Saturday, May 25, 2013

Running in London: follow the bikes!

Sorry for those who are only interested in the title, probably visiting London, I'll start with some news. It's Memorial Day weekend in the US and I'm on a plane between San Francisco and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, via Frankfurt, Germany. Did you know that the working week here in Saudi Arabia is Saturday-Wednesday, and the one in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is Sunday-Thursday. Slightly confusing, isn't it? Sincerely, I'd better be keeping up with that weekend tradition which is, in addition to celebrating our Veterans, to train hard in order to prepare for the summer 100-milers. Like Western Sates started the 100-mile tradition almost 40 years ago, their organizers picked this weekend to allow participants to train on the course over 3 days. While I went there in May 2007 before my first Western States, and learned a lot, I started my own training weekends, in the Bay Area, to keep a better balance between many hours on the trails and family time (126 miles in 2008, 122 miles in 2009, only 49 miles in 2010, 75 in 2011, and the weekend spent in Dubai in 2012...).

Anyway, after last weekend's accident or incident (bursting my big toe on a rock), that would have not been a good idea to push too much. For those wondering, the toe is already getting better and the purple changed to dark blue and getting close to pink after 6 days. Amazing how the body heal itself, I just iced my foot a lot the first two days and kept it as much elevated as I could while keeping working. I probably going to lose 2 nails on this one, typical ultra running stuff, sorry for the details... I couldn't stay put and not exercise with such a fitness and amazing weather this week so I went for a few slow walks in the nearby park the first three days of the week. The slow motion gave me a brand new perspective on the neighborhood, allowing me to see things I don't when running. I went for a slow 10K run on Thursday, not farther as I had still quite some discomfort with the impact and tended to run on the outside, an unbalance who could lead to more injury. Before an early morning full of meetings and driving to airport on Friday, I went for a run at 4:50 am, just before the full moon disappeared behind the hills and as the city was still asleep. I ran 15K that time (3 times my neighborhood 3.1-mile loop) and felt good. I was fearing the 11 hours in coach between San Francisco and Frankfurt but got upgraded! Phew, it felt good too to lay flat for most of the flight.

Enough of a digression and news flash, let's go back to the title... 2 weeks ago, I jumped on a plane to London right after placing 2nd at the "hot" Quicksilver 50-mile. After running in temperatures around 90F (32C) in San Jose, California, it felt really strange to find rain and a 57F (14C) temperature upon landing in England. I got to the hotel around 4 pm on Sunday afternoon, spent an hour on the phone with the team in Saudi to prepare for my upcoming trip and decided to go for a run to help managing the 8-hour jet lag. Between the Tube station and the hotel I crossed a bike path whose name caught my attention: Cycle Superhighway.
I went on the Internet to learn more about what the "superhighway" and found information about this network of bike paths across the British capital agglomeration. The routes as well as self-service bike rental stations across the city, like Velib' in Paris, are sponsored by Barclays. Here is a general map of the network:
I ran to the end of CS3 and it was convenient to have a very distinctive route painted in blue as a guide instead of wandering around unknown neighborhoods. Especially as it was Sunday evening and rainy, so I had pretty much the path for myself. I saw many bikes going fast on the trail, to work or from work, so you have to be careful during "rush" hours. Note though that most of the bike path has also a sidewalk along, so you can leave the path to bikes and run more safely.
It was interesting to run along Canary Wharf, a place I visited several times in 1990 when I was with ILOG and consulting for Texaco, and that this 2nd financial district in London was just getting off the ground. After Canary Wharf, going Eastward, you pretty much run along a busy highway, quite noisy and without any tourist interest. But a good way to log a few road miles without taking the risk of keeping crossing streets and intersections on which the traffic is against "common sense" (yes, Brits still drive on the left side).

Now, an anecdote about the category of the post: Running in Europe. My visit coincided with the decision to organize by 2017 a referendum on England's membership to... Europe. While, even with the Channel, you can't deny the geographical attachment to the European continent, it's going to be interesting to see over the coming years how the financial crisis may break the European Union again, with each country fighting for its own sole interests. Or own currency as this is already the case in the UK...

Anyway, let's keep running away from politics and economic policies. If you stay in London, you may find this network of bike paths useful to log a few kilometers. Or miles should I say since we can't even agree on a common measurement/metric system, my dear...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ohlone 50K 2013: thank you, Leor!

