Friday, May 25, 2012

Back to Dubai: flat and hot

Friday, a few hours in lieu of a weekend before I get on the plane to Riyadh... In the Gulf, weekends are Friday-Saturday except in Saudi Arabia where it's Thursday-Friday. As a consequence, I'll be working Saturday through Tuesday in Saudi, a busy Memorial Day "weekend..." The past years and since I started ultra running in 2007, this Memorial Day weekend was very special with a lot of miles. Before my first Western States in 2007, I ran the traditional 3 Memorial Day training runs on the course, including the extension from Forest Hill down to the river the second day. Then I started a tradition of three very long runs (well, 3 hilly and hot ultra runs) over the three days, in the Bay Area (126 miles in 2008, 122 in 2009 including the Mission 6-peat madness, 49 miles only in 2010, and 47 in 2011 including a 72-lap tempo run at the track to prepare for the World Masters). So long for the tradition, we'll see how it works out next year.

After completing my Spring ultra madness with Ohlone last Sunday, I had to take Monday off (running) since I spent it on a plane (16 hours, straight after the race). I went for a run on Tuesday night, mostly on Jumeirah Road. This is the place I highlighted last time (see my Running in Arabia post) and that I still highly recommend. It's a few blocks from the sea and beaches, but it has tens of miles of bike path and there is no continuous path along the beaches anyway with too many private ones or on going construction of huge villas. The temperature was just over 100F with 35% humidity and no breeze and I found it really difficult to maintain a 7:45 min/mile pace. The heat was so oppressing, I stopped for 5 minutes at miles 5 and decided to turn back. I was sweating so much, my shoes were soaked and it would take more than one day for them to dry... At the turn around, I was thinking of Pierre-Yves's accident at Ohlone (helicopter evacuation after he fainted just half a mile from the finish...), and decided to be cautious as we still hadn't definite news that he was ok (he got better on Wednesday but isn't completely off the hook yet and still at the hospital this Friday).

I had a business dinner on Wednesday evening and went for another run on Thursday night at 9 pm. This time, the temperature was "only" 90F (32C) and there was some breeze from the sea which made the run really enjoyable now that I got somehow acclimated to this heat. I ran 19.5 miles, still at a pretty slow pace (7:35) though. I went to bed at 3 am after processing more email and I went for a 14.5-mile run this Friday before going to the airport. This time it was mid-day and the sun was straight at its zenith, that was quite hot again, almost 100F.

Short of pictures from my run (not much to see on that road), I posted in Picasa a few pictures I took from my excursion to the 124th floor of Burj Khalifa, the highest building in the World which you can see in the latest Mission Impossible movie. This is actually far from being the top of the skyscraper, as the owner occupy the last floors. See the view of the top from the 124th floor, you can barely see the very end of the building...
Unfortunately, the visibility was quite limited by the sand dust which actually resides in the area most of the time (a colleague from our Dubai office told me that the locals say the sky became this way after all the bombings of the Gulf War, it's hard to believe this is still the reason, more than a decade later...). Anyway, we could still see the "small" nearby buildings and being that high was quite impressive. The height of the tower is 2,700 feet, almost the height of Black Mountain, above Cupertino.
Have a great week all, and especially a nice long Memorial Day weekend in the US!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ohlone 2012: 50K and a plane to catch!

Here we are, 5th and last episode of my Spring ultra madness, 5 ultra races in 5 weekends (4 weeks and one day...)! First, I've not been the only one racing like crazy these past weeks, the season is really heating up! This weekend alone, Toshi did the Silver State 50-mile/Ohlone 50K double, a back to back over 2 days! Now, after winning my Ruth Anderson 50-mile race and the Quicksilver 50K last weekend, with Leona Divide (50-mile) and Miwok (100K) in between, I was raising the bar again by combining a 50K, and not anyone, a tough one, and a flight to Dubai the same day... For that, I really had to rely on Agnès' logistical support, the third of the five races she attended and I'm grateful for her ultra support of this new challenge!

