Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in review: quite another year!

No, this isn't a review of what happened around the world this year, there are many wonderful ones in newspapers, magazines or in other blogs. This isn't even about what was my year was at work, or what our family events, but just a recap of my ultra running experiences this year...

And, I know, with more of the same races and more consistency, it's getting boring and, based on recent threads about doping, it may even appear as suspicious! Well, I can assure you, it's not getting any easier with the years, and I'd admit that competing with kids half my age is more challenging and requires even more work and training. Unfortunately, although I didn't experience any serious injury, I would also admit that high mileage/volume is getting harder to do. There are certainly limits in how much you can defy aging, we may be ultra runners but we remain just mortals like anyone else... Furthermore, this isn't just about personal endurance, but also on what your support system can handle. Or maybe the word egosystem would be more appropriate for us ultra runners... After racing 122 ultras (and running more than 300 ultras including those ran in training), you can't decently expect the same excitement and engagement from your family and friends.

How good 2015was? Well, really really good! Again...! ;-) In short, here are the main stats: 5th year averaging 100 kilometers a week (62 miles) at an average pace of 8:01 min/mile. Ran only 34 ultras but this is still within the 32-37 range of the past 5 years. From a blog standpoint, I haven't been able to keep up with the weekly pace, missed 8 posts (44). 19 races including 17 ultra ones and 2 short but fast10Ks. 2 DNFs. 5 participation in US National Championships with 3 M50-54 titles, 2 Masters ones, 2 DNFs. On the local scene, I got the top M50-59 spot in every race except Way Too Cool where Rich Hana ran an amazing race. In New Jersey, I ran a second 24-hour race this year, focusing on improving our age group American Record for 12-hours (85 miles).

A few more details on how the year went (for my records... you can jump to the 'thank you' section at the bottom of this post!):

Race wise, and as quite an aggressive goal, I was hoping to compete in 6 Nationals this year: 100 miles trail, 50K road, 100K road, 50-mile trail, 50K trail, and 24-hour road. I had to skip the 50-mile trail for family reasons and the 24-hour because Ohlone 50K got rescheduled that same weekend. Added the 50-mile road championship in November instead. Ended up setting too high of goals and DNF'ing at Rocky Raccoon in January and The Fall 50 in November. 7 of these ultra races were back to back ones (1 week apart), in March, April and May. Got chicked in 3 races, including twice at Way Too Cool, and at the 100K Nationals by the new legend Camille Heron (2 World titles this year).

Locally, everything worked amazingly well: Ohlone, Jed Smith, Miwok, Skyline, American River, Way Too Cool, Summer Solstice... I picked the 50-mile distance at Ruth Anderson as it was just a week after the 100K Nationals. And I replaced Dick Collins Firetrails 50 by the 68-mile Folsom Lake ultra in October where I was invited to participate in the inaugural edition.

A few lows this year, part of the game of pushing the envelope hard:
  1. Dropping at mile 24 at the US 50-mile road Nationals
  2. Dropping at mile 60 at the US 100-mile trail Nationals
  3. Having to miss the 24-hour US Nationals because of the conflict date with Ohlone
  4. Missing the 30-year standing 50K Road M50-54 American record by 1 minute and 40 seconds, amid freezing conditions
  5. Missing the 100K Road M50-54 American record on GI issues caused by a green banana (yikes!)
  6. Cramping badly during the PCTR Summer Solstice 24-hour and finishing with only 129 miles
But many more super cool highs:
  1. Winning Ohlone for the 5th time
  2. Breaking 4 hours again at Way Too Cool for my 10th consecutive participation in that race, marking 10 years in ultra running for me
  3. Setting a new American Age Group record for 12 hour at the New Jersey One Day
  4. Receiving the Ultra Runner of the Year (URoY) award of our local but strong USATF Pacific Association (this year's is going to be a tough one between Alex Varner and Chikara Omine in my opinion)
  5. Running a 2:46 marathon, as part of a 3:20 50K! (Beating "my own law" of keeping running a marathon in 2 hours plus my age in minutes...)
  6. Placing 4th at Miwok
  7. Winning Trailblazer 10K for the 3rd time
  8. Placing 10th overall at the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10K (and 2nd Masters and 1st age group)
  9. Placing 4th at Quicksilver 100K amid strong competition
  10. Winning the 50K Road Nationals in my age group, and the Masters division
  11. Same at the 100K Road Nationals!
  12. Placing 2nd Masters at the 50K Trail Nationals (and winning my age group of course! ;-)
  13. Running 2 36-minute 10Ks back to back on the track days before the Turkey Trot (first time I tried this format)
  14. Bouncing back from a tough night at the PCTR 24-hour and running the last 2 hours at 7 to 8 min/mile pace
  15. Scoring yet another record-breaking number of points in our local Grand Prix at 580
  16. Volunteering at two races (Stevens Creek 50K and our own Quicksilver race)
  17. Setting 5 age group course records in our Grand Prix
Overall, more ultra races than ever due to the pursuit of two tales, our local PAUSATF Mountain and Ultra Trail Grand Prix for the 9th consecutive year and 5 US National titles.

Quite a few trips this year, not counting the many business-related ones...

And with all that, it's hard to set reasonable and attainable goals for 2016 if I keep aiming at more... For instance, I already set 12 of our 22 M50-59 course records, but won't be running at least 9 of the remaining 10 due to lotteries or scheduling conflicts. Tough life... ;-)

As the year closes, I'm particularly thankful and very grateful to:
  1. My wife Agn├Ęs for coping with the life of an ultra runner and crewing for me at American River, Miwok, Ohlone and Folsom Lake.
  2. Peter Defty who introduced Vespa Power in the US, a product which allows me to optimize my fueling during races (eating much less and burning calories from fat instead), and accelerate recovery so I can do back to back races and keep training all year round. As I said before, this product changed my ultra life!
  3. My first job which, although extremely demanding, still allows me to combine business trips and key racing weekends, and this amazing opportunity to live in the Bay Area.
  4. My track work out buddies Jeremy and Bob for keeping that speed work discipline alive.
  5. Bill Dodson, Hollis Lenderking and Gary Wang who accepted to remain on our PAUSATF MUT Board for the 25th anniversary of our Grand Prix in 2016!
  6. My teammates of the QuickSilver Running Club for adding some fun into local races.
  7. Along with the other teams competing in our Grand Prix.
  8. Rich Hanna and Mark Ritchman especially among the old guys for keeping me on my toes (if not kicking my butt... ;-).
  9. The Race Directors and volunteers of all these races, without whom I couldn't challenge myself race after race. With all this racing, I really don't know how I will ever be able to give back as much as what I received from this community in the past 10 years.
  10. Those of you reading this personal blog. I hope you find some inspiration to get farther and faster on the trails or in life, and a few useful tips for racing, training or running while traveling.
  11. My Facebook friends from which I get inspiration and tips myself in such an extended and open community.
  12. A special shout out to Paul Fick and Kristina Irvin who do so much for our Club and our main race, so modestly. They are amazing examples of the giving back side of a complete ultra running career!
I also have to mention my neutral stride and a great variety of Brooks shoes(*) which certainly contribute to remaining injury free despite all the mileage and hard racing.

I hope you were able to cross as many goals in your 2015 list as you wanted or could, and that you'll pursue many healthy goals in 2016 as well!

See you on the trails, either Faster or Farther...!

(*) Launch, Pure Connect, Pure Flow, Racer ST
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