Saturday, April 30, 2016

Running near London: a 14-mile loop around Heathrow airport (LHR)

When I stay in a new place, with some time for a run, I like exploring based on what Google Maps provide, then document what I found in my Running in... series (see tags on the right side of this blog). But nowadays, there are so many running-related blogs, websites or apps out there, it's worth doing a quick search. Spending a night at Heathrow between two flights, I was very pleased to discover Keith Hauser's Running Routes blog. Quite a great resource for globetrotter runners like me!

Now, Keith isn't an ultra runner so his routes are on the short side for me. More specifically for his Heathrow route, it is less than 3 miles so I decided to create my own route, all around LHR, and I'm pleased to report it's quite a great run! At least if you stay in one of the numerous hotels on the edge of the airport and on Bath Road in particular (there must be more than 20 hotels qualifying!).

Here is the trace of my Wednesday run:
And I ran the loop again on Thursday morning before my flight, adding another half mile by missing the turn on Great South West Road:
First, I strongly suggest running the loop clockwise. This way you are on the inside of the loop and running again the traffic since locals drive on the 'wrong' side (left! ;-), since they have their driving wheel on the... right side (yes, this is confusing, as it is when you cross a street and need to watch for traffic coming in the other direction you are used to).
This is a view of the sidewalk on the South side of the airport. Although it border a 2x2 expressway, it looks really nice.

Of course, you are close to car and airplane traffic so it's pretty noisy, but wait for what's next
 Yes, there are still fields and crops that close to the airport, looks like the country side, doesn't it?
 Another nice sidewalk as you approach the reservoirs.
The first reservoir, Staines reservoir. I was excited to run along some water per the map, but these reservoirs are well protected, as are those providing water to San Francisco in our Silicon Valley.

 This shoes the only section where you have to run on the left side, after exiting the underpass at the crossing between the two reservoirs, the Southern point of the loop on the above map (by the way, the underpass is call Subway here!). After about half a mile, you'll find this trail on the left side which allows you to cross the expressway underneath (next picture).

At his point you enter the real green area, which is a pasture for cows. I was lucky that the grass was dry. If you run this loop during a lay over, make sure to have a good place to change and shower as this section must be quite muddy after rainy days.
You can barely see the trail here, you just have to trust Google Maps (I don't know how these guys are mapping out trails which are barely visible when you are on them...).
Don't miss this tricky connection to climb on the old railway line, it's really the nicest part of the loop, the one which makes you forget you are just next to one of the busiest airport in the world. That's also the section I saw a fox, at the same place on both my runs, quite an experience!

After that, my phone died so no more picture, make sure to check out or download one of my two Strava runs: Wednesday evening (14 miles) and Thursday morning (14.5 miles).

The end of the loop is actually pretty straightforward once you get on Bath Road. You may see that I left Bath Road when getting closer to Terminal 3: I was supposed to meet blind runner Simon Wheatcroft before his flight to Namibia where he is running on his own the 7-day Sahara Race from May 1 to 7! You may recall I met Simon in Vegas in February. Anyway, I missed him because, with my dead phone, I couldn't figure out how to get under the North tarmac. Someone told me the tunnel was closed and I had to take a bus, but it was too late. Anyway, a good lesson that, if you want to run this loop during a lay over, from one of the terminals, you need to plan accordingly. If I had to do that again, while not staying at one of the Heathrow hotels, I'd try to escape the perimeter of the airport through Terminal 5 which is much closer to the outbound perimeter: you need to take the Heathrow Express train from Terminal 3 (e.g. OneWorld) or 2 (e.g. Star Alliance), to 5 (domestic).

Also, as you can see in the above maps, there is likely a way to shorten the run by taking the Southern Perimeter Road. But I say likely because I haven't assessed the feasibility of running along that road.

With the traffic at this airport, I hope this is helpful for a few runners stopping by Heathrow. As a matter of fact, it was super cool to receive this message from Chris, shortly after I posted my runs on Strava: "Thank you Jean for the inspiration. I ran a similar route around LHR this afternoon." At least it helped one! :-) As a matter of fact, Chris cut it shorter by hopping on that Southern Perimeter Road, and you can check his 10-mile version on Strava. But then he missed all the green countryside section at the Southwestern corner of the loop, that's the trade-off.

Again, great run if you have a few hours while going through or staying at Heathrow!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ruth Anderson 2016: quite a special edition!

It was quite a special edition this year for at least four reasons. First and foremost, the event is named after a local ultra legend who passed away a month ago. She was 86 and living in Oregon these past years. You can read her USATF bio and her obituary in UltraRunning Magazine by John Medinger.While I never had the opportunity to meet her, and that makes me look still young in the ultra arena, I heard a lot of amazingly positive things about her. Second reason making this edition so special, it was the 30th anniversary of this low key ultra party which includes 3 distances nowadays: 50K, 50 miles and 100K in the wonderful setting of a 4.5-mile loop around Lake Merced right in the City by the Bay, the iconic San Francisco! Third, it was my 10th consecutive participation and, that, I don't know if it makes me look young or old... ;-) In the scheme of ultra running, 10 years aren't that much, many 'veterans' have been running for decades, showing an amazing resiliency, one of the facets of what I call 'sustainable ultra running.' Last but not least, it felt so special to toe the line again this year after all the incertitude created by the TIA I had 6 weeks earlier. It was the second ultra race since, what an interesting road March has been this year...

Speaking of this medical incident, and before I soon can consider this a blip and put it behind, let me share a quick update. As you know, the only remaining explanation or potential diagnosis was that a clot might have been caused by an arrhythmia of the heart, what is known as the infamous atrial fibrillation which even young and super athletic runners may experience. That's why I had to wear a heart monitor for 2 weeks, the one I had while running American River 50. I was really looking forward to the results, especially the measures corresponding to the 4 runs I had have during that period, including the 8 hours at American River 50-mile and an intense track work out 3 days later. While the device recorded every heart beat for 2 weeks, it missed the last 6 hours of American River, probably due to excessive sweat.
And here is the spike corresponding to a speed workout session at the Mountain View High School done with Jeremy and Bob (6 x 800s including one @ 2:42)

Now the great news is that the report came back as all positive (meaning negative in terms of any issue), the day before Ruth Anderson, just in time for my cardiologist to confirm that there wasn't really a good explanation of what happened at the 50K Nationals, but enough rationale for me to decide to toe the start line 10 days ago.

Indeed, although I like posting race reports by the end of the day of the event, more than a week passed already. In my typical hectic life, I had a flight for Zurich at 7 pm on race day, followed by a 45-minute connection to Madrid. And I didn't even had all my slides finalized for my Monday keynote at the conference I was flying to in Madrid... I only wish there was a device measuring stress level, that would provide more insights to my doctors which they may leverage in their investigation... Anyway, with that, I had decided to only go for 50 miles, or back down to the 50K in case I didn't feel good enough. But avoid the 100K distance for 2 reasons: first, relieve some stress for having to run fast and rush back home to take a shower, then to SF again for my flight. Second, as I wrote in my post last week, Steve Stowers had improved our M50-54 age group record of the 100K distance by mere 12 seconds, so that made the record still reachable in my opinion, just that I shouldn't be chasing records right now.

For the non insiders, this event is special in the sense that you can pick your distance 'on the go.' Once you reach 50K, you can either stop and get listed as a 50K finisher, or go on but then you have to run 50 miles at least. If you finish between 50K and 50 miles, you are a DNF (Did Not Finish). And the same when you reach the 50-mile mark: if you keep going then it has to be until 100K. That makes this event a very tough one from a mental standpoint because it's easy to feel 'tired enough' to stop at 'shorter' distance. On the other side, the 4.5-mile loop makes the logistic really easy as you keep passing though the same aid station, and the opportunity to see other runners throughout the day breaks the monotony of running for hours. Let's also mention the super good weather we had this year again, a sunny day on the hedge of a hot day by mid day.

On my end, the race went quite well. My main goal again was to run an 'easy' 50-miler, hopefully faster than 6:14 (the M50-59 Age Group Course Record -AGCR- I had set last year), which is still much slower than my 5:43 Personal Record/Best on that distance. That corresponded to an average 7:29 min/mile pace, on a slightly rolling but relatively flat and fast course (asphalt bike path). With that, I was quite happing to see speedster Chikara Omine quickly disappearing ahead after only 2 miles. He had told me at the start that he was going for 50 miles as well, but he wasn't trying to go fast, which surprised me as I would have assumed he was trying to show his 100K Team USA teammates he was still in great shape after his amazing 9th place and 6:58 at the World championships in 2010. Well, he certainly started fast at least! 2 other of his Excelsior teammates were also ahead, Karl Schnaitter and Nakia Baird. I passed Nakia after a mile or so and he shared that he was shooting for 100K. But I let Karl go as he was on a 7 min/mile pace and I was aiming to settle down to a more reasonable 7:10-7:15 one which I did eventually in the first three laps. Photo credit, Chihping Fu:

In the 4th lap I was feeling so good that I kept the pace a bit, enough to regain visual contact with Karl, another runner in a bright orange jersey, and the lead woman who passed me in the second loop, telling me that she wasn't sure if she'd go 50K or 50 miles (an hesitation which seemed to me not such a good strategy given the fast pace she was running at).

In the 6th lap I closed the gap with Karl. I was convinced that it was him who had slowed down, but my GPS was telling otherwise, that I was wrong and it was me who had run the last laps much faster as my average pace was now right on 7 min/mile. I told Karl he was like a metronome and was surprised when he told me he was going for 100K. At that pace... In this 6th lap I got close enough to the 50K lead runners to see that the leading gal had a buddy running along side, something which you'd describe as pacing, which is forbidden at this event. Not a big deal for the back of the pack'ers but that got me excited enough that I pushed the pace even more to let her know, then pass her, completing the first 50K in second position behind Chikara. 3:43 for me at the 50K, definitely an 'easy' run/pace today, but there was still 19 miles to go. At this point, I was still feeling extremely good and thought that, if it continued this way, I could go after the 100K record after all. But I SHOULD NOT so I consciously kept pushing the pace, thinking that this was barely sustainable for a 50-mile given the lack of training in March, but to make sure I would be tired enough by the 50-mile mark that I wouldn't be tempted to keep going for 3 more laps (50K are 7 laps, 50 miles 11 and 100K 14). Well that strategy worked very well, the last 2 laps were much harder, although I was glad I didn't have to walk at all this year. The harder for me was that I felt quite hot by noon as I didn't get much heat training this year. There was some breeze and it wasn't warm by any standard but the sun was bright. In the last three laps I saw my average pace decreasing from 6:58 min/mile down to... 7:22... In the 9th and 10th laps, I actually turned a few times to see when Chikara was going to close on me and lap me. What a surprise to finish the 11th lap and see him finish just before my eyes, as I still had to run the ultimate 1.5-mile out and back to the main aid station. He had slowed down and ran 5:57, with me taking 2nd in 6:08:20. Yes, a new AGCR, worth 20 bonus points in our Grand Prix. Photo finish credit: Janet Thomson

I had not given it all fortunately, but I needed to cool down and Steve Jaber was very helpful in getting me iced water for that. I had used Vespa and took only 5 GUs total, so I was now hungry and really appreciated a few cups of chicken noodle soup plus the variety of fresh fruits. And the yummy ice cream brought by the Pamakids club, thank you guys! Because of my afternoon flight, I couldn't stay the whole afternoon but here is a picture of the 50-mile podium which was taken just before I left.



Special thanks to Race Directors Rajeev Patel and Anil Rao, Emeritus Race Director Steve Jaber, and time keeper and volunteer extraordinaire Dave Combs and Stan Jensen. And Janet who volunteered for a few hours again this year.

As I teased Dave and Stan at 5:30 am upon taking my bib: "you must live here for being at this table year after year when we show up..." ;-) At least they have known Ruth Anderson well given their decades of involvement in our sport and it's so inspiring to see them giving back so much to our community. (2 following picture credits: Chihping Fu.)



30-year anniversary, a celebration of Ruth Anderson's ultra life, an ultra racing party, the 10th consecutive time for me and the simple and great joy of still being able to run: yes, Ruth Anderson Ultras were quite a special edition this year!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

5 weeks post TIA: RAS

In French, RAS stands for Rien à Signaler, literally nothing to report, all good! At least on the medical side, there is no new insight, we are waiting for the report of the 12-day heart monitoring data, hopefully to rule out atrial fibrilation.

Meanwhile, this has been a good training week right after American River with 90 flat miles, mostly around 7:15-7:30 min/mile except for a good speed work out at the Mountain View High School track with the peace of mind of running with experience buddies, Bob and Jeremy. A series of 6 800s which should provide some meaningful heart monitoring data at sub 6 min/mile pace.

That's it on my end, the ultra buzz was definitely elsewhere this week and it was cool hearing from many friends and inspiring performances:

  1. First, the infamous Barkley marathons which saw only one finisher this year despite 3 runners engaged in the last 20-mile loop. Brutal endeavor, at least it's definitely not on my bucket list, no worries on that end! ;-)
  2. Locally, John Medinger was directing a mud fest with his Lake Sonoma 50-mile and the male and female podiums were not the ones that most of us was expecting, quite a few surprises and DNFs among the elites.
  3. Further North, in Oregon, new Oregonian Ian Sharman won the Gorge Waterfall 50K only 1 week after taking third at American River. Way to race back to back, and fast!
  4. Then, in the Midwest, more precisely in Madison, Wisconsin, there was an event I was sorry to miss this year, the 100K Road Nationals, Mad City 100K (my 2015 report). At least I wasn't registered when the stroke hit, so less regret. Besides, I didn't really want to compete head to head with Steve Stowers who just turned 50 and had run 7:14:34 there 8 year ago (he was 42 and made Team USA for the 100K World Championships if I recall). So, yet another fast 50-year old guy like Rich Hanna (those who followed the February and March events will understand...). With that, I was expecting Steve to explode our M50-54 100K Road American Record which, like the 50K one, has been standing for 34 years (1982). Well, as it turned out, Steve did break it but by 12 mere seconds (7:38:31), what a sprint or struggle it must have been for him when he was looking at the clock! Respect to Rich and Steve then, and special thoughts to John Sullivan, who I don't know, for his two 1982 records which resisted so many years! Let me add additional kudos for the top 2 runners for their amazing times: Geoffrey Burns, 25, 6:30:37 and Patrick Reagan, 29, 6:35:56: world-class performances!
  5. Last but not least, this Sunday was the first stage of the Marathon des Sables, in the hot Moroccan desert and sand dunes. It's quite remote but there is a better coverage than the Barkley marathons (and it is most certainly a way different event in terms of popularity with more than 1,000 starters).
No pictures but a short update this week, for those who follow my progress, and an opportunity to thank you for all your supportive messages!

Run Happy out there!

PS: yes, we got some rain the in the Bay Area this weekend, never too late!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

American River 50-mile 2016: feeling both guilty and relieved...

For those who have followed the events over the past 4 weeks, I owe you some news about my medical conditions since I shared so much after my stroke. And then a big apology...

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had to stop running while the medical investigation is still going on. The big step this week has been another MRI and angiogram to (1) ensure there wasn't any other signs of strokes in the past 3 weeks and (2) check the condition of my arteries and vessels in the neck and inside the brain. Through the independent readings of 2 different neuroradiologists, the result came negative, no sign of plaque, and no more blockage (the team in San Francisco had detected a blockage on a CT Scan, which the team in New Jersey missed apparently). That's great news which came at the last hour on Friday afternoon.

