Sunday, August 7, 2011

Skyline 50K: rising stars in the cloud

No, I didn't get knocked out and see stars flying in my head, actually this has been another great day, and another great Vespa experience. We were missing local stars such as Leor Pantilat, Chikara Omine, Dave Mackey, Gary Gellin, Ian Sharman or Joe Binder to name a few but, read on... We do have a serious problem with our National debt, but we are not short of stars in the area and, while that doesn't make up for the trillions, that's priceless...!

First, instead of doing it at the end of the post as usual, I want to thank Adam Ray for having taken over the race direction of this event, most especially in its 30th edition (1982-2011)! It is one of our local race gems that didn't get the popularity of other races yet, but so worth participating in for many reasons. It's a fast course if you like speed, thanks to the wide fire road, yet there are wonderful sections of technical and single track trails. It's 90% trail, so close to San Francisco, yet in the woods. Great aid stations and volunteers who are all very aware of the specificity of ultra racing. Unpredictable weather which illustrates the multiple micro-climates of the Bay Area, but usually on the cool side, which is refreshing after some other very hot races in June or July. Not crowded event which makes it more convivial. And great t-shirt and gizmos in the doggy bag thanks to Zombie Runner in particular and North Face for the sponsorship of the award prizes. Skyline 50K, its RD and all the volunteers rock, thank you for allowing us to run on these hills!
And a special thank to Agnès who spent her early morning to drive around, drive to 7 of the 9 aid stations, and managed to take a few pictures despite the difficult foggy conditions (see my Picasa album).

Back to the race, Victor Ballesteros was here today, coming back from a low season because of a hip injury. He told be that was a warm-up run for him as he ramps up training before running the World Championships of 100K Road in September. Among the ones I was expecting to push the pace today there were also Toshi (Thosikazu Hosaka), from our Quicksilver Ultra Racing Team and Chris Calzetta, who did beat me by two minutes to win the Quicksilver 50K race in May.
But it's another runner who took the lead right off the starting line, Kota Reichert, followed by Andrew Sullivan. Kota was wearing a shirt from the super fast running teamm the Aggies, so I was not surprised by the speed on the asphalt, just wondering how he would hold this speed on the trail for 31 miles (Kota is a 2 times 2:29 marathoner and 1:08 on the half marathon). Anyway, there was no way I was going that fast and I settled for a 6:45 min/mile average pace on the rolling section of the bike path on the South shore of Lake Chabot.
Toshi and Chris were right behind me, with Victor not far behind. Carrying two bottles, I didn't stop at any aid station except Skyline Gate at mile 14 where Agnès handed me two new bottles and I grabbed 3 potato chips, 1/8th of a banana, and 1 S-Cap with a sip of Coca-Cola. Flying through the aid stations (and I apologize to the volunteers for the apparent lack of consideration...), helped keeping a consistent and aggressive pace and save time, a few seconds here and there (a tip I got from Charles Stevens). At Bort Meadow we lost Toshi and Chris stayed on my heels the whole climb up to Skyline where he was faster on the flat sections with his long legs and stride and I was catching up in the up and down hills. Shortly before getting to Skyline Gate, in the mist of the cloud, I saw a very fast runner coming at us. At first, it was so foggy that we could only see someone moving fast, then it got clear that the guy had a bib on his chest. It was Kota, flying down the trail and when I yelled he was off course, he replied: "They sent me off this way!" That was weird, unexpected and, to me, clear that would disqualify him. Anyway, when we got to the aid station, there was still some confusion and a few folks mentioned that there was then only one guy ahead of us by 2 minutes, Andrew.
Chris let me pass ahead for the descent down French Trail as I knew the course and was fast zigzagging and jumping over the roots with my shorter legs (no, I'm not one of those goats that we saw close to Skyline Gate!). Not just because of the name (French!), I love this trail which penetrates such a dense forest of redwood trees (adequately name Redwood Park). Chris followed as we climbed the steep Starflower Trail, then French Trail again. I proposed him to pass if he wanted but we kept moving as is. We finally caught up with Andrew less than a mile before coming back to Bort Meadow.