The weather had been relatively cool this week and I was hoping that will stay for the race, although I particularly like Ohlone for the heat, in which I'm usually doing better than in cold weather conditions. Last Sunday, the day after Quicksilver, I was able to squeeze in a 23-mile run to the top of Black Mountain before we went to Layang Layang with Greg and Agnès to celebrate Mother's Day (great Malaysian restaurant on De Anza in San Jose). I ran a short 6-mile flat run in the neighborhood and then took the rest of the week off, that is from running, not from work, with even more hours than usual, in particular to catch-up with local things as I had been on the road for 3 weeks recently, and 10 more days right now. Agnès drove me to the start this Saturday morning and the temperature was already reaching 60F by 6:50 am, it was going to be a hot day again for sure.
We were able to watch the early start (7 am), wishing all the group a great day on the trail. It was then the opportunity to meet with a few local runners, or others who had flown or drove from out of State, such as legend Frank Bozanich from Reno or Ian Torrence from Flagstaff, to celebrate this very special milestone, the 25th Ohlone run! Once the buses from the finish area unloaded their loads, the place became really crowdy  and it was time to get another ultra celebration! Here is the Quicksilver Ultra Running Team contingent for the occasion (minus Chris Calzetta who was still getting ready).
After recognizing and highlighting a few faithful old-timers of this event, Rob sent us off on (or up, as we start uphill) the trail right on time, at 8 am. 2 yellow jackets, a.k.a. La Sportiva ultra team members, took the control of the first miles of our ascent to the top of Mission Peak. Jason Reeves followed the ambitious pace but I passed him as the climb got really steep. I was followed by teammates Chris (Calzetta) and Marc (Laveson) who also passed me before the end of the second mile. We were missing Leor astonishing speed today (Leor smashed the course record 2 years ago to 4:16, but he has been injured since the start of the season unfortunately), but the race was definitely on!
Right after the summit, Marc took the lead, passing the La Sportiva leader (Marc, Chris and I had passed the other one before the switchbacks), with Chris following and me passing him too right after the first aid station (where Tropical John teased me for stopping to swallow a Gu, but at least that's one way not to litter... there were quite a few Gu pockets on the trail at Miwok when I was following the leaders...). It was actually Peter Fain whom I had seen on the entrants list but never met before. Peter climbed to the top of Mission Peak with so much ease, so light on his feet, I was surprised he had slowed down after the summit. He explained that he got a knee surgery last October, so he is only ramping up, not to mention that he lives in Truckee where the snow just cleared from the trails. He is aiming at peaking in September but has offered to pace our group in August when we'll attempt to set a new speed record on TRT (August 13-14), an exciting venture led by Gary Gellin. Anyway, just having gotten the clearance from his surgeon, Peter said he was going to take it easy in the downhills today. But he is such a climber, I expected him to go strong in the long climb to Rose Peak.

Carrying 2 bottles, I didn't stop at the second aid station (Sunol) and caught up with Chris, with Marc not too far behind. After a very fast and aggressive climb to the top of Mission Peak, Marc was experiencing some issues in the steep climbs and Chris and I caught up with him in the 10th mile. I felt good pushing the pace and leading the QSURT charge now that we the three of us were now in the front. A short stop at the Backpack Area aid station to get my bottle refilled before the big and long climb. Chris is a real diesel in the climbs and he was still just a couple of minutes behind after the following aid station, and I could see Mark's red cap not far behind. I summitted first in 3:01, got my bracelet from 2 volunteers up there, saw Chris entering the summit loop as I was completing it (about a 4-minute lead) and Marc just before I turned left down to the next aid station.

The first year I ran Ohlone (2007), I had passed Graham Cooper after the Backpack Area AS  and was in the lead but cramped so much after the summit, believing that we were done with the climbing after Rose Peak. Well, as anyone who has run Ohlone can say that this isn't at all the case, with 10 more miles alternating steep downhills and uphills! It took me a few years to manage to run this section correctly, the best being 2 years ago. I kept running most of the uphills despite a few cramps in my quads and, sure enough, they passed with more drinking, a few S!Caps and a second Vespa concentrate, allowing me to even fly down the Schlieper Rock aid station, where I was welcomed by co-RD and IBM colleague, Larry England (a Distinguished Engineer too!). I got my Gu2O bottle refilled one last time by the very efficient volunteers who wanted only one thing, get me out as quickly as possible; you... rock guys!

