Saturday, June 13, 2015

Buckle off: the monthly Quicksilver Trail Runners Strava segment

First, I have a question to Sara Spelt and all English majors out there: what would you say is the opposite of buckle-up? It can't be buckle down, this means "set to work with vigor." Of course, as a frequent flier, I'm familiar with the "unfasten your seat belt" but that's rather long. Buckle out? Unbuckle? In the meantime, I'm going with buckle off...

Anyway, still trying to catch up with my blog posting pace: 2 weeks ago, I participated for the first time to a monthly challenge set by one of our QuickSilver ultra racing team members, Jeff Clowers. This is a very cool idea and addition to the portfolio of our club activities.

Every month, Jeff selects a set of potential routes and propose them for a vote on the Quicksilver Trail Runners FaceBook group. So far, I had been too busy racing, or the routes required too much driving, but in May, the selected segment was too good to miss! First, it was at Rancho San Antonio in Cupertino, a park where I ran literally thousands of miles. Second, it was on the PG&E trail, which I've used many times for my toughest hill training. Third, the segment was the 4-mile downhill section of PG&E and I love speed and flying down this steep trail.

Yet, so much happened in May on my end, I couldn't enter the challenge before May 30. Miwok 100K, QuickSilver 100K, Ohlone 62K fat-ass to make up for the canceled race, and a trip to Europe for my mother in law's funeral, and several business trips to the East Coast. With all that, I had certainly not trained specifically for this, but I enjoyed the opportunity to get back to Rancho. It is so popular on weekends, it's almost impossible to find a parking spot after 6:45 am. And since speeding up on PG&E is dangerous anyway, I delayed my run to the middle of the afternoon, when there are less hikers on the trail.

It was actually cool to run to the top of the Park without rushing. It was quite hot and I had taken only one bottle, I had emptied it by the time I got to the top of PG&E and was still thirsty. But, with the speed, I knew I would have not been able to take a sip, so it was actually better to run with an empty bottle on the way down.

I walked the last wall before the top, to catch my breath, and here I was, down full speed, chasing the segment record which my running buddy, Jeremy Johnson, had set on the 9th to a blazing 22:09. I had never really timed myself on this segment, and Strava didn't exist when I started trail running at Rancho in 1998, so I didn't know how slower I was going to be.

The first section is actually one of the steepest downhill and, as soon as started, I thought "oh shoot, I should had checked my laces and knots..." but it was too late, the clock was ticking. Sure enough, with the extended strides and excessive pounding, the laces of my right shoe was the first to give up after about 1 mile, darn! Quick stop to re-tie it and I was rushing again. Probably 10 seconds lost.

1 mile later, it was the turn of the left shoe and I was so frustrated that it took me 3 times to re-tie that one. 15 or 20 more seconds lost? A few hikers could feel the rush and they must have wondered if I was trying to escape a mountain lion... ;-) At least I'm glad to report that I didn't touch or hurt anyone, that would have been bad!

Although the segment is mostly down, there is actually a nice up-hill 2/3 of the way. I pushed as much as I could to try to make up for the lost time. Ironically, in the very last down hill, a long snake was blocking 2/3 of the trail and I had to stop to see where its head was and if it was a rattle snake. Thankfully if wasn't, so I jumped over it and flew to the finish. 22:54, good enough for the second best time out of 45 or so attempts in May and all-time records on Strava, not too shabby! See all the results on Strava.

Anyway, if you live around (South Bay), everyone is welcomed to participate in the challenge. This month (June), the segment is "Yukon Cornerlius' Gold Rush", quite an intriguing title reflecting the rich mining history of our nearby hills. The Burtons, John and Amy, have the lead so far, will you drive down to Calero County Park to challenge them? It's free, and it keeps everyone on their toes, I highly recommend. You can also join our QuickSilver Club, or this Quicksilver Trail Runners group on Facebook. And, if you don't have the privilege to live in our dear Silicon Valley, maybe you can set your own local challenge?

See you on the trails then!

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