Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: a year in quick review

With 3,250 miles and 425 hours added to my running log this year, there is of course a lot to say, it has been another great year. Now, if you follow my blog, there shouldn't be much of a surprise. For the interest if time, both yours and mine, I'll be succinct, focusing on a few statistics and highlighting a multi-dimensional analysis of my 2012 races.

Races - This has been a great year from a racing standpoint, both from a variety and performance standpoint. Here are the new races I enjoyed in 2012: Chuckanut 50K, Leona Divide 50-mile, JFK 50-mile, 3 major, very competitive and popular events. In addition to meeting new ultra running crowds, especially on the East Coast or Washington State, these three events were celebrating special milestones, respectively their 20th, 20th and 50th anniversaries.

Here is a graph summarizing in one picture the 15 races. 2 criteria are objective: the distance (sphere size) and the performance relative to the top finisher (per The other 2 parameters are totally subjective: the color represents what I recall to be my perceived effort and the abscissa (horizontal axis) represents how much relative fun I had.

An additional legend is for the acronyms of the races, from left to right: AR: American River, WTC: Way Too Cool, SK: Skyline, MW: Miwok, JFK, TB: Trailblazer, RA: Ruth Anderson, TT: Silicon Valley Turkey Trot, CN: Chuckanut, JS: Jed Smith, LD: Leona Divide, RdA: Run d'Amore, SC: Stevens Creek, QS: Quiksilver, OW: Ohlone Wilderness.

Mileage - This is the easiest number to track, either by wearing my Garmin GPS or running courses which I already measured before. And the more meaningful in terms of training when it comes to ultra running. As I commented in my previous post, I got caught again in the symbolic goal of 100 kilometers a week average. I was ahead of this goal by mid year before I fell and broke my shoulder. Not counting the 6-week break to heal and the inter-seasonal 3-week break in December, the average is actually close to 121 km / week. With the broken shoulder, I ended up doing most of my 2nd part of the year mileage on flat courses, instead of hill training. That explains some of the decrease in average pace (red line in the chart below with the scale on the right, the blue bars representing the "mileage" in kilometers with the scale on the left).

Consistency and Improvement - These are 2 categories I used in my 2011 review, so let's reuse them here. I'm quite happy with the consistency of my races these year. No DNF and the lowest performances were relative to elite guys (e.g. Max King at JFK). I'm also very happy with some of the performances, notably my new PR at the 50K distance (3:19:09, thanks Victor for the "pull!") and my new personal best at the 100-mile distance, breaking 15 hours albeit on a flatter course than my other 100-miles (14:54:58). And, despite a focus on ultra distances, I didn't lose too much on the 10K (35:06 at the Turkey Trot and 35:21 at Trailblazer), which is a good sign.

Locations - In addition to the new races above, I kept visiting new places abroad for work: Saudi Arabia, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Greece, Mexico, Hong Kong, Brazil, and also a few new places in California and on the East Coast. A great source for blogging and sharing running tips for travelers, but a lot of time spent in the air (157,180 miles!)...

Grand Prix - My first participation to the USA Track&Field Mountain Ultra Trail Running Grand Prix was in 2006 when I debuted at the ultra distances with Way Too Cool 50K and Helen Klein 50-mile. 2 races weren't enough to win the Grand Prix but participating to 12 events the next year did it. I won my age group division again in 2012, making it 6 wins in a row. Although it is becoming more and more challenging in a very competitive Masters (M40-49) division, I have one more year in this age group so will give a last try. Needless to say, it all depends on other top Masters such as Dave Mackey, Leigh Schmidt, Gary Gellin, Victor Ballesteros, Rich Hanna, Mark Lantz, Eric Skaden, if they will focus on this series of local races or other national ones.

Club achievements - Our Quicksilver Ultra Running Team did amazing again in 2012. First, we had quite a few additions, now counting close to 40 members. In the Grand Prix, we took 4 out of the 6 age group wins in the men and the same in the women division! Collectively we took home the Women Team award, placed 2nd in the Men division, 3rd in Mixed, and 2nd Overall. And our club has a renewed board and revamped website too!

