Sunday, November 27, 2016

Quad Dipsea 2016: not worth it...

How dare I?! The venerable ultra Quad Dipsea not worth it? Oh no, I mean that I wasn't worth the Quad Dipsea today, just me, sorry...

I knew I was taking a big risk by showing up this morning. I was notoriously under train having just resumed running after yet another break, right with a race on Thursday, a solid 36:10 10K at the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot. The soreness in my legs afterwards was attenuated with a 9-mile training run this Friday, yet my legs still felt tired when I woke up at 4:30 this morning. However, I didn't feel it was a good reason not to honor my registration. Nor was the fact that I already won my age group PAUSATF MUT Grand Prix for the 10th consecutive year. Indeed my main goal today was to avoid getting a DNS (Did Not Start) this year. After last March stroke and a combination of minor injuries and bad stress at work, I had to pass on a few races and championships I had in mind at the beginning of the year but at least I have been lucky enough to be able to start all the races I was in, even if that triggered a few DNFs (Miwok, TRT). The other risk which I knew about getting to the start was that it was going to be rainy and that's definitely the weather I like to race in. That was my 5th Quad Dipsea and I have been quite lucky so far with the weather: I wasn't blogging in 2006 but Agnès' pictures show a perfectly clear blue sky (my finish time was 4:20:52). In 2008 (We all did it!), the conditions were also perfect when Erik Skaggs improved the course record and I PRed with 4:19:19. In 2009 (Chasing too many turkeys), the course was still in great conditions but I had run 2 Turkey Trots prior to the race and had a bad fall which slowed me down a bit (4:25:32). However, in 2014 (No fall, almost...), the trail got very slippery and everybody ran slower, even Chikara Omine (4:12) and Dave Mackey. I clocked my worse time at Quad Dipsea, 4:38:31.

I carpooled with Jeremy Johnson and Kent (Bull) Dozier to the start and we got a great parking spot thanks to the early arrival (~6:40). The bib desk crew was composed of 3 eminent ultra personalities: the founder and Race Director of the first 30 years, John (Tropical) Medinger, his wife Lisa Henson, and the omnipresent ultra volunteer, Stan Jensen.
It was drizzling at 8 am so I started with a light rain jacket and arm warmers on as well, which looked weird next to so many runners in singlets. The rain wasn't that bad on the first leg yet I was barely getting warm with the jacket so I kept it until our first passage at Stinson Beach, mile 7. With my tired legs I didn't want to slow people down in the first flight of stairs and let many runners rush in the bottleneck. I passed a few in these stairs but was surprised how hard it was for me to push, not a great feeling right off the bat. The climb to Cardiac, between mile 2 and 4 was challenging and, as opposed to my previous runs here, I did walk many sections which I felt quite bad about. Jeremy caught up with me before Cardiac and we ran the next 10 miles together, him faster on the descents, me catching up on the steep climbs. From the published splits we were between 25 and 30 at the Stinson Beach turn around. We barely gained a few spots on the way back to Mill Valley but caught up with a couple of runners. Just before the Cardiac aid station, I was just behind Jeremy when I saw him slip and fall in the mud, fortunately without injuring himself. A few minutes later, I caught up with another Quicksilver teammate,  John Burton, who was trying hard to stay up in the super slippery mud in Dynamite and, here again, he fell hard on his side just before my eyes. I was running in road shoes (Brooks Trance) to get some adherence in the stairs this time but I must admit it wasn't working very well in that mud either. That being said, everybody seemed to have issues in that section, even with trail shoes and I was quite pleased I didn't fall myself on that second leg, clocking the 19th time overall (1:13:52).

At the Mill Valley turnaround, I lost a few seconds trying to untie the jacket I had put around my waist. I was convinced that we had seen all the rain for the morning, don't ask me to predict the weather in Marin County...

I had a strong start of the third leg and was in good spirit at Windy Gap, passing by Willem van Dam who got this shot (Willem spent many hours at this road crossing, and Christine Chapon at the next one. An opportunity to remind all of us/you that Christine is still looking for volunteers for next week's North Face weekend in Marin Headlands).

