Monday, March 28, 2011

20,000 miles in Brooks, and counting...

On Thursday, I passed another big milestone: 20,000 miles of running in Brooks shoes. I remember the 10,000-mile-in-Brooks milestone like it was yesterday, although it was 230 posts away, and 3 years ago. My 3rd post actually and the one which triggered my application to the Brooks Inspire Daily program. Did I put the 20,000 miles on the road map and my to do list after that? Not really but now, I'm thinking I may well aim at 30,000 miles if nature, health and God allow... Now, it took me 8 years for the first 10,000 miles, 4 years for the next 10,000 but do not expect the next ones to take only 2 years. This is only my second job...!

To celebrate, I used a pair of Trance as I had a total of 9,996 miles in this model. Not just one pair of course, but 10, from the original and first model, to the Trance 8. I was an unconditional of this product line when I first picked Brooks but moved to much lighter shoes after having read so many good things about barefoot running. Here is the spread of all these miles across the various models I've used since I felt in love with the Brooks brand in March 1999:
After reading Greg's first post on Saturday, I must say he is dead on: how lucky are we to be able to run so many miles and enjoying the outdoors, especially in the Bay Area, or compete and test our limits in races put up my so dedicated race directors and volunteers, not to mention the support of our relatives (see the video I included in last week's post for some sarcastic humor about this). This morning, I felt lucky indeed because, running long distances, I was able to run further than The Strip in Vegas. Running in Vegas is not really fun because you keep crossing roads at huge intersections. Or slaloming through the crowd later in the day... Or going though inhospitable neighborhoods... Agnès and I were in Vegas this weekend after winning a nice package at a fund raising event and I will actually be back at the Venitian in two weeks for IBM's huge celebration of SOA, BPM, Decision Management and other connectivity and application integration technologies, Impact 2011 (#impact). At the end of the week, a group of runners goes for a very early run at Red Rock Canyon. They rent a bus but I wanted to see what it would take to go there from the hotel and ended up running to the entrance of the park and back to the Venitian, for a total of 32.5 miles or 52 kilometers, just under 4 hours (3:55). Slightly uphill through Vegas going West toward the canyon, and rather boring along the 10 straight miles of West Spring Mountain Road, but I now plan on running to the start of the group run (half marathon warm-up) and take the shuttle only for the way back, to be on time for the conference. Another short night in perspective with a 4 AM wake-up call... If you are reading this post, if you will be at Impact, if you like to run and have not received Kramer's invite, contact me!
Back to the hotel, we had a romantic gondola ride on the amazing artificial canal at the Venitian and, after this ultra on 3 GU gels and 2 bottles of water, I was starving for an ice cream!
We also had a short visit from Diane, my ex-assistant at ILOG when I arrived to the US, who know lives in Las Vegas and was at the origin of this package from the Sands Foundation. It was great to see the three of you, Diane, Joe and James!
A perfect Italian day before flying back to the Bay Area which is still under the rain. A total of 87 miles this week, mostly flat and mostly under the rain, except for today's run in Las Vegas where the temperature was 65F this morning.

Arrivederci and have a good week!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring? Not quite yet...

After last week's perfect weather at Way Too Cool, after a few beautiful days in February here in the Bay Area, one could have thought Spring was here. Even on the official Spring Equinox day, March 20th. But not quite yet given my experience of this Saturday...

