Sunday, January 30, 2011

Another busy running weekend

2 posts in one this weekend...

1. One month to build the speed back

After 4 work-outs this week (9, 9, 6 and 6 miles respectively on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) including one track work-out with Bob at Mountain View High School (6 x 800m in 2:42-2:52 with 1-minute rests), I wanted to put some fast miles in as the last tune-up before next week's Jed Smith 50K.

Like last week, I went back to the Mountain View High School track after dropping Greg at the Y's swim team practice. My goal was to do at least a long tempo run at 6 minute/mile pace, either 10, 13 or maybe even 15 miles. The sky was cloudy but the sun not too far so it was a prefect morning for running. The field was occupied by the busy soccer practice (9 to 11 am), but the track had only a handful of joggers on it.

I started slightly more conservatively than last Saturday's 52 laps, with a few 1:27 laps. This time, I had set the lap-detection mode on my Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS, and the feature worked really well, not only providing the lap count but also each lap time. My slowest lap was 1:36 when I stopped for 3 seconds to grab my bottles. Otherwise, the first 40 laps were quite consistently under 1:30. I was 38 seconds ahead of plan at mile 5 and 36 seconds at mile 10. I kept going on and felt good enough to set my goal on 15 miles (60 laps) which I reached in 1:29:48. Since I had never done such a long and fast tempo run I decided to add one more mile and completed the 16 miles or 64 laps in 1:36:01, or right on the 6 min/mile pace. The last time I ran that fast for that long was when I PR'ed at Chicago in October 2003! And I feel that, with more work and in a good race, I could sustain that again for more than 16 miles. Encouraging, just one month into the new season.

The following illustration shows the 64 lap labels near the start line (bottom left of the oval). And, no, I didn't cut corners or run on the field!
This Sunday, I took it more easily and trained another part of my mental, braving the pouring rain which hit the Bay Area this weekend. I stayed in the neighborhood and ran 5 3.1-mile laps at an average of 6:52 min/mile, so a total of 50 flat and fast kilometers over the weekend, a good rehearsal before next Saturday's race in Sacramento. I feel prepared from a fitness and mental standpoint, need to get some good sleep this week, work on the logistics to get to the event, taper, the usual to do list... Oh, and also lose a couple pounds which are still there from the December break and Holidays...

2. Pacific Association USA Track and Field Long Distance Running awards banquet

Phew, that's a long title, which the insiders would compact by using the PAUSATF and LDR acronyms. This is the yearly event where we celebrate the champions of the season, and there are quite a few with 4 Grand Prix (Long Distance "Short", Long Distance "Long", Cross-Country and Mountain and Ultra Trail) times 5 to 7 age groups (Open, Open Masters, Masters, Seniors, Super-Seniors, Veterans, Super Veterans) and 2 genders, not to forgot the team competitions (Men, Women, Mixed) and several other individual awards. Many, many nice plaques!
I joined the PAUSATF association at the end of my first year in ultra, in 2006. Since then, I won my age group in the MUT Grand Prix four years in a row, so you can call that addiction I believe. In 2010 I competed in 11 of the 17 events (only the best 7 scores count and you have to have a certain mix of shorter and longer ultras). Although I realize our National elite isn't all competing on our regional circuit, I'm particularly satisfied of having improved two age group course records this year (Quicksilver 50K and Ruth Anderson 50-mile). As the URL of my blog says, I'm on a mission to keep improving and deny the aging process! At 46, I am getting on the older side of the group though and it's getting harder to keep the lead especially when young and talented Masters such as Dave Mackey, Gary Gellin and Karl Hoagland have just joined the club (not to mention Victor Ballesteros who, thankfully, decided to compete --and win!-- in the M30-39 division in 2010 despite turning 40 last year). How will it play in 2011? It all depends who is going to focus on the Grand Prix this year as there are many other talented runners in this group which is also the largest in our association (55 participants have scored in 2010). See all the 2010 results on the PAUSATF MUT website. And below a picture with all the 2010 Men MUT Grand Prix Champions, from left to right: Bill Dodson (M70-79, West Valley Joggers and Striders), Jim Magill (M60-69, Quicksilver), Sean Lang (Open, Quicksilver), Victor Ballesteros (M30-39, Tamalpa), Jean Pommier (M40-49, Quicksilver) and Joe Swenson (M50-59, Bay Area Ultra Runners):
With 3 of our RhoQuick racing team winning their age group (Jim in the Super-Seniors, Sean in the Open division and I in the Masters), our team took first in the Men Team competition again in 2010 (2 on 2 since we created the team) and 3rd in the Mixed division. As our Team Captain and sponsor, Adam, puts it: "We really need more gals on the team this year!" The word is out... ladies, you know who to contact!
I want to take the opportunity of Hollis Lenderking appearing at the mic on this picture to thank him and Gary Wang for the amazing job they are doing to manage and direct our MUT Grand Prix. Hollis is the Chair and Gary the Scorer. According to them, it was Grand Prix number XIX which, in roman, makes it almost like the Super Bowl... Or the Super "Ball Bearing" for the insiders...