However, I fell apart in the super muddy and slippery climb to Cardiac, both literally and mentally. I lost so much time and energy there that I started forming the thought of dropping at Stinson, not good... You cannot be ever proud of dropping but I must say I felt good to be in a car when the rain started pouring for the next 30 minutes or so. Without my jacket, I would have been miserable, like at Miwok in May. Moreover, I did not want to get back down Dynamite and risk another fall, it wasn't worth it. But the main reason I dropped is that today's experience and performance were way too far from the previous ones I had here and great memories of clocking legs around 60-65 minutes. Today my splits were 1:11:01, 1:13:52 and 1:23:07, I felt way to slow to be worth a Dipsea finish... But at least, with a Tri Dipsea, I got a good hilly training run and saw and met many familiar faces which definitely made the trip up to Marin County worth it! Special thanks to Eric and David from Sebastopol who drove me back to the start after their aid station shift at Stinson. And to Errol (Rocket) Jones for making me smile just before I decided to drop, you can't resist Rocket's jovial enthusiasm! ;-)

Favorite David Roche remained in control of the race throughout the morning and won this year's edition in 4:11:32 (Buzzword Productions did a great job of posting preliminary results and splits promptly on Saturday evening. And I didn't contact them already to let them know that I didn't run the 4th leg as opposed to what's in these initial results). Quite a performance in these conditions, I'm sure he'll be back to get closer to Alex's record on a dry course. The thing to note about David is how many "You are amazing" encouragements he must have mentioned to runners today, probably a few hundreds!

By the way, speaking of amazing, it appears that the M50-59 age group record has been busted by 2nd place finisher, Darrin Banks. The previous record, 4:28:23, was set by Alfred Bogenhuber and did stand for 25 years! Darrin's time in today's poor conditions was a blazing 4:21:16. WOW!!

Before leaving, it was fun to watch Jamil Coury and Schuyler Hall live recording their next clip which I look forward to watching.

If you haven't seem some of their videos, check this one for instance (no rating, but some graphic content... ;-):
Speaking of drop bag, here was mine today, that was the only plastic bag I had in the trunk of my car to keep a couple of items dry in this storm, at the turnaround. So long for thinking that this age group record was in the bag as I joked with our Quicksilver Club President, Greg Lanctot (photo credit)! ;-)
On our way back, we stopped by the San Francisco Running Company (SFRC), after contemplating a sharp and full double rainbow captured by Kent from the car. Big thanks to SFRC for all the support they provide to our local races and community, and, Jorge, good luck for North Face 50 next week!

Again, back to the audacious or provocative title, of course Quad Dipsea is super worth it! Amazing experience to run and race on the legendary Dipsea trail, great athletic challenge despite the short ultra distance (28 miles), outstanding organization, super experienced volunteers, many if not most being ultra runners themselves. Great show from the local Tamalpa Running Club, both among these volunteers and on the course too. This race is so well organized that its Race Director, John Catts, was even able to run it! It was also cool to see Craig Thornley, Western States Race Director running with the bib #1. As well as Steve Jaber celebrating his birthday by running Quad Dipsea in such great spirit.

Finally, after 4 years of serious drought, we certainly can't complain about a bit of rain which is much needed! So running Quad Dispea this year was definitely worth it again, quite a few actually PR'ed today (yes, Nakia and Loren!)! As for me, I just need to keep sorting things out in my mind and body...

Friday, November 25, 2016

Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 2016: thankful for being back on trot!

One sentence grabbed my attention in the few minutes before the start of our race this Thursday morning, from one of the event sponsors: "Don't take health for granted. There is no too slow of a pace to be a participant today!"

I must admit that, for the past 20 years or so, I've taken my ability of running for granted. This year has shaken my confidence significantly and I'm really way more appreciative of each run these days. Since my 200 kilometers at the US 24-hour Nationals in September for instance, I had to take 5 weeks off because of some inflammation of the sesamoids under the right foot. I resumed training with a 100-mile week and, bingo, I had to stop again for a week due to an acute pain on the left tibia. So, this Thursday morning, I didn't know what to expect and I was just enjoying every of the 6 miles like it could be the last one...

Just toeing the line was a big deal because it meant 8 consecutive participations out of 12 editions of this great local and popular event. Nice strike and I'm thankful the family has participated to most of them as well, this is a great way to start a Thanksgiving celebration! Here is my collection of tshirts, and a few medals.

It was the 5th year that IBM was among the sponsors which adds another personal note to it. This year we gathered about 80 participants under the IBM name, including colleagues, family members and friends.
But the credit for the success of this event goes to Carl Guardino, the CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) who came with this idea with his wife in 2005. Carl has such charisma, he was enjoying greeting and thanking individually many of the 1,000 volunteers supporting this large scale fund-raising initiative.

The start was at 8:30 but I was on site at 6:40 in order to set up our mic at the IBM-sponsored Festival area main stage, and help an IBM colleague put up our banner at the IBM tent in the Fittest Firm area. Ron then volunteered as one of the lead bikes on the 10K so I saw him a couple of times while running. The sky was clear but it was quite chilly at 7 am and we had hard time attaching the banner as there was ice on the poles!