It had rained all night and, as an encouragement as I was getting ready to leave for a long run on Saturday morning, Agnès told me: "Are you really sure you want to go run in the rain?" Certainly, that was not by pure pleasure but, after a busy week and in preparation for the upcoming American River 50-mile in 3 weeks, I had planned on logging quite a few miles this weekend, rain or shine. To make the climb to Black Mountain less boring in the rain than the usual 10 miles on the asphalt, I decided to use the REI trail to cross the Stevens Creek Park. I met three Striders on the way and, as the rain was pouring when I reached the extremity of the reservoir, I decided to get on Stevens Creek Canyon Road. My feet were already soaked when I crossed the creek, at the end of the road and entrance of the park and I started getting really cold just 10 miles in my run. I decided to continue, albeit alternating slow jog with walking the up hills. I was carrying two bottles but had hard time keeping them in my freezing hands. The trail was like a running creek itself, with huge puddles here and there, so there was no way my feet were going to dry. As much as I like taking pictures to share views with you, I was glad not to have my camera with me in such wet conditions. I had initially thought to take Bella Vista trail to make a 28-mile loop but I was shivering so much that I took the direct route up to Black Mountain, walking. At the camp ground, I stayed for 15 minutes in the restroom (no, nobody was waiting outside, the whole place was deserted given the nasty conditions), shaking my hands and arms to get the blood flowing, blowing air in my hands to warm my fingers and hopping to warm my feet and legs. All that while shivering like it was below freezing. The wind was blowing hard outside and I finally decided to leave this shelter to call home from the pay phone which is conveniently located there. I was glad to get a tone and, with some difficulty with the shivering, keyed in the toll-free number that I'm carrying with me for my long solo runs in case. Well, it asked for a code that I had no clue about, so I'd better update my emergency "kit" with a complete number and code that works. I felt so cold that I hesitated calling 911 but felt that this was too much over the top, and that I will find a way to call home as soon as I'll get on Montebello Road. My feet were numbed and I felt my jog very awkward as I could barely control the position of my feet on the trail, but moving was getting the blood flowing and the 15-minute rest in the dry shelter had helped a little. The wind was so high that there were times I jogged in place, not moving forward. Thankfully, the weather got better when I hit the road. I stopped at the first houses, ringed a bell but nobody came to the door. I asked the mailman who was just passing by but he said that he had no cell phone with him. I continued running down the road and stopped at Ridge Vineyards. There were a dozen people tasting wine there and, after several attempts, one of the employees managed to get Agnès' cell phone to ask for a pick up. Phew! While she was on her way, I continued for 2 more miles and actually felt much better. I got in the car with 20.6 miles on my GPS, and would have had difficulty completing the last 7 miles, so I'm glad she picked up the phone. What a way to celebrate the last day of winter...! That reminded me the nasty conditions of Miwok 2009, in May... (see Miwok 09: is it May yet?)

This Sunday, I stayed in the neighborhood for 22 flat miles, in a lighter rain. At least I didn't have to cross creeks or puddles so my feet remained dry. Overall, this concludes a 70-mile week (Tuesday-Sunday), with a mix of a few fast miles but mostly slow ones to recover from Way Too Cool and a nagging pain in my right calf. This gets me up to 63 miles/week average for the first 11 weeks of 2011.

And, to conclude this short post without pictures, two more anecdotes. The first one is an interesting video on YouTube about the crewing experience at Western States. Apart from separating green M&M's for good luck, something I had not thought of, the rest is quite accurate (yes, I still whine too, sorry about that...). Hopefully the divorce story is completely made up though...
I also attended a webinar (aka web seminar) organized by the USA Track&Field association to educate us, Masters, on new anti-doping regulations. The thing which surprised me the most is that there is not an agreement at the world level on which drugs are banned or not, countries manage different lists. And I can't resist in mentioning too that you are inspected while peeing, see the illustration below for yourself! Serious stuff... ;-)

The regulations aren't really for our ultra competitions yet, since there isn't much money at stake if any, but for the upcoming World Masters this summer. Visit the US Anti-Doping Agency website for more information.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Way Too Cool 2011: my 5th birthday

March 2006, my first Way Too Cool and official ultra race. I was not blogging yet (it took me another year), but I remember my mixed feelings. On one hand, I did not much about ultra, everything I learned was from word of mouth from my fellow Striders, Charles Stevens and Mark Williams in particular, and helping out at aid stations, including being the Captain at Last Chance at Western States. On the other hand, I felt bullish and confident, thinking that this was just 5 miles longer than a marathon, not a big deal. I got so cold this year and suffered from asthma. Painful experience but would say ultra was meant to be easy? 4 hours and 29 minutes, I did not feel good about it although that was a first in getting farther and, nevertheless, one week before setting my PR on the half marathon at 1:15:04.
March 2011 therefore corresponds to my 5th birthday. In ultra... What a ground covered in 5 years! 56 ultras (an average of one per month for the 11 months I run each year), 13,190 miles (more than half the Earth circumference), 2 DNFs (Did Not Finish), 0 DNS (Did Not Start), 220 blog posts, so many connections and friends made through this sport, and an amazing way to push the envelope outside of work. So much that the family now gets a little bit blasé about all these miles and races... I know I'm not the only one in this situation, that's part of ultra...
This edition of Way Too Cool promised to be fast, with a new course avoiding the 2-way traffic of previous years on the single track section. At least fast for the competitive field attracted by the reputation of this event. So popular that the Race Director, Julie Fingar, got more than 600 runners registering, including 159 first timers at this distance (and ultra in general)! I must say that, continuing on Greg Soderlund's legacy (Western States Race Director), this is a very professional organization, including the serious chip timing but also a lot of creativity, humor and fun on the frog theme (see pictures).
The scoop for me was that Max visited us for his Spring break and I proposed him to join me for the race on Saturday, then drive up to Tahoe to ski on Sunday. The second part was certainly more appealing and exciting to him than the first one, although he is a great runner, but he did an amazing job at taking more than 400 pictures of the runners after the first loop, and the top 31 at the finish. That's a lot of picture, and a lot of time out there but, thankfully the day was gorgeous albeit on the cool side for me who always on the chilly side (except at Ohlone and Western States when temperatures go over 90F! ;-).

