Monday, May 15, 2017

Quicksilver 100K 2017: a cool home run!

I already made him a centerpiece me my last race report last week, I should keep learning from this guru in our ultra running industry, Mark Gilligan (founder/owner of take it easy, sip wine for carbo loading the night before a race, attend mostly for the camaraderie, write a 5-line hilarious race report, in two words, have fun! A lot of fun. See for yourself (selfie credit, Mark Gilligan, with Bree Lamber and Greg Lanctot):

Maybe one day, Mark... In the meantime, I'm still pushing hard and enjoying capturing many details in my running blog so I can look back at them in a few years. You've been warned! ;-)

This is a very special event, organized by our Quicksilver Running Club of San Jose. It was my 9th consecutive participation, having ran the 50-miler twice (2009 and 2013), the 50K four times (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014) and the 100K three times now (2015, 2016 and 2017). My first local running club was actually the Stevens Creek Striders and I joined Quicksilver when Adam Blum setup a competitive ultra racing team. While I started running ultras in 2006, in 2007 and 2008 I ran both Miwok 100K and Ohlone 50K 2 weeks apart in May, but still the Human Race 10K in between. Since 2009, I replaced that 10K, which doesn't exist anymore anyway, with a Quicksilver ultra for a nice back to back to back, a good preparation for 100-milers later in the season.

Per the title, a home run then, and with that, some remorse for not spending the day helping out along the other members of our club. I've tried to compensate for some of that by contributing some time the day before and, this year again, I helped Paul Fick setting up on Friday afternoon. Paul, an ultra runner himself and member of the club for several decades, puts together the most amazing post-race experience with not only a bbq but an entire mobile restaurant! This year was even more challenging as the health regulations from the Country Park got to an extreme level after some bad food poisoning happening at another event last year (really bad, with 3 deaths). For this reason, Paul had to apply for a special cooking permit, bring in a huge refrigerator, setup running cold and hot water, install a system to collect used water: a full restaurant on wheels, phew!

Ribs, beef, turkey or veggie burgers, salmon, caesar salad, macaroni and cheese, chips, fresh fruits, a dozen of deserts, shaved ice, more than a dozen of different beers to chose from, no other ultra offers such a comprehensive menu!

So, yes, some remorse to have fun running this challenging course when I know the hard work behind such a logistic, with more than 100 volunteers at the aid stations, or the myriad of essential jobs before and after the race. Not to mention the time span on race day, from 2 am to passed midnight. Speaking of logistics, if Paul is the King of the post-race (and trail work all year around), Kristina Irvin is the Queen of the aid station operation, a huge undertaking as well. John Brooks is the Race Director, and Greg Lanctot, our Club President, also presides over the course marking and design, which included some new changes again this year.

With that, I planted some background for one of the most enjoyable and rewarding ultra race in the Bay Area.

On my end, life remains hectic and there is a reason why I call ultra running my second job, I can't spend much time on it beyond training. Learning from my mistake about the start time of last week (Miwok), it check the website several times to make sure I had it right this time: 4:30 am. With my pre-race protocol of finishing breakfast 3 hours before the race start, that meant an alarm set for 1:10 am, yikes... Got that done and after breakfast, for some reasons, switched to thinking that the start was at 4:00 so left home by 2:45 to get to the parking lot around 3:05, and finding strange to be the 6th car parked. Picked my bib, took my first Vespa at 3:15 (45 minutes before the start), then my second at 3:55, really wondering why so many people were staying in their cars, to finally realize that, this time, I had it wrong by another 30 minutes, on the other end. I got back in my car to relax for 15 minutes, but that felt really weird. Finally, John Brooks sent us in the dark at 4:30, not without highlighting Gary Wang ( who was running his 20th Quicksilver ultra today!

I let many go in the first uphill and passed a few along our way to English Camp, only seeing 2 more lamps ahead as we got on Bull Run. This is the most historical section of the course, with no time to visit but nice to know we are going through such an early representation of the international and background of the Bay Area and mining heritage during the Gold Rush: English Camp, Spanish Camp, Hidalgo Cemetery. At the last one, we were welcomed by Greg himself, trying to chase all the local daemons with loud and upbeat music in his 4x4. After that, the pure bliss and silent which I missed at the Boston Marathon. A few 'Go Jean!' whispered as I flew through the Hicks Road aid station, and we were up for 6 miles, mostly up to Wood Road.

