Sunday, March 26, 2023

Black Mountain 50K: cry me many rivers!

If only we could find a way to channel all the atmospheric rivers California has received these past 3 months, underground, into the aquifer/phreatic zone which we depleted with our intensive agriculture! Meanwhile, we can go with and enjoy the flow, but even such a prolific El Niño isn't going to get us out of a sustained and systemic drought.

That pessimistic caveat being made, what an exceptional situation we have on and around Black Mountain! And since a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth at least one million! See this flyover of my 31-mile training journey around and to the top of Black Mountain this Saturday (short of being able to get to the start of the Knickerbocker 35K race in Auburn after blowing up a tire on 680 on the way). Click on the image below or this link:

I had initially planned on running up Montebello Road but changed my mind at the bottom of Stevens Creek Park, and that made it much more interesting. And challenging as well as I made a detour up to Coyote Ridge first, then on Mount Eden Trail before running the whole Stevens Creek Canyon (the road section first, then the trail, up to Bella Vista Trail). So many creeks flowing from both sides of the canyon and giving Stevens Creek such an unusual and rarely seen power. No wonder why the Stevens Creek Reservoir is now full again. So uplifting to see this! Elijah Stephens would be glad and proud (see the history of the Stevens Creek including the various names it went through since 1776).

With another storm last week though, we lost more trees, and not just dead ones, but younger and healthy ones. See for instance that one at the Waterwheel spring. Less shade this Summer...

If you live in the Bay and have the opportunity, take a run or hike up in the nearby hills to see what fresh water looks like. Such a common thing to see in the Alps, with the glaciers melting faster in particular, but not here. And not in many places around the world as the international community just discussed in New York at the UN Water Conference, the first in 50 years! Let's enjoy as it lasts as we say and protect this essential asset in our lives. I have to admit again: I much prefer fresh water to a glass of beer. I know, it may be just me...

That was my 8th ultra this year, including 3 ultra races. Not a fast one at 9:10 min/mile average, not counting picture stops, but a great training with 4,400-4,600 feet of cumulative elevation and a few steep hills. After 3 months focusing on road training and racing, it was about time I get back to the trails, albeit wet ones, to prepare for the Spring season and Quicksilver 100K in particular. Way different running, a much more engaging one for the glutes and quads.

A taste of Pura Vida at the top of Black Mountain, with views of the Pacific:
Zooming on San Francisco by a clear day:

Mt Umunum in the distance:

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Knickerbocker Canyon 35K: running can be the easy part...

Finally, a same-day race report, phew! It has been a long time since I was able to do it, I'm glad to have the opportunity to get back to this sane practice. Oh wait, what about a same-day NO race report actually?

With two Nationals, the 100-mile Road one in Vegas 3 weeks ago, just after a business trip to Austin, then the 50K Road Championships in New York a week later, flying back home for a few days, then a 3-day round trip to Paris last weekend, it has been quite a busy March already, not to say crazy busy! But I was really excited to run that Inside Trail Racing race which I included in our North California/Nevada Mountain, Ultra, Trail Grand Prix this year. It was going to be my first 35K and I was so looking forward to transitioning back to hilly trails after focusing on road training and racing for 3 months.

It was only on Thursday afternoon that I realized the race was in Auburn; I was originally thinking it was in Granite Bay, further South and closer to home. We were only 3 from the Club: Gaspar had family plans to stay up there Saturday evening; Bjorn was driving on Friday night and staying in Auburn. I hesitated joining him but, with an 8:30 am start, I decided to drive in the morning so I could spend one more evening with Agnès as I've been away quite a lot this month already.

I got to bed just after 9 pm last night, woke up before my alarm clock before 4 am, and hit the road at 4:40. With a 10-minute break to eat some breakfast at 5:30 --3 hours before the start-- ETA was 7:15, some good margin to find a parking spot near the start.

I wasn't alone on the road, there might have been some early birds on their way to the magnificent snow around Lake Tahoe, and the usual semis. I was passing a big one on the 2-lane section after the Benicia-Martinez bridge on 680 when it drifted over the middle line, forcing me to veer away on the left, and...

