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!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

PAUSATF LDR Awards Celebration 2018: they love beer!

3 months have passed and I'm only reporting about this award ceremony, I'm surely going to lose my press pass on this one, if not already. I've never studied journalism but I used to at least be more timely at covering the ultra events I attended since I started this blog in March 2007. If not on the same day, at least just one or two days later. Oh well, who cares anyway... ;-) But thank you for reading, still... And, like I enjoy coming back to old posts as my memory fade, who knows, maybe someone will enjoy reading this in a few years so... better late than never as we say...
Looking back at that weekend of February though, I may have had a few good excuses, you decide... First and foremost, I almost didn't even make it to the event which was at 5 pm on Sunday in San Francisco. Indeed, the previous Saturday, I was competing in the 100-mile Road Nationals in Las Vegas. Yet, I still managed to break the M50-54 there, get a few hours of sleep, attend the award ceremony at 11 am on Sunday, drive to the airport, fly to SFO and get to the brewery at 2 pm, early enough to start working on my race report and help setting up the room. All that after an exhausting conference in San Francisco until Friday afternoon, phew... Then, on the following Tuesday I flew to Singapore and Malaysia for 2 weeks there. Then right away to New York (new M55-59 American Record at the 50K Road Nationals) and Europe in March and the 8-race series in April and May... Ok, bad excuses, I could have squeezed an hour... At least, 14 posts later, here it is, credit to the Memorial Day break and some long overdue rest for my gluteus!

Sunday February 17, 2019 it was then, at the Laughing Monk Brewery in San Francisco; what is not to love in such a name, right? The celebration was organized by our LDR Committee Co-Chair, Angie Longworth, from the club of the speedy Impalas. To attract younger generations and a new audience, Angie favored a casual setting over the traditional formal banquet format. Did that work? There were a few new faces but ultimately, everybody expected to be seated at the table, both for dinner and listening to the keynote speaker. Unlike most of my ultra running buddies and Quicksilver club mates in particular, I don't run for a beer at the finish line, but I have to admit they had quite a few original and tasteful beers to enjoy. Anyway, the only tradition of this banquet is that one of the clubs competing in the LDR Grand Prix, either cross-country, road or MUT (Mountain, Ultra, Trail), step up and organize the celebration the way they want so we are looking forward to who will take the baton for next year.

The Mexican food was catered by the parents of one of the LDR athletes and was fresh and copious, allowing for a second run. Again, I'm not a beer expert, more into wine, I assume you don't have to be too picky for food and beer pairing.


These celebrations have three key purposes: gather our LDR community, recognize the best accomplishments and get inspired by one of the legends in our LDR sports. It's my pleasure to report that we achieved all goals again this time. First, we had a packed house, and not everybody got a chair to sit but there were stools at the bar too.


