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Preview: Running, my second job and passion...

Running, my second job and passion...

Except for a very few Kenyans working extremely hard, it's impossible to make a living out of running. So better be a second job, and a passion! Sharing a few personal notes on my journey in endurance running and ultra running. To meet you on the web if n

Updated: 2018-02-18T23:10:34.865-08:00


Jackpot 100-mile Road Nationals: bet big, run long!


This maxim was the tag line on the bumper sticker included in the goody bag, illustrating the energy and passion which race directors, Ken & Stephanie Rubeli put not only in this event but their business, BeyondLimits Running! Think about it: it's already quite something to setup one ultra race, but what about 6 ultras at once to make it a... festival, namely, the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival. Oh, and throw a marathon in the mix to reach out to a broader audience. As for the ultras, not any ultra but up to the dreadful 40-hour format, super hard not just on runners but on the organization as well when you think of the number of 4-hour shifts this require (Ken was looking for volunteers for 55 hours total!). 48-hour, 24-hour, 12-hour, 6-hour, 100-mile and 50-mile.When I heard that the event had been selected to host the 100-mile road USATF Nationals, that got me excited as this is the only ultra running championships we have on the West Coast this year. Although, I was disappointed that the date conflicted with the second event of our Pacific Association Ultra Grand Prix which was held this Saturday too in Auburn with SingleTrack Running's FOURmidable 50K. And this is going to be an issue next year again if both organizations keep these dates because FOURmidable has been awarded the 50K Trail Nationals for 2019 and 2020 (after 2017 but having to let go to the benefit of New Hampshire which will occur in August 2018).I procrastinated so much, hesitating between the two events that, when it was time to finalize the logistics, I realized that most reasonable airfares to Las Vegas were gone for this busy President's Day weekend. I decided to drive instead and it was a great decision since I'm actually going to stay for an IBM event his week in Vegas, killing two birds with one stone. It's more than 500 miles and 8 hours one way, but doable with a stop in Bakersfield and quite amazing landscapes on the way, including a few mountain ranges to go over. And I'm really pleased with the comfort and efficiency of my new Hyundai Elantra with which I easily top 40 mpg on highways.Speaking of driving from the Bay Area, I almost did it with my teammate Jim Magill, whom I already carpool to our last race, Jed Smith 50K. But, first, Jim had a strained hamstring issue during Jed Smith so was really uncertain for the past two weeks and, second, Jim is retired and had more latitude to take his time on the way in and out. And since I decided to stay for another week in Vegas, it all worked out, albeit without car pooling.The 48-hour was already 8 hours in when I stopped by the start for the packet pick-up. The weather was perfect: super clear blue sky, just a breeze and temperatures ranging from 40 to 70F (3 to 20C), a typical large amplitude for this location in the middle of the Nevada desert.I was staying at a hotel 10 minutes from the start, an easy and a quick access to the start in this urban park and the start of all the non 48-hour events was set at 8 am, leaving plenty of room for a great night. I had some important goals for the 100-mile but, as opposed to One Day in Auburn, did a much better job at taking it easy and not stressing too much about.Pre-race picture with Jim:Yet, I missed the start of Ken's briefing, and the group picture, as I was finalizing my preparation and filling my bottles for instance.As usual, it felt good to get finally moving after Ken sent us off and I was surprised to end up in front of the 100-mile race while feeling the pace to be so slow, just under 8 min/mile. The big shots were quite familiar to me as I met them several times: Jon Olsen, first American to run 100 miles under 12 hours a few years ago and World Champion of 24 hours that same year; and Mike Bialik, who made the 100K Team USA by winning the MadCity race when I was there in April 2015. There was prize money for the top 2 and, with both of them present, I was relieved of counting this money target in my list of goals!So, which goals or big bets did I have left?Fist and foremost, since it was a National Championship, win my age group t[...]

2 months into my new diet: fat-charged turbo-diesel


p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 10.0px 'Lucida Grande'} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 10.0px 'Lucida Grande'; min-height: 12.0px} p.p3 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 18.0px; text-indent: -18.0px; font: 10.0px 'Lucida Grande'} p.p4 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 18.0px; text-indent: -18.0px; font: 10.0px 'Lucida Grande'; min-height: 12.0px} Time flies, days, night, weeks and weekends are getting way too short... I started writing these lines on day 61 of my journey toward fat adaptation, right on 2 months, but it's already day 84 this Thursday, better get this post out before I reach the 3-month milestone!While it has been almost 3 months on this path, I'm still feeling quite incompetent to write about a dietary subject, still very much learning about the basics. Or maybe more experimenting as a matter of fact because I'm certainly not studying everything I should if I was pursuing a degree to become a Registered Dietitian (yes, this field has specific Bachelors and Masters, and I assume Doctorates too!).But, as a few people encouraged me to share about this experience, here are a few random thoughts on my journey to become a fat-adapted athlete.First, I'd start with some contradiction. In my original post regarding this change of diet, I mentioned that was the toughest experiment I had ever attempted in my ultra running career. It's hard to compare it to a tough 100-mile, and I've yet to attempt 200 miles or multi-day events. It's certainly very different from a physical standpoint but it requires quite some mental to change these life habits. Tough enough if you are in the lab of your house, but even more challenging when you travel or have a social life. That being said, Take my breakfasts for instance. For more than 50 years I've enjoyed a bowl of chocolate milk every morning with a few toasts and butter. Quite simple, no jelly, no honey but I was really  looking forward to the taste of it to start my day. Every day, that is more than 18,000 times since that's my lifetime. Well, look at my new typical breakfast nowadays, quite a change!From an experiment standpoint, it was great to pick the first month during Advent, right after Thanksgiving, and before Christmas. Yet, we had quite a few Holidays parties which could have derailed my plans but my motivation was high as I had wanted to test this new diet for quite a few years and I wanted to do a 30-day reset of my body anyway during my yearly running break. That being said, cutting on gluten, grains and even all dairy was still tough after leaving and thriving from them for 50 years.  Thankfully, and gratefully, Agnès accepted to do the same experiment and I must say that, having your significant other on board, is a huge success factor. Indeed, there is more cooking involved and you don't want to fight temptation at every meal by looking at others enjoying bread and pasta in my case, or other delicious desserts.Ahhh, the desserts... I quite well adapted to all the other constraints but I'm still missing them so much! Being raised in France, a meal isn't complete for me without something sugary under my palate to finish on a sweet note, pun intended. To make the matter worse, I tolerate stevia rather well but Agnès not at all, and vice-versa for erythritol, darn! We are now experimenting with coconut sugar which, surprisingly enough for such a natural sugar substitute, is absent from most of the keto cooking books and recipes we've found so far. Initially, Agnès even did her wonderful chocolate mousse with 99% cacao chocolate: it was hard to eat but we finished all of it as we were starving for a dessert a few weeks ago! ;-)In contrast to the previous picture, look at the last extravagant dessert plate I enjoyed on Thanksgiving dinner, before plunging head first in the carb starvation! I have to say that I pushed the envelope on that one, that wasn't representative of my daily diet, thankfully...To be clear, I'm not doing the experiment to prove anything, there have been enough success stories in [...]

Jed Smith 50K 2018: 10th consecutive year and, finally...