I've run Ohlone 6 consecutive times since 2007 and won it the three times Leor didn't compete (2007, 2008 and 2012). Leor Pantilat that is, our local speedster who sets course records at almost every event he is racing, no to the mention many FKTs (Fastest Known Times) on trails he runs by himself in the Sierras. Now, for this 2013 edition, Leor was in, so long for another win... Note that it was a challenging race to get in: not because of the ultra gods luck (no lottery) but because the registration opened at midnight on December 31st and the race filled in a few hours. Luckily, I wasn't partying that night at Lake Tahoe, but I woke up at 4 am and decided to have a quick look at the website, just in time to get one of the coveted spots...

Gary Gellin holds the course record for Masters since he placed 2nd to Leor in 2010 with a blazing 4:33 (this is a tough 50K, nothing to compare with Way Too Cool for instance). 2010 was also my best year, time wise, with 4:37, yet only good for 3rd overall that year. But Gary wasn't in Ohlone this year.

Ian Torrence was back and, as a "young" Master (he just turned 40 ;-) and very experienced and fast ultra runner (close to 150 ultra races listed under his name in ultrasignup), he was a favorite this year and given bib #2. (Photo: Agnes Pommier)
Kevin Sawchuk (bib #4), who still holds the M30-39 course record and won the rave in 1999 and 2002, was at the front of the pack on the start line for his 9th Ohlone. And so was Quicksilver teammate John Burton.(Photo credit Judy Chu-Hosaka.)
Here is for the competitive context of the race. From a weather standpoint, the week leading to the race wasn't too hot with actually a very nice breeze cooling down the hills all Saturday.

With the point to point format, we are given the option to drive very early to the finish in Livermore, park there and take a shuttle to the start, back in Fremont.
It seemed to me that there were many more cars parked at the start and far less runners in the 2 buses though. Omnipresent ultra volunteer, Stan Jensen, used his organization skills and vocal power to expedite the registration process and avoid the forming of a lane at the check-in.
I also noticed that the number of port-a-putties doubled this year from 2 to 4, also helping keeping the line under control. By 8 am, everybody were fired up and ready to spend the day on the hot trails of the East Bay. We had another great representation from our Quicksilver Ultra Running Team this Sunday (Photo credit Judy Chu-Hosaka):
Race Director, Larry England, another Distinguished Engineer at IBM, got us to start from the parking lot this year, making the course a few yards longer, and more mileage for our bucks! ;-) After a few strides, John took the lead and I was happy to have someone to follow in the fist uphill. I always find difficult to determine the right pace and intensity when we start with a climb and I don't want to start too fast so, following someone is still a good excuse to push a little. Enrique Henriquez was in third after a few turns.

In the middle of the climb to Mission Peak, we have a down hill section when turning right toward Horse Heaven (which is more a paradise for cows actually). I caught up with John who shared that this was his 40th birthday so he was all geared up for a great run. I passed him on the down hill and kept pushing the pace in the switchbacks to the top of Mission Peak, thinking of all these years were Leor was already way ahead. Wait a minute, but where was Leor this Sunday? At the start, Larry told me that Leor wasn't toeing the start line because of a nagging injury. Instead, I learned on Monday that Leor had hiked 45 miles around the Yosemite Valley. Still a pretty strenuous exercise for most of us, mortals, but a routine hike for Leor who wasn't going to risk his Achilles tendons running after his own record on this tough Ohlone course.

So, yes, here I was, feeling so lucky to be in the lead again, before Mission Peak. At every hole, or rock, or root, or switchback, I thought that I had a shot at the win if only I remained calm and didn't fall. I paid a lot of attention at the slippery and rocky section at the top of Mission Peak, then kept a good pace flying down to Sunol, not even stopping at Laurel Loop or Sunol aid stations. My first stop was at the Backpack Area aid station, mile 12.5, to get both my bottles refilled. It wasn't too hot thanks to the breeze, yet I appreciated a couple of ice cubes in my bottle then showering my head at the tap after Hawk Nest. Looking behind, I figured I had already a 8 or 10 minutes lead before the big climb to Rose Peak. I was feeling great and kept running all the uphill section, event sprinting in the few short downhills. And, bang, I smashed one rock with my left foot, tripped and felt flat on my left side, luckily the other side than my broken shoulder of 11 months ago! Unlike last year though, I had time to put my arms forward in some sort of protection of my face and body. Yet, I laid down in the dust for a few seconds, first to wonder what happened so suddenly, assess the situation and get leg cramps to pass before I could even turn sideways. Left knee, thigh, hand, arm where bleeding but, nothing seemed broken, phew! My left bottle had flown a few yards lower down the trail and the cramps triggered by the sudden fall made it for a little adventure to get it back. After dusting off what I could, I resumed running and that's when I felt a big pain in my left big toe. I was 14.5 miles in the race, not good... Yet, running the uphills felt ok as I could keep my weight and the impact under the ball of the foot. But any downhill was hurting and I had to transfer the weight on the outside of the left foot, in an awkward limping. 16.5 to go, that was going to be an interesting ride.

