Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Boxing Day, Mike and all!

A nice occasion for my 52nd and final post of the year, the celebration of a tradition which started in Great Britain before spreading through the Commonwealth countries; a tradition of wealthy people giving a gift to their servant right after Christmas which evolved into sharing left overs from Christmas celebrations and therefore putting things back into... boxes. Nothing to see with boxing, the combat sport! In countries celebrating Boxing Day it also became a sort of our American Black Friday, a day with big and now cyber sales.
I missed Mike's invite last year and was looking forward to participating into this year's run as we were in town for the Holidays. The timing was also perfect for Max who is leaving tomorrow night for a tour of the East Coast with his Yale a cappella group, the Society of Orpheus and Bacchus or SOBs. Beyond the running experience, it turned out to be the perfect group for Max to connect with many discussions around architecture and industrial design with such gurus of the disciplines in the Valley (Mike, Barry, Dirk, ...).
I had not planned on running today actually as I was 2 weeks in my yearly "maintenance" break and was going to make it 3 weeks, resuming with a very long run at the Coastal Trail Runs' New Year's One Day 12-hour event in San Francisco, running circles on the 1.061-mile loop at Crissy Field in San Francisco. Hopefully the weather will be nicer than when it ran for 8 hours during my first and only attempt at this ultra format, in September 2010. If you happen to be in town to celebrate the new year, please consider stopping by, I plan on running quite a few laps in 8 minutes or so.

Back to Boxing Day, it got really special as soon as I heard about Mike's recent adventure on Labor Day (September 5). Mike, a very experienced ultra runner was running in his neighborhood when he felt pain in his chest and left arm. He was able to jog back to his house, calmly, before his wife drove him straight to the hospital where the cardiologist decided to do a triple coronary artery bypass the same day, not leaving much time to even think and worry about it! The next day, Mike was back on his feet and walking. With an amazing will and discipline, he kept walking and jogging every day, adding a few minutes each day. And here we are, less than 4 months after such a major surgery, with Mike hoping to run the whole way from Portola Valley to the Ocean, about 20 miles! Because Max and I left the group at Skyline, at the time I'm writing this post, I don't know if Mike accomplished his goal but I can tell you that we left him in good company and he was in great shape running most of the 3 miles up to Skyline!
As Max had to be back home by 12:30 pm and I was technically in a running break, resting, we took left on Skyline and got on the Windy Hill trails. After starting the run in the fog down into the Valley, we were now above the cloud and the views were wonderful will all the emerging hills including Mount Diablo on the East side.
See a few more pictures in my Picasa album.

Clay was now leading the way and really picked up the pace on this trail he knows so well, living in Portola Valley himself. We had about 7 miles of running on the road up to Skyline and just above 7 miles to run back to the car, mostly on trails. This part of the loop reminded me of our monthly Saturday morning Windy Hill run which I used to do with Sophia, Brian, Charles, Mike, Chris, Greg, Craig, Ed, to name a few, and Pierre Tardif who still sends us the weekly email (I only do Rhus Ridge the weekends I'm not racing).
14 miles in perfect weather and trails in perfect conditions, I hope the running gods will forgive me for this temptation to run during my official yearly break. I was actually going to blog about an article Agnès and Greg liked in the November 2011 issue of Competitor, in which Scott Jurek share his wisdom about taking a break every year and the benefits, both physical and mental. I couldn't find the article on line ("Don't Run, Gain Weight, Hang out - You will be a better runner, seriously") but I had heard this tip from Scott earlier and you can read more from it in this post: Gimme A Break!

Speaking of hanging out, I attended a private projection of Unbreakable -The Western States 100 this week and I highly recommend watching this epic recount of the front competition at Western States 2010 (Geoff Roes, Anton Krupicka, Killian Jornet and Hal Koerner). And, while 99% of the movie is about these 4 amazing champions, plus great personal insights from Western States 100 founder, Gordy Ainsleigh. An inspirational and must-see DVD for any trail ultra runner, either experienced or aspiring, and an amazing technical fate from filmmaker JB Benna and his crew.
Now, back to the title, Santa dropped quite a few... boxes to my house and he must have great hopes for my 2012 running season! Cool pairs of shoes from Brooks (a special web edition of the super cool blue Green Silence and the newest PureGrit, the trail model of the PureProject product line). I also ordered a few books and DVDs at ZombieRunner and 3 boxes of Vespa CV-25 which should give me enough energy for a while.
Well, we are already discussing our Quicksilver Ultra Running Team plans for 2012 and it seems like I'll be running 5 ultras in a row in April-May, including a few races outside of the Grand Prix so I'll definitely need the Vespa boost indeed. Stay tuned, I'll share more in January after I have the opportunity to let you know about my New Year's Eve run and reflect back on the 2011 season.