After the dinner, the keynote speaker was Andy Chan, a local running coach who used the hour to recount his role in the career of 2008 Olympian Shannon Rowburry. I must admit that I was very impressed with his demonstration of the power of coaching to develop athletic talents. I tend to think that I'm tough enough on myself not to need a coach, but this talk as well as my Saturday morning work out made me believe that I could improve even further with the help of a professional coach. Maybe for my fifties...? ;-) See Andy's blog, a great perspective from the other side of running performance, the empowerment of athletes through coaching. Here is Andy Chan and his wife, Malinda Walker:
And a picture of Shannon Rowburry, the gem he "worked on" when she was at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco (picture from zimbio.com, from the 2008 Olympic Team Trials):
The banquet was hosted by the US Coast Guard Running Club in a very nice facility on their base and island in Oakland. A big thank you to them for a perfect organization. The family-style dinner was catered by the East Bay Spouses Association: great food and an efficient buffet format which contributed to the friendly atmosphere, and a great opportunity to raise money for charities. A perfect recipe to close the 2010 season!

Oh, speaking about food and recipe, there was a great drawing and I almost won my weight in cheese, albeit not French cheese but cheddar from CABOT Vermont. Thanks to them for supporting our sport this way!
After the distribution of so many awards and prizes, George Rehmet had a very nice and touching word to introduce the addition of an LDR Grand Prix for physically challenged and wheelchair athletic divisions. He asked all of us (and you, readers), to publicize this Grand Prix which expands the reach of our sport to a broader community and is supported by prize money. You can contact George for more information at coastalcalifornia at rrca dot org. I know this should be a hit for a few folks involved in San Jose Fit for instance.
See all of you on the trails in 2011 and looking forward to running in the Grand Prix again with my fellow RhoQuick teammates (whom you can see in action and with our team singlets in my 2010 retrospection album on Picasa)!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Around the world: once!

No, I am not talking about flying around the world. With more than 1.4 million air miles, I already did that several times and have enough carbon foot print to be ashamed of. This Sunday, I completed my 2,210th run in my log and the total distance is 24,910 miles (40,088 km), that is 8 miles more than the circumference of the Earth at the equator! Sincerely, this is not a milestone or a goal that I set when I started running. By the way that's what I have in my log which I started in 1996, on and off first, then very consistently when I moved to California at the end of 1998 and started training for my first marathon. That does not include a few races which I ran in the 1990s, nor the miles when I was running cross-country in middle school, but mostly the distance I ran over the past 12 years.
This corresponds to 3,216 hours or 134 days non stop, quite a hobby... Thankfully, without all the logistic of actually traveling around the world or even walking on water to cross the oceans (see how there is mostly water at the equator)!!

As I run more now with my ultra running and ultra training, if all goes well, it is not going to take me another decade to do another rotation around the blue planet. In the meantime, I did 52 laps on the track on Saturday in 1:17:58, that is a half marathon at 5:59 min/mile pace, in preparation of the upcoming 50K race of Jed Smith. My GPS got so dizzy trying to keep track of these ovals that it indicated 13.8 miles at the end and a 5:37 min/mile pace, but I know I was not that fast. And that I got the lap count right. And that I did not cut corners or changed line despite what the maps shows...

It is Spring in the Bay Area these days with temperatures between 60 and 65F during the day. Thinking of all of you training and logging miles in the cold with a real winter...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Monthly Rhus Ridge Run

