Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Underestimating Recovery Time-- My Anti-PR at the Quicksilver 50 Mile

Despite warmer weather than last year, records fell and some awesome performances at this year's Quicksilver 50 Mile Endurance Run (not to slight the 50 km race held simultaneously), held Saturday, May 9th. As for yours truly-- my anti-PR! More than 35 minutes slower than last year, when I ran still injured seven days after straining my calf at Miwok 100k. This year I didn't run Miwok, just the shorter Skyline to the Sea 50k two weeks earlier. So what's up? Is this proof that I am in decline?


Maybe I could use the sleep excuse.

My schedule was not so bad after Monday-- noon to midnight Tuesday, off Wednesday, phone shift 6am to 3pm Thursday, and a regular 6-3 ED shift Friday. The two early morning shifts are usually a good transition to the early rising required for this race which begins butt-early at 6 am in the hills of southwest San Jose.

Early morning Friday I woke up from some nightmare, stemming from the fact that I was freezing after my well-intentioned wife turned the fan on in the room. I have to sleep in the other bedroom before my early morning shifts so my alarm clock doesn't wake her and everyone up.

I couldn't get back to sleep and then next thing, both my kids were screaming after my recently potty trained older son had an accident and then my wife went downstairs to get new sheets. So Friday I went to work feeling sleepy, worried that the there is truth to the belief that sleep the night before the night before is more important than sleep the night before.

After I picked up the kids and brought them home in the afternoon, I had a headache, felt nauseated and just wanted to go to bed. Normally I help put the kids down, but two things happened: First I got this piece of food stuck between my back upper molars and couldn't get it out with a variety of dental instruments, shredding 3 pieces of floss. I finally found a floss threader and after 5 attempts managed to get it above the stuck food.

Then I couldn't find my cell phone. I needed my phone for several reasons: the plan was to drive to Chihping Fu's house and get a ride from there; my wife was going to pick me up before we went to friend's that night, and I needed the phone as an alarm clock backup, without which I probably wouldn't sleep well since I would be worried that there would just happen to be a power outage and I'd oversleep and miss the race. But I couldn't find the damn thing. I went through both cars, took apart my race bag, my other bag, looked in every room in the house. was exhausted and cranky and feeling guilty that I wasn't helping bathe and put down the kids, but I had to find the damn phone. I messaged Chihping and told him I was phoneless and then went to bed, and of course I couldn't sleep, so I dropped an Ambien, and a Pepcid. A few minutes later my wife handed me my phone, which she saw on the seat of my bicycle attached to the Kinetic fluid trainer I had just assembled on Thursday for me to start using during my phone shifts. She was reading to my older son when he started playing with the bike.

Luckily I got about 6 hours of sleep, still not ideal, but in the back of my mind I am worried about the night before the night before sleep issue.

They had been doing construction on the 92 and 880 interchange for over a year, but I don't realize they actually close the ramp at 4:30 am, so I have another detour delay and arrive at Chihping's (which involves a lot of turns) almost 10 minutes later than we'd planned.

this year's Chihping driving photo

Luckily we get there in time. It's not freezing like last year at the start. As at most races, the line to the Portalets is too long, so I do the dig-and-cover-with-foot bush thing (there are plenty) and as bonus, there are these portable sinks with soap and foot-pumped water in the corner of the parking lot. Sorry to be so explicit, but this comes up again.

The Race

The really fast guys-- Chikara Omine, Jean Pommier, a few others (all 50 mile rather than 50 km competitors), all shoot off ahead. I talk with Victor Ballesteros, who surprised the pundits by finishing 2nd place at Miwok the week before. We have the gradual downhill to chat briefly, before I predictably lose him on the ascent.

Victor Ballesteros

It's a solid 15 minutes of climbing, and I fall into a rhythm, careful not to thrash myself like I have in the past. The fire road then predictably heads downhill more than up. A large gathering of maybe 15 people, a few snapping photos is on the trail. I smile and wave, see single track to the right and turn. "No not that way" a few shout, and I turn around and see the trail heading left on the other side. Somebody tells me incredulously, "You've got to be kidding me," like it was so obvious that it was impossible to miss. Yo! -- if there was a pink ribbon somewhere, several people were probably standing in front of it.