What could have finally happened to this event which I now ran 10 times consecutively? While I ran my first ultra at Way Too Cool 50K in March 2006, I entered my first Jed Smith 2 years later, after I found out about the Pacific Association Ultra Grand Prix in 2007, and won my age group that year. And since I started blogging in March 2007, the past 9 editions area all preciously documented but, to spare you the navigation, and read anyway as Mark Murray told me my posts were too long, I'll summarize with the following points to put the above question into context:First and foremost, I've never DNFed at Jed Smith so far, a good thing! Would #10 change this?I always broke 4 hours and, out of the 9 previous editions, actually broke 3:30 7 times, including twice under 3:20. Would I break 3:15 and set a new M50-54 American Record, or would I miss the 4-hour mark?My first edition was at the Gibson Ranch Park but it quickly moved to a faster course on the levee of the American River, except for last year. For 2018, we were back on that course.The worst I've placed overall at this race is 4th in 2013, coming back from a minor injury and getting in the race with not training at all. The best place? 2nd overall, 6 times out of the 9 editions, enough to get the Raymond Poulidor label on that one (Poulidor, aka Pou-Pou, was an amazing French cyclist who made his name for being the Eternal Second to legends such as Anquetil and Merckx)! Would today mark the end of my curse?The thing with Jed Smith is that it's impossible to make competitive plans for it as it takes registrants on race morning. Again this year, I was wondering if Rich Hanna would decide on entering at the last minute, as he has done a few years ago to set a new American record for our age group. While I was warming up, Rich told be he had suffered from several injuries these past months which kept him on the sideline unfortunately. Now, speaking of a late entry, my brand new Quicksilver teammate, Thomas Reiss, from San Luis Obispo, told me 20 minutes before the start that he had seen Camille Herron warming up on the course! Wow, that was a scoop and meant the race will certainly go fast at the front. For those who don't know, Camille has won dozens of marathons, and several ultras recently including Comrades last year, plus setting a few Open Women American Records!To add to the race context, Thomas is going to turn 50 in March and is preparing for the 100K Road Nationals where he wants to lower our M50-54 AR which stands at 7:38 right now. He was aiming at 3:30 today and was going to run with his training buddy, Jadd Martinez.Closer to Sacramento, Mark Murray, who turned 55, was going after the M55-59 AR, a rather soft one at 3:39.As for me? A few things made me sand-bagging for that race:First, I spent much more time behind the bar these past 2 weeks than running. No, I didn't say the bars (phew!), but the handlebar as I'm getting back to motorcycling after a 28-year hiatus. I used to ride, 35 years ago, but Agnès had rather me stop while we were raising a family. It's time to get on the saddle again before I'm getting to old for it.With running taking the third stage, the first being my IBM job, still, I didn't put as many miles as I wanted, especially last weekend. To make it harder, I took a red eye for Newark on Sunday night, and flew back on Tuesday evening after two very short nights. On Wednesday, I went for a run but had to stop after 3 miles with a sharp pain deep in my left calf, yikes!Then, on Sunday night, I banged my quad badly on the sharp corner of the bed; it really hurt and I could feel a sizable hematoma deep inside my right quad. I applied some deep tissue massage myself, including while driving to work and to the start this Saturday morning, but could still feel a small ball in the muscle just before the start. I was really wondering how these two muscle issues would play on race day so my goal was mostly to finish honorably and certainly not push too hard. Most certainly, I wasn't in shape[...]

2017 in review: part 2, of 2!


I know, 2017, it's time to move on, we are really way into 2018 already! But the fact is that I couldn't have totally wrapped-up all the statistics until the very end of the year, then I got caught into the 2018 running frenzy again... Indeed, as I showed in my previous posts, I have been significantly moving on already.What I had posted in the meantime though at the end of December was a snapshot of my 2017 race artifacts, see again at the bottom of this post.So, for the sake of continuity, let's start with the dashboard I've been using for several years already (2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013, breaking from the cool 2012 bubble chart).Along with the companion headlines summary chart:And, finally, one of the charts in my running log:Now, although this definitely provides more control, I'm not sure I need to keep building these dashboards manually; see for instance that automatically-generated Strava movie with all the data I fed them with (directly on YouTube below, or redirect to Strava site), quite a lively and entertaining way to render analytics! allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" frameborder="0" height="266" src="" width="320">What can I say, they know a lot about how much and where I ran in 2017...Yet, and on top of of all these colors already used above, and the quantitative data, let me add my own coloring to these numbers with some qualitative commentary.Let's go with the classic theme, The Bad, the Good and the Ugly...I. The GOODThis has been such a great year, it's hard to pick the number 1 but, ironically as I'm now focusing on ultra running, this has to be the age group podium at Boston, not an ultra. Taking 2nd in the M50-54 age group at 53 was so unexpected, especially a week after running the 100K Road Nationals, it was a thrilling experience to get back on the Boston Marathon podium 12 years later!In second place, I'm going with a group of 3 Masters national titles. Not even just M50-54, but 40 and above. Another unexpected fate although, I have to confess, mostly thanks to the lack of competition at the national championships. FOURmidable 50K Trail, MadCity 100K Road and Tussey 50-mile Road.My 6th overall win out of 10 participations at Ohlone 50K was definitely a thrill too. It helped that Leor Pantilat isn't racing anymore, but breaking 5 hours at my age is still quite an accomplishment. What can I say, I love the heat (read on...)!Taking 4th overall and 1st Masters at the 50-mile Road Nationals and discovering the challenging fire road course of the Tussey mOUTaiNBACK course.Taking 3rd overall at QuickSilver 100K and getting home this coveted gold mining pan!Breaking 3:20 again on a 50K road at Jed Smith in February, albeit by only a mere second! And a bit of bitter taste for taking second after propelling the winner to breaking our M50-54 record which I gave so much to break the year before when I got my stroke.Finally finishing the grueling Montagn'Hard 110K in the Alps, after a DNF 2 years earlier.The overall win at Ruth Anderson 50K, after I showed up the day before to run the 50-mile then realizing that I had another commitment the next day preventing me to run more than 50K. At least I had to do it fast so I clocked another 3:25!Not a race, but manning the GU Energy booth at both the Boston Marathon and the Berkeley Half-Marathon expos. And seeing people's surprise when I was spreading the word that GU is "Made in Berkeley" ! ;-)Finally completing my 10th Miwok 100K after 11 consecutive starts (and turning the page after last year's DNF, full of doubt after my stroke, 2 months earlier).Overall win at a local 5K (Cupertino Heroes' Run).Breaking 35 minutes at the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10K (although I suspect the course was 0.1 mile short).Taking 2nd overall, first Masters at the (non competitive) Trailblazer 10K.Running in South Africa (Cap Town, Johannesburg) and Namibia.[...]

One Day in Auburn 12-hour: great dancing around the Western States finish line, but failure still hurts


I started writing this race report on race day as I like to do when possible but it got way too difficult to recount the outcome, or even analyze what happened, so soon after the events so, here am I, returning at it 6 days later... As we say about failure: learn from it and move on!This was a very unique opportunity so I stuck a bunch of goals into it, and, in this time of yearly resolution, not small but hefty ones. All for one night!At a minimum, improve the M50-54 Track 50K record of 3:40:51Then go on to improve the M50-54 Track 50-mile record of 6:09:41If anything left, try to improve the M50-54 Track 100K record of 7:43:14And if I had an amazing day, improve the M50-54 Track 12-hour record of 87.24 milesWin a (non competitive) raceLive test the effects and benefits of my new OFM dietExperiment what it takes to start a timed-event at 6 pmGet some night running training and experienceLearn what it takes to setup an event to all for record settingAnd I was so ready to succeed, actually so prepared that this has probably been a recipe for failure, like it has in the past (I don't handle pressure well, even when it's just self-inflicted pressure...).I had all the pace charts ready, even beyond the 12-hour mark in case all the stars were aligning and I could continue on to 100 miles.I was 50-day in my new diet and had all sort of great workouts, including many laps at the track.Regarding the night training, a winter 6pm-6am event couldn't offer more, it was pitch dark from beginning to end, except for the (powerful) stadium lights.And I had spent tens of hours reading all the USATF competition rules, checking many with several USATF officials and other subject matter experts (race directors, timers, competitors and record holders), so much time that I thought I may well apply for a USATF certification, which I did as well.As a matter of fact, I had more goals than I originally wanted. Initially, I was attracted by this event for the 6-hour in which I was going to go after the 50K record for sure and maybe squeeze 50 miles to improve both that distance record on track for our age group, as well as a 6-hour record. But there is no such thing as a 6-hour record for USATF, hence my switch to 12 hours.And then the big day happened, this past Saturday. Finally, some relief from all the preparation stress... I must say that I was surprised myself by how relaxed I felt, despite the hefty goals and this preparation. I was able to sleep 9 hours the night before, and even fell asleep during a nap in the afternoon. Before big milestones, my heart beat would typically rise the night before, but not this time. And I was certainly not over-confident, I knew it was going to be challenging for having broken several records at the Desert Solstice Invitational 3 years ago, and learned the hard way about the physical and mental challenges of changing gears along the way toward the next record. There was some traffic on 680 and 80 and I stopped for 15 minutes to eat the lunch Agnès had prepared for me, it took me 3 hours to get to Auburn and I arrived at the famous Placer High School track. Why famous? Because it is the home of the finish of the Western States Endurance Run also known as the Western States 100-mile. A track that thousands have dreamt about reaching from Squaw Valley over the 4 decades of this history of this mythical race.This time, we were given the opportunity to pass that finish line hundreds of times, what an opportunity! The event was put by Paulo Medina and his Singletrack Running venture.When I arrived at the track around 2 pm, the 24-hour runners had quite a few laps in the bank after 2 hours of running in circle. And the weather was gorgeous, with a perfectly clear blue sky and temperatures raising to 64F by 3 pm. Yes, thanks to climate change, that's winter in California nowadays. Sorry, bad joke...I set up 2 cameras to add to the two Paulo had already at the start/finish line, took pictures of the di[...]

