Thursday, June 28, 2018

Running in Krakow: just follow the Vistula River!

Krakow, Poland, is a great city to visit by foot, but almost too small to make a run really worth. As soon as I crossed the river on my way from the airport to downtown, I was drawn by the imposing Vistula River and biking lane on both banks.
The Vistula crosses all Poland, starting from the South, on the border with the Czech Republic and Solvakia, to the Baltic Sea in the North. In a S shape, it crosses Krakow from West to East then Warsaw, the Capital, from East to West. So, in Krakow, the right bank is on the South side of the river, and left bank on the North side. This is an important detail for my recommendations below.
[Photo credit: By Kmusser - Own work, Elevation data from SRTM, drainage basin boundary from USGS, all other features from Natural Earth., CC BY-SA 3.0,]

Indeed, if you run from downtown, the bike path on the left side, longing downtown, goes a couple of mile on the East side, but ends abruptly on the West side, under this monastery, whose fortifications drop right into the river.

On the right/South side though, I was able to go for 8 miles, up to a remarkable site, a sport center hosting in particular white water kayaking competition at the World level!

An ingenious lock is diverting and storing water from the flat river and releasing it in a narrow corridor to simulate torrents you only find in mountains. Clever!

Before getting to the sport center, you'll pass a big church perched on the ridge:

As opposed to this long stretch, westbound (and I believe it keeps going beyond these 8 miles), the bike path ends quickly on the right bank, eastbound from downtown, and slightly further on the left side, with a connection to additional paved bike paths getting through the suburbs.

The end of the trail on the right bank on the East side of the city (you can cross over the dam you see across the river on that picture):
And, about one mile farther, on the left bank:

You'll pass quite a few bridges on the way:

We were only in town for 4 days but I managed to run 4 times. Here is one of my 3 16-mile runs on the right side, in Strava:
and the corresponding 3D flyover from on the picture below):
Overall, an amazing opportunity to log a few miles without any traffic other than pedestrians and cyclists. I must add, although it's obvious on these pictures, that the area is very green!

Global Running Day: one new runner at a time!

Another belated post, 3 weeks have passed since this event occurred, time flies when you work hard while traveling around the world... even a few days of time off in Poland with the family didn't help! But, as the saying goes, better late than never, and for my own records at a minimum.

Global Running Day, yet another of these daily celebrations which we don't have enough days in a year to all fit! But what is it exactly?

We have to thank Wikipedia for so much information (not fake news!) made available at our finger prints. I've always liked the concept but didn't remember how many years it did... run! Here you are, it has been 9 years.
Global Running Day is a day that celebrates the sport of running. It is held annually on the first Wednesday of June.[1] Participants of all ages and abilities pledge to take part in some type of running activity by submitting their names through the Global Running Day website. Global Running Day 2018 is scheduled for June 6.
Global Running Day was formerly known as National Running Day and began in the United States. The first event was in 2009.
The inaugural Global Running Day was held on June 1, 2016. More than 2.5 million people from 177 countries pledged to run more than 9.2 million miles. New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, declared June 1, 2016 to be Global Running Day in the City of New York.[3] 2014 Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi led a group run from the Boston Run Base,[4] and the Atlanta Track Club organized a “run around the clock” event, where at least one person from the Atlanta metro area would be running every hour of Global Running Day.
Last year I organized a celebration at the IBM location I'd Been Moved to (yes, being moved is something so frequent in our company that some people came up with this alternative acronym meaning a while ago...).

As a group we logged 306 miles on June 6, 2017 so I set the hefty goal of 400 miles this year. I'm not sure what happened this year, the weather wasn't even too hot, but we came up rather short with 211 miles this time.

Now, at the running clinic I organized, there were a handful of experienced runners, even one who knew Michael Wardian and Jim Wamsley (last week, Jim broke the Western States 100-mile course record with an amazing time of 14 hours and 30 minute, shaving off 15 minutes from the previous record, totally mind blowing!). [Photo credits: Henry Wang, IBM]

On the other end of the spectrum, there was a colleague whose husband has organized a trip to Patagonia at the end of the year. She wanted to get ready for this 6-day trek by getting back in shape and taking on running. Perfect timing and it was refreshing to get questions on these initial interrogations which every new runner has, such as breathing, stride, posture, pace, where to run, where to buy shoes and which shoes. Many of the things we take for granted after running for several years.

I ran along her for her first 1.5 miles, stopping twice to let her catch her breath and celebrating this key initial milestone.

