Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jed Smith 50K: can I still improve?

This was my 4th time at Jed Smith and I was excited to get back on this fast new course which we also used in part at the World Masters of Athletics last July for the marathon (2 medals for the US, bringing good memories... ;-).

For those only interested in the pictures, here they are.

The conditions could not have been more perfect. First, the weather, blue sky, temperature of 44F at the start increasing into the low 60s in the afternoon, no wind. Second, Victor's presence and friendly competition, or rather emulation, for a rematch of Last Chance. A nice ride in the morning, carpooling with Sean (I was driving this time). I was concerned with the lack of parking so we left Meridian Avenue by 5:10 and got it actually quite early at 7 am, which allowed not only to find a good parking spot but also to watch the start of the very exciting 50-mile race, albeit with a very shallow field (less than 20 participants) as the bulk of the runners entered the 50K which was the only Grand Prix event this weekend. The other good condition was that I was able to get a good night of sleep (7+ hours) and catch-up with a few 5+-hour nights as I had travel to Austin, Texas for business last week. Then, as usual, some heavy workload and good stress at work, enough excuses which pushes me to do what I can in race and eliminate as much stress as possible... Between the tapering and the business trips, I was 5 pounds over my race weight, but that meant some good fat to draw fuel and energy from! ;-) With the dry winter so far, the course was perfect, not a single puddle. Last but not least, I entered the race with more training miles than I had ever have at this time of the year (78-mile weeks including tapering/not running last week). Including some speed work at the track. Quite a few aligned stars, there were still a few needed to align during the race...

The 50-mile was exciting for three reasons: the debut of Chad Worthen who won the 50K last year in 3:18 for his first attempt at the distance (Chad also ran the World Masters and placed 2nd overall but winning his M35-40 age group in 2:35). After his amazing 6:04 at Last Chance, at 56, Mark Richtman was back to set a new US Age Group record at the distance. Similarly, ultra elite Meghan Arbogast, 50, was also shooting for the same goal. The M55-59 50-mile road record was 5:53:08 and F50-55 7:44:48! (According to the USATF 50-mile records page) Meghan certainly didn't have to push much to improve that record which was set in 1995. Here is the start with Mark (left, #21), Meghan (middle, #1), Chad (right, #26):
After Chad dropped around mile 35, Mark won the race in 6:13, followed by Joe Palubeski (6:17) and Meghan in 6:19:08, which is just 3 seconds more than the F40-44 US AG record by the way. Congratulations to Meghan, who appeared so relax and all smile the whole way! Such an inspiration for us all and for me in particular as I'm approaching this age group... ;-)
Back to the 50K, we had a dozen of participants from our club (QuickSilver Ultra Running Team) and, in addition to the rematch between Victor and I, it was also a match between the two leader clubs of the Grand Prix in 2011, Tamalpa and our club. A lot of blue shirts on the course this Saturday!
Victor rushed off the starting blocks and took the control of the pace, slightly under 6:15 min/mile. He was followed by his teammate, Jonathan Gunderson, my teammates Toshi and Sean and myself. At the first mile turnaround, we saw that the field was already getting quite elongated by such a fast start. My objective for that run was mainly to improve my 50K PR (3:25:13 at Jed Smith 2010, a 6:36 min/mile pace). As Victor was maintaining his 6:15 pace, I scaled down a little, running around 6:19 min/mile for the first 5 miles. As usual, seeing Victor ahead running so economically made me feel that the pace was ok and sustainable so I started gaining a few seconds which left the two of us leading the race. I passed the 10-mile mark in 1:02:30 then caught up with Victor around the 20-mile mark which we passed in 2:05:45. We were then on a 6:16 pace which Victor was able to maintain while I had to slow down by a few seconds. Actually, my GPS was a bit off, indicating 31.29 miles at the finish for a certified course of 31.1 miles hence an actually slightly slower pace.

Victor crossed the finish line in 3:17:53, improving his PR at the distance by 8 minutes! I placed second 76 seconds later in 3:19:09, also a new PR for me by 6 minutes! I told you, the conditions were perfect... Victor is also improving the M40-49 course record which was standing since 1996, by 10 seconds, good enough to earn him 20 bonus points in the Grand Prix, a great way to break his long-standing curse of 2nd places...
Toshi came in 3rd, followed by Michael Fink, Jonathan and first timers Barry Smith who won his M50-59 age group in 3:37! Although a phenomenal performance for him, our teammate Dan Decker took second in this same age group, finishing 7th overall, right after Barry. Dan too set a new PR (3:42), improving by a whooping 35 minutes!
We stayed for a couple of hours to see other runners going through the start/finish area aid station or sprinting to the finish line. Great opportunity to catch-up with a few. See about 150 random pictures which I posted in my Picasa album. After reading Ian Torrence's blog post on the legendary Frank Bozanich, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet him in person. At 67, he is still pushing himself hard and ran an impressive 4:19. He still owns the M55-59 50K US record which he set 10 years ago in Sacramento at 3:40!
You can hear Frank in this podcast (

I passed the marathon mark in 2:46 which is faster than my marathon in July so that shows that I can still do better (when stars align). Also I only ate one 1/2 banana (60 cal) at mile 14, 1 GU (100 cal) at mile 27, 1 bottle of GU2O (120 cal), and 3 Vespas (1 45 minutes before the start, 1 at the start, 1 2 hours in the run) which did the rest to get me the 3,000 or so calories I used up during the run.

Overall it was a perfect day for many and my thanks go first to Race Directors John Blue and Dennis Scott. And to the volunteers at the three aid stations and also the several control points on the course. Definitely an organization meeting the standard of championships (just limited by the parking capacity...). And the perfect way to start the 2012 season!

This Sunday, I ran a good, albeit slow, 15-mile recovery run in my new Brooks PureFlow shoes (an interesting blend of minimalism with still a lot of stability). Next race: Way Too Cool. With 2 trips to the East Coast in the meantime and a pending one to the Middle East. Have great training miles all in the meantime!


Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Wow, lots of you rocked. Great job. Hold on 3 years and you'll have that 50-59 course record.

Harris said...

Great pics! Thanks!

eric said...

Nice race Jean! Your continued improvement certainly give me hope for the future.

I live 1/2 mile from the start, so sorry I missed it.

And hey, thanks for the URP mention. Frank Bozanich is quite a character, and one helluva runner!


Unknown said...

Jean - Way to run man! Always a thrill to see you and the other front runners (yes..Dan Decker is one of them) duking it out. Good luck at WTC. Bill

Frank Bozanich said...

Jean, great write up and thanks for the kind comments. It was great to see a strong field out there. I was really happy after that run and got in 10 miles on sunday with 5k being in the Davis Stampede. I won the 60 plus division at Davis in 20:56 which was great after the 50km. Keep up the great work and have a wonderful year in the ultras. I will be at Ruth Anderson after the Napa Marathon.

Anonymous said...

...cette fois, je n'ai pas souffert en te lisant et ns te félicitons et ns associons à ton plaisir de continuer à t'améliorer.