I had a great day at the 28th Annual Quicksilver Trail Races this past Saturday in the hilly and scenic trails of Almaden Quicksilver County Park and Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Jose. This was my first attempt at the 50 mile distance so coming into this race, I did not know whether the extremely high course record benchmark set by Chikara Omine in 2009 (6:15:41) would be feasible. As the run progressed and I remained under his record pace, I gained more confidence in the potential of lowering the esteemed record. In the end, I was extremely happy to lower the record by 14 minutes to 6:01:45! A special thanks goes to Joel Lanz for his fantastic job pacing me from 50k to the finish, providing encouragement at just the right times, and taking some great photos (utilized in this note).
Finish video by Joel Lanz.
The event starts 6 am which is a bit early, but becomes favorable later in the day when the exposed sections become warm. The weather was great with clear skies and relatively mild morning temperatures thanks to stiff breezes. Those same winds helped to keep temperatures down later in the morning and provided excellent clarity with spectacular views of the Santa Clara Valley, Diablo Range, Santa Cruz Mountains, and points beyond. After a few minutes, there is steep climb for a mile followed by a steep descent back to near the starting area where a left turn is taken onto the single track of the New Almaden Trail. The 6 miles of single track is my favorite stretch of trail on the course and traverses through oak woodland canyons and wildflower meadows. After the New Almaden Trail, the remainder of the course is virtually all fire road (except for the Yellow Kid Trail), but equally scenic with spring wildlfowers in full bloom and spectacular views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Santa Clara Valley. The 8 miles of running in Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve on the 50 mile course are particularly pleasant with a shady forest canopy and delightful vistas. While the 8,530 feet of cumulative elevation gain in the 50 mile means that the course is inevitably hilly, there are several miles of relatively gradual fireroad allowing for a nice rhythm.
The plan was to go out feeling as comfortable as possible for the first 50k and see what I had left for the balance of the 50 miles. I knew that the most difficult part of the entire course was between mile 32 and 35.5 with several steep climbs up to the English Camp aid station. I wound up running the first 50k a bit faster than I had planned, coming in about 3:31, only a minute shy of my 3:30:10 performance in the 50k last year. However, I felt relatively comfortable and not overextended. At the 50k point, I met pacer Joel Lanz and we set off to attack the crux portion of the course. I faired well on this section, but the arduous climbs took a lot out of my legs. After English Camp, any substantial incline became difficult as my hamstrings were twingy. The good news is that cramping was kept at bay with copious hydration and electrolyte nutrition, in turn allowing me to run the downhills and flatter sections reasonably well to maintain a nice overall pace. I had never visited the stretch of the course from English Camp through Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve so I was eagerly anticipating the turnaround aid station. When it finally appeared around the corner I felt a sense of relief knowing most of the return trip to Mockingbird start/finish area would be downhill. I got a second wind at this point and finished the last 8.5 miles nicely. There were great performances all around: Bree Lambert won the women’s 50 mile in 8:13:07, Gary Gellin took second in the 50 mile in 6:29:41, Chriz Calzetta won the 50k in 3:54:21, and Adona Ramos won the women’s 50k in 4:56:26. Congratulations to all participants!
First year race director Pierre Couteau did a phenomenal job organizing this event and all the volunteers were fantastic. As usual, the post-race BBQ was spectacular with an amazing spread of delicious food that extended well beyond the normal BBQ fare of hot dogs and hamburgers, including ice cream, sushi, pies, cheesecake, brownies, cookies, etc.! It was great to hang out with friends new and old after the event. Thanks to Quicksilver Running Club and everybody involved with this event for putting on such a great trail race!
Another finish video by Joey Cassidy.