I heard a loud boom then my dashboard turned to the most entertaining Christmas display, I've never seen so many warning lights popping up at once, scary! I love my Elantra and all its security features but all this at once was a bit overwhelming. By a little miracle, I was able to complete my passing and there was an exit just ahead which I took to escape the truck closing on me. Among the lights were several alerts that I had lost pressure in my tires, yikes!

Sure enough, on the exit ramp, I could feel at least one flat tire, dang! I found a safe spot, put my headlamp on and my spare tire was in place less than 15 minutes later. 6 am and 91 miles to the start, that was still doable. Then I read the manual...

Well, that was a first for me, first flat tire, maybe it was about time. I had some notions that spare tires aren't meant to drive long distances, not to mention above 50 mph, but I was hoping I could finish my trip. And race. The language of the manual made me reconsider though. First, in all fairness, I had to check the pressure in that tiny tire. I drove another 12 miles toward Sacramento to find a gas station on the other side of the highway in Fairfield, before the junction with Hwy 80. I had to use 2 sets of 8 quarters to get the pressure up to 40 psi per my gauge, as opposed to the recommended 60 psi. But the tire was as hard as concrete so I assumed the gauge wasn't precise enough. With these additional 15 minutes spent at the station, and more thoughts, I decided I'd rather get back home, rather than take big risks to drive too many miles on that tire, then spend hours getting the tire fixed somewhere. After 60K miles, my tires were due for a refresh anyway, time to go shopping...

I'm not sure if the truck saw something big on the road which would make it change lane to avoid it, or if it pushed something my way, I think it's more likely I hit a big hole on the side of the road when I had to go over the left line. With the slow driving on the way back, I could notice so many holes, not the smoothness of French or German highways...

Now, what a huge disappointment, running wise! Sure, I'm alive and the car is safe at home by now, that's the most important (oh my, what a pain to drive 55-60 mph on the highway, that feels so slow...). But the weather was perfect, our local teammate, Martin, had told me the trail conditions were great, and the course was going to provide a superb hill training. More importantly the three of us had to finish to get team points.

I can't even remember if I had a DNS (Did Not Start) before. UltraSignup doesn't show any on my list of results. That may be the first one indeed. After 351 races in my log including 171 ultra finishes, not too bad. I could and should have considered the Friday night in Auburn, but we can't redo the past.

Ironically I was back home by the time the race started in Auburn and went on to run 50 hilly kilometers in the hills, with enough pictures and videos of dozens of creeks to make a separate post. At least I got some good trail and hill training for the second/Spring part of the season. These glutes need so much work to get back to pre-injury form...

As for the race, the results aren't published yet. From Strava I see Gaspar took 7th overall and 1st Masters, in 2:53:54: we have a new leader on the team, I can now step back! ;-) Bjorn's time was 3:55:14. Again, so disappointed I couldn't be one of the three musketeers this time. A big bummer for the 2023 season for our Club. But, sometimes, the hardest is to get to the start...

PS: driving slower also gives you a great gas mileage (44.4 mpg), there is that!

Sounds like the TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) hasn't been designed to handle the concept of a flat and spare tire, weird.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Heckscher Park 50K Road Nationals: back on forward drive!

A few months ago, I was dreaming and hoping to run this championship double again. This year wasn’t ideal though as Jackpot (100-mile Road Nationals) had moved from the classic mid-February date to actually picking the classic date of the 50K Road Nationals which had been held on the first Sunday of March for probably a decade now. Initially at Caumsett Park on the North shore of Long Island, and now at Heckscher Park, on its South shore, after constructions at Caumsett forced the organizing club, GLIRC, to find a new venue. With the 100-mile Road Nationals held on a Friday to avoid the weekend foot traffic on the course, and Heckscher happening on a Sunday, that was still leaving 9 to 8 days, depending on when you finished the 100-miler. Now, with my disappointment of completely missing my time goal at Jackpot, I was somehow glad I had not signed up for the 50K championships in advance. But it didn’t take more than 2 days before I felt I would regret not making an attempt. The appeal of the USATF medals...

