Saturday, December 30, 2017

USATF Runners of the Year 2017: better be USATF!

Our National USA Track and Field officials, most of them volunteers, met in Columbus, OH, a month ago for the 2017 Annual Convention. If, like me, you are particularly interested in MUT things (i.e. Mountain, Ultra and Trail running), you can consult the meeting minutes of the National MUT Council.

One thing which isn't in the minutes, however, is the result of the vote for the coveted USATF Runners of the Year titles. I must admit that this process was a bit obscure to me and I was stunned to discover that, this year, I had gotten three automatic nominations thanks to my three Master wins at the three Nationals I competed in (Fourmidable 50K Trail in Auburn, the epic 100K Road one week before my Boston podium, and the 50M Road in October). On FaceBook though, I admitted that this was just the result of a poor participation in these Nationals (lack of elite showing up at the Championships nowadays), and I was sure there would be plenty of additional nominations in the meantime, more worthwhile.

Personally, in the Masters Ultra Trail category whose competitiveness I know too well, I was thinking for instance at:

  1. Jeff Browning who finished 20th overall at UTMB, won the Bear 100-mile, and finished 4th overall at Western States, all this at 45!
  2. Michael Wardian who raced more than 50 times this year and placed on the podium most of the time;
  3. Paul Terranova: overall win at Bandera 50K, 22nd overall at TDS (Chamonix)
  4. Jesse Haynes: 5th at HURT 100 mile, 8th at Western States, overall win at Chimera 100-mile, 4th at Miwok 100K;
  5. Dominick Layfield: overall win at Montane Spine (UK) and Quicksilver 100K, 5th overall at Leona Divide 50-mile, 14th overall at Western States and 3rd at Rio Del Lago 100-mile.
But I must confess it's hard to keep track of who is doing what, every year, given the large number of ultra races around the world today, so I'm certainly missing key names.

Looking at the results, I became intrigued about the process and spent some time on the phone with Joe Fejes who stepped up to give up his time to administer this vote. I learned that 40 or so representatives of MUT Councils around the country were consulted (something I was surprised to learn since I now represent the Pacific Association for MUT, the largest USATF constituent in the US, but I did get the message).

Now, per Richard Bolt's post and call for nominations, that part of the process, the nominations, is actually very open since everyone can propose a name. I'm making a note of getting in the loop earlier next year and advertise this capability. I also suggested to Joe to ensure that each association had enough notice to nominate their best local candidates as they should know best what their local USATF members have achieved during the year.

Last but not least, as for the selection criteria, the number one is that, as the USATF RoY titles says, candidates have to be serious about USATF. Number one, be a USATF member in good standing ($25 yearly fee, or $20 if you register for 5 years). Number two, participate to USATF events, ideally at the National at least, and possibly at the International level for the best who are making Team USA. Number three, perform well at these events, if not in absolute with a National-class performance, at least relatively to the rest of the field.

With that, congrats to the 2017 USATF Runners of the Year whom you can find in Richard's post.
  • Mountain Runners of the Year:
    • Lyndon Ellefson Memorial Mountain Runner of the Year: Joseph Gray, 33, Colorado Springs, CO
    • Master’s Man: Chris Grauch, 45, Boulder, CO
    • Women’s Open: Addie Bracy, 31, Longmont, CO
    • Master’s Woman: Sara Wagner, 45, Flagstaff AZ
  • Sub-Ultra Trail Runners of the Year:
    • Men’s Open: Mario Mendoza, 31, Bend, OR
    • Men’s Master: Chris Grauch, 45, Boulder, CO
    • Women’s Open: Renee Metivier, 35, Bend, OR
    • Master’s Woman: Corinne Walton, 47, Portland, OR
  • Ultra Trail Runners of the Year:
    • Men’s Open: Max King, 37, Bend, OR
    • Men’s Master: Chad Lasater, 45, Houston, TX
    • Women’s Open: Courtney Dauwalter, 32, Golden, CO
    • Master’s Woman: Caroline Boller, 42, Solvang, CA
  • Ultra Road Runners of the Year:
    • Ted Corbitt Memorial Ultra Runner of the Year: Patrick Reagan, 30, Savannah, GA
    • Men’s Master: Olivier LeBlond, 45, Arlington, VA
    • Ruth Anderson Memorial Ultra Runner of the Year: Camille Herron, 34, Warr Acres, OK
    • Master’s Woman: Pam Profitt Smith, 43, Salem, OR
  • Contributor of the Year:
    • Tracey Outlaw
Why did Chad Lasater made the Ultra Trail Masters over the other names I mentioned above? Because he competed in two USATF Nationals this year and won the Masters division at the 100K trail and 100-mile trail championships in his local Texas. And not the others.

