Sunday, November 29, 2009

Quad Dispsea 09: chasing too many turkeys...

3 races in 6 days, that is quite a way to finish the season, and I am very glad it is over. 17 races from February to November including 12 ultras, that was another busy year (I will post the traditional "year in review" later in December before leaving for Ethiopia).

Busy year and busy week. So busy from a running perspective that I had to do two posts this week. One for the two fast turkey trots (Kenya Dream and San Jose) and one for this Saturday's hilly and much slower one.

Agnès and the boys were too busy with various projects to accompany and crew for me. I left home by 5:40 am to ensure a good parking spot close to the start as it is difficult to park in Mill Valley. As it turned out, there were a few early birds like me before 7 (the time the check-in was opening) but quite a few participants arrived much later. The list of entrants contained 250 names with this interesting distribution (at 45, I am right in the middle of the Gaussian):

Before reporting on this year's race, a bit of history and background. First, here is what Wikipedia says about the single Dipsea: "The Dipsea Race is the oldest cross-country trail running event --and the second oldest foot race of any kind-- in the United States. The 7.4 mile (11.9 km) long Dipsea Race has been held annually since 1905, starting in Mill Valley, and finishing at Stinson Beach, in Marin County, California. Since 1983, the race has been held on the second Sunday in June." As a matter of fact, I never ran this race. I ran the Double Dipsea three times: 2001 (2:11:00), 2002 (1:59:05) and 2003 (2:00:57). After that, I served as Captain of the Last Chance aid station at Western States (2004-2006) and ran Western States (2007 and 2009) and the two events falls in the same weekend, the last one of June. Debuting in ultra in 2006 I ran Quad Dipsea that year (4:20:52) and in 2008 (4:19:19). Last year was quite memorable as we were chasing Erik Skaggs in his attempt to break the long standing course record of Carl Andersen, a goal he achieved by a few seconds (Carl still holding the amazing Masters CR of 3:56). See my 2008 race report.

This year again the weather was perfect: sunny, amazing views cleared up by the strong wind and temperatures above 60F as we progressed through the morning. It had rained the day before but there was actually almost no mud on the course, the humidity just fixing the dust on Cardiac and making the trail really soft (as I could experience it, keep reading...).

Race Director, Tropical John (Medinger), gave us a few pre-race instructions including the firm order not to cut the course (as opposed to the Dipsea race where it is an option, albeit a risky one). I would say that the start was not as fast since Erik was not here this year, but it is really hard to figure out our pace with such a steep first mile and hundreds of stairs. Victor decided to walk most of the stairs and I passed him. I was in second position in Cardiac and, on our way down to Stinson Beach, passed the lead runner from the Olympic Club, who did not seem to know the course as he missed one of the stairs near the start and kept checking behind if I was still here to make sure he was indeed on the trail (despite the abundant pink ribbons as John had announced). Jonathan Kimura stayed on my heels for the next 14 miles. He mentioned he was also from Cupertino and seemed to appreciate the pacing. I reached the turn around in 59' and barely stopped despite Ann Trason's offer to refill my bottle.

On the way back we, lead runners, have the privilege to get the encouragements of the other runners as we cross each other between Stinson Beach and Cardiac. Like at Way Too Cool, most of the runners are really nice and get on the side of the trail to let us pass. As this is a long climb and I kept pushing, it was hard for me to talk back to them, hope they do not mind too much and here is the belated thank you for the ones reading these lines.

Peter Zinsli handed me a pouch of Vespa as I passed through the Cardiac aid station for the second time, just a few seconds before Jonathan. At the end of the road section, Chris Hauth passed us and the three of us completed the Double Dipsea in 2 hours. Just for the beginning of the fun, the second one! I crossed Victor in the stairs as he was in 4th. Jonathan and I kept a reasonable pace down to Redwood Creek in Muir Woods but I had to slow down in Dynamite where Jonathan passed me. I lost him in Cardiac and was not determined to catch him on the way down to the beach. Yet, I was flying in Steep Ravine until... Until I plunged in the same manner that you would to catch a... turkey! I was approaching two gals, hiking up, and was trying to figure out which side of the trail I'll use to pass them when I missed a step. I tried to recovered with the next steps but was going way too fast and eventually felt flat in a short section with soft first, fortunately. Landed on my left side (leg and arm) then right hand, then my chin. It must have been pretty scary to watch for the two hikers whom I'm sure are not ready to try trail running any time soon now. I had difficulty getting up and felt really dizzy, but did a quick assessment to realize that nothing was broken. It helps to be light and to fall on soft dirt... I was leaving when one of the hikers called me as she had found my sun glasses. I resumed my progression albeit slower, and was thankful that only bruises were hurting. Could have been much worse.