My first ultra? Almost... a fat ass!


It was January 1, last Monday, and I ran... my first ultra, whoopee!Hmm, those who have been following my blog for the past 10 years are going to wonder: "did Jean start smoking some weed, leveraging the brand new California law...?" Nope, not at all, no chance! Ok, that was only my first ultra run of... the year (how timely!). Not even the first ultra since I switched to the OFM (Optimized Fat Metabolism) diet at the end of last November, but my third. And certainly not my first ultra overall in my log but 370th!Why this title then? First because I was thinking of all the super brave souls which took the resolution of running an ultra this year, and even those aiming at running a marathon since it is so close (just one more step makes it an ultra, technically)! But, second, because I experienced this week some of the feelings I remember from my first ultra. The thing is, I ventured in the ultra running world in 2016, one year before starting this blog. What I've discovered since is that, after 3,700 lines in my log, I don't have such a strong and vivid memory of all these runs and it helps to have write them down as posts or looking back at pictures to activate the corresponding neurons and synapses... And, no, I don't attribute that to age yet, but to living an ultra life, overflowing with experiences and memories.What was my first ultra? I thought I had run a Fat Ass, one of these informal, low key, 50K runs we do at the beginning of the year among friends to kick start the season and get back in shape after indulging more food than needed over the Holidays! But, not quite, my first ultra was an ultra race indeed, the famous Way Too Cool 50K in March. And, as there is no better source of learning than trial and error, let me share a few things I got wrong the first time. So you get them right if you are just starting.1. Respect the distance and the challenge. I was way, not to cool but, over-confident. I remember my main thought being "I ran sub-3 marathons, how can 5 more mile be, I can easily do this!" I event remember thinking that the times for previous years looked slow and thinking of making the podium in my first ultra. To show off, I even wore my Boston marathon outfit. Oh my, read on...2. Take what ultra veterans tell you, with a grain of salt: everything is relative in ultra running. To make the over-confidence matter worse, my Stevens Creek Striders club mate, Charles Stevens, whom I learned to much about ultra running from, had told me that the course wasn't challenging, a fast and almost flat one! Oh, my, I remember how hilly the course appeared to me as it was my fist time running on the Western Sates trail and around Cool and Auburn! Of course, if you've run Western States, or Hard Rock, or UTMB, then, yes, Way Too Cool is an easy course. Comparatively. As the elites show by getting closer to the 3-hour mark, every year. Yet, 3,000 feet of cumulative elevation counts when you come from years of road racing.3. Pace yourself. I started too fast, then bonked. Ultra 101. As Western States 100-mile founder frequently joke about, "Start slow, then slow down" is a very safe and conservative strategy. Unless you are sponsored by a major brand and run for the money (if there is any to win in that ultra race), better not trying setting your PR in your first ultra. Run your first ones conservatively, enjoy the experience of not bonking, then the experience of even improving over the years. If it's any encouragement, I set my half-marathon PR at 49, finally breaking 1:15 after trying hard for 15 years, and 50K at 52, breaking a 30-year standing age-group American record along the way (which has been improved again last year, but that's life).4. Beware of the time spent in aid stations: every second may not count, but minutes add up! I spent a lot of time in aid stations. It took me a few years to get that, more advice from Charles Stevens who excelled at it, and also switching to [...]

USATF Runners of the Year 2017: better be USATF!


Our National USA Track and Field officials, most of them volunteers, met in Columbus, OH, a month ago for the 2017 Annual Convention. If, like me, you are particularly interested in MUT things (i.e. Mountain, Ultra and Trail running), you can consult the meeting minutes of the National MUT Council.One thing which isn't in the minutes, however, is the result of the vote for the coveted USATF Runners of the Year titles. I must admit that this process was a bit obscure to me and I was stunned to discover that, this year, I had gotten three automatic nominations thanks to my three Master wins at the three Nationals I competed in (Fourmidable 50K Trail in Auburn, the epic 100K Road one week before my Boston podium, and the 50M Road in October). On FaceBook though, I admitted that this was just the result of a poor participation in these Nationals (lack of elite showing up at the Championships nowadays), and I was sure there would be plenty of additional nominations in the meantime, more worthwhile.Personally, in the Masters Ultra Trail category whose competitiveness I know too well, I was thinking for instance at:Jeff Browning who finished 20th overall at UTMB, won the Bear 100-mile, and finished 4th overall at Western States, all this at 45!Michael Wardian who raced more than 50 times this year and placed on the podium most of the time;Paul Terranova: overall win at Bandera 50K, 22nd overall at TDS (Chamonix)Jesse Haynes: 5th at HURT 100 mile, 8th at Western States, overall win at Chimera 100-mile, 4th at Miwok 100K;Dominick Layfield: overall win at Montane Spine (UK) and Quicksilver 100K, 5th overall at Leona Divide 50-mile, 14th overall at Western States and 3rd at Rio Del Lago 100-mile.But I must confess it's hard to keep track of who is doing what, every year, given the large number of ultra races around the world today, so I'm certainly missing key names.Looking at the results, I became intrigued about the process and spent some time on the phone with Joe Fejes who stepped up to give up his time to administer this vote. I learned that 40 or so representatives of MUT Councils around the country were consulted (something I was surprised to learn since I now represent the Pacific Association for MUT, the largest USATF constituent in the US, but I did get the message).Now, per Richard Bolt's post and call for nominations, that part of the process, the nominations, is actually very open since everyone can propose a name. I'm making a note of getting in the loop earlier next year and advertise this capability. I also suggested to Joe to ensure that each association had enough notice to nominate their best local candidates as they should know best what their local USATF members have achieved during the year.Last but not least, as for the selection criteria, the number one is that, as the USATF RoY titles says, candidates have to be serious about USATF. Number one, be a USATF member in good standing ($25 yearly fee, or $20 if you register for 5 years). Number two, participate to USATF events, ideally at the National at least, and possibly at the International level for the best who are making Team USA. Number three, perform well at these events, if not in absolute with a National-class performance, at least relatively to the rest of the field.With that, congrats to the 2017 USATF Runners of the Year whom you can find in Richard's post.Mountain Runners of the Year:Lyndon Ellefson Memorial Mountain Runner of the Year: Joseph Gray, 33, Colorado Springs, COMaster’s Man: Chris Grauch, 45, Boulder, COWomen’s Open: Addie Bracy, 31, Longmont, COMaster’s Woman: Sara Wagner, 45, Flagstaff AZSub-Ultra Trail Runners of the Year:Men’s Open: Mario Mendoza, 31, Bend, ORMen’s Master: Chris Grauch, 45, Boulder, COWomen’s Open: Renee Metivier, 35, Bend, ORMaster’s Woman: Corinne Walton, 47, Portland, ORUltra Trail Runners of the Year:Men’s Open: Max King, 37, Bend, ORM[...]

2017 in review: my racing in one picture!


I borrowed this idea from one my Quicksilver teammates, Stephen, on Facebook. The purpose is to spare you from one my long posts knowing that a single picture is worth a thousand words. However, while it was meant to save me a lot of time too by skipping the writing, it turned out to be one of these interesting holidays project...First I had to gather all the artifacts together, from around the house and even the office, only to realize I had left a few behind, in France, this summer. Second, I thought I'd up the game by adding an hyperlink to each race report. I had never done such image web mapping, one opportunity to learn some additional markup language instructions and install GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program).Here you are, you can hover over the artifacts and click to jump to that particular post, if you want to know the story behind a bib, a plaque or vase... By the way, if you find it's already a busy picture and racing season with 18 races, can you imagine what Michael Wardian's post would be with his 50 races this year! In our ultra running sport, there is always someone to push the enveloper further. And farther!I'll have my traditional year-in-review post with more statistics in January (update: here it is!), once I'm really done with the year. Meanwhile, that's it for that picture worth way more than a thousand words! And keep Running Happy![...]

POST @ 40: what an amazing environmental impact!


