Friday, November 29, 2013

Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 2013: chasing the chicks!

There is an expression in ultra running, to be chicked, which means finishing behind a female runner. In ultra, where physical ability represent only half of the success formula, the remainder being mental toughness and experience, elite women often compete head to head, or shoulder to shoulder with elite men, sometimes surpassing them like Ann Trason or Elie Greenwood have shown us. While some folks may find this expression rather machist, given the camaraderie which exists among ultra runners, this is just a way to recognize the emulation that ladies bring to our sport. Here I am with the Brooks team reps after their 5K race:
Now, in a turkey trot, and a road 10K, the word chicked brings another perspective. First, there are the turkey/bird costumes or attires on the course, for the costume competition. But there are also very fast and competitive girls running hard against the clock. The good thing at the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot is that we have 2 separate real elite races where top National and International runners are invited to break the local flat and fast 5K course record. I did that race 4 years ago (2009) between another turkey trot 2 days before and Quad Dipsea 2 days later and, despite a good time (16:34, 5:20 pace), I was half a mile behind the winner when he passed the finish line, yikes! At least I didn't get lapped on the 1-mile loop course, phew. ;-)

Back to my race report of yesterday's race... IBM was sponsoring again this year and, on behalf of the 4,000 IBMers in the Bay Area, I was set to address the crowd at 7:42 am, for 60 seconds, before our 10K start at 7:50. I knew about the 7:45 start of the wheelchair competition but I hadn't realized how aggressive it was to also squeeze the National anthem between 7:43 and 7:45...
Bottom line,  I waited on stage for 10 minutes but decided to leave and rush to the start line instead of waiting for Carl's go ahead so I could get at least one minute of warm-up before the gun.

Way too short warm-up but better than missing the start... Agn├Ęs told me that Carl ended up calling my name at 8:01. I was already 2 miles away, no time to run back! ;-)
Despite a blazing start (my GPS displaying an average pace of 5:11 min/mile after a 1/4 mile), there were about a dozen runners ahead of me by the first turn.
And, as I realized I started too fast, and slowed down a bit, I got passed by the lead gal, Heather Tanner, and was barely able to keep up but managed to remain a couple of hundred yards behind. The power of chicks! I passed the 1-mile mark around 5:30 which I thought was reasonable but that meant I was now running 5:40 min/mile pace. Between the limited warm-up and a short night (movie with the boys on Wednesday night), I wasn't able to accelerate much and even maintain the 5:43 pace of my recent Rock'n Roll Half Marathon. By mile 2 I could here a few runners in my steps and the group included another female runner, Brooke Wells. I decided that one chick was enough and kept maintaining a 5:45 pace on the long stretch of The Alameda. Speaking of stretch, it seemed that the 4-mile mark was off by 0.1 mile, which may explain why many of our GPS watches indicated 6.31 to 6.33 miles at the finish. And slower times than usual for some of us.

At the 4.5-mile chip timing control station, I still had Heather in sight and I encouraged Brooke to stay with me, telling her that we were going to catch Heather. I wasn't fully convinced myself by the end of mile 5, but I finally passed Heather with less than 1/2 mile to go, as well as a couple of other runners. And Brook did pass Heather as well, to win the race! After 35:05 in 2010, 35:20 in 2011 and 35:06 in 2012, I was slightly disappointed with this year's finish time (36:09, 5:49 pace), but it's rather fair with the lack of speed work between all the great ultra races I had this year and the 4 weeks in Senegal where it was way too hot to get under 7 min/mile. I'm also glad that this time was good enough to win the Masters division this year, just before I turn 50. And the second Master was 1 second behind so that was worth the final sprint, phew!

After the race, I went to the IBM Festival Area main stage to wait for Monique, an IBM colleague who was going to lead a post-race stretching routine. Joined by another colleague, Sheila, we got a few participants who enjoyed the 10-minute stretching exercise in the meadow, before joining their family or friends for their Thanksgiving banquets!
I stayed for another hour to watch the impressive elite races, first the women one:
and the men:
I'm thankful to all the people who have made this even possible for the past 9 years. One man stands out for his leadership, that is Carl Guardino, the CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and SVLG Foundation. Carl's passion for both economic development and sports (not just running but triathlon), along with his dynamism and high level energy, converged in this event whose main goal is to raise money for local charities. With this year's $800K, that's more than $4 million to date, on the way to surpass a cumulative $5 million for next year's 10th anniversary of the event. Here (left) he is presented the symbolic bib #1 by Mark Winitz who recruits the 70 elite runners year after year:
It was fun to be part of this year's Steering Committee and see how much commitment a few local companies bring to ensure the success of en event gathering 25,000 participants and 1,100 volunteers.
The ideal way to represent the original values behind the Thanksgiving tradition, bridging communities and working together to be thankful and help others.

Hope to see you all again next year!

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