Due to work conflicts in particular, and the fact that I ran Way Too Cool at the beginning of March for 10 years in a row from 2006 to 2015, I’ve had a sparse history with that race:
  1. 2014: 3:37:12
  2. 2015: 3:21:16 (my 50th 50K, in 10 years!)
  3. 2016: 3:18:05; the year I got a mini stroke (TIA), one mile from the finish and still managed to break the 31-year-old M50-54 American record, the same year Rich Hanna ran 3:17:52 (got a more major stroke three hours later at the Newark, that time losing my whole left side for 20 minutes, hectic!)
  4. 2019: 3:31:57; I had injured my hamstring attach 4 months earlier but didn’t know what the pain was about yet, and still had the great pre-injury form
  5. 2020: 3:59:39; that one really hurt because the pain hadn’t passed despite taking 7 months off in 2019 and, this time, I had lost of lot of my physical conditioning.
After 2020, with the injury hitting through most of 2022, it wasn’t worth making the trip to New York. This year I was anxious to get a new live and field test of what I could do on that distance, my favorite ultra distance as I completed 75 50K races so far. Why is that my sweet spot? Just short enough to make it an ultra while keeping the pain on the low side and allowing to sustain some marathon speed.

After the blues Jackpot generated, Agnès wasn’t so thrilled about the idea of the double, but I’m super grateful she showed support when she learned that it was only 50K. I signed-up just before the limit on Thursday evening, and booked the whole logistics (airfare, hotel, rental car, airport parking) in record time. There again I was on a plane on Saturday, making it to the hotel by 10 pm (Eastern), wrapping up my Jackpot race report by 11, going to bed at 11:30 and setting the clock for 5:30 am, hoping for a good 6-hour sleep. Oh wait, we were changing time, that meant only 5 hours then. With the 3-hour time difference, it meant waking up at 1:30 am Pacific time, what wouldn’t we do for our passion! After decades of heavy international travels, I’m pretty good with managing jet lag, but I certainly felt like an early wake-up call, although I actually woke up on my own before the alarm rang. And I’m writing this on a plane which got delayed again like last Saturday, and scheduled to reach SFO at 12:15 am, Pacific, keeping me awake for more than 24 hours again, some additional good ultra training…

My hotel was 15 minutes away from the start, that was easy. And, like the weather forecast predicted, the skies were all blue, the Ocean breeze low, and the temperature right on the freezing point: perfect setting for a great day.

Like many events which have to recover from the pandemic, the field for the Nationals was really small, with about 40. Thankfully GLIRC runs a non-championship 50K along our race, as well as a 25K which starts 5 minutes after us. With the wide range of paces, and the 5K loop format, that makes for some constant company through the morning and beginning of afternoon.

After an encouraging 3:42 at Jed Smith 50K a month ago, including a 3:05 marathon split, an official Boston qualifier, and only one other participant in my age group, my goal was to see if I could get under 3:40 at least, and close to an even 7 minute/mile pace (3:37:15 or so) or 21:45 per lap. The start was so fast, that made it easier to not being even tempted to follow the lead men, and even women! I was wearing 2 long sleeves tops plus tight and shorts, when most of the leaders were in singlets and shorts.

I was quite glad to clock just under 22 minutes for the first lap: it felt easy but that meant I wasn’t starting too fast. It was still above my 7:00 min/mile pace goal so I picked up the pace by a few seconds and clocked a few miles just under 7 minutes in the next two laps. I was a bit bummed to get lapped by the leader in my 4th lap but never mind the ego, I had my own goal to pursue. Still, I pushed the pace another notch to delay being caught, and that got me a few miles in the 6:45-6:50 range. Still feeling easy although my glutes were somehow remembering they powered me through 100 miles last weekend… (Photo credit: GLIRC.)

At the 25K mark, I felt so good both physically and mentally that I started thinking of picking the pace up again to get a better marathon split than Jed Smith’s 3:05. The marathon was still 3 laps and a mile away, that was a bit of a gamble, but I hadn’t much to lose anyway, having lapped Joe Jurczyk twice already as he ran a few laps with Roy. (Photo credit: GLIRC.)

