Sunday, May 11, 2014

Quicksilver 50K 2014: a great recovery run

Last week, I tilted my post: "Miwok 100K: a fantastic training run!" Well, when you try hard on hills, it's all great but that takes a toll on your body and it has been years since my legs had been so sore after a race. Despite the pain, I went for a 6-mile run on Sunday and thought that would help taking away the soreness in the quads and calves. I went to a conference in San Francisco on Monday and even walking from one room to another was painful. I woke up at 5 am on Tuesday, exciting to meet Bob at the track again but getting down the stairs was still so difficult, I preferred to send him an email to cancel. On Wednesday, I really felt the urge to get these legs moving so I ran 9 miles. Rather slowly (7:40 min/mile) but the stride was rather smooth. Yet, on Thursday, my legs still felt really tired and heavy; slightly better on Friday but still to a point that I was starting being worried of all the hills of this Saturday run. I've ran the Quicksilver 50K course 5 times already, including twice as the first 31 miles of the 50-miler, and gained a lot of respect for this runnable but long hills.

I woke up at 3 on Saturday and the legs were now responding much better to a few stretches, phew! The race format has changed this year: instead of the 50K and 50-miles distances, and both races starting together, the 50-miler has been replaced by a challenging hilly 100K, starting at 4 am from Hacienda, while the 50K course remained unchanged and the "shorter" race starting at 6 am from Mockingbird. In addition to directing the Ruth Anderson ultras with Anil Rao for the Bay Area Ultra Running club, Rajeev Patel took on the race direction of this Quicksilver Running Club signature event. Kudos to him for giving back so much to our ultra community, this is a much more complex event to manage with more participants, a convoluted course, many aid stations with limited or restricted access and the best post-race BBQ of the West (I haven't ran enough further East to claim that it is the best in North America, but it's really exceptional). More on the BBQ later, first we have to race...

I arrived at the Mockingbird parking lot and, while it was still pitch dark, a few volunteers were already busy setting up and checking runners in. Rajeev's communicative enthusiasm set a great mood within the whole group of runners ready to hit the trail at 6 am. The sun hadn't rise yet but daylight was ample thanks to a perfect clear Californian sky. Before setting us off, Rajeev indicated that the temperatures would remain in the 60s in the morning and low 70s in the afternoon, quite ideal temperatures for the season, this event is used to see temperatures rising above 90F, which provides great heat training for the follow-up ultras of the summer. 60s and 70s, I thought to myself "let's rock and roll this!" And rocking and rolling we all went in front of the camera of the live cast!
The start is downhill so I went out quite fast, followed by the favorite of the day, Enrique Henriquez. Enrique is 15 years younger and really getting stronger and faster, especially at that distance. A great Skyline last August, a great Way Too Cool in March and winning Ruth Anderson 50K last month in 3:31! Besides, he didn't run Miwok 100K last week...  On the start line he asked me if he should take the course instructions that he had printed and I acquiesced. I know I got quite confused the first time I ran this race, even some volunteers misled runners in the past, which is why one of the ultra running tips is to not depend on others. But easier said than done when you race in a wilderness park which you don't know.

Enrique and I were running side to side in the first wall but he certainly looked fresh and easy and took the lead in the second steep hill on Viril Norton Trail. I managed to keep him in sight in the down hills of Hacienda and still, for about 2 miles on New Almaden. After the first steep hills in the first mile, our average pace wasn't so fast, around 8:30, yet my legs were already tired and the pace didn't feel comfortable enough. I backed up just a little and finally lost sight of Enrique, nobody to be seen behind. I passed the Webb Canyon water-only aid station just asking Jeremy Johnson if he was ok after his DNF at Miwok last week but flew down the tricky trail before I could really hear more than a yes. My first thank to the many volunteers assisting us today on the trail!

I kept pushing the pace up Mine Hill, remembering the great time I had running this section alongside Victor Ballesteros in the 50-mile a few years ago. And other great memories came up when I passed the location of the ex Dam Overlook aid station which had been manned by my other club, the Stevens Creek Striders, and at which Agn├Ęs and Greg volunteers several time. My time was 1:14 at that point which I estimated being 2 minutes slower than for my previous 50K races here (I'm not as precise as Gary Gellin when it comes to estimating and recording splits, I prefer running by the feel, but my blog posts are my memory nonetheless...). Here is a picture from Everitt Chock who spent the morning as a course monitor at the Dam Overlook/Guadalupe Reservoir View:
2 miles later I went through the new Randol Trail aid station, also manned by Quicksilver clubmates. I asked how far behind Enrique I was and the time they realized that I wasn't asking how far was the next aid station, I think they said 2 to 3 minutes. We were now at mile 11.

