Sunday, March 29, 2015

2015 outlook: the planned and... unplanned

It is almost the end of the first quarter of 2015, we already are out of the winter season --not that we've seen any of a winter in California unfortunately...-- it feels kind of late to talk about yearly resolutions on March 29, doesn't it...? Well, you know me, you know I haven't procrastinated that long to lay out my ultra running calendar! As a matter of fact, as you were able to see on this blog or FaceBook, I had already 4 important races, the first two of our Grand Prix (Jed Smith and Way Too Cool) and 2 Nationals (Rocky Racoon and Caumsett Park).

Blogging on a weekly basis, I was waiting for a week without a major event, either a race or a fat ass. I had planned on sharing my plans (!) last week then but, injured, I wasn't in the mood. Some may have noticed that I was walking funny and limping at our PAUSATF award banquet. I could barely walk indeed that morning, with a sharp pain in my left heel which started after a training run in freezing conditions in Columbus, 3 weeks ago, a few days after Way Too Cool.

I'm still not sure what exactly this is, I assume it's an inflammation. The closest I could self-diagnose on the web is a peroneal tendonitis. I've been on the road for 5 weeks in a row (Vegas, New York, Oklahoma City, and 3 round trips to Columbus, OH through Chicago), not ideal conditions to properly taking care of my heel. I ran 6 miles this Friday and, although it was ok during the run, the sharp pain fired again a few hours later, confirming the hypothesis of the inflammation.

With that, I spent a few hours at the gym, either at the hotels, or at my office on weekends. Spinning and stair master, while watching TV for a change. Hundreds of calories burned, good leg work, but no miles in the running log.

Not blogging last week also freed up some time to read about others, in particular those who are also struggling with injury, for instance:
  1. Much more serious issues encountered by Andy Wilkins-Jones which he discusses on iRunFar
  2. Jez Bragg's training struggles
  3. Jon Olsen's ramping up after months of injury preventing him to even walk normally
Like I often say, what I love the most about ultra running is, well, the running part. Not the walking when getting too tired in races. And of course not the "no running" when grounded with injury... Yet, compared to others, I feel blessed that this doesn't look like a major injury and I'm confident one more week of rest will do. As you can tell, I still plan on toeing the line at American River 50-mile next weekend, and, assuming this works out, go on with the 100K Road Nationals the following week.

A good segue to the 2015 calendar topic...

Not planning for injuries (damned!), I planned for another crazy racing year which I tried to capture in the maps below (click on the picture to enlarge). For the past 8 years and leading to 8 consecutive age group wins, I mostly focused on our PAUSATF Grand Prix, running between 10 to 13 of the yearly 17 events. Continuing on last year's direction, I decided to add a few National Championships to that. I know, it is a lot, and we'll see what my body can endure... And adjust accordingly...
Here is the legend (of the map... ;-):
  1. Rocky Raccoon 100-mile Trail Nationals
  2. Jed Smith 50K
  3. Caumsett Park 50K Road Nationals
  4. Way Too Cool 50K
  5. American River 50-mile
  6. Mad City 100K Road Nationals
  7. Ruth Anderson (most likely 50-mile)
  8. Miwok 100K
  9. QuickSilver 100K
  10. Ohlone 50K
  11. Cayuga 50-mile Trail Nationals
  12. Summer Solstice 24-hour
  13. Skyline 50K
  14. Tamalpa 50K Trail Nationals
  15. NorthCoast 24-hour Road Nationals
  16. Trailblazer 10K (yes, only 6.2 miles...! ;-)
  17. Dick Collins Firetrails 50-mile
  18. The Fall 50-mile Road Nationals
  19. Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10K
Phew, just having typed all this makes me tired, and that doesn't even include Desert Solstice in case I'm invited again and decide to go for a few (hundred...) laps in December! Thankfully, this is over 52 weeks, so there is some time to execute on this, good health permitting... And if you think this is a lot, it's not much compared to the 54 races that Michael Wardian completed in 2014, most of them finishing on the overall podium, and crushing the Masters category too!

Time flies... When I started running seriously upon coming to the US in 1998, running a marathon in a year was my key yearly goal. After running 110 ultra races, I don't get much of a celebration by family members or friends. Completing an ultra, or even winning it, as become BAU (business as usual)... Oh well, I run for my own passion, and for the pleasure of being out there, challenging myself, in great company. Speaking of great company, hope to see many of you at American River next Saturday!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

PAUSATF LDR 2014 Awards: another great harvest!

I started running ultras in 2006 (Way Too Cool 50K in March) and found out about our local MUT Grand Prix later that year. I got hooked to it and that provided me with many racing and training goals. In other words, it has kept me on my toes for the past 9 years.

But, first, what are all these acronyms if you are not an insider? PUSATF stands for our Pacific Association (North California and Nevada) of USA (that one is easy...) Track and Field organization (what is FFA or Federation Francaise d'Athl├ętisme in France). And MUT stands for Mountain and Ultra Trail. There is actually some debate about the "and" in the acronym, that is if every race in our MUT Grand Prix should be an ultra, or if we should include shorter trail distances too. Like not all ultra races have to be mountain runs (we do ultra marathons on flat roads too, or even on the track). For now, our Grand Prix included 17 ultra events in 2014 and I competed in 13 of them (finished 12, 1 in the M40-49 age group and 11 in my new M50-59 one). As I said, I'm hooked...

