Sunday, February 8, 2009

Jed Smith 50K: better start training

If you follow my blog, you know I'm way behind in terms of training. I have had shin splints since I resumed training beginning of January and, back then, did not think I had 6 weeks to waste going back in the hibernating mode of December. I initially stopped for 5 days, had two runs confirming the inflammation was not gone, then I stopped for 9 days which was still not enough as my Santa Cruz Badass run with Adam did prove. This time, I did not run for 14 days and it seemed an eternity as the inflammation disappears as soon as I don't run, so I never know if it is fixed for good or not.

After a business trip to Florida this past week, I showed up at Gibson Ranch Park in Elverta, without much training or basis (just 3 1-hour sessions on the bike over the past two weeks). To confirm that you had better train if you want to be competitive...

I car pooled on Saturday morning with Scott (Dunlap). Including the return trip, we spent over 4 hours chatting about running of course but even more about work, and parenthood too. Scott has amazing ideas about e-commerce, bringing the power of mobile computing and Internet to brick-and-mortar retailers, making such discussions fascinating and really entertaining. I had initially registered for the 50-mile but, given the injury, I decided to switch to the 50K. Furthermore, only the 50K counted for the USATF Grand Prix, so that made the decision a no brainer. Jed Smith Ultra Classic actually offers a third distance, a 30K (non ultra). the 50-mile starts at 8am, the 50K at 8:30 and the 30K 30 minutes later. These staged starts gave us the opportunity to see the start of the 50-mile and take pictures of all the runners after they completed their initial out-and-back mile before the 15 loops (see my Picasa photo album). Todd Braje took off and would keep the lead the whole way.
The 50K started right 30 minutes later. The heavy fog of the early morning was clearing up but it was still chilly. I kept my hat, gloves and long sleeves during the entire race, while others where just wearing singlets. I cannot wait for the heat training... As usual, Chikara took the lead in the first strides, like he was running a 10K. He was followed by Thomas Reiss. Thomas introduced himself on the starting line. Scott had told me in the car how fast he was (winning for instance the Tahoe Rim Trail 50-mile last year), and that he entered the Masters category last year. Thomas was going after the Masters age group course record today (3:18:03, 1996) and shooting for 3:15. That was way out of reach for me with my two goals for the day: first, finishing without worsening the injury and, second, potentially improving my PR of last year at Ruth Anderson (3:42) would my first goal be met.

Despite these goals, I started on a faster-than-needed pace of 6:34 for the first two laps. After 10 miles, I started feeling the inflammation and slow down a bit. Then, to my surprise, I felt a cramp coming in my calf by mile 12. With nineteen miles to go, that did not seem right at all. The cramp eventually passed as I was working on my sodium but, by mile 21, both calves were torn out as I was going though the wall. I was so ashame of having to slow down to 8+ min/mile pace and got convinced Scott will catch me in the next three laps (Scott is the only runner I would never see on the course as we stayed within 5 minutes of each other all the time). That kept me jogging the whole way, even having to sprint when I finally saw Eduardo closing the gap in the last hundred yards. I finished in 3:51, almost 9 minutes slower than my PR, but finishing still, so meeting my first goal. I went for a very short run this morning to losen the calves up. The injury has not totally disappeared, but it is bearable. There is so much to do to prepare for the Napa Valley marathon in three weeks (my birthday run!), I may have to train through some pain. Photo courtesy of Michael's father:
Overall, with the 8-shape course, it was really special to keep seeing all the runners through out the day. Either crossing or passing, it gave many opportunities to share smiles, words or signs of encouragements, and feel the growing fatigue on others' faces, as we were logging the 3.3-mile laps (5, 9 or 15).
In addition to all the personal achievements, here are the ones which were the most amazing:
  • 1. Chikara Omine won the 50K in 3:08. That is a 6:03 min/mile pace or a 2:38 marathon on the way!
  • 2. Todd Braje won the 50-mike in 5:30. That corresponds to an average 6:36 min/mile pace or two 2:53 marathons back to back! After his 3:30 win at Way Too Cool 2008, his win at Helen Klein, we are going to see Todd on a lot of podiums this year. Unless he gets caught in the US 100K Team regimen, which would impose a limited number of international races.
  • 3. Last but not least, our local Ultraholic, Michael Kanning completed the 50 miles in 6:23, taking third overall, just 4 minutes behind Sean Meissner. At only 17, Michael improved his Helen Klein PR my more than 26 minutes and came short of 7:29 minutes of Karsten Schulz' US 50-mile trail record set in 1977 at JFK (which raises the issue of trail comparison, Jed Smith being almost flat while JFK has some quite technical sections from what I have seen on the Appalachian Trail). Anyway, this is an amazing performance and I was proud to see Michael holding the pace for so long after some missfortune last year. This is extremely promising and it will be exciting to see Michael focusing on road racing this year. By the way, like me, Michael is a Brooks ID'er (Inspire Daily program) and a Brooks aficionado!
Todd, with one more lap to go:
Michael (and his father on the left), with 2 more laps to go:
With this loop format, it was great to see the runners keeping going through the finish line area and aid station, giving them some words of encouragements, especially after having experienced some pain on the course ourselves. It was nice to see Greg Soderlund at the finish. Looking at runners getting to the finish, he seems like a NCAA coach and recruiter, looking for the next star to get on Western States... See my Picasa album for a few pictures of the finish line area.

