Sunday, May 25, 2008

"Don't be a candy-ass!" Lessons learned at the Pony Express 100k

This is going to be a quick summary, highlighting the long day of running at the Pony Express 100k at Cameron Park. The race was held on Saturday, May 17th.
The race was a 1.4 mile loop course, around Cameron Park Lake. The temperatures were reported to be 105F, and race rules allowed one to drop to a lower distance. This was truly a test of will and endurance!
I ran strong until mile 25, when my legs started tigthening up. I was debating dropping down to the 50k option, but I made the mistake of asking Norm Klein how close I was to finishing the 50k distance. Norm sat me down and said, "You don't sign up for a 100k, and drop at 50k because you are being a candy ass. If you drop at 50K, I have your information and I am going to tell everyone on the internet what a candy ass you are!" This pep talk, dashed any thoughts of dropping out, although I would be surprised if someone Norm's age knows how to use the internet;)
So I gutted it out and finished the 100k in 11 hours and a second place finish. In the end it was a long hot day of running the same loop over, and over, but I finished.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Quicksilver 50 Mile: 3/5 finished

The Quicksilver 50k and 50 mile trail races hold a special place in my heart. Quicksilver is my local "training ground." Within Quicksilver County park are miles upon miles of trail. Single track, fire-road, steep uphills and downhills, along with shady and exposed sections I feel like I can mimic almost any course terrain within the Quicksilver borders. Furthermore, Quicksilver is dog friendly and it is also Gordy's favorite place to run.

Last year I ran the Quicksilver 50k and I consider it my breakout race. Prior to the Quicksilver 50k I had entered 2 other 50k races and my times were around the 6 hour range. At the 2007 Quicksilver I ran a 5:12 and won my first trail running award (1st place 18-29 age group)! So due to my fond memories and strong performance in 2007 my goals were:

1). Run under 8 hours.
2). Improve on last years 50k performance (5:12).
3). Meet with friends and enjoy the post race BBQ and beer!

To reach goal #1, I wrote Mark Tanaka's 2006 split times on my arm. My previous PR for the 50 mile distance was 8:45 at the White River 50 mile in Washington. Considering my times from previous 50k's this year, I knew this goal was attainable. Plus intimate knowledge of the course would help.
I felt goals #2 should be easily attainable as my slowest 50k time this year is 4:52 (Pirates Cove). To accomplish goal #3, all I would have to do is show up :)'

At the starting line I talked briefly to Mark Tanaka, and Chiphing Fu, who were both attempting the California triple (Miwok 100k, Quicksilver 50m, and Oholoe 50k)! These Ultraholics are tough! Many fast runners were toeing the starting line: Graham Cooper (Western States 100 winner and 2x Quicksilver 50m champion), Mark Lantz, Mark Tanaka, Chikara Omine, Victor Ballestros, Scott Dunlap, and Devon Crosby Helms to name a few of the very fast runners.

The 50k and 50m runners were sent off at 6:00am, and I fell into pace with Scott, Mark, and Jon Kroll. The first 2 mi. is a steep climb up Virl Norton trail, followed by a steep downhill descent down the Hacienda trail. Listening to the slapping of my feet as I bombed down Hacienda I thought, "I hope my quads survive this!"

At the Hacienda and New Almaden trail junction a group of spectators were cheering the runners as we turned onto the New Almaden trail. The new Almaden trail is a roller coaster single track that rolls along the base of Quicksilver County Park. Along the trail I ran past chaparral, oak, fern, and wildflowers. This is probably the most beautiful section of trail at Quicksilver, but for some reason all the twisting and turning always gets me sore. I exited the oak covered Canopy onto the Mine Hill trail (mile 8) in 1 hr. and 20 minutes.

From Mine Hill I turned onto the Randall trail, still running with Scott Dunlap and Jon Kroll. Scott and Jon are both running the Western States 100 in June, and we talked about upcoming races and training. Eventually I couldn't keep up with Jon and Scott's pace, as they both were running very strongly. I hit the Capehorn Pass aid station (mile 14) in 2 hr. and this was 6 minutes faster than Mark Tanaka's 2006 pace. "Wow! am I going to fast?" I thought to myself. I was feeling pretty good, except for a little stiffness in the hips, again the New Almaden trail...

From Capehorn Pass, it was uphill to the April Day tunnel and pass the April Mine. I continued to run strongly up-hill to Bull Run (2 1/2 hr.), and then downhill to the Guadalupe Reservoir (mile 20). From the McAbee entrance, I pushed the lap button to see how fast it would take me to reach the top of Mine Hill. On a typical training run, with a comfortable running pace it takes me 45 minutes to reach the top. Going up Mine Hill my legs felt like they had lead weights, nonetheless I still made it up in 46 minutes, not to bad.

Descending from Mine Hill to English Camp I lost my leg speed. It is always mysterious when my legs slow to a snails crawl. My energy level felt good, and I didn't have the drained feeling that comes with hitting the "wall." Sometimes the slowness passes, other times it doesn't. This time I couldn't shake the breaks that were locking my legs. Downhill I couldn't get any turnover, and I was struggeling to maintain a 10 min. mile pace. This was bad news as the downhill is usually my strength. I slowly puttered down hill to the Hacienda trail.

The Hacienda trail, is probably the toughest section of trail. It is a series of steep climbs and descents that thoroughly shred the quadraceps and one's will with it. I continued to go up and down these hills with my puttering pace, and the end race BBQ started beckoning like the Sirens from Homer's Odyssey. Devon Crosby Helmes caught up to me, and I asked her how she was doing. "I have had better days she replied," Good to know that at least someone else was struggling like.
For some reason knowing that someone else is suffering often boosts my spirits. I don't know what the sadistic reason is, but I was able to get a psychological boos to the finish line. Furthermore, the BBQ and beer was so close that I could taste it. Cursing each step down Hacienda trail, I crossed the finish line in 4:50. I guess I could cross of goal #2, and it was time to start working on goal #3.

Arriving at the finish line, the volunteers must of thought I was a 50k runner. I got some cheers, followed by a "wait, he is 50 miler, no medal for him.." and then silence. I felt ashamed, but this was short lived. The BBQ smelled delicious, and a few other runners had the same experience and feelings that I had.

About 3 beers later, Graham Cooper crossed the finish line as the first place 50 mile racer, with a smoking time of 6:39. He was followed by Chikara Omine, Adam Ray and then Mark Tanaka.

In the end I met goals #2 and 3, and had a great time talking to everyone throughout the race and at the finish line. Thanks again to the Quicksilver Running club who as always put on a exceptional race!