A few other changes this year, like:
  1. our LDR chairs, Andy (Crawford) and Angie decided to cut on the litany of award announcements, inviting every Age Group champion and awardee to grab their plaque upon getting in;
  2. noticing that Hollis Lenderking wasn't attending, I had prepared some notes for the special MUT awards but Andy handed them over anyway, to save time; I will admit that I will miss Hollis' special toasts and kind words, a talent I saw him perfecting in the previous 10 celebrations I attended;
  3. as for the plaques, I stepped up to save the concept as a few of our LDR Committee members felt that they were not necessary, especially with the recipients which had not been claiming their trophy in previous years. It took me quite a few hours, and many email reminders, to figure out who wanted one, versus not. We saved a few plaques eventually, all better for the planet!
While I'm talking about awards and before I move to our guest speaker speech, a few words on the MUT side:
  1. A few new Age Group champions this year: Kristina Vogt Randrup (W30-) from Excelsior, Simone Winkler (W30-39) also from Excelsior, Jin Xiang (W40-49) from Excelsior again, Pen Perez (W50-59) from Pamakids. On the men side Samuel Clinton (M30-) unattached, Karl Schnaitter (M30-39) taking over the title from his Excelsior clubmate, Chikara Omine, and Dan Aspromonte stealing the title from his Quicksilver teammate Joe Swenson in the M60-69: quite some friendly competition and emulation out there!
  2. A few returning champions: Karen Bonnett-Natraj (W60-69, Quicksilver), William Dai (M40-49, Pamakids), the tireless Jim Magill (M70-79, Quicksilver) and myself for the 12th consecutive Age Group title, sticking to it! ;-)
  3. On the team competition side, the change we've seen over the past 10 years keep going, toward the largest and healthiest clubs managing a generation shift: when I started running ultras in 2006 our local scene was dominated by Buffalo Chips with a Grand slam (3 team awards out of 3) in 2006 and 2007 after Tamalpa and BAUR (Bay Area Ultra Runners) traded the top honors between 1994 and 2004. Then my club Quicksilver took over, culminating with 4 team awards in 2011 and 3 in 2013 and 2014. Then Excelsior took 3 in 2015, and sharing equally with Pamakids in 2016 and 2017. What happened in 2018? Pamakids won the Women, Men and Overall divisions, Excelsior keeping the Mixed one. Proving that the competition remains open and healthy!
Here with my fellow club mates (Quicksilver): Jim Magill (M70 champ), Nattu Natraj, Karen Bonnett-Natraj (W60 champ), Dan Aspromonte (M60 champ).


Let's now switch to the special yearly awards, these coveted awards unveiled during the evening.

First, the MUT Volunteer of the Year (VoY): for 2018 we awarded John Trent for his decades of support of our Pacific Association MUT community in various functions: through its Board of Directors, John has been very involved with the iconic Western States Endurance Run which serves as a benchmark throughout the world for 100-milers. John has also directed the Silver States ultra races (50K and 50-mile) for more than 10 years. John is also a renowned voice of our MUT community, exercising his talent for journalism in vivid articles in Ultra Running Magazine in particular. It took a few weeks before we found the opportunity to meet so I could hand him this well deserved plaque at Quicksilver 100K, where both his daughters ran the 50-mile and his wife the 50K. Some serious ultra family business!
Note that VoY candidates have to be a Pacific Association member during the season they are considered for an award. I'm mentioning this because many ultra volunteers are not and therefore excluded from this consideration.

On the Women side, the Ultra Runner of the Year (URoY) went to Diana Fitzpatrick, from Tamalpa. At age 60 (!) Diana finished 13th at Way Too Cool, 3rd at Ruck A Chuck and 23rd woman at Western States, setting a new Age Group course record and finishing under 24 hours (Silver buckle)! Meghan Law was co-nominated again this year, also with impressive marks well in her 50s.

And on the Men side, we had three nominees: Karl Schnaitter (Excelsior), Cole Watson (SRA Elite) and... myself. Being the MUT Chair, and further extending what Hollis Lenderking had worked on for more than 20 years, I had to come up with a framework to better formalize the selection criteria, which I'll share for the sake of transparency and so everyone knows what we are looking at:



Criteria
0
3
5
Body of Work
No race result
5 significant MUT achievements
10 or more significant MUT achievements
International / National
No result in international or national competitions
Significant results at international or national level
Podium at international competition
Pacific Association MUT GP focus
0 PA race/result
4 or more PA GP results
7 or more PA GP results
Performance range
Single distance / format
Significant results in two distinct formats / distance ranges
Significant results across sub-ultra trail, and 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0 ultras
Historical performance (CR, AGCR)
No CR setting
Some CR setting, or CR-worth/close performances
Consistent setting of CR / AGCR across body of work
Age graded performance
Too old to get close to the podium, or too young for age being a factor (20-35)
Rocking the Masters division
Still killing it enough to make the podium or top 10



We look at results within our Grand Prix of course, but nationally and internationally as well. We look at ITRA rankings for the ultra and trail side, USATF records, recognitions. Our committee is certainly not as large as the 40 experts voting on the Ultra Running Magazine runners of the year, but we aim at applying as much professionalism.