I tried to run the most conservatively as possible but ended up closing on the two lead runners in the steeper climbs. I first caught with Larry Neumann who told me that his main goal was to take second in our M50-59 age group, way to set the pace early on! Instead of staying behind me, he even accelerated to eventually pass Dominick Layfield and take the lead. That is shortly before we were all shown how climbing is done, by our very own Chris Calzetta, from Monterey. That is, done the European way, with poles and a very smooth diesel mode as Hal Koerner once taught me. Here is Chris, photographed a few miles later by Nina Giraudo on Dog Meat at the top of Priest Rock Trail:

I knew Dominick had one of the top 10 performances on this course, so I was happy to stay behind him but I had to pass him eventually as he started walking pretty early on in the climb. I reached the Wood Road aid station in third and was welcomed by team members, Loren Lewis and Marc Klemencic. I asked for some Coke and it tasted so strange that I thought the can had an issue (more on this later). Larry preceded me in the long down hill and, after a couple of miles, he stopped in the bushes for some business and I almost caught up with Chris at the junction between Limekiln and Priest trails, close enough to see Chris going on Priest Rock and yell that we had to keep going straight on Limekiln instead. With that, I was the first to reach the Lexington reservoir aid station, seeing Jeremy just making it to the station, and being welcomed by another teammate, John Burton. I had some urgent business to take care of myself after all the pounding of the last 5 miles and knew exactly were the porta-potty was for I was sent by Paul on Friday afternoon to guide the truck driver to his remote aid station.

I also asked Jeremy to refill my GU2O bottle, handing him over a ziplock and stating twice to mix it with water. As I left the aid station now in 2nd place, with Brian Donnelly on my heels, I took a sip from my GU2O bottle and almost spit it out, convinced that Jeremy had put some other electrolyte in my bottle. I've used the same lemon flavor for a decade and I could swear that wasn't it. I was bummed because we had a very tough climb ahead and it wasn't the right time to get my electrolytes off but I decided to drink a minimum of this new mixture and more water instead, along with one S!Caps every hour. While I was checking inside the bottle, Brian passed me and we alternated jogging and power walking to the top of Priest Rock trail where Nina was waiting for us and posted 1,200 pictures of all of us on Sunday!
I didn't know Brian as a matter of fact, found out later that he was visiting from Portland, Oregon. Yes, one of these very fast Oregonian runners... While Chris was killing it on the climbs in the morning, Brian was the master descender, really fast in the downhills!

I like this other picture from Nina as it shows most of the Priest Rock trail we just climbed, and you can even spot the end of the Lexington Reservoir on the left.

 Trying to keep up with Brian:

Another surprise at the top of the hill was to see Chikara Omine next to two ice chests full of popsicles. It was still chilly on our first passage but we had 8 miles on Kennedy trail before seeing him again so a good idea to keep in mind. The other thing cool about seeing Chikara volunteering is to know that we have more time to run the course as leaders (Chikara usually wins this race, he only lost the win at Miwok by 40 seconds last week, super speedster!).

So, here was the deal for this year: because of the constructions going on to prepare for the opening of Mt Umunum, we had to go down 4 miles to the end of Kennedy, then back up again, 4 miles up, followed by more than a mile on the grueling roller coaster nicknamed Kennedy Rollers. That's where the popsicle made sense except that Chikara was really surprised I wanted one, so it took a few seconds to open the first bag of them. I probably ate only half of it (yikes, this looks pure chemistry) but it gave me a mental boost at a point I was finally losing sight of Brian and Chris.

I couldn't see Dominick behind although he was only half a mile behind at the Kennedy turnaround. Speaking of turnaround, who did welcome me there: yes, John Burton again! This time, I asked three times to make sure my GU2O powder was mixed with water and, to my dismay, the taste was still weird: I've never experienced this before, it was my taste buds which were completely off today, so strange. And I apologized to Jeremy at the finish for having though he had screwed up my GU2O refill at Lexington, we had a good laugh.

