The Quicksilver 50 Mile – Race to the BBQ!

Race Recap
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Let me just say that, for me personally, 2010 has packed a life’s worth of emotional highs and lows into less than 6 months. . .and I haven’t even run Western States yet.  After running strong early in the year with my first ultra win at the Avalon 50 Mile on Catalina Island in January, I pretty much took 3 months off of training to focus on my medical boards exam (with a wet struggle of a 50K at Way Too Cool thrown in there.) On top of that, some medical tests suggested that an inherited heart condition would prevent me from running competitively anymore (which I fortunately found out not to be true, 6 agonizing weeks later).

Coming across the Quicksilver 50 mile finish line with Geri

With Western States planned as my swan song, I dedicated myself to training for at least 3 more months.  And so leading up to the Quicksilver 50 Mile, I was actually more concerned that the time I had taken off from training would force me to bonk pacing Nathan Yanko the previous week at Miwok (4th overall) than I was about running my own race the next week.  Nathan rocked Miwok, and I felt strong, so it almost felt like Quicksilver just popped into view.

With cooler than normal temperatures and clear skies,  race day looked to be a blast. Carpooling down with my girlfriend and best crew chief ever, Geri Ottaviano, and friends and training buddies, Larissa Polischuk and Rick Gaston, was a blast.  With a quick description of what to do in case a forest fire spontaneously occurs (“go to the nearest aid station; it may be behind you”),  the RD set us off.  I started pretty conservatively, and noticed Josh Brimhall and Sean Lang take 1,2 positions in the 50 miler.  Within minutes, I was running alone and actually felt pretty slow. Whereas the week before, the climbs felt easy and just glided by, I now felt more aware of each ascent and they felt like they were just lasting longer.  However, having the coolest crew, I was fortunate to see Geri & Rick Gaston at the first said station around 6 as they had hiked in.  We exchanged Gel-bots in a breeze, and I was off.

The beautiful Quicksilver course, looking down on the Dam aid station. Photo courtesy of Rick Gaston

The next ten miles were mostly climbing up and around the dam, and I started to feel much better.  Maybe it was the new Gel-bot, maybe it was getting cheers from Geri again (she hiked into the mile 10/19/23 dam overlook aid station) – probably both.  At around mile 23, I was feeling awesome.  I never spent more than a few seconds at each aid station, and was able to catch Sean Lang to move into second on the ~1500 foot climb up the dam the final time.   I was pretty content and surprised with this position, knowing that Josh Brimhall likely had the race secured in 1st and Troy Howard and Rob Evans could not be far behind and would likely close hard to the finish.  Along the short and steep ups and downs toward the start/finish area (mile 31), I caught Josh and moved into first.

Somewhere around mile 37 still working to get to the turnaround for the return trip home

Crossing through the start/finish area was a huge boost as my family had made the trip down from Berkeley, decked out in home-made tie-dye to root me on and get the gist of crewing from Geri (they’re going to help at States.)  The energy surge soon faded during what they call the “roller coaster” up to mile 36.  Short, steep climbs and drops just destroyed my legs, and pretty soon I was hiking most of the climbs.  Even worse, I saw Josh peek over the top of the previous climb just as I was starting on the next.  Talk about running scared!  This slow pace pretty much continued up through the final climb and turn-around at mile 41 where I doused my head off with a bucket of water, and bolted down the mountain, finally relieved at some extended downhill running (my favorite.)

When I saw Josh on the turnaround, he was barely a few minutes behind and had gained considerably since the lap through the start/finish, but after talking to him after the race I found out that my dumb grin running downhill had convinced him to take a few minutes at the aid station to cool off and fuel up for the run home.  Even more worrisome, I soon crossed paths with Rob Evans and Troy Howard who were literally running like gazelles up the path I had mostly hiked. They looked strong and determined, and I felt everything but that.

Running with Geri the last ~7 was a blast

Coming across Geri and fam-crew at mile 44, they could tell I didn’t look to well. Geri offered, half jokingly I think, “You want me to run with you for a bit, just to get you going a little?” My response, “Can you run the rest?” She obliged and with her shoes still untied, we were off.  We were able to keep a solid pace through the rollercoasters, and before we knew it, we were on the final descent to the finish.  Running with Geri toward my cheering family for the win was an ultra-dream come true.  And at the finish the legendary Quicksilver BBQ lived up to every ounce of its reputation as we sat around catching up with old friends, and made some new ones over delicious food and a very refreshing beer.

Full results can be found at Ultrasignup.com

-Zach

My family and awesome crew!
Celbrating post-race with buddy Rick Gaston

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