I passed a few hikers with huge backpacks in the technical switchbacks going down Williams Glutch. Just before crossing the creek, I was greeted by Gary (Gellin) who was getting an easy run after his great Zion 100 a week ago. He gave me some encouragement, said I was 4 miles from the finish and that I could make it under 5 hours. With 45 minutes left, I surely was hoping to, although I realized that I was much slower than last year when I did my Personal Best in 4:37. I walked part of the next big climb to the ridge then flew down the last 2.5-mile steep downhill to the finish, not without stopping for a quick bath at the last aid station, one my favorite spots of this run! Here is a great shot from Joe Swenson, who couldn't race this year (injury) but still managed the perfect marking of the whole 31-mile course, just as I turned into the downhill from the ridge above Lake Del Valle:
I crossed the finish line in 4:49:05, good enough for first overall this year, without fast guys such as Leor, Gary or Jesse. 3 wins (2007, 2008, 2012) out of the 25 editions, that was completely unexpected on my end! 6 sub-5 (hours), 6 podiums (1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 1), no wonder this is still my favorite race in North California, such an homage to the Ohlone people, Native Americans who were peacefully leaving on these exposed hills a few centuries ago.
After a few minutes to realize what just happened, the countdown started, 40 minutes to cool down, stretch, ice my quads, get a drink and some food, and take a shower at one of the nearby parking lots. Chris took 2nd in 5:09 and Marc 3rd in 5:12, the top honors for QSURT this year (quite an appearance from our club, including a scary helicopter evacuation of one of our team members, collapsing from heat exhaustion less than half a mile from the finish. As of Monday night, he is better but still in an ICU).
We left at 1:40 and Agnès dropped me at the airport just in time to check in, spend 50 minutes standing in line at the security check (yes, I prefer running than standing...) and board a crowded flight toward Dubai, or rather India given the folks sitting around me in Coach... Good that I wear compression socks to get the blood flowing for 16 hours...

A big thank you to all the volunteers who made this 25th celebration possible and another ultra success. From course marking (Joe, Chihping, ...), to the remote and exposed aid stations, the great burgers at the finish, the trophies, the flashy hoodies, Zombie Runner's support, course sweepers and marshals, all of them under Rob and Larry's leadership.

As Agnès put it, time for some vacation, from racing. Talk to you from the Middle East next weekend then, a great opportunity for some serious heat training again! Anyway, it's midnight here in Dubai, time to post the race report, get a real shower and go to bed while the sun is shining in California... And, if you have read the report that far, you may want to see a few additional pictures in Picasa, mostly from the start.

With Agnès, and Catra, photo courtesy of Noe Castanon (Facebook)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Quicksilver 50K 2012: holding even!

Last week I titled my post "Miwok 100K: holding strong" in reference to the first three solid performances of my 5-ultra Spring madness. And this weekend's #4 wasn't bad either, read on!

The unplanned part of this madness was the business travel: after Madrid and Vegas it was Riyadh last week and quite an epic journey to get there. So much trouble at my connection to Frankfurt that the improvised last minute connection through Dubai was a mess and that confused the airlines computer apparently. Indeed, when I showed up at 10:30 pm at the Riyadh airport for my 1 am flight, the attendant said that my flight wasn't in the computer anymore, gasp! Fortunately, after another stressful moment, he was able to put me back on my original flight and everything went smooth this time. Well, almost, because I was barely able to sleep for an hour on the first leg to Frankfurt, 2 hours in the lounge there after a shower and barely another hour on the long flight back to SFO (it's quite a sport to travel coach for 25 hours door to door...). With that, I enjoyed the 7 hours of sleep I got before waking up this Saturday morning at 3 am to get my pre-race breakfast.
I arrived at the parking lot around 5 am and it was already half full although the start was only scheduled an hour later. It was easy and fast to get our bib numbers and doggy bags (great hoodie plus a beer glass, great picks Pierre-Yves!), thanks to the perfect organization and volunteers' efficiency. Sun rise was scheduled for 6:01 am so we had some day light to finish preparing and see many familiar and friendly faces around. Race Director, Pierre-Yves sent us off at 6 am and I rushed in the first down hills with Toshi but another runner passed us right away and set a crazy pace right away. I told Toshi it must be Lon Freeman whom I had seen in the 50-mile entrant list, although I couldn't recognize him from behind. Lon is an amazing athlete. When I started running ultras in 2007, I was very impressed by his Miwok win in 8:09 and his sub-6-hour American River the following year. However, Lon doesn't race often so it had been a while since I had seen him on the circuit. Anyway, I lost sight of him by the end of the first steep climb and thought I would never see him again. Actually, at that point, I wasn't even sure it was him and not a fast rookie on the 50K so I maintained the effort in a pursuit mode for the many miles to come. Behind, I also lost sight of Toshi between the third and fourth mile on the New Almaden single track trail.

