Sunday, September 29, 2013

Stevens Creek 50K: 3-peat!

This Saturday was my 3rd participation to this local and relatively low key event set by Steve Patt to raise money for the Audubon Society. Steve and his wife are passionate about birds and very active members of the local chapter of Audubon. And Steve is also an ultra addict so that a perfect opportunity to bridge his two passions. Not to mention his work and company as Steve is the Founder of Stevens Creek Software which creates mobile apps including, of course, an ultra race timing software! And, albeit the low profile of this race, Steve pay special attention and pride to designing very nice custom trophies for the top finishers:
This year, my other club, the Stevens Creek Striders, stepped up to help managing the event. Which is somehow a natural thing with such an event name. The Striders have already been manning the Rapley Ranch aid station at the North end turnaround and helping out there in 2008 was my first encounter with this race.

My first run was in 2011 and a good "fight" between the 3 J's: Jay Thomson who had won in 2010, Juan de Oliva Martinez, and Jean. I was discovering the course while trying to keep up with Jay and Juan and that eventually pushed me to dig deep and win with the second fastest time of the previous 10 years, setting up the Masters Age Group Course Record at 4:15:40. Here is a artistic rendering of the start of that edition which Steve used for this year's overall winner plaque. One more motivation to run strong today!
I came back in 2012 to defend my title and, without much competition and some good heat, ended up running a much slower 4:32:54.

Jay was back on the registrant list so I was expecting to have to run faster this year. I didn't see him at the start though and learned at the finish that he was tied up at a wedding. Here is a nice panorama shot from Michael Dhuey a few seconds before the start:
Instead of Jay, right from the start, I had a much younger and fast runner on my heels for the first 5 miles. (Photo credit: Michael Dhuey)
Stephen Gunnar Wassather actually recently joined our Quicksilver Ultra Running Team after moving from Santa Cruz to Santa Clara. (Photo credit: Michael Dhuey)
I had a slightly longer stride on the steep downhill and did create a small gap by the time we were down to the bottom of Stevens Creek Canyon but I got confused by the lack of ribbons at the intersection with the Upper Stevens Creek trail. I didn't recognize the creek crossing but thought I might have missed it while flying down the trail so we erred for about a minute trying to make sense of the marking, or lack thereof. I decided to keep going down and, eventually, we did find the proper crossing about half mile later.

Thinking of the 2011 race when Jay, Juan and I ran that section together, I kept pushing the pace on the steep climb back to Skyline and lost sight of Stephen. I passed a few of the early starters, starting by ultra globe trotter, Chuck Wilson. I reached out the turn around aid station after 1 hour and 32 minutes of running and, thanks to the great help of my fellow Quicksilver teammates manning the aid station, Pierre-Yves and Jim, I was out with a fresh bottle of ice water in that same minute. (Photo credit: Michael Dhuey)
Retracing my way back along Skyline, I saw Stephen, he was about 2 minutes behind, really not much of a lead so I kept pushing, running all the uphills but one, before the 19-mile aid station at the start and finish area. I reach that point in 2:33 and was out as my Garmin indicated 2:35 of running.

Again, not knowing how far behind Stephen was, I kept running all the uphills of the next 6 miles to the turnaround, even passing a couple of mountain bikers on the way. I wasn't super hot and not as hot as the previous years I believe, but even the breeze wasn't cooling me down, expect in the shady sections in the morning. The section to Rapley Ranch is actually very exposed and it was now noon. Peggy and Mike were working the aid station and I left them my water bottle to fill while I went on to touch the gate marking the turnaround, right on 3:20. 45 minutes for the out section, I thought I could do 50 minutes for the back and improve my Masters CR. Which, at this point, I remembered being 4:13.

It was 3:27 when I saw Stephen, that is about a 12-minute gap between the two of us. I was still running strong in the down hills but I walked some of the uphills. My Garmin indicated 29.4 miles at Leor's Course Record time (3:58). I tried to run as fast as possible down to and around very nice and picturesque Horseshoe Lake, but that didn't quite make it to the Age Group CR, missing it by 1 minute and 40 seconds. Oh well, I was also trying to save some energy for the next day race, the Trailblazer 10K benefiting the Friends of the... Stevens Creek Trail. A very "Stevens Creek"-oriented weekend with such a double!

I finished with a time of 4:17:19 and 3rd overall win at this event. Stephen took second, 15 minutes later and Michael Jimenez third in 4:55. Here we are:
 And with Race Director, Steve:
While we were running, local ultra speedster, Gary Gellin placed 12th overall and first Masters at the Ultra Race of the Champions (UROC) in Colorado, among an amazingly competitive field. Surely, Gary can set a new AG CR at Stevens Creek 50K would he enter that local race.

Like at Headlands Hundred 2 weeks ago, I didn't eat much thanks to my use of Vespa. 3 GUs and a few pieces of fruit, 6 S!Caps (between the good sweat and the breeze, my top was quite "salty" and I wasn't the only one...), 1.6 bottles of GU2O. I hang out for 2 more hours at the finish to see a few more runners finishing their first loop, and others finishing their second. Here are the Chief Zombies, Don and Gillian spending quite some time on the trail together. Great to see you guys enjoying your most cherished outdoors and escaping your busy store for once. And thank you for your sponsorship, your support of our ultra community and the goodies!
Ultra race #90 and 41st 50K, still love this distance in particular, and ultra running in general especially in such a pristine area so close to home! Thank you to all the volunteers who made this race possible again, starting with the Striders and Quicksilver clubs but many others, for instance the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society that the event raised $750 for. Thank you to Strider Michael Dhuey for being at 3 places on the course to take great pictures and share them on Facebook. And a particular thank to Steve for showing us that these trails and hills are great to share across several of our communities: runners, hikers, bikers and bird watchers! And let's what I have left on this Sunday for the Trailblazer 10K, what a "Stevens Creek" weekend!


Michael Jimenez said...

Congrats on the three-peat! We certainly are fortunate to run on such diverse trails. Forested shady start to great uphill climb after the creek, turning to single track trail with so many smiling faces sharing the beauty. Then we cross to a warm hilly section that delivers us to these lovely ponds! My favorite part was after running the hills later in the race having this vista overlooking the Bay open up unexpectedly. Steve has done a marvelous job mapping out this race! P.S. really cool to see you whizzing by with that great controlled speed!

Kendra said...

Great race - I saw you zoom by around mile 21 for me and 29 for you.

I also got confused by the lack of ribbons at the intersection of Canyon trail and Grizzly Flat trail. But two hikers there said "The runners went straight", and they were correct. Since you were the first runner, you didn't have that benefit.