Sunday, February 3, 2013

Jed Smith 50K: a good tough training run

I like how my blog keeps my memory honest (along with my running log or sites like and I was convinced this was my 6th Jed Smith but it was only my 5th. In 2007, I wouldn't have dared to run a 50K one month before Way Too Cool, I was still listening to my sister, still my best medical adviser, who told me "only one marathon a year!" Interestingly enough, that's one of the key advice too in the Hanson's Method book which I recently read and which I will review hopefully in a few weeks on this blog. Then, in 2008, I was still in Costa Rica early February, running the stage Coastal Challenge (the 2013 edition just started today). Bottom line, my first Jed Smith was in 2009, the last year if was hold at Gibson Ranch and the year Todd Braje ran the 50-mile in 5:30! While my debuts where challenging, I did learn over the years to get ready so early in the season: 3:51:03 in 2009 (better start training), 3:25:13 in 2010 (the birth of a new season), 3:28:16 in 2011 (a new and sunny course) and yet a new PR of 3:19:09 in 2012 (can I still improve)!

Now, as some of you must have read in previous posts, I missed the start of my season so far. After a 3-week break in December, I resumed training just after Christmas with a few easy runs but had to stop with a small nagging pain in my right calf. 5 days not running while we were skiing in Tahoe around New Year's Day then a solo and slow Saratoga Fat Ass (hilly 50K): the calf didn't complain that day but a sharp pain the next day cut my run short to 4 miles. I took the rest of January off, logging 72 miles for the month. I went the gym several times, mostly spinning and some weight training, but nothing replaces for me the work at the track or more importantly now on the hilly trails.

Needless to say I was both anxious and excited to run again this Saturday. I had of course no intention at all to clock a good time, my main goal was to see the calf holding, and finish the race. I drove early to see the 50-mile start at 7:30 am. Less than 30 runners in that event with 2 favorites: Victor Ballesteros and Chad Worthen. A specialist of long distance running on road (2:22 marathon, 1:08 half), Chad uses Jed Smith as his ultra lab. 2011 was his first 50K (I placed second... ;-), and 2012 his first 50-mile, but he dropped after 4 hours of very fast running. He was back for some unfinished business. As for Victor, he got some strange sensation with his hamstring during the week, so he wasn't going to push for a PR. (Victor next to the clock, Chad with the orange top.)
We started the 50K on time at 8:30. As usual, Chikara exploded and rushed into a 6-6:15 min/mile pace. I had promised myself not to start faster than 7 min/mile and settled in 10th position. After the 1.5-mile out and back, I maintained this pace for the next two 4.9-mile laps. Running his first 50K, a sub-3 marathoner and Brooks aficionado, Omar Amir ran along me for half the race. I usually can't chat much while running, to preserve my breathing, but the pace was comfortable so we exchanged a few words and I learned for instance that Omar's dad had ran the Olympic marathon, in the 60s, placing in the top 20 for Afghanistan. Good genes! Here I am with Omar, photo credit to Eric Shranz from (make sure to visit this informative website!):
At the beginning of the third lap (mile 12) I felt good enough to pick the pace. Omar followed me and we clocked a few miles under 6:40, getting the average pace now down to 6:50. Still no sight of Chikara of course but we passed 2 runners (nice chat with Charles Wickersham who was surprised to see me behind today) and closed the gap with the runner now in 2nd place. Unfortunately, my calves starting hurting by mile 17 and I had to ease the pace a bit, letting Omar going on. In the fourth lap, a bit of nausea add to the growing discomfort of my legs now expanding to my quads and hamstrings. What was I thinking? It was my first real training of the year, my body wasn't ready yet...

At the end of the 5th lap I had to go to the bathroom and it was worth the stop (sorry, no more details...). Omar had bonked in that lap and was thinking of dropping but I encouraged him to finish, albeit more slowly. Charles passed me while I was in the bathroom but I passed him again as he had to stop to the next one... I passed the 26-mile mark around 3:07 and tried to keep a decent running form in the last lap despite the leg pain. Galen Faris passed me at mile 28 but stopped twice to get rid of a cramp of his hip muscles. He managed to keep a good pace and a 2-minute lead in the last 3 miles. I was actually surprised a 7:18 min/mile average pace was good enough this year to place 4th overall and, more importantly, first Masters. Of course, having Victor running the 50-mile and Rich Hanna and Mark Lantz the 30K event helped tremendously! ;-)
Rich placed 2nd to Gary Gellin at Way Too Cool last year. One of the fastest distance runners in North California, he improved again his own course record at Jed Smith with a 1:47:35! That's a 5:47 min/mile pace for 30 kilometers (18.6 miles). All that at 47! Yet another promising season for Rich.