For the men, we considered these athletes: Jon Olsen, Chikara Omine, Karl Schnaitter, David Roche, Cliff Lentz, Jean Pommier, Lance Doherty, Scott Trummer, Tim Comay, Gaspar Mora Porta, Thomas Reiss, Cole Watson. This list is a testament to the vitality of our MUT community in North California and Nevada. And if you feel we omitted someone for 2018, please let me know so we don't commit the same oversight this year (comment on this blog post, or in Facebook Messenger).

In other words, we don't just look at one dimension and the Pacific Association perimeter in particular. But participation in our local Grand Prix is still an important criteria too. Hope that helps everyone understand the process, and motivate many to push the envelope in all these areas.

Based on all this, our small MUT award committee elected me as the recipient again this year, that has been quite a year indeed for me. Cole is in another league from a purely competitive standpoint but had very few MUT races overall while Karl shined not only in his age group in our MUT Grand Prix but also with the most finishes of all participants, 9! To my wife's dismay, 2 more plaques on the shelves in my office... ;-)
And a very rare opportunity to see me wearing a trucker hat, in honor of our evening's sponsor and provider of gift certificates, the Runner's Mind store (Burlingame, San Francisco, Los Altos).

Forgive me for mostly covering the MUT side of this celebration. As a matter of fact, the Road side gets twice as many awards, with a short and long version, and there is Cross-Country (XC) of course. If you click on this picture below, you'll see the special awards in these categories (the first picture at the top, with masked plaques, was the one I prepared for Angie to promote and build some excitement before the event).
A few volunteers were also honored, like Mark Winitz, who officiates at most of our Road and XC events.

And now to the third key element of the evening, the motivational speech from our guest, Coach Greg McMillan (see his bio on his website).

I'm not going to aim at a transcript of the 30-minute speech, especially 3 months later, but here are a few notes I took during Greg's exposé on his decades of impressive coaching experience.

  1. Sorry, in coaching, there is a lot of "it depends..."
  2. Do the training so you can... do the training so you can... finally do the training. In other words, ask yourself: Are you fit enough to do the actual needed training? This requires a ton of patience. Like a good paint job requires the appropriate prep work.
  3. Figure out what is your runner type (why do run, what motivates you like pressure, pleasure, rewards).
  4. Learn to listen to your body so you can train at the level of your musculoskeletal system (and not beyond), your cardio-vascular system (note to self after my 2016 TIA...), your mental system, your respiratory system (another note to self...). (And, personally, I would add other systems such as family support one, or work.)
  5. Balance the ever changing press and rest cycle.
  6. Design your training and racing plans for success, build in some wiggle room.
  7. Maintain, and grow, motivation and build confidence. Confidence is a game changer, through the positive manipulation of your own brain.
  8. For coaches, empower you athletes to make decisions on their training.
  9. Keep working on and raising your racing IQ (e.g. pacing)
  10. Work on your self-limiting factors. E.g. being afraid to fail or feeling comfortable by doing less will protect you but may limit your performance.


Then a few other great points were raised during the Q&A session, engaging the audience even more:

  1. On aging...
    1. Be more gradual, especially with speed training
    2. Spread the stress
    3. Take much more care of your body (nutrition, stretching, recovery)
  2. On technology (the use of gadgets in particular)
    1. It's nice to have useful information
    2. But don't get in overdrive mode, feeling first!
  3. Cross-training? Oh yes, to remain healthy
  4. Diet? Favor clean food, and healthy base. Hint: think of your grand-parents' diet.
Et voilĂ , finally some coverage of this great event, very special thank again to Angie and her Impala Racing Team for stepping up this time, we had a great time mingling around our favorite LDR topics and we look forward to next year's 24th celebration!