Anyway, thank you especially to Joe and Richard for organizing this vote, it was really cool to get nominated next to legends such as Max King, Olivier LeBlond, Pam Smith, Camille Heron or Courtney Dauwalter. At 54 next year, I don't expect that to repeat so let me savor the moment and capture it in a blog so I remember when I get too old for this... ;-) But, at a minimum, the process shows that it is open to many who are dedicated to USATF and its races which abound in age group awards at every National Championship around the country. Check the list of the MUT 2018 Nationals and plan accordingly then!

If you live in North California, and are not a member already, consider joining our Pacific Association and competing with one of our local teams, either in Cross-Country, ultra or road races!
With this ultimate post for the year, all the best in 2018, go full speed with MUT and USATF!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

2017 in review: my racing in one picture!

I borrowed this idea from one my Quicksilver teammates, Stephen, on Facebook. The purpose is to spare you from one my long posts knowing that a single picture is worth a thousand words. However, while it was meant to save me a lot of time too by skipping the writing, it turned out to be one of these interesting holidays project...

First I had to gather all the artifacts together, from around the house and even the office, only to realize I had left a few behind, in France, this summer. Second, I thought I'd up the game by adding an hyperlink to each race report. I had never done such image web mapping, one opportunity to learn some additional markup language instructions and install GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program).

Here you are, you can hover over the artifacts and click to jump to that particular post, if you want to know the story behind a bib, a plaque or vase...

By the way, if you find it's already a busy picture and racing season with 18 races, can you imagine what Michael Wardian's post would be with his 50 races this year! In our ultra running sport, there is always someone to push the enveloper further. And farther!

I'll have my traditional year-in-review post with more statistics in January (update: here it is!), once I'm really done with the year. Meanwhile, that's it for that picture worth way more than a thousand words! And keep Running Happy!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

POST @ 40: what an amazing environmental impact!

We are so blessed in Silicon Valley, I'm not going to say this is paradise on Earth and the best place to live because, first, it's hard to prove, second, it's subjective and third, not everybody can afford living here and we couldn't welcome 7 billion people in the Bay Area anyway! But...

Anyway, one of the major wonders of Silicon Valley is that it created so much wealth from innovation and that several of the richest families living on the Peninsula invested millions toward preserving the hills around the Bay and the Pacific Coast, for future generations to enjoy, before these outdoors succumb to extensive development like it is the case around Los Angeles for instance.
POST stands for Peninsula Open Space Trust and it has been established 40 years ago, in 1977. Basically, it is a private and not-for-profit organization whose mission is to buy property whose preservation is endangered by development or misuse then turn such estate to outdoor preservation organizations such as County, Regional or State Parks. These Parks systems require public consultations, approvals and funding before taking over any new piece of land and that typically takes years. POST is here to fill the gap before developers make their move. Hence the critical role of this organization to preserve our ecosystem.

You can see the extent of the impact POST had had over these 4 decades on this map:
The impressive list of the 101 projects (click on the image to open, zoom and read):

Have a look at key milestones during these 40 years.

And if you think that we are done after so many projects, look at this year's acquisition of a endangered beach, Tunitas Creek Beach, just South of Half Moon Bay, great move!

POST also promotes many activities that everyone, not just ultra runners, can enjoy in these wonderful open space preserves: hiking, walking, running, backpacking, bird watching, you pick how you want to most enjoy life!

In addition to taking advantage of all this protected land for free, you can also support POST's mission by donating. And many companies will actually match your gift, make sure to check that out to double your own impact!

And if you give more than $1,000, you'll be welcomed into the Skyline Society. We actually kicked off the 40-year anniversary milestone celebrations last January with a fascinating talk from Alvaro Jaramillo, an expert birder who made us more aware of some local wonders as well as those he shares in his expeditions (

With Chuck Wilson and Christine Miller:

Again, if you believe in the protection of the environment and wildlife, if you enjoy the outdoors, please consider supporting POST's mission; the next generations will thank you for this exemplary way to contribute and build a sustainable future!

A few pictures from our nearby Black Mountain and Rhus Ridge areas.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

USATF Phidippides award: Rated M, as in Mature and... Masters!

A disclaimer: this post isn't for any audience, but mature runners only! And not any adult, but those serious runners 40-year old or older... ;-)

If you fall in this category, and are still collecting running trophies, another perk of being a USATF member is that you can apply to get a Phidippides award. And the cool thing is that, for that one, you don't have to run fast, but just finish a certain number of races. You'll then receive a plaque at your name and, every 5 awards, you even get a glass trophy called the Crystal Award!
What are the requirements? Submit a log of your results and submit them to USATF (email address included in the application form), that's it! No cost, no shipping fee, all this included in your $25 yearly Pacific Association USATF membership!

The criteria are two folds. First, you get points based on the race distance (they even added an ultra category this year, although you'll get the same number of points for a 50K or a 100-mile):

Race Distance Points per Race
1 mile to 4km 1 point
5km to 5mile 2 points
10km to 15km 3 points
10miles to Half Marathon 4 points
25km to Marathon 5points
Distances longer than Marathon 6 points

You then sum the points and get a level which depends on your age:

Age: 40-59 years 60-79 years 80+
#Points required #Points required #Points required
Gold 30 24 12
Silver 24 18 6
Bronze 12 9 3

So, for those of you competing in our Pacific Association Ultra Grand Prix especially, 5 ultra marathons will get you a Gold award under 60, or 2 if you are over 80 like Bill Dodson is. Or less ultras, but a few shorter races, you get the drill and maths.

While December 31st is the cut-off date for races to be considered, don't procrastinate if you already have enough points, you could miss the January 31st deadline for submitting your application form. And that date is non negotiable, I already tried for you and missed it one year, there is no appeal or excuse.

See the detailed rules on line, the application form and go for it, in honor and memory of Phidippides (aka Pheidippides or Philippides), be that hero!

PS: the name brings back mixed memories of my marathon slog between Marathon and Athens, with my right shoulder broken and arm in a sling... certainly much slower than it took the Greek soldier to carry the news of the victory over the Persians!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Adopt-A-Highway: utile or futile? And a tax bill proposal...

Yet another experiment, and eye opener! Not about diet this time (I'm still successfully holding on on that one, day 16 in the books!), but about road maintenance and the environment.
While my running club, Quicksilver RC of San Jose, has adopted the New Almaden trail in the Almaden Quicksilver County Park, and we do trail maintenance there under Paul Fick's leadership, Agnès invited me to join a group from her new employer, the Harker School, to maintain and clean-up the road side of our local and busy 280 interstate highway.
I was in Dallas all week for work and flew back Friday afternoon, looking forward to actually resuming running after a 2-week hiatus with an ultra at the traditional (33rd!) Hunter S Thompson Fear and Loathing, either the 50K or 50-mile. But the logistic wasn't easy (early drive to SF and limited parking at the top or bottom of Twin Peaks) and the goal was quite aggressive as I haven't been running at all yet under my new diet, so I decided to join Agnès and her colleagues for this volunteering activity instead.

It has actually been quite a few years that I wanted to experiment what it takes to clean-up a highway as part of this Caltrans program. We all see the signs on the road and, occasionally, a group of workers on the side of the road but I have to admit that my first thought was that the sponsor was mostly paying Caltrans and Caltrans workers were doing the job of cleaning. As a matter of fact, I even thought that they may actually enroll inmates to do community service this way!

Well, that was certainly not the case this morning, it was a group of dedicated teachers who don't have much time already on weekends but to put unpaid extra hours to grade their students' papers and prep classes. When you hear people whining "I don't have time..."

I must add that picking trash along a highway is quite humbling and, while it looks so important and utile from an environment standpoint, it feels quite futile given the number of miles of highway in the country and the lack of consideration of the drivers throwing stuff from their car. (In case you wonder, utile was borrowed from French a few centuries ago and was the original English word for useful, a few centuries ago. I had to pick it for the utile/futile word-play in the title...)

Anyway, we cleaned the busy 280/Meridian/Southwest Expressway interchange and our team of 3 filled 12 large bags of trash in just 3 hours. But we certainly left the area greener that it was when we started!

Beyond the classic plastic bottles, beer cans and fast food plastic cups and straws, the winner of the shame competition goes to Snickers! I'll spare you from a picture of the raw trash but here is one in the recycling category: and, yes, a pretty sharp knife, and an iPad cover.
As for that remain of the last ugly election, no, it didn't make to the recycling bin, sorry Donald, straight in the bag of trash!

Some volunteers reported that, occasionally albeit very rarely, they do find bills, as high as $100! Well, not much luck for me this morning, only a penny this time! But the satisfaction of giving back to our local community and Mother Nature, priceless!
Special kudos to our crew lead and local coordinator, Loui, who leads such clean-up sessions in the area, every month!

Now, as I still can not swallow what's happening in DC this month, here is a proposal for a tax bill, and not a $1.5 trillion cut, but something more useful and pragmatic for our country and to save our planet! What about...

  1. Setting a tax for everybody, either by headcount, or, even better, on everything which has a packaging;
  2. If you don't like paying it or can't afford, then you would have the option to get a refund or exemption through community service to collect the trash along our highways;
  3. This way, either by paying, or serving, everybody would be more aware of the trash around us, and its collection;
  4. Of course, this tax would hit harder those who are already environment-conscious and keeping our roads clean, but since they are also likely those volunteering anyway, they would get credit for their time.
I know, with what's going on in Congress with the right wing-led tragedy for our future in every department, all this is really futile, isn't it? At least I wasn't just dreaming this morning, I was also doing my small part of resistance and action. For what it is worth, as we say, one piece of trash at a time...

