Written by Christopher Thomas
Round 3 – NorCal 100K Grand Prix
62.2 miles – 13,000’ e.g.
Quicksilver Park – San Jose, CA
Here we are one more week and it’s over. There are only three of us left out of seven who started, Stacie Riddle and Satpal Dalal. This is what the last week looked like. I was excited to get it over with and even more excited coming off my quick Miwok finish.
Sunday – Complete rest with rolling, stretching and walking
Monday– Choice day which I chose 45 minutes Elliptical and then rolling and stretching and ice.
Tuesday – 60 minute weighted vest hike with Michele on the trails then rolling and stretching
Wednesday – 30 minutes moderate pace with 8×30 second fartleks on the road then rolling and stretching
Thursday – 45 minutes fartlek game of tag on trails with Michele then rolling and stretching
Friday – Complete rest with rolling, stretching and walking
Saturday – Race Day
This was the race I was most concerned with. Again I had three finish times on my pace chart 14 hour, 13 hour and 12 hour. I really had no idea what these trails were like or what to expect. I had watched the Ginger Runner’s video but I was still not sure about the long climbs. I don’t have any 4+ mile climbs near me to train on and with all the course changes I was really lost. Again the hay was in the barn and all there was left to do was run.
We left home after 5PM to our hotel near the San Jose airport. Traffic wasn’t bad so we made good time and arrived before 9PM. After checking in we did one more gear check. Laying in bed I saw the post on Facebook by Inside Trail about the race being held at China Camp that weekend with a shout out to all of us ITR runners running Quicksilver. I was excited to meet more teammates Michael Li, Jonathan Gunderson and Roger Montes. One of the best things about running ultras is the community you get to experience and many people you get to meet.
3AM is wake-up time for a 4:30 start. We left the hotel in search of coffee and found a 7-Eleven on our way. We arrived at the start line at 3:30 a little earlier than I had hoped. We talked to John Brooks the race director who was so gracious to spearhead the California 100K Grand Prix event and headed to the start line for the race briefing. We found Stacie in the dark and we wished each other the best of luck. The countdown and we were off. This time I am going to stick to the plan. Not over 135 BPM until after the big climb at mile 25 turn around.
Out of Hacienda parking lot and up the first climb was not so bad, nice fire road not too rutted and not too steep. I chose to walk most of it and was surprised with all the heavy breathing around me. I was pretty sure only the 100K had started and the 50K started later. Into and through Hicks road and back up to Wood road at mile 12.5. There was an out and back around an old cemetery where we got to see the leaders. They looked strong and I counted my placement around 50ish. I would see Michele for the first time at Lexington mile 17.9 and was getting excited. On the climb up I had met Andrew Hao and we climbed together almost to the top before Wood road aid. As the sun came up the hillside lit up in the most brilliant orange. Andrew had a sub 11 hour goal which I would love to accomplish but not sure of. I took off down to Lexington a long 4 mile downhill which I may have went down too fast, by this time I was ahead of Andrew. We dumped out onto the road and a gradual climb to Lexington. Michele was there with two new bottles of VitargoS2. I dumped my HR monitor and decided to run the rest by RPE (Rate of Perceived Effort).
Andrew came into the aid station as I left. We climbed back up towards Kennedy Road aid and another long long downhill. By this time we are only at around mile 20 and I am seriously feeling the down hills. My quads are starting to ache with every foot step. Back to smooth flow mantra and letting gravity do the work. I know I lost time on the downhill but I was conserving for later. We weren’t even halfway and had not done the big 4.5 mile climb out of Kennedy Road yet. As I arrived at Kennedy I still felt good and was ready for a climb. I ate a bunch of turkey and avocado sandwiches and headed up the climb with my new electrolyte drink Cytomax I think it was. Did not work for me at all. That stuff made me jittery and my HR spiked. Climbing out Andrew had caught up and we climbed together again until I got excited and pushed ahead. Chikara Omine was at the top with popsicles. I was lucky enough to dodge that bullet and not find complacency in eating a Popsicle and walking for the next mile. Instead I pushed on and Andrew caught me and went on by. I decided to slow down a bit and save some for the end. Off he went and wouldn’t see him again until the finish.