Injuries - This is a new category for me in a yearly review. For the high mileage and intensity I put in my training throughout the year, not to mention a lot of racing, I was proud to have avoided injuries for almost 30,000 miles. I attribute that to some luck but more importantly to the quality and variety of the Brooks shoes I'm running in (using at least 4 different models every week). Now, I did a bad fall in June on a 39-mile training run on the Tahoe Rim Trail after sleeping only 3 hours 2 nights before. Didn't hurt my feet or legs, ironically, but broke my shoulder in multiple areas which kept me 6 weeks totally off running. The good news is that I recovered most of my range of motion after 5 months. It also served as a good lesson and a great test or training for pain endurance... I'm now looking for the next 30,000 miles without injury... ;-)

Blog - This is blog post #52 this year, right on a weekly pace, phew! Or let's say average pace as there has been a few weeks in July where I had nothing to share about my running, or lack thereof.

That's it, a few more hours to savor 2012 before turning the page and jumping into another year and running season! I'm very grateful for the ability to run so much especially when I hear about issues, injuries or sickness, others have encountered this year. Here is to 2013, to all your running wishes, dreams and... resolutions!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Running: everything is relative

No, I'm not going to write about the theory of relativity here. Sometimes, ok many times, I wish I could move my body mass faster, and ideally at the speed of light, but I'm already busy enough fighting aging and keeping improving my times. And even a percentage point is good enough!

I want to highlight one marvel of our sport: there are millions of runners around the world and everyone sets his or her own goal. From competition to pure pleasure, either running solo or as a team or in a group, either running on his own or joining a club, from racing hard to jogging, from 60-meter to no limit, from under 10 seconds sprints to multi-day challenges, from running on a track to asphalt, concrete, trails, sand, mud, snow, ice, the variety that our sport offers is endless.

You may want to run to meet people if the rest of your life is lonely. Conversely, you may want to run on your own, to take a break from overwhelming people interactions at work and want to reconnect with yourself and Mother Nature. You may run to escape an addiction, or you may become addicted with running. We can even use different words such as jogging, trotting, shuffling, crawling, cruising, pushing, flying, it is rarely just about sprinting. The only thing which defines running as opposed to walking is that you don't have to have either foot on the ground, you can indeed fly and have both feet up in the air at some point. I like this simple yet powerful fact about our sport.

Back to the title you must wonder: why is he putting the topic on the table now? What prompted this philosophical title? Two things. First, after the Turkey Trot 10K (yes, it has been a while...), I looked at the age-graded results and, while I was in second position out of 8,000 finishers which isn't bad, I was intrigued by the women in first place. She was 88 and was given a 111% for running a 1:04 10K. I was actually surprised by the 111% and, indeed, that was 20 minutes faster than the current world record for the Women 85-89 age group, wow! In running, everything is relative...  The only issue with this one was that this person was actually 40, not 88. And nothing to be bragging about for my pole position in this ranking: first the real fast guys were running their own 5K invitational race; second, this was mostly a fund-raising and family-oriented event so many were not here to compete seriously. Yet, if you feel age gives an unfair advantage to those in their 20s or 30s, it's good to know that there is an algorithm out there to level the performances (see the age-grading rules and these age-adjusted 10K times). Yes, everything is relative in running, everybody is welcome to participate to their own ability or purpose and this is a way to compare your performance with your peers. To make your running experience and achievements relative to others'.

The second reason I'm thinking about this aspect of our sport is my own experience this week. After my yearly December break to recharge both my physical and mental batteries before a new ultra season, I resumed running last Monday with an easy 16-mile run and 64 weekly mileage. While I couldn't wait any longer before getting back on my feet, resuming training is always delicate for me as I want to rush back despite Agnès' warnings. Beyond the pleasure of being out there, the opportunity to burn the extra calories that the holidays spoil us with, the eager to go for long runs as I was off this week, a pain in my right calf helped bringing me reason for ramping up more slowly. Yet, one primary reason driving my weekly mileage was to meet my 100-kilometers-a-week goal. Although I did it last year without planning for it, I made a resolution last year that I wasn't going to be locked into such a goal again and, despite the 6 weeks of forced rest in June and July to fix my broken shoulder, I was close enough to do it again, and break or fail on my sand-bagging resolution... ;-) The point is that this goal became one of the reasons and drivers for running extra miles while my body was just suggesting to go back home and rest instead. When all goes well, that's why it's so important to have some precise goals such as a particular distance, time or race in sight. Or SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Action-driven, Realistic and Time-bound (e.g. run one 50K in the next 6 months and train seriously for it).