Anyway, after suffering on the Kennedy Rollers and a few minutes recharging at Wood Road, helped by my teammates, it was time to put another effort to go over the culminating point on the course and back to Hicks Road. We were half way from a mileage standpoint, and fortunately had done 2/3 of the climbing, phew!

By mile 32, I was very surprised to close on Chris. Passing him, he told me his achilles were trashed which was a terrible news after such a great start, and super strong climbing in particular. One mile later, it was my turned to be passed by Dominick who seemed to come from nowhere, running about 1 min/mile faster than us, wow! He asked if I knew the runner in the lead, he was on a mission!

Although I felt tired overall after all this climbing, I was super happy with the new shoes I was wearing this morning, the Brooks Caldera: the most cushioning Brooks ever provided and a super smooth feeling as I was flying over hard and lose rocks in this long downhill. I'll write another post on these shoes later. While my feet were so comfy, my intestines where yelling and cramping and I was really anxious to make it to the bathrooms at Hicks Road to release them. Several minutes of confined solitude helped a little but didn't fully fix the problem, I was going to have to live with it today.

Who was at Hicks? Yes, Johnny Burton again! He was actually crewing for his wife, Amy, who was in the lead of the women race. Another team mate, Clare Abram, the aid station captain, asked me what I wanted and I could only take more Coke and watermelon (I was staying away from the bananas which looked way too green to me). I did feel so good overall but I ran all the next section to return to our start point, Hacienda, checking several time behind me if anyone was closing.

I stopped at my car, drank another Vespa pouch, reloaded a few GU gels in my Ultimate Direction belt and jogged to the aid station. This time, it wasn't John welcoming me but... Chris, who had dropped at Hicks and had made it to Hacienda just in time to propose me his pacer. Wow, I was bummed for Chris, but that was quite a tempting proposition. Kind of the exchange of what happened at TRT 2014 when I asked the radio guys to call the mid-way point to release Toshi and made him available for Chris for the second loop which he finished in 5th place!

With about 20 ultras under his belt, including a few 100-milers and 100K, Ben Balester had driven from Monterrey too and was eager to get 20 miles in to make his trip to the Bay Area worth. He had run the 50-mile here in 2012 and was also excited to run on these trails again.

On my end, having a companion definitely helped relieving my mind from all the negative thoughts which would have made me walk the many uphills ahead otherwise. As a matter of fact, we almost ran the whole Mine Hill Trail up to the Caphorn Pass, a feat I didn't think I was capable of at that point. But, the fact of the matter is that I wasn't cramping at all, I could still run uphill indeed, with the proper mind set. That being said, one week after Miwok and one week before Ohlone, and now in what seemed to be a solid 3rd place, I didn't feel the urge to kill myself and was ok with walking the steeper uphills.

It was great to see so many familiar faces when we pass through Mockingbird, which is also the finish for both the 50K and 100K, but we needed to get moving quickly still. We had a good run on New Almaden, then quite some walking on the rocky Buena Vista trail. Ben was kind enough to agree with me that it wasn't worth taking the risk of tripping in this section, hence the walking, but it was more of an excuse to catch my breath. When I think of all the gnarly trails I'll have to go through at UTMB in 3.5 months...

Anyway, I ended up running some of Great Eastern Trail, so much that another teammate, Chris Gladding captured this shot while patiently spending the day as course monitor at this strategic turn on April Trail.
Then, more familiar faces at the top of Mine Hill, with the Stevens Creeks Striders manning the Bull Run aid station, then Chuck Wilson monitoring the funny Catherine Tunnel lollipop detour (photo credit: Michelle Sun).

That was followed by another steep downhill hard on the quads, a miles which look now longer along New Almaden. At this point, I was surprised by the number of 50K runners we were passing and were going to pass until the finish. They had started at 7 am and it would take some more than 8 hours to finish: many first timers who surely picked a hilly and toughie for their first one!

We did some walking on the way up to the dam but I was really pleased with all the jogging I was able to do in the climb on Mine Hill. Then it was time for the Enriquita distraction, seeing many 50K runners again at the aid station which I happily skipped in exchange of some walking on the climbs. With no other 100K runner to be seen on this out and back, I didn't feel the urge to push more. I even decided to skip the Bull Run aid station, eager to at least break 10:30 this year. As we were approaching mile 61, in the downhill after English Camp, Ben tripped behind me and I hurt his elbow and tibia. He was quick to get up though and ok to wait for the finish line to take care of the bleeding. Sorry, Ben... and thank you again for your essential company for this tour of the Almaden Quicksilver Park!

9:45:30 in 2015, 10:14:44 in 2016, post stroke and chest surgery, 10:25:48 this year in cool temperatures but 1,000 feet of added cumulated elevation, I didn't feel so good about my time but super glad that it was good for 3rd this year. In 2015 I must admit that, when taking 4th, I was a bit jealous of missing the super cool miner pan reserved for the podium. So, thanks to less competition this year, and Chikara in particular volunteering this year, I've my own now, I feel accomplished and can get to live the dream and hard life of the 49ers...

With first place Dominick Layfield, from Los Angeles:
 And 2nd place Brian Donnelly from Portland, Oregon:

Larry did took second in our age group indeed, finishing in 5th place overall and meeting his other goal of breaking 11 hours, with 15 seconds to spare! Dominick was the only one to break 10 hours this time at 9:48:30, and then we were 4 under 11 hours.

Here are my dashboards from Garmin and Strava respectively (I ran with a Garmin 230, and Garmin are not the best at tracking the cumulated elevation).

This time, I wasn't in a hurry to leave (except for the fact that I had been up since 1 am, but that was the case for many volunteers anyway) and could enjoy the unmatched post-race ambiance and food experience highlighted at the beginning of this post. I stayed for 3.5 hours and had the pleasure to chat with many. Here is a selfie from Mark Gilligan (left) with teammate Bree Lambert (3rd in the 50K) and Greg Lanctot.
And with teammate Mark Tanaka, world record holder of the ultra selfies! ;-)
And with teammate and Race Director, John Brooks:
John announced the first finisher of the new North California Triple Crown (Canyons 100K, Miwok 100K, Quicksilver 100K), Christopher Thomas.

The first of three overall, with Chihping Fu missing the triple with a DNF at the Canyons.

And only one person did the Grand Slam, which consists in these three 100Ks plus Ruth Anderson 100K the week before, 4 back to back 100Ks: Satpal Dalal. Here is the thing with ultra: there is no limit, there is always something more extravagant to achieve! Including beating the odds of the lotteries or cyber registration with races filling up within minutes.

Anyway, I'm so grateful again to the hundreds of volunteers who gave us so much of their time to make this event such a success and highlight of our local ultra running community per all the positive comments heard on race day or seen on FaceBook. Congrats to the 154 finishers on the 100K, 147 finishers of the 50K, all those who had the courage to toe the line even if they didn't accomplish their goal, and a special thought to all those who had registered but couldn't make it. To the next time, then! BTW, our teammate Jim Magill, 70, finished the 100K again, which is quite an accomplishment in itself. I was in awe to see that two other competitors were in his age group and beat him: what a competitive age group, wow!

Cool temperatures, very cool outcome and the privilege to represent our Club at its major event of the year made for this cool home run title!

See some of you again at Ohlone 50K in a week, what an ultra month!

PS: as a bonus, a few pics of the Lexington reservoir on Friday afternoon, showing how full it is this year, yeah!

From the Priest trailhead:
 A distorted panorama (Alma Bridge Road):
 At the dam level:

 View toward Los Gatos and Los Gatos Creek, below the dam (and the busy highway 17 on the left):


Brian Donnelly said...

Great race and great recap, Jean. It was a pleasure running with you and chatting a bit after the race. Good luck at the 50K this weekend!

ReddAntlerRunning said...

Great race and thank you for mentioning my accomplishment! I saw you kill it at Miwok too! Great running!