Despite this little adventure and an increasing fatigue at mile 21 and after this week's races, I reached the turn around in 3:09 against 3:06 last year. Victor was very close behind, as well as Van Mccarty and they both passed me in the following climb through The Moors. After that, except for the numerous encouragements from the other runners on their second Dipsea, some encouragements in French (merci! ;-), it was a lonely push in the 4th and final leg, until Cameron Berg caught up with me on the road section where I was alternating walking and running, out of steam. I was surprised to see him again in the final stairs as I was catching him back but I finished 6th overall, just 5 seconds behind him, in 4:25:32. That reminded me the close finish of 2006 where Jasper passed me in the very last stairs and did took 3rd place by one second, yikes!

Overall, I was very glad to have picked my Brooks Racer ST flat for this race as they hold very well on this soft ground, were very light and precise on the stairs and over the roots. And, despite the brutality of the course, I really enjoyed the race and had fun as John asked us to, at the start. I was a bit disappointed not to break 4:20 again but, as mentioned in the title, I was probably chasing too many turkeys this week... And, as the Chinese say: "if you chase two rabbits, both will escape..."

As I write this post on Sunday, I am really soared, not only the muscles but with several bruises and swelling here and there. I think the fall might have increased the soareness too (contraction and stress). But this is the good and easy pain, the one resulting from an effort you decided for yourself. I'm mentioning that as I think of people with similar pain, with the same difficulty to walk and move except that they know it is not going to pass after a few days. My sincere good luck and healing wishes go to them as I am thankful for my good health and ability to do this sport with such intensity.

Thank you to John and the Ultra Running Magazine family for setting such an event up. Despite being only an ultra by 2 miles, this is really a special event cherished by the local ultra community, and the famous Tamalpa Runners club in particular who dominate this event. They must be quite upset at our RhoQuick (Rhomobile/Quicksilver) team which won the men division of the ultra Grand Prix this year. Our team was represented by Adam, Keith and Andy this Saturday. Adam (Rhomobile CEO) dropped at Cardiac and ran back to the start covering 23 miles of the 28 (Adam figures in the results posted this afternoon, but should not), Keith finished in 5:31 and Andy in 6:12.

It was good to see so many familiar faces helping out at the aid stations, for instance: Quad Dispsea veteran, Tom Kaisersatt (doing much better than last year), Penny Beeston, Chuck Wilson and Chris, Peter Zinsli, Ann Trason, Dave Combs (on crutches after some "foot maintenance work"), Rob Byrne (back from Amsterdam!), Stan Jensen, Tia Bodington, George Miller, Mark Gilligan, and many others whom I may not know yet or have not noticed because going to fast through the aid stations. Thank to all of you!

Check my Picasa photo album out with post-race finisher pictures (thankfully I was not running with my camera on this technical course). I am also including a special photo collage with all the pictures. It is quite "Greg Nacco-ish" but he really deserves it as this was his 16th run, with an amazing and exemplary consistence across all his runs (see Garry Wang's statistics on
Again, season over, until February 2010. In the meantime, I'll spend 3 weeks in Europe and almost 3 in Ethiopia, with the whole family joining a humanitarian project led by Alex, our second. We are going to Gara Dima, a small and poor Ethiopian village with 15 teen from Cupertino High School and 7 parents, in collaboration with a local organization, The World Family. We will do projects with 500 children (6-12) and we are looking for school supplies (see list below) and a few used latpops in case you can help out (you can leave a comment to get in touch or you can find me in Facebook too). Happy Holidays to all!

PS - The list of suplies Alex and our group are looking to assemble before we leave for Ethiopia:

Laptops (working condition)
Blackboard Paint
Colored Pencils
Sewing Machines
Tempera & Acrylic Paints
Origami Paper
Soccer Balls
Knitting & Sewing Needles
Pencil Sharpeners
Manual Ball Pumps
Jump Ropes
Blackboard Erase

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey Trots: 2 in 2 days

I feel younger as I ran two races with "youngsters" this week. I was not expecting to post an article between last weekend's and Quad Dipsea this Saturday but I happened to run two Turkey Trots so it is worth a few lines. Per definition, two short runs, 2 miles on Tuesday and 3.1 miles this Thursday. But fast ones.

