Saturday, May 12, 2012

Quicksilver 50K 2012: holding even!

Last week I titled my post "Miwok 100K: holding strong" in reference to the first three solid performances of my 5-ultra Spring madness. And this weekend's #4 wasn't bad either, read on!

The unplanned part of this madness was the business travel: after Madrid and Vegas it was Riyadh last week and quite an epic journey to get there. So much trouble at my connection to Frankfurt that the improvised last minute connection through Dubai was a mess and that confused the airlines computer apparently. Indeed, when I showed up at 10:30 pm at the Riyadh airport for my 1 am flight, the attendant said that my flight wasn't in the computer anymore, gasp! Fortunately, after another stressful moment, he was able to put me back on my original flight and everything went smooth this time. Well, almost, because I was barely able to sleep for an hour on the first leg to Frankfurt, 2 hours in the lounge there after a shower and barely another hour on the long flight back to SFO (it's quite a sport to travel coach for 25 hours door to door...). With that, I enjoyed the 7 hours of sleep I got before waking up this Saturday morning at 3 am to get my pre-race breakfast.
I arrived at the parking lot around 5 am and it was already half full although the start was only scheduled an hour later. It was easy and fast to get our bib numbers and doggy bags (great hoodie plus a beer glass, great picks Pierre-Yves!), thanks to the perfect organization and volunteers' efficiency. Sun rise was scheduled for 6:01 am so we had some day light to finish preparing and see many familiar and friendly faces around. Race Director, Pierre-Yves sent us off at 6 am and I rushed in the first down hills with Toshi but another runner passed us right away and set a crazy pace right away. I told Toshi it must be Lon Freeman whom I had seen in the 50-mile entrant list, although I couldn't recognize him from behind. Lon is an amazing athlete. When I started running ultras in 2007, I was very impressed by his Miwok win in 8:09 and his sub-6-hour American River the following year. However, Lon doesn't race often so it had been a while since I had seen him on the circuit. Anyway, I lost sight of him by the end of the first steep climb and thought I would never see him again. Actually, at that point, I wasn't even sure it was him and not a fast rookie on the 50K so I maintained the effort in a pursuit mode for the many miles to come. Behind, I also lost sight of Toshi between the third and fourth mile on the New Almaden single track trail.

Last year I had reached the Dam Overlook aid station in 1:12 (mile 9) and I was just 15 seconds off this year after grabbing a Gu on the way and thanking the Striders volunteers as I left the station.
 Agnès and Greg were part of the gang and I was going to see them the three times we come through that aid station, the most busy one with more than 750 runners passing through! Here is Lon at his first passage, right after 7 am.
A few miles later, I saw a runner in the distance and timed the gap around 2.5 minutes. However, when reaching the next aid station, Caphorn, one volunteer said that I was about 4 minutes behind. Without stopping at the station, I kept running all the way up Mine Hill trail, including the detour on April trail. Still no sight of the first runner on the ridge or even as I was flying down back to Dam Overlook where Agnès hold me another Vespa and two new bottles (mile 19) which I will keep for the remainder of the course. I asked the volunteers but still couldn't get if the lead runner was on the 50-mile or 50K.
I ran all the hills on the subsequent 4.7-mile loop which gets us back to Dam Overlook again with a couple of miles uphill toward the Bull Run trail on the ridge. I grabbed a last Gu and one S!Caps and went on the climb, against the sparse flow of 50K and 50-mile runners going down for their 2nd passage through that aid station. I got many nice words of encouragement but, climbing and needing all the air, wasn't able to respond this time. Last year, I was way behind Leor who destroyed the course record on the 50-mile, and a few minutes behind Gary Gellin who was also on the 50-mile, but I was leading on the 50K until Chris Calzetta passed me before we got on the Bull Run trail to finally win in his first ever 50K by a couple of minutes. This year, Agnès finally confirmed that the lead runner was on the 50-mile so it had to be Lon and being in the lead motivated me to run all the way and not walk like the other years.
I was off my times of last year by about 1 or 2 minutes I believe, when going through the Dam Overlook aid station for the third and last time so I was determined to run the rest of course in order to improve the age group course record I set 2 years ago and improved again last year (a time that Gary would easily slash by 15 or 20 minutes now that he is in our age group!). I ran hard and didn't stop at all at the English Camp aid station (mile 27), pushing the pace in the steep down hill. Right after crossing Mine Hill trail though, I almost slipped when I saw a bug rattle snake across the trail. I waited a few seconds to see if he'd move to no avail. I threw a small rock at it, no move. I was started to get nervous the wait will cost me the course record... I threw another rock and the guy coils itself in the middle of the trail, shaking up its tail and showing me its tongue, yikes, quite impressive! I decided to risk going around on one side, sprinting and not looking behind, then trying to quickly recompose myself for the upcoming and final hills ahead.