In years past I was always chasing or being chased by runners through the next few miles of single track, but for some reason this year I'm running more alone. I do pass a guy with a blue shirt running the 50k race.

Klas Eklof, actually photographed several weeks later after Mt. Diablo 25k

Increasingly, my moving bowels start bothering me. I try to remember if the 2nd aid station has portalets, but soon realize as the pressure builds, I'm not going to make it even 1/4 mile. Unfortunately, there are no trees to hide behind with the narrow single track on the hillside, dropping off on the right.

While I squat right next to the trail sort of behind a tree and do my nastiness, the guy in the blue passes me.

I'm carrying a slip of paper with my split times from my 2007 PR race of 7:17, and my first two splits I'm behind about 2 minutes each. But no problems-- I'm trying to run conservatively.

I catch up with a guy wearing a Team Diablo shirt, and recognize Troy Howard from one of the photos at the start of the Skyline to the Sea 50k we both ran two weeks ago. We chat a while about work (we are both work at Kaiser Permanente Hospitals) and other stuff. We go through Dam Overlook aid station (mile 9.7), but after the next one, Capehorn (mile 14.5), Troy loses me on the initial sustained climb.

Troy Howard (at Skyline to the Sea), who in his first attempt, would finish 2nd at Hardrock later this summer with the 3rd fastest time in the history of that race.

Somewhere around here, I have to unload again, and I'm a little irritated. Like what the hell did I eat yesterday? After enjoying the views during the descent to the 2nd visit to Dam Overlook (mile 19), we do an out and back loop returning to Dam (mile 23.7). During this loop, Jeff Riley from Oregon passes me almost at the same place he did last year. Then a couple of 50K runners pass me, including the guy in the blue shirt, Klas, who comments that this would be a bad place to unload-- this section of the course is always filled with lots of day hikers. Two years ago 50k racer Ron Gutierrez and I started running together around here and pretty much kept up with him until the last descent to 50k. In contrast, I'm being left behind my multiple 50k runners not going as fast, including eventual winner Pastor Bejinez, who is so nice as to compliment me on this blog. (Thanks, again, and congrats again!)

Before getting to Englishtown (mile 26.8) for the first time, I see Chikara Omine (about whom I blogged an interview shortly after the race) running the other direction, after already hitting the start finish at the 50k mark. He is ahead of where I would see Graham Cooper the past two years, but then I realize that I'm going a lot slower, so I can't tell if Chikara is actually going faster than Graham's record-setting pace or it just seems like it.

new course record holder Chikara Omine

Approaching the descent to the start finish for the 50k split, I hear two people conversing behind me. One's Bev(erly Anderson-Abbs) and the other is Joe Palubeski, who passed me at the end of Lake Sonoma 50 mile in March after I bonked from caloric depletion. It looked like I was going to get chicked AND Joed.

Beverly Anderson-Abbs

Of course when it's Bev, no shame getting chicked.

Ron Gutierrez' 50k time in 2007 was under 4:20. So this year, when I notice my 50k split is something like 20 minutes slower, I know I'm not going nearly as fast. Bev and Joe take longer at the aid station, so I start up the hill ahead of them. I catch up with a mountain biker working it and he and I pace each other, with only enough breath to utter a mutual short compliment.

he: How long you guys running?
me: Fifty (puff) miles
he: Whoa!
me: Well, dude (huff) I don't think I could stay (puff) on my bike trying to get up this (huff) hill.
he: Yeah, well I'm impressed

It is a lovefest. I consider slappoing him on the ass and asked him "Dude, doesn't it hurt your ass to sit on your seat for so long?" but I decide I don't understand mountain bike culture enough even though I occasionally enjoy doing it myself. I don't want him to misread my intentions, so I refrain.

The course then turns left instead of right at the top of the hill (or at least I think), and then does the roller coaster hills again. My ankle is sort of hurting on the downhills, so I back off a bit. Bev and Joe catch up. We run and chat up the hill to the Englishtown aid station (mile 35.25). On the fairly flat and fast stretch toward the turnaround, they both dart off ahead. Literally, I watch them pull away and put distance on me and my legs.

