Sunday, July 31, 2011

Variety in goals and training makes you run happy!

I am in awe of people who are running consistently without a precise goal, or the ones who can train for 6 months for only one goal on which they bet their whole running season. Personally I need more goals to motivate me to push the envelope and keep improving. I'm not denying that I'm racing too much to really perform at my best, but I need the constant excitement of a new goal/target to not fall into a training routine. And setting various goals, from 5K to 100 miles, from road to trail if not track, surely brings a lot of variety!

Right after finishing the marathon, two weeks ago, my sight turned to Skyline 50K, three weeks later and Rio Del Lago 100-mile, in September. I took one day off then ran every day afterwards, for a total of 175 miles and more than 16,500 feet of cumulative elevation. I'll do a couple of shorter runs this week but I'm looking forward to some tapering before Sunday's race (that will be my 5th participation to that event).

Over these two weeks I ran in Palisades, NY, in Warwick, RI, then, in the Bay Area, at Alviso, on Zanker Road, at Rancho San Antonio, in Stevens Creek Park, to the top of Black Mountain several time, at the Mountain View High School track and in my neighborhood. Again, variety. The longest run was this Saturday, a 30-mile loop across Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, Monte Bello Regional Open Space, Los Trancos Open Space Preserve, and Foothills Regional Open Space. With the nice company of Charles Stevens, Lina McCain and Mike Topper (3 Brooks'ers out of 4! ;-).
It was great to see Charles back on the trail after he has been battling a series of injuries over the past couple of years. I learned so much about ultra from him upon joining the Stevens Creek Striders 8 years ago!
I started at 6:30 AM from the main parking lot of Rancho San Antonio and met them near the Rhus Ridge entrance. We then climbed to the top of Black Mountain where Charles expressed the desire to run down Water Wheel. On our way back to Black Mountain, we got passed by an unusual group of road cyclists which gave a Tour de France flavor although these guys were clearly out of their element on this sandy fire road.
The run was particularly amazing as we broke through the fog on our way up to the top of Black Mountain, then ran for a couple of hours above the cloud for quite an aerial sensation.
You can see a few other pictures of this simple but beautiful run in my Picasa album.

Yes, keep setting new goals and include variety in your training, this is the sustainable and secret sauce to make you run happy, farther and faster. At least that works for me! :-)
A mutating or mutant tree...?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Anton (Tony) Krupicka: Running is an Indulgence

Indulgence, 1,000 miles under the Colorado sky, this is the title of a DVD I bought 3 years ago (2008), two years after starting ultra marathons. Busy with my own experiences (I ran 61 ultras over the past 5 years), I hadn't taken the time to watch it. Besides, the family is enduring enough with my training or when they crew for me, so we tend to watch other types of DVDs at home! Anyway, I was "home alone" this weekend, so I took the opportunity to spend an hour with Tony (virtually, that is, my first real encounter was after his win at American River in 2008).
Apart from the early adopters, most runners have heard about ultra through one of the popular and best seller authors such as Dean Karnazes (Marathon Man) or Christopher McDougall (Born To Run). Tony is the extreme opposite: although he has a stellar track record on the ultra circuit since he won Leadville 100-mile in 2006 (11 overall win out of 14 major races, finishing 2nd of the other three), he is trying to stay away from the medias, stating that many other runners are worth more attention, like our fastest American on the mile, Alan Webb. Tony is only looking for a life full of running, his passion. And his... indulgence...
The DVD consists in a 30-minute interview with great views of the places Tony was running at that time (2006-2007), mostly in Colorado. He was born on a farm in Nebraska and started running seriously in 5th grade (he was 11 year old), running his first marathon the following year. Since then, he ran more than 37,000 miles, with many weeks over 300 miles since he switched to ultra. In his words, running is a source of identity, although he would like to be seen and defined by others not just as a runner (he double majored in Philosophy and Physics and minored in Maths at the University of Colorado). Running gives him a deep appreciation for natural landscapes and a deep connection with the land. He fully leverages his ability to tap into a more primitive and primal form of existence. By the way, he his not anti-technology as some people think, just a big believer in the appropriate technology. He believes that a simpler life style helps reducing your needs and distractions and is therefore more fulfilling.

After graduating, he focused on ultra running with 3-4 hours every morning and one hour at the end of the day. Pure dedication which, he admits, may not last for ever. Indeed, it is a struggle to keep priorities in balance such as relationships, academics, work and running (I know...). But his soul mate, Jocelyn Jenks (see a special interview and interesting perspective in the bonus section), agrees that Tony is right by taking his time after College to live his passion while putting his talent for ultra racing to work. Ultra racing that Tony feels gratifying as it provides an opportunity to get back to the essentials in life: food, water, keeping moving forward or even surviving.