I still wear a heart monitor 24 by 7 to check my heart rhythm against any sign of atrial fibrillation, which is the last remaining hypothesis for the formation of the clot. If that comes negative as well, which I hope, then I think we'll be left with an unknown case which, to me from day 1, could just be linked to the fact that I went 101% at the US Nationals. I've suffered the well-known exercise-induced asthma for many years until I discovered Singulair, maybe we are going to uncover the record-induced or limit-induced stroke (we could say exhaustion-induced except that I didn't feel exhausted at all when that happened in New York). Certainly, there aren't that many individuals out there who have pushed the limit against aging as I recently did and still improving after 50... Although, the field specialists would argue that I started late, so that certainly explains some of the remaining PRs. But still.

Anyway, after this update, it's time for the apology. As some of you have seen on Facebook or Strava already, yes, I resumed running this weekend by lining up to the start of no less than American River 50. For the non insiders, the 50 means 50 miles (80+ km), half on a trail with a few technical sections, and more than 4,000 ft of cumulative elevation. Now, I read your mind, here is the first question you must have: "Did you get the medical clearance to do this??!" Of course, no, and I certainly don't blame my doctors for stating that this wasn't recommended. Which doctor, with such incomplete explanation of what happened 4 weeks ago could ever say "Yes, it's just fine, go back to running, straight to race 2 tough marathons." But the thing is that this question will never been a clear cut ever from now on. Which leads me to the next thought...

I know I'm going to get a lot of push back on this decision, and probably even more from people who know less about the circumstances, from my personal fitness to what ultra running is about. To spare you the time of searching, here is a list of negative terms that can come to mind if you wish: foolish, insane, inconsiderate, stupid, dumb, senseless, absurd, crazy, silly... Yes, like you, that list came to (my) mind as well... As a matter of fact, this has been a particularly tough decision and, if it didn't appear through 470 of these blog posts yet, I'm a very rational person, don't like failure, like to base my decisions on facts. And sometimes, I can be determined too... It was also a tough decision because, until Friday afternoon, I still thought that there was potentially a big problem with my arteries and there was no way I would run with this condition then. I even cancelled on Thursday the hotel room that we had in Folsom, forfeiting the pre-race plans. Talking about some additional stress created by last minute planning... And of course, my decision was very challenging for Agnès whom I love so much for the trust she has in me in particular.

Again, I realize the gravity of this decision. I had never put much thoughts into stroke conditions before. Actually, I was very familiar with the danger of clots for ultra runners but had quite a big misconception about it. As ultra runner, our heart is getting so much stronger, it beats slower (mine often goes below 40 at rest), slowing down the blood flow which is particularly risky when sitting for hours on a plane right after a race, something I'm way too familiar with. What I didn't know if that these clots typically forming in the legs are a danger for the lungs where they will end up, not the brain. In my case, we need to find out what caused the TIA in the first place to see what the potential risk of forming another clot is. If a clot was the reason in the first place... At least I'm on a blood thinner which certainly decreases that risk (and, no, John Burton, that's not a banned substance, I checked before even taking the first pill! ;-).

Now, I'm not that crazy, I had to make deliberate concessions in order to make the decision work: what I was aiming for is what I called "jogging American River" at about 80% of my fitness capacity. That may not mean much slowing down for many, but that's a huge gap from the 101% I pushed to at Caumsett, really.

Hum, with that super long introduction, we are not even at the start line, I'm going to have to keep my race report really short (for a change... ;-). Although I have so much things to say about the support of many from the start to the finish line.

I had so many doubts about this decision obviously that I went in with a very low profile, no message to my Club mates, nothing on Facebook. Besides, with a 6 am start, it was pitch dark and very easy to remain incognito. Start photo showing that Lake Folsom was high enough this year to reach the boat ramp near the start line (well, you can't see it, that's the black background, but you got the picture... ;-):
Incognito? That is until the Master of Ceremony mentioned my name at the mic... A few people who knew about the past weeks stopped by many had no clue.
With my M6 bib (thank you Julie! ;-), a few probably thought I was here to kill it. A few days ago, one of the favorites, Chris Denucci, asked to follow me on Strava... Needless to say, I lost sight of him right off the start and was happy about it as I was trying to make my way back to a jogging pace. The bright yellow jerseys of the Excelsior team were ahead and I settled behind Ray Sanchez and Nikki Kimble. We were about half a mile in the race when I was going to check my pace and discovered I had forgotten to start my GPS. My new Petzl Tikka RXP was really helpful on the first trail section and I offered Ray to run on his side so he cold benefit from the light since he didn't have a headlamp. But the sky was so clear that the lamp wasn't needed even before we reached the levee. It felt really cool to not push and rush as usual, and even felt good to lose sight of the top runners. At the dam, I had a nice chat with Nikki (her ski season in Montana, snowshoe racing, physio therapist jobs, motivational speaking engagements about ultra running or depression). Nikki focuses on mountain 100-miles and was definitely not trying to chase Devon who was racing the boys. My pace was now down to 8:24 min/mile which was indeed much slower than usual. I picked up the pace a bit as we were now going down the bike path. Not pushing (I swear) but ended up lowering my average pace to 7:45 at the turn around at the end of Lake Matona. Between the early morning lights and the reflection on the still water, the view were stunning and I was glad to take the time to look around for a change.

Agnès was at the Negro Bar aid station and a volunteer and she helped me refill my GU2O bottle. From mile 15 it's mostly up to Auburn so the average pace keeps rising. After Negro Bar I started feeling the effect of a notorious lack of training these past 4 weeks. I was hoping that super good conditioning of January and February would carry through March but that was wishful thinking. Despite good hydration and taking an S!Cap every hour, I could feel some nagging cramps coming and had to ease up after Beals Point (which is theoretically the half-way point and the start of the brand new 25-mile race, but I'd say closer to 24 miles. I reached Beals in 3:12 (7:55 min/mile) and did a quick stop to grab a couple of GU gels. I had decided that, since I wasn't really racing, I wasn't going to do Vespa (Vespapower.com) but I didn't realize how tough that was going to be to get back to the old school of running on carb, ouch! Besides, with all the worries about potential clogged arteries, I had cut on fat even more than usual so that mean I was likely to be fat-depleted anyway...

I was surprised no to see Agnès at Beals. She had expected me a few minutes later so she had walked down the water and barely see me passing though on her way back to the parking lot.
One runner passed me on the way to Cavitt School and I distanced another one in the subsequent roller coaster to Granite Bay. By Granite Bay I wasn't feeling so good. Not the head thankfully, but the leg fatigue and level of energy. I wasn't eating as much as I should given my choice of not running on fat calories, but I didn't feel like eating potatoes. I ate mostly GUs, one or two am hour, a few pieces of bananas, a few chips and drinking a few small cups of Coke here and there. With this regimen, no surprise that I bonk, both physically and mentally in the infamous Meat Grinder section. Not only most of my worst ultra memories have been formed in this section over the past 10 years, but the matter became even worst with XTerra throwing us full-speed mountain bikers to us. I almost got hit twice and you could tell the runners were the intruders, although the trail rules and etiquette say otherwise. I appreciate these are shared trails but that was insanely dangerous. Between all these required stops to let the bikes pass, plus the yelling to announce myself in the numerous blind turns, that really broke my rhythm and I didn't need that especially in that section. But I had promised not to push, so I tried to remain calm and savoring this opportunity to experience trail running again.

I asked for more ice in my water at Horseshoe Bar as the temperature was rising. Ray passed me in that section to Rattlesnake Bar and Tim Twietmeyer arrived in the station as I was chatting with Agnès and trying to recompose myself in the shade before the final 10 miles.
Tim is 57, I was glad I wasn't fighting for the age group title today, no stress, no pressure... ;-) (Tim is an ultra legend but here are a few stats about him for the non insiders: that was his 36th American River meaning he ran all of them. Tim ran and finished Western States 25 times under 24 hours, the only one to do so. And he even won that mythical race 5 times! And he lives in Auburn, so these trails are his backyard.).

