Sunday, May 1, 2011

QuickSilver 50 2011: a breeze of performances

What a peak for our local ultra season! 3 races in our Grand Prix in three weeks, this is new to many but serial racers like Jason Reed. After last week's epic Ruth Anderson and next week's Miwok, this Saturday was the event organized by my new club, the QuickSilver Running Club of San Jose (my other club being the Stevens Creek Striders which I joined in 2004). With three distances: 25K, 50K and 50 miles. I will cover mainly the 50K and the 50-miler but I need to start with another event which occurred Tuesday night, and conclude with another one, The Relay, this Sunday. Ultra busy times... (If you are just visiting this post for the pictures, I posted about 280 of them in my Picasa album.)

1. 16th Annual Volunteer Recognition Banquet

A little out of the blue, but likely because I helped out with the Striders and other members of QuickSilver to clean trails at the Stevens Creek and Almaden Quicksilver County Parks, I got an invitation to attend the volunteer recognition banquet. I was expecting a limited audience and was quite surprised when I entered a room with likely more than 300 people! Furthermore, I never saw so many Park Rangers in uniform at once. It was also intimidating to be invited to a crowd made of people who gave hundreds and thousands of volunteering hours to the County, compared to a few dozens for me. Topping the list is Kitty Monahan who created the overall volunteer program and has given more than 9,500 hours of her time so far!! And counting...

I didn't know anyone in this crowd and ended up sitting at a table with one of the very special award: Junior Volunteer of the Year, presented by Senior Ranger Aniko Millan (a.k.a. Big Mama!) to her protegee, Maria Panorea Hadres. Over the past 5 years, Maria spent more than 250 hours helping out at Vesona Lake in particular, with activities ranging from volunteering at events to counting hundreds of geese!
Ranger Millan ended up receiving the Park Liaison of the Year Award for her outstanding work and results getting local middle schools to volunteer, so it was quite an honoree table. Other noticeable awards were the Church of Christ Youth Group, and the South Bay Fishing in the City group.
Anyway, quite a nice way for the County to recognize all these volunteers. As the Director of the County Parks noted, this is the least they can do when you realize that all these free hours represent a saving of more than $3 million in labor cost! And touch so many lives, people of all ages.

