Sunday, May 27, 2007

PCTR Forest Park Trail 10K - Portland OR

I drove down from Seattle with the kids and Rebecca so that we could all do this trail run right inside downtown Portland and then explore Portland over the Memorial Day holiday. The 10K went off fifteen minutes after the 20K and the 50K runners at 8:45am.

Race director Wendell put the pressure on by saying "you'll see flags every two minutes or so unless you're Adam and then its every 30 seconds". Uh oh. They're gunning for me now. I took off like a shot after the start with just one runner, Terry McCormick, hanging on my shoulder. It starts with a lot of climbing singletrack which is great. I turned to the side every minute or so to see what the competition was. Terry said "I'm right here". Nobody else was close. After about 15 minutes of climbing we passed a yellow flag that I would have turned downhill at, but Terry stopped me. We continued on climbing up the hill past it. Terry tried to surge after this but kicked it up and stayed with him the whole time. He slowed down after that and after matching his pace for a while, I surged ahead.

Once I got to the top I really turned it on down the hill to the point where I could no longer see or hear Terry. I came out onto a flat road which was marked with several yellow flags. I attempted several times to turn back onto the trails when seeing flags that looked like they might indicate a trail. I passed my 10 year old son Josh running the wrong way. He was following people that had made that right turn at the yellow flag. I told him to follow other runners since they were all heading back to the starting area.

I finally found the turn up the hill and ran update for a few hundred yards to where that previous turn had been. Then left and back down the trail towards the start. On one of the switchbacks I finally saw Terry behind me pumping furiously. I had thought he was long gone, but realized I needed to step it up. As the trail flattened out with about a half mile to go, Terry came alongside moving much faster than I was and quickly dropped me. I finished second about a minute back in 48:52.

chilling with Liz and Ben after the race

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ohlone 50K - Fremont CA

Another great backyard race. My soleus and quads were still sore and tight from last week's race at Quicksilver so I considered not doing this one. But it sounded like a beautiful course and I had an open bet that I could hit summit Mission Peak before 55 minutes that it seemed like a good time to go cash in on. My training runs were right around my normal times so I didn't have a good excuse to cancel. The big question was if my calf could hold up for the whole race.

Rebecca dropped me off at the start at the very civilized hour of 8am. It was a beautiful warm morning so everyone got to start in t-shirts. I shook hands with Will Gotthardt before the run and the starter sent us off. Will, Graham Cooper, Jean Pommier, Mark Tanaka and others led a pack out in front (Lon Freeman apparently decided not to do the race as planned). I hung back as much as I could, feeling great but trying to be cautious. I love races that start with climbs. I fell in with Ryan Commons for most of the climb. We reached the top of Mission Peak (the wooden post) at 49:20. I was still feeling great. Here's me flashing five fingers for sub fifty minutes as I got to the peak.

We started down the other side and my new New Balance trail racing flats were a bit skittish on the downhill. I realized I probably should have gone with my midweight Adidas TR9s. The trail flattened out a bit and I fell in alongside Kevin Swisher. We were running a good pace together and crossed the road about half a mile away from the Sunol aid station when I twisted my ankle on the flat road. I knew better by now not to stop so I continued on and downed some Advil. I reached Sunol station at 1 hour and 30 minutes, about 15 minutes ahead of my planned splits to do it in 6 hours. I decided at this point to slow down a bit. I downed some chicken soup that Rebecca had brought, picked up a couple fresh Perpetuem bottles from her and took off. I probably should have switched shoes at this point.

Shortly after this aid station, while running slower, fellow blogger Chihping Fu caught up to me, snapping pictures along the way. We ran up the climb together looking out over the reservoir
and then turned off on some single track that wound down to the Backpack aid station.

Reaching peak of Diablo sub-50

At the Backpack aidstation Ann Trason was filling water bottles. I stopped to eat some potatoes and drink some coke and left a water bottle there. I was still 10 minutes ahead of my planned splits at around 2:20. I continued on up the hill to the Billy Goat aid station. I started to feel a bit tight at this point and slowed down. I hit Billy Goat at 3:05 and stopped again for potatoes and coke and electrolyte pills. Now I was no longer ahead of schedule but just running the splits for six hours, so it was going to be close. My soleus and Achilles tendons were tight but not cramping. But I had no spring in my step. I got to the uphill for Rose Peak, made the little loop with its beautiful views and hammered downhill to Maggie's at right around 4:05. So far so good. Once down that hill though, when I hit the next climb my calves rebelled and I started cramping, despite all of the salt and electrolytes. I had to start alternating between walking and stretching. Its distinctly possible that if it was easy to drop at that point that I would have. The next aid station wasn't until 26 miles or so. I hobbled along to get there, at 5:30. I called Rebecca to let her know that I was going to be quite late. The next five miles were mostly downhill but I was very slow on the 1/2 mile of uphill that was remaining. I finished in 6:50, just glad to finish at all. Its a beautiful race. I hope to tackle it next year without injuries and run well under 6 hours.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Quicksilver 50K - San Jose CA

I eagerly anticipated the opportunity to race close to home in Almaden Quicksilver County Park, between San Jose and Los Gatos. So much so that despite injuring my calf severely at Capitol Peak two weeks earlier (the travails of recovering from this are the subject of another post), I decided to go ahead and do this race. I dialed back my expectations from running a 5 hour race (my training splits in the park made me think this was reasonable and would have contended for first couple of masters finishers last years) to a more moderate 5:30.

I kept my training volume very low the last couple of weeks while injured but I did manage to run most stretches of the course. And I volunteered for trail work on the New Almaden trail the Sunday before (yes, four other volunteers and I got poison oak so the rest of you racers didn't have to).