Kenya Dream Turkey Trot

Max is a Senior in the Class of 2010 at Cupertino High School and they have been working for 4 years on a project to raise $100,000 for a high school in Kenya. They are not quite there yet but must be approaching half-way and they will leave this project as a legacy to the next classes. It was the inaugural Turkey Trot of this association and the President of Kenya Dream, Justin Lee, hopes the tradition will stand over the next years. Check the Kenya Dream web site out, it is quite professional!

About 100 students participated in the run/walk event this Tuesday afternoon and about 20 teachers joined them which was very nice. I believe I was the only parent to run but there were quite a few of the parents we saw at the cross-country competitions this past season who came to watch. Overall, $1,700 were raised for the occasion which is great.

We ran the 2-mile course designed and setup by Coach Armstrong, which is quite a convoluted tour of the school property. As expected, the top cross-country runner Peter Antony took the lead, closely followed by Max. By the end of the first mile I was in third, closing on them. I passed Max in the second mile and caught up with Peter for the last lap on the track and a close finish right on 11':00" (with the GPS indicating 2:05 miles).

Applied Materials San Jose Turkey Trot

This one was not with teenagers but I decided to join the super competitive elite invitational and USA T&F open championship and registered at the very last minute, just over an hour before the event. Open Division means that there is only one age group and, at this distance, the fastest runners are in their 20s. It felt a bit awkward to toe the line with this group and my main goal was not to finish last... There were a handful of other races before this very selective one, with over 9,000 runners enjoying the wonderful weather before returning to their homes to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Among the 50 or so competitors in the elite field, there were runners from out of state (e.g. New York, New Mexico) and quite a few African-borns. At the start I stayed behind and was indeed the last one on the first stretch of the course despite a below-5-minute/mile pace... We had four loops to complete. I passed the mile 1 mark in 5:07 and was wondering when I was going to die, but passed a couple of runners. I caught-up with Masters Jeff Ongo from the super competitive Aggies (the UC Davis team) and we passed the second mile mark in 10:36. I was definitely in the red zone but was really motivated to break 16 minutes and kept pushing. I was disappointed to hear that I was over 16 at the mile 3 mark, yet sprinted to cross the finish line in 16:36. 3 minutes behind the top runner who missed the course record by a mere second (13:38 versus 13:37)! [From what I heard at the finish line as the results are not yet published on the event web site as I write these lines.]
I definitely have too short legs for this distance and to compete with guys 20 year younger than I. But I still enjoy my own speed and it was quite motivating trying to keep these guys in sight for more than one lap! Fortunately, I have the mountain ultra marathon running to compensate. Speaking of ultra, Chikara Omine, who dominated our ultra Grand Prix this year ran a 5K just over 16 minutes. He was going to run CIM (the California International Marathon) in December but the event had filled out before he could register. So he will run the North Face Challenge 50-miler in Marin Headlands instead (next weekend).

I also chatted with John Weru, a local Kenyan runner. With two young and adorable kids, he cannot train as well as before and was here as a spectator. Similarly, Jose Pinta also told me he will plan on running this event next year. I met with a few other acquaintances and it was time to drive back home to enjoy the turkey that Greg had worked on all morning. Delicious and many more calories than I had burnt with the handful of miles racing and warming up this morning. But Quad Dipsea should take care of these extra calories.

A big thanks to the many and generous sponsors including Applied Materials, PG&E, Kaiser Permanent, WMware, Runner's Factory. Perfect organization, friendly and family-style event, easy access and great technical shirt (with a very unique and fancy design).

Overall, these two races and long weekend were a great way to celebrate and be thankful for the running, the family, the friends, a busy job, the community, the place and the World we live in.

