Quicksilver 100k 2015
With well rested body and mind, I headed into a race I had never run. The Quicksilver 100k boasts 13,000 feet of climbing and descending, which is similar to what we have at the Waldo 100k, and based on that and how I was feeling, I set a goal of breaking 11 hours. I had done that twice at Waldo, so it seemed attainable, but not a gimme.
Joelle Vaught, Denise “Little D” Bourassa, and Darcy Piceu, were the women on my radar, although I knew there were others who could step up their game. Regardless, I only planned on what it would take to get me to the finish line strong, but spent.
With my new Petzl self adjusting headlamp, I was ready to tackle the early morning darkness. Arm warmers and a Buff were all I needed for extra warmth as the morning was mild. Race Director Rajeev gave us a pre-race briefing with the explicit instructions to not be eaten by a cougar so don’t run alone, and to follow the orange ribbons, then pink, then yellow. Or was that pink, then orange, then yellow? With blind faith that it would all be crystal clear, we took off at 4:30 am, full of enthusiasm and hope for a perfect day.
My plan was to keep my heart rate below 155 on the flat and downhill sections, and below 165 on the climbs, and to consume 200-300 calories per hour. As we climbed up out of the start area, the camaraderie was evident with greetings, introductions, catching up on each others recent races. I stayed relaxed, watched Little D pull ahead, and knowing that Darcy and Joelle were ahead, kept my eyes on my heart rate monitor, and did not worry about them. The only race won in the first mile, is a one mile race. The only race won in the first 50 miles, is a 50 mile race. It was going to be a long day and I meant to enjoy every bit of it.
Starting 30 minutes into the race, I had my first Huma gel, and would continue that throughout the race. Chloe Romero turned me onto these before Lake Sonoma, and I am forever grateful. Look ’em up! They go down like applesauce.
The course was interesting with little out and backs and lollypop loops that included historical mining artifacts, such as a short jaunt into a mine cave, and a loop around a cemetery – where I could see Joelle, then Darcy, then Little D ahead. Against the advice of Rajeev, I did find myself a bit isolated about the time I hit some dark single track. With no one around I clicked my light to the brightest setting – so bright! Until it dimmed again. Hmmm. I hit again. BRIGHT! And then it dimmed. Obviously this was going to take a deeper reading of the manual. So I kept fussing with it until I was near runners again. I reached the first aid station 2 gels in, and Mark was there ready to swap out my vest with another vest loaded with a bottle of water and 6 gels. He said Little D had just left.
I caught up and ran with buddy Jeff Kozak. The miles clicked away, as he would pull ahead on the climbs, and I would catch up on the descents. I took more gels on schedule, and with the consumption of my first one with caffeine, I felt myself come to life. At about mile 11, I started to race. I was feeling great, and ready to ramp up my game a bit. On another out and back, I saw Chikara, comfortably in the lead, then Jesse Haynes and Paul Terranova, who both took the time for trail hugs. I glided down this paved section to a parking lot AS where I had a piece of banana and coke. As I left the volunteers shouted “bring back a card from the turnaround!” Off I went, and soon met Joelle on her way out. I took a mental note of her distance, and ran with a good clip, saw Darcy and Little D coming out of the little lollypop. The runner in front of me stooped to get a card, and picked one up for me as well. I appreciated his courtesy, and later ran more with this David Sanderson of Sacramento. We deposited our cards back to the AS, and began the long stretch we had climbed, greeting runner after runner on their way out. I saw Jeff in front of me followed by Darcy. I commented to both of them that I wasn’t sure which of them had the nicest calves. Cruising on by I let gravity pull me down the long hill. Ahead was Little D, and at the bottom I caught and passed her. As the road leveled out, I put in a little more effort, and was glad to feel my legs respond – I could feel the benefits of the tempo runs I had done with Craig at Lake Natomas week after week. Every short hill, I ran, channeling my inner-Caren, dancing up as effortlessly as possible.
I found the course to be beautiful. There was not much single track but the service roads weren’t too harsh, and the lack of technical terrain made for good turnover. Giant eucalyptus trees in a mixed forest gave shade intermixed with some very exposed sections. The high fog had lingered all morning long, keeping me cool. I had the silly Uncle Kracker song “Yeah, it feels good to be me” running through my head, only occasionally exchanged with “Do you know the way to San Jose?” by Karen Carpenter. Who needs an iPod with a brain like that?
At the mile 19 AS I took bananas and coke again and was on my way to the apex of this first giant loop, where I would see Mark. The miles continued to fly by and I reached mile 24 where he was ready with my pack. I drank an Ensure, while he told me Joelle was 11 minutes ahead. Wow! I thought it would be a bigger gap than that, so I was pretty motivated to stay on task. I still felt great. I couldn’t recall the last time I felt this good in a race. I hiked/jogged out the next long climb. David caught me on the climb and we chatted awhile, passing the time working together until the terrain separated us by our different abilities. He was stronger climbing, I, on the descending. Jeff passed me as well, commenting that he wished he was as graceful on the downhills as I was. Now began the longest, steepest ascent – fondly referred to as “Dog Meat”. Looking up, I could see bits of the road stretching high above, but it didn’t phase me. I just worked my way up as efficiently as possible. I wasn’t entirely sure this was the steepest section, but I couldn’t imagine there being anything more severe. Gel after gel, mile after mile, climb after climb. I hit the halfway point right at 5 hours and was a bit surprised at that. I hoped my inevitable slowdown wouldn’t mean I was an hour slower in the second half, but I could see how that might happen.
