Saturday, August 31, 2019

Back from the dead! Says the blog.

Enough, Jean let me and you down since mid June. 10 weeks without activity, that never happened to me before. Since March 2007, Jean took pride of visiting and making me talk to you about his running adventures, almost every week. 631 posts overall, such an amazing ride, I, this blog, decided to tell you what was going on and come back from this dead silence... And darn if you recognize my Master's style in these lines, I'm so used to it... ;-)

First, I don't blame Jean. He loves sharing about his running adventure, but, except for the obligation of his Running Day celebration at SVL in June, he hasn't been running at all since the epic mud fest of Ohlone, last May. 14 weeks, you can imagine he isn't happy about it. Actually he is rather mad as running was such a big part of his life. And mine.

What happened to Jean? Well, for those following me assiduously, you should remember a post from last November (Jean's 10th consecutive Silicon Valley Turkey Trot) in which we related one little slip on a wet cross walk. So ironic that we recently celebrated Neil Armstrong's first step on the Moon 50 years ago. Yes, one little step can be a leap, forward for humanity in that case, or backward with an annoying injury for Jean. As a 3-week break in December, and another 2-week break in January didn't help, Jean decided to still run quite a loaded season in 2019, hoping the injury would fade away and heal by itself. After 11 races in which every left stride was painful (1 tough trail half marathon, 3 marathons and 7 challenging ultras), Jean was hoping that a 2-month break in the Grand Prix schedule would do and be enough time to heal.

While in France this June and July, he finally went to see 2 doctors and get an MRI. The diagnosis? At least it wasn't a stress fracture of his pelvis (that would have been bad to have raced for 5 months on it), but two findings: the MRI showed a fissured tendon in the left hamstring and the pain is coming from a bone edema at the attachment of the tendon on the pelvis.
Is it getting better? The first two months of complete rest actually didn't lead to any progress, even sitting was painful so Jean started working for hours, standing up. Agn├Ęs even got Jean to take some swimming lesson but that's really not Jean's cup of tea. After 2 months of rest, Jean finally got back to gyms (at his IBM office when in town, at the YMCA on weekend, or hotel gyms when on the road) for intense spinning or elliptical sessions. Like getting to 600 kCal for 1-hour bike workouts, or 800 kCal for elliptical ones, try that out, that get my Master sweaty!
Meanwhile, Jean got some help from these French doctors as well a some PT in Cupertino, and lot of exercises at home or in hotel rooms. 3.5 months have passed since Ohlone but the pain is still acute and forbid running. Jean is on his way to Mauritius this weekend, not sure he'll bring me on a run, I may enjoy the beach while he is working all week (yes, he has real and legit Digital Business Automation customers in Mauritius in case you wonder!).

So, some signs of healing but still no clear end in view, it has been a long and dark tunnel.

At least, I'm happy I took the initiative to break the silence. Maybe that will get Jean back to sharing a few thoughts about his experience. There are always nuggets of running wisdom to be found during injury healing time, but he also attended a few running events this Summer, albeit on the side line. Let me add that he is actually super happy he had no big races on his summer calendar this year, it would have been even worse if he had to not start a UTMB race for instance. Happy to be watching that majestic race this weekend, live!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Global Running Day @ SVL: now we are talking! And walking and running...

Eclipsed by local giants like Google, Facebook, Cisco or Intel, it's a little known fact that IBM, a New York-based corporation, has a strong presence in Silicon Valley. Several thousands employees work from 7 key locations: 3 in San Francisco including Watson West and our very first IBM Garage, Foster City, our renowned Almaden Research Center, Emeryville (Aspera acquisition) and, at the Southern edge of the Valley, our Silicon Valley Lab where more than 1,000 of us work surrounded by Mother Nature. We even own hills and farm land, home of a few gentle cows (nothing like the angry cows of the East Bay as I could experienced at the last Ohlone 50K! ;-) ).