My average pace was now close to 8 and I kept pushing all the way to Mine Hill, just under the red zone, my legs still digesting the Miwok effor and me thinking of the remaining hills ahead. The Striders were moved 2 miles up Mine Hill to a new aid station at mile 16.5, Randal replacing both Dam Overlook and Caphorn. I stil had enough water and GU2O so I didn't stop, just thanking Chuck Wilson who wanted to assist. Someone yelled asking for my bib number and I yelled 124 in return, figuring out that they knew me well enough to make a note on the board. I enjoyed running down the long Mine Hill trail and, thanks for the great view of the trail, I regained sight of Enrique and estimated he had now a 1:50 to 2-minute lead on me, which clubmates and course monitors, Gary and Adona, confirmed when I passed the Guadalupe and Mine connection. Enjoying the downhill on Mine Hill, another picture from clubmate Everitt:
I ran all the hills on Guadalupe and finally reached the McAbee aid station, mile 21.3, where I got my Gu2O bottle refilled. I waived at the camera wondering who might be watching wen most of the action on the ultra scene was happening in the Canary Islands with the super competitive TransVulcania, and off I went on the 4-mile climb back to the Mine Hill aid station. I saw Enrique in the distance hesitating at the Mine Hill and New Almaden intersection, even checking his map I think, then pointed him still 1:50 ahead up in the Mine Hill switchbacks. I did run that whole section, now encouraged by the other 50K runners coming down Mine Hill.

Still on a hunt, I made a quick stop at the Mine Hill aid station where Andy added a few ice cubes in my water bottle. I saluted and thanked my fellow Striders, congratulating them for their great... Quicksilver shirts. Each volunteer got such a royal blue shirt displaying our new club logo and I'm not sure that was of the best taste of volunteers from other "competing" clubs. Well at least it will make for a souvenir of this great South Bay park, they are great technical tops!

My legs were still doing the job and, at least, I wasn't cramping today, so Miwok was indeed a great training run. I noticed that, unless I missed it, there was no marking at the end of Bull Run and entrance of Castillero, and no course monitor either (that would have been many lonely volunteers to have one at all the intersections highlighted in the course description!). For those who didn't compete this Saturday, the marking consisted in a few signs/posts and quite a few chalk arrows, but no ribbon. Personally, I feel that, if the Park Management allows it, ribbons would be much safer in the future, otherwise, more signs.

It was great to have a course monitor at English Camp, it's not a place you want to get lost. There, I was expecting to find the English Camp aid station like previous years, but none this year. I passed the camp at 3:30, sub 4-hour was going to be challenging this year. The aid station location was marked with chalk at the entrance of Hacienda, although there was no water yet (I learned it was set later as a self-service aid station). At 28 miles anyway, I wouldn't have stopped for a last refill, all the focus was now on giving it all. For those who have never ran this course, the finish is an epic roller-coaster on the Hacienda trail. So steep hills that it's almost impossible to run them after 29 miles in your legs, except maybe for Leor Pantilat, Gary Gellin and Chikara Omine, and down hills which are so steep they are even hard to run for the fear of losing control on the dirt and rocks, going too fast and crashing. With that, I admit I did a bit of walking but jogged as much to still aim at a sub 4-hour time. And then rushed in the final down hill back to the Mockingbird parking lot, where were started our journey 4 hours ago. I sprinted to the finish, with a time of 4:01:36. Dave Comb was at the timing table but looked really surprised to see me which surprised me since he should have seen Enrique a couple of minutes ago. Well, as it turned out, at the bottom of Hacienda, before the last turn to the finish, Enrique went on the New Almaden trail again, as we had done in the morning. It took about 1.5 miles to poor Enrique to figure out his mistake and eventually reach the finish line 20 minutes later. Enrique interviewed by Andy from

The URL is temporary but you can see my finish on the "Finish 7-10am" video. Fast forward to 2:51:00. Then a short interview while I'm still catching my breath from the final sprint, at 2:51:47.

Being 51, Yoshihiro Ishijima, the 3rd runner to come in, also had en eye on the M50-59 age group course record. Well, he was really aiming at it last year as I wasn't 50 yet and I was competing in the 50-mile anyway. Our age group record was first set in 1987 on the original course by Roger Daniels, at 4:06:55. On the new course, the AG CR did stand for 14 years, since Michael Duncan ran 4:21:33 in 2000. I missed the Ruth Anderson 50-mile one by 1 minute and 30 seconds, short of having checked record before the race, and initially aiming at running 100K, I was better prepared this time. Here is Ishijiro, just a few minutes shy of the previous AG CR:

And I was amazed by the freshness of the winner of the women race, I see an amazing potential in this young lady. Robin Young, 24, 5th overall in 4:36:35, 6th fastest time in the race 31-year history, and she was fresh like she had just run a 5K!
It was 10 am when I finished and the famous BBQ and extravagant buffet weren't open yet. After the Enrique incident, and a more feedback from the following runners, I actually went back on the course to further erase the chalk markings at the intersection of Hacienda and New Almaden. And gave a hand to my volunteering clubmates to unload supplies coming back from the early aid stations, do some cleaning, refills of the drink buckets and assisting a few 100K racers coming through for what was their 42-mile aid station.