While the main interview is good, I actually liked the bonus section even more as it provides more detailed answers. The only thing which I found missing is more images from Tony's races. But, in all fairness, Tony spends much more time just indulging himself while training rather than racing. Anyway, the way Tony lives his ultra running life is so authentic that it will not age, you too can find inspiration in this DVD. Then follow Tony on his blog, Riding the Wind, for more inspiration (well, when Tony returns to the trails after healing his current major injury)... And, yes, running is indulgence when you love it!

Anton between Kyle and Erik Skaggs, just before Erik set a new course record for Quad Dipsea (November 2008):

No laurels

As for me, and as I wrote last week, although I savored the medals satisfaction, no time to rest on my laurels, with a busy business trip on the East Coast (I escaped just before the heat wave) and quite a few runs (10K on Tuesday, 16 miles on Wednesday, 9 miles on Thursday and Friday and 18 and 23 hilly miles this weekend). 2 more weeks to manage the switch from 10K and marathon training to racing an ultra again, Skyline 50K. And I did register to Rio Del Lago 100-mile (September 10), just to find out from Joe Swenson that the course has been changed and that we'll run the section I like the least (Twin Rocks), 4 times! Oh well, that's already a blessing to have a 100-miler left on the calendar of our Pacific Association Grand Prix (I didn't make the Western States lottery and Tahoe Rim Trail was the same weekend as the World Masters, last weekend). At least it feels good to be back on the trail --and run slower!-- after all the fast miles I logged on the concrete and asphalt in June.

Have a great week, hopefully not too hot...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

WMA 2011 part 2: the light after my second night shift

Sorry for the occasional readers who missed my previous post, you will have to revert to it to get the full context of this report from my third and last day at the WMA 2011, the World Masters Athletics Championships.

Aymar joined me for some serious carbo-loading in a private pasta party in the apartment we stayed at on the campus. Later, we got to know our roommate, Robert (Rob) Campbell, from Canada, who was also running the marathon, in the M50 age group. I went to bed around 8 PM after setting the alarm clock for 2 AM. After my breakfast, I went back to bed until 3:45 AM but didn't really sleep with the excitement or nervousness. Not sure if there was a pre-race obligation to report or not, Rob and I left shortly after 4 AM and I jogged to the start. After confirming there wasn't a check-in actually, I rushed back to the room to fill in my bottles then drove back to a parking closer to the start, with Aymar.
Rob had counted 313 registered runners in the event so it wasn't difficult to get to the start line. I met Annette Bednosky, an elite ultra runner and member of the Team USA competing in the world 100K championship in September. Annette asked me if I had seen Scott Dunlap, so we moved ahead closer to the starting line to find him. It was pitch dark when we took off but the first 2-mile loop around the campus was wide and well lighted. In contrast, the bike path along the American River appeared really dark and almost needing headlamps to run at the 6:15 min/mile pace we were at. At this point, I was running with Scott who was shooting for a time in the 2:30s while I was aiming at something in the 2:40s, assuming my legs were not failing me after the race of Friday night.
In the second 4.8-mile loop along the river, I slightly pushed the pace and caught up with two other runners from Team USA, William Ennicks (M51) and I believe Eric Laughlin (M41). I passed them and they stayed right behind me for the third loop. We had passed the 10K mark in around 39 minutes (not much slower than my 34:02 36 hours earlier in the 10,000 meters) and the half in 1:21:40. Finally, they passed me at the beginning of the 4th loop as I stopped to drink a pouch of Vespa Junior and pick another bottle of GU2O (Scott teased me for carrying my own bottles like in an ultra, but I think that was a wise choice for three reasons: first, I'm not accustomed to Gatorade, I only drink GU2O, second, it does save time going through aid station, it also allows me to know exactly what I'm drinking as opposed to guessing from what you can get out of a cup while running).
At this point, my GPS was indicating a 6:12 min/mile pace and I couldn't catch them. My pace was decreasing by one second at every mile, getting to 6:23 by the end. I could keep William in sight and see a M45 runner slightly ahead but, although I was not cramping, I was missing the stamina to reengage a higher gear. I passed the mile 25 mark in 2:41 and knew I'd to sprint to get to my 2:47 goal (I'm always trying to run 2 hours plus my age in minutes... and see how long I can keep up with this linear "law."
Just before the last passage on Guy Bridge, I caught up with another M45 competitor, from Germany, who had hit the wall. I had no idea about my ranking, neither overall or in my age group, but was happy to gain one place. I did sprint to the finish and clocked a very satisfying 2:47:56 given the circumstances and in particular the recent effort in the 10,000 meters. Aymar heard from the announcer that I had finished 20th overall and I figured out that there were many M45 among the leaders. The running conditions were perfect this morning but it got chilly as we stopped our effort and our sweaty tops. After taking a few pictures at the finish line, I drove back to the room to take a shower and get some rest. With such an early start it was only 8:30 AM which left ample time to hang around at the stadium before driving back to the Bay Area. I decided to wait for the results though before leaving, especially after meeting Philippe (Duperrain), from France and from my 10,000-meter heat.
Philippe is a 2:24 marathoner and after his counter-performance in the 10,000 meters (he ran under 34 minutes in a meet two weeks ago), and seeing the winning time of the marathon (2:32), he was disappointed to have picked the 10,000 between the two events. Anyway, Philippe thought I had placed... third in my age group!