For the insiders, the last 2 miles of the race include a killer roller-coaster then a very steep downhill plunging down to the finish area (Hacienda trail). to my amazement, I was able to run the first two up hills and walked only 3 times for about 20 steps each. Yet, the clock was ticking and there was not a second to lose to break 3:56. I pushed the pace as much as possible in the final killer down hill and actually passed Lon at the bottom of it before crossing the finish line in 3:55:11, one minute faster than last year, phew! Short of more competition, that was good enough for first overall and a new age group course record. Lon went on the 50-mile and I went to the car to grab my camera, staying at the finish to take pictures of more than 250 runners (25K, 50K or 50-mile), see my Picasa album (also containing a few pictures from Agnès at the Dam Overlook aid station earlier in the day, 270 pictures all together...!).

Toshi took second in the 50K about 15 minutes later and, in the 50-mile, Lon won in 7 hours and change. More results will get posted on the race website and ultrasignup shortly.
After 3 hours of unplanned shooting, my battery finally ran out and it was time to enjoy the amazing café and buffet that Paul and Darcy Fink put up with their crew every year for the Quicksilver club. I really think it isn't chauvinism to say that this tops any other finish party on the ultra circuit, even the renowned Firetrails when Ann Trason was in charge, or Ohlone (we shall see next week!). Several delicious and fresh salads, salsa, dips, burgers with beef or chicken, tomatoes, salad, pickles, ..., sausages, ribs, fresh salmon grilled on wood, ice cream, assortment of cakes, cookies, whipped cream, large assortment of beer and soft drinks, what a menu! You rock guys!!

From the perfectly stocked and manned aid stations, Pierre-Yves' race direction, the great goodies and amazing finish line café; Karen, Adona, Stan and Dave at the timing table (the printer will work next year!), Greg's announcements, this is a top and very professional event, even providing a wide range of options for runners willing to discover trail racing or pushing the limits on a challenging course in the heat. No surprise it fills up every year! And sorry for the few runners who missed a turn despite the good course marking...
I'm in town for one week before Ohlone next Sunday and flying to Dubai a few hours later for two weeks over there and Riyadh again. I'd better run Ohlone fast again as the race starts at 8 am and my flight is at 4:45 pm at SFO. At least we got some heat training today with temperatures in the low 90s by mid day. One more/final race in the Spring madness and it will be time to turn the page on this fun and bold experience. But, with 2 overall wins (Ruth Anderson 50-mile and today) and two other strong performances at Leona Divide 50-mile and Miwok 100K, that's way above my initial expectations already. A lot of training miles (74 miles/week average since January 1st, versus 63 last year) and the Vespa effect in the races, allowing for fast recovery (following Tim Olson's advice and Jon Olsen's amazing performance at the World 100K a few weeks ago, I'm now down to 1 Vespa every 2 hours and it helps indeed). And a lot of good stress from work to get out via this intense exercise, not to mention the 10 hours of jet lag...

Good job to all finishers today, especially to the 50-milers who had the guts to keep going on after coming back to Mockingbird at the end of the 50K, and see you all on the trails again soon!

PS: and here is to the Birthday Girl, with assorted pink cast, very classy! :-) Again, see more pictures in Picasa.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bravo pour ce nouveau succès!
Heureuse de toutes ces photos et de la présence d'Agnès et Grégoire.
Et bon courage pour le chargé programme à venir...