As it finally leveled out, I caught The Other Brian Purcell. As we slowly picked up the pace, we caught Jeff again. I teased him with “I caught back up so you could watch me run gracefully downhill some more!” He just giggled and let us go. Brian and I clicked along quickly all the way back to Hicks AS at mile 39, where Mark was waiting again. “Joelle is 8 minutes ahead.” Wow – that surprised me. I thought with that long climb her lead would be unsurmountable. Mark Tanaka had also arrived around the same time, and hurried in and out of the porta-potty, yelling “Hand sanitizer! Hand sanitizer!” I don’t know.That is never really on my mind when running an ultra.
I left the AS on fire. Mark Tanaka was with me for awhile, then fell off the pace. He and Brian both yelled out to me “good luck Meghan!” as I wheeled on down the road. A pleasant surprise for me was to see John “TJ” Medinger on the trail. He said “she’s about 10 minutes ahead.” Well, that was consistent enough for me to keep hopeful. I hit an intersection with orange flags to the right, greenish-yellow flags to the left. No other markers and no one around to ask. I went with my gut that we were still on orange, and as I flew down the wooded descent I was mildly assured by the fact that people were hiking up and occasionally cheering me on. At last I was dumped out at the parking lot of the start area, ran to the AS where Mark was ready with my pack, and said I was now 7 minutes back. I downed another Ensure, and made my way out focused on getting the next 3 miles done where I would see Mark again.
With the appearance of the sun, the grueling nature of these three miles, and 2 Ensure consumed in fairly short order, I was feeling a bit urpie. I decided I would forego Ensure next aid. Upon arriving, I pulled my Buff off and dunked it in a bucket of ice, sponged off, and as I swapped vests, Mark informed me I was now 8 minutes behind Joelle. Ah well, if it played out with me 10 minutes behind her at the finish, I would count that as a small victory. Despite my slightly off stomach, I was still feeling great.
Out now on the second loop of the course, I was still feeing strong, energized by keeping the nutrition up. Onto some nice shaded single track, I once again ran into TJ who informed me I was now 3-4 minutes back. Wow. I didn’t expect that! I responded that I was having a great day. Eventually we hit one of the unique sections of the course, emphasizing the history of the area – a wall of mine tailings that was a bit slow and lose going up, but provided an entertaining break from the relative normalcy of an utlra.
I could hear Mark Tanaka catching back up to me, and when we reached the next aid at mile 46, we both refueled and left together. He described more of the upcoming route, and I stayed with him for a few miles. Finally, on a long single track descent, he pulled away, chatting all the while. I’m not sure when he realized I was no longer in hearing range. As the trail met a road, I saw to my left Joelle and her pacer Marc Laveson sitting at an aid station. “Yo Sistah! What’s up?” I asked. “Oh, I thought I would have a little picnic!” was Joelle’s cheerful response. I love that girl. She has never been anything less than positive and cheerful no matter the circumstances, embodying the truth that this is what we do for fun. She cheered me on, and I scooted onward to the mile 52 AS.
As Mark saw me approach, I tripped but avoided a face plant. He chucked “don’t fall down!” He said I was doing great, and I replied that there was still plenty of time to screw up. I had debated coming in here as to what I would do for the last 10 miles – treat it like the Ice Cream Sandwich Run and leave all supplies behind after consuming a lot of coke and sugar? I decided against that. All I needed to do was continue what I was doing, don’t go too hard and bonk or cramp, and don’t get too lazy and get re-passed. I slowly but steadily climbed out of the aid station, pleasantly surprised at my ability to keep running uphill. One final out and back section of very rocky terrain and I had less than 5 miles to the finish. Near the top, Jeff came down and as it occurred to him that I was in the lead, he gave some very enthusiastic cheers. At the top, I saw Joelle and Marc on their way down. She too, cheered wildly, then asked “do we have to go down this?” I assured her we did, indeed. Ever more cognizant of her presence, I knew I needed to stay focused. She is one speedy gal, and if she rallied I had no doubt she could hunt me down.
I tried to force one more gel down on the way to the final aid station. When my swallower refused to work, I squeezed the remaining ooze onto the ground and shoved the sticky mess into a pocket. I was easily going to make it to the finish without more calories. At the final AS with 3 miles to go, I downed some coke and headed off on the “it’s all downhill from here!” section. I was flying, until suddenly the course went up. What? Who put this uphill in the downhill? Was Joelle going to catch me here? I slogged up each of the short uphills, and hammered the downs. Finally, I could hear the finish line festivities, and seeing the banner, surged to cross. I was stunned to see my time of 10:18.
I have not had a race of such consistent energy and push for a few years, and it felt awesome. Many, many thanks to Stephanie Howe for reminding me that we need to eat 200-300 calories per hour. Thanks to my sponsors, Altra Running and Injinji Socks. The Altra Torin’s were the perfect shoe for this course with all of the service road surfaces and no mud whatsoever. Thanks to Quicksilver volunteers – super attentive and great aid stations! And finally, super duper thanks to my boyfriend Mark Laws, for his awesome crewing and supporting!