A few years ago we actually had another location at the end of North First Street where I became the Site Executive after the ILOG acquisition. We had a few Running Day celebrations there (2010, 2013), a tradition I was pleased to expose to a much larger population in 2017. That year, we logged 316 miles which exceeded my expectations. Unfortunately, that number went down significantly last year, yet, I set an aggressive target of 400 miles this time, Wednesday June 5, enough miles to get us farther than Los Angeles!

Well, this year, thanks to a few new tricks, we went way down the Pacific Coast, well into Baja California, to El Rosario: 700 miles (699.78 to be exact, according to our volunteer data scientist compiling the results, Jorge).
What worked? A few things made a huge difference this year, best practices to repeat next year:
  1. First, an internal competition! Our site is composed of 8 4-floor towers so we set up a challenge to log as many miles as possible across each tower. The purpose was two folds: create some emulation --who doesn't want to win?-- but also invite everyone to make new connections and team up with colleagues they don't typically have opportunity to work with.
  2. As an extra incentive beyond just pride, fund raising: we managed to get the miles of the winning tower matched by one of our local executive, $1 for a mile, in a gift to POST, Peninsula Open Space Trust, a local organization helping to protect our hills against developers projects.
  3. As a bonus, since this organization is in the environment protection area, IBM will double the gift (IBM matches employee contributions to non-profits in the environment and education sectors).
  4. We also identified and selected a few executives and managers in each tower to spread the word and invite their team members and co-located colleagues to participate.
  5. We communicated both by email and Slack (announcement, reminders) and posted posters to make sure to reach everybody.
  6. Last but not least, we had one volunteer per tower from our local running group who went door to door to make the invite even more personal and making this event a real team work!
While 3 towers broke the 100-mile mark, one blew the competition away with 258 miles, creating an extra $516 contribution to POST's mission, well done!

Overall the best measure of success for me was the number of participants, 285. Significantly higher number than last year and yet giving great hope we can do much more next time if we get half the site to log 1 mile or 2! Indeed, while many only logged 1 mile this time (the perimeter road around our buildings), it shows the power of a large group! I was going to share more pictures to see how much fun we had but I need to ask permission to every employee before so here is one to show some of the turn-out while not allowing much facial recognition... ;-)
There was actually so much enthusiasm from colleagues that past Wednesday that we are considering a repeat in a few months, when the temperature isn't that hot, not to wait for another year before the next Global Running Day celebration.

Oh, did I run? Well, I wish it would have been a straightforward answer given my passion for running indeed but, with the lasting gluteus injury, I hesitated. I had not run since Ohlone 50K, 2.5 weeks earlier and, unfortunately, that break didn't help at all. Since I ran 1,300 miles on that injury, raced 11 times including 10 marathon or longer distances, breaking 2 American Age Group records (50K Road and 100-mile Road), pain is barely an excuse so... yes, I did run. Albeit only logging 11 miles for our tower which ended up in 2nd place. While every left stride hurt, it felt good to run along on such a special day, I wouldn't have missed the opportunity. The following Thursday I went for a run but turn around after three strides as the pain was unbearable. I finally saw someone that afternoon, the famous Dr. Leahy, chiropractor of the 49ers, who immediately confirmed a major tear deep in my thigh. While realigning my pelvis released some tension in the muscle and provided some relief his diagnostic that it may take a long time to heal. And while he said I could jog, I should not stretch that muscle with a long stride (no sprint, no hills). That advice got me to stop completely again, hoping that a long time doesn't mean 3 months. Or more... I have to say I'm of course very disappointed although so appreciative of what I managed to do in 6 months, what many couldn't do in a year. Also glad that I didn't have any major 100-milers in June or July. Speaking of 100-miles, I'm thinking of those who trained so hard for Hard Rock which just got cancelled because of the amount of snow, that sucks.

Anyway, let's rejoice for all the running and walking which happened on that special 2019 Global Running Day; outstanding job, SVL colleagues! And to all who celebrated around the globe too!