Sunday, May 15, 2016

Quicksilver 100K 2016: a great start and... finish!

After the embarrassing DNF at Miwok 100K last week just because of some rain, I had better finish this one and was looking forward to a much more clement weather, or actually a warm day since I'm doing so much better in the heat than cold and humid conditions.

But, first, a quick medical update as it is customary since last March stroke for those following my recovery progress on the blog. By the way, I don't intend to keep up much with these updates as, hopefully, I can put that behind soon. Yet, this week had some interesting development, relevant to the race to start with. On Monday, I had an implantable/insertable/injectable loop record (ILR) put in my left chest. Sort of a mini USB key (a long as traditional one, but half the width and thickness).
While the operation wasn't too intrusive as just laying the device under the skin, it still required all the preparation of a surgery: the procedure itself was less than 15 minutes, but I spent 4 hours in the hospital. Not to mention I had to fast for 12 hours (that's when you find ultra running preparation and conditioning particularly useful, gives you some endurance... ;-).

Anyway, it felt kind of weird for a few days to have a sort of USB key in my chest and I was wondering how it'd play when running. After tapering for a few days, I went for a flat and slow 10K run in the neighborhood and I had to hold my chest at times because the little bouncing was painful. I didn't want to think too much about how painful the steep downhills of this Saturday's race were going to be, but devised my own little bra to try keeping things together and make the bouncing more bearable. More on the effectiveness of this later, but here is how it looked before the start:

As an additional strength test of my chest area, I volunteered for 5 hours on Friday afternoon, helping Paul Fick a bit in this huge undertaking that the BBQ for more than 500 people is. I was with another teammate, Chris Gladding, who stayed even later and cooked most of Saturday too! We were also fortunate to rely on many volunteers from Paul's church this weekend.

Next to our area was an equally busy place worked by Kristina Irvin, our Club aid station queen who directs all the aid station for these races, as well as the remote station at Duncan Canyon at Western States. While she looks cool and relaxed on this picture, she copes with an amazing stress to get everything ready, and very short nights, including the pre-race one where she stays on the parking lot to safeguard all the club valuable preparation and assets. Guarding either from humans, or wildlife since a mountain lion was reported chasing a biker in the park earlier this week!

With that, I myself slept for only 5 hours and my alarm clock hopefully rang twice because I missed the first wakeup call at 1:30 am... That is one of the most tiring parts of running ultra races starting at 5 am (Miwok) or 4:30 (Quicksilver 100K), and the less enjoyable part for me... Yet, it's mind blowing to find all the volunteers up and fresh when we get to the start area at 3 am... Needless to say, Race Director John Brooks didn't sleep that night... It is really hard to imagine how much work goes in setting up and managing these events when you are just running and flying through an aid station. In addition to these three key persons I named, there were more than 20 teammates who gave more than 12 hours of their time to help, not to forget our fellow running club, the Stevens Creek Striders of Cupertino, which was manning Bull Run, plus providing a few volunteers at Hacienda. It definitely takes a village...

After his 2nd place at Miwok last week, and his win and course record here last year, Chikara wasn't racing with us this time. 2015 runner-up, Paul Terranova, was back, visiting from Texas, and there was no doubt in my mind that he would tear it up. Yet, short of having his Excelsior teammate doing it, Karl set the initial pace in the first climb which we ran at about a 10 min/mile pace. It was pitch dark so the headlamps were really useful (and mandatory anyway if I recall). I tried to find my groove and stayed in 7th or 8th position during this first hilly section, only passing a few runners as they stopped at our first passage through the Hicks Road aid station (mile 7) which we reach around 5:30 am.

Paul was already well ahead and teammate Chris Calzetta was in 3rd position at this time. I had such great memories from racing with Chris a few years ago, it was great to see him again as he prepared for his first Western States. Here are 2 pictures from Jeff Clowers, including an aerial view of the Bald Mountain turnaround, take from his drone.

And at the top of Bald Mountain, photo from I-Tao Tsai (with Dominick Layfield on my heels):

Dominick is such an amazing descender, he first passed me in the downhill to the cemetery then the descent from Bald Mountain. But I climb better so I passed him on the long way up to the Kennedy Aid station, which I reached with Mario Martinez, in 4th. It was great to see the many familiar faces of my teammates meeting this aid station, Loren, Jill, Guy and more. Mario left first as I took the time to refuel before the next strenuous 12 miles which see us coming back to that aid station after plunging down to the Lexington Reservoir.