Last year I had reached the Dam Overlook aid station in 1:12 (mile 9) and I was just 15 seconds off this year after grabbing a Gu on the way and thanking the Striders volunteers as I left the station.
 Agnès and Greg were part of the gang and I was going to see them the three times we come through that aid station, the most busy one with more than 750 runners passing through! Here is Lon at his first passage, right after 7 am.
A few miles later, I saw a runner in the distance and timed the gap around 2.5 minutes. However, when reaching the next aid station, Caphorn, one volunteer said that I was about 4 minutes behind. Without stopping at the station, I kept running all the way up Mine Hill trail, including the detour on April trail. Still no sight of the first runner on the ridge or even as I was flying down back to Dam Overlook where Agnès hold me another Vespa and two new bottles (mile 19) which I will keep for the remainder of the course. I asked the volunteers but still couldn't get if the lead runner was on the 50-mile or 50K.
I ran all the hills on the subsequent 4.7-mile loop which gets us back to Dam Overlook again with a couple of miles uphill toward the Bull Run trail on the ridge. I grabbed a last Gu and one S!Caps and went on the climb, against the sparse flow of 50K and 50-mile runners going down for their 2nd passage through that aid station. I got many nice words of encouragement but, climbing and needing all the air, wasn't able to respond this time. Last year, I was way behind Leor who destroyed the course record on the 50-mile, and a few minutes behind Gary Gellin who was also on the 50-mile, but I was leading on the 50K until Chris Calzetta passed me before we got on the Bull Run trail to finally win in his first ever 50K by a couple of minutes. This year, Agnès finally confirmed that the lead runner was on the 50-mile so it had to be Lon and being in the lead motivated me to run all the way and not walk like the other years.
I was off my times of last year by about 1 or 2 minutes I believe, when going through the Dam Overlook aid station for the third and last time so I was determined to run the rest of course in order to improve the age group course record I set 2 years ago and improved again last year (a time that Gary would easily slash by 15 or 20 minutes now that he is in our age group!). I ran hard and didn't stop at all at the English Camp aid station (mile 27), pushing the pace in the steep down hill. Right after crossing Mine Hill trail though, I almost slipped when I saw a bug rattle snake across the trail. I waited a few seconds to see if he'd move to no avail. I threw a small rock at it, no move. I was started to get nervous the wait will cost me the course record... I threw another rock and the guy coils itself in the middle of the trail, shaking up its tail and showing me its tongue, yikes, quite impressive! I decided to risk going around on one side, sprinting and not looking behind, then trying to quickly recompose myself for the upcoming and final hills ahead.

For the insiders, the last 2 miles of the race include a killer roller-coaster then a very steep downhill plunging down to the finish area (Hacienda trail). to my amazement, I was able to run the first two up hills and walked only 3 times for about 20 steps each. Yet, the clock was ticking and there was not a second to lose to break 3:56. I pushed the pace as much as possible in the final killer down hill and actually passed Lon at the bottom of it before crossing the finish line in 3:55:11, one minute faster than last year, phew! Short of more competition, that was good enough for first overall and a new age group course record. Lon went on the 50-mile and I went to the car to grab my camera, staying at the finish to take pictures of more than 250 runners (25K, 50K or 50-mile), see my Picasa album (also containing a few pictures from Agnès at the Dam Overlook aid station earlier in the day, 270 pictures all together...!).