I went back on our site 2.2-mile loop and ended up with 15 miles before having to rush to another meeting but very happy to have witnessed the birth of a new runner!

Hope you had a great celebration for that day yourself, 3 weeks ago, and looking forward to seeing the birth of many more runners before we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Global Running Day!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

PCTR San Francisco One Day: another long day and night on our feet

A whole week passed since San Francisco One Day, it's about time I'm getting over it... As a matter of fact, I wrote this sentence and most of the report last weekend, but didn't finish it before flying to Paris then Krakow, so now this makes 2 weeks...

The race started on Friday night, finished at 6 pm on Saturday so I don't even have an excuse to have missed a same-weekend post. Well, I actually have, on Sunday, we went to the San Jose Symphony, then had a presentation to prepare for a meeting in the evening plus another function, and some work, so still a few excuses. But, more importantly, short of being sore, I was still way to sour to write something.

A 24-hour is such a long race, I changed the title of this blog post several times through the night, and the following day. My first idea was "Good news, bad news." By bad news, I was going to refer to my discovery, 3 hours prior to the race, that Greg had slightly changed the course and wasn't USATF certified anymore (per Greg, the original certification had elapsed anyway). My bad for not ensuring the proper application of the Pacific Association USATF rules for a Grand Prix event! The thing is that I had some big ambitions for my 8th attempt at this event format. I set a PR of 133 miles on my 2nd 24-hour, at the US Nationals in 2014, I've always felt I could do better, but no luck so far. So, back to that idea titles, I was hoping that, at least, short of a certified run, I would at least improve that PR.

As a matter of fact, the weather conditions were questionable. While a clear sky was expected for 24 hours, with warm temperatures preventing the fog to surround us, there were gusty winds expected for a few hours, including at the start. And they didn't disappoint indeed!

We were 50 to compete in the 24-hours, along with other runners running either 12 or 6 hours (they could start every 6 hours). And a few Men in Blue from our Quicksilver Ultra Racing Team:

Right off the start, two runners took of, and they included Ian Driver who took 3rd at Quicksilver 100K, behind me. I was very fine loosing sight of them as I was already running faster than my goal. While I was aiming at 9:30-9:45-minute laps, (9-9:15 min/mile), I had hard time slowing down and clocked a few 8:30-minute laps. I was amazed by the fact that even Chikara Omine had the discipline to stay behind, although that didn't last too long. The one who was really staying just behind me was Matt Ward, for more than 10 miles, while he enjoyed getting paced by a friend for the first 20 laps or so.

By the way, the lap was measured at 1.05 miles and, to complete the course description, it's a flat course, 45% asphalt and 55% dirt. With amazing views of the City by the Bay, alternatively the Golden Gate and the Marin Headlands, then downtown San Francisco, including the brand new Salesforce tower. And, after 5 laps, we could change direction at our leisure. The view under the PCTR arch, breathtaking either way!

I completed lap 10 in 1:27, 7 minutes faster than my fastest plan, oops! By lap 20 (2:58), I was still 11 minutes under, then 10 minutes at lap 30, 6 minutes at lap 40. Finally, I crossed over before lap 50 and was now 6 minute above the minima, in better territory if I wasn't slowing down too fast though...

Ah, slowing, I'm incorrigible: I hate slowing down, and even more so, walking, yet I typically get too excited and start too fast, like a kid. It's one thing to remain young in my head, but can't I have figured it out by now...?

By mile 55, my pace slowed down to 10:15-10:30 min/mile, that wasn't looking good at all. It was 3:30 am when I reached 100K and I was feeling dizzy and sleepy. I should have rushed to the car right away but I attempted another lap, walking this time, then stayed at the aid station for some time to see if I could recover but decided to get some sleep eventually. I was really exhausted, it was 4 am, and slept like a baby, stunned to actually wake up on my own at 5 am. The sun was rising, the light magnificent, that gave me some peps and wings.

Well, the legs were feeling heavy and tight so I did walk from the car to the aid station to complete lap 61, with my teammate Jim Magill, 71 (year old, not laps!). If I recall, Chikara was in the lead with 71 laps, but had stopped himself to get some rest on his chair, at the aid station. And Matt Ward was in 3rd place, 4 laps ahead of me I think.

The views of the sunrise were amazing and uplifting!