There has been a long tradition running in the Midpeninsula of long runs on Saturday morning with an immuable ritual and roster of 4 locations. I joined this group in March 2006 and learned a lot about ultra running from this very experience and friendly group. Although he has moved to Santa Cruz several years ago, we still receive the weekly email and location from Pierre Tardif every Thursday. With all the racing, work, traveling and family priorities, I now have to skip the ones which are in Woodside (Woodside School, Windy Hill, Wunderlich), but I am always thrilled when I can make the one starting at Rhus Ridge, on the other side of Rancho San Antonio. Actually, to make the long run even longer, I now park at Rancho and join the group at the end of the Rhus Ridge climb (the first plateau on the chart below), on our way to the top of Black Mountain.
I drove to and parked at Rancho at 6:35 and was at the top of the hill (Wind Mill Pasture, 4 miles) at 7:05, just in time to catch the rest of the group. It was pitch dark at the start but all fire road so very runnable in the dark. I stopped on the way up to catch the sunrise in my back.
It was my first group run with my new camera after my previous one died in my snowy fat ass run in December in France. Apparently, with the Canon Powershot SD1300 IS (12.1 mega pixels), Agn├Ęs picked the best camera and replacement of my previous Canon Powershot SD700 IS (6.0 mega pixels) but I'm very disappointed with the decrease of shutter speed. I really don't care of the doubled resolution, and actually set my default resolution way down, yet, it takes about a second between the time I press the button and the picture is taken. I could have never done my ultra digithon of Firetrails with such a camera. This Saturday, I got some runners with half their head on the picture, or just an elbow. Need another camera... In the meantime, I posted a few pictures on Picasa; less than usual and more static ones, for the above reason...

Was great to do this long run with this ultra company. A lot of updates about past and upcoming races. Here are, from left to right: Brian, Jean, Craig, Chris, Ed, David, Gary, Mike:
Note that Brooks clearly out numbered other brands 5 to 2 on this picture! And, yes Gary, we know you beat us all in your Innov8... ;-)
It was an interesting week. A good one, running wise, with 62.8 miles not counting last Sunday's 22.7, or 137 miles since January 1. And no more pain in the knee, phew! A very busy one at work which led to 3 nights under 4 hours; a good training for ultra running, yet not a sustainable habit. Thankfully, I caught up with an 11-hr night this weekend! While I was sleeping, Toshi was finishing his first 12-hr race with 73.5 in Morgan Hill. Much further, Mark was battling the clock at H.U.R.T. (Hawai Ultra Running Team) 100-mile, finishing the 5 th lap on this grueling course in 34:54, that is 5 minutes under the cut-off. Phew, that's unusual to see Mark at the bottom of the live web cast, that tells long on the difficulty of this 100-miler.

I still have to do a post to review 2010 and tell you about my 2011 plans; one post at a time... 'Till then, have a good week!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Haiti, one year later...

January 12 is a special date for the family, a nice celebration. But for millions of Haitians, this is now the anniversary of a tragedy. After checking on the conditions of Representative Gabrielle Giffords this weekend, I navigated to a web app on the New York Times web site, powered by GeoEye and Google and showing The Destruction in Haiti, then and now. First, I was amazed by the level of details of the aerial views which let us see that there are precarious all over the capital and the island now. Being an outdoor enthusiast, I panned and zoomed to look for green patches among the ruins. The ones existing before the seism have almost all disappeared. This is illustrated for instance by the following snapshots.

Before (8/25/2009):

A few days after the earthquake (1/16/2010):

And now (11/8/2010):

Using Google Maps, I was able to locate this particular block on the map:
The block contains the Saint Louis de Gonzague High School and a public sport center and field (Centre Sportif Enfrasa). Both stadiums are now covered with temporary houses and classrooms. Of course, it is easy and convenient to think that sport and exercise are not vital to the locals, but that make me appreciate even more the chance we have in our city, county and country with top class running tracks and parks with miles of trails. On top of the destruction of these facilities in Haiti, there are also classrooms which got severely damaged, jeopardizing the education of tens of thousands of students in this country.
A few more clicks and I was on the high school alumni foundation page to make a donation to a community I had never heard before. The power of the web or a sort of Web 2.0 solidarity. If you too consider exercise and education vital for all children, please consider visiting this page too! Tomorrow, after enjoying the track of Mountain View High School (pictured below) with Bob for about a year during the makeover, I will go back to the track at Homestead High School which is brand new and pristine and I will be thinking of those who don't have this luxury... and are not camping on the field... Hope you will join me, by your thoughts and action! 5:45 AM, rain or shine!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Back to fun: not so fast, please!