Toshi took second in the 50K about 15 minutes later and, in the 50-mile, Lon won in 7 hours and change. More results will get posted on the race website and ultrasignup shortly.
After 3 hours of unplanned shooting, my battery finally ran out and it was time to enjoy the amazing café and buffet that Paul and Darcy Fink put up with their crew every year for the Quicksilver club. I really think it isn't chauvinism to say that this tops any other finish party on the ultra circuit, even the renowned Firetrails when Ann Trason was in charge, or Ohlone (we shall see next week!). Several delicious and fresh salads, salsa, dips, burgers with beef or chicken, tomatoes, salad, pickles, ..., sausages, ribs, fresh salmon grilled on wood, ice cream, assortment of cakes, cookies, whipped cream, large assortment of beer and soft drinks, what a menu! You rock guys!!

From the perfectly stocked and manned aid stations, Pierre-Yves' race direction, the great goodies and amazing finish line café; Karen, Adona, Stan and Dave at the timing table (the printer will work next year!), Greg's announcements, this is a top and very professional event, even providing a wide range of options for runners willing to discover trail racing or pushing the limits on a challenging course in the heat. No surprise it fills up every year! And sorry for the few runners who missed a turn despite the good course marking...
I'm in town for one week before Ohlone next Sunday and flying to Dubai a few hours later for two weeks over there and Riyadh again. I'd better run Ohlone fast again as the race starts at 8 am and my flight is at 4:45 pm at SFO. At least we got some heat training today with temperatures in the low 90s by mid day. One more/final race in the Spring madness and it will be time to turn the page on this fun and bold experience. But, with 2 overall wins (Ruth Anderson 50-mile and today) and two other strong performances at Leona Divide 50-mile and Miwok 100K, that's way above my initial expectations already. A lot of training miles (74 miles/week average since January 1st, versus 63 last year) and the Vespa effect in the races, allowing for fast recovery (following Tim Olson's advice and Jon Olsen's amazing performance at the World 100K a few weeks ago, I'm now down to 1 Vespa every 2 hours and it helps indeed). And a lot of good stress from work to get out via this intense exercise, not to mention the 10 hours of jet lag...

Good job to all finishers today, especially to the 50-milers who had the guts to keep going on after coming back to Mockingbird at the end of the 50K, and see you all on the trails again soon!

PS: and here is to the Birthday Girl, with assorted pink cast, very classy! :-) Again, see more pictures in Picasa.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Miwok 100K 2012: holding strong

After Ruth Anderson 50-mile 2 weeks ago and Leona Divide 50-mile last week, that was #3 of 5 ultra races in my Spring Ultra Madness "experience," 5 ultra in 5 weekends... And the top of the difficulty in that series, combining the longest distance (100K or 62 miles) with the most cumulative elevation.

Due to planned construction at the headquarters of Marine Headlands at Rodeo Beach, Race Director, Tia Bodington, had to redesign the course and in particular the start and finish area. She took the opportunity to actually redesign the whole course across this amazing park a few miles North of San Francisco. The conditions getting in the race were no so ideal on my end: I was exhausted and some will say it's normal for someone racing so much, but it was more about a super busy week in Vegas with meetings from 7 am to midnight and more work afterwards to catch-up with emails or finalize my own presentations. Yet a very fruitful week from a business standpoint, it was very refreshing to meet with clients, partners and colleagues from around the world, including Panama, Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Portugal, France, Germany, UK, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia not to forget Canada and the USA of course!
With that, I didn't have much time to prepare for the race and the associated logistics and to make it more challenging, my carpool option to the start felt apart on Thursday. I emailed right away 6 other participants from South Bay or Mid-Peninsula but got 4 negative replies by Friday morning. Agnès cancelled a few of her Saturday tutoring sessions and offered to drive up and crew for me like in the good old times when I started running ultras 5 years ago ;-) We left home at 3 am and picked Charles in San Francisco on our way. With the winding road and the darkness, it took us 10 more minutes to reach Stinson Beach at 4:43 am for a 5 am start... There was a huge line at the check-in to get our bib number so I rushed instead to the nearby bathroom. With the line there I was done by 4:56, got my bib from Stan at 4:58 and was still getting ready when I heard Tia giving the start. I left a minute later and started passing runners, and more runners... 430 made it through the lottery back in January but, I would learn later, only 354 started. Here is how the start looked upfront:
And from the rear side... my 2nd DSL (Did Start Last) ;-)
On this new course, the race starts with a 1,800 straight climb to Bolinas Ridge. Being far behind the leaders probably prevented me from starting off too hard. However, I felt the urge of running the steep uphill while some were walking so I ended up sweating quite a lot from the hoping and quick accelerations to pass others on this narrow single track trail. On the ridge, I was following Tina Lewis and had still no idea how many runners were upfront. I still had my bib number in my pocket when I got into the Bolinas Ridge aid station and stopped for a few minutes to pin it before turning to a bandit... I passed the lead women again on the ridge and a few other runners. Adam Hewey and Adam Lint were the last ones I passed before we plunged down to the Randall Trail aid station. It was so cool to run this section on fresh legs as opposed to other years when we were hitting the ridge at mid course, around mile 30-34.