To my good surprise, driven by this shorter or intermediate goal, I was able to keep clocking several miles under 6:45, still. As I stopped to remove one layer close to the end of my 8th lap, I promptly sprinted to the finish line to avoid being lapped a 2nd time by the lead runner who finished in a blazing 2:52, phew! With everybody looking at Kallin whom you can see in the background, finishing his 10th lap, I pretended I was finishing too, eh eh... At least I avoided being lapped twice this time, phew! Kidding aside, what a blazing performance from Kallin! (Photo credit: GLIRC.)

I kept pushing to cover the next 1.4 miles to the marathon checkpoint. 2:58, 2:59 and I was still not on the parking lot where the timing mat was placed. I ended up reaching that intermediate goal in 3:01:57. While I would have really loved to get under 3 hours again (which I did on 15 of my 27 marathons), there were still 8K to cover from there, that does count.

Having lost some of the motivation, I did ease the pace a bit, especially at the beginning of the last lap with a 7:36 mile but, with 2 miles to go, I did see a M40-45 bib ahead and that gave me a last kick as I thought I might be in the money, that is one of the top 3 Masters: what about finishing with 7:05 and 6:45 miles to make for a great day?

While I was far behind both the men and women winners, I finished right under 3:37, with 3:36:56 (gun) or a 6:59 min/mile average pace. This time, goal met, and another good step in the right rebuilding direction!

Speaking of a fast field, 4 men and 2 women made the Team USA qualifying standards today! Both top women finishers broke the 3:15 course record, with the winner, Andrea Pomaranski, slashing it with a blazing 3:07:50, at 40!!!! (Photo credit: Meghan Canfield, USATF.)

Kalin Carolus Kahn won the men race in 2:52:47, including a 2:24:56 marathon!

I placed 12th overall, 7th in the Men, 3rd Master indeed and 1st in my age group: making the trip definitely worthwhile, including some prize money as a bonus, an unexpected treat at my age! (Photo credit: Meghan Canfield, USATF.)

3 pouches of Vespa did the trick again, while I drank only one bottle of GU Brew this time, and used 3 GU gels as strategic carbs. I was really pleased with the relatively even pacing this time. I might be able to shave a few minutes but it's such a slow rebuilding path, hard to accept to be so far from a 3:18, only 7 years later. Patience is so hard...

A handful of volunteers were busy in the tent serving hot food, a much-welcomed post-race buffet. Clouds had filled the sky by mid-day but the weather remained dry all day. If I’m not mistaken, rain came back the following day, we got really lucky this time!

After some chatting with volunteers, the Race Directors, our USATF Officials, Lin and Meghan, and legendary friends, Roy Pirrung and Brian Teason, I asked Brian if I could take a shower in their room before driving to EWR. There was a feel of locker room in our small reunion, and that shower was such a treat, especially as my 8 pm flight ended up begin delayed 90 minutes and I got to bed around 2:30 am Pacific. That is 5:30 am Eastern, straight 24 hours up, some good training for longer races this year…

It was supposed to be Roy's 100th National title but he has been struggling with health issue for a few months, I'm sure he'll reach this legendary milestone next year when he becomes the youngest in the M75-79 age group! Roy has ran Spartathlon 3 times, finishing top 4 3 times, I'll have a few questions for him to prepare for my new 2023 goal...

Love this little reunion with the East Coast ultra community, I hope to remain healthy enough to keep running these 10 laps on Long Island, year after year. Special thanks to co-RDs, Carl Grossbard and Suzanne Nelson, and their small crew of volunteers, for daring to run such a championship!

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Jackpot 100-mile Nationals: it's long to be back

I know, the actual saying would rather be: it's good to be back! Who wants the road back home to be long, really? Actually, there was a bit of be back flavor this week as I flew to Austin for a business trip last Sunday, got back home late Wednesday night, then on a flight again to Vegas on Thursday evening. So long for a proper birthday celebration but that used to be the life I enjoyed so much for several decades, until the pandemic hit. I miss this engagement and spending more time at our clients although I acknowledge the carbon footprint was way too high.

If you have been following this blog for a few years, you know I've been struggling to get back to my better self, running wise, since my 2018 hamstring tendon injury. It took 4 years for the pain to disappear and it felt really good to be running a solid 50K at Jed Smith 4 weeks ago. Finally a good step in the right direction, that is... back, in comparison with the last four sloppy years.

I logged 377 miles in January: not a crazy number for some, but my highest monthly mileage since September 2018, 2 months before the injury... when I was training so hard before flying to an invitational 100K in Wuhan, China (yes, that Wuhan...). I eased up a little in February, plus took a week off to taper before Jackpot. A bit of trouble though: my body is so used to run efficiently, for every day I don't run at least 12 miles, I tend to gain a pound... Between the tapering and the business trip, I had 6 extra to carry for the race, oops!

Back to the topic... I love opportunities to run national championships, I find it a great perk of our USATF membership. And it's really open to all, it's not like qualifying for the Olympics, it just requires being in good standing. Becoming an Official 8 years ago, I also gained much more appreciation for the organizing Race Directors as the financial burden falls all on them: having to sanction their event, to pay for course certification and, more importantly, to chip in prize money from their own pocket (I initially thought USATF was paying that part). Now, since most of the income comes from registration fee, not sponsors, I'm also grateful to my fellow runners signing up. And this where the Jackpot running festival is particularly interesting, by offering a wide range of options: 9 fixed-time events (1 x 48hr, 1 x 24hr, 3 different 12-hour and 4 different 6-hour races) and 3 different fixed-distance ones (100-mile Nationals, regular 100-mile, 50-mile): yes, a running festival over 3 days, think of the energy and organization skills that one takes to direct!

After 9 years under the direction of co-founders Ken and Stephanie Rubeli of Beyond Limits Running, the event is now part of the broad portfolio of Aravaipa. If you didn't know about the switch, you could have barely noticed: except for a few changes of banners, the same professionalism, same focus on the runner experience, almost identical layout of the aid station and start/finish area (named Jackpot Strip), same Vegas spirit with the presence of costumes at the start. And the traditional dry weather of the Nevada desert, one key factor to manage throughout the day and the night (and twice more for the valorous 48-hour participants).

Below, with World Record Holder for most 100 mile finished in a year (among other crazy feats), Ed (Ettinghausen), aka The Jester, today going for 48 hours again. Ed would end up logging 180 miles, slightly short of his 200-mile goal, one which the 48-hour winner, reached, followed by 190 miles for the female winner, Rachel Entrkin, wow!

With M80-84 legend, the other Ed (Rousseau), from Minnesota:

This was my 5th participation out of 10 editions: as this event used to occur mid February, it survived the pandemic blackout of March 2020 and even happened in 2021, great resilience! I ran 2018 (15:34), 2019 (14:47 still managing to set a new M50-54 American Record while injured), 2021 (pathetic 21:25), 2019 (disappointing 19:06).

In a screwed capacity the first 3 times, that is, in our ultra jargon, without a crew, and with Max's help last year. This year, Greg and Jennifer (Lanctot, from Pacific Coast Trail Runs) offered to drive down from Reno; I gladly accepted and that allowed me to fly the night before instead of driving 1,100 miles (16+ hours round trip)! All in all, between the logistic and a very solid training so far this year, all lights were green for a good run. Definitely not aiming at a record as I just turned 59 last week and our M55-59 record is even lower than the M50-54 one since Rob Hayes lowered it to 14:35 in 2021. My main goal was to run 15:30, about 9:15 min/mile. There was only one other runner in my age group, on the entrant list, with marathon marks between 6 to 8 hours: winning my age group definitely seemed doable again.

As part of the green lights was the weather too: sunny, not too cold at the start, not too hot in the afternoon, and just a breeze. With the views of snow capping all surrounding mountains, a magical and perfect setting!

Lat year, Camille Herron won the race and set a World Record for both the Open and Masters division. That was before an official measurer noticed that a cone had been moved and invalidated the record, stating that the overall distance missed a couple of tenth of a mile, ultra dang! With that, a very special and extra attention was put on the course design, and we had a slight revision of the start with an extra 0.4 mile before running the 85 full laps. 85 laps, a good number to make for a boring race report... No mountain to climb, no river to cross, no rocky terrain but mostly cement. 85 laps also mean 85 passages through the aid station, better not stop every time or that's at least an hour wasted right there!

Not too far from the front line action this time, ready to start!

With my main goal being averaging 9:15 min/mile, the hardest part of the morning was to run really slow. Coming back from the injury last year, training at 8 min/mile didn't feel easy. But, mile after mile, I was able to pick up the pace and I can train more consistently around 7:30 min/mile. I made sure to build some distance with the youngsters right off the bat, yet could not manage to run slower than 8:45 for the first 20 laps, and that even including 4 pit/pee stops. Even 8:45 felt like an easy jog. While I knew the numbers never lie and that there isn't such a concept as banking miles early in an ultra, I couldn't help slowing down more than this. Greg joked about this problem unique to faster runners... This pace got me to 3:49 marathon (versus 3:05 during the Jed Smith 50K last month) and 4:35 for the first 50K (versus 3:42 at Jed Smith). So far so good. I even didn't feel bad at all for being passed by the leader and legendary Zach Bitter every 4.5 lap, consistently; on the contrary, it was almost reassuring, a reinforcement that I couldn't have started too fast. In 2019 Zach clocked the world faster 100-mile ever at 11:19 and even continued to set a new world record for 12 hours at 104.8 miles! Except Zach, everybody else was getting lapped anyhow, even our other Bay Area representative, Jonah Backstrom, in second place, at 49!

For me, the wheels started to fall off a few miles after the 50K mark, way way too early, yikes and dang! Mostly upper leg fatigue, especially the glutes and adductors. Nothing dramatic physically but that forced me to slow down a notch. I ran laps 29-33 (mile 32-37) at 9 min/mile this time. I was more worried about my mental state as I didn't like this early fatigue at all. Then, at the end of lap 33, I saw Zach in a chair, not looking good at all while Lin, the USATF Official, was checking on him. I learned later that he had started the race with some fever, that wasn't going to be his day (I hadn't noticed that at previous races, I was also surprised by his asymmetrical stride: his left left foot kicking back over the knee level, while the right foot stayed much lower; but such an efficient stride nevertheless, proved by mind boggling performances otherwise). Anyway, just to say that I felt sorry for him, and that even got my spirit down. He had run 47 miles, I was at 39 miles and already wondering what it was going to take me to get to 50...

I eased up because I had to, now running miles between 9:30 and 11:30 depending on how long I was stopping at the aid station, wondering what to do better from a fueling strategy. But the issue was at least half in my mind, a lack of motivation and self-confidence about the last 50 miles. As you probably know if you've read previous race reports, I hate walking. Later, as I walked more, I expressed this frustration to the legendary Eric Clifton, who walked a lot this Saturday, yet managed to get another National title in the M60-65.

Passing the 50-mile mark, I stopped by the timing booth and teased our timer, Mike Melton, with a: "it's all up hill from here..." His reply was the classic, "no, no, all downhill" but I was the one knowing what was going on in my mind and my legs. A few things kept me moving forward at this point thouhg, thankfully:
  1. First and foremost, seeing the battle raging in the M80-84 age group. It was so impressive and inspiring to watch these 5 competitors power walk so consistently and with so much energy, focus and will power. That brought back memories from the times I was racing along my Stevens Creek Striders club mate, Bill Dodson. Bill can't run anymore and I felt bad that his 32-hour record might fall today.
  2. Then there was Andy Wilkins-Jones who was energizing the livestream: referring to the quote that the Western States race only starts at Foresthill, mile 62, beginning at mile 35 I told him I was trying to find and get to the start... And he made the cap 65 miles for me, so I at least needed to go that far then...
  3. Of course Jenny and Greg weren't taking a DNF as an option, having driven all these miles to get me to the finish.
  4. Then a few other encouragements from our USATF Officials, Meghan and Lin, and other crews, like Rich.
  5. Last but not least, I had not made such a trip to just drop that early and come back empty handed. At that point, I could still jog. After all, I had run 50 miles in 7:45, still 2 minutes ahead of the pace to get to my goal of 15 hours and 30 minutes. Except that the derivative of my timing chart was way negative now, not a good thing at all when you still have 50 miles to cover.
I reached 62 miles (100K) around 6 pm as the sun had said goodbye for the day. I was getting cold, it was time to change layers. And then get back to the mill, lap after lap. I had to push and limit the walking to maintain a pace between 12 and 13 min/mile now, not fun.

