Sunday, March 29, 2015

2015 outlook: the planned and... unplanned

It is almost the end of the first quarter of 2015, we already are out of the winter season --not that we've seen any of a winter in California unfortunately...-- it feels kind of late to talk about yearly resolutions on March 29, doesn't it...? Well, you know me, you know I haven't procrastinated that long to lay out my ultra running calendar! As a matter of fact, as you were able to see on this blog or FaceBook, I had already 4 important races, the first two of our Grand Prix (Jed Smith and Way Too Cool) and 2 Nationals (Rocky Racoon and Caumsett Park).

Blogging on a weekly basis, I was waiting for a week without a major event, either a race or a fat ass. I had planned on sharing my plans (!) last week then but, injured, I wasn't in the mood. Some may have noticed that I was walking funny and limping at our PAUSATF award banquet. I could barely walk indeed that morning, with a sharp pain in my left heel which started after a training run in freezing conditions in Columbus, 3 weeks ago, a few days after Way Too Cool.

I'm still not sure what exactly this is, I assume it's an inflammation. The closest I could self-diagnose on the web is a peroneal tendonitis. I've been on the road for 5 weeks in a row (Vegas, New York, Oklahoma City, and 3 round trips to Columbus, OH through Chicago), not ideal conditions to properly taking care of my heel. I ran 6 miles this Friday and, although it was ok during the run, the sharp pain fired again a few hours later, confirming the hypothesis of the inflammation.

With that, I spent a few hours at the gym, either at the hotels, or at my office on weekends. Spinning and stair master, while watching TV for a change. Hundreds of calories burned, good leg work, but no miles in the running log.

Not blogging last week also freed up some time to read about others, in particular those who are also struggling with injury, for instance:
  1. Much more serious issues encountered by Andy Wilkins-Jones which he discusses on iRunFar
  2. Jez Bragg's training struggles
  3. Jon Olsen's ramping up after months of injury preventing him to even walk normally
Like I often say, what I love the most about ultra running is, well, the running part. Not the walking when getting too tired in races. And of course not the "no running" when grounded with injury... Yet, compared to others, I feel blessed that this doesn't look like a major injury and I'm confident one more week of rest will do. As you can tell, I still plan on toeing the line at American River 50-mile next weekend, and, assuming this works out, go on with the 100K Road Nationals the following week.

A good segue to the 2015 calendar topic...

Not planning for injuries (damned!), I planned for another crazy racing year which I tried to capture in the maps below (click on the picture to enlarge). For the past 8 years and leading to 8 consecutive age group wins, I mostly focused on our PAUSATF Grand Prix, running between 10 to 13 of the yearly 17 events. Continuing on last year's direction, I decided to add a few National Championships to that. I know, it is a lot, and we'll see what my body can endure... And adjust accordingly...
Here is the legend (of the map... ;-):
  1. Rocky Raccoon 100-mile Trail Nationals
  2. Jed Smith 50K
  3. Caumsett Park 50K Road Nationals
  4. Way Too Cool 50K
  5. American River 50-mile
  6. Mad City 100K Road Nationals
  7. Ruth Anderson (most likely 50-mile)
  8. Miwok 100K
  9. QuickSilver 100K
  10. Ohlone 50K
  11. Cayuga 50-mile Trail Nationals
  12. Summer Solstice 24-hour
  13. Skyline 50K
  14. Tamalpa 50K Trail Nationals
  15. NorthCoast 24-hour Road Nationals
  16. Trailblazer 10K (yes, only 6.2 miles...! ;-)
  17. Dick Collins Firetrails 50-mile
  18. The Fall 50-mile Road Nationals
  19. Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10K
Phew, just having typed all this makes me tired, and that doesn't even include Desert Solstice in case I'm invited again and decide to go for a few (hundred...) laps in December! Thankfully, this is over 52 weeks, so there is some time to execute on this, good health permitting... And if you think this is a lot, it's not much compared to the 54 races that Michael Wardian completed in 2014, most of them finishing on the overall podium, and crushing the Masters category too!

Time flies... When I started running seriously upon coming to the US in 1998, running a marathon in a year was my key yearly goal. After running 110 ultra races, I don't get much of a celebration by family members or friends. Completing an ultra, or even winning it, as become BAU (business as usual)... Oh well, I run for my own passion, and for the pleasure of being out there, challenging myself, in great company. Speaking of great company, hope to see many of you at American River next Saturday!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

PAUSATF LDR 2014 Awards: another great harvest!