Back through Wood aid and heading back down another long downhill I came upon my team mate Jonathon who was nursing a bad calf. I made sure he was okay a pressed on. Down into Hicks road again where Michele was. Still feeling generally okay, my biggest problem was my feet. My toes were sore and I decided to change shoes. I had started the race in my black Akasha that I use for training and switched back to the sulphur Akasha I had raced Canyons and Miwok in. Great decision my feet were happy the rest of the day. I got a pace update from Michele, I was well ahead of my goal pace at around 11:03 average min/mile. Somehow I was in the top twenty as well. I don’t remember passing 30 runners. That was definitely not my intention. Back in Quicksilver Park the climbs were not nearly as long or steep. Back down into Hacienda and back up the same fire road from the start. It was very hot at this point and very exposed. I kept one bottle of ice water to cool off with and continually wash my face and head from salt. Up and over again down a killer long downhill. I feel like we ran more downhill than we ran up. Up a little more and down into the finish line at Mockingbird. There I saw Chris Denucci, I swear he is my trail Angel, he had won the 50K race and filled me with encouragement. Off I went to climb up to Bull Run aid where Michele was.
Earlier I had let a group of fast runners go because I could not hold their pace it was Jesus Garcia-Fernandez, Mark Tanaka, Amy Burton (who crushed me at Rio Del Lago 100 last year) and Todd Falker of Altra. Also my friend Dario Zea was ahead of us as well but I knew I could not keep up with him at all. I was still climbing strong at this point and passed two runners on the climb and caught up to Amy right before the aid station. Two new bottles of VitargoS2 with ice and salt added and off around a weird lollipop course off the main trail which ended up being really cool running through a neat ravine. Back down the fire road for the final loop. I ran into my great friend Carmencita and exchanged sweaty trail hugs. She had 5 miles left of the 50K and I had 14 miles or so. Right turn down some single track and I passed the entire group on the downhill, maybe took that a bit too fast. Todd latched on to me for the next two miles but I heard him fall back and when we opened up onto the fire road again I could not see him. I passed a couple more runners and on the long exposed fire roads to what I thought was the final climb. I hit the Enriquita aid station and was informed I had to run down .6 miles mark my bib and back up. I decided to fill my bottles and grab food on my way down. I saw three runners in front of me including Dario and lost my motivation completely. At the bottom Todd caught back up to me. He encouraged me to come with him to catch the three in front of us one at 12 minutes and two at 8 minutes but I couldn’t muster to strength.
At the top the rest of the group I had passed had arrived and I was grateful I already took aid and was able to just climb on. The next mile and half was steep and hot I had given up on passing anyone else and was just hoping I was not getting passed back. I arrived at the Bull Run aid one last time and was informed I only had 3 miles to go. Funny I thought it was 6. Anyways I should probably pay more attention next time to the course. I dumped my bottles and filled them with ice water for cooling only and took off with a new spirit and determination not to get caught. On the downhill I saw another runner on the course who told his friend he was only one mile from the end so I dumped my bottles put them in the back of my shorts and began my push. Coming into the finishing shoot was incredible with my usual sprint and jump through the finish I had never felt so accomplished. My finish time was 11:43:27 and 12th place overall.
Wow three very challenging 100K races in 15 days and I finished stronger as I went along. Here are my results:
Canyons 100K 40th 13:47:33
Miwok 100K 31st 11:18:05
Quicksilver 100K 12th 11:43:27
NorCal 100K Grand Prix 1st 36:49:05
Well I was successful in beating my 38 hour goal and even better I am much more fit than I was when I started and not beat-up. It’s gonna be a great summer of running.
Next up San Diego 100!