Then a second change 20 miles later:

By mile 80, I was seeing myself barely breaking 24 hours and I started arguing with Jenny and Greg, that I'd rather have them going back to the hotel and sleep until I call them in the morning. That wasn't an idea they liked but, after seeing the first men and women finish, and after getting enough of my whining, they accepted. In some sense, that freed me from any pressure and I recall running a few laps (76-79) before that short-lived second wind faded again. But at least, using my Hypervolt massaging gun earlier than last year, while keeping moving on the course, I was able to remove a few knots in my glutes and adductors. I was proud to walk not fast, but much faster that I'm used to in such conditions, there is that.

I still paid attention to my fueling, keeping taking a Vespa Power pouch every 3 hours, drinking consistently and eating gels (GU Energy), some banana and brownies, and that avoided stopping to a halt to a halt, like last year. It helped that, after all, I was alone in my age group, that removed some of the pressure. It was just me against the clock, although, when I noticed that I was still in 9th place in the men, with 2 hours to go, I felt that I'd better keep moving faster, silly me...

Although it felt like taking for ever, I was glad to keep moving through the night. 1 am, 2 am, 3 am. As I finished my 84th lap, what a surprise and joy to see Greg who had drove back from the hotel when he saw that I was making up some time. He was there to catch this picture of my finish. Like a colleague at work put it, I seem to be wondering where everybody was! ;-) No it was more "finally done... sorry it took me that long!"

And, yes, I felt quite ashamed for missing the end of the livestream again, missing my goal by 4 hour. Although, after 187 ultra races, it had been a long time since I received so many congratulatory messages, thank you all!

I went to bed at 5 am on Saturday morning, woke up at 9:30, got breakfast, worked a couple of hours from the hotel, then bought a pass to the lounge with a flight which kept being delayed, leaving Vegas at 6:30 pm instead of 2:55... The following night I slept for 11 hours and got a huge sweat all night. Something was really off, and I don't know what it was, just that, beyond some well earned soreness in my legs, I felt fine on Sunday, no fever, phew! Maybe my mind getting rid of so many dark thoughts, that was quite weird. Anyway, I ran 10, 15 and 20K respectively, Monday though Wednesday and, feeling much better on Thursday, decided to sign up again, this time for the 50K Nationals this Sunday, 8 days later... Yes, crazy...

That result and craziness earned me a nice piece in the largest regional print newspaper in France, Ouest France, credit to Stéphane Cugnier, journalist and marathoner himself, living in South California:

My first thanks go to Greg and Jenny for their great help, and friendship. To Agnès for letting me play this way, even when it's not that playful... To Jamil and his Aravaipa crew for continuing the Jackpot tradition and this successful 10th edition. To Ken and Stephanie who came up with this championship idea in Vegas, it's so valuable to get Nationals distributed nationwide. To the encouragements from crews along the course. Last but not the least at all, the encouragements from all my fellow runners, through the day and the night: what a supportive community we form!

If that report wasn't long enough, or if you want to see how slow some of us were going, here are 17h30 of livestream, enjoy! Caveat: following a 100-mile race isn't as thrilling as sprint races at the Olympics...
  1. Livestream #1 (11h30!!)
  2. Livestream #2 (next 6 hours)