Again, I proposed to Chris to go ahead but we kept moving together at a good pace, around 7 min/mile pace to and past the last aid station, Bonker Bay, where Stan Jensen welcomed us while recording our split. Chris did a quick stop and caught up after the steep downhill to the trail along the North shore of the lake. There are still three miles of flat trail and bike path and I knew Chris could have easily picked the pace up and pass me but we finished together, Chris graciously staying by my side after asking if I had ever won this race. After his great performances this year, including a 18:45 finish at Western States 5 weeks ago, it was really a very nice act of sportsmanship. A few strides from the finish line, I asked him to come next to me so I could grab his arm and Dave Combs and Mark Gilligan would make a tie, "a spirited tie" per the race director's words on Facebook this Sunday night. We crossed the finish line in 3:46:34. At 29, Chris is only getting started and he'll do great on the ultra circuit!
I was just catching my breath when we saw Victor coming in less than 2 minutes behind us. I had asked Agnès if there was anyone closing on us when passing through Big Bear on the return and she said no but Victor was then told by the Bort Meadow volunteers that he was just 5 minutes behind us, definitely gaining on us. I don't think I could have gone much faster anyway had I known, but Victor definitely is back on track for making such a routine run his best time on this course, after running 25 miles the day before.
At this point we learned that Kota had covered the course in a blazing 3:16, thus improving the course record. I told Adam that, while it was his decision as Race Director, it didn't seem right to me as this was clearly a case of going off course. I actually learned later that the volunteers at Skyline Gate saw him coming from another trail behind the station (along the parking lot) then, and even more puzzling, that Chihping, who had been checking the course marking for us since 5 AM this morning, and saw us passing by on French Trail, didn't recall seeing another runner running the loop clockwise. Not to mention that the white arrows on the ground must have clearly appeared to be the wrong way. Anyway, with that, I think the best for Kota to show he is a start is to come back next year and crush the course. The right way... (Kota in red, below.)
The rest of our Quicksilver Ultra Racing Team/Running Revolution did quite well too. First with Toshi taking on 6th just a few seconds shy of a sub 4-hour. Then Harris Goodman finishing in 4:53 Scott Laberge in 5:17 and Adam Blum shortly after. On the ladies side, Adona Ramos took first place in an impressive 4:33:24, with Tera Dude on her heels, a mere 11 seconds behind! Clare Adam was our second team member to score, taking 3rd overall in 4:54:11 and the trio was completed by Kate Powel. Way to go team!! Here is Toshi in the finish chute, all smile as usual despite giving it all to get under 4 hours:
That was my 5th Skyline. 3:48:12 in 2007 (Fast and foggy), 4:17:20 in 2008 when I strangled my quads with an inappropriate strap (S as in...), 3:54:20 in 2009 (Version 3 of 28), 3:43:00 in 2010 (A perfect #4) and 3:46:34 this year. I love this fast course, I'll certainly be back. At the very least to see how Kota, Chris or other stars are going to improved the long lasting course record that Tom Johnson set at 38 in 1997 (3:32:37, see Stan Jensen's website).

Last thing, a few details about my Vespa experience. First, like Peter Defty advised me, and something which did work at the World Masters too three weeks ago, I took one pouch of Vespa 25 45 minutes before the start, one pouch of Vespa Junior a few minutes before the start and another one (Junior) at Skyline Gate after 1 hour and 40 minutes of running. I took my first GU 1 hour and 30 minutes after the start which is late but this is to ensure the metabolism starts to burn fat instead of sugar (knowing we carry in our body, at the start, 20 times more fat calories than glycogen). I took a second GU at mile 20 when Chris and I passed Hugo and to make sure I had enough power for the last 11 miles. And drank 2/3 of my GU2O bottles and water bottles (could/should have drunk more actually and finished the bottles). Overall that's 350 calories intake (*) for about 3,000 calories spent according to my Garmin import into SportsTrack. I did not get any cramps, which is a first for me on this course, and did not walk any of the up hills (had to keep Chris on his toes! ;-). I was definitely able to get energy and calories from other sources than pure glycogen. And, I promise, I'm not paid to promote this product, I just want to share it's working so you give it a try too if you want to improve your ultra experience and recover better!
This week I plan on participating in the Los Gatos All-Comers meet on Thursday night and help out at Steve Patt's Stevens Creek 50K next Sunday. My next big goal is Rio Del Lago on September 10 and I need to keep some volume and intensity through August then. Again, like after the World Masters, no time to rest on the laurels... ;-)

Have a great week, and a special "Run Happy" to those enjoying this activity!

(*) GU2O 16oz: 100 x2 x2/3 = 130 - GU: 100 x 2 = 200 - 1/8 banana: 10 cal


Jean Pommier said...

A great video from Chihping, on FaceBook, summarizing the Skyline 50K 2011 race (you may have to be friend with him to view the video):

Anonymous said...

hey jean, it was great to run with you again. that was not hugo that went out with kota, however, nor was it hugo you caught at bort -- it was me, andrew sullivan. victor passed me about 3.5 miles from the finish and hugo caught me with only 200 yards to go.

i look forward to the next time!

Jean Pommier said...

Oops, Andrew, sorry for the oversight, Hugo wasn't a familiar name indeed. I'm going to fix the post right away...
BTW, thanks again for leading most of the way so we all pushed the envelope and the pace. 200 yards to the finish with Hugo, that was close...

Greg said...

Great sportsmanship indeed. Whatayear, Jean!

Anonymous said...

Encore bravo!
La photo de l'arrivée est fort sympathique...

Sarah Lavender Smith said...

Congrats on another great race & race report. I wish I could've run it this year but enjoyed seeing you guys blaze through Skyine. I hadn't heard that "Bonker" Bay for Honker Bay nickname before :-) Did you really run all the uphills, even those Star Flower stretches back up to French? Wow.

Sarah Lavender Smith said...

Congrats on another great race & race report. I wish I could've run it this year but enjoyed seeing you guys blaze through Skyine. I hadn't heard that "Bonker" Bay for Honker Bay nickname before :-) Did you really run all the uphills, even those Star Flower stretches back up to French? Wow.

Steve Patt said...

Jean, that's HONKER Bay, named after all the Canada Geese you can hear honking in the bay below. Or was that "Bonker" an intentional misspelling to describe how many people feel at that point?