We were 6 from our QuickSilver Ultra Running Team today, with a strong representation at Ray Miller 50K and 50-mile the same day in South California. For his first ultra, Marc Klemencic clocked a PR (sic!) at 4:21. Without much training either Joe Swenson was happy with his 4:34. Keith Lubliner ran 5:12, missing his goal of finishing before Victor by 5 minutes (Victor clocked 6:07 on the 50-mile and they started one hour earlier). For his first run at Jed Smith, 8-time Badwater 135M finisher Dan Marinsik ran a 50K PR right on 6:00. And FiveFinger Kat Powell finished in 7:08 allowing us to score points in both the Men and Mixed divisions in the Grand Prix.

Speaking of Grand Prix, that was the event of the New Balance Excelsior club in the Men division, a team which is usually focusing on shorter road races. Starting with the blazing time and win of Chikara in 3:10:37, most of the team finished under 4 hours, kudos!
My other club, the Stevens Creek Striders, had also 6 representatives and will score in the Men and Women divisions. Lina, Penny, Peggy, Christina, Peter, John and Bill who, at 77, lost his M70-79 course record to his 5-year "junior" Hans Schmid (5:05). Here is Hans, sprinting to the finish:
A big thank to the local and organizing club the Buffalo Chips whose members were mostly volunteering instead of running, starting with co-Race Director John Blue. I like in particular how both professional and yet low key this event is. Professional with the chip timing, the sound system, the aid stations, the registration, the parking management, the website. Yet a very friendly atmosphere and an opportunity to reconnect with many as we resume the ultra running season and Grand Prix in particular. A great opportunity to discuss plans and projects for the year, and reassess our own shape.

I also like the humor of John and Dennis (the other Race Director) who transpired in this text on the 1st Master award:
Let all who read this know: you've still got it! Despite unseasonably warm weather, blisters, chaffing, squirrels, dog walkers, uppity youngsters, coyotes, absentminded cyclists, nausea, failing eyesight, chronic injuries, and the nagging of all those years of running, you ran as far as anyone, and faster than everyone over 40 on this day.
Although it was prepared before the race, is is actually almost a prefect summary of my event, well done, John and Dennis!

A big thank you to all the volunteers who spent a long day at one of the three aid stations, directing car traffic or at the key turns on the course!

As a conclusion, it was a good but tough, or tough but good, training run for me. My legs are so sore this Sunday that I don't know if the injury is really gone and I'm not going to take the risk to go for a recovery run today. The good news is that both legs hurt (!) and the right calf not more than the other, so we'll see in a couple of days how it evolves. But, needless to say, with this slow start this year, there is a lot of work ahead... Including reinstating the racing routine (I ran this race on only 2 GUs, 1 half banana, 1/2 cup of Coke, 3 S-Caps, 1 bottle of GU2O and not even one bottle of water, which wasn't quite enough). I used Vespa and, after 3 weeks of low physical activity I had quite a few extra pounds of body fat to draw energy from so I didn't really bonked, but my legs clearly lacked conditioning. And it was just a flat 50K... I know many would have been very happy with my time and place, but, as I wrote a few weeks ago, running is all relative, I look forward to the next races and seeing more of you at Way Too Cool to start with!

See more pictures in my Picasa album.


Keith said...

Thanks for the summary Jean. It was good to see you moving again. I agree with your summary on the race being low key yet well run.
BTW, Dan said this was his post 50 year PR, not his lifetime PR. See you on the trails.

Jon Olson said...

Nice master's win even with the lower training in January. Looks like Quicksilver was represented all over California this weekend.

Scott Dunlap said...

Looks like that base is still there! Looks like good fun.

John Blue said...

It was nice, as always, to see you out there running, Jean! You and I have had a similar January. I ran about 75 miles for the entire month due to minor injuries and a nagging cold/flu. I hope to see you again during the rest of the season.