A bit slow in posting this race report but better late then never.
Entry into my second 100k race of 2015 happened quite unexpectedly. It all started when I read a tremendous local ultra-runner, Denise Bourassa had hidden a silver coin somewhere in Bend,Oregon. The lucky person who found it would get free entry into the Quicksilver ultra marathon compliments of Quicksilver Running Club and Greg Lanctot. There were several hidden in other states as well. She posted several clues and I thought I knew where it might be hidden but I waited. I thought a more deserving, experienced ultra marathoner should get it. However after several days and two more clues nobody had claimed it so I thought I’d see if I could. The next morning on a run on Pilot Butte I found it.
The silver coin!
I was thrilled and nervous at the same time. This is not an easy race. Not just because of the distance, but also because of the over 13,000 foot elevation gain mixed with potential heat.
Gonna have a lot of climbing to do.
I did have the option of choosing the 50k instead of the 100k race. At the time I had never run a 100k and I was to run my first 100k 6 weeks prior to the Quicksilver race. Not sure if it would give me enough time to recover I threw caution to the wind and went for the 100k. If I finished the race in under 16 hrs it would also qualify me to get into the lottery for one of the most prestigious ultras around: the Western States 100.
In the weeks leading up to Quicksilver I was struggling with aches and pains from my first 100k the Gorge Waterfalls. It was a tough race and I struggled to finish it and now as this race drew closer my confidence wained.
I was dealing with a niggling injury and my body wouldn’t let me put in the training I wanted. After one group workout I approached another runner who I crossed paths with before. I expressed my concerns and she gave me a vote of confidence. She reminded me that I’d already put in the work and I was ready. Even my previous race could be looked at as more preparation for this one. Coming from someone who completed so many ultras and was still going strong helped put me back into the right frame of mind. Thanks Rhonda Sundermeier for taking the time to talk to a newbie like me.
As the race was located near San Jose, CA over 500 miles away I used the prize money I and another lucky silver coin finder from Seattle had received, to help pay for my air fare courtesy the Darcy Fick Memorial Travel Assistance, Greg Lanctot and Quicksilver Running Club. Flying out for the weekend to travel and participate in an ultra made me feel like one of those elite runners. Jetting from one locale to another across the globe to run various races. As this was my first ultra race outside of Oregon it wasn’t hard for my imagination to take flight and I was feeling loose and confident on what lay ahead.
The race started at 4:30 am and before the start we got a debriefing of the course markers and a quick introduction to cougar etiquette. Seems several lived in the area and one in particular had been seen on the trail numerous times recently. In fact the race was almost called off because of this. We were encouraged to run as a pack or at least try and be in the vincinity of another runner until daylight. That got us ready to run fast.
Awaiting the start.
The course immediately started to take us uphill as I followed the stream of headlamps twinkling up the hillside. I did my best not to head out too quickly, as I have a tendency to do so. With my first 100k under my belt and still fresh in my mind I did my best not to push too hard too soon as I had previously. It didn’t take long for the racers to spread out a bit but I kept contact with other runners as I didn’t want to mimic the wounded or sickly one out of the herd to attract any possible cougars. Ha!
Keeping an eye out for cougars!
The race takes place in Almaden Quicksilver Park and many of the remnants of the Gold Rush days of California remain. While still running in the cover of darkness we ran around the perimeter of an old cemetery and did a brief in and out into an old abandoned mine. The race directors sense of humor was to show again later in the course to the chagrin of many of us.
At the arrival of dawn we were greeted by banks of fog. It would be a while before it burned off and I was happy with the delay of the direct sun and the inevitable heat that would accompany it.
I found this course very runnable as it is on single track and fire roads most of the way. So when I wasn’t climbing I did my best to take advantage of this and also tried to attack the downhills aggressively. I believe one has to increase their pain tolerance in this sport to be successful. During races of this length a runner goes through many highs and lows along with ever increasing physical pain. Going into this I wasn’t sure if I’d even finish because of ongoing leg issues from the previous race. Luckily some of those issues didn’t get as bad as I feared and I gritted my teeth and trudged on when at times my knees hurt like hell on the downhills. I figured if my body was going to give out I’d go down in flames trying. I recalled a podcast I heard where ultra marathoner Jeff Browning described some of his physical pain he went through during a race but didn’t injure himself. This gave me the confidence to do the same. I wasn’t hurt just uncomfortable. I recall on one section of trail as I bombed down and passed two runners hiking one of them said “Yeah, I used to be able to run downhill like that.” That gave me a positive boost and during a race like this you have to take them anytime and any way you can.
Many more miles and hills to go.
But it is a long race and as I approached about midpoint I was going to run by the starting area. At this time I was in a very low mental state. My car would be very close by and it would be so easy to just stop, give up and call it a day. Fortunately it was fleeting as I told myself over and over I needed to get to the end to earn my first ultra buckle!
Now I mentioned previously that it seemed the race director and those who created this course had a sense of warped humor shall we say. Well it was about mile 44 when I encounter a steep hill of loose, jumbled rock. It seemed the course could have easily been routed to avoid this pile of scree. I think to myself “Are they f..g serious!” Now at this point of the race I’ve logged a lot of miles, my legs are fatigued from all the miles of racing. I’m hot and sweaty as the sun beats down unobscurred now as the fog from this morning is long gone. I watch as another racer scrambles over the top and I set forward as well. I quickly relax though and take it for what it is. There’s even a photographer off to the right side to document the spectacle of tired ultra runners trying to scramble this rock pile without falling. I see the humor in this and make my way gingerly.
