Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quicksilver 100K - Western States Lottery Qualified!

Aside from my third Way Too Cool 50K back in March, Quicksilver 100K has been the only race on my 2015 calendar.  While I have plans to run other ultras this year, most likely including a 100 miler in the Fall, the focus was solely on Quicksilver as it was, quite literally, my ticket to the 2016 Western States 100 lottery in December.  With a limited number of qualifying races and with many of them hard to get into (I'm 0-2 in the Miwok 100K lottery), what I choose to do the rest of the year was really dependent on getting this race done in the States-qualifying standard of sixteen hours or less.

Unfortunately, some knee pain that started in mid-March really kept me from hitting the key 50-60 mile hilly weeks I had planned for this training block, and over a three-week period from March 16th through April 5th I struggled to get in just under 20 miles per week.  I ramped up the visits to my secret weapon and self-proclaimed soft tissue geek, Chappy Wood, for electro-stim/lasers/Graston/chiropractic work, and a couple of 15ish mile runs and a relatively hilly 20 miler in April gave me a little confidence going into a two-week taper.

This was just my fourth race at 50+ miles, and unlike the previous three I was on my own.  My girlfriend/crew chief extraordinaire took a pass on this one as her mother was coming into town that weekend from out of the country.  I considered putting the word out to some local ultra friends to find a pacer, but decided to take on the challenge of doing this one solo.  So after a week of putting together my pace charts, drop bags, and octuple-checking my gear list, I headed down to the South Bay on Friday afternoon to get checked in to the hotel and the race.  After picking up my bib and swag and running through my gear one last time, I put down the salmon and rice I brought with me for dinner and tried to settle into the hotel watching some of my favorite ultra-themed YouTube videos (thanks Sage Canaday and Billy Yang!).  Unsurprisingly I was super-antsy, so I walked over to a local restaurant for a vodka soda to calm my nerves, and found distraction in encouraging someone I met that was getting ready to run the 50K as her first ultra the next day.  I'm sure that someday I'll be relaxed enough to get a good nights sleep the night before a race, but this was not to be that night.

I got up before my alarm at 2:30 AM and put down my chia/coconut milk/UCAN shake, brewed some coffee, and headed off to the start.  I was there in plenty of time to check in, mill about, talk to a few friends and then get ready for the start.  It was a low-key event, with the RD backing us up into a field that served as the parking lot and then saying, "This looks like a good place to start."  After earlier signing two additional waivers, we were once again appraised of the three mountain lions that had been recently seen around the course, and then at 4:30 AM we were off! 

#quicksilver100k #ultrarunning #trailrunning
Low key start, old school ultra style
Per usual I started at the back, and as it was already comfortably warm I threw my long sleeve shirt on the trunk of my car as I went by, and up the trail we went with headlamps bobbing.  The race starts with a 1,200' climb over 3.7 miles, some rollers, and then another 1,000' climb into the second aid station at mile 12.  I settled into a power hike, passing several people on the climbs (easy since I was the last person to hit the trail head) and running a bit where I could.  The knee was feeling fine, I was hydrating and fueling with Tailwind, Bonk Breakers, and banana chips, and things were going really well.   I had set the Virtual Partner on my Garmin for a 15 hour pace, my B-Goal, and I was easily gaining time on that mile after mile.  I cruised through the Hicks A/S at mile 7, and hit the Bald Mountain A/S around mile 12 in about 2:38, or sub-12:00 pace, which was well ahead of my 14-hour A-goal pace of 13:30. The sun came up and we were running through the fog and clouds, really comfortable.

Runners in the mist
The miles continued to tick off pretty well - 10:11, 10:33, 11:29, 10:36.  Then into mile 16 we hit the climb to the highest point of the course, a steep 1,200' up to Kennedy A/S over two miles.   As this was an out and back section I started to see some of the leaders, and as always the elites and the mid/back of the pack encouraged each other.  Then it was a 2,200' drop down into Lexington A/S, and my old nemesis started to make itself known on the downhill as my right IT band began to hurt a bit.  
What goes up must come down

I regrouped a bit at the bottom knowing I had to turn around and climb right back up that 2,200', and it was 13:21-21:20 miles as I hiked as best I could.  It was a loooong climb, but coming into Kennedy A/S for the second time I was encouraged to have the biggest one out of the way at the 50K mark, and I was still well ahead of 14-hour pace.

I was surprised to see my buddy Tony sitting in a chair at the A/S, as he's a much better runner than me.  Turned out he was having a tough day already with some Achilles pain and stomach issues.  He got up and left with me and we hiked for a bit, but he was resigned to dropping at the next A/S - there was no good way to get him out at the last one, so he had to hike 5 miles just to be able to drop.  I wished him well and shuffled off again, knocking out four more sub-11 miles despite the worsening pain in my IT band.

Back at Hicks A/S and my drop bag at mile 36 I took the time to re-lube my feet and change socks. 
Still feeling good. It's Early!  Photo credit Chasqui Runner
Other than the IT band I was feeling pretty good, still eating and drinking, still moving alright, and dousing myself with ice water from my handheld insulated bottle to try and keep cool.  We hit my least favorite section of the course here as we rolled into Hacienda A/S at mile 43, but I was still moving ok.     

I got a good laugh out of a great sign at the A/S, and then it was down and then up a short, steep climb into Mockingbird Hill A/S at mile 42, and my pace continued to slow due to general fatigue and my IT band making it tougher to run the downhills.

About 7 hours in I had switched from Tailwind to water in my hydration pack, and was nursing GUs regularly a nip at a time, trying to almost chew it and use saliva to kickstart the digestion.  My nutrition and hydration had been really good and my energy was great....until it wasn't.  As the day started to warm (it hit low-80s I think) and we hit the last major climb of the course at mile 43, my stomach simply shut down.   

We hit a section of trail around mile 45 that was basically crawling and climbing up loose rocks, and I struggled up. 
Those houses below have no idea of the struggle happening above them.  Photo credit Shiran Kochavi
I kept taking sips of water and nips of GU, but I could tell nothing was moving through.  I tried S-caps to change the osmolality of my stomach, I took some Coke at aid stations at miles 47 and 53, but things were just backing up.  As I started to dehydrate and run low on calories, I just got slower and slower.  The Enriquita A/S at mile 57 was an out and back, or rather a down and up, and I hit a serious low point.  My stomach was done, my IT band was shot, and when I got there they were out of Coke.  I filled my bottle with water and hiked back up the hill, running into volunteers coming down with a 12-pack.  They offered me some, I took a few ounces, and kept hiking.  But as I hit the top, I knew I was in trouble.  So I bent over on the side of the trail and puked and puked and puked.  Three to four hours of fluid and calories came gushing back out.  A runner asked if I was ok, I said, "Just hitting the reset button," and he replied, "Hit it hard!"  Totally fitting.

From then on, it was full death-march mode.  And my Garmin had died, so I was running blind a bit in terms of time.  The sun was going down, it was cooling off and I was taking sips of fluid, but calories weren't going in very well.   

Started in the dark, and now the sun is going down
It was 15-20 minute mile pace, but at the Bull Run A/S at mile 59 I confirmed that I had plenty time to get in under 16 hours.  I shuffled and shuffled, finally hearing the cowbells of the finish line.  I managed to put together a jog as I came into sight, and finally crossed the line in 15:17:13, and literally collapsed fifteen feet later, not moving for probably twenty minutes.  Not the sub-14:00 I thought I had a chance at earlier in the race (and I know I'm capable of), but well ahead of the 16:00:00 I needed.  Most importantly - I'll be in Auburn for my third straight Western States 100 lottery this December!

Exhausted but satisfied!
Huge thanks go out to the Race Directors and Volunteers, Quicksilver is a first class race all the way.  

Run Goo (no blisters!)
Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest (original version)