The few miles after Rattlesnake were slow and painful. I was so worried to fall because of the risk of bleeding, I must have been super tensed as my back is unusually sore this Sunday. Despite all the efforts to raise my feet higher I tripped 5 to 6 times and fell once but landing on my hand bottles (thank you again Ultimate Direction! ;-), avoiding any bruising. I also got tired of scanning for and avoiding the numerous and invasive poison oak branches. With that, I couldn't wait to reach the final 3.5-mile climb to the Auburn Dam Overlook finish. It was 1 pm and quite warm now but I'm a good climber and these steep miles are on a fire and service road so at least I didn't have to jump over rocks anymore, just shuffle. At the mile 47 mark, my watch was showing 7:18 of elapsed time and I thought I could still break 8 hours. But I had forgotten that I had missed the start, and wasn't sure about how minutes I missed anyway.

I got more iced water at the final Last Gap aid station and, soon after, ran into Rich Hanna who was blown away to see me, even more so, running that final uphill (impressive view from the finish line down to the trail at the bottom of the canyon).
By the way, Rich is the one who broke that darn M50-54 50K American Record before me in February, the new record I was chasing in Caumsett 3 weeks later. He is so nice, he offered to run by my side to the finish and we even chatted a bit about what happened. I ran all the way to the finish but, not knowing the exact clock time, I was really unsure about the 8 hours. As the CEO of the Chip Timing company officiating for the race, Rich was pretty confident I had it and, sure enough, I crossed the finish line in 7:58:15. 21st overall (Devon took 11th overall in 7:10), 20th Men, 2nd M50-59 to Tim (7:49).

Chris Denucci won, 42 seconds from breaking 6 hours! Chris Wehan took 2nd in 6:10 and Ian Sharman 3rd in 6:17.
Karl Schnaitter finished in 8th and was the last one to break 7 hours. Team wise it was a huge show off from Excelsior again, taking 5 spots within the top 22, kudos!

After all the stress that I created for Agnès, and the short night we had as we left the Bay Area at 8 pm on Friday evening, we were both eager to hit the road and we left Auburn at 2:45 pm. By then, out of more than 600 starters, only 50 runners had finished, it was going to be a long afternoon for all, starting with all the volunteers. An extended thanks to all of them, especially as I used the aid stations much more than usual.

And a special thank to the Race Director, Julie Fingar, for letting me run this event for the 9th consecutive time (including one DNF in 2008 on asthma).
Thank you also to Tom from NorCal Ultras for checking on me after the finish, and proposing to take my blood pressure.

Here I am with Rich, after the finish (I had not realized that Rich was a 2:17 marathoner at age 29, that's way below the Olympics Trial standards! Promised, I won't be chasing Rich's record anymore, I know where my limit is now! ;-).
As closing comments, and I probably lost most of the readers that far into my post, I'd say this (for now at least, there may be more to discuss after the remaining medical tests come in): in 2014, strokes were the fifth cause of deaths in the US so this is serious stuff and I certainly want to learn more about what happened in my situation which I believe is not a common case. It certainly makes approach to life different and I'm glad Agnès found me a neurologist who also does research on strokes and has an open mindset to look at every hypothesis. With all I learned so far but also a lack of definitive explanation, I find it challenging to classify what happened to me: it doesn't seem to be a known injury, nor does it look like a sickness. It's not an injury of a body part to be fixed. And it's not a sickness in steady state. You just don't want another stroke to hit, yet it's uncertain what could be the cause. Was it a random accident, or an unknown injury of a blood vessel due to reaching a physical limit which I had never attained before? Or the result of some aging which has not been noticed before because nobody or so few have pushed that hard? I know these are big remaining open questions but, thanks to the medical care I received in New Jersey then in California, the most alarming assumptions have been tested and eliminated so far. I'm still waiting to hear about the heart monitor results, and hope they are able to leverage the recording from this 8-hour long stress test, that should be interesting (and probably not seen before!). Meanwhile the blood thinner should help and it felt really good to get ultra live again, even if it was at an 85% level effort.

There are many other ways to take risk and life and I was certainly not the only one today on the trails. Besides, it was an amazing day to enjoy the outdoors with great company and a super professional race organization, experience the blooming nature and see so much water in the area, although the drought is still far from being resolved. Life is wonderful and love and running are part of mine. I hope you will... forgive me!

PS: all picture credits to Agnès, my crew yesterday and love always!