The great thing with our Grand Prix is that it also includes team competitions. In our Grand Prix, the top 3 runners of each team score and we have 4 team flavors: Men, Women, Mixed and Overall. It certainly helps making our sport less of an individual one and add a great social component to it.

One more acronym I used in the title: LDR for Long Distance Running. This one is interesting because the Long aspect is quite subjective: it starts with a few miles with Cross-Country (or XC) and as basically no limit on the ultra running side although we don't have 200-milers in the schedule yet and it's really hard to run more than 175 miles in 24 hours. LDR basically groups events which happen outside of a stadium, what we call "hors stade" in France. From Cross-Country on trails (rarely muddy in California though especially these past dried years), to Short Road events (e.g. 5 or 10K), Long Road ones (10-mile, half marathon, marathon) then MUT.

Last year I only ran the Championship in the Cross-Country category and placed 2nd in my age group, behind Rich Hanna. Great velocity test on the 10K distance, and on the course which is going to be used for the 2015 Cross Country National Club Championships in Golden Gate Park this December. Focusing on the MUT Grand Prix and a few Nationals (50K Road and 24-hour), I didn't make room to run any of the Road Grand Prix.

Our QuickSilver Running Club was hosting the yearly award banquet this year in Los Gatos.
With our President busy with a tennis competition in Sacramento this weekend, our Team Captain, Loren Lewis kicked-off the event.
Christine Kennedy was this year's guest speaker. Christine is originally from Ireland but now represents the US in competitions around the world. With a PB of 2:35 on the marathon, she has set many Masters record on every distance from 5K up to the marathon. She just turned 60 and her main goal this year is to be the first 60-year old woman to run a marathon under 3 hours. She plan on doing this in October, a few months after becoming a grandmother! ;-)
Here are a few tips she shared while being interviewed by our Men's LDR Chair, Tom Bernhard:

  • Be open to change. Change in your racing. Change in your training. And even leveraging new technologies such as compression boots, cryotherapy or our local NASA Ames Vasper facility
  • Set a standard for yourself. Raise the bar, don't just "run your age." If you moved up to a new age group, keep racing the younger folks (hmm, sounds familiar... ;-). For instance, Christine doesn't run as "a 60-year old woman" but as a Master athlete.
  • Rely on a coach. Rely on someone else for nutrition and stretching guidance, and training plans, so you can remain focused on the competition. 
  • Embrace each competition. When asked which distance or event she prefers, Christine says that she likes every competition. From sprinting men on shorter distances, to the challenge of keeping up with the elite on the marathon. You have to live in the moment and get excited by such competition.
  • Pay attention to nutrition. Christine still carbo load before a marathon race, but not much otherwise. She would skip bagels, and stay away of pastries, desserts and, of course, junk food.
  • Sleep a lot. Christine takes sleep very seriously, between 8 to 10 hours a night (yikes, I need to change job... ;-). Especially to recover after a big competition or work out. If you don't sleep enough, better skip a work out.
  • Run with a club. There is amazing value in getting support from club mates. Support, social ties, emulation, motivation.
It was a great illustration of the quality and variety of running our local association is blessed with. There were many awards distributed this Saturday night.

Our Club collected 5 of the 11 individual titles: Stephen Wassather (M under 30), Lisa Hughey (W30), Kat Powel (W60), Jim Magill (M60) and myself (M50).

In addition, we won 3 out of the 4 team challenges: Women, Mixed and Overall.

This year, the Men team division was won by the Excelsior (we lost by one point...!), here represented by Karl Schnaitter and Nakia Baird:
Our MUT Chair, Bill Dodson, who turned 80 the day before we both raced the 50K Road Nationals 2 weeks ago (and Way Too Cool last week!), won his age group last year again at 79:

Last but not least, I was nominated again for the local Ultra Runner Of the Year award. This was my 5th nomination in 8 years, among world class athletes: Jon Olsen, Dave Mackey, Ian Sharman, Chikara Omine, Eric Skaden, Victor Ballesteros, explaining why I only got this coveted title only once, back in 2007. When I found out that the other nominee was Alex Varner, I was really not sure. Sure, I had an amazing season, even setting up a new point record with 554 thanks to a few new age group course records, but Alex is in another category: 98.92% on UltraSignup with 21 races, 2nd at Way Too Cool in 3:17, 3rd at the super competitive North Face 50-mile Challenge, 4th at Lake Sonoma, 7th at Western States. And Alex has been very supportive of me on FaceBook or at races when spectating, so I feel sorry for him. Now, he is only 29, so I'm sure we'll see him dominating races for many more years! In the meantime, I thank our Officials for this recognition and in particular our MUT co-chair, Hollis Lenderking for his very nice words.
On top of all these awards, thanks to Marc Klemencic's efforts, our Club collected more than $1,500 worth of prizes which we distributed in a raffle this Saturday night. An entry to our QuickSilver 50K race in May, pairs of Hoka and Brooks shoes, pairs of Injinji toe socks, arm sleeves from Moeben, gift certificates from Sports Basement, hydration pack from UltrAspire and 10 5-lesson packs for bikram yoga at 98 point 6 in San Jose!

See below a few of the happy winners! And, now, I raise my glass to another season of Running Happy to all of you, success with your 2015 goals, on the trails, the road, or which ever path you life gets you on!

Go, Run Happy, all!
 A few of the happy winners of the Yoga lessons (thank you, !)

Special thanks to our own Pacific Association athlete Scott Dunlap for his support and plug to the toe socks:

Our QuickSilver Club representatives: