Sunday, October 25, 2009

A normal weekend?

I race a lot already (15-18 races a year), yet I have to refrain from running every race in the area: that is how blessed we are to live in the Bay Area. This weekend two races were really tempting: the San Francisco One Day and the San Jose Dean Karnazes Marathon. But it was not reasonable for me to run one of them just one week before Helen Klein 50-mile. Instead I "just" ran 44 miles in 6 hours this weekend...

A weekend like any other?

It was pitch dark at 6:30 am on Saturday morning and I was not so surprised to find the gate of the Rancho San Antonio Park closed then. I parked on the street one mile away and rushed to catch-up with my running buddies starting their training run from Rhus Ridge on the other side of the park. What surprised me though when I entered the park is to notice that the lot was almost full already! Some folks must know how to open the gate in the early morning... Again, despite the darkness, there were already hundreds of hikers, mostly Asian (see my previous post on Cupertino's healthy habits).
Running Chamise Trail, I saw several deers and I would see many more of them all morning. With the rain we got two weeks ago, there is a lot of fresh green grass, a treat for the deers. I also saw a coyote before getting to the Windmill Pasture. On my way up to Black Mountain, I caught-up with Mike Topper and Chris Garcia and we stayed together for the rest of the run, back to Rhus Ridge through Hidden Villa and running through the Palo Alto Foohills Park.
The weather was perfect and we reminded ourselves of the invaluable luck we have to live here. So many trails, views over the Bay and to the Ocean, a perfect weather, so many local races, not to forget the company, and the personal enrichment gained through the multicultural environment and the business connections.

Chris also joked about his luck to run with local elite runners. Between Mike and I, we have three Ohlone wins and many other Masters wins. Mike ran Western States 5 times (1996-2000) and placed in the top 10 Men 4 times. We also met Roger Dellor on his bike.
Roger started ultra running late, just before turning 50, but excelled at it and still holds the M60-69 course record at Western States in 20:28. He is now alternating running and biking to alleviate some knee issues.
I ended up doing exactly 31.1 miles or 50K on Saturday, with a cumulative elevation of 5,200 feet, in 4:45 of running time (more elapsed time with a few stops here and there).

Here is a link to my photo album of the day. (Much different views from my last coverage of this run back in the Spring).

This Sunday, I went for a 10-mile tempo run at the De Anza College track. I wanted to run the 10 miles under an hour but missed my goal by 15 seconds. Actually, 40 laps represent a bit more than 10 miles (10.25 according to my Garmin GPS), but I have been able to do 40 laps in the past under 58 minutes. Granted, not the day following a long and hilly run like I did yesterday. Besides, there was a bit of wind (6 to 14 mph according to the web) which bothered me in the last 5 miles. I also started a bit too fast (5:44 for the first four laps).

Here is a view from the satellite. Sometime these satellites must wonder what goes in our mind for running in circle like that for an hour... ;-)

San Francisco One Day

While Sarah and Wendell must still be counting the laps, here are the preliminary results they posted this morning. They setup a webcast so it was cool to get an hourly update, although I admit I didn't stay up all night to watch. The race started at 9 am on Saturday at Crissy Field in San Francisco (a flat 1.061-mile loop).

# Runner Gender Age Laps Distance (miles)

1 Brian Krogmann M 31 132 140.1
2 Suzanna Bon F 45 127 134.7
3 Mark Tanaka M 42 111 117.8
4 Daniel Fabun M 35 105 111.4
5 Mike Nuttall M 60 101 107.2
6 Joey Bryan M 40 100 106.1
7 Marianne Paulson F 45 98 104.0
8 Charles Wickersham M 37 95 100.8
9 Andy Kumeda M 41 95 100.8
10 Vance Roget M 55 95 100.8
11 Steve Klang M 42 95 100.8
12 Nathan Yanko M 27 95 100.8

In total, between the 24 and 12-hour runners, participants logged 6,938 laps and 7,361 miles!! I really want to enter a 24-hr event at some point, hope my calendar allows it next year.

Overall, not your ordinary weekend but one of the many we, ultra runners, can enjoy in the Bay Area. Blessed are we!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Caballo in the Bay: not a ghost!

40 years ago, André Frossard, a French Academicien, wrote a book with a provocative title: "God exists, I met him!" This Friday I can say: "Caballo Blanco is not a ghost, I met him!"

Caballo is the main hero of Christopher McDougall's book, Born to Run, which, to my surprise, made the New York Times bestseller list for 12 weeks in a row! Not that it doesn't deserve such a success, but I was not imagining thousands of readers when I got one of the first copies back this Spring at the Zombie Runner store in Palo Alto (see my book report).
If you have read Born to Run, you must wonder what drew the white horse (aka Caballo Blanco or Micah True) out of his recluse life in the Copper canyons of Mexico. What got him to leave his Tarahumara and Raramuri friends and come to visit the Silicon Valley, Seattle, LA, Phoenix this month. Tu put things in perspective, Caballo has spend years living an ascetic life in inhospitable canyons in Mexico. He got so immersed into this recluse tribe that they gave him a Spanish name. Blanco relating to his caucasian origins. And the local children scared of seeing a gringo for the first time in these canyons reported seeing a ghost...

Caballo is on a mission. Not one of the Spanish and religious missions which conquered the Tarahumara lands and pushed them to run farther and faster in remote canyons. On the opposite, a mission to protect this pure and ancestral culture which made this people excelling at ultra running. Not a sport for them, but a pastime and a way of of living, hunting, travelling, commuting, escaping our world, and hiding...

Caballo is touring the West to raise money for the Norawas de Raramuri foundation. A foundation to support two annual races he setup 5 years ago, which goal is to provide the Tarahumara a chance to race locally as they cannot afford to travel around the world, not to mention the danger of exposing this genuine culture to our artificial and commercial environment as we have seen in past experiences at Leadville in the 90s (look at chapters 11-13 of Chris' book).

So, this Friday night, a few local runners were invited to meet with Caballo. From Kati's invite I thought that would be a very intimate encounter and I was really excited about it (I had proposed Kati to organize a special event at a local running store to support the fundraising). To the point that I missed the homecoming celebration at Cupertino High School where Max was a prince and a king candidate for his last year before graduating. Anyway, what a surprise when I found out that 80 or more other aficionados joined the party from as far as Vacaville (Vivianne and John) and Tahoe (Kati)! The party was hosted by a local ultra icon who I had the pleasure to discover through this opportunity, Mike Nuttall.

Mike is one of the three co-founders of the legendary design company IDEO in Palo Alto. His house at the top of Portolla Valley has incredible and gorgeous views over the Bay on one side, and is right on the mid-Peninsula trail network. The perfect home for an ultra runner and it was entertaining to hear Mike share his love and passion for running, as well as how he got into it.

Back to the hero of the night, Caballo (pictures courtesy of Scott Dunlap).
Caballo started his presentation by making it very clear that the Tarahumra did not send him. "They do no need help. They never have to ask or beg. They share. If they don't have anything to share or trade, it's not a problem, they will share something later. They have a beautiful zen-like detachment with things."

Here are a few random notes and quotes which will resonate more with the ones who read Born to Run, and run...
  1. Raramuri means light-footed ones.
  2. If you come to run the Copper Canyon Marathon, Caballo will assign you an animal best capturing the traits he sees in you. A spirit animal. Or, if he is out of inspiration, a spirit vegetable...
  3. In 1993, the Raramuri really came to run Leadville for food, definitely not for the sponsors. There was a severe drough back in the canyon in 1993 and 1994.
  4. In the 80s, I didn't like myself, I was taking running too seriously.
  5. We distribute literally tons of corn to the top runners. And the gringos who place are welcome ot give back their own ton of corn and even the cash prize.
  6. Unfortunately, because of socio-economic reasons linked to biofuel developments, corn became extremely expensive in Mexico.
  7. I'm signing a lot of books (Chris's book), although I didn't write or even read it!
  8. The race is held every first Sunday of March.
  9. By the way, Chris keeps saying that the race is 50 miles, but it's actually 47.
  10. All Raramuri are running and exercising, all their life. There was this 95-year old man hiking up a tough trail. Nobody had told him to stop. I really like this philosophy of "live until you die."
  11. There are about 40,000 Tarahumara remaining in Mexico.
  12. The less footwear, the more focused on the trail you are.
Last but not least, when asked how he felt about what he does for the Raramuri, Caballo concluded his speech with a sincere "I don't know if this is the right thing to do, but I go with my feelings, and I'm convince this increased awareness will ultimately benefit them." For sure, I personally feel more confident in Caballo taking initiatives in this area as he is almost one of them. Rather than letting stranger commercial or federal organizations field testing programs from the outside. What a fascinating experience with a secular civilization. Thank you to Mike and Kati for spreading the word this way!
With that, plus the time I had to spend with the family and on some work deadlines, I did not join the Saturday morning group run I advertised earlier on my blog. I had my share of Caballo's spirit and philosophy. And, in particular after listening to us, I was more interested in running solo, as he does most of the time in his canyons. Maintaining a sustainable life balance in a hectic life...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

La Jolla (double) Half Marathon

It is becoming a habit: a month ago I ran the Quicksilver Half Marathon course twice; this weekend I ran a marathon on the route of the La Jolla Half Marathon (the 29th edition was run on April 25, 2010, check their website for the 30th!).

A happy occasion brought us in San Diego for a few days, the wedding of my boss. With some free time on Saturday before the ceremony, I wanted to run the course of the San Diego marathon and reached out to one of my team members who have lived here for 14 years, the "other" Pierre (insider joke). Pierre has run the marathon several times and told me it was not worth going on the course on my own, especially the section close to the airport which is not scenic.

Instead, since I was staying in La Jolla, he advised me to run the course of La Jolla Half Marathon. A full marathon was a good goal for the day as I was missing the mythical FireTrails 50-miler directed by ultra legends and couple Ann Trason and Carl Anderson. FireTrails 50 was my first 50-miler 3 years ago and I got the coveted Dick Collins Rookie Award (first among the new competitors at this distance) while taking 3rd overall. And it was great to run it again last year after having missed the 2007 edition because of a business trip.
It was overcasted when Pierre met me at the hotel this morning, and Pierre forecasted that it would remain this way for the rest of the day. Fortunately, the sun actually showed up very quickly and the rest of the run ended up being very sunny.
We started from the hotel (Hilton at Torrey Pines) around the 7.5 mark on the course and headed North toward the start of the official half. Pierre ran with me up to the entrance of the wealthy city of Del Mar, just North of San Diego. We talked about business and enjoyed this opportunity to meet face to face at a time all our interactions are now "virtual" (i.e. over the phone or the Internet) with IBM. Pierre turned around after 3 miles and I kept going North though Del Mar and to the entrance of the Fairgrounds, the place the official half starts. Here is Pierre, faking he was tired as an excuse to run back ;-)Turned around myself and ran the whole course, down to La Jolla Cove, 13.1 miles South. You can see the many (154!) pictures taken along this wonderful and scenic course. All asphalt but interesting rolling course profile with a hill in Del Mar, another one at mile 5.5 in the Torrey Pines State Park, and a last one just at the finish at mile 12. Wonderful views and great way to discover this upper-class part of San Diego: amazing mansions with Ocean View, pristine beaches, the Torrey Pines golf and State Park/Reserve, the UCSD campus, some of the most advanced biotech companies and research centers in the world... I am thankful to Pierre for this must-run course, and I highly recommend this Half Marathon. Great course for a self-supported run too with a handful of restrooms and water fountain in the Park and along the beaches.
Now time to drive back to the Bay, 500 miles this Sunday. It helps that we have now four drivers in the family! Again, make sure to check my Picasa album to do your own virtual half marathon!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Caballo Blanco comes to town!

Yes, the famous White Horse! Or let's say the mysterious one as many of you might not have read Born To Run yet. Again, see my book report, this should get on your must-read list for this year and at the very least your wish list for the end of the year Holidays.
Caballo Blanco is visiting us in October in order to raise funds for his newly created foundation, Norawas de Raramuri, a non-profit to support the Raramuri and their culture, including their running traditions. You can look at the schedule that Caballo maintains online (especially for last minutes updates); and here are some special events and dates from his trip across the West Coast region:
  1. Oct 3 - 50 miler (Man vs. Horse) in Prescott AZ. He will speak to runners during a pre-race meeting.
  2. Oct 17 - fun run in Portola Valley, CA (meet at the Windy Hill parking lot at 0830)
  3. Oct 17 or 18 - Auburn Running Company, Auburn, CA
  4. Oct 20, 21, or 22 - Microsoft: featured speaker at an on-campus event + Seattle Running Company (date/times TBD)
  5. Oct 23, 7pm - 9pm, Zombie Runner, Palo Alto, CA
  6. Oct 24 - Brazen Racing half marathon in San Ramon, CA. He will be available to runners prior to, during and after the race.
  7. Oct 25 - fun run in Santa Maria, CA (with Luis Escobar, el Coyote, featured in the book too) (time TBD)
  8. Oct 31 - Javelina Jundred in Phoenix, AZ. He will speak to runners at the pre-race dinner.
At the risk and expense of decreasing the suspense Chris builds up throughout his book, here is a picture that Caballo Blanco posted on Facebook. Yes, it is hard to believe he is now so connected (Facebook, website, radio interviews), but that is part of living in the 21st century, even in the most remote and isolated Copper Canyons.
I really look forward to meeting this legend this month, intrigued by the subbtle balance between building awareness for the cause of the Tarahumara while protecting their secluded and multi-century traditions and privacy. Hope you can join the party and this running-related cause!