So, given that running isn't measure in an absolute way, what was your own reasons to run this week? What were you shooting for in 2012? What are you aiming at in 2013? It's resolution time, I will share my running season plans early in January but I want to hear from you in the meantime!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Marshall Ulrich: Running long on empty

A long due post and review of a book which I bought last Spring and read over the summer. Overall, a book for the hard-core ultra-runners. If there was the equivalent of the Motion Picture Association for ultrarunning, I'd assign a Restricted to it (with Chris McDougall's Born to Run and Scott Jurek's Eat and Run in the PG-13/beginner category). Yet, a great book, easy to read, a captivating account of a trip across the USA on foot and many useful tips for those of us who want to keep pushing the envelope always further.
Marshall is a phenomenon in the world of endurance. Not just running: he also climbed numerous remote mountains including the mythical Mount Everest and the seven highest summits of the seven continents, and placed in many of the most competitive adventure races. And not just endurance in physical exercise: Marshall had his share of intense and shaky personal life and emotions, though his child and adulthood. A model, or let's say example, of extreme determination and pain resistance. He has a wikipedia page, a website advertising his public speaking engagements, coaching programs.

While the book is mostly about Marshall's run across the US in 52 days, it is a memoir linking this race against the clock and injury to many other milestones and anecdotes of Marshall's life and personal journey into extreme endurance. While it's fascinating to follow Marshall's physical and mental struggles through this challenge which he called his ultimate ("this was the last thing on my tick list"), this isn't an introduction to ultra running, it's for the mature audience... Now, if you have several years of ultra experience, you'll relate to the concept of rumination (p 135), time compression (p 149), and may be ready to leverage a few training, nutrition and hydration tips (e.g. p 166). As a fan of Vespa, I liked to read about the confirmation of the power of fat burning (p 67). Now, and even after having ran 77 ultra races and 120 more in training, I still have hard time putting my arms around the following two mental strength tips. The first one is that, if you experience pain in one part of your body, you just have to think (and believe...) that this part doesn't belong to your body anymore, hence the pain neither (p 132). Sure! The second one corresponds to the state that ultra legend Yiannis Kouros (holder of 134 world records!) frequently experiences of feeling his mind floating outside his body and watching him run (p 130). A way to detach yourself from your physical pain, of course! And that discussion about extreme pain control happens half way in the book so you can imagine what the second part of the book is about...

Again, an amazing life story about pushing the limits of the human body and mind, and a few inspirational and useful tips for the ultra braves! ;-)

I used my Sustainable running label for this post but I don't believe Marshall's running regimen can work for everybody, for the common mortals... While Marshall's track record proves that this extreme mileage is sustainable for him, Running on Empty is more about sustained running, running for 50 days at a 10 minute/mile pace in spite of adversity, unmerciful weather, hectic relations with sponsors, financial hurdles, uncertainty, doubt, pain, injuries, mental and physical fatigue... Hopefully not something you'll have to do everyday if you picked running as a hobby! ;-)

Here is a link to a great video clip summarizing Marshall's philosophy about ultra running and pain management (the video server seems down for the holidays though...). More videos can be found on Marshall's website or YouTube.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sustainability: collaborating with Mother Nature

Today's trail maintenance work made me think of the fine balance between enjoying the outdoors and paying our due respect to Mother Nature. For some environmentalists, we should leave nature untouched. For others, we are entitled to do anything we want with natural resources on the planet. While I'm glad that we have extremists in the first group fighting the damage we, humans, do in the Amazon with deforestation or, closer, in Canada and North Dakota with unspeakable oil or tar sands exploitation (so bad that I'm sure the next generation is going to say about us: "what were you thinking, dudes...?!"), I would argue that "cutting" trails in parks is actually good for both parties, humankind and nature.

Although she can't speak for herself, I'm pretty sure that Mother Nature would confirm that she likes the visit of people respecting her. And, by respect, I don't just mean love but also care. That's another great thing about ultra trail running is that our sport invites us to give back to the trail with such trail maintenance work, since we are often the primary users of these trails, especially the most remote ones.

In our Quicksilver Running Club we are blessed to have leaders and members taking this very seriously. The Club has adopted one of the key trails of the Almaden Quisksilver County Park, New Almaden, a single track which requires a lot of care as it winds across trees and creeks in the San Jose hills. At the head of the yearly program is Paul Fick. Paul is an ultra runner, has directed the Quicksilver 50/50 races, is a chief cook at our ultra races BBQ, and our CTO (Chief Trail Officer)! He has been organizing these trail projects for the past 10 years and has countless story about the history of the park, the club or ultra trail running in Norther California.
We were only 4 volunteers this morning but, thanks to recent rain, the ground was very soft so we accomplished quite a lot. For instance, we widen the trail section which was known as the Tunnel Love because it was entirely covered by poison oak (yes, the poisonous one!) and forming a tunnel above your head. After years of fighting this abundant and dangerous vegetation (sorry Mother Nature...), look at how nice and safer the section now is:
Farther up, Paul had us destroy a trail, that is soften the ground to grass could claim the space back. It felt odd to Jeremy, Tim, Morgan and I to damage such a nice trail and we can certainly say that it takes much less time to eradicate a trail than it takes to build a new one.
3 steps of the trail restoration process:
Now, back to my title, this illustrates the subtle negotiation game between us and nature. In this case, we gave some space back. Otherwise, we worked at reclaiming some inches to widen the existing trail to make it safer for its users. A nice give and take and man-nature balance example. Speaking of negotiation, not that we had much say into it, but I thought it was cool that Mother Nature gave us some good weather all morning while we were working, with rain just starting as we were getting into our cars right on 1 pm! How nice of her!

You can check the dates of the upcoming projects on our newly redesigned club website and we look forward to seeing you not only on the trails but also joining the fun of this volunteering work! For a sustainable negotiation with Mother Nature...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

POST's 35th anniversary: don't postpone the gift!

I already told you about this organization but it was 5 years ago already (yes, time flies...), so worth a refresher and another... solicitation...

The Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) was established in 1977 and helped save more than 70,000 acres of our most precious open space in the Bay Area since then. A picture is worth a thousand words, see below for yourself how much greener our area has become over a single generation (click on the map for more details):
While these areas might have been green already (redwood forest, farm land, grassy hills), the accomplishment is to have protected these areas against developers and further urban expansion.

Back to my title, two angles to my invite:
  1. First and foremost, if you live in the area and are not familiar with all these parks and opportunities to breath and (re)connect with Mother Nature, be our guest! Having these treasures at your doorstep is a GIFT that very few other large urban areas have (believe me, I travel a lot around the world... ;-)
  2. Second, preserving this precious and valuable land against other interests has a cost. And, given the pricey real estate around, it is actually very costly. So, while we are blessed with very generous donors thanks to the wealth created by local entrepreneurs, any contribution is welcomed! I was actually surprised that, over the 35 years of POST's history, they have only counted 17,000 distinct donors. For a population of several millions, over so many years and with such impressive track record, I hope this does not reflect the size of the community enjoying the outdoors and our nearby open space in particular... By the way, if (I mean when...) you decide to chip in, and in case you work for a large corporation, please check if your employer would not match your GIFT (IBM does! :-) but you have to follow these specific instructions).
Thank you in advance for considering supporting this cause so essential to our local sustainable development and see you on these trails then, in the open... space!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Running in Ukiah: Lake Mendocino

Right after the Turkey Trot on Thursday morning, and a shower (!), we drove up to Ukiah in the heart of the Russian River Valley and Mendocino County. Entering the County boundaries, we were welcome by 3 Ws albeit a different meaning than the World Wide Web: Wine, Waves and Wilderness! While we did not actually drive to the Coast to see the breakers nor did we do any touristic wine tasting, you can count on us to experience the wilderness of this North Californian region!
We drove up to Lake Mendocino after checking in to experience a spectacular sunset over the quiet and silent lake.
With the two large camping sites at the North of the lake and the multiple boat ramps, it must me a different story in summer, a busy and crowded site. Yet, a great place to camp, just a couple of hours North of San Francisco.
Between the perfect weather and amazing Fall colors of the trees and vineyards, the views were outstanding!
On Friday morning, I had my own version of Black Friday, leaving the hotel at 6:30 am, before sunrise, and running in the dissipating fog.
Needless to say, I had the road for myself for the 3 miles up to the dam, and I didn't see one single living soul on the trail except for a few birds, deers and what I believe to be a fox (too much fur and to large of a tail for a coyote, right?).
I was supposed to get back to the hotel by 9 am but I couldn't resist the appeal of running the whole trail on the east side of the lake and ended up at the North East entrance, the huge Bu-shay Campground, around 8:30. Alas, there is no bridge over the Russian River there, so you have to run all the way up to Highway 20 then, West, on this busy highway to the next entrance/campground, Marina Road. Although I wanted to complete the tour of the lake on the trails, with that 2-mile detour and the clock ticking, I decided to take the road instead. Instead of the original 10 miles or so I was aiming at I ended up with 20.5 miles on my GPS! A great run and, thankfully, Greg had enjoyed sleeping in so I wasn't jeopardizing our family plans for the rest of the day, phew!
You can find more directions and details on local Ukiah trails on the Ukiah Valley Trail Group's website.

We had a very zen rest of the day actually, visiting the City of the 10,000 Thousands Buddhas, participating for 90 minutes to the Great Compassion and Repentance celebration, a vegan lunch at the monastery restaurant, 2 hours soaking in bubbles at the Vichy Springs Resort and a traditional Thai cuisine dinner at THE Thai restaurant of Ukiah, Ruen Tong.
Great getaway in Northern California, with new trail running opportunities! And we haven't even explored the nearby and huge Mendocino National Forest, North of Clear Lake. So much left to discover in California...!

PS: see about 90 more pictures in my Picasa album. Including this very welcoming and reassuring sign when you get to the lake... We did survive Lake Mendocino, phew! ;-)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Silicon Valley Turkey Trot: many more turkeys!

Many more turkeys in the street this Thursday! Many more than the few dozens of our Tino Turkey Trot on Tuesday. And more than last year's record number at this event on Thanksgiving morning in the street of San Jose, the fittest city in America! Tens of thousands, probably something between 23 and 25,000 participants. And almost 1 million dollars raised for three local charities.
Greg was nice enough to first accept an early wake-up call (6:30am) and join Agnès in the 5K. As IBM was a sponsor this year, I got the privilege to say a few words on the main stage at the 10K start. I share that, although IBM is definitely an East Coast-based company, it had open its first office in California in 1914, 98 years ago, and its first site in San Jose in 1943. And we had more than 4,000 employees in the Bay Area. After thanking Carl for organizing such a major event, I wished everybody to have fun on the course!

At 48F, the temperature was just crisp but the weather perfect overall, with an amazing clear sky. I saw a few familiar faces at the front of the pack and, after the only wheelchair athlete started, it was the turn of the 10K crowd.
I passed the 1-mile mark in 5:27 then mile 2 in 11:02. Yet, despite such a fast pace, I had about a dozen of runners ahead of me. 16:44 by mile 3, almost my best time on 5K! I kept pushing, feeling I could break 35 minutes maybe but, as I was approaching the finish line, I could see the clock showing 34:48 and I still had a few yards to go. My official finish time was 15:06, not too bad after a challenging 50-mile last Saturday in Virginia (JFK) and a fast sub-15-hr 100-mile 12 days ago! And good enough for 8th overall and 2nd Masters (24 seconds behind Mark Yuen). The overall winner this year was Kyle Shackleton in a blazing 31:50. All the results were promptly posted on the RaceCentral website.

I then spent one hour and an half next to the Festival Area main stage to greet other IBMers who participated today (click on the picture to enlarge, or go to my Picasa album for the original).
I managed to see Paul on the start line then, near the IBM Main Stage: Christina, Shawn, Mark, Monique, Bob, Fred, Chia-Lyn, Jovi, Susan, Sheila, a few with friends or family members. For our first official participation, we enlisted about 120 participants, a good number but not enough to compete with the overwhelming Applied Materials flock, the funding and event title sponsor for the past 8 years, which owns the... meadow!

Agnes ended up running the whole 5K, with Greg running ahead.
That was my 4th Silicon Valley Turkey Trot in 4 years (see race reports for 2009, 2010 and 2011) and also my 16th race this year: quite another good season if it wasn't for my fall on the TRT in June and the subsequent 6 weeks off running because of the broken shoulder. I set a few Personal Bests again and won my Age Group in our Ultra Trail Running North California Grand Prix for the 6th year in a row! I'm now looking forward to some rest and easy miles, and already to next year's edition as this is so much fun to give back to the community and "Give Thanks" for the health, friends and blessings we have!

See a few more pictures in my Picasa album.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tino Turkey Trot: first fast trot of the week

Thanksgiving already, unusually early because we have five Thursdays this month and the 4th one falls on the 22nd (can't get earlier than that). At 11:30 this morning, Agnès called from school to alert me about this fun event taking place in the afternoon, after school. I had run it 3 years ago when Max was a Senior, 2 days before running the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot one and 4 days before Quad Dipsea...

I had actually planned on tapering today to get my legs a short 2-day break before the upcoming Silicon Valley Turkey Trot on Thursday morning and to continue recovering from last Saturday's JFK 50-mile and my fast 100-mile the week before, not to mention last week's cold... Yet, and since I'm trying to take the week off, I couldn't resist the challenge of some speed work along with a a few fast and young XC runners! I jogged the mile between my house and the Cupertino High School track and barely made it before the start, therefore missing the "race" briefing and course instructions.
Not knowing where we were heading to, I followed the top 2 runners (students) and we started in the red zone, around 5:20 min/mile pace. I passed them in the second/smaller loop, which I thought was the last loop, but we went for another one of these small loops. As you can see on the map the course was quite convoluted, in the good Turkey Trot tradition (turkeys don't run straight... ;-). At the finish, my Garmin GPS indicated 1.88 miles (3.0 km) in 10:28 (5:35 min/mile). Here with Dusty:
And with Justin (red top, 2nd overall) and Willy (blue, 3rd), two fast runners of Tino's XC and T&F teams:
Thank you to Mr Morse and the ASB leaders for organizing this fun event and gathering numerous volunteers to show us the way throughout the school campus! To Coach Armstrong for lending us such rabbits ;-). And to Mr Lawson for helping perpetuating this nice tradition!
See some of you among a much larger flock (more than 20,000 participants!) in 2 days in San Jose for the 8th Silicon Valley Turkey Trot! IBM is one of the sponsors and I should be giving a few words on main stage before jumping to the starting line! ;-)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

JFK 50th: new king and queen for a gold anniversary

I have had en eye on this major ultra North American race, the mother of all modern ultra running events, for a couple of years and, when I saw last year that 2012 would be the 50th edition, I got really excited about participating, even anxious about not being able to make it through the selection process (several thousands applications for about one thousand spots). I FedEx'ed my application on the first day of the A-standard qualifying time window, early May, and was relieved and super happy to receive a positive confirmation in the mail a few weeks later: It was such a unique celebration and, after 76 ultra races, that was going to be my first on the East Coast, a long due opportunity to cross the Mississippi and meet this other ultra community.

And what a celebration! A "grand cru" with the coronation of both the new king and queen of this oldest American ultra event. Of course, I was way behind and too busy with my own run to follow the head of the race but I got a glimpse of the winner's performance as I was entering the Taylor's Landing aid station at mile 38.4 and a volunteer announced to others: "Max King has already finished, setting a new course record!" Geez, my GPS clock was indicating 5:42 and I had still 12 miles to cover...
Last year, after a duel with Michael Wardian, David Riddle set a new course record at 5:40:45 improving Eric Clifton's 17-year old CR by more than 5 minutes! This year, Max shaved another 5:47 minutes off David's performance!

At the award ceremony, Race Director Mike Spinnler told us it had been fascinating seeing the fierce competition for both the men and women overall lead (thanks especially to his skills for inviting the best North American distance runners to his race), seeing David taking the lead upfront before having to compromise for 3rd place, still in 4:45:26, a time faster than Eric's long lasting 1994 CR! Here is David, still leading the race at mile 15:
Trent Briney from Boulder, CO took 2nd in a blazing 5:38:09, trailing Max by less than 3 minutes.
I met Max earlier this year at Chuckanut and stopped by after my finish: he admitted the last 5 miles were very tough for him. With an average pace of 6:43 min/mile (!), and 10 miles of technical trail, he must have run a few miles at 5 min/mile!
Mike said that the women race was as exciting with the top 2 finishing 6 minutes apart, after 50 miles and 6 hours of neck to neck competition. Or, should we say emulation like on the men side, which also led to an incredible improvement of Devon Crosby-Helms 2009 CR by... 17 minutes and 22 seconds! New women CR: 6:11:59!!! Ellie Greenwood, who lives in Canada but runs for Scotland and wins everything on the ultra circuit these days, if the new JFK Queen and she looked at the finish fresh and ready to run the course in reverse direction! Here is Ellie, hoping over the last rocks of the switchbacks:
Running her first ultra marathon, Emily Harrisson, 26, from Virginia, challenged Ellie and did beat the previous CR too, finishing in 6:17:29 and 13th overall (Ellie took 10th). All the results are available on the JFK 50 mile challenge's website.
Here is Ellie, all smile as she is most of the time when racing hard on the trails:

On my end, it has been a much slower story, yet a reasonably good outcome given the circumstances; some would say actually quite a performance too. Let's talk about the circumstances, the "excuses..." First, there is the back to back with my Personal Best at 100-miles 7 days before JFK (14:55:15), not quite following the standard tapering idea... Thanks to Vespa in particular, I was actually feeling ok after last week's race if it wasn't for a cold which I contracted in Brazil the day before and which turned really bad during the week leading to JFK. On Wednesday, I still manage to work but had to go back to bed 3 times during the day between conf calls, shivering, coughing, sneezing... Thursday was slightly better but I'm still fighting the cold after the race, so it was a new experience for me to run an ultra with a cold, definitely not optimal nor recommended... And then there was the shoulder: Saturday actually corresponded exactly to the 5th anniversary month of my shoulder fracture on the TRT (Tahoe Rim Trail) and I still haven't fully recovered the mobility and strength of this complex joint. But this Saturday was the first time since June that I carried a bottle with my right arm so there is progress!