As 50K runners were coming in from the West, the 100K competitors were traversing the Mockingbird aid station the other way, creating an interesting confusion around the legendary time keepers, Dave Comb and Stan Jensen (as Dave says himself, they are joined by the hip! ;-):

More volunteers to be thankful for, ultra after ultra...

The 100K race was won by speedster Chikara Omine, used to the top spot at this event. It's great to see Chikara back after a an injury kept him off the circuit for a few months. By the way, Chikara is an other "Vespa-fueled" athlete (Vespa worked great for me again today).
Here are two teammates and compatriots, both running the 100K distance this weekend. Frederic Garderes:
and Pierre-Yves Couteau, who had directed the race these past two years:
At this point, I had refueled at the amazing BBQ and buffet that Paul and Darcy Ficks put together for runners and their families. This is such a generous tradition in which they put so much time and energy year after year, along with their crew. So much diversity in meats (ribs, beef, chicken, sausage and even veggie burgers, with tomato, salad, onions and a variety of dressings), macaroni and cheese, vegetables, sushis, fried bread, fruits then around 1 pm, an extravagant buffet of desserts. I didn't eat that much (after all, I only ran 50K... ;-), so I'm sure I forget many things of the menu! It's also one of the rare races where families and friends have a free access to this top-class restaurant. Not to forget more than 15 different sorts of drinks!

Continuing on paying tribute to the volunteers, let me highlight Kristina Irvin who leads and coordinates all the volunteers and logistic for the numerous aid stations, all that before being the captain of our Duncan aid station at Western States in June. Kristina didn't sleep for 3 days which, stress aside, is good training for her upcoming Hardrock 100-mile as she admits.

And, then, a huge shout out to Race Director, Rajeev, who brings an unique blend of ultra running expertise and support to make every runner successful in their ultra endeavors. Special mention to our Club President, Greg Lanctot, who, assisted by Jeff Clowers for distances and elevations, designed this challenging 100K course exploring every hidden secret of our local County Park.

This ultra celebration was also the opportunity to catch-up with other runners and their families. I was delighted to see Chris Garcia completing his 50K. Chris got every severely injured last year as he was riding his bike from work and hit a door that a car passenger open as he was riding by. Days in ICU, months without moving, Chris admits that he'll never be the same runner as before but he was very happy to have been able to complete this hilly ultra. Steve Patt stopped by our table and we talked birds among other topics. Chuck Wilson, returning from his morning at the Mine Hill aid station. Then Catra Corbett who came to pace a friend on the 100K before he will pace her in a section of her 200-mile on the Ohlone Wilderness course next weekend! (You can read more about Catra in my blog interview at her 100th 100-mile celebration.) Panfilo Jimenez, from Modesto, who knows Jon Olsen well, also stopped by and asked for a picture with me, which he'll show to his friends next to my Vespa ad in Trail Running magazine last year! ;-)
With that, I felt mostly good during the race, but I felt bad for not doing as much to support our club event. I actually entered the ultra world as a volunteer, there will be a time for me to give back when I'm tired of racing that much. This Saturday was ultra race #98, 50K race #46 (more than twice as many marathons!). I called it a recovery run in the title because I didn't cramp and I felt much better this Sunday morning than a week ago after Miwok. So well that I went for 14 miles at 7:40 early this morning before catching my flight for JFK, writing most of this post in a middle seat (yikes!).

See some of you next week on the trails again, yes for another ultra race, the high altitude Silver State 50-mile in Reno, a course which I never ran. There will be less familiar faces than usual but I'm excited to car pool with teammates Toshi and Marc, Toshi going for his crazy Silver States/Ohlone again this year. As for me, no Ohlone this year unfortunately as I need to fly to JFK again right after the race to attend Max's graduation at Yale on Sunday. Time to taper again, which is convenient since I'm doing a road show on the East Coast this week anyway (New York and Chicago). Have a great week all!

PS: here are teammates Bree Lambert and Amy Burton, manning the least remote aid station, right in the finish area (mile 42 of the 100K). The picture obviously don't give credit to the later frenzied activity with the 100K runners coming, through, their pacers joining the fun, their crews helping out, and all the 50K finishers hanging out. A very busy aid station, mid day.

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