Sunday, February 4, 2018

Jed Smith 50K 2018: 10th consecutive year and, finally...

What could have finally happened to this event which I now ran 10 times consecutively? While I ran my first ultra at Way Too Cool 50K in March 2006, I entered my first Jed Smith 2 years later, after I found out about the Pacific Association Ultra Grand Prix in 2007, and won my age group that year. And since I started blogging in March 2007, the past 9 editions area all preciously documented but, to spare you the navigation, and read anyway as Mark Murray told me my posts were too long, I'll summarize with the following points to put the above question into context:

  1. First and foremost, I've never DNFed at Jed Smith so far, a good thing! Would #10 change this?
  2. I always broke 4 hours and, out of the 9 previous editions, actually broke 3:30 7 times, including twice under 3:20. Would I break 3:15 and set a new M50-54 American Record, or would I miss the 4-hour mark?
  3. My first edition was at the Gibson Ranch Park but it quickly moved to a faster course on the levee of the American River, except for last year. For 2018, we were back on that course.
  4. The worst I've placed overall at this race is 4th in 2013, coming back from a minor injury and getting in the race with not training at all. The best place? 2nd overall, 6 times out of the 9 editions, enough to get the Raymond Poulidor label on that one (Poulidor, aka Pou-Pou, was an amazing French cyclist who made his name for being the Eternal Second to legends such as Anquetil and Merckx)! Would today mark the end of my curse?
The thing with Jed Smith is that it's impossible to make competitive plans for it as it takes registrants on race morning. Again this year, I was wondering if Rich Hanna would decide on entering at the last minute, as he has done a few years ago to set a new American record for our age group. While I was warming up, Rich told be he had suffered from several injuries these past months which kept him on the sideline unfortunately. Now, speaking of a late entry, my brand new Quicksilver teammate, Thomas Reiss, from San Luis Obispo, told me 20 minutes before the start that he had seen Camille Herron warming up on the course! Wow, that was a scoop and meant the race will certainly go fast at the front. For those who don't know, Camille has won dozens of marathons, and several ultras recently including Comrades last year, plus setting a few Open Women American Records!
To add to the race context, Thomas is going to turn 50 in March and is preparing for the 100K Road Nationals where he wants to lower our M50-54 AR which stands at 7:38 right now. He was aiming at 3:30 today and was going to run with his training buddy, Jadd Martinez.

Closer to Sacramento, Mark Murray, who turned 55, was going after the M55-59 AR, a rather soft one at 3:39.

As for me? A few things made me sand-bagging for that race:
  1. First, I spent much more time behind the bar these past 2 weeks than running. No, I didn't say the bars (phew!), but the handlebar as I'm getting back to motorcycling after a 28-year hiatus. I used to ride, 35 years ago, but Agn├Ęs had rather me stop while we were raising a family. It's time to get on the saddle again before I'm getting to old for it.
  2. With running taking the third stage, the first being my IBM job, still, I didn't put as many miles as I wanted, especially last weekend. To make it harder, I took a red eye for Newark on Sunday night, and flew back on Tuesday evening after two very short nights. On Wednesday, I went for a run but had to stop after 3 miles with a sharp pain deep in my left calf, yikes!
  3. Then, on Sunday night, I banged my quad badly on the sharp corner of the bed; it really hurt and I could feel a sizable hematoma deep inside my right quad. I applied some deep tissue massage myself, including while driving to work and to the start this Saturday morning, but could still feel a small ball in the muscle just before the start. I was really wondering how these two muscle issues would play on race day so my goal was mostly to finish honorably and certainly not push too hard. Most certainly, I wasn't in shape, neither physically nor mentally, to give another try at our age group record!
As expected, with Camille at the front, the start of the race was super fast, around 6:10-6:15 min/mile! I let some gap form but, as usual, it felt good to be running on this course again, so I stayed 50 meters or so behind Camille. Besides, the weather was announced to get hot during the day but I was still cold myself, so much that I was wearing a beanie, a pair of gloves, my Brooks arm warmers and a Buff. While many were just wearing a singlet.

I maintained the 50 to 100-meter gap with Camille for 5 miles, thinking that I was going too fast at 6:15-6:20 min/mile but it was such a unique opportunity to have such an inspirational lead to follow. In our 6th mile though, something strange happened: I saw Camille grabbing something to fuel and that made her slow down to a 6:35-6:40 min/mile pace, so much that, against my will, I closed the gap and had to pass her to maintain our original pace. I did so and kept running 6:15-6:20 minute miles for several laps them, again, with positive and negative thoughts battling in my mind: am I going too fast, too early in the race? But wouldn't it be cool if I could keep up with that pace for 31 miles...?