I didn't stop too long at the nearby aid station, Billy Goat, mile 15, just to get my first Gu and a volunteer to pour some water on my hand wound. I chose to use my foot pain in a mental way to enjoy the uphills, which there is plenty of, not only to the summit of Rose Peak (mile 19), but in the remaining part of the course too. That helped me running most of them... However, it was quite frustrating to have to spend so much effort slowing down in the down hills. Frustrating and tiring for the quads too. At the start, teammate Joe Swenson who marked most of the course the day before told me about the abundant dust which covered the fire road after Rose Peak as the road has just been resurfaced. This became very handy for two reasons: first, there were less rocks than previous years, making running easier, especially when you run on the outside of your foot. Second, the deep dust made the impact much lesser so, for once, I enjoyed getting really dusty (not to mention that, on the climb for Mission Peak, I did get half my tibia in the mud of a creek, so I was really dirty when I got back home! ;-).

At the top of Rose Peak, I entered the loop at 3:03 and exited 7 minutes later without seeing another runner. I ran as much as I could of the subsequent downhills and most of the steep uphills, trying to preserve this lead. I did a brief stop at Stewart's Camp to shower my head and Buff and kept going. I was welcomed by Rajeev at the last aid station, Schlieper Rock, mile 25.6. Someone said that I had a 13 minutes lead by mile 20 (Maggie's Half Acre aid station). While there were only 5 miles to go, the worst was yet to come, getting down to the creek (Williams Gulch), a section I almost felt 4 times, putting too much weight on my heels to slow down while avoiding the poison oak and trying not to slip in the dusty switchbacks. I was relieved when I got down to the creek and watered my hat to cool down. With the comfortable lead I did walk some of the uphill to the final ridge, appropriately named Rocky Ridge. As much as I enjoy dipping my head in the water reservoir of Stromer Spring, I didn't stop this time, knowing that I still had a few painful steep downhill miles ahead. While I usually enjoy this part as a way to fly down the Del Valle Regional Park and Lake, this wasn't fun except for the joy of this potential win. The outside of my left foot was burning but I wasn't going to let anyone catch me in this final stretch. Besides, I was now running against the clock, to make sure I stayed under 5 hours one more time (all my previous finishes had been under 5 hours).

I did cross the finish line in 4:54:47, with Judy capturing some of the emotion (photo credit for the three pictures below: Judy Chu-Hosaka):
I was so happy with this unexpected 4th win, yet anxious to discover what was burning inside my left shoe. Back to the title, I use to thank volunteers or my crew for their support but I thought I'd include Leor since my win was only due to his no show. As for my fall, it's all on me, I'm not blaming the rock I tripped on... ;-)

Catra, who had just run 131 miles in 49.5 hours on the course (slightly more than 4 Ohlones!) brought me a Coke (I had only eaten 2 GUs, thanks to Vespa) and it was time to give a visit to the Red Cross volunteers near the finish line. My big toe was dark purple and it felt like it was going to explode under the pressure of all the blood trapped at the end of it. But it looked like I could move the toe so we just iced it for a couple of hours. Red Cross volunteer John took care of the bruises and I spent 3 hours, my toe under a bag of ice, looking at the finishers and watching the BBQ party from a distance. So long for the photo shoot opportunity of all the finishers, another time...

John Burton came in second, 6 minutes behind.
Then 3 runners came sprinting together: first was Kevin who took third overall, followed by Ian, in 4th like last year.

The results are not posted yet but I believe all fourteen of our Club starters finished. Including Toshi and Loren who have run the Silver State 50-mile on Saturday!

Like I did in my last post, another opportunity to thank a very special category of volunteers: the Red Cross ones who gave up their Sunday to provide safety and care to all the runners, from 11 am to 7 pm. Thank you, Steve, John and Kevin!
Of course, a big thank goes to the aid station volunteers, especially those in remote places, we couldn't do it without all of you. And the volunteers setting up and tearing down the event, and the Chef cooking so many burgers, what another ultra party!
With such a foot injury, I'm so glad I didn't have to jump right away on a plane this Sunday evening (as opposed to last year). After London last week (it felt weird to run in the rain there, the day after a warm and dry race at Quicksilver), I'm now on to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this coming Friday. Way to celebrate Memorial Day weekend by working Saturday and Sunday there... Anyway, this absence of travel for a few days gave me the opportunity to get an x-ray and, great news, nothing is broken inside, just a painful and ugly purple toe on the outside:
I should be back then, this is my favorite ultra by far, as I feel some connection with the Native Americans who used to live in these hills and valleys. As I was mentally pushing in the uphills, I even thought that they could have given me the nickname of "Head Down..." Yes, I'll be back, for the beautiful views and challenging hills!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Quicksilver 50-mile 2013: some heat training at last!

Unlike my traditional race reports where I thank volunteers at the end, I would like to start this one the other way. Not because this event is put up by our club, Quicksilver Running Club of San Jose, and the main aid station manned by my other club, the Stevens Creek Striders, but because I was able to get a deeper experience and appreciation of the amazing effort required to direct and manage a successful ultra race. I think very few runners actually appreciate all this work as they only see what's happening on race day and usually picking on the potential flaws if any. I have been an aid station captain for several years at Western States (Last Chance), but even this doesn't match the entire organization which starts months ahead and continues for several days and weeks to tear the operation down and... get ready for the following year.

First, of course, the kudos go to Race Director, Pierre-Yves Couteau. Jeremy and I had the opportunity to hear quite a few stories about the stress of the weeks leading to the race, as we were carpooling with Pierre-Yves to Miwok last week. Between his job and family responsibilities, who knows if that stress wasn't the reason of Pierre-Yves's accident at Ohlone last year, one week after Quicksilver...
Pierre-Yves was assisted by Bree Lambert who was in charge of coordinating about 70 volunteers. For her too, this is a huge task which comes on top of her personal training job and her family. After winning the 50K this Saturday, Bree was in charge of the Quicksilver store, selling the very cool Quisilver 30th commemorative t-shirt among other tech Ts and fleeces.
Then come the Ficks. Paul and Darcy who, with their crew, put up the most extravagant post-race BBQ party on the ultra circuit! From dips, salads, 3 sorts of burgers, hot dogs, ribs, all freshly cooked on site, side dishes, fruits, cakes, snow cones, they work tirelessly not only on race day, in the heat, but several weeks leading to the event.
Paul even took 2 days off his software job to get the job done, what a dedication!
Paul is also our "Club Trail Officer" (CTO... ;-), leading trail maintenance work through Winter and Spring (see our December and January sessions) and, thanks to him, the trails have never been in such great condition!

I was able to see some of the magnitude of the preparation work as I helped for 5 hours on Friday, loading the rental trucks from our club storage room (you can't believe how much space all the aid station equipment require...), loading all the supplies from Paul and Darcy's garage, including 5 BBQs (and a smoker!), unloading the truck at the start/finish area, setting up the huge tents. We got great help all day Friday from a visiting participant from Walnut Creek, Tom Riley, one of Graham Cooper's friends. Thank you, Tom, and please come back anytime!

10-time Western States finisher, Kristina Irvin is in charge of the 6 aid stations and the second rental truck is for her to dispatch the aid station supplies around the park. Although we had a record 24 club members actually running this Saturday morning, numerous other club members helped at aid stations, for instance, Andy at the remote Sierra Azul turn around, Clare and Scott at Hicks Road.

And here is Harris, has the course sweeper (literally! ;-):
A special mention to Peggy Alfred who is the aid station captain at Dam Overlook and who assembled again a great crew from the Stevens Creek Striders to man the busiest station on the course (350 runners going through, one time for the 25K but three times for the 50K and 50-mile!). This year again, Agnès and Greg joined them for the first shift, plus Caroline, one of Greg's classmates.
I can't name the 70 volunteers so I'll extend my tank you to all of them collectively. And I do want to apologize for the ones manning English Camp especially as I was slightly grumpy not to find ice at my first passage, sorry about that...

With that, it's already 1 am here in London (Monday morning), so I'll be quick for the race itself. Chikara took the control of the race from the start and was not going to be challenged this year.
I ran the first 38 miles in second place in the 50-mile. I had a good first 50K and thought my pace was reasonably slow "enough" to keep up for the last 20 miles as I completed the first loop in 4:12 versus a 3:55 50K last year. But I did overheat, unfortunately... Last year I rant the 50K with my arm warmers as the temperature is too low for me at 6 am. But not this year and the heat got upon us pretty quickly, around 90F. I had asked Agnès and Greg to fill up my bottles with ice for my second passage through Dam Overlook at mile 19. I was a bit surprised when I got my first sip, it wasn't chilly at all. The ice hadn't arrived at the aid station by the time I ran through it the third time, after just over 3 hours of continuous running. I kept pushing up Mine Hill trail as 2 runners pointed me just 7 minutes behind Chikara, which I found surprising. There wasn't any ice either yet by 9:30 am for my first passage through English Town at mile 27 and that set me slightly off, which is really not a good in ultra (not only this is mean to the volunteers, and that mines your mental). Later on Facebook I reminded myself, and others, that ice is a luxury in ultras, there wasn't any years ago, and it's not very sustainable anyway as we contribute so actively in getting our Planet warmer...
I was still a miles from the finish, trying to run most of the Hacienda "roller coaster" section, when I saw Chikara coming off Virl Norton and took note of his split there (3:56). I passed the 50K mark in 4:12 and finally got ice in my bottles, in my shirt, in my hat, took a few sips of Coke, and off I went for the remaining 20 miles. This time, and despite seeing a runner closing on me, I had to power walk the steep uphills of Virl Norton and Hacienda, counting on the melting ice to cool me off. I was 28 minutes behind Chikara at the top of Virl Norton, and I was getting slower, ouch! Encouraged by the 50K and 50-mile runners we cross on Hacienda and English Camp, I alternated running and walking until I reached Englishtown (which had ice that time, yeah! ;-). The runner behind me was Karl Schnaitter, who passed me at the 50-mile mark to win the Ruth Anderson 100K.
As I was carrying two bottles and not eating anything from the aid stations, he was making longer stops at the aid station. He finally passed me at mile 38, just after Hicks Road, with an amazing ease and fast pace that I felt like I wasn't moving at all. Shortly after I saw Chikara coming down from the turn around, very string and fast. The next 3 miles to the turnaround, I thought I'd see Karl coming back and putting a couple of miles on me... To my surprise, I reached out the Sierra Azul aid station without seeing him, there was no way he could have gotten lost on this fire road. He was actually behind the car, taking care of some bad chaffing. As I was taking advantage of the ice again to cool me off, he left before me, still with a pace which I couldn't match (he has much longer legs and seemed full of energy, at least on the flats and downhills). I had left the aid station 7 minutes ago when I saw Graham Cooper, in 4th. Graham won Western States in 2009 and is a very strong finisher, but I thought I had enough lead to win my age group. I didn't stop at Hicks Road, except to get a confirmation from Clare of the remaining distance: 4.5 miles it was! I kept pushing the pace and finally caught up with Karl again just before the ridge as I was stronger in the uphills. I could barely follow-up on the way down on Yellow Kid trail and was thinking it was going to make a very interesting finish with the combination of steep down hills and a few uphills in the last 2 miles. To my surprise again, Karl stopped at Englishtown, with 2 miles to go. I went ahead and was now running against the clock. I ran the 50-mile distance in 6:48 3 years ago. This year, I covered the same distance in 7:08:56, 20 more minutes yet good for second overall and first Masters. Way way behind Chikara who had just missed his own PR by 1 minute (6:16) and way behind Gary Gellin's Age Group Course Record of 6:29 (2011). Not to mention Leor Pantilat's amazing Course Record he set in 2011 too at 6:01!

It was hot but not extremely hot so I'm not sure why I over heated this way. At least it was good heat training for Ohlone, next week, except that I ran 13 miles this Sunday, after landing in London in a chilly (55F!), rainy and windy weather: what a change of conditions!