I started running ultras in 2006 (Way Too Cool 50K in March) and found out about our local MUT Grand Prix later that year. I got hooked to it and that provided me with many racing and training goals. In other words, it has kept me on my toes for the past 9 years.

But, first, what are all these acronyms if you are not an insider? PUSATF stands for our Pacific Association (North California and Nevada) of USA (that one is easy...) Track and Field organization (what is FFA or Federation Francaise d'Athl├ętisme in France). And MUT stands for Mountain and Ultra Trail. There is actually some debate about the "and" in the acronym, that is if every race in our MUT Grand Prix should be an ultra, or if we should include shorter trail distances too. Like not all ultra races have to be mountain runs (we do ultra marathons on flat roads too, or even on the track). For now, our Grand Prix included 17 ultra events in 2014 and I competed in 13 of them (finished 12, 1 in the M40-49 age group and 11 in my new M50-59 one). As I said, I'm hooked...

The great thing with our Grand Prix is that it also includes team competitions. In our Grand Prix, the top 3 runners of each team score and we have 4 team flavors: Men, Women, Mixed and Overall. It certainly helps making our sport less of an individual one and add a great social component to it.

One more acronym I used in the title: LDR for Long Distance Running. This one is interesting because the Long aspect is quite subjective: it starts with a few miles with Cross-Country (or XC) and as basically no limit on the ultra running side although we don't have 200-milers in the schedule yet and it's really hard to run more than 175 miles in 24 hours. LDR basically groups events which happen outside of a stadium, what we call "hors stade" in France. From Cross-Country on trails (rarely muddy in California though especially these past dried years), to Short Road events (e.g. 5 or 10K), Long Road ones (10-mile, half marathon, marathon) then MUT.

Last year I only ran the Championship in the Cross-Country category and placed 2nd in my age group, behind Rich Hanna. Great velocity test on the 10K distance, and on the course which is going to be used for the 2015 Cross Country National Club Championships in Golden Gate Park this December. Focusing on the MUT Grand Prix and a few Nationals (50K Road and 24-hour), I didn't make room to run any of the Road Grand Prix.

Our QuickSilver Running Club was hosting the yearly award banquet this year in Los Gatos.
With our President busy with a tennis competition in Sacramento this weekend, our Team Captain, Loren Lewis kicked-off the event.
Christine Kennedy was this year's guest speaker. Christine is originally from Ireland but now represents the US in competitions around the world. With a PB of 2:35 on the marathon, she has set many Masters record on every distance from 5K up to the marathon. She just turned 60 and her main goal this year is to be the first 60-year old woman to run a marathon under 3 hours. She plan on doing this in October, a few months after becoming a grandmother! ;-)
Here are a few tips she shared while being interviewed by our Men's LDR Chair, Tom Bernhard:

  • Be open to change. Change in your racing. Change in your training. And even leveraging new technologies such as compression boots, cryotherapy or our local NASA Ames Vasper facility
  • Set a standard for yourself. Raise the bar, don't just "run your age." If you moved up to a new age group, keep racing the younger folks (hmm, sounds familiar... ;-). For instance, Christine doesn't run as "a 60-year old woman" but as a Master athlete.
  • Rely on a coach. Rely on someone else for nutrition and stretching guidance, and training plans, so you can remain focused on the competition. 
  • Embrace each competition. When asked which distance or event she prefers, Christine says that she likes every competition. From sprinting men on shorter distances, to the challenge of keeping up with the elite on the marathon. You have to live in the moment and get excited by such competition.
  • Pay attention to nutrition. Christine still carbo load before a marathon race, but not much otherwise. She would skip bagels, and stay away of pastries, desserts and, of course, junk food.
  • Sleep a lot. Christine takes sleep very seriously, between 8 to 10 hours a night (yikes, I need to change job... ;-). Especially to recover after a big competition or work out. If you don't sleep enough, better skip a work out.
  • Run with a club. There is amazing value in getting support from club mates. Support, social ties, emulation, motivation.
It was a great illustration of the quality and variety of running our local association is blessed with. There were many awards distributed this Saturday night.

Our Club collected 5 of the 11 individual titles: Stephen Wassather (M under 30), Lisa Hughey (W30), Kat Powel (W60), Jim Magill (M60) and myself (M50).

In addition, we won 3 out of the 4 team challenges: Women, Mixed and Overall.

This year, the Men team division was won by the Excelsior (we lost by one point...!), here represented by Karl Schnaitter and Nakia Baird:
Our MUT Chair, Bill Dodson, who turned 80 the day before we both raced the 50K Road Nationals 2 weeks ago (and Way Too Cool last week!), won his age group last year again at 79:

Last but not least, I was nominated again for the local Ultra Runner Of the Year award. This was my 5th nomination in 8 years, among world class athletes: Jon Olsen, Dave Mackey, Ian Sharman, Chikara Omine, Eric Skaden, Victor Ballesteros, explaining why I only got this coveted title only once, back in 2007. When I found out that the other nominee was Alex Varner, I was really not sure. Sure, I had an amazing season, even setting up a new point record with 554 thanks to a few new age group course records, but Alex is in another category: 98.92% on UltraSignup with 21 races, 2nd at Way Too Cool in 3:17, 3rd at the super competitive North Face 50-mile Challenge, 4th at Lake Sonoma, 7th at Western States. And Alex has been very supportive of me on FaceBook or at races when spectating, so I feel sorry for him. Now, he is only 29, so I'm sure we'll see him dominating races for many more years! In the meantime, I thank our Officials for this recognition and in particular our MUT co-chair, Hollis Lenderking for his very nice words.
On top of all these awards, thanks to Marc Klemencic's efforts, our Club collected more than $1,500 worth of prizes which we distributed in a raffle this Saturday night. An entry to our QuickSilver 50K race in May, pairs of Hoka and Brooks shoes, pairs of Injinji toe socks, arm sleeves from Moeben, gift certificates from Sports Basement, hydration pack from UltrAspire and 10 5-lesson packs for bikram yoga at 98 point 6 in San Jose!

See below a few of the happy winners! And, now, I raise my glass to another season of Running Happy to all of you, success with your 2015 goals, on the trails, the road, or which ever path you life gets you on!

Go, Run Happy, all!
 A few of the happy winners of the Yoga lessons (thank you, !)

Special thanks to our own Pacific Association athlete Scott Dunlap for his support and plug to the toe socks:

Our QuickSilver Club representatives:

Monday, March 9, 2015

Way Too Cool 50K 2015: so fast, yet so slow...

In 2006 Way Too Cool was my first 50K and ultra race. I did this race every year since so that's the event I ran the most out of 110 ultras. Although I wasn't blogging yet in 2006, I started a year later so you've heard a lot from me on this event (see all my WTC race reports). What can I add then? Well, between the weather and trail conditions, and how the (ultra) stars get aligned or not, every race is different. In the context of Way Too Cool, even the course changed several times over the 26 editions. Then there is the potential change in race management and directing, this last point being very meaningful as Julie Fingar's NorCalUltras made this race the largest trail 50K in North America with 1,200 entrants! I wasn't born to ultra running back then but I bet that Tim Twietmeyer saw a lot of change through the 24 participations he has had at WTC since 1990!

Another big parameter or variable which influences an ultra is how fit, trained and rested you get into the race. Back in 2006 I was still listening to my best doctor, my sister Marie in France, who was telling me I shouldn't race more than 2 marathons a year. Time has changed and I significantly pushed the limits on that aspect as you know if you regularly check my blog... ;-) I went from running a couple of ultras in 2006 to now running more than 35 ultras a year, including training runs, and up to 3 ultra races in a single month at the peak of the season in May and April. This year, I repeated the Caumsett-Way Too Cool back to back double (like Bill Dodson did this year, at 80), with a much stronger focus on the 50K Road Nationals than this second race of our regional Grand Prix (I still love the hardware... ;-).
Yet, I rarely toe a start line without an urge to run as fast as I can... Here I am with Bill (and ultra legend Roy Pirrung who was running his 1,000th race there) in the much colder Caumsett Park last week:
I spent the week leading to Way Too Cool on a business trip between New York and New Jersey then Oklahoma City. I left Newark (EWR) just after the weekend snow storm but to fly right into a major one... I was supposed to connect through Chicago (ORD) but, after 3 changes of planes and gates at EWR (so long for a restful tapering... ;-), I was sent to Houston (IAH). That flight was late so I missed the connection but was put on another flight to OKC which United created since they had a plane ready to leave for DC where the airport (IAD) was shut down. Let's say that was a good experience and taste of what a real winter is since we have been missing one for the past 4 years on the West Coast. I arrived at SFO as scheduled on Friday morning to hop on my car and drive to Sacramento where I worked for a few hours at our local office before driving up to Auburn to pick my bib. With 1,200 participants, it helps to have Thursday and Friday afternoons as options to avoid the rush on race morning. Thanks to that, I was impressed to see how smooth the race day pick-up was on Saturday morning.

Another kudo to Julie and her team for such a professional race management, all that with a smile! Julie is so into her element when directing that she appears way more relaxed despite the scale of such a race, than when she runs an ultra herself... ;-)

While all these business trips are rather tiring, I had a relaxing evening with my roommate and teammate, Marc Laveson. Marc has had issues with his racing last year and, after multiple tests and doctor visits, it was determined that his blood protein level is too low. Although an explanation/cause hasn't been found yet, he appreciates knowing the effect. After dining at Pete's at the corner of Foresthill Road (I only wished their pasta portion was 3 times larger...), we managed to get a good 8-hour sleep! I was up since 3 am Pacific, so really looking forward to catching up with that sleep. We left the hotel at 5:35 am and, no, we weren't the first ones to get to the Cool Fire Station, but still got parking spots close to the start line (later, there were cars parked a mile away from the start!). All that contributed to a relaxed pre-race preparation, I even managed to work for an hour on my next consulting gig!
We had quite a contingent representing our QuickSilver running club this weekend, 25 runners! Not all of them made it to the frog for pre-race group picture, but still a few, here we are:
This race became so competitive over the past years, it attracts a bunch of super fast runners who are giving ultra rail racing a try. It's not that there is even money to make but Way Too Cool has become a benchmark, a way for some to show their competition how strong they already are, that early in the season. For many others, though, Way Too Cool is their first ultra (I think more than 500 this year!), and for other veterans, this is more of a kick off of the season. With so much disparity, it's good that Julie groups runners into two starting waves, and that the first mile is on a paved road so the pack can stretch before getting on the single track trail. Thanks to a 6:00-minute first mile (oops!), I could still manage to see the 4 lead runners when they got on the single track but that was the extent that I'd see from them today. I was probably in 30th position by then and that was really going fast. I could now even keep up with 2 other runners of my age group, Rich Hanna (50) and Brian Pilcher (58), both notoriously faster than me anyway. Flying at 6 min/mile pace, and feeling chased... (Photo credit: Kyria Wilson)
I finished the initial loop (~8 miles) with the second and third women, Stephanie Howe and YiOu Wang. (Photo credit: NorCalUltras)
I didn't know Stephanie but I had "battled" YiOu when she won Skyline 50K last August and I knew she was really fast. Stephanie was leading our sprint down to Highway 49, but YiOu seemed even more agile and at ease in the rocky section. (Photo credit: Inside Trail)

After 7 min/mile at mile 8, our average pace was now decreasing as we pushed on the long stretch along the American River. YiOu actually left us in the dust and Stephanie stayed beyond me. Last year, I was feeling well in that section too and regretted pushing too soon, I was really not sure if it would work better this year but I decided to keep going on and I was still on a 7 min/mile pace by mile 15 at Maine Bar. I actually passed Victor (Ballesteros) just before the climb and we joked about the crazy fast pace.

Around mile 16 I caught up with Karl (Schnaitter). With the steep climb to mile 19, our average pace was now down to 7:15, still a fast one. When I passed Karl around mile 20, before the ALT (Auburn Lake Trail) aid station, Karl ask me if I was indeed on a PR pace. To which I replied that the course had changed so much over the years, I wasn't sure. And, indeed, I knew I had broken 4 hours a couple of times, but I didn't even know what was my PR at this event.

Anyway, ALT was my first stop at an aid station, to refill my GU2O bottle, and Karl and Stephanie passed me then. It took me at least 2 miles to catch-up with Karl, and Stephanie was nowhere to be seen, so I knew I was losing some steam. Karl and I managed to trot most of Goat Hill's wall, just walking in the last switch back. We were at the marathon mark in 3:15 and I was thinking that the lead runners might have already finished by then. On our way back to the creek, we passed teammate Marc (Laveson) who was cramping badly but was still in good spirit to at least finish.

I wasn't in the mood to push more than just trying to keep up with Karl at that time. Without stopping at the last aid station, Hwy 49 Crossing, we passed a few runners in the last hill, including YiOu who was now cramping too. I crossed the finish line in 3:50:42.

The weather and trail conditions were exceptional, definitely the year to have an outstanding experience and PR. Which leads me back to the title, "So fast, yet so slow..." Did I PR myself? Actually, not, but I was darn close, 17 seconds exactly!
And that was in 2013, with perfect Spring conditions too and a dry course which allowed Max King to set an amazing 3:08 course record then. Well, defying my belief that Max's record couldn't be improved, Patrick Smyth, 28, of Salt Lake City, UT, proved me wrong: he won in a blazing time of 3:04:48, WOW! If the course was effectively 50K (it is close to 1 mile shorter actually), this would be a sub 6-minute average pace! How embarrassing, that made my great performance a poor 80% for UltraSignup, yikes! I also was "slow" enough to get chicked twice: Megan Roche (24, Sunnyvale) was 10th overall and won the Women division in a very impressive 3:41:56. Stephanie (Howe) took 2nd in 3:47:14 and YiOu 3rd, 26 seconds behind me. And it it was not enough, I didn't even win my age group: at 50, Rich Hanna finished 9th overall, 1st Masters, in 3:41:40. Our previous M50-59 age group record was 4:04, he destroyed it! Brian Pilcher was shooting for 3:38 himself but dropped at mile 9 on a hamstring issue. So, yes I was fast, but still quite slow compared to the lead folks: I placed 21st overall, 19th Men and 2nd M50-59. The problem with Way Too Cool is that the level keeps rising! It's not good to get older...

Yet, I was very pleased with my run: still strong despite racing hard 6 days before, no cramp, almost no walking and even a huge smile at the end, something I haven't experienced often at this race (thank you Jena for the picture!). And my Brooks PureGrit worked perfectly on these soft trails.
On our team, Stephen Wassather, who works and trains with many of the fast dudes on Mt Tamalpais, finished in 3:48, 15th overall. I'm super happy for him and it's good for the team that we have runners faster than me! ;-) With courage and determination, Marc finished in 35th, just above 4 hours. Like me in 2013 when I had to rush for a red eye to Mexico, he had an evening flight to Hong Kong, way to live an ultra life!

Huge kudos again to Julie, her crew and army of volunteers for such a flawless organization (well, I didn't experience what it was to go through aid stations after 1,000 other runners...). It's hard to feed 1,200 hungry ultra runners but the small sandwich and the traditional cup cake were enough for me to drive back home. I stayed for an hour to connect with a few, but I admit that, after being away for a week, I was also eager to get back home for 36 hours before my next business trip to Columbus, OH, this Monday. I still managed to get an amazing treatment on my legs from the Monsters of Massage, so good that I was able to run 14 miles at 7:28 min/mile on Sunday, and 9 miles before my flight this Monday morning. Not even recovery runs, I'm back to training already! ;-) But 4 weeks before my next race (American River 50-mile), that looks like a huge break and vacation! Just need to keep training smart and stay healthy. Just...

Wishing you all to stay healthy as well!

PS: I did wear a big 89 in my back in memory and to honor Steve Avilla, his family and his trail running friends. Steve was supposed to run Way Too Cool this year, as his first ultra, but tragically passed away a week before while running on the trails (from a heart situation which he didn't know). As the bib was saying, Run In Peace, Steve...

Sunday, March 1, 2015

My 50th 50K: so cold, so hard, yet so cool!

It's not easy to find a race to celebrate your birthday, even much so a National Championship! With that, it was a no brainer for me to come back to Long Island, NY, to run the 50K Road National. Last year, I had just turned 50 and I had big hopes in my brand new age group. Unfortunately, I trained too hard in January and had to take a couple of weeks off before the race, leading to a poor performance (3:37) although it was good enough last year to win my age group and get a first National title.

Learning form 2014, I made sure to include a lot of variety in my early season training. Running the 100-mile Nationals too hard at Rocky Racoon was definitely foolish on my end and I was relieved to bounce back with a promising 3:21:58 at Jed Smith 50K a week later in Sacramento, 3 weeks before the Championship. I was also very pleased with my last tune-up, clocking 2:03:12 for 80 laps on the track. Now, that was in Californian weather, that is in Spring conditions since we are missing winter again for the 4th time in a row over there.

With such a level of fitness, my only concerns were the weather and how tired I will be have a strenuous week at our mega IBM InterConnect conference (20K participants, 6 speaking engagements and 18 executive 1:1s). I had a few short nights in Vegas (including a 4-hour one and, trust me, that was just to catch-up with emails and work...), but managed to sleep for straight 9 hours for the 2 nights I spent at home before jumping on a plan again. Now, for the weather, I couldn't do much. At least, it was great to hear that the area had "warmed up" significantly for our arrival, meaning that the temperature had raised from close to 0F to just above 20F. But, even a 24F at the start, that is -4C, still looked frigid for the Californian I have become... At least it wasn't supposed to snow before 1 pm on race day, and no wind either, phew!

Here are Roy Pirrung (see below) and Bill Dodson, our USATF Pacific Association Mountain and Ultra Running Chair, who turned 80 yesterday.
And the runners getting ready and trying to remain warm before the start.
I stayed for a good hour under the tent, so scared to get outside. When it was time, I went on the course to run half a mile and warm up the machine. I was wearing gloves that I use for cross-country skiing, yet my fingers were numb and I couldn't feel them. Kind of scary when you have at least 3 hours of running ahead... In these conditions, there was little hope to warm-up so I went out straight at my targeted pace which was around 6:20 min/mile. Beyond winning my age group, my main goal was to improve the American M50-54 record which has been set more than 32 years ago at 3:19:33. I knew it was a bit foolish in these conditions, but you don't have that many opportunities in life and every year which passes doesn't get you closer, doesn't increase you chance at it. I couldn't get a list of the registrants so I had no idea who was competing in the Masters category, I only knew that Michael Wardian was racing in Peru this weekend so that left some space. Michael turned 40 last year and he is remapping our Masters landscape as he is still very competitive event in the Open division!

Despite running at 6:20, I quickly lost sight of the lead group which was counting about a dozen runners I believe. The only chance to make the top 10 podium this year was going to be though patience and drops of a few of these front runners. But, again, that wasn't my goal.

I clocked 19:48 for the first of 10 5-kilometer loops which was the perfect pace, right on track. Assuming a perfect pace, the record corresponds to 10 times 19'57". After this good warm-up, I was feeling better, even starting to get really good. And, I'd admit it, I'm still young at heart, so I was feeling excited to see I could run with ease at the target pace. So, guess what, I did push the pace a little and passed the two runners ahead of me, lowering down the average pace to 6:16 in the next 4 laps which I covered in 19:25, 19:30, 19:30 and 19:35 respectively. After putting a few minutes in the bank, I started the 6th lap by having strange sensations, getting my far sight blurry. Not really dizzy, but I was afraid that is what was coming next... For one thing, I wasn't drinking as much as I usually do. I took one more S!Caps, tried to drink more GU2O and water, and took another GU gel. Just to be safe as I was otherwise on my Vespa Power regimen. Maybe it was just the cold getting to my eyes...

I covered lap 6 in 19:43 which was still a good time but, with this episode, I eased up a little and finished lap 7 right on 20 minutes (20:00.6!). I kept pushing in lap 8 but it was a bit harder in the little/short uphills. I managed to clock a marathon in 2:47 but I was definitely slowing down with 20:29 for that 8th lap. The record was still at reach if I could hold the 20 min/lap pace, but the doubt started filling my mind and, of course, my legs were lacking their early race freshness...

I ran the 9th lap in 21:29 which means that I was now at 2:59:33, "just" 20 minutes off the record for the last 5K. I started the lap believing it was doable but unable to really get back to my initial pace and I lost hope with 2.5 miles to go. My ultimate lap ended up way over 20 minutes alas, 21:42 to be exact, therefore 1:42 off the record. So long for this big birthday gift but my time was still good for 7th overall and first Masters this year (special thanks to Michael Wardian for racing in Peru this weekend...! ;-). It's Sunday night and the results are already on line, thanks to the chip timing.