Joe Palubeski

In years past, I would also make good speed here, but now, I just don't have the energy. It isn't the heat; dipping my sleeves in the water buckets at aid stations is working well to counteract the rising temperature. I haven't been nauseated, and my earlier bowel problems have resolved by evacuation. I just can't move any faster. I wonder-- am I still tired from McNaughton? Four full weeks after? Before I would've doubted it, but now I have no other explanation, especially when I had run Miwok the week before last year's race AND got injured.

But, no worries, I'm having fun.

At the next aid station Hicks Road (mile 37.2) I get my photo taken by Pauline Ludwig, the girlfriend of another runner, who later sends it to me on facebook.

I'm able to keep running up the whole hill to the turnaround. I count the runners coming back ahead of me as I greet each with "Hi," recognizing all except the one right ahead of Bev. At the turnaround at Sierra Azul aid station (mile 41.4) Yves-Pierre Couteau fills my bottle and then it's time to figure out who's on my tail. I have a gap of about 4 minutes on the next guy, but after him is Bree Lambert, looking strong. I've never seen her so close behind on this course.

post-race with Bree, who would also win Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile two months later

Lest I worry about getting double-chicked, I'm feeling pretty good and aided by the downhill, run one of my first splits comparable to last year's time; however I figure this is only because I was running all the previous splits so much more slowly this year than last.

To preserve my knees, I exercise some restraint on the final descent after Englishtown aid station (mile 47.6), ready to sprint if someone starts gaining on me.

I had switched my Garmin to lap time (instead of overall time) early in the race (using it mainly to know about when to expect the next aid station), so when I see the finish line clock was approaching 8 hours, I am a bit surprised. I knew I was going slower than last year, but a full 40 minutes slower? Whoa!

After thinking about it post-race, I can only conclude that it is indeed the McNaughton effect, and that, 4 weeks after running 150 horrendously muddy miles, one's body is not close to fully recovered.

So no worries. And I am happy to be done, and to have enjoyed another beautiful day out on the trails.


I go around the finish picnic area greeting everyone as I hyperventilate and recover, before attacking the excellent food choices. Since my family hasn't come yet, I have plenty of time to socialize. Among people I had never met before, I talk with this finisher of the 50k race.

Nan Nguyen from Modesto

After a while I decide I should text or call my wife. As after my previous race, my older son surprises me first. My wife gives me my younger one to watch, because she must stay on her cell interviewing a potential teacher for our public Montessori elementary school we have been helping to found over the last year and a half. So I'm running around. One of the volunteers tips us off to the frozen juices in the freezer (how many post-race picnics feature a freezer?-- this race is high-end!)

In between many brief conversations interrupted by my wife telling me that my younger son is headed toward the hot grill-- ("get him before he burns himself!")-- I and my kids do a quick hike back to the course. My older son and I bond my peeing in the bushes (no photo), and a few times I have to move my younger one from being run over by a finishing runner.

my kids coming into the finish chute

I check out the division award plaques. I've gotten an age group award my first three years. Not this year. But at least I didn't miss it by one place. I'm the 4th male masters finisher, and the awards only going 2 instead of 3 deep (times are tough!), so no plaque this year even if I had come before master male #3. But everyone gets a nice finishers medal, and I'm pleased the shirt is long instead of short sleeved like the last two years.

Our plan was originally to go to our friends who leave nearby in Sunnyvale with sons the same age as ours, and spend the night, but apparently one of them has just spiked a high fever after they thought he'd recovered from Strep throat, or maybe they just said that because I smell bad after these races. So our plans change to driving to Marin to stay at my brother's since it is Mother's Day tomorrow (which is now months ago, but who cares-- Happy Fall Mother's Day!)

Mother's Day morning at the San Rafael Farmer's Market

Official results:
50 mile
25 kilometer (I never meet any of these runners, but what the heck)

Other blogged reports:

Steve Ansell (really short)

Jean Pommier (new master's course record holder)

1st published Tuesday, September 22, 2009 at 3:00 p.m.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say your in decline. Sometimes we just have a bad race where nothing fits into place. Hell all of 2008 was like that for me. As long as we still have fun that's all that really matters.