Friday, May 15, 2015

Quicksilver 100k 2015 Race Report

The race I ran this past Saturday was not the race I envisioned running when I signed up for it six months ago. However, I am pleased with finishing my second 100km run 27 minutes faster than my first and getting my 2016 Western States 100 qualifier!

Nine days before the race I managed to strain my right hamstring on what was going to be my last hilly run before really settling into taper mode. I secured plane tickets and lodging for the event back in January and I was frustrated that I was now contemplating dropping out of the race after the injury. I was also travelling with my training partners, Michael and Jeff, and didn't want to miss out on the race that we had all been working towards together. Having endured a similar injury 8 days before the 2013 Honolulu Marathon (which I ended up running in 3:18), I knew I'd probably be okay as long as I didn't try to run too fast at Quicksilver. This meant taking it super easy on the downhills.

In addition to the "taper" hamstring injury, I had a series of little injuries throughout the training work-up that started back in December. I was battling a "wonky" left hamstring early on in the base training phase. I was able to work through that injury, but it forced me to keep the run intensity lower than I wanted (i.e. no tempo runs or intervals). At the end of February I had some pain in my left heel that I thought was the beginning of achilles tendonitis, but after taking about 4 days off from running it went away and never came back. Then I had some pain in my right knee in March that had me a little wary, but that ended up going away with some ice/compression treatment and without having to cut back on mileage.  I was also running about 5 pounds heavier compared to my race day weight for the Peacock 100k. So, lots of compounding issues made for a less than ideal training period leading up to this race.

I won't go into too much detail about the course, but as you can see below, the first half of the course is where all the major climbing is. The cumulative elevation on my Garmin watch read over 8,000 feet by the time I got to the Kennedy Trail aid station the second time.
Quicksilver 100k Elevation profile and aid stations.
In spite of all the challenges leading up to race day, I am very pleased with this race. The weather was absolutely perfect. It was foggy and cool for the first 6 hours of the race. While it did heat up later in the day, it was still pretty mild compared to what I'm used to running in here on Oahu. With the strategy of taking it easy on the downhills, I thought I could hammer the uphills a little more than normal. This was not a wise strategy, as my quads started getting a little twitchy by around 20 miles. The only thing to do when the muscles start feeling this way is to slow down, which added some additional anxiety as I was already going slower than I wanted on the downhills.

Feeling good early. (Photo credit: Paul King)
The first half of this course is really tough and I found myself pretty tapped out coming into Kennedy AS the the second time. There is a very steep 3 mile section of the course known as "Dogmeat" that we climb before getting to Kennedy 2. I found myself getting a little nauseous near the end of the climb, which I think seems to happen to me when I'm breathing hard and trying to keep calories flowing into the body. I decided to take a quick little sit break at Kennedy to just gather myself and allow my stomach to calm down a bit. I drank a little ginger ale and ate some watermelon and that seemed to do the trick. I felt like I had a pretty good run down from Kennedy to Hicks 2 and I think mentally I was no longer too worried about my hamstring. My legs were feeling pretty beat up, but nothing that really kept me from running at "ultra" pace. I had a pretty good transition in and out of Hicks 2 and was on my way back to where we started at Hacienda.

Coming into the Hacienda AS at mile 39, I had a bad hot spot on my big left toe that needed attention. I was hoping to find a place to sit down, but all the volunteers had covered the chairs with their sweatshirts, so I figured they didn't want sweaty runners sitting there. I ended up balancing on one foot while I applied a blister band-aid that I was carrying in my pack. I almost started to cramp up standing on one leg, but fortunately I was able to get the band-aid, my Injinji sock and Brooks Cascadia 10 back on without issue. As ran out of the aid station I immediately felt relief from the hot spot and this gave me a nice mental boost.

The next 3 miles of the course took us up and over a very steep hill that is not very runnable either up or down the other side. This could have been much worse than it was, but luckily I had caught up to my friend Michael and his pacer Zeke. Chatting with them really took my mind off of how bad I was feeling and the fact that I still had over 20 miles to go. The next AS was at Mockingbird, which is also the finish line. I ate some snacks, refilled the water bottles, and put some ice into my bandana to keep my neck cool (the fog had burned off and it was starting to heat up a little). It was a good thing I made it out of there quickly, because they had the finish line BBQ going strong for the 50k runners and I could see volunteers and 50k runners sipping ice cold beers (IPAs, nonetheless!). Although, the temptation to hang out and call it a day was strong, I didn't fly 2,500 miles to quit while I was still way ahead of pace for a Western States 100 Qualifier!

