Sunday, September 26, 2010

Trailblazer: again, for a good cause

I ran my first Trailblazer 10K in September 2002 and ran it every year when I was in town, that is a total of 6 times. I missed 2004 because of the French Nationals of Marathon, then 2005 for the competitive Paris-Versailles and 2008 because of Rio del Lago 100-mile. Last year I even managed to run the 10K on Sunday, following a 2nd-overall finish at the Sierra Nevada Run double-marathon North of Sacramento the day before. So, while I missed ten of the sixteen editions of this race, I'm quite committed to it. For one good reason and good cause: as a Cupertino resident, Stevens Creek is dear to my heart and so is the trail named after it. Since I settled in the Bay Area in 1998, I have trained for thousands of miles at Shoreline while I was working for ILOG, first in Mountain View then in Sunnyvale, before we got acquired by IBM in 2008. That's for the North part of the trail. Then, more than 5 years ago, I joined the Stevens Creek Striders, giving me a strong appreciation of another part of the trail, South of Cupertino, with the dirt side of trail running. I like speed so I still like shorter and flat races although I'm mostly doing ultras nowadays.

Such races are also the opportunity to meet with my original running community, friends and be joined by family members too. Indeed, Agnès and the boys ran a few of these races with me. With Max at Yale, Alex focusing on rowing this season (and College applications) and Agnès who underwent total hip replacement last Wednesday (to hopefully get back to some running in one year!), it was Greg's turn to enroll in the 5K.

2 weeks after my great performance at Rio del Lago 100-mile, and one week before trying to improve my PR on the half-marathon in San Jose, I did not have precise expectations for this year's 10K. When Race Director Aaron called the fastest runners to get at the front of the pack to get prepared, he called for 6 min/mile runners and my neighbor, Magnus Wiklund asked "what about the 5 min/mile runners?" Not knowing him I thought that was going to be quite a fast and competitive edition, especially as he told me he was 43 and that Jose Pina just turned 40 this year. However, I was surprised to see Jose not only wearing a warm cotton t-shirt but standing on the other side of the starting corral then indicating to me he was not running. Not seeing a Kenyan or Ethiopian runner among ourselves, I thought I had a chance to place again.

My running buddy Bob was here as I suggested that would be a good tune-up for our upcoming San Jose Rock'n'Roll half-marathon next weekend. He was already sweating after  what appeared to be an active warm-up, as the temperature was still below 70F. Anyway, Aaron send us off and we did start quite fast as my Garmin 205 indicated 4:56 at the first turn, phew! The usual suspects were just behind with a surprise, a tall and slim woman who, as I discovered at the finish line, is one of the top American elite on marathon this year, Brooke Wells.
I got through the second turn at 5:12 min/mile which is a faster pace than my best repeat miles this year. I did not check who was following me and just decided to keep pushing. I covered the first mile in 5:21 then passed the 2-mile mark still at 5:25 min/mile average pace, and down to 5:27 min/mile by mile 3. At this point I turned back and could only see Brooke behind, nobody else. I thought that I was not going to let a gal pass me (Greg shared after wards that he thought that was very sexist and conservative...!) and kept pushing to keep the same pace for the next three miles. While I passed the finish line with my GPS indicating that 5:27 min/mile pace, the GPS had a distance of 6.31 miles instead of the standard 6.2 miles, so I got credited with a 5:32 min/mile pace in the results (time of 34:25). Not my fastest time on 10K (my 6th best out of 33 10K races), but good enough for first overall, my second overall win here and my second... Xbox! Greg did not push nearly as much this morning as I did but was thrilled to get such an upgraded game station, not as much as Agnès upon our return home (although she had a good laugh about the story).

Anyway, Brooke took second overall in 35:31, followed by Bob in 37:31. Brooke has already run a 2:40 marathon this year, qualifying herself for the next US Olympic Marathon Trials. She is going to run Chicago in two weeks shooting for an A-standard (2:39:00 or below). I wished her best of luck. In the meantime, I'll be running the San Jose Half next week, then FireTrails 50-mile the following week. No, the season is not quite over yet, we are having too much fun.
Between the kids race which highlighted promising future talents (really), the age span of this even is quite remarkable. Before the start I put the timing chip on the shoes of Glenn Sievert who, at 84, had never seen such chips before. He shared with me a laconic "I feel I'm going to be the oldest guy here again..." As he is almost twice my age, I can relate how age can count in performance when Brook is 21 years younger than me. Yet, I'm still working hard at defying the aging process with a few PRs this year again... ;-) Then, I met my ex team mate Bill Dodson, 73, who, after trying to do the same double-race than I did last year (he was going for the double marathon at Sierra Nevada yesterday but stopped at No Hands Bridge), decided to run the 5K barefoot. Which is successfully did in 26:56 without any blister.
See other pictures of the 10K finishers in my Picasa album. Anita Yee has also covered the event with very nice pictures. And the organizers will publish pictures too on the race photo album (soon).

I continued the day with our South Bay running communities to celebrate Tom Kaisersatt's life with a very special picnic, as Tom left us a couple of weeks ago. Check this other story out, it was a busy weekend, ending up in two blog posts for the same weekend.

Was good to see all of you out there to have fun while supporting the Stevens Creek Trails. A special thank you to the generous sponsors and the many volunteers and Friends of the Stevens Creek Trail which made this event possible and work so hard to build trail extensions so we can one day run from the top of Black Mountain (2,800 feet) to Shoreline and Palo Alto Baylands (sea level) without crossing any car traffic. Or the other way for the most courageous and other crazy ultra runners...


Anonymous said...

Bravo, bravo
Papa et Maman

Toshi Moshi said...

Congrats, Jean! I still remember seeing you for the first time in 2006 Trailblazer. You shot out at the start and I was thinking "he'll never be able to keep that pace!" but you did and won that race too. It was inspiring to see someone as short as me win the race! Good luck in SJ RNR and Firetrails 50!


evolvingcreations said...

Way to go Jean, fast indeed! You are an excellent reporter of your own events, I really enjoy reading the play-by-play. Thanks for sharing, very inspiring. I hope to see you on the trail again soon!

Tinabiner said...

Nice recap, and interesting to find out who the woman was who glided past me, making me think I was coming in 3rd female in the 5k instead of 2nd as it turned out she ran the 10k with a stronger finish than mine, but my 7:05 pace was a PR for me and I was surprised to be up there with the guys in the 5k until michelle passed me running strong : )

Anonymous said...

Nice to have read about you, 'cause I couldn't see you after the first mile until the award ceremony.

My 1st 10K race and an official PR. Great to be running with some talented runners.

Go SC, Go Trojans