OK, with that, this is definitely the last post before Quad Dipsea this coming Saturday. A very different type of event... (28 hilly miles, single track trail, 4 times 700 stairs, look at the course elevation profile in my 2008 report) And, after my high bib number of this morning (9826, a very late registration indeed...), it will be my turn to wear an "elite" bib: #3! ;-) All in Brooks, to Run Happy!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Coyote Creek 10K: inaugural edition

A quick and short post after spending most of the weekend sorting things out before the move of our office from our current ILOG location in Sunnyvale to the IBM office on North First Street in San Jose, a move finally rescheduled for December 3 and 4. I did a similar exercise this summer in France. I came to the Valley in 1998 and we were supposed to stay here for 2 years, that was 11 years ago... Because it was temporary, I had left quite a few files and archives behind. This past July, I went through 11 years of archives, and ended up with one box out of 10! I keep a lot and it is not an easy exercise for me to throw souvenirs away. Besides, there were quite a few documents and articles pre-dating the Internet era, things which you will not find on the web or Google.

Anyway, after 11 years in the US, same exercise again as I am leaving a nice office for the exciting life in an open space, in a cubicle, a concept which I never experienced apart from a few weeks spent at some clients like the FAA for instance, decades ago, and a concept I am more familiar with from my occasional reading of Dilbert's comics.

Coyote Creek 10K

Enough about work and let us come back to the running. At lunch time this Wednesday, I had the pleasure to join a very small crowd for the inaugural Coyote Creek 10K time trial organized by ultraholic Chihping Fu. My main interest for this event besides testing my current speed was to discover a trail near my upcoming new office location. As a matter of fact, the start of this casual race was just a mile away from the IBM office.

Here is Chihping's report on FaceBook, straight from the Race Director:
It was a blast with 400 runners showing up. Oops a typo, 4 runners! Thank you for coming to run this nice trail with your fast times!
Some runners let me know beforehand that they could not make it due to schedule conflicts. Sincerely hope to see them next time.
The weather was awesome with gentle winter sunshine. The temperature should be around 50 - a perfect running weather. Even with the head wind blowing almost all the time as reported by our front runners, everyone was able to run their own PR pace. As expected, the dirt surface added only a minute or two to their paved road racing records. The following is the result,

Jean Pommier 34:50.27, a warmup for Quad, only 1 min shy from his sub-34 min 10K PR. Now Jean owns the CR :-) (Note from Jean: here is the picture Chihping took of my finish, with my camera: I think he missed me, I must have been a bit too fast while he was juggling with two cameras...)
Pierre-Yves Couteau 38:17.52, an easy test for his sub-3hr goal in the coming CIM
Kai-Ti Huang 47:41.83, faster than his easy 50min 10K road racing, knowing that sub-45min 10K is well within reach since today was part of his "double" from his company at the turnaround - 20K in all !! Good luck at Quad - now keep running the stairs in the building! :-)

Darshan Thaker, showed up first in the same glowing yellow shirt as me, giving me confidence, after running from his company with Muir Beach 50K a few days ago, and then back to his company instead of the finish to make the same 10K distance, so he will figure out his time - 53:20. Another great training run before TNF SF 50K/M.

There is no award, but every finisher was given my home grown persimmon, so called "the fruit of the gods" (Persimmon), freshly picked this morning from my backyard, completely organic with my care every day for years. It's one of my favorite fruits (along with durian, see Ultra List or Alan for details). Darshan, let me know how to deliver it to you. I probably can give it to you at TNF SF 50. Bon Appétit!!
After knowing Jean's sub-34min 10K PR, I could have stayed back into my car for a cozy nap :-) However, I strolled around thinking how to make this event better. One thing I can do is bring a trash bag to pick up trashes along the way before the timing/photo job starts when the front runners approach. I couldn't run due to the recent hip discomfort, but it was great fun and same accomplishment to do all the work in order to help others run their best. I'm happy to get this event up and going for my first time. I'll be looking forward to it next month. I hope my endurance in ultrarunning helps me keep this up every month.
A very special thank you to Chihping for setting this up and getting us this perfect sunny weather in November!

Quad Dispsea in sight

As Chihping mentioned in his report, I am preparing for Quad Dipsea. Topical John actually invited me based on last year's podium and I just received the bib #3 in the mail, how exciting! I am so excited that I even invited local elite Cliff Lentz to participate when I saw him at the CCS cross-country finals last week (he coaches a team in South San Francisco). Not only Cliff is super fast, but he also plays in my age group... Anyway, too late to change the odds in the ultra Grand Prix. Besides, Cliff will run the California International Marathon in Sacramento the following week, so we will see if he shows up.