We are so blessed in Silicon Valley, I'm not going to say this is paradise on Earth and the best place to live because, first, it's hard to prove, second, it's subjective and third, not everybody can afford living here and we couldn't welcome 7 billion people in the Bay Area anyway! But...Anyway, one of the major wonders of Silicon Valley is that it created so much wealth from innovation and that several of the richest families living on the Peninsula invested millions toward preserving the hills around the Bay and the Pacific Coast, for future generations to enjoy, before these outdoors succumb to extensive development like it is the case around Los Angeles for instance.POST stands for Peninsula Open Space Trust and it has been established 40 years ago, in 1977. Basically, it is a private and not-for-profit organization whose mission is to buy property whose preservation is endangered by development or misuse then turn such estate to outdoor preservation organizations such as County, Regional or State Parks. These Parks systems require public consultations, approvals and funding before taking over any new piece of land and that typically takes years. POST is here to fill the gap before developers make their move. Hence the critical role of this organization to preserve our ecosystem.You can see the extent of the impact POST had had over these 4 decades on this map:The impressive list of the 101 projects (click on the image to open, zoom and read):Have a look at key milestones during these 40 years.And if you think that we are done after so many projects, look at this year's acquisition of a endangered beach, Tunitas Creek Beach, just South of Half Moon Bay, great move! width="320" height="266" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>POST also promotes many activities that everyone, not just ultra runners, can enjoy in these wonderful open space preserves: hiking, walking, running, backpacking, bird watching, you pick how you want to most enjoy life!In addition to taking advantage of all this protected land for free, you can also support POST's mission by donating. And many companies will actually match your gift, make sure to check that out to double your own impact!And if you give more than $1,000, you'll be welcomed into the Skyline Society. We actually kicked off the 40-year anniversary milestone celebrations last January with a fascinating talk from Alvaro Jaramillo, an expert birder who made us more aware of some local wonders as well as those he shares in his expeditions ( Chuck Wilson and Christine Miller:Again, if you believe in the protection of the environment and wildlife, if you enjoy the outdoors, please consider supporting POST's mission; the next generations will thank you for this exemplary way to contribute and build a sustainable future!A few pictures from our nearby Black Mountain and Rhus Ridge areas.[...]

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


A disclaimer: this post isn't for any audience, but mature runners only! And not any adult, but those serious runners 40-year old or older... ;-)If you fall in this category, and are still collecting running trophies, another perk of being a USATF member is that you can apply to get a Phidippides award. And the cool thing is that, for that one, you don't have to run fast, but just finish a certain number of races. You'll then receive a plaque at your name and, every 5 awards, you even get a glass trophy called the Crystal Award!What are the requirements? Submit a log of your results and submit them to USATF (email address included in the application form), that's it! No cost, no shipping fee, all this included in your $25 yearly Pacific Association USATF membership!The criteria are two folds. First, you get points based on the race distance (they even added an ultra category this year, although you'll get the same number of points for a 50K or a 100-mile):Race Distance Points per Race 1 mile to 4km 1 point 5km to 5mile 2 points 10km to 15km 3 points 10miles to Half Marathon 4 points 25km to Marathon 5points Distances longer than Marathon 6 pointsYou then sum the points and get a level which depends on your age:Age: 40-59 years 60-79 years 80+ #Points required #Points required #Points required Gold 30 24 12 Silver 24 18 6 Bronze 12 9 3So, for those of you competing in our Pacific Association Ultra Grand Prix especially, 5 ultra marathons will get you a Gold award under 60, or 2 if you are over 80 like Bill Dodson is. Or less ultras, but a few shorter races, you get the drill and maths.While December 31st is the cut-off date for races to be considered, don't procrastinate if you already have enough points, you could miss the January 31st deadline for submitting your application form. And that date is non negotiable, I already tried for you and missed it one year, there is no appeal or excuse.See the detailed rules on line, the application form and go for it, in honor and memory of Phidippides (aka Pheidippides or Philippides), be that hero!PS: the name brings back mixed memories of my marathon slog between Marathon and Athens, with my right shoulder broken and arm in a sling... certainly much slower than it took the Greek soldier to carry the news of the victory over the Persians![...]

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


Yet another experiment, and eye opener! Not about diet this time (I'm still successfully holding on on that one, day 16 in the books!), but about road maintenance and the environment.While my running club, Quicksilver RC of San Jose, has adopted the New Almaden trail in the Almaden Quicksilver County Park, and we do trail maintenance there under Paul Fick's leadership, Agnès invited me to join a group from her new employer, the Harker School, to maintain and clean-up the road side of our local and busy 280 interstate highway.I was in Dallas all week for work and flew back Friday afternoon, looking forward to actually resuming running after a 2-week hiatus with an ultra at the traditional (33rd!) Hunter S Thompson Fear and Loathing, either the 50K or 50-mile. But the logistic wasn't easy (early drive to SF and limited parking at the top or bottom of Twin Peaks) and the goal was quite aggressive as I haven't been running at all yet under my new diet, so I decided to join Agnès and her colleagues for this volunteering activity instead.It has actually been quite a few years that I wanted to experiment what it takes to clean-up a highway as part of this Caltrans program. We all see the signs on the road and, occasionally, a group of workers on the side of the road but I have to admit that my first thought was that the sponsor was mostly paying Caltrans and Caltrans workers were doing the job of cleaning. As a matter of fact, I even thought that they may actually enroll inmates to do community service this way!Well, that was certainly not the case this morning, it was a group of dedicated teachers who don't have much time already on weekends but to put unpaid extra hours to grade their students' papers and prep classes. When you hear people whining "I don't have time..."I must add that picking trash along a highway is quite humbling and, while it looks so important and utile from an environment standpoint, it feels quite futile given the number of miles of highway in the country and the lack of consideration of the drivers throwing stuff from their car. (In case you wonder, utile was borrowed from French a few centuries ago and was the original English word for useful, a few centuries ago. I had to pick it for the utile/futile word-play in the title...)Anyway, we cleaned the busy 280/Meridian/Southwest Expressway interchange and our team of 3 filled 12 large bags of trash in just 3 hours. But we certainly left the area greener that it was when we started!Beyond the classic plastic bottles, beer cans and fast food plastic cups and straws, the winner of the shame competition goes to Snickers! I'll spare you from a picture of the raw trash but here is one in the recycling category: and, yes, a pretty sharp knife, and an iPad cover.As for that remain of the last ugly election, no, it didn't make to the recycling bin, sorry Donald, straight in the bag of trash!Some volunteers reported that, occasionally albeit very rarely, they do find bills, as high as $100! Well, not much luck for me this morning, only a penny this time! But the satisfaction of giving back to our local community and Mother Nature, priceless!Special kudos to our crew lead and local coordinator, Loui, who leads such clean-up sessions in the area, every month!Now, as I still can not swallow what's happening in DC this month, here is a proposal for a tax bill, and not a $1.5 trillion cut, but something more useful and pragmatic for our country and to save our planet! What about...Setting a tax for everybody, either by headcount, or, even better, on everything which has a packaging;If you don't like paying it or can't afford, then you would have the option to get a refund or exemption through community service to collect the trash along our highways;This way, either by paying, or serving, everybod[...]

My biggest ultra running experiment to date?