He was right indeed: although there were 6 runners with a better finish time than mine in the M40-44 age group, 6 in the M50-54 one (!), 2 on the M55-60 (re-exclamation point!) and 3 in the M35-39, that left only two other competitors ahead of me in the M45-49 age group, yippee! We were actually pretty close to each other, I had no idea...

1 16 Daniel Fiorini     49 Canada         2:46:18
2 18 Luca Guise Foglia  49 Switzerland    2:47:15
3 20 Jean Pommier       47 United States  2:47:56
4 21 Markus Riefer      45 Germany        2:48:46
That was an opportunity to visit the award area on the other side of the stadium. To top it, Team USA placed first in my age group so I went back, albeit alone as no other teammates were present, on the podium and the top. In all fairness, it helps to have the championships organized in the US, next year will be in Brazil. That being said, I had a chill while looking at the huge US flag at the top of the stadium while the National anthem was played. A new and great experience for me, under the US colors per the oath I took a couple of years ago!

1. 8:40:11 United States (2:53:24)
1 2:47:56 Jean Pommier 4346
2 2:53:40 Don Young 4761
3 2:58:35 Javier Cruz 3628
2. 9:45:27

Russia (3:15:09)
1 2:58:54 Dmitry Mineev 2569
2 3:16:13 Valery Slastinin 2586
3 3:30:20 Mikhail Pinegin 2573
3. 10:27:04

1 3:10:32 Martin Ferguson 1443
2 3:14:02 Alan Appleby 1406
3 4:02:30 Alan Roberts 1490
Bill Dodson from our Stevens Creek Striders running club in Cupertino placed 2nd in the M75 age group and first as a team.
Although she was just running this race as a 100K training test, Annette easily won her age group (M40) with a 3:01. See the overall results or the detailed ones (scroll down on the left).
And see more pictures of the day in my 3rd Picasa album including photos (and movies!) from the M45 3,000-meter steeple chase won by Gilles Pelletier from France (check my previous post for a pointer to the two other photo albums).
Bronze and gold, that's quite an unexpected outcome of my first participation to such a championship. It was too close to home to miss the opportunity, we'll see how it plays in the coming years with my busy schedule. Time to pack again for a 6AM flight at SFO this Monday morning, no time to rest on the laurels... ;-)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

WMA 2011 part 1: first night shift

After the marathon tomorrow (Sunday), I need to shower, get some rest, check out, drive back to Bay Area and pack again for a business trip starting with a flight to the East Coast at 6AM from San Francisco. With that, I'm not sure when I will be able to finish up the recount of my short participation to the 2011 World Masters Athletics Championships which occured in Sacramento, California, from July 5th to 17th. So let me start with my first two days there...
Back in April, I registered for two events: the 10,000 meters and the marathon scheduled two days apart (Friday 15 and Sunday 17). Certainly an aggressive goal to excel in both, but I didn't want to miss the chance of participating to such a worldwide competition happening in our Californian background. Besides, I figured out that since July is usually extremely hot in Sacramento and I do better in the heat, that would play to my advantage. Well, read on, this has been a strange year so far, weather wise.

I picked-up my nephew, Aymar, at Vmware where he is doing an internship this year and we left Palo Alto at 2 PM. The race was late but the constraint was to pick up the bib number before the check-in booth closed at 6 PM. GoogleMaps was giving 2h21 minutes for the route to Sacramento State University so I felt that was provided enough of a margin even on a Friday afternoon. The traffic on Dumbarton Bridge (84) and 880 North was ok but we started getting bumpers to bumpers right on 80, with more than 70 miles to go. I was seeing the clock moving faster than the car and we finally made it in 3.5 hours, with 30 minute left to check-in. A first source of stress.