In the meantime, I keep doing speed work as you can see above, as well as at the track with my running buddy Bob (whom I invited to speak at this FACCSF event last Tuesday evening on a topic I submitted last year and which turned to a facinating and informative debate with the 4 experts: Atoms and Photons: What energy alternatives can bring to California?).

I also completed the speed work with three other workouts:

a. some static work, which I call "sit backs" or "wall backs", where I "sit" with my back against the wall but without any support such as a chair or stool. Today, I managed to do my ultimate series of 4 times 4 minutes with 2-minute rest intervals. Needless to say, this is tough and I need a good book (CauseWired: Plugging In, Getting Involved, Changing the World today) and good music to pass the time and go through the pain (yes, it is a little painful and the quads do shake...).

b. This Saturday, I also tried something new. I ran to the Stevens Creek Park (saw a few fellow club members of the Stevens Creek Striders there) and ran the steep hill up to the dam 14 times. As you can see below on my GPS trace, the satellites must have wondered what I was trying to do, going back and forth. The scale is probably not very accurate, it gave about 100 feet of elevation for each repeat (~30 meters), and 0.2 miles for each round-trip (i.e. 30 meters of elevation gain for 160 meters). And why 14 then? Because it made 2.8 miles, or 1/10th of the overall Quad Dipsea distance.

c. Not satiated with these hill repeats, I did 14 other repeats on the stairs next to the Blackberry golf. 85 steps up, 85 down, times 14, equal 2,380 steps! Granted, not as large and high as the Quad Dipsea ones, but a good workout nonetheless.

With that, let us see how these workouts... work out on race day next Saturday. In the meantime, enjoy Thanksgiving, as much family time as possible and not too much turkey and gravy...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

To but not through Crystal Springs

10 days ago, I took half a day off to go with the Cupertino cross-country teams at the League Finals at Crystal Springs. This is the course of many official cross-country high school and college meets. The course is just under 3 miles for high school competitions, and 5 miles for college ones. It is situated in the Hallmark Park in Belmont, just off 280 and 92. Great views of the Crystal Springs Reservoir on the other side of the highway (a place which I abundantly described in my 100th post, last January), and the City (San Francisco) and the Bay on the other side.

To Crystal Springs: a suburban marathon

It felt a bit like traveling the Silicon Valley on CalTrain this morning: Cupertino, Synnyvale, Los Altos, Palo Alto, Stanford, Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside, Redwood City, San Carlos, Belmont: terminus! Yes, I wanted to log some miles this morning and decided to go to Max' competition by foot. 25 miles of running through a large part of Silicon Valley, between 280 and El Camino Real. I designed the itinerary on Google Maps last night. Of course, the default route was 280 and I had to enter some specific points to force the routing algorithm to use Foothill Expressway instead. Little did I know that Foothill was actually forbidden to pedestrians...I left home at 7 am so traffic was very light in the early morning and, despite the interdiction, I still ran a few miles on the expressway, against the traffic. However, this is a section which is highly patrolled by the Police and, after seeing two police cars, I decided I had better try to find a parallel route before being arrested. I crossed Foothill at Loyola Corners and got on Fremont Avenue, then First Street and Los Altos Avenue for a little detour through Los Altos.I was really happy to find a bike path leading to Palo Alto. Unfortunately it was just a quarter mile long.
Not for long but nice to find this sign after the many "Forbidden to Pedestrians" signs on Foothill Expressway...

After passing Gunn High School and Veterans Affairs' Palo Alto Hospital (one of our largest ILOG clients), I went back on Foothill Expressway for a quarter mile before reaching Junipero Serra Boulevard. This is the impressive 2-mile section where you cross Stanford and realize how much land the University owns. Crossed Sand Hill Road, the venture capital epicentre, to get on Santa Cruz Avenue for a few hundreds yards before branching off on the Alameda De Las Pulgas (see Menlo Park's history). I ran the whole 7 miles of the Alameda, from Santa Cruz Avenue to San Carlos Avenue, feeling more intimate with this rural artery after spending an hour on it. Alameda means tree-bordered avenue and this is much what the avenue is indeed. The city has even replaced many of the concrete sections of side walks with syntethic/rubber pads to let the tree roots growing more freely. Impressive care for trees and nature!

On my way, I was surprised to discover that cabins of fire trucks could rotate this way!

