Saturday, May 8, 2010

Quicksilver 50K Race Report

Originally, I had hoped to run the Quicksilver 50-miler in my tentative 2010 race plans. With my ITBS flareups in February and March and my Achilles tendinitis following my first 50-miler in April, the Quicksilver 50-miler was not going to happen. Then, with acupuncture on the week before, followed by a great massage therapy session, the Achilles felt a lot better. And since I keep getting bitten by these Ultra bugs, I signed up for my 4th Ultra, conservatively choosing the 50K rather than the 50-miler because we had to go to a good friend's kid's birthday party at 2pm.

A sign illustrating how steep the trails can get.

This is the 27th Quicksilver 50K/50miler with about 102 runners pre-registered in the 50-miler and 92 runners in the 50K. Many elite runners have run this race in preparation for the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run. Ann Trason has the course record for the women and its also one of the fastest times overall! And since this race is held in my hometown, in San Jose, I really wanted to get to know the course for future reference, since I will definitely be back.

The 50K has 5400 feet of elevation gain, so its not an easy course. My plan was to speed hike the uphills, and run the downhills and flats, taking it easy. I took my camera to take lots of pictures. I was going to enjoy this race, along with the beautiful trails and weather. And I planned to take my time at the aid stations to stretch and eat and thank the many volunteers that make these events possible. And if my IT Band or Achilles gave me trouble, I would hike the rest of the way in.

The first climb of the day is a tough one, but on fresh legs, no big deal.

Everything went as planned. I took lots of pictures. At mile 9, my Achilles felt a little sore, but with two Advil, "hakuna matata" (no worries). At mile 16, I ran into Donald whose ultrarunning blog I enjoy reading. He has run a sub-3 hour marathon at Big Sur, and ran the Western States 100 last year. His blog about Western States was a very well written, enjoyable blog, and a highly recommended read. What's he doing way back here? Turns out he took a wrong turn! Doh! I chatted with him briefly and told him how much I enjoyed his blog. Then I took his picture, which I plan on emailing him. Donald is a very cool dude.

Donald, posing for a picture.

At mile 18, I ran into a lady who didn't look so good. I stopped to see if she was alright. She felt a little lightheaded, which sounds like dehydration, but she had been doing all the right things with electrolyte pills and hydration. I jogged with her for while just to make sure she was alright. I had electrolyte pills, ginger chews, advil, and imodium AD to offer, but there was nothing in my bag of tricks that could help her. Eventually, she would stop again to take an electrolyte pill, and I would move on, wishing her luck. She caught up to me later for a short stretch, and had recovered from her "spell".

Random trail picture. As you can see, most of the trails are very nicely groomed.

Another picture of some single-track trail.

At the aid stations I stopped, and took my time to eat potatoes dipped in salt, orange slices and some pieces of banana. During the whole race, I drank only about 30 ounces, refilling my water bottle only 3 times to halfway mark (ran the first 6 miles without water). But since I took a dosage of juice and chia seed before my race, I wasn't concerned. At every aid station, I made sure to thank the volunteers and chatted with some of them. Many of them were Ultrarunners themselves. At 3 hours and 45 minutes, I took my second serving of Vespa.

A portion of the trails go through wooded areas with some small streams and at least 3 wooden bridges.

An old abandoned mine.

At the 2 hour mark, I had run about 10 miles. At the 4 hour mark, I had run about 20 miles. And then at the 5 hour mark, I had run 25 miles. And I was still feeling pretty good. Doing the math, if I ran sub 10-minute miles for the last 6 miles, I would finish in under 6 hours! And maybe even have a shot at my 50K PR (5:57)! I was in a state of shock. How is this possible? I was planning on a 7 hour finish. With exciting thoughts about the possibilities, I made my move. I hammered the next 4 miles, running hard on the downhills and even some of the short uphills. I passed several runners during this stretch. I was having a blast! Who would have thought this was possible? Surely not me. My Achilles felt great at this point, probably as a result of the adrenaline pumping through my veins. Sorry, no time to take pictures now! I blasted by the last aid station. I was on a mission. And then the hills hit. What? Are you kidding me? Not just one monster either. 4 monsters, one after the other smacked me down. I am generally a good hiker, but the last 4 hard miles left me fatigued. I practically crawled up these hills at a snail's pace.

The third of 4 monster hills. Hills aren't as impressive in pictures as they are in person, partly because you are pointing your camera up at them.

Eventually, the uphills passed, and the last mile is downhill. In the last 200 meters, I got "chicked", by the womens 30-39 age group winner. And I had nothing left in the tank to even make it interesting. My calf cramped as I tried to finish with one last strong push, to finish in 41st place with a time of 6:04:xx. It was an awesome race. If I had taken less pictures and chatted less, I would probably have PRed, but I have no regrets. "Hakuna matata". I had a blast, and wouldn't change anything, given a second chance.

Just another view of along the trails that I would normally run pass without fully appreciating it.

I never did get to meet Laura Yasso, which was the only thing that kind of bummed me out. I did run into the owners of Zombierunner (a great running store), Gillian Robinson and Don Lundell. They are running the Western States 100 this year, and Gillian is running Badwater again! Gillan's 2003 Badwater race report was very inspirational to me, and is another great read. I got a great free ART session after the race. And I got my first Ultra metal! Not as cool as my AR50 Finisher's Jacket, but I'll take it!

Zombies, Gillian and Don, who own Zombierunner, the coolest Ultra running store I know.

Me, at the finish line.

Sunrise on the trails. The beauty of running allows us to see many more sunrises than the average person. Trail runners also reach amazing heights, where we are "first to embrace the light, and last to surrender it".