In the meantime, have a great New Year celebration and all the best for 2012, on the trails, on the road, at work or at home! Talk to you next year then!

PS: while Max and I were running, Alex was on the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail which he completed with his friend Jeannie in 11 hours (a 28 mile-hike)! Quite a memorable and healthy Boxing Day this year... ;-)

PS-2: just talked to Mike who made it to the Beach, safely, phew! Great story to share with your cardiologist, Mike and inspirational for his other patients, congratulations!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

5,000,000 meters: done!

Two things to make up for the lack of posting last weekend. 1. The passage of another milestone and first for me with 5,000 kilometers logged year to date and 2. an tribute to the trees bordering my neighborhood running loop.

1. 5,000,000-meter milestone

3 years ago, I put my name in one of the challenges posted in the UltraFondus forum. UltraFondus (which can be translated literally with "fans of ultra" in a sense of being mad or crazy about our sport) is both a super sleek and professional magazine about ultra and a community, mostly French-speaking and France-based. Several unofficial challenges are proposed such as 5 million meters of running in one year, 100 thousand meters of cumulative elevation in one year, or 1 hour/day of running. In 2008, I reached a peak in my running log with 4,560 km that year (2,834 miles). This year, I noticed that, by the end of June, I was averaging 63 miles per week which was right on target for 5 million meters for the year and decided to keep monitoring this KPI (Key Performance Indicator, something we use in business to mean a specific metric or number related to performance). The more we were progressing through Summer, and with the preparation for my yearly 100-miler in particular, the crisper the achievement of the goal became. However, I must admit that, certain weeks, keeping the 62-mile/week average was too much of a constraint and pressure, so much that I told Agnès I promised myself not to pout this goal on my list in 2012.

Anyway, last Sunday, I did pass the 3,100-mile mark and I'm actually at 5,087 km this Saturday, enough to take a few weeks off before my 12-hour race on December 31! From noon to midnight at the Crissy Field in San Francisco (Coastal Trail Runs' New Year's One Day)! Yes, while almost everybody else speaks about the end of the 2011 season, I still plan on adding a 18th race to my log on the very last day of the year, and at least 100 kilometers to reach 5,200 km in 2011, that is the symbolic weekly mileage of 100 km or 62 mile/week.

I've never ran that much in a single year and that probably explains why I also became stronger as I also managed to increase my mileage while increasing the average speed at the same (all these miles at an average of 8:01 minute/mile) as you can see on the following chart (kilometers on the left scale, min/mile on the right one):
Again, what a year 2011 has been so far and, with this late race on December 31, my yearly assessment will have to wait for January...

2. Fall in Cupertino: a tribute to our local trees

All these years, I thought that we really didn't have much of a Fall in the Bay Area, that this was a big differentiator with the East Coast and New England in particular. However, and it was time as we are really getting close to the Winter now, I was amazed to see such a variety of colors in the many trees planted on my neighborhood 3.1-mile loop. Tall, mid-size or small trees, conifers or leafy, lemon, orange, apple, apricot, plum, cherry trees, straight or convoluted trunks, decorative or even decorated trees, light and dark green, brown, yellow or red foliage, local or foreign species, oak, maple, birch, cypress, pine, several types of palm trees and cactus, too many species to identify and name them all! A picture is word a thousand words so here is a collage to provide you with an overview of this variety, in one shot. And you can see more in my Picasa album (76 pictures!).
So, too many species to name one by one, yet a special mention to the ginkgo, my favorite one for several reasons. First because that's the favorite tree of my parents and my Mom in particular. With my 5 siblings, we offered one to them when we moved to a new house near Tours in France in 1976 but it never grew as well as the many ginkgo trees we have in Cupertino. The shape of the leaves, their softness and tenderness, the nice green of the foliage in the Spring and the way it turns to a flamboyant yellow in the Fall, here are some of the characteristics which make this specie so special to us. And I could mention the therapeutic properties that our local Asian population must sink from this tree too.
Here you are with some musings about our rural neighborhood which has so many trees. I would not be surprised if we had one tree per inhabitant in Cupertino, another blessing of our area.

With that I'm ready to take 3 weeks off as my traditional yearly break and resume with a very long run on the 31st. To the risk of overwhelming you with numbers and statistics again, that's post number 51 this year, so I shall do one more to meet my other goal of blogging once a week! Stay tuned then, and very happy holidays to you all, whatever you are still logging miles or having a healthy rest too! So, the Brooks way, it time to say... Run (or Rest) Happy!!! ;-)