After that, I had the opportunity to see the start of the Elite Women 5K race (7:30), then Men (8:00) between several warm-up intervals.

These Kenyans have really thin legs, but long ones making for a huge stride!

It was great to see Jose Pina Jr among these elites. I've raced with him since he was 10 but it has been 4-5 years since he now beats me at the speed game. His father, Jose Sr, is also a very accomplished and fast runner. Jose Jr ran the XC Nationals (NCAA) last week. This Thursday he finished 24th in this amazing field, running the 5K in a blazing 14:43 (4:45 min/mile).

I met Agnès, Max and Greg in the same garage I was parked at (Market/San Pedro).

At 8:30 it was our turn to get to run. This year, the start was organized by corrals based on expected finish times, mixing 5K and 10K.

That made for an interesting start because we didn't know who was on which race.

The split between the two groups happened at mile 3 at which point it was clearer to see who was ahead. I had just passed the mile 4 mark when I saw the lead runner on the 10K approaching the 5-mile banner, with an impressive 4-minute lead. As I was just back from injury I had hard time keeping the pace under 5:50 this time but, again, each mile without pain on my tibia was a source of satisfaction. I got passed by a couple of high schoolers in the last mile, that is always humbling. I crossed the finish line in 36:10, far from my best here but reasonable given the circumstances. With 25,000 runners, there are probably a few mistakes in the results but as of Friday evening, I appear to have finished 21st overall, 2nd Masters, and 1st in my age group. And second age-graded performance out of 6430. Good thing the elite guys had a race of their own (on the Men 5K, 15 athletes had a 90%+ performance deemed world class! Oh, and I didn't get checked this year again! ;-)

At 9:30, Sheila, an IBM colleague, led 30 minutes of stretching routines on our IBM stage then I met a few other colleagues before everyone drove home for the rest of their Thanksgiving celebration.

Yet another very successful event, looking forward to keeping the tradition for many years to come. Without taking the ability to participate for granted, and being thankful for being part of it while it lasts! In the meantime, I will give Quad Dipsea a try this Saturday. 28 grueling miles running the Dipsea trail in Marin County 4 times in a row, a very different challenge... It will be my 5th Quad Dipsea and it looks like it's going to be a rainy one. And an interesting one as my legs are still quite sore between yesterday's sprint and 9 more miles at 7:05 min/mile this Friday. Anyway, leaving home at 5:30 am tomorrow morning so better get to bed. I don't think there will be many of the Turkey Trotters doing that double but one of my Quicksilver teammate, Kat Powel, is. Crazy stuff... ;-)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

California and Cupertino, I'm proud of you!

The result of this Presidential election in the US has been an amazing shock for everybody on this planet: an unbelievable positive outcome for the Trump supporters and, ironically, even for the conservative Republicans who agreed with others that wasn't a suitable candidate to lead such a super power. And an unbearable news for those who couldn't accept the hate in this candidate's speeches, denigration of numerous minorities and lack of consistent program. Well, with all the power on one side, and a potential far right one, many Americans are trembling about the thought of going backward in the coming 2 years, so far that it will take decades to recover. Not just on the environment side but social progress too.

I know we are blessed in California with so much diversity and entrepreneurial spirit. But, really, the Mid West sending a message this way? Like if protectionism was the solution... Take automotive for instance: should Toyota close their 6 plants in the US, all of them in so called red states? Nissan its plants in Tennessee and Mississippi? Hyundai its plant in Alabama? Honda its plants in Ohio and Indiana? The irony is to see all the Republican establishment now super excited to take full control, see the big Oil magnates ready to break more ground, devastate more of our American Federal soil. What about big Pharma companies whose stocks surged on the news that they will be under less regulation and able to apply the prices they want? And Wall Street which should see the post-2008 crisis controls waived. Really, that's what the blue collar class of the Mid West voted for, thinking this will improve their lives? I doubt they benefited much from this week's Dow Jones record high... How ironic, and sad, it's going to see them become the first victims of such policies... Maybe they weren't so attentive to the facts and news, for instance that many things had improved in our country these past years.

With that very bitter intro, I want to highlights a few things which I found remarkable closer to home because they show how much more responsible and altruist people are here. Ok, not a perfect picture, there has been quite a few protest votes (Clinton only clinched 73% in our 875,000-voter strong Santa Clara County, versus 93% in DC), and we still didn't managed to repeal the death penalty in California, but I was blown away, positively, by the passing of Measure B, which consists in an additional 0.5% sales tax in order to fund infrastructure projects (roads and public transportation). You see, here, we are not waiting for the Federal Government to fund our infrastructure, we stand up and everybody is going to chip in because this is just the right thing to do. Additionally, we also overwhelmingly agreed to get our property taxes increased in order to fund housing for low income families. Again, not because we are all socialists or communists (!), but because this is the right thing to do.