This is a strange title, isn't it? Not quite Epicurean, rather ascetic. Or, worst, masochist, which I'm sure many people think of us, ultra running studs... ;-)

Let's backtrack 10 days first. As you know, I almost stopped running in December, not by necessity nor by pleasure, but to give my body and mental some rest, following Scott Jurek's advice and approach (Gimme A Break):
So the lessons learned from the Kenyans and the art of hibernation:
1. Take a hibernation break at the end of every season.
2. During the break, run as few steps as possible.
3. Eat well and don’t be afraid to put on a few pounds.
4. Make time for friends, family, and life outside of running.
5. Hibernate four to eight weeks or until fully recharged!
Well, in addition to eating a bit too much over the holidays, the absence of intense exercise gets me out of balance during that period and this tests my patience and coolness, I can hardly wait to resume training. However, this definitely provides a lot of extra time with family and friends, although I did spend some of it in airplanes and airports, like many in December... Anyway, on January 1st, I went for a run and, since I was in deprivation state, for a long run. The weather was foggy and chilly and I ran to the top of Black Mountain via Stevens Creek Park, Montebello Road, the Bella Vista loop and back through San Antonio Park and Cupertino, my usual 29.5-mile training loop.
First, it was such a thrill to get back to outdoor exercise. I started slow, at a 8 min/mile pace, and it felt good. I was very happy to see the Stevens Creek Reservoir almost full already.
The first 11.5 miles to the top of Black Mountain were fine, albeit surreal in the mist of the cloud. There I saw some sturdy picnickers testing their survival skills, at the very top of the mountain, in the cold and humidity and gusty winds. The insiders will recognize them...
At this point, a pain appeared in my right knee and I hesitated cutting it short, either running back or directly though Rancho, skipping the Bella Vista loop. But I decided to keep up with the original plan. The pain was bearable in the uphills but increasing in the downhills which I mostly had being at the top of Black Mountain. Back at the parking lot of Rancho, I still had 5.5 miles to go and, despite the flat street through Cupertino, I could barely run under 10 minutes/mile. I completed the 29.5 miles in 4hrs40 instead of the usual 4 hours when I am in shape.
Quite a disappointing way to start the season, despite the joy (and fun) to be back on the road and trail again. On Sunday, I decided to test the knee and it was really bad, I was back home after 1.5 miles. Trying again on Monday, I was thrilled that there were barely any pain despite running 6 miles. I skipped Tuesday and ran 8 flat miles on Wednesday, at Alviso, still without pain.

Then 6 fast miles (6:15 min/mile) on Saturday and 23 miles this Sunday with an out and back to the top of Black Mountain again. Phew, I'm relieved that my knee is ok, I am not sure what happened on Day 1. I really did not push the pace, just the distance, maybe it was still too demanding for my body after such an hibernation... Fortunately, it was not inside the knee but like an inflammation of the LCL (Lateral Collateral Ligament), but it passed after a few days, hence the delay of this recount of my New Year Day run and almost fat ass... A loud message of my body to listen to it more, to take care of the aging carcass, its engine (read the heart) and all the cables and wires (aka tendons and ligaments). The same way you need to ramp up slowly after recovering from an injury, I need to build up my training more progressively. And sharing so you don't rush either. Hence the title...
Anyway, here are a few other pictures on Picasa from this initial run of New Year's Day. I hope you had a less hazardous start of the year, running-wise, especially if you set healthy resolutions for 2011, which I wish for you. Again, happy, healthy, enjoyable 2011 to all! Oh, and a special happy 1/11/11 in case this means anything special to some astrologists or numerologists... ;-)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Holiday on ice: better not running

A quick one as a continuation and close of the 2010 Silicon Valley Turkey Trot event. Last Monday, all the age group winners of the 5 and 10K races were invited to a special celebration at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. We could watch the Sharks playing the Los Angeles Kings from a private suite (penthouse). Like most of the other invitees, that was a first for me as an additional award from a local race.
The best part of the story is that, for its 6th edition, the event raised an amazing $425,000 for local charities: Second Harvest Food Bank, Housing Trust of Santa Clara County and the Children’s Health Initiative. It was an honor and pleasure to meet race directors and founders, Carl and Leslee Guardino (left in the above picture), and see their entrepreneurial passion and expertise which they apply to serve others. What a positive impact on our local community!
After the first period our group was invited to go on the ice for a group picture and recognition and advertising for the race. To be honest, the Sharks fans could care less and half the stadium was empty as spectators were rushing for food or drinks. Assuredly, there isn't much connection between running and ice hockey... And orange is not a popular color for this crowd... ;-) Here we are, on the ice and the big screens:

Anyway, hope you can join the fun of this healthy and humanitarian event next year on Thanksgiving day! I will certainly keep it on my race schedule if I am in town. In the meantime, all the best for 2011, and please don't try running on ice!