Despite a maximum elevation of under 2000 feet Quicksilver is a very hilly park. The Saturday before I ran the first stretch from the entrance past Webb Canyon to the dam, calf twinging the whole time, as my last long run, and it took me 1:20 to reach the dam. Based on this last data point it was clear that 5:30 was going to be aggressive.

I left my house at 5:00 am and drove to the race, stopping at the Starbucks just off Camden on Almaden. I should have stopped at SBUX in Los Gatos, because this one was closed until 6am on weekends! In desperation, I got them to slide me a large coffee through the door. I arrived at the race minutes before, and had to park outside the park boundary (I guess everyone did since the park doesn't open until 8am). I stupidly left my Perpetuem-filled water bottle in the car, but remembered that I would see the lovely supportive Rebecca at mile 10 so I should be OK with just water at Webb Canyon six miles in.

It was foggy but light enough when the race started at 6am. We headed up the hill of the Virl Norton trail, eventually hitting Hacienda trail and making a right. I turned on my Oakley MP3s and listened to music and relaxed for the first mile of wicked hill, a good way to not go out too hard. I was glad to have run the course or those hills might have been a bit of a shocker. After a mile or so we turned right up Hacienda Trail for still more climbing. Then after a quick bomb down the other side of Hacienda, we took a left onto the beautiful ly maintained ;-) singletrack of the New Almaden trail which skirts the parks eastern border. In my originally planned splits, I was hoping to hit the Webb Canyon aid station at mile 6.4 at 1:15. I knew I wanted to start leisurely and my calf-injured training runs to that point were running right around there. I surprised myself and got there at 58 minutes. And I felt strong, relaxed and fast the whole way, holding myself back in the face of a long day where presumably my calf could rebel at any moment. I stopped to say hi to Gene and down several cups of water before heading back out the trail. I called Rebecca to tell her I was running early and that I would probably hit the dam aid station at 1:30 (7:30am).

I saw Chuck Wilson volunteering at the aid station. He said "hey what are you doing running an ultra?!" (although Chuck got me interested in trail running years ago, I've historically only done shorter races). The fair Rebecca had just gotten there and I stopped to drink some Red Bull and grab the much needed water bottle before heading down Randoll Trail. I caught up to Keith Blom (who had also volunteered last week) about halfway down the trail. Keith was running the 50 miler but looking very strong. Later I saw he finished wel as the second 50+ guy and 12th overall. We got to the Capehorn aid station at 14.5 miles (the measuring points for posted splits) just before 2:15. This was ahead of my planned schedule so I let Keith go on ahead. In the meantime I lingered with the helpful volunteers and ate some yummy potatoes (they didn't have any at the dam aid station) and drank some coke before heading back up the Mine Hill Trail. I got back to the dam at 3:00 even and sat down for some more Red Bull and pretzels and ibuprofen. I'll have to get some better food ready next time (potatoes and chicken soup?) since I didn't really eat much this whole race.

Then it was back down the Guadalupe Trail past the reservoir wall "back way" where I usually start my training runs from, and down the Senador Mines loop to the busy McAbee entrance. Then back up Mine Hill to the dam again. I fell in with Jeff Popov, who was also doing the 50M. I had been doing this loop regularly in about one hour, so I told Rebecca that I'd see her again in an hour: parting was such sweet sorrow. Again, I was pleasantly surprised and hit the aid station again at 3:50 and Rebecca insisted I take some pretzels with me before the last killer climb (though I couldn't muster the appetite to eat them after all). I headed up the hill with Jeff for a while and then took off to run on the heels of some other faster 50 milers. This was some of the most beautiful part of the course, high up in the sunshine overlooking the Guadalupe Reservoir to the west. I got over the hill and down to English Camp at 27 miles at around 4:33.

Just a little more than four more miles to go. Given the lack of net elevation gain I thought that I could easily do 9 minutes and finish up in 5:10. But this was the one part of the course I had not yet run. I didn't realize quite how hilly this last part was. More specifically, a quad busting freefall down and then a long brutal climb back up. I hadn't mentally prepared for this and for the first time slowed to a walk on that last brutal long uphill (something I don't normally do). Something about starting to walk might not have been good. Once I did try to run again, my soleus (the "side calf" which I had strained at Capitol Peak) started cramping and I had to stop to stretch it out with soleus stretches (something I didn't even know how to do before I injured it two weeks ago). From that point on, uphill running was just too painful. I finally got to the top after walking 12 minute miles for those couple miles and then let myself pound my quads into jelly on that last downhill. I came across in 5:18, better than I had planned. I was fourth master and I believe fourteenth overall. It was great to have a day of fun running on a beautiful challenging course (the exact kind of terrain that I like) when I thought I might not have been running at all.

On top of that there was free good beer at the finish and ribs and burgers cooking. What could be better? I chatted with Dale Reicheneder, who had made the trip up from LA for the 25K, and won overall! Scott Dunlap was there as well. He had placed fifth with an amazing 4:37 time. Rebecca used Dale's camera to film a video snapshot of the 2004 through 2006 Trail Runner Magazine overall champions (Scott, Dale and I) comparing notes on the race. Hope to get a copy from Dale to post here. After a couple beers and some ribs in the glorious sunshine Rebecca and I headed off to a nearby recovery meal at the Wine Cellar in Los Gatos. My quads were shrieking on the walk from her house over. We downed a good pinot as I tried to forget that next week's Ohlone was going to be 8500 feet of climbing and even more abuse to my soleus and quads than I experienced this week.