No, I didn't run an ultra this weekend, I didn't push the physical limits like other did for instance at the 24-hour World Championships or the California International Marathon. Actually I didn't run at all since my fast, albeit 0.1-mile short, Turkey Trot 10K. While stopping running for a few weeks is an experiment in itself for me every year, that's not new, I've followed this precept from Scott Jurek for more than 10 years now.So what is it then? It had been in my mind for several years, I wanted to add to this running break something else which has to see with nutrition: follow a detox program to attempt an even bigger reset of my body. First, Agnès had told me about a 1-week detox program from a local yogi, based on drinking a lot of hot water for instance. Then it became the Whole30 which several of her friends have enjoyed recently. As the name implies, this is a 30-day program.No sugars, no grains, no dairy, repeat for 30 days!I was about to go for it but I also took the opportunity to check another of these ideas which tormented since I discovered Vespa Power more than 5 years ago and heard about the great success stories of elite runners adoption the whole OFM approach. While Vespa helped me tremendously in races by allowing me to slash calorie intake, I didn't want to change my diet for this, I was so comfortable with my habits of 50 years. I love bread, I love pastas, I love dairy, great start! Besides, I travel so much that I took it as an excuse to not get on a strict diet. Last but not least, I did adopt this easy excuse for running when people ask "but why are you running ultras?": as Scott Dunlap once said, "so I can eat everything and anything!"Change, so hard to do for most of us... The New York Time actually has an article on this exact topic this weekend, a quick and worth read for all (although I don't find the article so well written --unless the 7 yet in the text have the purpose of really making a point-- but the author is a Harvard Professor, and I not, so what can I say... ;-): Why Trying New Things Is So Hard to Do, by Sendhil Mullainathan.Since I was going to go for a radical change anyway, I reached out to Peter Defty and he immediately accepted to coach me if I wanted to go OFM. OFM? Optimized Fat Metabolism, a state in which your body gets its energy mostly from fat, which we all have plenty of in our body, much more calories than our muscles can store of glycogen.To be more explicit, you are teaching your body what it used to be great at: live a full and active live on less than 15% of carb. While fattier dairy is ok (cream, hard cheese) to do a faster reset I even cut on all dairy. Not a single fruit either, except avocados and nuts. The rest is meat, fish, eggs, liver, paté, and lots of vegetables. And no chocolate, yikes!So, here am I, this is the end of day 10 and I'm proud to report that I'm holding on, I can still function, phew! First, I have to thank Peter for his guidance and motivation tips but also Agnès who got on board, is following the same diet and does a lot of the extra cooking needed to eat healthier. Not that we were eating much junk food but cutting all processed food is another level. And the hardest of all is to no be able to get a dessert, forgive the expression, that sucks... In France, a meal isn't over without something sweet, not to mention some cheese. To make up for them, we indulge a half cup of assorted non-salted nuts, but even that isn't too much to Peter's liking. Tough discipline.As I said, I'm not exercising so it's hard to tell the effects so far. Besides, it typically takes the body to fully get adapted to this new mode of energy source, patience is required. To be honest, I would have hoped that cutting on gluten and dairy would already have more[...]

PAUSATF MUT Grand Prix 2018 Schedule unveiled: to the next 25 years!


Disclaimer: this post is an open letter aimed at the current and potential participants of our Pacific Association MUT Grand Prix. But everyone is welcome to read to understand what this competition is about, although I then recommend reading my 2016 post about the Anatomy of an Ultra Grand Prix, before. Well, if you are dead serious about ultra running...! ;-)1. BackgroundYes, this local ultra tradition has been on for 25 years, it all started in 1992, with the awards being added in 1996 and the first banquet in 1997. Although our sport was much smaller and confidential back then, I'm told the passion was amazing and we owe a lot to the catalyst role which BAUR (Bay Area Ultra Runners) has played through this quarter of century. There is a book to be written about BAUR, and I'll likely do at least a post on it based on the information I already collected, for now one name is enough to capture the imagination, our local legend Dick Collins!A huge thank you to BAUR for all they did and still do for our local ultra running community!Fast forward 25 years then and it is time to unveil the 2018 schedule. Rather than just posting it, I wanted to share some of the background and process which led to it and a few key decisions.2. PeopleBefore we even talk about process, let's start with the people topic. First and foremost, the Grand Prix only exists thanks to YOU, because we have participants into it so, ultra runners are the number 1 force behind it. To participate you need to be a member of the Pacific Association of USATF (USA Track & Field), in good standing. You don't even have to join a club or a team, but a large part of the fun comes from the team competition so it is highly recommended. The yearly membership is $30, or $25 if you commit for 4 years, and comes with other benefits such as sport insurance and several discounts on apparel, rental cars, hotels and airlines. And the same membership gives you access to the other Grand Prix of cross-country (XC) and road (short and long), you set the limit! Other benefits include prize money and race entry discounts for top age group winners! Please consider joining then, if not already, or renew (online form).Beyond the runners, we do have a MUT (Mountain Ultra Trail) subcommittee within the LDR (Long Distance Running) committee of our local association. This subcommittee has been chaired by Hollis Lenderking for these 25 years with Bill Dodson leading for the past 3 years. They have been assisted by Gary Wang who did the scoring for several decades before Bill took over. Now 82, it seemed fair to let Bill focus on not only his family life but his running: in the past years he broke every ultra running record, both on the road and the track, and won all the Grand Prix (XC, Road, Ultra) for his age group, phew!The transition occurred in September and I'm glad other volunteers stepped up to form our new subcommittee in the following voting and active capacities:Scoring: Nakia BairdGP Administrator: Denise WilliamsCommunication: Verity BreenEmeritus Chair: Hollis LenderkingChair: Jean PommierOur first goal has been to ensure continuity of course and go through an extensive knowledge transfer. Although it was my 12th participation in the MUT Grand Prix this year, there were so many things I had no idea were happening behind the scene, fascinating! After some initial delay, Nakia has been able to publish the results of the last 3 races, and will now work on the last race of the season, Quad Dipsea. In the meantime, with the big race registrations coming up in December, we had to also work on finalizing the 2018 schedule so you could make the appropriate decisions.3. ProcessBefore jumping to the outcome, here are a few elements which led to the selection.[...]

Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 2017: so many blessings!


What a way to end a long season! While I started right away with a fast ultra at the beginning of February (Jed Smith 50K in 3:19:59) and ran 18 races this year, including 1 marathon (podium at Boston!) and 12 ultra marathons, I like to get back to some speed before my yearly break.Today was my 51st 10K race in my log but only my 8th one at this event, although I'm proud these were consecutive (2010-2017). I say only because nobody can beat Carl Guardino at his own game, Carl being the founder of this wonderful event for our community. As the head of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, he can be really proud of the tenure and impact of this race which is gathering close to 25,000 participants year after year, and raising close to 1 million dollars each year for local charities. A double dip of getting us healthier and sharing our wealth with others in need! Leading by example, Carl has run each of the 13 editions, competing in the CEO Challenge (5K).I don't recall why I missed the first edition, I was just back from a business trip to Europe that Thanksgiving weekend but the race wasn't on my radar yet. As a matter of fact I had run the Home Run 10K in Palo Alto 2 weeks earlier, then CIM (California Internal Marathon) beginning of December, that was already a lot back then.In 2006 I started running ultra marathons and got hooked with the Pacific Association Ultra Grand Prix which includes the famous Quad Dipsea race, 2 days after Thanksgiving. I was still learning a lot about ultra running and wasn't going to push it on a 10K two days earlier!In 2007 I was in France for the popular Saintélyon, a 69K race by night, between Saint-Etienne and Lyon. Back to Quad Dispea in 2008 but, in 2009 I went for the double, running both the Elite 5K race at the Turkey Trot and Quad Dispsea 2 days later, phew! So that makes 9 consecutive Turkey Trot participations actually, may well go for 10 next year!Back to 2017, the main new news is that I had missed getting IBM to sponsor the race, after a successful 4-year round at it. To my surprise though, while warming up and jogging toward the main field to see the elite races, I discovered that the main stage banners still had the IBM logo on them so I think this is a strong message from SVLG that we have to come back... I'll pass the non-subliminal message to the people now in charge!As the tradition goes, Mark Winitz was overseeing the proper execution of the women and men elite races while the 23,000-strong crowd was gathering in their respective corrals. I must say that it's too bad people don't realize there are world-class athletes to watch in town that morning (few spectators), but how inspiring to see these athletes flying and zipping by, before we get to push the envelope ourselves.Even more impressive and inspirational was to see Jose Pina Jr now part of this elite field (2nd yellow top). I did compete with him when he was younger, along with his father, Jose Pina Sr, I'm super impressed to see him now running for San Jose State and clocking a 14:49 (4:47 pace) today!I just had a glimpse of the women race, but was able to see the men twice, before it was time for me to warm-up and get to the remote start line. See this short video clip from the second lap: allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" frameborder="0" height="266" src="" width="320">At 8:25 the only wheelchair competitor was sent off by himself, then it was our turn at 8:30, after Carl was asked to leave the mic and stage to get lined up with us. This year again the 5K and 10K were both ran simultaneously, making pacing super tricky at the s[...]

PAUSATF Cross-Country 2017 Championships: getting my ego in check...