The first runner I saw coming back up from the Randall aid station was ultra favorite Dave Mackey. Dave set an amazing course record last year, breaking under 8 hours. But Dave wasn't running alone, he was with Chris Price. I was still about  4-5 minutes from the aid station so they had a lead of at least 12-14 minutes and we were only 13 miles in our run. Jesse Haynes was in 3rd. I had seen Jesse (Ink 'n Burn) at Leona Divide last week where he wasn't running but volunteering. Quicksilver Ultra Running teammate Marc Laveson was in fourth followed by Jonathan Gunderson from Tamalpa, Christopher Wehan, Paolo Castiglioni, Mark Lantz and Owen Bradley from Alabama. I left the aid station right behind Mark and David Brown from Texas. David passed me as we were approaching the top of the hill, and I passed Mark. David and I traded places on Bolinas Ridge, before we got passed by the Adams (Lint and Hewey) just before coming back to the Bolinas Ridge aid station (mile 19). I refilled my Gu2O bottle, took a Vespa concentrate before leaving the aid station, passed David in the next technical section, then Adam Lint as we hit the road, the David passed me again on the Coastal Trail ridge before I passed him before the technical section and many stairs leading us back to Stinson Beach Fire Station, marking the first marathon (and a hilly one already!). After Randall Trail, Agnès was there again and I will see her at the next aid station too, at Muir Beach. I didn't dare to ask how far behind from Dave I was (27 minutes from the webcast which I looked at after the race), I felt I was going quite slow today, around 9 min/mile average pace and was hoping we were done with most of the climbs. I saw teammate Gary Gellin at the exit of the aid station, he was going to pace Dave in the final 10 miles. The next 8 miles to Muir Beach felt familiar (a good part of the Quad Dipsea course, or simple Dipsea for the matter) and I felt OK and energized to got on the brutal climb after the aid station although I had to walk more than I wanted to in the last ups. I saw a runner closing on me a mile behind but were able to maintain the gap until Tennessee Valley.

It was great to see Stan Jensen and Agnès again at this aid station he manned for many years. This year, Stan wasn't the time keeper so he could be the buffoon around... ;-)
I fueled a little before getting on another uphill. I must admit that, 38 miles in the race, I was not so excited about climbing again. Michael Arnstein from New York had closed the 10-minute gap I had over him 14 miles earlier at Stinson Beach, I was now in 10th.
I got my bottle water refilled at the remote Bridge View aid station before the long 7.7-mile stretch back to Tennessee Valley through Rodeo Beach and on the steep Coastal Trail again. I lost sight of Michael but started seeing a runner a mile or so behind. With the never ending uphills my pace slowed down to around 9:30 min/mile. I got a moral boost at Tennessee Valley when the time keeper told me I had run the 12-mile loop just 5 minutes over Dave's time, which really surprised me. Evidently, I was not the only one slowing down but a few were keeping a reasonable pace and catching up too. I walked and jogged up to Coast Trail closing on and passing Jonathan before the summit and steep downhill into Muir Beach. I left the aid station in 9th place and kept moving through the next grassy section. I was excited to hit the final climb of the day and thought we would come back to Stinson Beach by another and shorter route. I got demoralized when I saw that we were taking the same way we had in the morning and that left me completely out of mental juice, walking a lot in the subsequent 2-mile climb, so much that Kevin Shilling (Utah) passed me in that section. I was actually satisfied to reach the end of the hill in 10th place but that's when I saw another running a quarter mile behind. It was Tim Long who ended up passing me with 1.5 miles to go.

