What a perfect race to have on my birthday! My "home course" - the Quicksilver 50K/50M. This was one of my first ultras last year, doing the 50K in 5:18, having fun the whole way. This year I planned to do the fifty miler instead. The day before I drove out with my dad to the race start and helped set up for the race, before picking up my bib. Last year I had done trail maintenance getting a severe case of poison oak in the process, but I skipped that step this year.
It dawned a perfect day for the race, not nearly as cold as last year at the start. Just before we lined up I saw Chihping Fu, who said he was still nursing his stress fracture, exacerbated by last week's Miwok 100K. As we ran out I fell in alongside Keith Blom, who knows this course like the back of his hand. I wanted to run 8:30 and Keith usually beats that, so I thought running with him would be good. On the early hills of the Virl Norton Trail though I felt good and took off ahead. I found myself running with Devon Crosby-Helms
. This was a sign that I was running way too fast. But I did get to hear about her plans for her budding running career. She wants to do trials for the Olympic Marathon
As we got to mile 6 and the first water stop I slowed down and ran with Bryan Wyatt for a while. I got to hear his story of having his car stolen overnight recently. We got to the dam aid station for the first time around 1:30 and shortly afterwards Suzanna Bon caught up with us and the three of us ran together for a bit. I arrived at English Camp at mile 14.5 at around 2 hours - I was way ahead of last year's split of 2:15. Again - probably not a good sign. The volunteers asked for pushups. "Has anyone done them?". "No.". Well those guys deserve what they ask for so I knocked out five marine styles.
Then up the grind up the hill to the top of Mine Hill Trail before bombing back down and getting into the dam aid station again at 2:30 - well ahead of plan. Coming out of the aid station and running down the Guadalupe Trail I saw Jane and my kids coming up from the road where I had pointed her to a "secret way" into the park.
Shortly afterwards Stuart Taylor caught up, doing the 50K this year again, after doing his first ultra last year in 5:02. On the climb back up to the dam I slowed down and got passed by Quicksilver veterans, Keith Blom, Jim Magill, and Rick Gaston, all motoring strongly up that familiar hill.
I got to the dam again around 3:30 and picked up a fresh bottle of Perpetuem, some electrolytes and a Red Bull from the kids. I grabbed some potatoes and a turkey sandwich and continued up the hill. Feeling like I was plenty ahead of goal pace I slowed to a walk to eat my sandwich. As we crested the hill I was ready to start running again. But as I pounded the downhill the blood blister that had been slowly forming became excruciating. I need to run with more shoe than my favorite New Balance 790s on courses with this much pounding descent. I'll be running in New Balance 800s in next week's Ohlone 50K.
After a second visit to English Camp (where they declined my request for beer saying I could get some on my way back out), I saw Graham Cooper coming back up the hill looking very fresh and strong. Then I saw Chikara Omine and Victor Ballesteros running together. Shortly afterwards on the grind up I saw Mark Tanaka running down. And as I got up to the Hacienda fireroad I saw Suzanna Bon bombing down the hill. I loped in easily for the last couple miles to finish at 5:21 - around the same time as last year.
With the blood blister going on and my dad and my kids in the finish area where the beers were flowing, and the grills were burning, it seemed the better part of valor to just stop at the 50K point. While my time thus far was just fine and I really didn't feel too badly, suffering through the blood blister for another 20 miles just seemed a pointless alternative to enjoying the rest of my birthday. So I stopped there. To my surprise just about everyone I knew doing the 50 mile had also stopped! Scott Dunlap, Devon Crosby-Helms, Sean Lang and others had all stopped at 50K after signing up for the 50 mile. Scott had a great suggestion for improvement: just sign up for the 50K and bring $5. If you want to do the 50 mile then ask to change to the 50 miler once you get into the 50K finish. I think thats my plan next year.
My friends Charlie DeGraw and Marco Garcia had finished the 25K race, their first race longer than 7.5 miles, without major incident. I hung around chatting with Sean Lang and Stuart Taylor while my kids brought me beers and burgers for the next couple of hours. We watched Graham Cooper come in for the win in 6:35, setting a new course record. Chikara Omine was second in just under seven hours. Shortly after that I took off with the kids up the hill for yet another birthday barbecue (gluttony is a nice perk of ultrarunning).