With that, my 2 biggest fears were 1. not fall on the rocky section and 2. asthma, with my lungs already irritated by the cold before the start, not to mention the freeing air at the start. Add a 3rd one with Agnès reminding me of my friend Pierre-Yves spending 2 weeks in the hospital after collapsing a 1/4 mile from the finish line of Ohlone 50K, having started the race with a... cold... Yet, I still thought I had a shot at breaking 7 hours and, as crazy as it might look given the circumstances again, I started the race with that goal in mind. Speaking about starting, we were still walking to the starting line from the gymnasium with my son Alex and my friend Steve who crewed for me, when I realized it was time to trot to the start line which I barely reached by the time the gun detonated. On the way, I hugged California-resident Beverly Anderson-Abbs who was competing today for Team Canada.
I passed quite a few people in the first mile, before settling for a 7:30 min/mile pace for these 2.5 uphill miles on the road and one volunteer indicated I was in 50th place when we hit the first trail section. I then passed a dozen or so other runners in the following steep uphill section on another asphalt section before we came back on the famous Appalachian Trail. That's where fear #1 came to play and forced me to slow down. I got passed by a handful of runners, or should I say monkeys or chamois as they appeared so much agile as I was, and eventually connected to 2 other prudent/careful runners and we ended up running the next 10 miles together. I was in 3rd in this slower yet steady "train" and following a runner who I found out later was Dennis Wallach, 55. Dennis tripped several times and felt twice, just before me, which just scared me more and I focused even more on every rock which almost gave me a headache... There were the easy flat rocks except for the fact that their angle with the ground always varied, the super sharp rocks, the roots, the wood logs as random stairs, the rocks hidden under the leaves, the lose rocks, and the early starters we had to pass on the side of the trail. Then, to just make the torture perfect, this section ended with a series of super sharp switchbacks plunging into the crowd near the Weverton aid station at mile 15.5, the point we were reaching the C&O canal for 26 flat miles. I was glad to see Alex and Steve there, Steve refilling my Gu2O bottle. I was still wearing 3 long-sleeve layers and decided to keep them despite many others running in singlets! Between the chilly temperature and humidity of the early morning along the river, and my cold, I was... cold enough.
I saw Alex and Steve again 2 miles later near Harpers Ferry where Steve lives and work as COO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Then at the Antietam aid station by mile 27 and Taylor's Landing at mile 38 for another and last Gu2O refill. Along the canal I was initially able to maintain a pace around 7:35-7:40 min/mile. Bev had passed me in the switchbacks and I had her in sight for 4 miles, before she had to do a pit stop. I kept going at this steady pace but had to stop myself at the Antietam aid station where she passed me again and I wasn't going to see her again. She eventually finished in 7:14, taking home the Masters title and 5th woman overall! Dennis Wallach also passed me and would easily win the M50 division in 7:14 too! Here he is (we are...), carefully negotiating the end of the switchbacks:
Being on a business trip in DC before the race, I had packed light and taken only two pouches of Vespa which I used respectively 45 minutes before the start and after 4 hours of running when I met my crew at mile 27. Ordinarily I would have taken another one at the start and 2.5-3 hours in the run. I was off my marks then and, with an energy tank already lowered by last week's 100-mile and bad cold, I had to slow down to an 8:30-8:40 pace. I even thought that I'd walk most of the last 12 miles but, once I realized I wasn't going to make 7 hours, I focused on just keeping moving to at least get under 7:30. I was surprised by how much uphills there seemed to be in the last 8 miles but managed to stay under 9 min/mile by not walking nor stopping at the last and frequent aid stations, even sprinting in the last hundreds yards when I heard Igor Stevic closing on me (we had traded places back and forth for the past 20 miles...). I crossed the finish line just under 7:24 (7:23:58), an 8:53 min/mile average pace. I had been "chick'ed" 8 times, and finished 51st overall and 11th M40-49. I was really pleased with my breathing (no trace of asthma, phew!) and ability to keep moving despite the fatigue, something I improved a lot on this year. The other thing which kept motivated in the last miles is the so-called "gold finisher medal" instead of the silver one the previous year. Owner of several Western States (real) silver buckle, I was counting on some pure gold, but not quite as I found out at the finish (even my World Masters medal of last year looks more golden). Oh well, we just run for the mental and physical challenge anyway, and it was an honor to be able to participate to this half-centennial milestone. Here is Race Director, Mike Spinnler,
with one of JFK's great-nephews who presented the awards:
A special thank to Alex and Steve for giving up their day from dawn to dusk, to Alex for the photo coverage, and to the volunteers who stayed in the cold, yet provided much and warm encouragements. It was cool to see a few familiar faces (Max, Ellie, Bev, Ian Sharman who took 4th, Ian Torrence who slashed 32 minutes from his 2011 time) but, overall, it was more than 1,000 new faces I met this weekend. Like what I started with Chuckanut and Leona Divide, getting outside of my comfort zone and exploring new territories... ;-)