From San Carlos Avenue I got on Beverly Drive then Club Drive for the last 2.5 very steep miles up to Crestview Drive. In Hallmark Park, I ran part of the cross-crountry course, making the run 25 miles, not quite a marathon. Between the sun in the South Bay and the one we could see in the distance over San Francisco, Belmont was actually under misty clouds and I got cold as we were waiting for the boys' race.

Through Crystal Springs? Quite not

Now that Tino's boys varsity cross-country team made it to Crystal Springs for the CCS (Central Coast Section, one of the 9 sections of the California Interscholastic Federation) finals, it was time to race for a qualification to the next round: States (the challenging California State finals).

Max was not ready to really kill himself today. Between the fast pace of AP courses, the heavy homework, the applications to colleges and related interviews and the Fall play of his drama course (the premiere of For the Love of Three Oranges was last night!), cross-country is not Max's current focus but he trained diligently and fought hard though the season with a great team spirit and his team captain responsibility. His main goals for today were first to enjoy this potential last race with his Tino teammates and, second, to clock 16:40, 6 seconds better than his PR on this course.
Here off they are, amongst a competitive field!
Max, second of the team in the hill of the first loop:
Max finished 3rd of his team, behind the amazing Anthony twin brothers, Peter and Thomas (sophomore). He was happy to improve his PR by 3 seconds (16:43) and with the proof that the team is left with great elements for next year. And even more happy to conclude the season this way after putting 3 hours in daily training since August. So much free time to do other things now!

Here you are with our report from Crystal Springs, almost live... With Alex not running cross-country anymore, it is going to be several years before I come back on this course. To see Greg running hopefully!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Central Park: ... in the City

Filled the blanks in the title? If you came with any other three-letter word than "Run", you need to turn to another blog, sorry! And you spend too much time watching TV, it's time to hit the trails. ;-)

Do Something, change the World!

I came to New York for just two days, to accompany Alex who had a meeting with Super cool association which gathers volunteering teens and is growing very fast: 750,000 members in the last count! 750,000 mostly in the US although the association is now set to open satellite offices on other continents. Out of all the members, 300 applied to 15 seats on the Youth Advisory Council (YAC), and Alex made it through (joining 15 other teens as the members are elected for 2 years and the committee is half renewed every other year). They interact with the staff on a daily basis and the association paid for our trip and our stay. Needless to say, Alex is quite excited to have such a "board meeting" at only 15. Who knows what's next...
Today (Saturday) they joined the Social Action Boot Camp at NYU (New York University), for more training and ideas to change the world, for the better. At a time the headlines are swamped with sad news about "the" Army, it is recomforting to see so many kids engaged in what calls the boot camp: "Combat Training for an Army of Change." In addition to the good that all these teen-led initiatives do to our society, it also represents an amazing learning opportunity.
Alex does not have time to run anymore (not that he liked it very much anyway), but he does "run" for many causes: Unicef, Red Cross, United Nations, The World Family, etc., there is always "something to do" at home and in the neighborhood (for instance, instead of trick-or-treating for candies at Halloween, Alex and his friends collected donations for Unicef and raised more than $1,300!).

Running in the Park

We stayed at Park Central Hotel which is conveniently situated a few blocks away from the South entrance of Central Park, the lungs of Manhattan. I worked from the hotel room all day Friday, from 7 to 7. I was going to visit a client but the city basically shut down on Friday for the Yankees World Series parade. Even the schools closed to allow the kids to celebrate and savour this victory, 9 years after the previous one!

I hit the trail, or the bike path actually, at 8:30 am and there were only a few runners and cyclists out there under the bright blue and sunny sky. With the excitement of being back at this famous running place, I started quite fast and completed the first 6-mile loop at 6:11 min/mile pace. Many more people had joined the fun by 9 and I started slaloming around and across groups of runners. 6:14 min/mile average pace at the end of the second lap, then the lack of breakfast (just a Sneakers bar) and my fast starting pace started to get on me in the third lap. I was thinking of doing a fourth lap but thought I would not have enough fun. Besides, two things happened: first, I got passed by 7 fast guys in my 16th mile, and I'm not used to that (sic!). Second, upon getting back to the 7th Avenue (18 miles in 1:56), I stopped to watch the super cute Rand MacDonald Foundation kids races. Dozens of 5-year old kids, super motivated, running a quarter mile, under the supervision of the brave firefighters of the New York Fire Department. The contrast between the frail and small kids and the super strong, fit and trained men was touching as 9/11 is still in everybody's mind here. Although less in the minds of all these kids who were born since 2001.