Given the overheating incident, I was please to finish in reasonably good conditions and enough time to enjoy the BBQ party before driving to the airport (ok, with a stop by my house to take a shower... ;-). That was my 23rd 50-mile race, more than I raced marathons (21)! And this is my 333rd blog post, I had no clue I'd got that far when I started in 2007...

See about 80 other pictures from the lead runners, the Dam Overlook aid station volunteers and the Friday setup in my Picasa album.

Again, a huge thank you to all the volunteers who put up these events. With all my races, it's going to take a few decades for me to give back, I need to plan for that... In the meantime, see some of you at Ohlone next Sunday!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Miwok 2013: welcome to the Mini Miwok 60K!

Thanks to my luck at the lottery again this year last December, this was supposed to be my 7th consecutive Miwok 100K run. As usual, I flew back from business just in time on Friday. This time, it was from nearby Vegas, a short flight except that it was delayed by 3 hours, officially because of high winds but potentially because of the gunfire incident at the Houston airport on Thursday night. I was so much looking forward to a good long night of sleep after a very fruitful but exhausting week at our Impact conference at Impact, not my luck as I got home by 1am on Friday morning.

We carpooled to the start with Pierre-Yves and Jeremy and I drove. After last year when I was still getting prepared at 5 am and missed the start by a couple of minutes, we were on our way by 2:45 (yes, that's a 1:50 am wake-up call...) and arrived to Stinson Beach around 4:15, a good margin, yet pretty far down the parking lot, a detail which will become important at the end of the day...

The start had moved to the Community Center, 0.4 mile away from the beach, and I was still at the car when I heard the big news: because of fire danger, the Rangers were closing the North section of the course and Tia had battled all night to either try reversing the decision or make a new 100K course in the South section. She had found an option but it was crossing one main road and, by 10 pm on Friday night, was not able to get the authorization and approval from the local police. The backup plan was then to run 60K (37 miles) on what remained from the original course, and start by 8 am so the aid stations were ready per the original pace chart.

I wasn't at the start area when the news broke, I just heard that a few people were devastated because that was their main long run training for instance before Western States. Fortunately, we are reminded to be flexible in ultra and appreciative of the blessing the Race Directors, the volunteers, our supporting crews or even the local authorities give us in order to allow us to run on such wonderful courses. I felt bad mostly for those coming from out of town, like this runner from Ohio who was parked next to my car, but at least the South section of the course still had the most amazing views of the Marin Headlands, and they were indeed stunning throughout the morning under such a blue sky (the traditional fog covering the coast in the afternoon...).

By 8 am, the mood was up and great among the starters and, even Tia, could smile again at the start line. There was so much excitement that I never seen such a fast start. It was like the 100K was all of a sudden shortened to a half marathon. Come on, guys and gals, respect the distance, we were still on an ultra race! Anyway, with that, I probably had 30 runners ahead of me as we were climbing up Cardiac, challenging our hearts with the irregular stairs. I gain a few spots before the Cardiac aid station and a few others as I flew down Cardiac. Carrying two bottles, I did not stop at the Muir Beach aid station and, by mile 8, I was still 3 minutes behind Mark Lantz and had no sight of the leaders, including three of my teammates, speedster Master Gary Gellin, our co-captain Marc Laveson and, our newest addition, international elite ultra runner and coach, Ian Sharman.

After Muir Beach, the second significant climb was on the recently-renovated Middle Green Gulch, with a consistent grade and a great combination of switchbacks allowing to see runners in front or behind. Seeing Mark ahead as well as Jonathan (Gunderson) provided some motivation and I did close a large part of their lead in that section. Not stopping at the Tennessee Vally aid station either, I did pass them at the bottom of the Marincello fire road. I had trained on these trails right after the Big Bunny 5K on Easter weekend and it helped a lot on the mental side. I was able to run this third uphill section of the course without stopping, thinking of Hal Korner whom I had seen on that section at the end of his North Face 50-mile, 3 years ago. To keep running uphill I alternatively use two mental images. The first one, from Scott Jurek: lean forward and think that you head is pulled by a string/cable. The other one, from Hal (and to some extent Graham Cooper too): engage a lower gear, switch to the diesel engine mode. It took me years to be able to leverage the second one: several years ago, I had hard time slowing down the pace so, too many times, had to stop to catch my breath, which is particularly bad as you can't even power walk if you are breathless. I haven't completely nail it down, but I'm getting better. And therefore faster, hey...!