I didn't advertise my last post on Facebook so few people visited my blog 2 weeks ago where I was almost ashamed to... brag about winning a 5K! First because 3 miles look really short compared to what we are used to do un ultra running, but also because it wasn't much competitive (last year the winner clocked 15:05, this time I won in 17:47, how embarrassing... but like Frank Bozanich reminded us on FaceBook last week, you've to appreciate when winning a race at 53, and take advantage when the speedsters are not showing up, their fault! ;-) Or like the saying goes "Success is 95% preparation, 5% luck!").Anyway, in that post I also shared how hectic my life was and it hasn't slowed down since, so much that I missed writing something last weekend (I may catch-up over the Thanksgiving break). Last Sunday I attended a Toastmasters workshop in the morning then drove directly to SFO to catch a flight for Raleigh, NC, flying back this Friday morning. And, this Saturday morning, I volunteered for 4 hours at the Berkeley Half-Marathon bib pickup to represent one of my sponsors, GU Energy, along with triathlete and coach Jake McDonald, and Agnès.On Saturday evening I spent 3 more hours working on the draft of our 2018 Mountain Ultra Trail (MUT) Grand Prix schedule, in preparation of our Long Distance Running (LDR) committee meeting this Sunday morning. Which was scheduled after the Cross-Country (XC) Championships, another convenient excuse to race again!It was 42F when I arrived at Lindley Meadow, just in time to register and see the start of the women race. Gals had 2 loops to cover (4 miles) while we, men masters then open, had 3 loops to do.Our Masters race came in second at 9:45 am. Chikara had told me not to push too hard on the first lap but event a 5:30 min/mile pace did allow to keep up with the front of the race, wow. Like for any USATF Championships, we were wearing an age group bib on our back, blue for M50-59, and I even could see a few of these far ahead after just one mile. But I passed a few in the second lap and was happy to actually run miles 5 and 6 faster than the others. While I didn't feel like able to push harder, I was barely out of breath when crossing the finish line, just under 38 minutes (37:58), a proof that I had not given it my all. And, surely enough, it showed in the results, posted about one hour later: 25th overall and 6th in my age group, won by Michael McManus of the HOKA Aggies (34:43). Tough competition this time, I think it's the first time I'm not making my age group podium this year, hence the title of this post! After me came 4 runners all within my age group bracket, the first one just 11 seconds behind: so close, so typical of cross country, an entire different sport and experience than ultra running. To put things in perspective, the winner of the Men Open division clocked a time of 30:19 for 10K on an uneven terrain, wow! And also an Aggie. Although I should mention that West Valley Track Club took 8 of the top 11 spots in the Masters race, way to represent the Bay Area!One screen shot of my Strava activity to complement the short recount of this short race:And the 3D flyover which makes it like a short walk in the park... (click on the image below):As I was finishing my 2-mile cool down lap, an incident reminded me of my first race here, in 2003 when the start of our Men Open race was delayed because one of the Masters runner from Tamalpa had died from a heart attack on the course, 2 days after visiting his doctor because of chest pain, with his doctor telling him: "Com'on, you are a runner, you are so healthy, no problem for racing!". This time, it was a runner from Pamakids who had a bad fall wh[...]

The hectic life continues: Heroes Run 5K and more


I feel so bad when I can't keep-up with my weekly blogging rhythm and, if I can't find or make the time to write a post during the weekend, it's really challenging to set time aside during the work week.Last weekend was one of these challenging one, stuffed with so many activities.It started right off the bat when I was double booked at 9 am: 2 years ago, my boys offered me a TEDx session to attend; because I travel and race so much, it was for me to select one fitting my schedule and it took all this time to get the stars aligned, ironically with a session at Agnès' new employer, the famous Harker School. Yet, I also wanted to race the Cupertino Heroes' Run 5K right in my backyard, as a pre-Turkey Trot speed test. Both events scheduled to start at the same time, 9 am...I also had to work on our USATF Pacific Association Ultra Grand Prix schedule for 2018 and spent more than 4 hours on this, Saturday afternoon and evening, creating a sophisticated spreadsheet and a few emails to race directors.On Sunday, I spent almost 7 hours at the Earthquake stadium in San Jose, at an amazing tournament of Rugby Sevens, with 12 teams from all over the world (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Chile, Japan, China, England, Ireland, Canada, USA) plus the top US College teams, what a show!Before that, was able to squeeze a 17-mile long run of course...Church, a date with Agnès, a Marriage Encounter meeting and a few more hours of work to wrap the weekend up, phew! But not much time to blog indeed...The SCC Heroes' Run is organized by the Sheriff's office and Fire Department of our Santa Clara County, to raise awareness and funds for the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and the VMC Foundation. While this is mostly a popular and fun event, with many costumes, a few days after Halloween, last year's top runners clocked 2 very impressive times, 15:05 and 15:18. I was back from a sesamoiditis last year and was happy to be running again and placing 6th. My main goal this year was to run fast then rush to the TEDx event right after so I was fine if I didn't make the podium again this year. (Credit for race photos: event's Facebook page.)The race started late last year and, this time again, the gun fired at 9:08. Despite the small field, the start got pretty hectic actually. First, there was this couple next to me who looked more interested in getting on the pre-start pictures than running.On the other side of the pack was a tall runner who was wearing headphones and speaking loudly about how fast this race was with times of 15 to 17 minutes, so I assumed he was going to stay a bit behind as we started. No, he actually started in a 45-degree diagonal and cut several of us off, the obstacle race had just started!It had rained during the night and up to a few minutes before the start so the course was wet. After passing half a dozen of runners who couldn't hold our initial 5:15 min/mile pace, I took the lead and settled on a 5:35 pace. I could hear someone just behind me but didn't want to lose balance by turning my head back. We were also pretty close to the Sheriff's motorcade which consisted of 2 motorcycles opening the road for us. But I didn't feel the policemen were paying much attention to us, they were talking to each other, waving to the volunteers we were passing and watching to incoming traffic. At full speed on Blaney Avenue, around .8 mile, we turn on Price Avenue. As I was trying to avoid a slippery crossroad band on the ground, I almost hit one of the motorcycle who changed direction to stop a big truck which was getting out of a garage, yikes!Short after this emotion, my Garmin watched buzzed to indicate I had run the[...]

Almost recovered


Everything is so relative in life... On one hand we have these many people who are coping with catastrophic events, many called natural although they are so connected to industrial consequences of global warming. They have lost their home to fire or floods, all their belongings, maybe their job too and they are still struggling many weeks later to get back to a normal life if there is such thing given the circumstances and the impact these events will have financially and emotionally for many years.Me? It just took me two full weeks to recover from a serious cold I contracted again while in Europe., that's all... Was it the fatigue after the 50-mile Nationals three weeks ago, or the international trip including a red eye, or the lack of sleep during the conference in Berlin, or bugs which I'm not used to anymore after living for almost 20 years in California or... just the fact that I'm less resistant with the years?Running in Berlin was hard because of the soreness in my legs but I was able to run a decent 50K training run while in Paris, before contracting this virus.With the cold though I couldn't run for 6 straight days, I was completely wiped out. Ironically, after reading some comments on Facebook, I had decided not to get a flu shot 5 days before Tussey 50-mile for the fear of getting side effects on race day. I'm all for vaccines in general against serious threats but I'm still debating the usefulness of that particular one.I'm still not back to full steam yet but I didn't feel the shortness of breadth in my lungs on my run today, this is progress! And that allowed to finally have a handful of sub 7 min miles, finally, almost breaking 6 min/mile at the end of my 12-mile run this morning.I think I'll enter a local 5K next week to see if I can hold onto that for 3 miles, then it will be the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10K which will likely be my last race this year. By the way, it's not too late to register for that Turkey Trot if you are in the area for Thanksgiving. Look at the cool t-shirt you'll get!The part which hasn't recovered yet from my recent trip is a sharp pain in my elbow which I can't explain at all and barely self-diagnose on the web. I hope it's just a tendonitis, not a strained ligament. Meanwhile, I try to minimize the use of my right elbow, I wish I knew what it was to see if I should fully immobilize it or not (sling). Another reminder of how complex our body is, a tricky joint in this case when you think of all the movements an elbow allows, and the forces going though it when you weight something.Although these small setbacks are irritating and frustrating, there are nothing compared to the struggles I mentioned at the beginning of this post; what a blessing to still be able to run 68 training miles in a week, I should certainly not complain! And I'm thinking of those going through so much trouble these days, courage and hold on out there![...]

