Friday, November 23, 2018

Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 2018: 10 consecutive ones = 100K!

Et voilà, 2009-2018, my 10th consecutive Turkey Trot is in the books, we can certainly talk about a Thanksgiving tradition, and a great series out of the 14 years this event has existed! But what a special edition to remember... Why? Because, 2 days ago, with the catastrophic fires, it was unsafe to walk outside, much so running. While we need to keep the thousands of families who lost everything in this fires in our thoughts, prayers and giving efforts we, runners, have been extremely lucky with the weather after all. Short of being able to train, at least we had an excuse to taper, or cross train maybe then, yesterday, the first real rain of the season came to extinguish the fires and wash out the persisting smog. I actually went for a 10K run yesterday and was blown away by the white/grayish powder which was washed out of De Anza Boulevard and dripped in the city sewage system. I had never seen something like that before!

Now, from a fund-raising perspective, which is the main goal of this event, the last 2 weeks of inclement health conditions have had a very negative impact on the registration level. With IBM stopping its sponsoring, I'm not part of the organization committee anymore and therefore doesn't have access to the numbers, but you could tell we missed a few thousands people both at the start and the finish. This is too bad, not only for the title of the largest turkey trot in the country, but more importantly for the missed revenue for the local charities which this event supports. Hope it wasn't as bad as it looked. For one thing, I personally know a few people who had registered (therefore paid) but didn't attend. (The preliminary results posted this afternoon have 15,863 finishers, versus 18,678 for 2017, a 15% decrease).

Like many, I had to interrupt my training to avoid damaging my lungs with the smog. At least I was lucky to have a business trip down to Costa Mesa last week where the air allowed me to run three times at night. These are screen shots from last Thursday afternoon, respectively for Costa Mesa and Cupertino, note the difference!

So, yesterday (Wednesday), I rush outdoor as soon as it rained and the air cleared up; I was originally aiming at running 15K but felt so many strange things in my legs and calves in particular that I didn't want to risk anything and stopped after two loops (10K). As a matter of fact, as I was warming up before the race this morning, and after watching the elite races at 7:30, I had really bad feelings about these signals in my muscle and was wondering what the race would bring. The course is fast and the rain had stopped around 3 am this morning so it was still wet but drying in the spots bathed by the sun. We would have to be very careful in the turns and running over road markings and pedestrian crossings!

This year, it was just Greg and I representing the family, with Max in Denmark, Agnès in Paris on her way to visit Max this weekend, and Alex in DC. As a matter of fact, looking at my previous posts on this race, it has been mostly Agnès, Greg and I all these years, as our family gathering occurs traditionally more Christmas than Thanksgiving. With 50 million Americans traveling for Thanksgiving this weekend, better not add to this mind blowing number...

I watched the Eilte Men start their 5K at 8, and complete their first lap of 4, which didn't take much time given the blazing pace (4:46 min/mile!), then rushed back to the car (San Pedro Market) to get ready and warmup before our 8:30a start. I got the start line a minute before the start of the 2 wheelchair competitors and Chris, the Race Director, sent us off 5 minutes later.

Especially with the combined 5K/10K start, and the presence of several College speedsters, it's easy to get caught into an unsustainable pace, right off the bat. Given my low self-confidence this morning, I let a few runners pass me but still managed to settle into a 5:40-5:45 min/mile rhythm, faster than the 6 min/mile at the Trailblazer 10K 2 months ago. And the legs were behaving, which was great news.

By mile 2 I started passing a few runners who had started too fast, but it was too early to know if they were on the 5 or 10K, as the two courses fork around the mile 3 mark. After the split, we weren't too many left in the 10K race. I passed one guy who looked to be in my age group, then chased the next runner up. Between mile 3 and 4 I got passed by a guy running at about 5:45 min/mile and decided to follow-up. While I couldn't catch-up, that got me to pass 2 other runners in the turn-around loop at mile 4.5. From there, I was pretty much on my own for the last 1.5 mile. The only incident happened right at the mile 5 mark: so far, I ad avoid stepping on any road marking for the fear of slipping. As I was approaching a large pedestrian crossing, I noticed that the asphalt was wet but the white stripes looked dry so decided to take my chance. Well, my shoes being wet, I did slip but quickly adjusted the next stride to avoid falling, phew!

In the last mile I was gradually closing on Wolfpack team member Mark Hostetter but didn't catch him (finished 13 seconds behind). Just before crossing the finish line, I waived at the event founder and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Carl Guardino, who was already back on stage after running the 5K himself (he typically wins the CEO Challenge). Carl was nice enough to give a couple of shout outs to IBM and even congratulated me for finishing in the top 15. The results posted this afternoon have me in 20th, but I can already spot two suspicious finishers ahead who were probably in the 5K instead (3 gun times above 56 minutes, and one above 41 minutes). I'm also in 5th place in the age-graded results but may gain 1 spot. (Edit: on Friday, after reporting and correction, Carl was spot on, I'm now in 15th and 3rd Masters, 1st in my age group.)

My time was 35:48 for an average pace of 5:46 (in all fairness, my GPS gave 6.16 miles for the course, and it's usually more on the optimistic side, so maybe 0.1 mile short? Anyway, I'm gladly taking a sub 36-minute finish given the circumstances. I wasn't exhausted as a matter of fact, just the calves feeling really tight. Which doesn't surprise me when I looked at the running mechanics stats afterwards: a 1.46-meter average stride and 189 average cadence (number of steps per minute), that's a lot!

Enjoy this 3D-simulation over San Jose, thanks to; it's like having you own helicopter following you, albeit virtually! (Click on this link, or the picture below.)
Back to the elite races of the early morning, let me first give credit to Mark Winnitz who is in charge of inviting the fastest runners from all over the country. This year, the women race was even more loaded than the men.

Special mention and appreciation for the USATF officials who made sure all the proper rules and regulations were applied, particularly important for these elite participants, both from a performance and financial perspective. I've been certified myself back in February, but I still prefer being on the running side of the action...

These races are actually open to USATF members. My first Turkey Trot was actually that race so I actually ran only 5K that year, 2009, and therefore slightly cheating by claiming 100K in the title. Back then, there wasn't even a ranking for Masters so it was quite embarrassing to be compared to the Open Division Elites (M18-40). Yet, despite a time of 16:34, I was proud for not finishing last at least, phew!

This year's winner was Sam Parsons (right on the podium) in 13:46 (4:26/mile) followed by Edwin Kibichiy (13:49) and Connor Winter (13:51), close finish for a road race!

Top women were also within seconds, respectively Emily Lipari in16:00, Eleanor Fulton (16:02) Rochelle Lynn Kanuho (16:03). The top 19 women finished all within the same minute, below 17:00.

Here is Clare Saxton fighting in the Pacific Association Masters part of that race.
The sunny weather was most welcomed at the finish. Again, so lucky with the weather, with pre-race rain to clean the air, a sunny day for the race, then rain resuming at 9 pm tonight, wow, what a perfect timing!

I met other USATF runners, ex colleagues from ILOG, current colleagues from IBM, and friends who were commemorating Valentine's life, 5 years after her tragic accident (the orange bandana Greg and I wear on that picture).

Back home the calves were still very tight but I felt I needed to log more miles. While the first mile was slow, around 8 min/mile, I managed to get the legs to loosen up and ramped-up the pace, finishing another 10K in 42:25.

Not only was the weather gorgeous, but the trees were on (a good) fire! I love this natural beauty of trees becoming tricolor when switching from green to red and yellow! Here is a special one for Mom who, at 84, is still a fervent reader of my blog, and loves gingkoes!

Hopefully, Herr Trumpeter will forgive the mess of the few dead leaves on the side walk. Trust us, it's Cupertino, this will be raked by Monday (well, probably not raked but pushed away with a leaf blower since that's the high tech we use here...).
Back to the first picture, a few notes on this great shirts, in case there is a trivia on them ;-) :

  • The first two were still short sleeves;
  • 2011 marked the switch to long sleeves, a great upgrade!
  • In 2012, the shirt became bi-color;
  • Then in 2015, the addition of hand warmers (longer sleeves to cover the palm of the hand, with hole for thumb);
  • While we are at the trivia topic, let's also mention the medal all finishers received at the 10-year anniversary in 2014

And to continue on the race history thread, I have to say that this year's post-race wasn't a match to the party we, IBM as a sponsor, had put up back in 2014, with post-race stretching routines, music and even a quiz game with prizes!

By the way, I'm glad to have chronicled 10 years of this event so far, capturing lasting memories to easily go back to. Here they are: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and this post to round things up.

With all that, after such a wonderful day, I'm feeling blessed with yet another and one more perfect race; I'm grateful to those organizing such an event and all the joyful volunteers easily recognizable today with their bright orange hoodies!

And, yet, I'm thinking of the thousands of families stricken by the disastrous fire and displaced during this holiday, so special to all Americans. Again, quite a special edition given the circumstances. Hopefully nothing like that next year, see you at the 15th anniversary then!

PS: bonus pictures, at the bib pick-up at Sports Basement last Friday.

Race Director, Chris:
And like the big marathons, an innovation this year, a picture boot at bib pick-up:
And a shot at this year's leaders in the Fittest Competition IBM used to participate to:

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