Friday, March 30, 2018

Zero to 73 in 7. And back to sub 7. Barely.

Let me add some units to remove some of the intrigue of such a title... And add that this isn't about a speed benchmark of my new motorbike!
As I wrote last week, I got back to running despite the back pain. After 16 days of forced rest, my first run was 11 miles and I actually ran for 7 straight days. As a matter of fact, the pain was so bad last Saturday, day 4 after resuming training, that I stopped after 3 miles. I have to say, I very rarely run so little, I feel it’s not worth the time to put on shorts and running shoes just for 5 kilometers or 20 or so minutes! I know, everything is relative, running 5K is still a blessing to appreciate… ;-)

But on Sunday I tried again and, while I could feel every stride in my injured muscle along the bottom of my rib cage, I pushed through and logged 20 miles: 1 mile to the local high school track, 1 mile to run back home and 72 laps in between, one lap or even one step at a time as we say. All this at an average of 7:25 min/mile, not fast at all but better than the initial 9 min/mile of the first runs in Vegas.

While I felt good about this high mileage, I was stunned to then suffer from a tendinitis on the top of my right toe on Monday. Darn, maybe my body wasn’t ready to take on all this, typical haste to ramp-up training after an injury, especially a non running-related one!

Still went for 9 miles on Monday and Tuesday hence the 73 miles in 7 days of the title.

With some icing and application of anti-inflammatory ointment, I was able to keep the tendon inflammation under some control throughout the week but this Friday, when I had to call it a run after 3 miles again. On Thursday though, I pushed the pace on a 20K run and barely broke 7 min/mile, by one second. Progress.

I’m writing this post on a plane, on our way to Roatan, an island on the shores of Honduras, for another Caribbean experience. I even left my MacBook with AppleCare for some maintenance so all set to take a real Spring break. Let’s see if the beach life and the salted Atlantic Ocean provides enough of a good therapy to still log a few training miles before American River 50-mile next weekend then Boston. The island is 42-kilometer long, that makes me think… and dream! ;-) (map credit:
Hope you all have a great Easter celebration and some Spring break as well and, if you run yourself, that you remain healthy and strong as the season ramps up.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Running at THINK 2018: that was the year!

The least we can admit, and this has already hit Twitter all week, is that not everything went smoothly at our conference this year. You'd think, pun intended, that we'd know better after running such a conference for 10 years in Vegas but the fact is that there was a ton of first of a kind give the consolidation of several already behemoth conferences (e.g. InterConnect, World of Watson) into a huger one...

On a positive note though, the program included for the first time a significant wellness track with 24 sessions! At least these weren't going to fill as it happened to the precious technical ones on Monday and Tuesday!

Group runs, yoga practices, kickboxing, both at dawn and dusk, talks about nutrition, lifestyle and health, this was some serious stuff, so much that we hired local companies to run this track. And then there was our traditional albeit more confidential group expedition at Red Rock Canyon on Wednesday morning, organized by Scott Knaffla, and with VP Cloud, David Lapp, sponsoring the bus.

All this awareness on the benefits of wellness were particularly interesting to me as, among many hats, I'm also an IBM Wellbeing Champion to promote these themes within our own organization. Better have a sane mind and body to resist some of the current madness we are going through in many areas...

Anyway, such a perfect setting to get some good running this week, if it wasn't for my back injury, dang! So long for making the best out of our 10th and ultimate conference in Vegas, before we move in 2019 to another crazy place for such gathering, even closer to home, San Francisco! I look forward to seeing how we are going to handle the challenge of avoiding the misses we had this year in such a more cramped and urbanized environment.

Back to the title of this post, I did give it a try. Despite another super short night (less than 5 hours), and still experiencing pain in my back after 16 days, I woke up at 4:30 and jogged a mile on the strip to see how my back was holding up. Well, it was so bad that I made it to the group picture but decided not to hop on the bus. I could have of course walked over there but didn't feel that was worth the risk of missing the presentation of one of my clients, Nationwide.

Instead, I jogged from the MGM to Mandalay Bay to see what the official conference group run was about, and was pleased to see a sizeable group of participants, not counting 5 wellness staff members/contractors.

On my way to Mandalay Bay, I got such a chill, passing by the vantage point of the shooter who killed 58 and injured 851 (this Wikipedia page gives a flavor of the horror, even more chilling as we see the next generation taking the gun control debate to the street with March For Our Lives this weekend).
Speaking of terror, here are new additions to the Strip, I assume to prevent a car or truck to kill pedestrians on the sidewalk. Sad that we have to get there.