I woke at 2:40 AM, we left home at 3:35, made a small detour to pick Toshi in San Jose and Max drove rather fast which got us at Cool at 6:25. Great parking lot and, normally with an ultra crowd, we were not the first ones but got a good spot (the race was scheduled to start at 8AM). There was no line at the port-a-potties and I took the opportunity to take a picture of all the signs on the doors. Here is a new concept, the motivational port-a-potties!! And certainly great quotes to explain why we are passionate about ultra...
The race started right on time and here we were, losing sight of the front runners pretty quickly despite a first mile at 6:20 for me. I tried no to get caught up in the frenzy of the start and remained in the steps of Erik Skaden for a couple of miles. He then made a move to catch the group in front of him where the two lead gals were, Joelle Vaught and Caitlin Smith. Erik was on Caitlin's heels and the contrast was quite impressive, looked to me like The Little Red Riding Hood (Caitlin in red of course as she runs for Salomon).
We came back at Cool after this introductory 8-mile loop which was already rolling and muddy, and quite fast (under one hour). I was carrying two bottles and did not stop at the first three aid stations. I had gastric and intestinal issues since mile 4 and that was really not getting better with more miles. As we were running along the American River, I passed Sean and tried to keep up with Joelle, which I did for a couple of mile until the pain was so high that I stopped but without much success. A few miles later, around 15, I thought I was going to throw-up and that this will make a long run. As Tim Twitemeyer says, if you don't feel good, then do it, you will feel better afterwards. But that's for a 100-mile strategy, not really a 50K one. Thinking of what Agnès told me on Friday night ("Remember that you do that for the fun!") I worked on getting my thinking back on the positives as the weather, views and trails were gorgeous this Saturday.

I kept moving an finally reached the next aid station, Auburn Lake Trail or ALT at mile 21, under 3 hours as I recall. But my abdomen was still hurting, I felt like it was just a big pouch with a piece of concrete bouncing in it. This lasted about 20 miles total until another sharp pain started in my right calf, although not really a cramp. I started running more slowly and economically and felt like I was not moving when Caren Spore passed me with her short strides but incredible fast shuffle. I had came down to 8 minute/mile average pace but was probably running in the neighborhood of 9-10 min/mile then. Meghan Arbogast caught up with me at the bottom of the killer Goat Hill and I decided to give another try to pushing the pace. She passed me just before the aid station but, the time to get a hug from Norm Klein, a high five with Helen, get more water and a brownie, she was gone. In the 10 miles, I passed a couple of runners and got passed by 4 or 5. Much better than most of my finishes at Way Too Cool, but my 2008 3:56:52 run, albeit probably a shorter course by at least half a mile.
Given the circumstances (yes, Greg Soderlund, I had an excuse to go that slow ;-), I was glad to be done and pass the finish line this Saturday in 4:18:09, yet embarrassed when I heard that the winner had broke 3:30 (Mike Wolf winning in 3:28:01!), followed by international elite Todd Braje, then our very special team star, Gar Gellin placing third in a blazing 3:35 and Top Master. Toshi had an amazing race, finishing right under 4 hours (3:59:52!). With that I placed 31st overall, 4th in my M40-49 age group, with two M50-59 just before me (wow, I can't even use age as an excuse...), and 4 women. Joelle caught up with Caitlin finally and finished first. The same would happen to Caren eventually who got passed by Meghan. What a race in the race! Here are the top 31 finishers negotiating the last turn, credit to Max.
Just a bit of asthma tonight which is good news after so many episodes in my races along the American River in particular. I have been taking Singulair very diligently for the past year, without any serious incident at last, so it seems to be working, albeit a pricey treatment. Next race will be the good final test, American River 50-mile.

With this perfect and sunny weather, it was great hanging out in the finish area and catching up with my teammates, Todd Braje and many other runners who were happy to share their experience on this muddy trail, crossing many creeks. Got some food, including a good soup and the very special and traditional Way Too Cool cupcake (or should we call them coolcakes?). Well, cool for us runner but what about these 2 super (cool) moms who decorated 650 cupcakes on Friday... THANK YOU ladies!
564 finishers overall. The team did quite well today (thanks Captain Greg for the stats!): Gary (3rd), Toshi (15th), Jean (31st), Sean (86th), Adam (162nd), and Adona (12th) and Clare (16th). Here is a great shot by Max of Gary's finish. From his stride, you can barely tell the difference between a 3-mile cross-country race and a 50K ultra, amazing! Such as his feat to take on the overall podium at 42 in such a competitive field.
A big thank you to the super efficient volunteers, at the sign-up, all the aid stations, the parking lot (what an improvement, at least for the early birds!), the finish area, the food tent, you all rocks, this is... Way Too Cool!
And, yes, a few really enjoyed the mud more than others, look at the color of Mike Lauren's t-shirt!
I will add a few pictures to this post later tonight. In the meantime, while I'm getting prepared to go skiing, there is a ton (450) being uploaded on my Picasa album , thanks to Max's diligent coverage. And, an index if you don't want to browse through all of them:
  1. Race setup and start
  2. The "first" 600 runners at the end of the 8 mile loop (back to Cool)
  3. The top 31 finishers at the last turn
PS: bloggers (of FaceBookers...), feel free to reuse pictures in your posts by giving credit and linkage to this post.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Forever fast? Better keep working...

After last week break and a poor 16-mile running week but great get away in Lake Tahoe, I was going to title this weekend's post: "Back to work!" Indeed, many more miles this week, 85 in total, despite man work and short nights as a consequence. A great 4-mile repeat workout at the track with Bob on my birthday and too long runs this weekend. On Saturday, I joined the Stevens Creek Striders for our weekly meeting and ran with some of them up to Pichetti Winery before hitting Montebello Road up to Black Mountain. I added the Bella Vista trail loop and, as I was pushing hard on the second climb to Black Mountain, I ran into Chris (Garcia) who had left Mike Topper and Gary Gellin after starting at Windy Hill. After going on the Watermill trail, I had a great run down Montebello thanks to the extra cushioning of my Brooks Ghost 2. The road was actually very busy, first with many bikes going up, but also many cars visiting the two wineries on this road (Pichetti and Ridge). I kept pushing the pace going through Cupertino, clocking the last flat 3 miles at around 6:20 min/mile pace. I ended up running 29.5 miles just under 4 hours, for an average pace of 8:03 and 4,300 feet cumulative elevation. The rest of this week's running has been flat (Alviso, track or my neighborhood), including a 18.6-mile (30K) "recovery" run at 7:10 min/mile this Sunday. With some tapering and hopefully longer nights this week, I feel well prepared for Way Too Cool, although I have no expectations given the super competitive field and the fact that I will have to drive and leave the house at 4 AM on race day. The ultra life...

Back to the title, I received the email/announcement below from USATF this week and found this video interesting. You know, the "interesting..." that we use in the US when "great" is not appropriate. Indeed, as much as the theme of keeping competing in Track & Field despite the age appeals to me, I found that some of the images made the performances look very laborious. This is the part in me which feels that we, Masters, are not that old. My point is that, except for the pole vault which I found impressive, they could have picked smoother and more impressive runners and jumpers. For instance, I'd wanted to see our local Bill Dodson who, at 75, has a perfect running form, even at the end of a 50K or 50M and would have looked better than some runners on the track for a few laps. Now, sprinting is really hard as we age, and that's one reason I escaped into ultra, so congrats to those still chasing the tenths of a second on the track... Again, it's "interesting", and I of course like how this movie promotes our sport and camaraderie. And serve as an introduction to the upcoming World Masters Athletics in Sacramento in July. Here it is for you to see by yourself, if that makes you want to work hard to be... "Forever Fast..." (Visit the USATF website if the video inclusion doesn't work for you.)

See some of you next week at Way Too Cool. With the new course and the super fast guys on the entrants list, it's going to be very fast. For some anyway...

FOREVER FAST, USATF Masters Promotional Film, Premieres in Boston
INDIANAPOLIS - FOREVER FAST, the USA Masters promotional film, premiered in Greater Boston on Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Waverley Oaks Athletic Club in Waltham, Mass. The film's inspiring theme - that athleticism is possible at all ages - was an obvious hit with the enthusiastic crowd at Waverley Oaks.

FOREVER FAST is a 14-minute USA Track & Field film that will promote Masters Track & Field throughout the United States. The film is a dynamic new tool that will 1) recruit new participants to Masters Track & Field and 2) attract sponsors that want to associate their products or services with "lifetime competitive fitness" and "positive aging."

Boston-based film maker, George Araneo, produced and directed
FOREVER FAST under his company, Life Skills Productions. Editor and camera man for the film was Aleksandar Lekic, and the title and concept of FOREVER FAST originated with John Oleski, marketing chair for USATF Masters Track & Field. Gary Snyder, chair for USATF Masters Track & Field, was instrumental in getting USATF commitment for the film.
FOREVER FAST  will be shown throughout the U.S. at health and athletic clubs, and a multitude of other venues, for people who are already reasonably fit, but don't know about the opportunities for competition and camaraderie that Masters Track & Field offers.
FOREVER FAST  will also be presented as a continuous loop showing at road races, youth track meets (for parents, of course) and other venues.

To view
FOREVER FAST, click here.