2. Quicksilver 50K and 50-mile races

Back to running... As I mentioned earlier, this is the major race put up by our club, the other one being a combined trail 10K and Half-marathon in the Fall. Because it was squeeze this year between Ruth Anderson 100K and Miwok 100K, one week apart, I decided to enter the 50K (am I not reasonable sometimes...?! ;-). With the start scheduled for 6 AM (and no plan for flying from Phoenix, AZ on race day this time, see last week's report!), I woke up at 2:45 to get a good breakfast before 3 AM (my 3-hour no food pre-race window). The drive was quick at that time of the day and I was the first one to reach the parking lot, which was still closed at 4:10. A few cars followed me and Race Director, Pierre-Yves Couteau, opened the gate around 4:40. Pierre's minivan was full with aid station gear and stuff and another surprise: Adrienne, Pierre's daughter, full of energy and who will help on many projects throughout the day! With a few volunteers already here we set up the registration table which was ready to operate ahead of schedule at 4:55.
300 runners kept the three port-a-potties busy and I got late in the line, getting my turn with 5 minutes to spare before the race started. I got on the starting line a few seconds before the gun, just enough to learn that Leor (Pantillat) had finally decided to join Garry (Gellin) on the 50-mile. They rushed out of the starting blocks (not far from the reality) and I took third close behind. Until, after about half a mile, my laces untied on my left shoe and I had to stop to do 4 knots this time (instead of three I had initially done). Toshi caught up with me as I was rushing again and, bummer, 100 yards later, it was the right shoe! This time 5 runners passed me and it was going to take me the next 4 miles to pass them all. With these stops, the winding single track which was probably getting my GPS to lose some of the actual mileage, my average pace was around 8:25-8:30, which was very slow for my game plan. Yet, it felt as I was running fast so I wondered if it was just some fatigue from last week's 100K. I pushed the pace going up Mine Hill, getting the average down to 8:10 or so.
At my first passage through Dam Overlook (mile 9.7), the aid station manned by my fellow Striders with a special guest again this year, Agnès, Bill indicated that I was 1 minute behind Toshi. I kept pushing up Randoll and, indeed, caught up with teammate Toshi at the Capehorn aid station (mile 14.5). As I had seen 3 runners closing on us behind, I didn't stop and rushed on Mine Hill, pushing the pace even more while going up hill and getting my average pace under 8 min/mile. I even passed a mountain biker who asked me if I was in a race... Here are the Striders on the first shift, all smiles despite the chilly and blowing wind at 6:30 AM!
For my second passage through Dam Overlook (mile 19), I did my fastest ever and Nascar or Formula 1-type of pit stop as I dropped two bottles and caught the two that Dennis had prepared for me. This helped keeping the momentum on this long way down and closing on Gary (about 2 minutes ahead of me then). I managed to get my average pace down to 7:36. I got up Mine Hill again and stopped for just a few seconds to grab one S-Cap at Dam Overlook (mile 23.7). I did run the entire uphill and was quite surprised to get passed by Chris who seemed quite easy. Chris told me he was 29 and that was his first 50K, wow! I lost sight of him before the end of the Bull Run. Another S-Cap at English Camp and I rushed down the trail for the long and rocky descent.
I saw Gary again a few minutes ahead of me, when passing under the power line on Hacienda, but had to walk part of the uphills in the killer roller coaster that the last miles represent. I was disappointed because, based on the mileage on my GPS, there was no way I could get to the finish line within the age group record I had set last year, i.e. 3:58:57. Fortunately, between keeping pushing hard on the climbs, flying in the downhills and a GPS slightly off in the first 6 miles, I sprinted and crossed the finish line in 3:56:19, for another record. And another PR and instance of my "farther faster" motto! For what it is worth since Gary, 42, had passed the 50K mark today in 3:52 on his way to complete a 50-mile, so he can easily improve this record in the coming years. But, since he was after my other record on the 50-mile, at least I was able to keep one on the chart for another year... ;-) Here is Gary at the finish of his 50-mile:
Speaking of the 50-mile, I was blown away when I heard that Leor had passed through the 50K aid station in 3:31, just one minute off the course record he set himself on 50K last year! I thought that there was little chance he could maintain this pace in the next 19 miles but he actually did, for a phenomenal performance: 6:01, breaking Chikara Omine's record set 2 years ago. Gary came in second in a no less amazing time of 6:30 for a new M40-49 course record (smashing my previous one of 6:48...!). With such blazing times, it took a while to see the next 50-mile finishers coming in in the combined flow of 25K, 50K and 50-mile runners.
Back to the 50K, I finished just 2 minutes behind Chris and took second. Toshi injured his right toe yet was still amazingly smiling despite the pain. He took fourth, missing the 4-hour mark by a mere 3 seconds... Chris, Toshi and I:
3. Quicksilver ultras event

With my hyper (or ultra...) busy life, it is rare that I spend more time hanging out at a race than running, except when volunteering of course, and not counting the travel time, but I had no hard commitments today and stayed for a total of 14 hours (from 4 am to 6 pm), including the 4 hours of racing. Which, I know, isn't much compared to the time that the volunteers put into this event, starting with Pierre-Yves. What a great community with so many abilities and passion for pushing the envelope and enjoying the outdoors. And what a perfect weather and convenient location for such a social gathering.

I spent several hours taking pictures of the runners approaching the finish line or the 50K mark for the ones continuing on the 50-mile. See my Picasa album which also includes a few pictures from Agnès at Dam Overlook. About 280 total...

The food was amazing. If Dick Collins Firetrails is renowned for its Café, I vote that Quicksilver 50 gets elected for its outstanding and best Restaurant! The food tent even included a kitchen section with a fridge and a mega portable BBQ, courtesy of "The Couple Chefs", Paul and Darcy Fick! Paul on the left, and Keith:
But it wasn't a two-people show, an amazing teamwork involving dozens of volunteers, tirelessly (well, seemingly) replenishing the buffet, cooking hundreds of hot dogs, hamburgers or ribs, filling in a dozen of ice chest with drinks and even beer, offering ice creams and delicious desserts. Again, the unmatched Quicksilver Restaurant! Even the Rangers were invited to stop by. Darcy spoiling us with her desserts...
Let's not forget the timers who worked from 9 am to 8 pm: Dave and Stan again (or I should say, always...), Kristina, Keith.
Greg at the megaphone for announcing every runner and advertizing from time to time the generous sponsors.
At the risk of missing one of them, here are a few additional volunteer first names to convey my appreciation and the one of us, running and enjoying the post-race party:
  1. Course marking: Jim, Gene, Dan, Susan, Keith, Peter, Greg
  2. Aid stations: Mike (the aid station Czar!), the Striders (Peggy, Peter and Peter, Bill and Bill, Dennis, Charles, Mike, Randy, Gene, Gregg, Kristin, Patrick, Claire, Liam, Isaac, Rob), Dorsey, June, Fay, Gene, Bill, Mathew, Clare, Scott, Andy, Keith, and I know I'm missing many others, especially as I barely stopped in any on of the aid stations this time, shame on me running too fast! ;-)
  3. Course monitors: Everitt, Harris, ...
  4. Check-in: Adrienne, Jim, Harris
  5. QuickSilver Restaurant and Bar: Darcey, Paul, Maria, Gary, Keith, Ian, ...
  6. Parking: Bob, Leroy, Bob, ...
And Pierre-Yves of course who was on all fronts on race day and so many weeks prior to the bid day.