I left that other group while they were still in their warm-up practice and thought I'd put another mile in to make it 5K since it was so early. Instead, and marveling at the sun rise, I got on my 10-mile LAS airport loop and, although every stride and step was hurting, both from the pounding on the concrete and the muscle extension due to the rib cage expansion at each breath, my legs were so eager to keep moving that I ended up completing the whole loop for a total of 11 miles, oops! The back was super painful for the next 2 hours but I was relieved that passed afterwards as I kept moving from meetings to meeting throughout the day. See this cool 3D fly-over on

Here is the shot I missed at Red Rock Canyon, the X edition

On Thursday, I completed that loop again in the evening after my post-conference meetings, then again on Friday morning before joining the Hybrid Cloud Architects meeting and flying back to SFO at the end of the day.

Bottom line, the muscle hasn't fully healed yet and I hope I'm not damaging it more with these runs, I think it's ok to solicit it this way. At least it's a relief for my mind and mood to get running again, albeit at much slower paces (respectively 9:03, 8:03 and 8:03 min/mile, that could be worse, but the road to running 6 min/mile again at Boston in 3 weeks is going to be short and steep, ouch!). Yet, given the circumstances, I'm quite happy to have logged 50 kilometers with these three back to back (pun intended again...) ultimate runs. Life keeps being good when you push yourself beyond your comfort zone!

Looking forward to having the opportunity to show some of our local trails to THINK 2019 participants in 11 months; leave a comment if you are interested and not on Scott's exclusive list yet! So we don't just... think, but act and run! What another rich week on all levels, business, networking and fitness wise, let's turn all this to keeping making our planet better and smarter! Hopefully confirming the next transformational exponential which Ginni Rometty and John Kelly described at the new Watson's law, in their respective keynotes. Basically, that we exponentially increase knowledge by learning from the exponential increase of data.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Back to injury: Another opportunity for an anatomy course

From the microscopic cells to the big bones and muscles, or even the intangible troubles of our minds, I'm always in awe with what doctors have to learn. And I have even more respect as I need to check things under the hood myself, typically when something is getting wrong, another wordy way to refer to an injury...

Yes, another post about injury unfortunately. Never a good time but this one had an interesting timing as I was race-free in March for the first time this century (1999! ;-), and the past 2 weeks were supposed to be a lot of work on speed and volume before a conference this coming week and a few big goals in April. I can't complain though: first, I had already 2 good months to start the year and, second, I didn't miss a race goal yet then. At least not yet.

What's the scoop? It's not even a running injury! As those following me on Facebook might have noticed, I got back to riding. Not any bike but a big heavy one, a BMW R1200RT. Anyway, as I was standing at a stop sign and checking my mirrors for a vehicle approaching from behind too fast, I lost balance and the bike started to lean... I gave it all but, 5 times heavier than me, the bike won, after pulling a big muscle deep in my back.
Oh my, I didn't realize how much every muscle gets engaged when running. Well, it has been excruciating just sitting down and up (think going to the toilets...), bending (think putting pants or socks on), twisting my back while pulling or pushing something (think opening the door of a car, loading the lower basket of the dishwasher then closing the door) and, last but not the least, even walking! That definitely makes me want to stop aging, once for all! I certainly look like I am a super senior in my moves. Even laying down in a bed is painful so I have never slept that badly (I typically don’t sleep much but I sleep really well when I do). The only good news is that it doesn't hurt when I'm working, which would make my employer happy!

12 days since the incident and, despite total inactivity and Agn├Ęs' gentle and comforting massages, it's barely getting better, so that was a big pull, and maybe I should have entered a weight lifting competition at least. At some point I even thought that maybe it was something which detached, I hope not. Bottom line, the title includes a twist, it's back to injury and injury to the back... And, as I mentioned on Facebook, I'll be... back after this setback!

Running wise, because of the conference (IBM Think, you can even even watch some of it live if you want to get some of the action), this week was supposed to be mostly tapering anyway so I'm not going to miss too much. Yet, I'm very much NOT looking to the extreme level of standing and walking involved in such setting, not to mention the travel; that muscle would better finish healing quickly! I'd say it's about time anyway but that would be breaking the rule of patience required in any injury therapy.

Learning something every time, at least a good thing with injuries. Especially when they are meant to heal.

And, in addition to the learning opportunity, it’s also a good reminder to appreciate when everything works as intended in our body which, given the trillions of parts involved if you count the cells, is quite miraculous already. Last but not least, wishing everyone stays safe and healthy. And young for ever! ;-)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The joy of running. And working.

Interesting how my blog title morphed in my head over the past two weeks. As I was resuming training after the Jackpot 100-mile Road Nationals, here is what I had in mind: "The joy of running. Or not." But then I thought it was way too negative, when I should be counting my blessings of having run that much these past 10 years, almost injury free.

What is this about? Well, after missing one of my main goals 3 weeks ago, the 100-mile Road M50-54 American record, I was back to the grind mill, as always. Yet, I didn't know what I was training for this time. I was still working on a potential business trip to the Big Apple which would have allowed me to run Caumsett again, the 50K Road Nationals. Yes, the place where I got my mini TIA stroke (Transient Ischemic Attack) when I broke that 30-year long standing age group record (which has been improved twice already in the meantime). Anyway, the trip fell through on Tuesday and I didn't feel like switching to Way Too Cool at the last minute, a race which I ran 10 consecutive times between 2006 (my first ultra race) and 2015.

Back to the title... No, I'm not going to talk about my first job, but the hard work we need to put into training to keep up with the demand of ultra running. Something which seems so paradoxical to many outsiders who believe that we only run for the joy of it. Or we should anyway, otherwise, what is the point to run as a hobby. Maybe that distinction, pure joy versus some work involved, could be the difference between jogging and running. At least that's how I live my running.

Two weeks ago then, as I was resuming training after a week of recovery during a conference in Vegas, running didn't feel that easy, nor joyful. On Sunday, I went out not knowing how far I was going to go so I remained on my local 5K loop, still hoping to go as far as some ultra distance, but not so determined. At least I didn't go out too fast, in case I had the mental stamina to keep going for 3 hours. And I'm really glad I did, for 9 laps. I didn't feel as strong as last year when I was still working on my 50K PR (3:18:07), but it felt good to be working again at a sub 8 min/mile pace, phew!

On the next three pictures, you can click and relive my training runs with these 3D fly-overs. Well, in a much accelerated way that the hours of hard work I put into these, that is... ;-)

A week later, I even went to the track and was able to run 42 laps under 6:30 min/mile, a few at 6:15 as a matter of fact. I even got to dream that I was on Long Island that weekend instead...

Last Sunday, I ran to the top of Black Mountain, logging 28 hilly miles for a change for my 6th ultra run this year (I'm quite behind on this metric compare to previous years). Thinking a lot of about the pain and benefit of working hard while training, either uphill or even down hill.

Oddly enough, since I would had written this post just before if it wasn't for other (first) work priorities, this article was posted by UltraRunning Magazine on Wednesday 10 days ago:

Enjoy the Training by Gary Dudney, the author of The Tao of Running: Your Journey to Mindful and Passionate Running.
When you first signed up to be an ultrarunner, you know, at your local ultrarunning recruitment center at the mall, I hope you paid attention to the fine print on the contract. It said in no uncertain terms, “You are now obligated to do a whole sh** load of training.”

Gary wrote it down much more eloquently than I could, this saves me time so I can get back to... work! ;-) Yes, it takes a lot of time to train, but let's never forget the joy of being able to do so, starting with what we experience: personal satisfaction of meeting goals, the people we meet or the views from the trails.

And what a joy of running on our local trails, so soft after the rain of the past two days! What a joy to see snow on the East Bay ridge! What a pleasure to run on the smooth Montebello Road which got repaved a few weeks ago (after a major land slide last year)!
What a joy to see the Pacific Ocean from the top of Black Mountain, and the entire Bay up to San Francisco and Berkeley! Including the snowy ridge over the East Bay, so rare nowadays! That reminds me the amazing experience of living in Nice, then Geneva, two urban places with nearby skiing ranges.

Yes, there was even some flurries at the top of Black Mountain last week!

So blessed and privileged to be able to live in Silicon Valley and to be in shape to work on these trails and hills. Toward my next goal, what ever it is going to be.

When I think that the M50-54 title was won in 4:04, I am sorry for having missed the action at Caumsett last Sunday (results); and Way Too Cool on Saturday (results) although that was a much faster race, dominated again by the... King (see Max King killing the competition on the infamous Goat Hill at mile 21, so impressive... and the testimony to so much... work, in addition to talent!).

With that, I'm looking forward to my next ultra race in April and, in the meantime, let's all enjoy that hard work. Which will eventually pay off this season!