With that, I crossed the line in 11th overall and 5th Masters (both Kevin and Tim are 44, I think I could have shaved 4 minutes for top 3 Masters would have I known... but easier said in a blog post than done...) in a time of 10:18:15. During all the race I was so disappointed with my slow pace, not knowing that Dave had himself slowed down and finished in 9:16, much slower than usual due to a much tougher course (12,750 cumulative elevation according to my Garmin, not to mention an extra mile), lack of serious competition and, according to Gary, ankle problems caused by too short socks (gasp!). So, given the circumstances, this ended up being another serious ultra performance for me, 3 in a row actually, holding strong...!
If it was tough for the leaders, the course will be even tougher for the rest of the pack with many more hours on the trail and more time between aid stations. Indeed, at least 83 runners DNF'ed out of 354 starters (77% finisher rate). Yet, the conditions were excellent from a trail and weather standpoint so I believe the issue was more about mental preparedness as many uphills are actually runnable and not that long but the number of them were just intimidating. If the course remains the same next year, and we are lucky to make it through the lottery again, we'll all be warned and given the opportunity to come better prepared for the new Miwok! My Garmin around 11,000 cumulative elevation last year so that wasn't so much less to explain the discrepancy in our performances. Here are the two course profiles. First, 2012:
Then 2011:
Anyway, in addition to the very helpful volunteers at the aid stations, I want to thank the volunteers for their perfect and abundant course marking. I liked in particular the way ribbons were carefully placed on the particular side of the trail announcing a turn in that direction. Thank you also to the runners who provided encouragement as we crossed each other, although they had much longer to go than us at the front. And a big thank to Agnès for crewing on such a long day and showing up at 8 aid stations along the course! And hat off to my teammate Marc Laveson who placed 8th for his first 100K!

Nice words with Tia, a few volunteers and runners at the finish, before Agnès and I left in order to stop by Palo Alto to vote for the French Presidential elections. Unfortunately, we ended up blocked for 30 minutes on 101 between 92 and 84 and missed the opportunity to vote for the second round. I ran 10K on Sunday morning before packing and going to Church with Greg then my trip to Riyadh turned to a nightmare but I was amazed how ultra helps me remaining cooler in such circumstances. Our flight out of SFO to Frankfurt was missing a crew (crew switch with the Beijing flight) so we boarded one hour late and my connection in Frankfurt was one hour and 5 minutes, not good... Then we lost another hour waiting for the clearance from the Chicago maintenance center for a defective break of one of the 16 undercarriage wheels. Calling United, then Amex and Lufthansa before we took off left me with the only option of spending Monday night in Frankfurt and taking the next day flight to Riyadh. 2 more hours spent upon arrival into Frankfurt (glad I didn't check in any luggage though) to learn that I got re-routed through Dubai where I discovered United and Lufthansa had booked me on a flight the next day (28-hour lay over instead of 4 hours...). After quite some negotiation and crossing the huge Dubai terminal 3 times (at least 3 kilometers...), I finally arrived in Riyadh at 3:30 am on Tuesday instead of 5 pm on Monday.... Knowing businesses are closed on Thursday, at least I have part of Tuesday to work there and make the trip worth before flying back on Thursday night.... Just in time for the 4th episode of the Spring Madness! See some of you at Pierre-Yves' run next week on our Club's home turf in San Jose!

Not as many as the 376 pictures I took at this event last year, but see a few pictures from Agnès in Picasa including mostly the leaders, a few flowers and views of the beaches and seashore, the set of the red moon at the start, a snake (sorry Mom!) and an amazing shot and "show off" of a blue jay.