Although I carried my Gu2O bottle the whole way (sorry, don't like Gatorade!), it was very convenient to have two aid stations on the course, one every 1.5 mile. A big thank you to Dennis, the Race Director, to the Buffalo Chips running club for setting up such a professional event (including ChampionChip timing!), to the volunteers at the aid station, and a special thank to the volunteer who stationned for hours at the entrance of the second loop and provided personal encouragements (we saw him 18 times on the 50K!). Apart from the chilly temperatures at the start, the loop format made it very easy for the crew, some bringing comforting support as you can see!
A great event overall, which I strongly recommend to people looking at their first ultra as this provides a nice setting to get support, as well as a nice transition from road racing, with a convenient mix of pavement and flat trail. And of course to the ones looking at a PR, except for the fact that this is the first official race of the season, so it's easy to show up untrained. Like me yesterday...

By the way, I missed Jed Smith last year because of my participation to The Coastal Challenge in Coasta Rica. I was looking forward to tracking the race on the web last week, especially to see what Scott Jurek was up to but, unfortunately, not a single update has been posted on the TCC website. I hope they are OK and that is just due to the lack of connectivity in the rain forest. Actually, I finally found the updated site ("another" official site). Results: defending 2008 champion, Javier Moreno from Coasta Rica, won again this year. He was followed by David James (3rd last year - I finished second, in debt of David who pulled me out of a creek in the 5th stage). And Scott Jurek placed third. I look very much forward to hearing Scott's recount of this adventure on his blog (check his last post about hibernating - This -hibernating- I feel I've done well in December but maybe one month was not enough...).


Baldwyn said...

I can't believe how many talented people there were out there. I hope you heal well and soon, and start really tearing things up. Not sure about training through the pain, but mabe I'm a bit of a wimp :)

Anonymous said...

bien sûr, tu n'as pas fait le temps que tu souhaitais, mais, sans réél entrainement et avec les problèmes de mollets en plus, ce n'est tout de même pas mal!
Souhaitons fort que la forme s'améliore d'ici le 1er Mars...

Dave - Atlanta Trails said...

9 mins off your PR is not bad at all given your lack of training and injury. SOLID performance!

Eric@URP said...

Nice job, Jean! I was out there just watching and gave you a few hoots around 9am or so.

From one asthmatic (and Brooks ID'er) to another, GREAT JOB!

Michael Kanning said...

Jean, it was great to see you out there! I think the fact that you fell short of your PR by just 9 mintues after all those weeks of injury problems is not bad at all. Congratulations!

I am also aware that the JFK50 course is more difficult that that of Jed Smith. I did some research on the Schulz guy and, from what I could find, this is someone who ran a 4:11 mile and won some New England track championships that very same year he set the 50 mi record, so I think if I were to go head to head with a 17 year old version of him at this point I wouldn't stand a chance. But, a record is a record, and I hope to give it another shot at Helen Klein or before then.

Scott Dunlap said...

Jean Pommier featured in article about the Napa Marathon:

Check it out!