Saturday, September 22, 2018

Stevens Creek 50K/30K 2018. And an alternative.

[For the runners just looking for my pictures, here is the Google Photos album.]

"Did you run it again this year?"
Me -- "Nope"
"But you where there, no?"
Me: "Yes, but manning a water-only aid station"
"Ah, so you didn't run 50K then?"
Me: "Actually, I did!"

Thus can I summarize this confusing situation. After running and winning this race 3 times (4:15 in 2011, 4:32 in 2012, 4:17 in 2013), I've been helping out at the aid station hosted by my running club, Quicksilver. If you add that the club organizing this race is the one I initially joined in 2003 if I recall, that makes this event very special to me and, since I was in town, I didn't want to miss it. I might have to enter soon to take a stab at the M50-59 course record (the one I set at 4:15 was for M40-49) but, with all the racing I do, it's really cool to see the face of runners when they see me helping out on the sideline. A nice way to give back to a community and sport which gave so much to me these past 12 years!

Since I still wanted to squeeze in some training in, I decided to run up to Skyline from home, via the Stevens Creek Canyon Road, 13.5 miles with some gradual uphill in the second half. I had planned to leave the house by 6:30 but left 10 minutes later. Our aid station captain, Stuart, had asked me to be around 8:30 at the water-only aid station the Striders now ask us to setup at the confusing intersection of Charcoal Road (trails in 5 directions), about 1.3 miles from the Saratoga Gap main aid station. There was no such aid station when I ran this race but I remembered that I was reaching Saratoga Gap, around mile 9, at the bottom of the hour, so I thought the first runner might go through Charcoal 10 minutes before, therefore I should be there by then.

9.5 miles into my run up to Skyline, I reached Route 9 at 8:05, with 3 miles to go to the top. I really didn't want to be late so I decided to hitchhike, something I had never done before in my life! The minutes passed, and so were the cars too, without stopping, I had to wait for 5 good minutes for someone to stop and, of course, it was a runner, Michael Florence, from the Striders, who hadn't even recognized me but was going to stop anyway to help a runner looking in distress.

We passed Saratoga Gap at 8:15, said Hi to Stuart, whom I found really relaxed with no aid station ready yet (more on my timing mistake below), then Michael dropped me at the Charcoal intersection so I was all set at 8:20, as planned, phew!

Well, 8:30 and still nobody coming though... 8:40... 8:50... 9:00, not a single soul. I started thinking that maybe they had delayed the start, or that my watch was off an hour, when I saw Marty, from our club, coming in at last, at 9:08. I wasn't expecting him in the lead and he immediately said that he had gotten an early start at 7 am. That's when I realized that the aid station was between 9 and 10 miles and that the lead runner would then get though around 9:20, not 8:20! Duh, I could have taken it easier and completed my run earlier in the morning instead of stressing it out...

Right on target, another teammate, Gaspar Mora, who won in 2016 then placed 2nd last year in the 50K in 4:22, came in at 9:18.
Finally, some work to do on my end, between indicating the right trail and proposing some water to those in need before the main aid station, then indicating the mileage to that next aid station. Actually, I had something else to do as one runner dropped at the station so I had to find a volunteer and a car to get him back to the start area. Thankfully, and to my great surprise based on previous years' experiences, I had great cell coverage and was able to find Stuart's cell phone number in an old spreadsheet in Google Drive. That runner had had a bad fall on the left side and, with a bleeding and swollen knee, he preferred to quit as quickly as possible. Thanks to that new cell coverage in this area, that worked out very well.

Like last year, I was unimpressed with this participant running without a bottle, or a reusable cup for that matter. While getting your shirt dirty is kind of a badge of honor in trail running as it usually goes with a fall, getting yours dirty for laying down in the dust, not so much in my opinion...
Let's move on...

Although both races, 50 and 30K, started at the same time, the combined field was rather small, I'd say between 50 and 60 max. Many familiar faces with one I'm going to attribute the Oscar for the Most Emotional return on the trail today. The competition for this award was tough and deep (think Chris Garcia after his terrible bike accident which broke his back, Jim battling the years, Chau Pham, Peter, Peggy, Randy, Loren, or many I can't name because I don't know their personal challenges behind their commitment to trail running).