Running a few steps into Berlin's dark history


I had spent a couple of days in Berlin 20 years ago with Agnès when we were expecting Greg but didn't grasp much of Berlin's 20th century dark history, between the fascist regime and the cold war. The wall had already fallen a few years before, maybe I was too young to see the big deal it was. Or maybe the local population was still coping with the event, wondering what was next for them. Indeed, when we see how our democracies are particularly challenged this year, and the return of some of these vile ideas such as nationalism, separatism or even, in our own backyard in the US, a wall to keep certain population at bay, one can wonder where we are going and what social progress means nowadays.I. Tuesday - TiergartenI was in Berlin to speak at an IBM conference last week and had not much time to run and explore anyway but, upon landing after a red-eye flight from Newark on Tuesday, I could squeeze a short 10K run for a mini tour of the central Tiergarten Park, a quick look at the touristic attraction which the Brandenburg Gate has become, before walking from my hotel to the conference center. A quick tour but already a good sightseeing opportunity (warning, lots of pictures for a virtual visit!).Charlottenburg Gate on the June 17 Street, and the Landwehr Canal: Grosser Stern Tiergarten Park The famous Brandburg Gate: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe The Saudi Arabia embassy, one of the many near Tiergarten: Landwehr Canal: The Berlin aquarium: And the zoo: Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (kept as damaged by WWII bombings, yet flanked by the new concrete-base church on each side):I rarely go for such short training workout now, but I was stunned by how much soreness was left in my legs after the 50-mile Championships 2 days before so 6.2 miles already felt long on this run.Here is the flyover (click on the image or the link).II. Thursday - A Berlin Wall half-marathonOn Thursday evening we had a gala dinner but it was pretty much over by 9 pm so I went for a run at 10 pm, without daylight obviously. This time I wanted to see the remains of the wall and it was actually an interesting night to run as the city was celebrating a Festival of Lights which certainly put a special spin on certain monuments, see for yourself!From Alexanderplatz, I veered toward the Spree river and the Wall Museum which is at the end of a 1-kilometer long preserved section of the wall.What is up is actually only one of the elements of the overall wall, just the 12-feet high concrete wall on the Western Berlin side. What is missing to really take in the whole scaring dimension of this separation between the two world, is the 400-yard wide no man's land made of barbed wires, mesh fencing, signal fencing, dogs, barricades, beds of nails, automatic riffles, watchtowers, bunkers and hundreds of armed guards ready to open fire. Only rabbits could safely play and live in that horrific strip of land encircling Western Berlin.The wall was much longer than this section, 156 kilometers total which is almost 100 miles; that could make for a catchy 100-mile souvenir race on day...The remaining section is called East Side Gallery but some locals would rather describe it at Disneyland as the wall is now shown with paints on the Eastern side which is quite the inverse of the paintings and graffiti which used to be on the West side instead during the Cold War.Here are a few of these new paintings as I ran along the wall by night.From there, I followed the double line made of cobblestones, a convoluted line across the city showing where the wall was.A[...]

Tussey mOUTaiNBACK 50-mile (forest) Road Nationals: pushing Vespa and levitation to the edge


I'm really happy I could squeezed these 3rd Nationals in my schedule this year: it was really tight, but I was able to stop by Pennsylvania on my way to a conference in Berlin where I'll be speaking twice this week. I even think that was my first visit and stay in this state, certainly at State College, the home of Penn State University. They even have a reasonably sized airport with many flights to the major hubs (ORD and IAD in my case, for United).I landed at 5:10 pm, got a rental car, checked in at the hotel at 5:40, drove to the race headquarters on the other side of town and got my bib by 6 pm, that was quick. And look who was the USATF official volunteering again this time, no less than Roy Pirrung, who was inducted in the ultra hall-of-fame last year after running 1,000 races and winning more than 80 National ultra running titles! What an honor and pleasure to see him again.At 6:30, we had a nice pre-race dinner, with an open buffet which allowed me to carbo-load much better than going to a restaurant where 3 or 4 portions barely make it for me.While David was the first to speak, let me mention three other interventions before coming back to the coach's tips.This year's race was benefiting the Jana Marie Foundation (JMF), an organization setup by her sister in memory of Jana who suffered from mental illness between the age of 12 and 30. Jana's sister explained the struggle her family and so many other families go through with this illness and how JMF provides support to young women in particular through art and self-expression activities. And, with the low attendance of the event due to a calendar conflict with a half-marathon race close by, they can definitely get more support and funds from everybody! Again, please visit https://www.janamariefoundation.orgWe then heard from George Etzweiler which the race brochure describes as "a youthful 97 years old and team captain of "The Old Men of the Mountains", an over-65 relay team which has been competing for the past 12 years." With a lot of humor, a character trait which definitely helps you getting through so many years, George shared his love for this race and uphill racing in particular. You would think that, at this age, George would pick the easiest leg but, on the contrary, he successfully ran the infamous leg #6, the toughest climb which I mentioned above, called the Stairway to the Stars. Well, George and his joyful teammates won their category once again and they definitely are inspiring shiny stars at this event!Race Director, Mike Casper, also played a video providing a recap of the 2016 edition to get us in the mood, recognize the race sponsors, and highlight the long list of the 2016 volunteers, the life blood of such ultra races.So now back to David. Through 3 success stories taken out of his very successful coaching program, David gave us 3 key insights (David is so passionate and expert in the field, he speaks so fast that I missed a few things and, besides, I wasn't even taking notes so these are not quotes or a transcript, I just hope I got the essence of his points right).Know your whys. Through introspection and discussion, figure out what really drives you to run, what motivates you. Hopefully, you'll find something broader and more meaningful than just performance and results, or you'll likely get disappointed in the long run.Be happy and smile. That's the area I'm struggling so much when I push hard and give it all, but I'm certainly convinced of the power of positivism, and David shines so much in this domain!Believe in yourself. This is a corollary of the pre[...]

Trailblazer 10K 2017: levitate, and push!


Levitate? What a strange title for a running race... Well, on Wednesday, I received a pair of Brooks' latest shoes, the Levitate, and they are something!So pleasing to the eyes and the touch that I was compelled to test them out right away with a fast 15K on Wednesday and another 15K on Thursday. The Relive flyover even showed my pace peaking at 4:47 min/mile, this is surreal, only levitation could get me to run that on a tempo run, on a flat course! Or some approximation from Garmin, most rationally...While the model was announced earlier this month, and the web site taking pre orders, the shoes will get on the market in a couple of weeks and Brooks hopes the response will have the same enthusiastic feedback received through 18 months of hard work and field testing.The main reason this is an innovative and outstanding shoe is that Brooks worked for 2.5 years with the chemist company, BASF (oops, not Bayer as I told some people this morning), to come up with a revolutionary new compound for the midsole, the DNA AMP, a key component for a shoe now returning up to 72% of the pounding energy! (Read the press release for more details.)Anyway, I'll say more about these shoes in another post, so let's get back to the title and the main cause of this event, the Stevens Creek Trail. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, this is a very 'Stevens Creek-oriented weekend, with the 50K race organized by ex running club, the Stevens Creek Striders of Cupertino, with a course going through the Stevens Creek park, on the Stevens Creek Canyon trail, and, of course, along the Stevens Creek, albeit not quite down to the Stevens Creek reservoir (in 2009, I wrote about 12 of these Stevens Creek fixtures in our area). Further down, the trail resumes in Mountain View then ends in Shoreline Park where the Stevens Creek reaches the water of South Bay.This fun, yet very professional event is organized by the Friends of the Stevens Creek Trail, and is all about building awareness for that trail, including the headache of connecting the lower section on the Bay side, to the upper section in the hills so, on day, we can do Bay to Skyline then Skyline to the Sea, all on a trail! Yes, we, ultra runners, would love that...!In the meantime, this is a fund raising event, thanks to all the runners and walkers participating, and also the generous sponsors supporting the organization.Here is Aaron Grossman, the mastermind of this event, playing so many roles from Race Director, MC and, not the least responsibility, Executive Director of the Friends of the Stevens Creek. And leader who gathers so many volunteers to help out setting up and managing these races, as well as all year around to maintain and develop this wonderful trail.Aaron sent us right at 8:30, for the 10K race, the 5K race starting 15 minutes later. It's good to have these different start times so we don't get confused by who is running which race, or the different paces. I didn't recognize any of the fast runners from previous years but, right off the bat, I had to settle for second as we were already in the 5:20-5:30 min/mile range. Right in the heels of the leader, I covered the first mile in 5:37 and really wondered how long this would last. Our second mile was around 5:45 and it was even hard to keep up. By mile 3, I had fallen 10 seconds behind and was impressed how that runner kept going steadily at 5:45 min/mile with apparent ease and little breathing. And he looked like he could be a Masters as well...To make the things worse, I was thinking that he all the adrenaline of [...]