Lap 62 was actually a breeze as I resumed running. As a matter of fact, I clocked a few miles under 9 minutes which was a bit insane, but it felt so good to get running again, I got a little excited and did 8 laps at that speed, phew! Chikara came back on the course but couldn't manage to run so got back to sleep, on his chair, after 3 more laps (74). At this point, I got tired again and, worst, out of breath with a bit of asthma, dang! And we weren't even 12 hours in the race. I had 75 miles at the 12-hour mark, not too bad except that I was completely worn out now.

From there, I started a slow walk, aiming at at least reaching 100 miles so we could score that distance as a team.

Jeremy had not stopped the whole night but dropped after 74 laps and 16 hours of running. Jim used the whole 24 hours to log 78 laps (82 miles!) to finally win his disputed 70+ age group!

Our team captain, Loren Lewis, had entered at the last minute and, despite the lack of tapering, he kept running in the late hours, logging a total of 105 laps. Although he was only aiming at 100K initially, another teammate, Dan Aspromonte, 62, went one lap further than the 100-mile mark, for a total of 101.85 miles, allowing us to score at 100 miles!

Because, yes, I did manage to reach 100 miles eventually, after an embarrassing time of 22.5 hours, and so much deception on my end. My pitiful photo finish:
96 laps and I called it a day, or a night because I really don't recall, I was a complete zombie by then. My hands and legs were extremely swollen, I got sunburnt on the neck and lost quite some skin on Thursday, I couldn't take a full breath without coughing and I was sweating in the car like I had fever.

This belt buckle got me walking to complete 100 miles...

It has been a week and I'm still not sure what happened. I gained 6 pounds during the race, which I only lost after a training run on Wednesday, celebrating Global Running Day at work. And my legs returned to normal on Thursday. I believe I took too much carb, tortillas in particular, and retained too much fluid as a result, which is what happened in Auburn at another failed timed event in January.

15 miles on the following Wednesday, 12 on Friday, 29 on Saturday and 9 last Sunday.

What a shame, what a lost opportunity; clearly, you can't race for 24 hours every day... I hate the idea that this type of event isn't for me, but I have to be better disciplined on the pacing when I try again. I find it so hard to run at 9 min/mile when my legs are fresh, then so hard to walk at 15 min/mile afterwards...

That being said, what a blessing to be given this opportunity to run for a whole day by Greg, Jennifer and their PCTR crew, starting with Shrina and her family. Between the setup and the run down, this is 30 hours of volunteering such an event requires, wow!

I'll be back, and try again...

Friday, June 1, 2018

Whirlwind passage in Paris

Nope, not another of these extraordinary and destructive meteorological events, it's just the word which came to mind when I thought of my short and unplanned stay here. Yet, with 68 miles (110K) over 4 days, I was able to squeeze in some good running. And, to keep up with the weather theme, in spite of the high temperatures and humidity. At least I was able to avoid the storms and pouring rain which brought some temperature relief in the evenings. And much appreciated rain to clean the streets and side walks (I always wonder how many dogs live in Paris...).

Since a picture is worth a thousands words, how many is a video worth? Must be a lot, and that's going to save you and me some time! ;-) Let me use the 4 flyovers as a running weekend report... Check them out by clicking on the scree shots, for an interesting experience to see Paris and it's South suburb from the air!

A couple of hours after landing on Friday, I crossed half Paris to pick something for my mother. I have to admit I didn't stop at all the red lights, I'm glad we don't risk losing our running license over road infractions... Just slaloming the many tourists and the heavy traffic of a Parisian work day was challenging enough.

On Saturday, I ran my usual 50K course: from Stade Charletty to Saclay Bourg (see short description in these 2016 and 2015 post), mostly on the Coulée Verte which is a bike path along the TGV tracks (see that post for a detailed description). Just under 4 hours.

Between some jet lag and a family celebration for the local Mothers' Day I only had time to run 18 miles on Sunday, on the Coulée Verte again.

On Monday, the day of my godfather's funeral, the reason of my trip, I stayed in the neighborhood and ran 12 times around the very nice Parc Montsouris.

This urban park is a gem and it probably takes 20 or 30 full-time staff gardeners to maintain. For the pleasure of all and many generations enjoying either running, walking or just bird and nature watching.

With that, I'm back in the Bay Area to run a few laps around Crissy Field starting this Friday at 6 pm (San Francisco One Day, ex Summer Solstice). Trying to push the envelope beyond my 133-mile PR at this 24-hour format. More news live on FaceBook, thanks to Greg Lanctot's PCTR venture, then in my next blog post of course... The ultra life goes on!