In the long and steep downhill, I was pleased to notice that my bra strap was actually quite effective. While I could feel every step in my left chest, the pain was rather light and bearable compared to the fatigue which was building up in the legs by mile 20. I never got a sight of Paul, but at some point, I could see 2nd place Eric Wegscheider from Boulder Colorado, and Chris, just 3 minutes ahead and thought it was cool to still be a contender for the podium. I caught up and passed Mario at the intersection of Limekiln and Priest Rock trails and arrived in 4th at the Lexington Reservoir aid station, welcomed by Coach Mark K, Jeremy and aid station captain, Amy Burton. I left before Mario and thought I had created some gap but I kept seeing him not too far behind as we struggled our way up Priest Rock, the toughest section of the course. I reached out Kennedy still in 4th. I was quite please with my speed going down Woods Road trail and therefore was bummed when Mario passed me 2 miles before our return to Hicks.

I'm not sure what happened and why I was experiencing such a low point that early in the race (we were only at mile 35), I kept drinking well, using Vespa consistently and taking GU gels to handle the steep climbs. I kept moving as fast as I could but the trickier downhill to Hacienda on Deep Gulch was painful on my legs, with too much on the brake to avoid a fall with the few roots and rocks (with the blood thinner, you can't take the risk of falling and bleeding...). Jeff Clowers captured this shot at the end of Deep Gulch, as he was course monitoring that turn:

It was a good surprise to see Agnès at Hacienda, and she helped me with the stop I had planned on doing at my car (see in the Post Scriptum her pictures). As I stopped for a few minutes there, Dominick ran through the parking lot, I was now down to 6th place. Photo credit respectively to Qi Song and Jenny Su:

I ran some of the next roller coaster section, but did walk the walls though, very disappointed for not feeling as well as last year. At Hacienda, I was 25 minutes slower than my 2015 run, and same at Mockingbird. As I was fueling at the aid station, I saw Chris Denucci and Yiou Wang who had just won their respective 50K race. That made me think again that, would have I finished Miwok, I would likely have downgraded to the much easier 50K... With that thought, it was time to leave and keep moving no matter what, no the time to entertain the idea of a drop there! I trotted my way up to New Almaden but, as I was still experiencing a low, without so much enthusiasm. Repeatedly though I reminded myself that I was so lucky to even be running, and even more so still in the top 10, after what happened 2 months ago... And yet, I was concerned at this point that, with all the walking, I my not even break 11 hours today.

I walked most of Buena Vista trail, which was better anyway to avoid tripping or falling on the sharp rocks. I had an hesitation before the Vista Trail scrambling, and was relieved when I realized that this must have what Greg Lanctot announced before the start, that the Rangers didn't want us to scramble it, phew! While Sachin took amazing shots there last year, my lack of agility lately isn't helping with rock climbing...

It was a joy to see teammate Cecelia at the entrance of April trail and that gave me the energy to run most of the loop and even most of the climb back to Bull Run. Yet, I was exhausted when I reached the aid station manned by fellow Striders, and was still wondering how I would finish this beast. I drank a couple of cups of Coke, a piece of chocolate chips cookie, a gel, got my GU2O bottle refilled, got more iced water and even dare to take one dose of event sponsor and Los Gatos-based, Oral IV. In retrospective, that might have saved the rest of my race.

It was my second run of this 100K race and people must imagine that this is my training backyard but, on the contrary, I only run here for races, so I had completely forgotten first the lollipop loop of Catherine Tunnel but, more importantly, the steep downhill of Prospect 3 which provides such gorgeous views over Almaden and San Jose. Except that you have to carefully watch your steps in this narrow single track, it feels like you are flying and going to land at SJC! With that, I started feeling better and enjoyed the remaining part of New Almaden. I even ran most of the climb up to Tina's Den aid station where Tiffany Trevers captured this shot as I was begging for more ice.
To my own disbelief, I jogged most of the subsequent 3 miles, uphill, and was thrilled again to get welcomed by familiar faces at the Enriquita aid station, especially ex Race Director Pierre-Yves. As I was approaching, I even saw Dominick who had just completed the 1.2-mile loop down to the reservoir. With such a solid lead, I wasn't going to catch him. I got my bib punched in at the bottom of the out and back by Kat and another 50K runner, and rushed up, hoping to not see any other yellow bib (50-mile racer) before getting back up but, just before the last turn, here was teammate John Burton, in great spirit. That kept me on my toes for the final 5 miles as I wasn't sure how hard he'd push himself to the finish, after coming back from several months off after dealing with an injury.