"In Loving Memory of Fire Fighter Patrick Joyce" who died in Line of Duty 2 months ago, after serving with the Yonkers for 16 years.

Here is Fred Lebow's commemorative statute on the East side of the Park. Lebow (1932-1994) is the founder of the internationally famous New York City Marathon (it sometimes annoyed me to see that, when you mention you run marathons, everybody assumes that you have at least ran New York. I was keeping it for my 50th (birthday), but maybe I'll do it sooner...).
See more pictures in my Piacasa album, online.


As I was logging miles in the Park and passing hundreds of runners and joggers, I looked at all the shoes to see their brand. Admittedly my favorite brand, Brooks, was well under represented compared to other American or Asian brands. Fortunately, Brooks is growing fast and there is much more room for growth in this market, as crowded with numerous brands, models, styles and looks as in the car business.

Every time I spotted a runner in Brooks (about ten this morning), I slowed down to say "Go Brooks!" Most of the runners were surprised and I had to explain I was on the Brooks Inspire Daily program and a big fan. One runner replied, showing his shoes: "I love them!" Another one with a German accent mentioned that Brooks was getting quite popular in Europe. Others were running with headsets and did not understand what I was talking about... Run Happy in Brooks, guys and gals!

It was really cool to travel with Alex for his "business." From mid-town, Alex was more interested in the South part of Manhattan (he visited UN again on his own on Friday morning, and went to the Financial District before their meeting, and we walked together to Times Square upon arriving on Thursday night), while I enjoyed more my 2 hours in Central Park. Who said fathers and sons have to be alike?

Hope to be back soon either for business, or to finally run the New York marathon maybe. Small Apple (the literal translation of my College nickname in France) in the Big Apple!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Boston Marathon 2010: is it time already?

The rumor has hit all the runner circles, Boston may fill up by Thanksgiving this year! Last year, the legendary event filled up only by February, unusually late. There is nothing on the website, as opposed to the nice dashboard offered by the Big Sur International Marathon on their home page.

Now that I won my age group in the local ultra Grand Prix, I am not sure I am in Boston as I will likely run many of the Grand Prix event again in 2010. I am on the fence though as Scott (Dunlap) is tempting me with the opportunity to run Boston and Big Sur back to back. Big Sur has created an interesting and nice "Boston 2 Big Sur" program, but I had not realized that they were asking for an extra $55 on top of the entry fees in both events, to cover for a special t-shirt and jacket.

Anyway, if you already got your Boston qualifier and are considering Boston for 2010, now is the time to pay your fees to (get prepared for the "cyber sprinting...").

Good luck and Run Happy!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Helen Klein 2009: perfect weather

One thing is sure about this year's edition of the Helen Klein Ultra Classic: the weather was perfect, from start to finish. Super clear sky with a moon almost full, cool temperature at the start, no wind, sunny morning and warm afternoon. A big big change from last year's persistent rain. A great way to celebrate the first part of Halloween on this very last day of October. As I was mentioning in last week's post, how lucky we are to live in California and have such a weather in the Fall. I am thinking of our friends training on muddy trails on the East Coast or in Europe...

This perfect weather played well for some, but not everybody. And I am part of the latter. 2006: 6hr42 for my first Helen Klein and my second 50-miler ever after I got the Dick Collins Rookie award a month earlier at Firetrails. 2007: 6:22, a blast and still my PR on the distance. 2008: 8:51, a heroic finish with a major asthma crisis and pulmonary edema symptoms. 2009: 7:12 with mild asthma. After my DNF on the same course at American River in April of this year, for asthma reasons, there is really something my body does not like in the area...

I left Cupertino at 4 am, after joining Sean and Pierre-Yves for our RhoQuick "team pooling." (RhoQuick is our Quisksilver Running Club team sponsored by Adam Blum's company, Rhomobile, just covering part of the race registration fees.) It was great to have Heidi as our driver to decrease the pre-race stress. Their dog, Gordy, enjoyed our company on the back seat. We arrived just in time to pick our bib numbers and listen to Norm's briefing at 6:30. The main point was that we were not starting on the levee again this year, but Norm assured that he measured the course and it was only a quarter of a mile longer. However, most of our GPS would later give a longer account, between 51.1 and 51.25 miles.
We started on the trail and in the dark; Chikara started like a rocket and disappeared after the first turn. I settled in 3rd once we hit the bike path (around mile 2), keeping Jamie Olson, a local runner, in sight. Quickly though, Jamie seemed to have issue with his quad and I passed him around mile 5. The first mile was slow because of the darkness (7:40 min/mile) and we significantly increased the pace on the asphalt. By mile 7 my average pace was down to 6:46 and would remain the same for 10 more miles as I was carrying two bottles and not stopping at aid stations.