The special recipient? Charles Stevens who was himself so happy yet surprised to be back to trail running. Charles was President of the Stevens Creek Striders when I joined. He is the one who taught me so much about ultra running, starting with the fact that there were some crazy runners covering 50K or 100 miles in one go! ;-) He is the one who taught me not to waste time at aid stations, that every minute counts. He is the one who told me that Way Too Cool wasn't hilly (to this day, and after running 10 consecutive ones from 2006 to 2015, I still consider that a friendly lie! ;-). He is the one that gave me the 2008 Western States entry he had won in our Club lottery, when he estimated he wasn't in his best shape and I could make a better use of it. By the way, he finished Western States 6 times! Then, in 2012-2013, he disappeared from the ultra scene because of serious issues with his pelvis. It was so moving to see him back, and smiling despite the fatigue, half way in his 30K today. Welcome back, Charles, what an inspirational story of will and resilience!

Speaking of Stevens, are you wondering if the race was named after Charles (and same for the nearby creek, and the canyon, and the reservoir)? Of course not, the creek has had this name for more than 150 years, and it's actually a funny coincidence that Stevens comes from a typo, just read this:

As for the creek, which the race is named after, it is still flowing at the end of September, but really not much, as you can see in this video:
At least, there still is this soothing sound, so relaxing when running up and down Stevens Canyon Road, in addition to the shade. What a great place we live in!

With this tiny flow, no wonder why the Stevens Creek reservoir is so low. When you think of the surplus of water they have on the East Coast, we are going to have to build serious pipelines through the Rockies to balance the situation at some point...

Back to the race and the runners, I think I captured everybody although I'm quite disappointed with the quality of the pictures overall. Besides, I heard there was a professional photographer elsewhere on the course, so you probably got a much better shot of you already! Anyway, here is the album (link).

After the last runner, Christina, passed through my mini aid station for the second time, just after noon, Stuart released me so I could run back home. As I was leaving, Mandie was sweeping the course, collecting all the little colored flags used for course marking (instead of the traditional ribbons).
Earlier, Anil had done the same on the first 9 miles of the course.
I decided to go down to Table Mountain and Stevens Creek Canyon. After a 2.5-mile long descent to to Table Mountain, it got very sunny and exposed so I decided to put my sun glasses on. Oops, there were not over my cap and I realized I had forgotten them at the aid station when changing top. It was 1 pm and, after a 5:30 am wake-up call and just a few of my own GU Blocks mid morning, I was quite tired but decided to run back up to Skyline to get my glasses. By the way, the detour wasn't a complete waste because I had found 2 remaining yellow flags at the Table Mountain trail intersection (Hugo, I took them back home, like last year).

From the top, this time I went on Skyline Boulevard then retraced the morning route back, adding my local 5K loop in Cupertino to make the run 31.5 miles. Much more cumulated elevation that I need for my October race, and a tough run overall with 4 hours standing at the aid station in between, then the heat. But, at least, that makes my 4th 50K run in 4 weeks since my 90K at TDS. And a 2nd 100-mile week, back to back.

I hope the elegant Christina didn't feel too much pressure from the course sweepers and was able to complete her 30K.
Same for all the other runners, except the injured one we gave a ride to.

Thank you to the Striders, and Race Director Hugo de Groot in particular, for perpetuating a tradition set by Steve Patt several decades ago. And very glad that our Club returns the huge service you provide to our Club by manning the busy Bull Run aid station at our 100K and 50K Quicksilver races in May!

Speaking of which, many big and sincere thanks to our own Stuart for directing these races, plus the September trail ones, and captaining this aid station, and cooking for all of us at the annual picnic, and sitting on our Club Board, and, and, ... You rock, Stuart, have a great run at Rio del Lago in November!

4 hours to serve about fifty runners going through twice, there has been a lot of idle time, some of which I used to script a couple of upcoming blog posts, stay tuned! ;-)
And see you maybe on the other side (of the sideline!) next year, who knows. In the meantime, Run Happy out there!

1 comment:

Lorenski said...

Thanks for being out there again, Jean. Always great to see you. And I managed to hang in there! PS: the link to the photos returns a 404.