The tailings pile climb just before mile 44. (Photo credit: Shiran Kochavi)

There were a few spots that were so steep, that it was easier to use both hands to help climb up the hill! (Photo credit: Shiran Kochavi)
A little less than 2 miles after departing Mockingbird we had to climb this intense pile of rocks (old quicksilver mine tailings). Fortunately, it was less than a quarter mile worth of climbing and scrambling, but there was no shortage of grumbling from me and my fellow runners!

The next climb to the Bull Run AS was not terribly memorable. I was in another low spot thinking about the next 20 miles rather than just thinking about getting to the aid station. When I got to Bull Run I saw Mark Tanaka (5th overall with a 2-hour PR over last year!) speeding through with 3 miles to go. It was kind of surreal watching Mark as he quickly got in and out of the AS and on his way to the finish, while I was only thinking "holy smokes I still got 16 miles to go and I don't feel very good." I tried to push the negative thoughts out of my head and reminded myself that this was my race to run and nobody elses. Time to get back out there and get it done. I told myself "heck, 16 miles during training was a short run for me - piece of cake." Other thoughts going through my head were "you could walk the rest of the way and still make it under 16 hours!"

The next section of the course had a bunch of single track and if I had the legs I would have enjoyed running it more than I did. But my desire to run was pretty much non-existent between Bull Run at 46 miles and Tina's Den AS at 52 miles. I was getting passed by quite a few runners on this stretch, including my training buddy, Michael. I was not in a good spot mentally or physically. My legs were whipped and I was still having a little nausea. At Tina's Den AS (named after one of the mountain lions that live nearby) I switched completely to ice water and this seemed to get rid of the nausea completely. I re-filled my bandana with more ice, ate some watermelon, potatoes, and pretzels and was on my way.

Smelling the finish line with only 10 miles to go, I felt like I was able to keep a steady pace going on the stretch of trail up to the Enriquita AS at mile 56. It was mostly walking, but I was feeling better after having switched to water and mentally I knew this race was in the bag. The little road down to Enriquita was downhill and kind of technical, but I was able to jog steadily down it. After a volunteer refilled one of my water bottles with ice water and grabbing a few small pieces of cantaloupe and watermelon, I was on my way back up the hill to the last aid station. The route back to Bull Run AS the second time was mostly uphill, but I was power hiking pretty well and actually passed a couple of other runners.

I made a quick stop at Bull Run AS and was feeling pretty good mentally because I knew I could endure 3 miles of the (mostly) downhill jog to the finish line. At about the half-way point of the race a running dialog was playing in my mind attempting to calculate a possible finish time. It started out as "I think I can break 13 hours" and ended up playing over and over again in the last 20 miles saying to myself "I'm not sure if I can break 14 hours." But when I left Bull Run I saw my watch show 12:57. I had just over an hour to run the 3 miles to the finish line and 3 hours to make the cut-off for a WS100 qualifier. While nothing is a given during an ultra, I was pretty confident I could break 14 hours. Knowing that I could still run a personal best for the 100k distance had me feeling pretty good!

I ended up coming through the finish line at 13:34, a personal best! I'm not sure I'll be able to fit this race into the schedule next year, but I would love to run it again as I think a sub-12 hour is very possible if I can just get to the starting line healthy.

Special Thanks to:
My wife and kids for enduring yet another training cycle and an away race!
My Dad who is always there to give me guidance and encouragement.
My training partners and good friends, Jeff and Michael. The early morning weekend runs were always a little easier with you guys pushing me!
Greg Lanctot, Rajeev Patel, John Brooks, the Quicksilver Running Club, and all the volunteers for putting on a terrific race!
My HURT Ohana for all the encouragement and support - MAHALO!

Gear List
2XU Shorts and calf sleeves
Zensah Thigh compression sleeve (for the hammy)
Ultimate Direction SJ 2.0 vest w/2x UD 17oz soft body bottles
Brooks Running hat
Under Armor technical shirt
iPod shuffle from
Brooks Cascadia 10 trail shoes
Injinji Trail socks
Garmin 910xt watch
Skratch Labs drink mix
Skratch Labs chews
Honey Stinger chews

Web Links
Strava Link
UltraSignup Results
Quicksilver Running Club
Ginger Runner's (Ethan Newberry) Quicksilver Race Recap
Jean Pommier's Quicksilver Race Report

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