Last but not least, several volunteers from the club cleaned the poison oak off the New Almaden trail for the safety of all of us (and I know a few of them got stigmas on their hand and arms from this). By the way, beyond some bruises on arms, knees or legs, the medical staff got busy with a significant casualty: Charles, from San Francisco, felt flat around mile 5 on New Almanden trail, and his hand got so severely wounded that he spent from 8 AM to 4 PM at the ER in San Jose. Here he is, with Pierre-Yves, after coming back to the finish area to pick his car. It's written on his shirt, he is not only a fighter, he is "The Fighter!"
Overall, it is one thing for a club to take on one aid station at an ultra race, but what a work it is to put up a complete event, end to end. Something to always keep in mind when participating to such events.

Again, many more pictures in my Picasa album.

4. The tail of The Relay

This Sunday morning, as a recovery run, I ran on the Stevens Creek Canyon Road, starting at the end of McClelan Road. I ran about 1.5 legs (half of the 28th and the whole steep 29th), taking pictures of the 16 runners I crossed on my way back (12.5 miles total). The temperature along the wonderful Stevens Creek was great and it's is comforting to see the Stevens Creek reservoir 100% full on this first day of May!
Check The Relay's website to learn more about this 200-mile 12-people relay from Calistoga to Santa Cruz.

5. Closing remarks

What's next? Well, you read it above, I'm in for another 100K next week and not anyone of them: the toughest on our ultra circuit, Miwok 100K. At least, with Geoff Roes and Dave Mackay at the top of the list and 10 other potential winners (see the 2011 entrants list), I have no expectation to see anything from the front of the race except at the turnaround. Unfortunately, per his blog, Tony Krupicka will not be part of this mini championship. Between the very mixed experiences I have had on this tough course and my current hyper racing mode, my main goal is to contain my excitement in the first half, pace myself so I don't suffer too much on the trip back to the beach. Oh yes, there will be a lot of fun on this gorgeous trail run but suffering is part of and assured on this hilly course!

It was great to see so many of you this weekend and take the time to chat and catchup on everyone's experiences and joys coming from trail running (you can add your own stories as comments on this post, I love hearing from you! ;-). See many of you again next week then!


Keith said...

Jean, thanks for the report. You had a very impressive run. I was happy to help out, since I couldn't run.

Toshi Moshi said...

You really hammered it going up Minehill from Capehorn. The gap between you and me got wider as we climbed and I was thinking "how is this possible?? You just ran 100k last week!"
Thanks to the volunteers, the trail was in great condition; poison oaks were removed, trail was widened and very runnable. Thanks to Pierre for putting on a great race. It was awesome to finally get an award at QS50K, but I may lose a toenail on my big toe!
Good luck on Miwok this weekend.

Scott Dunlap said...

Nice work! Another sub-4 on a tough course. Best of luck @ Miwok!

Unknown said...

Impressive run, and even more impressive was you taking everyone's picture at the finish line!

Looking forward to doing it again next Saturday:)

RunSophia said...

Well done Jean!

Anonymous said...


Wante to say thanks for making sure my niece, uncle and aunt were well fed and watered when I returned from the ER to close out my day. As I let the RD know that my hand was fine, you supplied my family well. I know it really was nothing but it meant a lot tothem and, as they spent their day with me in the ER, it helped me to say thanks to them.


Anonymous said...

A la fois, coureur, photographe, puis narrateur...c'est très fort!