If you are interested in giving a hand to this program too, you can visit the Caltrans Adopt-A-Higway program website, and the Bay Area is in district 4. Or contact me on Facebook and I'll get you hooked. Thank you in advance, and for not littering, always!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

My biggest ultra running experiment to date?

No, I didn't run an ultra this weekend, I didn't push the physical limits like other did for instance at the 24-hour World Championships or the California International Marathon. Actually I didn't run at all since my fast, albeit 0.1-mile short, Turkey Trot 10K. While stopping running for a few weeks is an experiment in itself for me every year, that's not new, I've followed this precept from Scott Jurek for more than 10 years now.

So what is it then? It had been in my mind for several years, I wanted to add to this running break something else which has to see with nutrition: follow a detox program to attempt an even bigger reset of my body. First, Agnès had told me about a 1-week detox program from a local yogi, based on drinking a lot of hot water for instance. Then it became the Whole30 which several of her friends have enjoyed recently. As the name implies, this is a 30-day program.No sugars, no grains, no dairy, repeat for 30 days!

I was about to go for it but I also took the opportunity to check another of these ideas which tormented since I discovered Vespa Power more than 5 years ago and heard about the great success stories of elite runners adoption the whole OFM approach. While Vespa helped me tremendously in races by allowing me to slash calorie intake, I didn't want to change my diet for this, I was so comfortable with my habits of 50 years. I love bread, I love pastas, I love dairy, great start! Besides, I travel so much that I took it as an excuse to not get on a strict diet. Last but not least, I did adopt this easy excuse for running when people ask "but why are you running ultras?": as Scott Dunlap once said, "so I can eat everything and anything!"

Change, so hard to do for most of us... The New York Time actually has an article on this exact topic this weekend, a quick and worth read for all (although I don't find the article so well written --unless the 7 yet in the text have the purpose of really making a point-- but the author is a Harvard Professor, and I not, so what can I say... ;-): Why Trying New Things Is So Hard to Do, by Sendhil Mullainathan.

Since I was going to go for a radical change anyway, I reached out to Peter Defty and he immediately accepted to coach me if I wanted to go OFM. OFM? Optimized Fat Metabolism, a state in which your body gets its energy mostly from fat, which we all have plenty of in our body, much more calories than our muscles can store of glycogen.

To be more explicit, you are teaching your body what it used to be great at: live a full and active live on less than 15% of carb. While fattier dairy is ok (cream, hard cheese) to do a faster reset I even cut on all dairy. Not a single fruit either, except avocados and nuts. The rest is meat, fish, eggs, liver, paté, and lots of vegetables. And no chocolate, yikes!

So, here am I, this is the end of day 10 and I'm proud to report that I'm holding on, I can still function, phew! First, I have to thank Peter for his guidance and motivation tips but also Agnès who got on board, is following the same diet and does a lot of the extra cooking needed to eat healthier. Not that we were eating much junk food but cutting all processed food is another level. And the hardest of all is to no be able to get a dessert, forgive the expression, that sucks... In France, a meal isn't over without something sweet, not to mention some cheese. To make up for them, we indulge a half cup of assorted non-salted nuts, but even that isn't too much to Peter's liking. Tough discipline.

As I said, I'm not exercising so it's hard to tell the effects so far. Besides, it typically takes the body to fully get adapted to this new mode of energy source, patience is required. To be honest, I would have hoped that cutting on gluten and dairy would already have more positive impacts, but this is certainly not the time to turn back, this is at least a 6-month experiment to be conclusive.

Overall, I'm learning a lot about nutrition, it was about time! And this was a big eye open on how bad the society has become about eating habits and the overwhelming presence of processed food everywhere. Also, I didn't realize how much I enjoyed eating certain things, not necessarily for their nutritional value or quality, but for the taste and pleasure I was taking. A very different philosophy of eating, which requires to rewire your mind and senses. And that takes quite some drive and will power... And some organization as well: for instance I did travel with my lunch and dinner today in order to stay on track...

That's it, no running pictures, I'll share more on the experiment, the biggest and hardest change I've experienced so far, with so many doubts popping in my mind since I don't have super strong drivers and compelling action to change. But I had been intrigued about OFM for a while, and was ready to give it more than a try, apparently. We'll see if it also helps on the race performance side, but I'm more interested in the health benefits such as the management of cholesterol levels and the reduction of sugars in the body, which represent the main fuel for cancer cells.

Overall, like we say about ultra running, this is a huge experiment and leap of faith because, although the approach is backed up by science and success stories, or even proven by the Inuits for instance, each body is different and we still need to rely on mind and guts feelings to adjust, without a full lab instrumentation. Let then see where it leads...

In the meantime, enjoy the time of Advent and the spirit of the Holidays. But please don't send me pictures of your Christmas cookies, ok? Thank you! ;-)