Locally, our Cupertino city population had a big debate about sensible growth and, here as well, we stood up to the developers who had come up with a gigantic project which would have put way too much pressure on our local road infrastructure and schools. See for yourself: they had proposed to replace 600,000 sqft of retail space with 2,000,000 sqft of offices PLUS 800 apartments PLUS 188 hotel rooms. And all the required parking space of course, all that, a block away from the new Apple Campus which will welcome more than 11,000 employees in a year! A great example of unsustainable growth.

The irony is that, blocking the views of our nearby hills with 95-ft high buildings, they came up with the ingenuous idea of topping the project with a 24-ft green cover to give our hill views back, how convenient... Needless to say, the cover was green on the project brochures, although we aren't supposed to water our yards with the recurring drought.

To celebrate this local victory, I ran yesterday in these nearby hills and below are a few pictures to show you that we definitely don't need artificial hills at Vallco! All this nature right accessible less than 2 miles from downtown, this is paradise on earth, no need to alter it! Here is my route on Strava:

I'm so glad to be Californian this week. There is a strong feeling that we might have come to a point we should quit the Union on such a cleavage of opinions... I would never thought of this before but I'm sure many have looked at the's CalExit website this week. On one hand, I'd feel sorry that the answer to an isolationist propaganda triggers more egocentrism, like I'm afraid this will be the case in Europe with such British then American examples. On the other, how much more positive progress we could accomplish by taking for instance the whole West Coast with us (we need some water and I'm sure the NorthWest wouldn't mind sharing some of the rain they get... ;-). This way, we can keep our borders open with Mexico and Canada, and the rest of the World through the Pacific. This may not save the planet from global warming and other insanities but, you have to admit, this could be a way to remain free and preserve our rich diversity and positive spirit from the many chains trying to slow us down, no?

In the meantime, my fellow Cupertino residents, we must enjoy our natural hills while they last...

Garrod Farms vineyards and horse stables:
 View of the South Bay from Parker Ranch Trail (Saratoga)
 Fremont Older Open Space Preserve (pdf map), overseeing Cupertino
 The entrance at the end of Prospect Road

Monday, November 7, 2016

Back to the top! And a great escape from the current turmoil...

Oh no, not back to the top of my form/shape yet, that would be a big claim and certainly not reflecting the long period of questioning and doubt that it has been since March 6's TIA then again since September 18's sesamoiditis and a few other side effects...

No, just a short update to share the delight of getting back on the trails and to the top... of Black Mountain. 28 miles today, just under 4 hours (not counting several stops to refill my bottles or take pictures). Last time I ran on a trail was on September 10 when glowsticking the PCTR Headlands Hundred course. 8 weeks of trail deprivation...

When I look at the map on Strava, I see a great escape from the the turmoil of the city and valley, in the midst of this agitated, frustrating and confusing election time, in our wonderful nearby green hills. We certainly DO NOT need artificial hills at Vallco! Nature is so resourcing, let's enjoy it while it lasts, and vote toward sensitive growth everywhere we can through choosing our elected leaders, selecting the right measures on the ballot and our daily actions...

With that, it makes 100.7 miles since I resumed running 9 days ago. Including this good session to prep for Quad Dipsea in less than 3 weeks now (not to forget the Turkey Trot 10K 2 days before). The sesamoids seem to behave, but I now feel a pain higher up the 2nd metatarsal articulation, go figure... If it's any indication, I think I'm either finally aging, rusting or relearning the pain it takes to run that much.

Nonetheless, it was a great day to run again, seeing bikers and hikers at the top of Black Mountain, enjoying the warm Fall we have so far and just a bit of drizzling on the way back. We may not have much of seasons, but that still looks like Fall to me, doesn't it?

These shots were taken on the Waterwheel trail which runs between the top of Montebello Road toward the summit of Black Mountain. One of my favorite trails around!

As for this rather cloudy, foggy and aerial one, guess what is the large white/gray structure at the center of the picture? Apple's coming space ship, whose structure is finally completed. This is really big... the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story movie will soon be upon us...

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Santa Clara County Heroes Run 5K: running, service and... politics

I was attracted by this race for three reasons. First, like the Big Bunny Fun Run on Easter Saturday, it is the closest race from home, with a start and finish just a block away in Cupertino. Second, since I'm still uncertain about the state of the sesamoiditis under my right foot, 5K seems like a reasonable distance to building up the training. Last but not least, I missed running and racing for 6 weeks...

When I say that 5K is a good distance to build up, I'm not being honest: I did log 100K this week with runs ranging from 10 to 25K and taking Thursday off. Yes, I could have gone more gradually but I needed to see where my foot... stand on the recovery matter. After a week, I'm still uncertain about the state of the inflammation as I estimate that I feel too many things through the extremity of my foot, yet not the acute pain I had under the ball 7 weeks ago. Maybe I'm getting too obsessed with the listening of that part of my body. Also, I have to admit that my legs got quite sore, which is a proof that my body is relearning to run...

Speaking of which, I wanted to use this short race as a fitness test, see what was left or lost after this month and half break. I had finished my 10K training run yesterday by finally getting under 6 min/mile but it didn't feel comfortable at all.

The race was quite an interesting cocktail. Part of it made it look like a serious race for instance: registration on the pricey, chip timing, several road closures, street signage announcing the event days before, lead escort by two Sheriff motorcycles and a few fast-looking runners at the start. Then there was the normal focus on the groups serving our Santa Clara County which is the main theme of the event: fire department, medical response center and the Sheriff department. This event aims at recognizing them although the main goal is to raise money to provide health services to under-privileged kids at the Santa Clara Medical Response Center. Third, that was a post Halloween social party with a costume contest attracting many kids and families.

 With that, the start was quite an experience. First, the event was advertised at 8:30 but the bib pick-up only started at 8. Sure enough, people were still in line at 8:30 and we actually started at 9 instead. After several warm-ups, and the temperature rising, I was definitely warm and eager to get going. Now, about 25 police staff in uniform were on the course between the lead vehicles and the start line and the started jogging when we took off, forcing us to go around them when reaching the first sharp turn on the course. Oh, and there were a couple of baby strollers trying to get to the front before the start. Fortunately, we managed to avoid a fall and, running around 5:15 min/mile, we were about 10 runners by the second turn but that aggressive pace quickly took its toll and spread our group.

Kevin Pierpoint (40) and Jason Gomez (16) were leading, then Ernesto Aristeo (37) close behind. At this rate I was happy to be in 5th, behind Peter Trudelle (31). Before the end of the first mile, Ahmet Gokcek (48) caught up with Peter and I before I took the lead for the next 1.5 mile, albeit slowing down our average pace from 5:30 at mile 1 down to 5:43. They both passed me as I was losing steam but we finished within 7 seconds. I was actually quite pleased with my time of 17:08 given the circumstances and lack of specific training, before realizing that the course was short (3.0 miles on my GPS). But still an encouraging solid sprint and the satisfaction to get back to some speed!

The local attraction, Elliot Daniels, crossed the line in 17:31. Quite a phenomenon as he already owns a few age group world records (it took me 50 years to get one, and he is only 13...)! He is so skinny though that you have to wonder if he isn't pushing too hard too young. I had discussed this with his coach, Joe Sanders and when I mentioned this again to his father at the start, he replied that he knew better because they were 3 generations of Olympians. Well, then it must be in the gene clearly, no need to worry! ;-)

After chatting with a few other finishers, I went back on the course for another loop and caught up with the festive back of the pack, mostly walking and enjoying the amazing weather we had today. To continue on the multi facet aspect of this race, the award ceremony was rather odd: they distributed a plaque to the top 3 men, top 3 women and top 3 boys under 16. And 3 best costumes. An eclectic and unusual selection. But the big deal seemed to be the team competition between the Santa Clara Fire and Sheriff Departments, the latter taking the cup home.

Indeed, an opportunity to honor all these heroes serving our local community!

After that ceremony, I went back on my usual local training loop to log 7.5 miles of cool down and stop by the event area again to approach the Sheriff Department's helicopter which we often see circling above our heads.

Back to the title, what about politics then. A couple of speakers on the stage noted that everybody was tired about this election, but it's not a done deal until Tuesday... And Sand Hill knows it, pouring so much money to brain wash all of us with an average of 4 fliers each day in our mailboxes. As much as we all agree that something has to be done for our nearby Vallco shopping center, the developer's project maths don't add up: too many office space at a time Apple is going to free up when moving to their space ship, too many apartments in an area when schools are already over crowded, too much traffic already when Apple hasn't even open its doors to more than 11,000 employees. I'm disgusted by the dynamics this has created within our local community, with the richer residential part happy that all the development projects asphyxiate the other side of the city... So here is my sign on my virtual lawn... See for more information.

If you live in Cupertino and don't like C, at least please vote no on D, so Sand Hill revised his project in something more sensible for all.

Run Cupertino Run, and vote for a sensible growth!