With 3.5 miles to go, I did a short stop at Bull Run but, this time, being in much better spirit, made a public apology to all the volunteers for my grumpy first passage. Then I flew down to the finish to cross the line with a time of 10:14:44. While I was 45 minutes slower by mile 53 at Tina's Den, I had shaved off 15 minutes from last year in these final 9 miles, what a better finish! And not a bad time for someone who doubt of breaking 11 hours, a 2-month stroke survivor, and 5 days after a surgery...

Here is the male podium, from left to right: Greg Lanctot (announcer), Paul Terranova (1st, 9:17:52), Chris Calzetta (2nd 9:32:04) and Dominick Layfield who tied for 3rd with Mario Martinez in 9:56:02.

And the winning gals, from left to right: Monica Imana (3rd), Roxana Pana (2nd) and Kristin (Krissy) Moehl (1st):

As a bonus, and thanks to Greg's arrangements, I even bought Krissy's book which just got released, Running your First Ultra, and had her sign it.

Again, huge THANKS to all the dedicated who gave so much of their energy and time to make such an event happen. With the overcast morning, a few clouds passing all day, and the breeze, conditions were ideal. Yet, this is a tough course and only 134 finished it with the 17 allotted hours this year. Given there was actually more time than Miwok, and more than 220 entrants, it seems like many people prefer the rain than the sun.

PS: on Sunday evening, adding Agnès' pictures from Hacienda (mile 39).

Paul's solid lead, 10:00 am
 Chris in 2nd place, 6 minutes behind
 Most welcomed cloud to contain the heat
 Erich in 3rd, 10:18 am
 Mario flipping his wings, now in 4th place, 10:24 am
 Me passing Jeff Clowers as course monitor, 3 minutes behind Mario
 Looking for my car (no kidding, I passed by my car and had to run back to it)
 Trying to cool more (or bowing to Striders Mark Williams who happens to be the first man to ever finish the infamous Barkley 100-mile 'marathon'? ;-)
 Getting back on Mine Hill trail
 That's Agnes' favorite shot, which looks like I was crawling in the grass like a mountain lion...


runstephane said...

What an ultra-geek! Injectable USB!? I hope all the data were good and didn't show alarming bounce per step ;+)

Great to read you're back to top level fitness.

On women related side, I'm quite jealous from your Krissy's personnal quote w/ her book and as an extra favor: next time you could talk to K. Irvin, please give her a "bonjour" from a French guy who ran (walked) some miles with her during Hardrock 2010.
Keep enjoyin'!

Big Johnny Burton said...

Congrats Jean! You've definitely raised the bar for everyone else. I was thinking about not running Ohlone next weekend because my body is so trashed from Quicksilver this past weekend. But then I start thinking that if Jean can run 100K a couple days after surgery with a duct-taped open wound, just a few months afer a mini-stroke, while still on blood-thinning medication... no one wants to hear about the blister on my big toe ;)

Jon Olson said...

Congratulations Jean. You are always a joy to see on the trail. Pure focus and determination but always ready to show your support to the volunteers. As a volunteer this year, it was fun to see all the runners having such a great time on our QS trails.
How long do you plan on having the implant? I hope they are ready for some good data. Be wary though, that the scaring can be significant if the surgery area is stretched out. What starts as a nice small scar can develop into a much bigger one with aggressive movement. I know, I have an ICD implanted in the same place.
Thanks for the race report.

Jean Pommier said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. Battery is meant to last for 3 years, so it's only the beginning or continuation of the measurements and experiment. But a couple of months without any issue should rule out atrial fibrillation (hopefully!).
Jon, sorry for having missed you in the list of volunteers on FB, it was inevitable... Incision was a bit put to test with these 10 hours, especially with the sweat, but it still looks good. Another week of rest/tapering fortunately before Ohlone.
As for your blister on your big toe, big Johnny, I'm sure this will make for another entertaining post! And glad to have you back as top runner on the team!

Krissy said...

Cool to read through your update and Quicksilver post! Thanks for sharing - everything. :)