Sunday, April 29, 2018

Stow Lake Stampede 5K: chasing these impalas

Only 5K this time and around the beautiful Stow lake in the heart of San Francisco's Golden Park, compared to all my ultra races, that looks like a walk in the park, right? Well, racing 5K at full speed, that is under 6 min/mile is no joke, or no walk.
Sure, 5K is short, just over 3 miles, so I ran the whole course first to warm up, then another time after the race to cool down. In between? That was a challenging and competitive race. Challenging because of the rolling course which complicates the management of the effort and pace. And also, because it was hard to pass while staying within the cones when the course got so narrow between the first and 2nd mile markers. By the way, that was some serious course marking, with a cone every ten strides or so!
Not that I could go so much faster anyway, but I did pass quite a few runners in the last mile when the course widen up, getting the pace under 5:30, finally!
My first mile was just on 6 minutes which disappointed me. I could see the leaders throughout the first mile but lost sight of them after the first turn. Despite pushing harder in the 2nd mile, during which I passed a handful of runners, mostly women, I still clocked another 6-mile. So I push harder, further in the uncomfortable zone and that started to pay of as the engine was now firing up while other competitors were faltering. I even managed to catch-up and pass two other M50+ runners I knew, Jeff Ongo and Antonio Arreola, but I don't run these Pacific Association road races enough to know and recognize everybody so I had no idea how I fared in my age group. Until I saw Cliff Lentz catching his breath after the finish so I knew there were others Seniors ahead, not surprisingly in such a competitive event. I had also heard the announcer talking about the runner who had finished just ahead of me to win the M60+ division, Doug Steedman, 62, wow!

As for an illustration of the competitiveness, I got chicked 22 times today, and I was 90th overall! Will Geiken and Kayla Knapp won the race in respectively 14:53 and 16:48, that's blazing fast on that course!

Cliff's time was 18:01, mine, 18:17 and it's only after I was back from my cool-down, my 3rd completion of the course that morning, that someone told me my name was called in the award ceremony because I had managed to take second place. Good enough for a gift certificate from one of the sponsors of the race, A Runner's Mind, how nice!

Check this cool fly-over of that part of the Golden Gate Park to have a better feel of the course (click on this link, or the image below):
Between these generous awards, the free pair of socks at the finish, a few pieces of bagels and bananas, even a free ThreeTwins ice cream (made in San Francisco!) to all finishers, the chip timing, the course monitors, kudos to the Impala Racing Team for organizing such a successful and professional organization. I must say that having that section of the Golden Park just for us that morning was quite something!
By the way, I ran this short race because we had our quarterly LDR (Long Distance Running) committee meeting just after the race, and I had half of the agenda to discuss changes and improvements to our MUT rules. Another topic which had me work a few extra hours at night the past 2 weeks...
That was a great break between the long runs of the past three weeks (DNF at mile 41 at American River, Boston then a 6:20 50-mile at another lake in San Francisco, Lake Merced), and before ultra May Madness (Miwok 100K next week, Quicksilver 100K the following week, then Ohlone 50K 8 days later, unless I'm in Europe for another business trip). The ultra life goes as I was writing last night already...

See many of my Pacific Association fellows at these races in May! I haven't done much hill training which is scary, but I'm excited to get into the warmer part of our season. What about you, are you ready for some shiny California sun and hot temperatures?

Saturday, April 28, 2018

On the other side: beware, I'm watching!

I started ultra running about the time Stan Jensen switched from ultra running to ultra volunteering. He is such a example of giving back to the community, so inspiring how he gives up his time and money to support our sport. So, by the other side in the title, I don't mean the dramatic expression of the end of life, but the need our sport to have people on each side, runners on one, and volunteers on the other. And the importance to play on both sides to make our sport sustainable.