The first aid station I stopped at was Bridge View, at mile 17.5 that is about mid way, an aid station manned by the friendly pirates of the Coastside Running Club (thanks Ron!). I refilled my Gu2O bottle, and finally ate something: 4 potato chips and 2 pieces of cantaloup (delicious by the way). Thanks to Vespa, I was clearly fueling my run with my own body fat!

On the way down Coastal Fire Road, I was thinking that the leaders were way ahead an I kept pushing the pace. To my surprise, teammate Loren was directing traffic at the bottom the hill and told me: "Gary and Marc are just 5 minutes ahead, or maybe more..." While the more made sense, the 5 minutes didn't. To my second and even greater surprise, I found Ian coming back on the course at the bridge leading to Rodeo Valley and Bobcat trails. He had went off course for a mile (and another mile to come back), was in third by then and thought others also went off course so thought that I must be on the podium. This was all so confusing, especially the fact that we were getting on Bobcat Trail, back up to the ridge, without going to Rodeo Lagoon and beach, I even hesitated following Ian, despite the numerous marking ribbons (yes, Tia, white with orange dots). I said twice and aloud "this is very wrong" but went on. Ian was quite devastated himself of losing so much time so he was alternating running (fast) and walking uphill. I did pass him before the ridge and he literally flew by my on the way back to our second passage through Tennessee Valley. There, that is around mile 24 or 25, I took my first Gu. I followed Ian all the way on Coastal and saw him one last time at the turn around of Muir Beach, with 8 miles to go. I took a second Gu there, knowing what was ahead (Cardiac...).

Unfortunately I did walk much more than I wanted up Cardiac and lost precious minutes. Up the hill, I found Marc at the aid station who had hit the wall but would still manage to finish in 7th. As John Medinger said, I was still looking good and indeed kept going, just getting iced water at the aid station, to cool down in the last 2.5-mile stretch. Since I broke my shoulder last year, I'm more careful than before in the technical down hills and, although I though I was still doing a good job hopping the steep stairs, I got passed by a runner just before Insult Hill. So long for 5th place, I did finish in 6th overall, 2nd Master, in 5:24:

Gary got 2nd and Ian 4th. Here are a few other teammates: Pierre-Yves, Clare, Scott, Greg, Adona.
The men race was won by Dylan Bowman (94% rank in UltraSignup). I heard that Gary pretty much kept up with Dylan until the second passage through Tennessee Valley. Tia sent a message this Sunday morning that she was still working on sorting out all the hand-written notes, hoping to publish the official results by Sunday evening. Stay tuned...

Back to the parking lot, and the detail in the introduction about where we parked, it took us 90 minutes to get out, as both runners and beach visitors were trying to squeeze onto highway 1; talking about average pace, that was quite a slow-moving experience, a blazing 180 min/mile pace... Thankfully, the great company of Pierre-Yves and Jeremy made up for good discussions to kill the time.

A HUGE thank you to Race Director, Tia Bodington, for managing to keep a great event up despite the challenges. We were all kidding at the finish that this made for new course and personal records at an odd distance, hopefully this is only a hiatus in the Miwok history and the Rangers will let us run on Bolinas Ridge again starting next year. I didn't spend much time in the aid stations but it's always a blessing to count on so many volunteers who give up their Saturday (and more to set up and tear off the event...) to support us. And a special mention to the sane competition without whom these races wouldn't be as good of training runs! ;-)

Sorry, not too many pictures today, but here is a worthy one: Marc teaching Greg how to open a bottle of beer. And not any bottle, the coveted Miwok "100K"'s Trail Ale. And, yes, that's the first time Coach Greg is drinking... ;-)
See some of you again on the trails next week at our Club's Quicksilver 50K and 50-mile, and a warm thank to Pierre-Yves for directing that event.

PS: I went out for a 9-mile recovery run this morning: ouch, so much soreness because I missed the Monsters of Massage and didn't even stretched after the finish. My goal was to see the tail of The Relay, the 200-mile 12-person relay between Calistoga to Santa Cruz. It was almost noon on Sunday so I only saw one van and one lonely runner. I heard 300 teams participated, I hope everybody made it safely to the finish by now!