I rushed inside the tent to avoid getting cold after such an effort and quickly changed. I did wear 2 long sleeves plus a wind-breaking jacket and didn't realize how much I had sweat during these 3 hours, my tops were trenched, oops! No wonder why I felt dizzy in lap 6, I'm glad I thought of doubling on sodium at that time. There was nothing hot to drink in the tent, just a cold Pepsi and piece of sandwich so, after the award ceremonies, congratulating a few of the top finishers and thanking Carl, the Race Director, I walked back to the car and drove to the Hilton for a nice hot shower. By that time, it was snowing, I'm so glad that the the snow started just as I was finishing...
It kept snowing pretty hard all afternoon, so much that I had 3 inches of fresh snow to scrap off my car to drive to the Marriott for a dinner with a few other champions, another nice birthday present! ;-)
From the right, next to me: Roy Pirrung had won his M65-69 age group, earning him his 82nd National title!! This was his 1,000th race, including 998 finishes. Roy is a legend in our sport and made it into the Masters Ultra  Running Hall of Fame. Next to him is Emily Harrison who won the race last year but had a bad day today so "only" placed 2nd. Ian Torrence has won many ultra trails and, despite suffering from the cold too, improved his time from last year. He also won the M40-45 age group. I met Brian Teason at Desert Solstice, we compete in the same age group. Next to Brian is Joseph Gray who ran professionally and is on Team USA. Joe had GI issues during the race which did cost him the podium this year. He still managed to finish in 3:07. As for Kevin Grabowski, I also met him at the Desert Solstice invitational in December. Kevin came in 9th overall, winning his M45-49 age group. Quite some speed around the table, and many running and racing stories for a lively post-race debrief.

Bill also stopped by to share his own account of the race. Unfortunately, he missed the M80-85 American record by mere 6 seconds out of 5.5 hours, so so close! He felt on an icy section earlier in the race, then collapsed at the finish line, which led the organizers to call an ambulance. Fortunately, Bill was fine, there is really no age to push the limits...

I didn't stop at the aid stations but I still want to thank the volunteers who stayed up in the cold, at the stations or on the course. I bet they had to "break the ice" forming in the cups of water... By the way, this weather makes me appreciate even more both where I live, as well as the hard work that runners in the North East have to put into training in such conditions. Kudos guys and gals!

I look forward to coming back but I would also like to find a race which isn't as risky, weather wise, to give the record another shot. Well, until our local Rich Hanna gives it a short himself as he would surely destroy it (Rich ran a 3:13 at Jed Smith last year, he was 49 and 6 months...).

In the meantime, I'll get back on the trail for Way Too Cool 50K. Yes, I know, this is crazy, it's in 6 days... Well, I have 6 days to taper then, with business meetings in New York and Oklahoma City, perfect excuse to want to race again next weekend to keep a balanced life! ;-)

It was my 50th 50K race out of 109 ultra races, Way Too Cool 2006 being my first one. It feels strange to think that I only ran 22 marathons in 17 years, even not that many 10Ks (45). What a ground covered in 9 years, so many new friendships and remote places explored, so many opportunities to keep pushing my own limits... And what a rewarding and meaningful addition to my life, along with family and work. So excited to see what the coming years and decades have in store to keep living a full life!

With these ramblings, it's time to go to bed, the best way to recover after such an effort. Have a great week all, Run Happy!

PS: a few snapshots from the award ceremony.

Overall winner, Zachary Omelas, 23, from Ann Arbor, MI, who took home an extra $1,000 for improving the course record by 75 seconds with a blazing 2:52:16! Quite a feat in these conditions!
 2nd place Tyler Andrews, 24, from Arlington VA.
 3rd place Kory Cool, 27, from Manhattan, KS.
 4th place Joseph Gray, 31, from Colorado Springs, CO.
 5th place Peter Maksimon (nor Adam Hewey! ;-), 36, Manitou Springs, CO.
 6th place Scott Traer, 33, from Wobum, MA.
 Oh, yes, that's me in 7th and 1st Masters! ;-)
 With Kevin Grabowski, 9th overall.
 #1, 4 and 5:
 Overall female winner, and 8th overall (I didn't get chicked this time! ;-): Sarah Bard, 30, from Somerville, MA.

 2nd female, Emily Harrison, 29, from Flagstaff, AZ.

In 3rd, ultra stud Keila Merino, 33, from New York, NY. Keila completed not only the Ultra Grand Slam last year (4 major 100-miles: Western States, Leadville, Hardrock , Wastach) but also the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in Europe. This year, she set another amazing challenge, run from Los Angeles, CA to... Long Island, NY. Wishing her very special wishes as she runs in Brooks!

And, 4th overall, 19-year old (!) and local runner, Lauren Dorsky: