Saturday, February 20, 2010

Quicksilver RhoQuick team: scoring and recruiting!

As I mentioned at the end of my Jed Smith race report, still catching up with past events. This post is about two of them: the PA USATF Long Distance Running award ceremony and a "recruitment run" with Bree Lambert three weeks ago. This is a long report, in three acts/sections.

1. RhoQuick team takes first place in 2009 Ultra Grand Prix!

The Silicon Valley is a dynamic and quite competitive place where people like to win and, like in the US in general but as opposed to France for instance, where success is popular and well regarded. So what do you expect when a CEO and entrepreneur like Adam Blum sponsors and forms a team in the South Bay: we win! This brings an interesting paradox actually. Although we, ultra runners, require a lot of support from our family, friends and volunteers to race, this is an individual sport by essence. We run for our pleasure, even if it sometimes comes though pain, to achieve our own goals. However, the individualistic aspect of the sport is balanced by an amazing camaraderie, simplicity and moderate competition thanks to the limited publicity and prize money.

This is where the USA Track & Field Pacific Association comes to play. By managing a yearly Grand Prix, PA USATF brings some excitement throughout the year, proposing to score points in 18 races (see the 2010 calendar), first on an individual basis (men/women x 7 age groups) but also as a team (men/women/mixed). Although running is our second job, I was amazed how seriously the team took this competition. It is actually a tough competition because the number of points is low and the score are very closed (e.g. for a 50K, the winning team gets 10 points, 2nd 9, 3rd 8 and so on, where as individual Masters for instance get 40 points for 1st place, 31 for 2nd, then 24, 19, 16, 14, ...).

At the end, we came in first with 118 points, preceding the notorious Talmalpa team by 3 points and the Buffalo Chips by 27 points. Tamalpa has won 7 titles over the past 10 years so they were definitely a very serious contender (the Buffalo Chips won the title in 2007 and 2006, and have also dominated the Women and Mixed team competitions for the past 5 years).

A big thank you to Hollis Lenderking and Gary Wang for all the energy they put in managing this Grand Prix, from the calendar planning to the meticulous task of counting the points, and the nice touch of recognizing the awardees. Thank you also to my teammates, Pierre-Yves, Sean, Jim, Andy, John, and of course Adam who organized the plot and got his start-up company, Rhomobile, to cover some of the race registration costs. And to the sane competition out there from the other clubs! Here is Adam (center) with our team trophy:
Incidentally, I won my age group again (3rd year in a row, yeah! - See the final 2009 standings) and I want to highlight a few of the other age group 2009 winners:
  1. Jim Magill (M60-69), RhoQuick teammate,
  2. Bill Dodson (M70-79), from my other running club, the Stevens Creek Striders in Cupertino,
  3. Christina Brownson (W50-59), also from the Striders.

In my age group the competition was fierce with my own teammate and compatriot, Pierre-Yves, for whom it was only the second season in ultra (and running actually!). I am also glad that Mark Lantz only ran 4 of the 16 races. He had an amazing season and would have won the Grand Prix would he have focused on it (like I did, running 12 races, including American River where I DNF'ed with asthma).

Last but not least, Victor Ballesteros and Chikara Ohmine were both presents at the banquet and nominee for the coveted title of PAUSATF Ultra Runner of the Year. It was a close call as both had an outstanding season and Chikara won. Just to illustrate how amazing his season has been, Chikara set 5 new age group course records out of the 8 events he ran in the Grand Prix. All that while competing at the same elite level in hot dog eating contests!! ;-)
By the way, the banquet was on the evening of the same day some of us ran Jed Smith so it was a very long day after waking up at 4:30 to drive up to Sacramento in the morning. Yet another of these "ultra" days... ;-)

2. PattiSue Plumer: from international elite running to coaching

While I am at the PA USATF LDR Awards Banquet, let me tell you about our keynote speaker of the evening (by the way, the event was organized this year by the West Valley Joggers & Striders and hosted at the Blue Pheasant in Cupertino, a very convenient place for me and my teammates).

PattiSue is an icon of US distance running who competed at the Olympics in Korea (1988) and Barcelona (1992). She placed 5th in the 3,000m in Barcelona but, in 1990 was ranked #1 in the world on 5,000 and 3,000 meters. After a 20-year career at the elite and international level, PattiSue now coaches cross-country and track & field at Los Altos High School. She even has her own Wikiedia page!

She told us about her switch from athlete to coach, from the self-centered and egocentric  approach of the athlete to the giving back on the other side of the fence, returning a part of all she received from her own coaches.

One of her stances was probably not too controversial with this audience (quite competitive) but would have been in another setting. For PattiSue, you run to race and... win! Running is a mean to an end. Otherwise it's not running. Surely, this view would not be shared by 90% or more of the runnng population, at least the winning part of the mantra (since tens of thousands of runners do race indeed).

The largest part of the great and motivational speech was about some tips to competitive runners. Here are some notes:
  1. Set precise, challenging but attainable goals
  2. Train to your goals
  3. Train for what you focus on (e.g. "train fast if you want to be fast", I believe she means train for sprint if sprint is your focus)
  4. Train your weaknesses, raise your strength. Usually people to the other way. This is somehow controversial however but a personal conviction. In other words, focus your training on where you are less comfortable.
  5. Quality beats quantity. But you need at least one. Quality is better but not everyone is meant for or good at it (it requires a lot of discipline). So some people do well by focusing on quantity if they can't on quality.
  6. Strengthen your feet and lower legs. It's no surprise that best female athletes in High School have strong foundation acquired in sports such as gymnastic or dance. Walk barefoot (unless you have a foot problem!).
  7. There are no secrets! Be open-minded and flexible. It's OK if not everything is perfect on race day (e.g. rest, stress, nutrition, form), you just need most of the things right to be successful.
  8. Willing to risk losing. Getting better is easy or eaiser, being the best and winning is harder and requires taking more risk.

3. RhoQuick is recruiting!

With this great 2009, our team RhoQuick is ready and excited to defend its title in the Men division but we are now also looking at the other divisions. Because we don't have much of a female contingent, we will be aiming at the Mixed division.

First, we "signed" or enrolled Mark (Tanaka) who is a top ultra runner in the Bay Area. A few other Quicksilver club members may also join the team.

On the women side, Bree Lambert has accepted to join the club although she is also running in the Fleet Feet/UltraSignup racing team. Bree finished 3rd in her age group last year just behind elite Bev Anderson-Abbs.

Pierre-Yves and I had the pleasure of running 15 miles in the Almaden Quicksilver Park, one week before Jed Smith, in a sunny Sunday morning. Bree actually came with her friend Joe Sanders, who was raised in the area and saw the Park opening in the 70s and is an ex running and duathlon star (4:08 mile PR). Joe ran the first 5 miles with us before returning to the park entrance, as he is nurturing an injury and is not into ultra (yet?) anyway.
It was great for me to be pack on the Quicksilver 50-mile course which I enjoyed last May, so much that I did set a new PR for our age group. For Pierre-Yves and Bree, this park is in their backyard so they know all the details and by-passes of the numerous trails.
Between the hills and the talking, it took us 2 hours and a half to complete the 15-mile loop and I told myself I'll have to run faster at Jed Smith. Which I did obviously on the flat course.

With that, if you live in the Bay Area and want to join the fun we have with our team, please check the Quicksilver of San Jose club website.

And see you all on the trails!


Anonymous said...

Vous souhaitons un bon recrutement!

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