3:28. Less than 6 seconds per mile slower than last year which doesn't seem much, yet I wasn't satisfied with my performance given the perfect conditions. In addition to the inappropriate fluid intake, I still have to lose these 4 extra pounds I mentioned last week... (I see people smiling and not believing me...) Everything counts when you are chasing seconds... The good news is that I lost them today, just need to keep them away!

Chad had won the 50K in 3:18 and I'm sure he can do much better/faster than that under more pressure. A few web searches show that he is a 2:22 marathoner and 1:08 half marathoner so, indeed, a local and national elite! Speedy Michael Fink finished 3rd in 3:32 followed by Sean in 3:38. Jennifer Pfeifer won the Female division finishing 5th overall in a blazing 3:45!
I did not take a picture of all the runners (more than one hundred for the three events, according to John), but you can check who got in the box and in my Picasa album. And see for yourself the wonderful weather we had today! Here is teammate Jim Magill finishing right under 5 hours (4:59:43).
I wish more people join us next time. This is a very professional organization, a gorgeous tour along the American River (we even had views of the snowy mountains East of Sacramento) and a nice loop format for crews and spectators. Granted, a lot of asphalt, but nice trails sections in alternation. Kudos to race directors, John Blue and Dennis Scott for such a new course and organization. And to the many volunteers and Buffalo Chips members for welcoming us in their backyard.
Have a good week all. Good luck for the ones still under the snow and, to the Califonians and Ground Hogs checking on their shadow, enjoy the exceptionally warm weather (73F in San Francisco today which beats the 1917 record of 71F. I know this sounds strange to all the people on the East Coast and Mid West but, yes, global warming is real, and even includes trouble weather such as blizzard and tornadoes, not just hotter summer days).


Zachi Baharav said...

Great way to start the new year: Well done Jean!!


Shir said...

Well done, Jean. And thanks for the pics.

BTW: Your Jed Smith name conjecture makes perfect sense to my immigrant and Americanized logic hemispheres. It’s as good as my Sybil Ludington (50k) hypothesis (woefully short on the “female Paul Revere” revolutionary war heroine part). This could be an interesting ultra-Jeopardy category… Jack Bristol? Runner! Hinte Anderson (HAT)? Two Runners! J.C Stone? Vietnam war hero! John Holmes? Good question... don’t really know that one.... hoping it’s not a tribute to the late porn star but this is America, where one should never be too sure...

Scott Dunlap said...

That's a great time this early in the year! Congrats.

Keith said...

Jean (and Sean), thanks for the posts. You do all the work, and I get to share from my desk. Congradulations on a great start to the season.

Anonymous said...

Bravo pour ce bon début et merci à Grégoire pour l'apport historique..