Trudging up a steep, rocky section during the Quicksilver race. So fun!
This photo of another runner summed up what many a runners initial response was in seeing this obstacle.
All in good fun. But at the time…..
Some time later during the race I started to feel nauseous. I felt terrible and my energy level plummeted. I stopped and let another runner go by. Not knowing what else to do I pulled out an energy bar to see if it would help. To my surprise it stayed down. Turns out I was hungry and in need of energy. I greedily ate it and began to walk. Slowly I began a slow shuffle and within several more minutes my strenght came back and I was cruising down the trail again. I soon passed that other runner I had previously let by and I would wind up finishing the race ahead of him. Earlier at an aid station I emptied out my pack and unfortunately took out all but that one snack. But at the time I wasn’t eating much and the aid stations had these awesome turkey avocado sandwiches that were hitting the spot. So I figured the food in my pack was just extra weight. It’s well worth keeping more at all times as one never knows when they will need that pick me up between aid stations. Another lesson learned.
As the miles accumulated I tried to find different motivations to keep me going. I’d take my mind off the task at hand by observing and taking in the scenery. I had reception on my cell phone so I’d exchange texts with my wife, giving her updates. She’d give me encouragement and even sent a photo of my two kids cheering me on. As they could not travel with me to be at this race it was a tremendous energy lift. At times I’d find myself next to another runner and as we were running the same pace we’d chat a bit. I don’t usually do this but found it to be of great benefit. The last dozen miles I focused on several other runners I kept trading places with. I used them as my pacer to keep pushing and trying to keep moving. At the last aid station there was one runner who I had previously passed but she now caught up to me once again. As I munched on some fruit she came into the aid station, serious and almost angry it seemed. Brushing by me and other runners she grabbed what she needed and was off in a huff. I thought to myself “Geez relax. Your not racing for the podium.” I decided to try and catch her again. It was hot and we still had some climbing to do but we changed places a couple more times. Eventually she passed me and I had to let her go as my legs started to begin talking to me as we entered the last downhills. I was ok with it. In retrospect I realized her rude behavior at the aid station was just her focus and determination to get in and out as fast as she could and get to the finish. It’s that kind of single-mindedness that gets you across the finish line in an ultra. A few more runners were to pass me before the end as I also passed a few more, but as I heard the music from the festivities at the finish line I was happy to know I was nearing the end. I went up a small slope and there ahead of me was the finish line. It turned out to be a great adventure and in the end I bettered my previous 100k by 43 minutes and finished in a time of 13 hours 31 min 21 seconds and earned my first buckle and entry to the Western States lottery.
The event was very well organized and featured great aid stations and volunteers. In this race during and after I encountered some of the friendliest runners anywhere. I highly recommend this race to any runner out there. Great post race bbq , great runner swag and plenty of sweat, pain and sometimes blood and tears. But us ultra runners wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thank you again for all who made this happen and especially to my wife Julia for all her support day in and day out and for letting me be out of town on mothers day weekend.
Some post race notes and observations.
Nutrition: Eating at aid stations helped immensely. I found a particular sandwich they had was really hitting the spot. Had turkey and avocado. Also fruit too. I definitely ate the most in this ultra then others and it helped. Yes don’t waste time at an aid station but do spend enough time to replenish. Time well spent. Reduce rice balls. I make bite sized ones out of sushi rice, a dab of miso, small piece of fresh ginger, sprinkled with some chia seeds and wrapped with sushi grade seaweed. Last two races I only finished 6 of the 12 I had. Six gets me to about 30 miles and then I need something else. Phase out gu. Almost didn’t use any. Stuck with real food and Skratch in my bladder. My stomach doesn’t like that condensed sugar. Picky bars are my go to energy bar/snack.
Putting ice in bladder. At one aid a volunteer asked if I wanted to put ice in with my water in my bladder. I never did that before and it helped having cold water go into my system those last four hours of the race with the sun beating down. Ice water soakings help air to cool off the body too.
My shoes felt awesome need to stick with them. Sauconey Paragrins.
New headlamp worked great, Black Diamond.
Changing shirt and hat was good. Compression socks on calves felt fine. Not sure if they helped but sure didn’t hurt. If it got any hotter I would not wear them as they are warm. It was in the 70s last quarter of the race. Also probably not good if they get soaked in water.
I tried going out slower and hike more hills in beginning of race but still had a faster first half. Maybe need to work more on that so I can have more energy at finish.
I definitely need to get better at hiking up steep grades that I can’t run. I repeatedly got passed in these situations by most runners and lost time. Effort was there but not the result I wanted. On the positive I did awesome on grades of about up to 14% Similar to my training and it really paid off in these sections. Need to train more on steeper grades. Hiking up and maybe learn to use poles. Might help. Could use when allowed in races.
Lastly, next race try to arrive 2 days early. If I could have arrived Thursday night then I could have slept in late Friday and been well rested even if I had trouble falling asleep night before the race. Also might give me an opportunity to scout out parts of the course.