I dropped the gloves after the first lap, but kept everything else as I was barely sweating despite the bright sun. The other big decision during the race was to only carry water, not my usual and traditional other bottle of GU2O (GU Energy Brew). I completely screwed up my electrolytes at the One Day in Auburn 12-hour 2 weeks ago so I didn't want to repeat the same mistake and took the other extreme, just relying on 1 S!Caps every 45 minutes to 1 hour.

I was still feeling great at the end of loop 3 but felt some cramps half way in the 4th lap. Running on fat and Vespa, I took a 2nd GU gel at the end of the 4th loop, then double on S!Caps at the end of the 5th lap. With the cramping, I had to slow down and mile 28 was the first one above 7 min/mile pace (7:08). From there, I switch to damage control and more cruising, checking behind a couple of times to see if anyone was closing on me.

I crossed the finish line in 3:26:45, not a great time but enough this year for the overall win, yeah!! And, back to the title of this post, finally... I had to keep racing that one until nobody faster would show up on race morning, this requires some tenacity! ;-)

Here is a short video from Greg Durbin who happened to be at the finish when I approached it:

I want to dedicate my race to two key persons associated to this event. First, in memory of Greg Soderlund who passed away 2 years ago after an inspirational yet heart-breaking battle to cancer. Greg has been the Race Director of Western States 100-mile for 13 years and I had the privilege to work with him when I was the Captain of the Last Chance aid station with the Stevens Creek Striders. But, closer to Jed Smith, until the very last year, he used to stop by the race and walk the course counter-clockwise, blessing us with his communicative smile and encouragements. Our ultra community misses him so much...

Second, in honor of Frank Bozanich who ran Jed Smith 8 times. A few months ago, I saw a post on Facebook where he was describing the feat of winning a race while being over 50. I thought it was Jed Smith that he had won at age 53 but it's actually Helen Klein 50K, when he was 56, in a time of 3:31! Bottom line, I still have 3 more years to go to match that, phew, that's not getting easier 20 years later with all the competition around! ;-)

Speaking of such a performance, it made me realize that Helen Klein 50K time was faster than the M55-59 AR record Mark was trying to break, because the course was likely not certified. The good news for Mark is that he achieved his goal, clocking 3:32:16 yesterday, good enough for a 2nd place this year.
Thomas took 3rd a few seconds later in 3:32:57.
Then Jadd in 4th, 30 seconds behind Thomas.
With Camille easily winning the women race in 3:35:16.
We even had an official award ceremony on the brand new Buffalo Chips podium cubes, a neat addition to the professionalism of this race, which still remains very friendly and low key on many other aspects.
For the sake of reporting on the health of the American River, once a year at that race, it was flowing strong and healthy this weekend, to the enjoyment of many ducks!

This was my 150th ultra race, including 65 50Ks, and out of 297 races in my running log; persistence starts adding up!

Great pleasure to see a few of my teammates, the Men in Blue, from the Quicksilver Running Club of San Jose. Respectively: Keith, Stephen, Marc, Jim and Jeff (who was making a come back after a major stroke last year).

Although we were way out numbered by the impressive show of the Pamakids, from San Francisco:
A special thanks to the early bird volunteers manning the registration booth and handing out my custom-made flier promoting the PAUSATF Ultra running Grand Prix (start there if you have any question regarding this way to get points at our ultra races):

John Feeney, the Race Director, was busy on all fronts this Saturday morning: on the picture below, see how he appears like securing the shoe laces of runners at the start of the 50-mile race! Kidding aside, he was putting the chip timing tag for a runner who didn't know it had to be taken away from the bib.
I did it for another 50K runner myself, but on the above picture, he receives a hand from Alan Abbs, who ended up winning the 50-mile race.

The race was officiated by elite runner Rich Hanna and his timing company, Capitol Road Race Management. And let me apologize publicly for doubting the 1-mile out and back as I thought the mileage was wrong upon finishing lap 4. My GPS ended up with 31.2, that's actually quite close to the targeted distance.
In conclusion, another very successful Jed Smith event organized by the Buffalo Chips. I'm not sure what happened in 1983, it's the only hiatus in the 37 years which is tracking for that race since 1981, for the 50-miler. 38 years, that's ultra impressive! Actually, it shows only 30 editions for the 50K (1987 then 1990-2018) so I managed to run 1/3 of them! And a good reason to keep coming back year after year...

That was the first of the 14 races we can score in the Ultra Grand Prix this year. Check out the schedule, and see you soon on the trails or the road for more, then!

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