Sunday, February 2, 2014

Jed Smith 50K 2014: call me a rabbit

I hesitated between this title and "a good tune-up" knowing that I was in bed, shivering, on Monday night, after I came back from cold Scandinavia. Luckily it wasn't the flu which already killed 10 people in our County, age 41-62, not even elderly. I was still very tired on Tuesday but managed to work for 15 hours, at least it provided a good excuse, or obligation, to taper...

I tried to organize a car pool plan with some of my Quicksilver teammates, but ended up car pooling with 2 members of my other running club, the Stevens Creek Striders, John (and his wife who came to drive us back, first class service!), and Alison. We got in just as the 50-mile race had started, at 7:30. The sky was incredibly pure and clear, with temperature on the cool side as the sun had just rose.
The 50K field was the largest ever but it's still a low key event with 110 entrants. The scoop of the day was that Rich Hanna, local elite and owner of Capital Road Race Management (the timing company for the day), had registered that morning. So long for a possible win. Besides, Rich and I are the same age for a few more weeks (I'm turning 50 first, he'll follow in 5 months), so that was going to also be a Master win.
This was my 6th Jed Smith and 43rd 50K race in 8 years (I ran twice as many 50Ks and 10Ks as I ran marathons, these two distances are my sweet spots). I love this race which marks the start of our ultra running season and North California Grand Prix in particular. Low key but always attracting a few very fast runners who are after national records or qualifiers for national teams (Todd Braje ran the 50-mile in 5:30 a few years ago!). Race Director, John Blue, and his running club, the Buffalo Chips, put up a very professional event on a flat and fast course. Furthermore, I have to love the event mantra too which I swear I didn't know when I picked the title of my blog: "Jed Smith Ultras - I ran far, I ran fast!"

My plan for today was to use the run as a test of how long I could hold a 6:15 or 6:20 min/mile pace. I've been training a lot at sub 7 and even sub 6 min/mile and did manage to complete my 10-mile (more exactly 40 track laps) under one hour, my marathon training long tempo run, last Sunday, the day after flying back from Stockholm. With that, running at 6:10-6:15 min/mile seems effortless and that's the pace I set for the beginning of the race. Rich stayed in my foot steps and we were following the lead bikes for the first lap (the course is a 4.86-mile loop which we cover 6 times plus a short 1.92-mile out and back at the start to make it 31.1 miles).

Rich took the lead at the beginning of the third lap (mile 12). A mile or so later, I'm not sure what happened, I didn't feel an acceleration but I caught-up with him and almost passed him. That was enough to give Rich a kick and he quickly pulled away. I still had him in sight at the end of loop 3 but I was definitely losing ground although my Garmin was still indicating a 6:14 min/mile pace. I couldn't really understand what happened as Rich had told me that he was aiming at running at a 6:25 average pace and, as I found out in the results afterwards, he had run lap 3 and 4 at a blazing 6:04 pace and lap 5 at 6:07, wow!

Back to my tune-up test, I was slowing down in the 4th loop finally but did manage to pass the 20-mile mark with an average pace of 6:20 but without much pride as I had started slightly too fast so I kept slowing down afterwards. With the excitement of the fast pace, I also didn't drink as much as I should have (less than one Gu2O bottle for 31 miles, versus 1 every 15 miles usually, and not even one bottle of water) and felt some cramps coming in my legs in the last 5 miles which led me to "cruise" the last lap at a 7:17 min/mile pace. Here is a cool shot from Mark Gilligan (founder and owner of around mile 24:
I crossed the finish line in 3:25:19, pretty far from my 2012 3:19 PR, and very far from Rich who set a new M45-49 US 50K record by more than 2 minutes, in 3:13:07! Without even trying hard, that's saying a lot on what he can do in the M50 age group in a few months... Karl Schnaitter completed the podium, taking 3rd in 3:28.
Rather satisfied (2:49 marathon by/on the way!) and taking as a lesson that 6:10 is too aggressive as a pace for me to sustain for 31 miles (I know, it shouldn't come as a surprise... ;-).

From a team standpoint, we had 3 no-shows so that did work very well. Yet, Lisa won the women race in 3:59, kudos. Here we are, from right to left: Melanie, Lisa, Harris and I:
With John (Brooks, PCTR owner and Race Director) who recently joined our team and who finished a few minutes after that group picture:
On the 50-mile side, Bev (Berverly Anderson-Abbs) set a new course record, covering the distance in 6:14 and taking the overall win.
Bev is 48 so, between Rich, her and I, that was the day of the "getting older" Masters! In the Men 50K,  8 of the top 10 were over 40...

Clare, from our Quicksilver Running Club, took 2ndoverall (pictured with one more lap to go).
And Julie Fingar (RD of Way Too Cool, American River, Rio del Lago and other major events), 3rd overall (top 3 overall all women!).
Again, a great event to start the season on the right foot, highly recommended if you haven't responded to the Sacramento Chips offer! Big thank you to John for directing this event again this year, and all the volunteers although I didn't even make one stop at the aid station to shave a few seconds off... It's always good to have you around in case.

A few additional pictures (Joe McCladdie Photography, and Mark Gilligan from were also covering the event at various spots on the course).

John's finish:
Race Director, John Blue, congratulating Bev:

John and Bev:
Some ultra runners run for love...
and beer... ;-) (Special pic for Greg!):
Bill Dodson, 78, our Mountain and Ultra Running committee co-chair, completing the 50K:
Barbara Elia, 69, taking the time to pose, before her last lap in the 50K:
With my other club, the Striders:
The insanely low American River (usually we have water up to the boat ramp and runners soak their legs in the water. Definitely not this year...):

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