Friday, July 31, 2015

Redwood Anvil 20-mile: so glad to be back on our hills!

It has been a few days already, but what a come-back weekend in California! I was really excited to run the inaugural Redwood Anvil 20-miler following an invitation from the 4 Race Directors. My Wednesday flight from Paris got cancelled but I made it on Thursday, leaving plenty of time before Sunday's race. I even decided to go for a run upon landing, and another one on Friday, planning on enjoying a 1-day taper on Saturday...

Saturday morning was meant to be quiet, with only one business conference call with an IBM team at 10 am but I could barely made it to the end of the call, starting shivering and having to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes to pee. A few hours later, I was diagnosed with a bladder/urinary infection and put right away on antibiotics. I then spent 4 hours alternating a few minutes of sleep and sprints to the bathroom throughout the rest of the afternoon. By dinner time, I felt slightly better, yet the odds seem pretty slim for a race the next morning.

I woke up at 4:30 am, took another antibiotic and a light breakfast and decided to give it a try anyway. I got to the start by 7 am, allowing for some time to meet the race directors and a few other runners before the start. This race not being an ultra, nor a PAUSATF race, there weren't too many familiar faces for a change.

The 10-miler started first at 8 am

And the 20-miler kicked-off at 8:15 am. I only knew two runners in our race, Ron Gutierrez and Michael Fink. Although I have run on some of the course trails at other local races such as Skyline 50K and FireTrails 50-mile, I didn't quite visualize the convoluted course despite an amazingly detailed and neat description on the race website (worth checking for yourself, Moongate Racing is setting the bar high for other race directors! ;-). Between this novelty and my health conditions, I figured out that I will run the first loop conservatively then hammer the second loop eventually, after having discovered the profile.

A runner took off and disappeared from our sight in the first mile. In the first hill and series of switchbacks, I stayed behind Ron, in 3rd and in a small pack of 6-7 runners. We were not even at mile 2 when we started catching up and passing the tail of the 10-mile race. By mile 3 I felt good enough to pass Ron and push the pace a bit in the final steep climb up to the ridge.

I didn't stop at the Moongate aid station, mile 4.9, and did my best in the subsequent steep and technical downhill, trying really hard to avoid a fall. This was so uncomfortable that I was relieved to get to the next climb! 

The course was extremely well marked with a mix of bright orange ribbons and many arrows on the ground. So many arrows and so much flour that it took me 30 minutes to erase a dozen or so of these arrows a few hours later in the Park, after the race was over, thinking of Sarah (Lavender-Smith) who was sweeping the rest of the loop for us (next time I'm sweeping, I need to think of bringing a broom! ;-).

I completed the first loop in 1:16 and didn't even stop at the aid station to ask how far ahead the lead runner was. I was already pushing hard enough anyway, I wasn't going to speed up. At mile 13, I asked a group of hikers if they had seen a runner and they replied with a "oh yes, he is less than a mile ahead" which wasn't so helpful because it meant between 0 and 7 minutes. At Moongate, mile 14.8, a volunteer pointed me at 3:40, too large of a gap to close in 5 miles. I kept pushing and using the side of the trail to run as much as possible in the shade and was quite happy with a 2nd place and a time of 2:36:27.

Christian Fitting, 38 from Berkeley, had won the race, missing the 2:30 mark by 30 seconds. Lance Doherty completed the podium with a 2:44:53 finish.

On the women side, another local, Anna Zielaski, won in 2:54:47.

20 miles look short compare to ultras, but the 3,600 feet of cumulative elevation made for quite an athletic effort.

The field was small but the race was professionally organized like the best events in California! For one thing, Moongate Racing had partnered with the Queen of race direction, Julie Fingar and her NorCal Ultra crew. Even the timing was super pro, with Rich Hanna's Capitol Road Race Management (CCRM). And to top that, very nice and helpful volunteers at aid station and wonderful smells from Bob's Breakfast Bar open throughout the morning.

We are really blessed to have all these events in our Bay Area backyards, I highly recommend this new race which provide the perfect tune-up before the early August Skyline 50K. Very professional organization, great sponsors and goody bag, friendly and relaxed atmosphere, many and big thanks to the 4 Moongate Racing musketeers! Thank you for the opportunity to... hammer it again and push our limits!

[Missing on the pictures below, David La Duc who was up at the Moongate aid station]

Monday, July 27, 2015

Too busy in France, yet still running, whee!

I can't believe it has been almost 4 weeks already since my last post on this blog which I have been trying to keep on a weekly pace so diligently for 8 years... I have to admit that I lost a bit of life balance lately, trying to juggle some time-off, family time, a few real estate projects with work and running and, in the mix, the blogging fell behind. At least those following me on Strava knew that I was still alive and actually kept moving all this time... thankfully! For the 4 weeks I spent in France just following my 129 miles at the Summer Solstice 24-hour, I managed to log 500 kilometers (311 miles), most of them actually during the canicule which hit the country pretty hard this year, another unfortunate proof if needed that our planet is really getting warmer...

While some of my friends enjoyed Western States, Hard Rock, Tahoe Rim Trail and many more events which I followed on line, I ran
  1. 103 miles in the Granville area in Normandy;
  2. 148 miles in and around Paris;
  3. and 60 miles in Haute-Savoie in the Alps (Annecy and Chamonix).
Not quite Le Tour de France, but a great mix of ocean beaches and mountains, not to forget a few days in Paris of course, can't complain!

I already wrote several times about my favorite runs in the Paris and Granville areas in case you have the opportunity to visit. I'll try to post something in August about the two places I ran in the Alps. But I wanted to let you know that, despite my silence, I was still "ultra alive" and I'm actually back to California just in time to race the inaugural Redwood Anvil 20-mile organized by Moongate Racing, in the hills over Oakland this Sunday. Looking forward to reconnecting with many of my Californian running buddies after this busy European trip and experience.

By the way, one note about the shoes I used for these 300 miles. One of my biggest sustainable running advice is to rotate through 2 to 3 different models during each week. Now, I travel with a carry-on, even for 4 weeks abroad, so there is no way I carry more than a pair of running shoes during these trips. I'm a big fan of the minimalist Brooks PureProject series, but the minimal cushioning would have been insufficient to run all these miles. So I packed a brand new pair of my favorite trainers, the Brooks Launch (which, as I found out at the Summer Solstice event, is also Jon Olsen's favorite training shoe. And for those who don't know, Jon won the World 24-hour in 2013 with 172 miles, also setting a new American Record).

When I discovered the Brooks brand upon settling in the US in 1998, I first bought a pair of Trance, then 9 more pairs, following all the updates between the original model to the Trance 8 one. Overall, I ran 9,952 miles in them and, back then, I couldn't imagine switching to something else. But then the Launch appeared and took off, and I was hooked right away. Still some great cushioning for recovery and long training runs, but much lighter and nimbler than the Trance. I'm at 5,400 miles in them and I'm so glad that, under the pressure of the Launch fan club, Brooks decided to continue this model 2 years ago.

Actually, many people ask me how far I run in my shoes, so here is a visual hint below, a lot... After all, it's not because Brooks was generous enough to sponsor me for 6 years (this ended in March) that I should not use them to the fullest, like most customers, right?
And that's what my pair of Launch looked after the 500 kilometers in France:
Compared to a brand new one:
Not too bad, I'm a few hundred miles away a tire rotation...! ;-)

As for 1,129 miles, that's clearly on the high side, yet this pair still provides great spring and cushioning on dusty trails. But I would concede these can be labelled as worn out.
Yes, I'm not as neutral as I would like to be (wear on the outside of the heel), but the asymmetrical wear mainly comes from my foot angle which I don't close even when running fast. Anyway, analysis of my gait wasn't the purpose of the discussion, the point I wanted to make is that you need a great model of training shoes when you can only pack one pair for several weeks. And the Brooks Launch does the perfect job for me!

Again, looking forward to seeing many of you in California over the coming weeks and races. And stay tuned for a few more posts of the coming days and weeks to catch-up!

PS: if you are up to, feel free to leave comments on your own shoe mileage, especially for training shoes (flats are different beasts).