Then, a few issues at the check-in of the hotel on the campus, which I'm not going to detail but which provided some additional stress and we head up to the Hornet Stadium around 7 PM which was the deadline to "report." This is when I found out that I was part of the second heat/final scheduled to start at... 9:20 PM... I had a light lunch before leaving the house and it was too late to have dinner so I ate a few chips and cookies. As soon as the sun disappeared from the benches of the stadium, it became quite chilly actually, in the mid to low 60s (Farenheit) and Aymar and I went back to the car to keep warm, before I decided to drive back to the room to put a pair of pants and 3 layers on top of my USA jersey.

Finally, it was time to go into the area to change, by 9PM. The first final was still going on and the wind blowing even on the track, at the bottom of the stadium. Our start got delayed by 10 minutes as the first final was quite slow (finish times from 35 to 51 minutes). I thought that they must have been slowed down by this strong wind and that I will have to take that into account in my pacing.

With the strange timing (I'm not used to start that late in the day) and the lack of pre-race fueling plan and strategy, I was not feeling over confident, yet quite excited to be part of this field and competition.

I was assigned number 17 as a starting position which set me completely on the outside of the start line. Yet, before the end of the first turn, I was in 6th position. My first lap was 1:17.79 and it felt quite fast for me while the leaders had already a few seconds lead. I clocked my second lap at 1:19.16 which felt more reasonable (yes, every second counts and makes a big difference at this pace...). In the event booklet, I saw that 12 competitors had better personal records than me, not counting 3 which had no personal best displayed, so I knew I had no chance to keep up with the leaders and it was more about running my own race. My overall goal was to improve my own record (33:57 at Trailblazer 4 years ago), yet without killing myself before the marathon. It was great to get encouragements from Aymar at each lap and also from another person who I think mentioned Ohlone, but I couldn't turn my head to see who that was (please leave a comment if you read this, you really helped me keeping the pace up!). Yes, speaking of pace, I'm pretty happy with the consistency of my 25 laps: 01:17.79 - 01:19.16 - 1:19.25 - 1:18.75 - 1:20.15 - 1:20.27 - 1:20.33 - 1:21.50 - 1:21.33 - 1:22.37 - 1:22.08 - 1:21.72 - 1:22.67 - 1:22.83 - 1:22.05 - 1:22.72 - 1:23.13* - 1:23.13* - 1:23.13* - 1:25.00 - 1:23.10 - 1:24.75 - 1:22.12* - 1:22.12* - 1:22.12* (sorry, a long series of numbers, boring to read; also, the * denote times where I missed my split and divided a 3-lap split by 3). Here, between Russia and Germany (lap 2):
I got lapped once by the four leaders who all finished under 32 minutes, quite an impressive performance for our age and the windy conditions. And I lapped a few other competitors several times, while trading place with others, ending up in 8th place of my heat and 8th of the finals (3rd in Team USA) since our heat was much faster than the first one.
Happy with the ranking (although I know they are hundreds of faster guys my age around the world who could be here to compete), slightly disappointed with my finish time, 5 seconds off my PR (32:02.65). See the overall results at the bottom of this post. Here we are with our new World Champion, Francisco Fontaneda, from Spain:
I hung up at the finish line, taking a few pictures, in particular with the Mongolian delegation with a special thought for one of my other nephews, Thibaud, who is in Mongolia for a few weeks to look for business opportunities for French companies in this remote country.
You can find a few more pictures of our Friday evening (credit to Aymar for the 10,000 meter amidst the nighty conditions), in my Picasa album for that first day.

I was in bed by midnight and, still battling the jet lag of me return from 3.5 weeks in Europe, 3 days before, I woke up around 5 AM. I had registered to volunteer on Sunday and checked-in at the volunteer booth shortly after 8 but was assigned to my first duty around 10 (placing the hurdles for the 100 meters races). In the meantime, I could take a few pictures which I uploaded on Picasa (Saturday album).

A special thank you to Stephanie Valdes, Volunteer Coordinator, who has done an outstanding and amazing job recruiting, scheduling and dispatching in real-time more than 700 volunteers during these two weeks. I called her the Volunteer Queen, here she is, all smile:
Back to the title of this post, my next "shift" will be by night again as the marathon starts at 5 AM and we need to check-in by 4 AM... I believe these two schedules (late or early in the day) were meant to avoid the extreme heat in this region of California usually in July, but that wasn't definitely not necessary this year. At the time I write this post, 12 hours before the marathon start, I feel small spasms in my calves after a deep tissue massage from Results Therapy. Hope it's ok, and that the night will be good enough for my mind and muscles to recover and get enough rest. While I'm thinking of my Quick Silver Ultra Racing teammates running Tahoe Rim Trail 50-mile and 100-mile this Saturday and Sunday, getting "A Glimpse of Heaven, a Taste of Hell" (TRT race motto).
More after the marathon then, with part 2, some time later, business permitting...

    Name                     Age Team            10,000m Finals
  1 Fontaneda, Francisco Jav M47 Spain                 31:32.85
  2 Paredes, Benjamin        M49 Mexico                31:40.88
  3 Perminov, Sergey         M45 Russia                31:50.74
  4 Burdett, Francis         M46 United States         31:53.09
  5 Miller, Kevin            M49 United States         33:23.11
  6 Riefer, Markus           M45 Germany               33:29.00
  7 Pingpank, Markus         M47 Germany               33:51.28
  8 Pommier, Jean            M47 United States         34:02.65
  9 Duperrain, Philippe      M45 France                35:00.84
 10 Deminter, Tyrus          M48 United States         35:27.87
 11 Azimbayer, Serikkazy     M45 Russia                35:31.73
 12 Alvarez, Ramon           M46 Venezuela             35:34.81
 13 Poulos, Ted              M49 United States         36:53.09
 14 Vargas, Jose Manuel      M48 Costa Rica            37:05.12
 15 Sawchuk, Kevin           M45 United States         37:26.47
 16 Tserendorj, Purevjav     M46 Mongolia              37:32.61
 17 Barrett, Thomas          M49 United States         37:39.77
 18 Gallego, Oliver          M49 United States         38:26.79
 19 Nichols, John            M46 United States         38:45.09
 20 Rowden, Robert           M46 United States         40:54.92
 21 Pinzon Gomez, Luis Ferna M48 Colombia              41:06.86
 22 Castillo, Victor         M46 Panama                41:50.70
 23 Roberts, Alan            M46 Great Britain         41:54.46
 24 Guevara Martinez, Edgar  M47 Colombia              43:22.61
 25 Madappa, Yogendra        M49 India                 44:50.36
 26 Hahn, Richard            M49 United States         45:32.19
 27 Grierson, Bruce          M48 Canada                45:40.43
 28 Ramirez, Gerardo         M49 Dominican Republic    51:09.80
 -- Sheringham, Paul         M48 Australia                  DNS
 -- Black, Michael           M46 United States              DNS
 -- Young, Don               M47 United States              DNS
 -- Bickham, Scott           M45 United States              DNS
 -- Ram, Kishan              M47 India                      DNS
 -- Kumar, Pramod            M49 India                      DNS
 -- Kremer, Dov              M46 Israel                     DNS
 -- Godfredsen, Kim          M45 Denmark                    DNS
 -- Mohammednejad, Hamidreza M47 Turkey                     DNS

Monday, July 11, 2011

Back on my feet: soon enough for the WMA Champs?

9 days without running, that wasn't even a planned tapering "exercise" to get ready for the World Masters Athletics Championships which started in Sacramento last Monday (7/5). For those who didn't notice in my previous posts, I was unable to finish my last run in Croatia because of a very sharp pain in the hamstring (vastus medialis to be more precise). It didn't seem to be an inflammation, rather a strained muscle which looked very bad less than 3 weeks before the competition, at a time I should have been peaking in my strength and speed training. But, as the adage says, "listen to your body..."
I was in Fontainebleau this weekend and I had to check the muscle out to see if I was going to go to Sacramento as a participant or spectator. I went out for a run on Saturday and, without pain, ran a flat half marathon in 1:24 (6:26 min/mile). It felt so good to get the legs moving, I even pushed the pace with the excitement.
The 1,200-meter (3/4 of a mile) long Grand Canal built by Henri IV offers a great terrain for long-distance training, with a soft and shaded running terrain.
The next day, I ran 19 miles around the Park of the Palace of Fontainebleau (2.3-mile loop). Without practice for almost 10 days, my legs were sore from the previous run so I settled for a slower pace (7:25 min/mile), enjoying the views of the trees and the straight allees along the park walls.
If you visit Fontainebleau, don't miss running in this Park or the nearby forest which you can see in the East and South sides in the satellite image below and that I covered in a post three years ago (Fontainebleau: the South TMV 50K).
I posted a few pictures of the Park on Picasa for your own virtual tour!

Bottom line, I missed quite some pre-race training over the past two weeks but I didn't feel any pain with these 32 miles, which is a big relief. With that, I will toe the start line on Friday night for the 10,000 meters in Sacramento. And hopefully the marathon on Sunday morning as well, 5AM sharp! In the meantime, you can check how athletes are doing on the result page. Talk to you from California's Capital in a week then!