Since I've run so many ultra races in the past 12 years, 152 so far, and counting, I'm in very serious debt. I've done some trail maintenance, even beyond some of the 100-mile requirements, and worked a few aid stations, including being the Captain at Western States' Last Chance, along with the Stevens Creek Striders, but that's still not a match to the number of hours I raced, thanks to the support and devotion of so many volunteers. Lately I took over the Chair role of our Pacific Association MUT (Mountain, Ultra, and Trail running) sub-committee. That has consumed a lot of my time, especially as we are going through some transition and change after a quarter of century and amid a transformation of the ultra running landscape, worldwide. I'm learning so much about all the work happening behind the scene to run such a large association, both nationally and regionally, not to mention dozens of championships every year. Besides, on the running side, I had to learn all the rules related to record setting for the distances I've been pursuing since I moved to the M50-54 age group. Last December, I spent hours studying them again to help Paulo ensure that his timed event, One Day in Auburn, was properly set for official records. So much learning that decided to turn the investment into an official certification, which I obtained mid February: I became a USATF Apprentice Official, with a major in LDR.

Running can be so simple, by essence, and kids do it so naturally, it's something you don't have to learn, we were... born to run (Christopher McDougall will appreciate this intended pun). But it can be so complicated as well when hundreds of rules and regulations are used to ensure fairness at all levels of competition. Rule books at the international level, or national for Colleges, rules for high school meets, and events from less than 100 meters to multi-day events.
This weekend, I helped at the Brutus Hamilton Challenge event at Cal (Berkeley). Thankfully, the event was so small that the stress wasn't too high, most of the relays only had 2 competing teams, way easier to manage than having 8 x 4 runners on the track at once! I mention the relays because that's surely the hardest thing to monitor and umpire when you know that you have to check no runner steps on the wrong line during an exchange of baton happening so fast, on the fly literally, and there are 30 meters to monitor, from the 10-meter acceleration zone to the 20-meter long transition zone. I'm always in awe watching umpires calling fouls in NBA basketball games, well, it was my  turn this time. Again, as much as everybody would have loved to see a full stadium this weekend, the small turnout took away a lot of the pressure.

Among other things, my mentor today, Jonathan Price, taught me how to properly mark the break line for the 800 meters and the mile. Price... less!
Respect to my fellow officials who are spending many days on the tracks to ensure these rules are properly applied and followed at events around the State, or the country. I still have such a busy life with all my current jobs, I can't commit as much but it was really a great learning experience and certainly welcomed the opportunity to give back to our sport, this way. I still need to spend quite a few hours on the other side, running, but it's good to be able to step over the line as often as I can, to make up some of the deficit and debt I owe. And I must say that it takes a lot of skills to check 8 super speedy runners, or rather sprinters, so close to each other, and check if they step on lines in curves, or pass their baton too early or too late in the exchange zone (my mentor, Jon, and I had one easy case today in the Men 4x100m), everything goes so fast and people in the bleachers may actually have a better vantage point. I wished we would have access to a video to check what just happened, this is quite a job to spot infractions! At least we don't have this problem in ultra running, it's way more casual and relaxed.

It was also quite an experience to officiate in the Edwards stadium, such a historical place for track & field; unfortunately, it may be scraped in favor of more dorms for the Cal students. It's certainly quite a piece of estate in such an urban and world-renowned academic area.
As officials, we are not allowed to take pictures of the competition, despite being in the front seat, literally (well, except we stand up for hours actually). Out of 2.5 hours of competition, and 25 races/heats, a couple of memorable highlights:
  1. The 400 meters hurdles Men had an Olympian from the UK, Seb Rodger, win easily. Seb also competed in the 200 meters.
  2. The mile Men was also quite impressive, with a first rabbit from Cal dropping at 500 meters, then a second one after the second lap, putting into orbit a third runner from Cal who finished in... 4:00.83! So close to breaking the legendary 4-minute barrier! Which was even more legendary today with the presence of Don Bowden in the bleachers who was the first American to break 4 minutes, 61 years ago! The mile race is actually named after him.
I wished I had the opportunity to meet Don but, again, umpires aren't here to socialize, eyes on the track (besides, I had to rush after the meet to a gala dinner at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, the ultra life must go on...! ;-).

Next time there is a certification course/session in the area, I'll write a post to share my own experience with the process, in order to encourage more of my fellow runners to consider volunteering this way. It's fun and important to have this way to give back, I'm encouraging everyone to consider it!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ruth Anderson 2018: not that big of a cold after all

First, let's give homage to the lady behind this 32-year long Bay Area ultra tradition, Ruth Anderson, and that's what Emeritus Race Director, Steve Jaber did in the pre-race briefing as he was assisting RD Anil Rao by stepping up to replace the other co-RD, Rajeev Patel who was traveling to the UK for business this weekend. For that, short of a wiki page for Ruth, let me include her USATF Hall of Fame bio:

Perhaps it was the thrill of the overall womens win in her first ultra, the USATFs Pacific Associations 50 km along Sacramentos Garden Highway in 1976, that has kept masters ultrarunning pioneer, Ruth Anderson running ultras for 25 years. But it was the combination of her ultrarunning accomplishments and her tireless dedication to the development and recognition of the sport that inspired USA Track & Field in the 1980s to establish and name the annual womens ultrarunner of the year award after her. Anderson even has a 100 km race named after her. In addition to running ultras, she contributes to the sport as an advisor to the MUT Running Council offering the benefit of her quarter-century national-class ultra experience, has managed the Womens 100 km Team, and regularly competes at a variety of World Association of Masters annual events.
Anderson has showed her competitive champion character from the start of her "late-blooming" ultra career that she began at age 46. She quickly progressed through ultradistance races and ran her first USATF 50-mile ultra championship race in 1980 in Houston, winning the womens division overall in a stunning time of 7:10:58 although she was competing in the 50-54 age-group.
Among Andersons most memorable USATF Ultra Championship experiences was her 50 to 54 age-group win on a 50 km trail course alone the Skyline National Trail in the East Bay Hills above her home in Oakland, CA. She is encouraged to compete in championship races by the medals awarded to masters runners in 5-year age-groups. "To be a National Champion is particularly rewarding for us in the older age groups, and show the possibilities to achieve recognition into our 70s, 80s, and even 90s," says the always motivated Anderson.

You can also read (Tropical) John Medinger and Nancy Hobbs' eulogies in this UltraRunning Magazine archive.

Although Ruth died in February 2016, 10 years after I ran my first ultra, I never had the honor to meet her. The 2016 edition and 30th run was of course doubly dedicated to her and we pinned a ribbon in her memory on our bibs.

It was only my 12th consecutive participation to this race and I didn't get highlighted in the pre-race briefing because there were much more noticeable anniversaries being celebrated.

First, Lion Caldwell was celebrating 40 years of ultra running. I had never met Lion but he is a legend in the sport, having been at the top of the National and International scenes a few decades ago, before I even knew the sport existed. And he is still the official Medical Doctor for Team USA 100K, flying with the team each year to exotic places. (As I researched more information about Lion on the web, I found this 1985 article, Seven Classified Secrets to Ultrarunning, for those who enjoy a paid subscription to UltraRunning Magazine. And even a newer version from 1995: Seven Secrets to Ultrarunning (and Staying Happily Married.)

From our Quicksilver club, Jim was highlighted for having run the 1995 edition. Although I believe he said that he actually ran in 1990 too, there is no record of that in the meticulous ones that Stan keeps on his website, nor from the ultra statistician, Gary Wang, on his Either way, still such an amazing time span, hat off, Jim! :-)

As we found out after the finish, Lion's celebration actually eclipsed another quite significant one with Quicksilver teammate Keith Blom having run ultras for 45 years! Indeed, Keith ran JFK 50-mile in 1973, when registration fee was $3 and the field 1,711 strong. Keith was 16 but admitted he had to take a break from ultra running after that, only coming back at it years later.

While Barbara Elia still holds the highest number of participations with 17 editions, another Quicksilver teammate, Charles Blakeney is quickly closing the gap as this was his 16th finish this year!
Jim is now moving to 4th place in that ranking and I'm joining Carl Jacob for 5th. Time flies...

With that, I now chronicled more than a 3rd of the Ruth Anderson races, having ran the 50-mile 6 times (2007 in 6:52, 2010 in 6:07, 2012 in 5:49, 2014 in 6:22, 2015 in 6:14, and 2016 in 6:08), 3 times the 50K (2008 in 3:44, 2009 in 3:59, and last year in 3:25), and the 100K only twice (2011 in 8:05 and 2013 in 7:51). Plus this year/post.

Enough of history, let's switch back or forward to the present, this 32nd edition!

For me, it started with a lot of incertitude. Given all the injuries leading to Boston through March and April, I was waiting for the last minute to decide and I was going to register on Wednesday despite the cold I had contracted, only to find out that registration had closed on Tuesday evening. Thankfully, there was always the option to register on race morning, which made me procrastinate on the decision even more. I was still quite determined, at least enough to go to bed by 8 pm on Friday evening and set my clock to 3 am in case I was feeling well enough to drive up to San Francisco.

At least, there were several reasons I didn't have to go the full distance this year, the first being that you can't score too many 100K events in our Grand Prix and I'm already in Quicksilver 100K next month (in addition to Miwok, but that one isn't on our GP schedule). Since I DNFed at American River, I needed to score a 50-mile race. The second benefit was that it saved me from giving a last attempt at the American 100K Age Group record, which would have been foolish anyway given the lack of specific training these past weeks. I should add that we had dropped the 50K distance from the Grand Prix so that wasn't an option this year. Indeed, this even is very particular in the sense that we all start at the same time and you can decide the distance on the fly as you reach the respective marks. Making the race quite a mental challenge because it's so easy to call it a day as soon as you reach one of the shorter distances.

With that, I was free to run the 50-mile as a good tempo run, without much pressure given the limited field of 53 registrants this year.

With the absence of speedsters like Chikara Omine, I took the lead and only looked back twice in the last lap (the 50-mile is 11 4.5-mile laps plus some). I tried to aim at a conservative 7 min/mile pace but, as usual, and with the difficulty of setting an even pace on such a rolling course, I got slightly under, clocking quite a few miles in the 6:40-6:50 range, averaging 6:51 after 4 laps. I recall feeling great around mile 10 and thinking, "oops, I'm going to regret the sub 7 min/mile pace later but also, if this keeps going and I break 6 hours on the 50-mile, I'll have to keep going" (our American M50-54 record is at 7:38 for 100K). But I knew I hadn't it in me anyway, and that I will end up slowing down at some point.

I actually kept the 31 minutes per lap rhythm for quite a while this year. I was the first to pass the 50K mark at 3:37 after clocking a 3:00 marathon, faster than 5 days ago at Boston, exacerbating the frustration of a missed opportunity last week, again. That was 7 laps, with 4 to go, and I had a 30-minute lead on 2nd place, Karl Schnaitter, whom I thought might go for 100K. Still feeling quite good and upbeat (and flying!) on that picture of Sarah Lavender-Smith who was walking the course in reverse direction with Clare Abram.
I even lapped 3rd place, Paul Broyer, in lap 8 and finally got Karl in sight in lap 9. But I was never able to close the gap because that's when I started experiencing cramps. I tried to keep up throughout the 10th lap, now down to a 8-8:30 min/mile pace but had to stop as I was unable to even walk, my calves crippled by cramps in every direction and side. A few runners checked on me and saw me taking one more S!Cap which helped me go back to some slog. With that, Paul passed me so the three of us were now on the same lap.

I only had one more lap to go but I barely made it to the aid station. The fact of the matter was that, still struggling getting my electrolytes right since I changed diet to Optimized Fat Metabolism, I had drunk only half of one bottle of GU2O so far against my traditional 1 bottle per 15 miles, a formula which I had been used to with much success for 10 years. My electrolytes were so out of balance that I could run again as soon as I had taken the remaining 10 ounces in that bottle, pretty amazing how fast that worked out, phew!

After the scary incident at mile 44, that allowed me to maintain a 9 min/mile pace on the last lap, enough to claim the win with a time of 6:20:14. As I put in Strava "not too bad given the circumstances". Christine Chapon even caught me checking if I was going to break 6:20 with a last surge sprint...

If you are not afraid to get dizzy, or bored with the 11 laps, you can watch this aerial view of my race, courtesy of (click on the image or this link):
And here is a visual summary showing my struggle with only one lap to go...
Throughout the race, I only took 3 GUs, 1 bottle of GU2O, 6 S!Caps, 2 small pieces of banana, 1/3rd of a can of Coke, 3 pouches of Vespa, less than 500-calorie intake overall for an energy spending above 5,000 calories so I definitely ran on fat! My issue wasn't bonking for the lack of energy but getting the electrolytes out of balance by playing on the too low side this time. At least I learned that I could fix the issue much quicker than I thought, another ultra lesson learned!

Christine took great care of me to ensure I was recovering from the effort, and she helped many others as well, while taking pictures too.
It's Sunday and I still have a few symptoms of the cold, plus the stiffed neck; I'll take the week easy and use Miwok in 2 weeks as another training run. As a matter of fact, we have our Pacific Association USATF Long Distance Running committee quarterly meeting next Sunday, right after a 5K. Which I may enter since I have to drive back to San Francisco again. A short race for a change!

With this shallow field, the 50K was won by Jordan Sakala in 4:06 and Christine Chapon in 4:58. Emi Yasaka won the 50-mile in 7:46:14 and Matt Ward won the 100K 8:47.

Here is the Men podium for the 50-mile, with Karl and Paul, this season is again dominated by Excelsior on the team side:
Temporary and incomplete results (as of 3:30 pm when I left):
And a few more lines on Eileen Francisco's later post on Facebook:
With Agn├Ęs out of town this weekend, and no business travel planned for this week for a change, I was able to stay for a while, thank the volunteers, encourage other runners, take pictures and catch-up with finishers or spectators. Like in the good ol' days when my first ultras were such a big deal that I was allocating more time before and after.

Special thanks to the sponsors which are even more essential to keep this ultra tradition alive given the low turnout at this event mainly Hammer nutrition for their generous goodie bag donations, and Palo Alto's ZombieRunner.

And a special mention to the Bay Area Ultra Runners (BAUR) musketeers of the day, with a thought for Rajeev who was missing in action exceptionally this year: Anil and Steve whom I mentioned in the intro, and ultra volunteers and time keepers, Dave Combs and Stan Jensen.

With the generous cut-off on the 100K, a very long day of volunteering for then, starting way before dawn...

Great to see many familiar faces, along with people getting their first ultra yesterday, what a great tradition!

PS: bonus pictures!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Boston Marathon 2018: braving the elements, without brio

This blog post had to soak in, literally... I wrote most of it on my fight back from Boston on Wednesday night, but had to do some additional editing and research on line this Saturday, after another busy work week.
I knew it a year ago already, there was a reason why I didn't want to run Boston in 2018! Call it superstition but I was really fine with my odd series: 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2017. More importantly, I didn't want to be the oldest in my super competitive age group. And then, there was a bit of intuition about what the weather could be this time... I never pursued my kid's dream to get good at weather forecast and I'm always in awe when I read Leor Pantilat's analysis when we have some weather pattern and meteorological events in California, which isn't too often these past years, but my intuition was that we'd have much different weather conditions than my dream ones last year, and I was indeed expecting a lot of rain for a big change. What I didn't expect was that the temperature plus the wind chill would make conditions close to the freezing point, although, leaving California a full week before race day, I still managed to pack a hat, a pair of gloves, a Buff, arm sleeves, my Ultimate Direction rain jacket and a pair of long tights. Just in case... And, when you see snow out there on race morning, plus the alarming weather forecast in the medias, you'd better buckle up for the worse.
Again, as I wrote in my previous post, I wanted to come in 2019, when I was the youngest in my age group again. But I couldn't pass on the honor to be invited so, amid quite a troubled period leading to the race, running-wise, and the usual incertitude and last-minute planning on my business trips, I felt quite lucky to be in town for the race and able to get to the start line. Ah, that start line which looked so elusive through March and, again, on Monday morning! I thought I was prepared on Sunday night but, when it was time to leave my friends' house at 8, I was still looking around for things like my Ultimate Direction bottle handles or my S!Caps, not quite ready yet. All while checking the weather outside, where the landscape was covered by a thin layer of wet snow, oh my...! To add to my pre-race injuries, I woke up with a terrible stiffed neck which I still suffer from 5 days after the race. I really feel like getting older this year, finally...

My friend Nicolas dropped me around 8:50 on the 52nd Street parking lot and I the shuttle arrived at the village by 9:30.
Trying to make my way through a crowded field, I had hard time hearing the speaker but figured out that our wave was already making its way to the start, darn! One of our QuickSilver teammate, Amy, grew up here and she invited a few of us to stop by to her uncle's place, less than a mile from the start. I had planned to be there around 9 but it was 9:39 when I got there, already soaked and the start was at 10 am, sharp... A quick bathroom stop, putting some anti-chaffing on, a boost to my iPhone which had already died with the freezing temperatures, I left the place past 9:50, thinking I would run straight down the street like I did last year, to get in the first corral. But, there was no such access this year so I had to rush all around the blocks, almost back up to the village, then slaloming through the next wave which was now making its way toward the start. I was still sprinting on the side of the 4th corral when I heard the official start and got in the 3rd corral, passing the start line 1 minute and 10 seconds after the gun, and out of breath. After this exhausting warm-up and stressful start, I was in the 6 min/mile rhythm and started passing quite a few runners, on the right side of the road which looked more like a creek. The worst start conditions you can think of for a marathon, and what a waste of my wave 1 access bib...

As you probably know by now, the course goes down significantly in the first miles and I was surprised how easy it felt to clock 6:11 for each of my first 2 miles. There are so many fast runners at this marathon, it seems like you just have to follow the flow, get on the bus. I felt good and encouraged by this solid pace which I could hold for the first 6 miles and owe a lot to my massage therapist, Doods, for fixing my broken body the previous Monday, before I jumped on a plane for Cincinnati. However, beyond the 10K mark, I felt less energy maintaining that pace in the uphills and started slowing down significantly, clocking a few 6:40 miles, which was super disappointing. To make the matter worse, I was passed by waves of runners, it felt so different than last year. The rain was intermittent: when it wasn't raining, I felt too hot with my rain jacket and the arm sleeves underneath (plus the tights and hat). When it was raining hard though, I was thankful to have these layers, plus my cap to protect my eyes from the rain pouring right in our face, given the strong headwind, and thinking that I might pass many of the runners in singlets if not running top less!

As I had slowed down, Mark Murray, from Sacramento, passed me around mile 9 or 10, saying Hi and looking like having a terrific good day. Similarly, Scott Dunlap passed me before the half marathon distance, taking a picture or a clip with his GoPro and having a lot of fun. At this point, my goal was first to finish, and as close to 3 hours as possible. Despite wearing gloves, I couldn't feel my hands and I had to stop on the side of the course 3 times to ask for spectators, and a policeman, to get me a GU or S!Caps out of my running belt. I even recall stopping by for more than one minute at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, and getting passed by dozens of runners again, although, after swallowing that GU, I did pass a few runners going up the hill and in the last miles.
Overall I took only 2 S!Caps, 3GUs and one bottle of GU2O which, given the low temperatures and the fact that I had forgotten to bring my Vespa on this trip, was on the low/risky side both on the calorie and electrolyte sides.

I had pre-bought the Marathonfoto package for once and had planned to pin my bib on my tights so they can see it but, with the missed start, my bib was under my rain jacket, invisible. In the last mile I opened my jacket and was therefore completely soaked when I crossed the finish line.

I felt so embarrassed with my time and having been passed by several thousands of runners, I didn't feel much joy or pride when crossing the finish line, just a sense of relief to have survived the stormy conditions and not having walked at all.

Despite the disappointment, I tried to smile on the post-finish picture but, as soon as I stopped running, the muscles around my left hip seized/froze and it became super painful to just walk the six blocks toward the exit.
I was shivering (I'm so good at it in these conditions) and, several times, medical staffers asked if I was ok; at the third time, I accepted to get on a wheel chair (another bruise to my ego...), just to get to the extremity of the last block, where I found Nicolas, who started to worry, 17 minutes after I had crossed the finish line. I felt really cold at this point and, after a few detours, ended up back at the medical tent. The situation there was quite apocalyptic, almost like what we see in war movies: it was barely one hour after the lead men and women had crossed the finish line and the tent was already 85% full, while 28,000 runners were still on the course and battling weather conditions which were worsening (rain and wind). Many runners were on cots, pale, and suffering hypothermia. I felt lucky to have found Nicolas who had a bag full of dry clothes and, as soon as I changed, and felt much better right away in dry clothes, ready to leave promptly, to the satisfaction of the medical staff which started being worried about the tent getting that full so quickly and so early.

We took the subway back to Nicolas' car and many runners were changing in ad hoc conditions every where in the station: what an epic year to remember! And that poncho, including a hood, was a darn good and smart idea given the weather conditions, kudos to the organizers for planning for that!
I did watch the whole replay of the race on the local TV from 10 to midnight, before going to bed, and felt better about my race when I saw the elites wearing jackets and running 10 to 20 minutes slower than usual, and the winners shivering at the finish. Yet, I can't comprehend how the Masters divisions got so competitive this year, despite the bad conditions. It seems that many runners had trained for months in these wintery conditions and were actually quite prepared and happy about them. Look for instance and the variation of the top 10 across several age groups:
  1. Men 40-44: in 2018: 2:28:18 to 2:40:33 versus 2017: 2:12:45 to 2:32:46 a +16/+8 variation
  2. Men 45-49: 2:39:46 to 2:50:14 this year versus 2:25:15 to 2:44:27 last year, +15/+6
  3. Men 50-54: 2:44:29 to 2:54:28 in 2018 versus 2:41:48 to 2:49:54 in 2017, only a +3/+5 delta!
  4. Men 55-59: 2:53:17 to 2:59:51 versus 2:44:52 to 2:59:13 last year, a +9/+0 variance.
Speaking of M55-59, kudos to our local Mark Murray who had a fantastic run, breaking 3 hours by a few seconds and placing 10th in his age group. Also to Scott who ran a very solid 2:53 in such stormy conditions. And huge congrats and respect to Bay Area elite, Jorge Maravilla for taking 3rd in the Masters division, that's huge! Especially when you know he could have finished second, and take home an additional $2,500 purse, hadn't he stop before the finish line to grab his son so they could both cross the finish line together. Jorge is so generous, he has no regret for this life-time family memory, according to a famous ad, let's call that priceless! ;-)

By the way, I'm super happy for Desi for her major performance and toughing it out, running a smart and courageous race. I was delighted to represent Brooks on the podium last year along her, and so proud of her for getting the palms, the ultimate honor, this year. Not that it's a huge surprise given she had missed the overall win by 2 seconds back in 2011, and went on the top 10 podium several times since, but she really ran a smart and bold race. (Photo credit: Marathonfoto and part of the package I bought.)

Also an amazing win for the Hanson brothers, a testimony of the quality of their training program at a fraction of the cost of Nike's Oregon Project. Here are pictures from last year before we got on the podium:

I'm writing this post on Wednesday night. I wasn't too sore but the stiffed neck is still painful and I finally got a cold, my second this year. I tried to go for a run, but couldn't find good trails so capitulated back the hotel's fitness room where I did 30 minutes of elliptical work on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.
My result? I clocked 3:06:09, bad enough for 2,711th overall (!), 2,538th men and 56th in my age group, what a way to fall off last year's podium! That was my 300th race in my log, including 152 ultra races, and my 24th marathon. Here is chart summing-up my 20 years of marathon running:
I may have to accept that the trend can't keep going down for ever...

As much as I don't feel good about my race, I'm happy to have finished when many didn't (~25K finishers), including my good friend Bob who dropped at mile 19, suffering from hypothermia and having to call it a quit before jumping on a flight to Chicago a few hours later. Proud of having 6 finishes here and resolute to come back for a few more odd years. Including next year when I become the youngest (of my age group), again. And experience better conditions, most likely, as, according to many, that was one of the worst weather in the 122-year race history. Maybe that was the part of the legend, but certainly not my performance this time.
By the way, here is an interesting article from our local USATF Pacific Association about a few lessons to be drawn from this year's edition of Boston.