This was my first ultra, two years ago
And I love coming back to it each year;
The weather Gods put up a splendid show,
Letting me enjoy a noon, post-race beer!
The early going was tough on my feet,
A week after the long but fun Miwok;
Then they felt good and the mood turned upbeat:
Only the steepest climbs making me walk.
To go under six was my mid-race goal
And to a plan of sorts I stuck all through;
Time and pace I would now have to control,
So up hills I shuffled, down them I flew.
Goal attained! The warrior spirit was pleased
At this latest victory it had seized.
Date: May 12, 2007
Race: Quicksilver 50K
Location: Almaden Quicksilver Park, San Jose
My aid station splits (time is the time I left the aid station):
Aid Station Mile (Race Time)
Webb Canyon 6.4 (1:11)
Dam I 9.7 (1:48)
Capehorn 14.5 (2:41)
Dam II 19.0 (3:33)
Dam III 23.7 (4:29)
Englishtown 27.0 (5:13)
Finish 31.5 (5:57:25)
I arrived at the race start at around 5:20 a.m. It was nice to (a) sleep in my own bed the night before the race and (b) to not get up until 4:15 a.m.!
(With Chihping and Yuki just before the Start)
I quickly got my bib number, got into my running shoes, filled my hand bottle with Coke+Succeed, put a few extra Succeed tablets in my waist pack, gave Alan Geraldi, running his second 50 miler his empty drop bags, handed my drop bag to the race organizers and promptly went and stood in line for the port-a-potty.
The race started on time at 6:00 a.m. The evening before I had suggested to Anil that we should both consider running the entire course. I started with that intention. A mile into the race my arms went numb from the oxygen debt I incurred pushing up the hills (this is something that happens to me on and off when I'm pushing up steep hills). I backed off and walked as much as I could. I got into a long train of runners along the New Almaden Trail. I was in 3rd place in the train for a few miles then in the lead position for another 2 miles or so. I pretty much ran all of that trail. I came into Webb Canyon 71 minutes into the race, faster than in 2005 and 2006 (I dropped at the 50K mark in 2006 after having signed up for the 50M).
The early miles on this trail were spent being in the same frame of mind that I used to be in during races last year i.e. constantly looking at the time and fixating on pace, possible finish times etc. I pulled myself into the state I love being in these days - in the moment. The race changed right away. It no longer became a fight with the course. It became a journey to be savored, regardless of the eventual result.
We were soon off this trail and made a left up Mine Hill to the Dam Overlook aid station.
This is a great aid station. It comes thrice in the 50K - at miles 9.7, 19.0 and 23.7. I had put 5 bottles of Ensure in the drop bag along with a bottle of Ibuprofen and a few gels. I had my first bottle of Ensure. Among the aid station volunteers were Chuck Wilson, Christine Wilson and Tom Kaisersatt.
Christine kindly filled up my bottle with Coke to which I added Succeed. I was off soon onto the next section, a 4.8 mile trek to the Capehorn aid station on the Randall Trail. Even though I had run this section the past 2 years, I was noticing it for the first time this year. This is what I mean by running in the Now. I enjoyed the feel of muscles pulling me up the gentle grade on a wide trail with occasional views of the valley. Before I knew it, Capehorn came into view. This is where the 25K runners veered off to the left for a 1.5 mile run to the Finish. 50K runners turned to the right, up the Mine Hill trail. This was a gentle climb again that I ran most of. We eventually made a right on the April trail and then a right on Mine Hill (around mile 17) on our way down to the Dam Overlook aid station at mile 19. The views from here are simply spectacular.
I flew down this trail and reached Dam II at 3:33 into the race. Along the way I passed Scott Dunlap on his way up. He was probably between mile 24 and 25 in his race. He was smiling and talking with another runner while maintaining a pretty good clip up the slope.
I did not linger long at Dam II and started off again after half a bottle of Ensure. The next 4.7 miles had a downhill section followed by a short flat section and then a longish climb before a downhill and then an uphill back to the Dam Overlook aid station.
I spotted Yuki on the first of the uphills. He was less than a quarter mile ahead of me. He took a few pictures of me (one of them below) climbing the slope. I caught up with him around mile 21, on the final climb back to Dam III. He was not feeling too good (hip pain) and had wisely decided to call it a day at the 50K mark (after having run 50M in 2005 & 2006). He wanted to play it safe a month before his 2nd consecutive Western States 100M.
We decided to run together from there on out. It was fun keeping pace with someone who is way faster than me. We were back at the Dam AS, for the last time, 4:29 into the race. I told Yuki then that we had an outside chance at going under 6:00 for the race. 7.8 miles to do in 90 minutes! I told him that we would have to run up the 2 mile climb out of the AS. We started shuffling up this hill. We were now joined by Terri who kept pace with us a few yards behind. Up the climb this train went. We made it to the top in good time and then ran along the flat section, enjoying the view of Mt. Umunhum to the right.
Terri, Yuki and I flew down the slope to Englishtown, reaching it at 5:13 on the race clock. This is where I made one of those fortuitous mistakes. Somehow this thought got firmly entrenched in my mind that the Englishtown AS was at mile 28. My mind thus reckoned a 3.5 mile run to the Finish in 47 minutes for a sub-6:00 run time.
The next 2 miles or so after the AS were a blessed downhill section. Yuki and I picked up the pace and flew down this nice trail with Terri not far behind. Then came the first of the last 5 climbs. I had conveniently forgotten the number of climbs from the prior 2 years and they came as a rude shock to the system. A volunteer came into view after one of those steep climbs and I asked her how much further the Finish was (as did Anil a few minutes later). She replied "1.7 miles!". That took the wind out of my sails for a few steps until I looked at my stopwatch. It read "5:48" i.e. 35 minutes since we had left the Englishtown AS. Since much of that time had been spent running fast and since my brain had made the erroneous assumption that the Finish was 3.5 miles away, that meant that we had run only 1.8 miles in 35 minutes!! That was obviously wrong. So she was wrong! The Finish was LESS than 1.7 miles. Closer to less than 0.7 miles!!!
I decided to go for it. I flew down the final descent. I soon passed the left turn we had made in the morning to start the New Almaden section of the run and knew that the Finish was literally a few hundred yards away. I heard the people in the Finish area around then and my legs sprouted wings. I flew up a small climb (10 yards) and into the Finish chute. My watch and the race clock both showed 5:57:25. Mission accomplished.
Anil Rao ran the race of his life. He rolled into the Finish 8 minutes later in 6:05. Wow is all I can say!!!
I grabbed a beer and chatted with Scott Dunlap. He then had another runner take a picture of Anil, me and him together.
Our drop bags would not come back to the Finish until after 2 p.m. Chuck Wilson and Christine Miller graciously offered to pick them up for us. Anil and I are grateful to them.
Chihping had a great outing again. He ran the 50M in a stunning 9:08. Alan Geraldi, Ironman that he is, ran the 50M in just over 10 hours in spite of throwing up quite a few times. Yuki too ran an easy race (for him) and lives to fight in the Western States.
Janice and Tom, race RDs, excelled again this year. Their team of volunteers are some of the best and the race is a superbly organized one. Thank you all for another stellar year.