I refilled my Gu2O bottle at mile 20 and lost a few seconds but felt ok, and actually decided to slow down a bit to save some energy for the second half. I reached the turn around (supposed to be 25 miles, but rather 25.5 miles) in 2:56 or 6:56 min/mile pace. I was in second and Chikara was still flying and had already a lead of more than 15 minutes. He must have run his first marathon around 2:45. Mine was just above 3 hours (3:03), yet another Boston qualifier if I had ended there.

As we were back on the same path, we had the opportunity to see all the other runners after the turn around. Jamie was still in third, followed by Pierre-Yves who seemed in perfect condition with a big smile. Right after him was Sean, without the smile... I actually do not recall if Ray Sanchez was behind or between them. At this time, I started having trouble breathing fully and slowed down significantly to 9-9:30 min/mile with some walking to help catch my breath and preserve my lungs. The rest of the run was mostly about trying to "shuffle" (running with short steps, an exclusive Jim Magill technique!) as long as possible, walking to breath, looking at my GPS to see my average pace increase (yikes), and looking behind to see if anyone was catching up.

It is only at Sunrise Bridge (~ mile 37) that I heard the aid station volunteers cheering up to welcome a runner as I had just left the station still working on a cup of soup. It was Ray who was having a great day today. He was shooting for 7 hours but finished in 6:45. I kept going with my slow pace, convinced that Pierre-Yves or Sean were going to pass me at any time, but kept going and finished in 7:12, good for third overall and 2nd Masters. Chikara had finished in an amazing time of 5:45, improving his own age group course record by 2 minutes despite the additional mile! And missing the overall course record set by Michael Buchanan in 2005 by mere 2 seconds, which makes his performance the best ever on this course. Worth some Thanksgiving dinner refueling:Sean finished in 5th (7:19) and Pierre-Yves in 8th (7:29). These performances should be good enough for our team to cash in quite a few points and solidify our position in the PA USATF ultra and mountain trail running Grand Prix. The rest of the team did well too: Keith Blom, 17th in 8:00, and Jim Magill, 34th in 9:16. As for me, I was glad that the field was less competitive than previous years and that Mark Lantz had decided not to toe the start line. As a matter of fact, we had crossed Eric Skaden and Mark on the trail in the morning arond mile 6 as they live close by and were training on the course. My win in the Grand Prix this year is not based on major performances (Mark got these ones), but my assiduity and persistence... The last race, the famous Quad Dipsea, will not change the odds but I'm going as (Tropical) John Medinger invited me based on my 3rd place last year. I just hope I will not break a leg or twist an ankle on this torturous course. And I will work on my... quads, in November...
A special mention for Bill Dodson, 74, from my other club, the Stevens Creek Striders, who is dominating his age group in the Grand Prix, this year again. Here is Bill, fresh after a 50-mile "promenade" in an amazing time of 9:34:A big thank you to Norm for perpetrating this running tradition in honor of his legendary wife, Helen. And for more than 40 years of race directing and volunteering in the ultra community! A big thank you to all the volunteers (including Helen, now 87!), some of them at aid stations open all day long. A big thank you to all the competitors for their encouragements as we crossed after the turn around! A big thank you to my RhoQuick teammates for their fighting spirit and emulation. And a big thank you to the sponsors, whose generosity makes such events possible and affordable.

Norm said that the tradition is all set to live; see you next year, then! And maybe at the reinstated Rio Del Lago in the meantime. Speaking of 100-milers, there are now 62 of them listed on Stan Jensen's website! I remember the counter passing 40 just a few years ago, then 50 last year, this is another big increase. I put my name in the hat of next week's Western States lottery and, if not taken, this will be a sign that it is time to look at other 100-milers. Except that I'm now "stuck" for another year of "enjoying" the races of the regional Grand Prix... Like taxes, a good problem to have!

Train wisely and run happy!

PS: a few more pictures in my Picasa album.