Stevens Creek 50K 2017: on the other side of the lens again!


I used to love to do the Stevens Creek double this last weekend of September but I had to let go over the past years, the main reason being that I love speed and, for some reasons, I can't run a 10K at my best after racing a 50K hard the previous day; isn't it hard to age...? ;-)After running (and winning!) the event 3 consecutive times in 2011, 2012 and 2013, it's good to give back and volunteer. As a matter of fact, since I switched from the Stevens Creek Striders to the Quicksilver Club, helping here is a no brainer since our club man the Saratoga Gap aid station, barely returning the favor which the Striders do to our club by manning an aid station at our Quicksilver 50K and 100K races in May. Why do I say barely? Because our shift is half of the Striders' one on race day, 5 hours versus 10 or more hours.I actually volunteered earlier in 2008 when the race was still directed by its founder, Steve Patt, who transitioned the management to the Striders a few years ago, allowing him to run his own creation now! Aid station at Rapley Ranch, then sweeping the last 7 miles. Here is Steve Patt, Emeritus RD:While I joined my club mates in 2015, I skipped last year (volunteering and running Trailblazer) because I was trying to heal a sesamoiditis after running the 24-hour US Nationals earlier that month (and resting for 7 weeks ending up being the successful cure!).Long story short, we had a great team of volunteers to help our sister club and the 60 or so participants in the 30 and 50K this Saturday.And we did need these extra hands as the Striders asked us to man an additional water-only station, 1.7 miles from the Saratoga Gap main aid station, a mini station through which the runners will run twice at mile 9 and 12.4.Knowing that they had also added two other water-only aid stations, the first one at mile 5, Grizzly Flat (it's great to remember that we had bears in these hills a few decades ago), and mile 16.5 (Portola), I wasn't expecting runners to even blink and stop by our table but, on the contrary, most of them did refill bottles, at least on their first passage.That kept Malinda and I busy for 3 hours, although my main job ended up to take pictures of the runners and give them indications of the direction and mileage ahead, as the second purpose of this water stop was to orient participants through this convoluted and confusing 5-way trail intersection.The way in (yellow flags):The second way out (pink flags):I'm sorry I just had an old point and touch camera with me as the result is pretty poor given the tricky lightning. But, for the sake of showing I did shoot like a cowboy (we had a Western theme), here is the raw result, got almost everybody (except maybe the top 2 runners who caught us by surprise, flying through the aid station really fast). See this Picassa album, and please refer your friends to this blog post! (Click on the collage below to go to the album.)Was great to see many familiar faces enjoying this low key even but challenging course. By the way, the weather was ideal for amazing performances, very clear sky and views, cool temperature, even on the chilly side for us immobile on the side line. Looking forward to seeing the results tonight or tomorrow!I'll leave it to the runners to thank the organizers of this event, let me thank our volunteers, starting with Stuart who organized our crew before running the race himself, David who hauled the aid station gear from and back to the race headquarters, Emilee, Amy and Jeremy, the three of them bringing extra young h[...]

3 inspiring blind dates with Simon Wheatcroft in Silicon Valley


Wow, what a weekend with this unique opportunity to spend time with Simon Wheatcroft, and get another boost of inspiration from this exceptional blind ultra runner who is opening our eyes by his bold goals and achievements, and his passion to apply new technologies to improve the world in general but the life of blind people in particular!The first time I got to hear about Simon's story, I was actually part of a crowd of more than 10 thousands people as Simon got on the main stage at our 2016 IBM InterConnect conference in Las Vegas. Then we went for the yearly casual run organized by the marketing team later in the week. Because I was so grateful to have this opportunity to meet Simon in person, I decided that I'd give the opportunity to others in the Bay Area when Simon informed a few weeks ago that he was going to do a short stop  in Silicon Valley. Simon was staying at home and I tried to get him to visit IBM again (our IBM Bluemix Garage developed an mobile app for Simon to help him navigate the Namibian desert in a multi-day race last May), but Simon had already a very busy agenda on Friday.You can see this BBC clip relating the work on the mobile app for the Namibia multi-day race: allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" frameborder="0" height="266" src="" width="320">With that express visit, I went on to schedule a talk at Sports Basement on Friday evening and a group run at our Quicksilver Running Club's favorite park, Almaden Quicksilver. Then, on Thursday, came a request from the California School for the Blind which Simon was very nice to squeeze in on Friday morning. Like Simon frequently says "life works better when you adapt..." And adapt is the key to the name and mantra of his company, &adapt or - The California School for the BlindThis came as a total eye opener for me, the fact that we had in the Bay Area the only public school for the blind in California, right in Fremont, and that this school started back in 1860 (yes, not a type, 157 years ago!) in San Francisco.After hearing about the Friday evening event, their Track Coach, and mobility teacher, Marie Trudelle, reached out on Thursday to check if there was any possibility to squeeze one more stop in for Simon and I'm very glad we were able to do it. Of course, it was a bit hectic to drive through all the Friday morning commute traffic between Cupertino and Fremont then back to Cupertino, at least we could use the car pool lane where available.What a moving experience to see these kids carefully listening to Simon's story then bombarding him with questions about their respective experiences and also how mobile technology could help them better navigate the dangerous world that the outdoors are for them.There was this 11 year-old kid who was so excited and on fire with his genuine and smart questions (Photo credit: Neil Bacon):He recently arrived from Afghanistan with his family and suffers from a very painful genetic disease and his teachers were so happy to see him forgetting about his constant pain for the occasion. And he wasn't the only one moved by this fortuitous interaction, thank you again, Marie, for reaching out!#2 - Q&A at Sports Basement SunnyvaleAfter a busy day in the office in Cupertino and yet another round trip navigating the insane South Bay commute traffic to visit the Tesla factory in Fremont with his tra[...]

A quick recovery run in the park: Golden Gate XC Open


I'm so behind... Last Sunday, I posted my UTMB race report, one week after the fact. I actually had written the text on the TGV between Chamonix (well, Bellegarde) and Paris on the following Monday evening but then got caught up with work and overseas travel before I could make more time to pick and include the right pictures.And, last Sunday, we had our PA (Pacific Association) USATF (USA Track & Field) LDR (Long Distance Running) quarterly meeting in Golden Gate Park. I'm getting more involved these days in our MUT (sorry, yet another acronym, and not even an IBM one... Mountain Ultra Trail) subcommittee, so much that I gelt compelled to drive up to San Francisco to meet the rest of the LDR volunteer gang.Why in Golden Gate Park? Because the meeting was after a XC (Cross-Country) competition, the Golden Gate Park Open. I can't commit on running the 8 or so races of that XC Grand Prix but, once in a while, I like to get my legs moving and measure myself against the real fast guys doing cross-country. One week after running 60 grueling miles in the Alps, how bad could it be. As a matter of fact, my next big race is a 10K (Trailblazer) at the end of the month, so better return to some speed.Because of another one-time event, the standard GGP XC course was changed and shortened to 6.02 kilometers (you've to love how they measured the 0.02 on very uneven trails in the woods! ;-). Obviously, the difficulty wasn't the distance on that one. Neither the elevation, although there were a few short climbs to go over. It turned out that it was exceptionally hot that day in San Francisco, better wear a singlet that morning, which is the default uniform for most of the XC teams anyway. Our Quicksilver Ultra Running team obviously doesn't compete in XC and I was the only one to wear the QRC jersey.I actually arrived at the site 30 minutes before the start of the Masters race, and just in time to see the first gals finishing, with a very impressive kick from the Impala and the Aggies of course!Winner, Teresa McWalters, Impala:2nd place, Danielle Katz from Hoka Aggies:And the Aggies took 9 spots of the top 20, wow!My warm-up was short because it took just a few minutes to be completely sweaty, yikes!I knew only one runner in our race, Jeff Hongo, also from the Aggies, and decided it was wise to stay just behind as he was in my age group and we were running with many younger Masters (40 years and above). Half way though, I felt good enough to pick up the pace and pass him and the teammate he was running with and progressively picked a few places although I couldn't see the head of the race.On our way back to the polo field and its long track, there was a very narrow and uphill single track and I got stuck behind two runners who had slowed down, thinking I was going to lose the lead I had created in the second mile. Up on the track, I pushed the pace then, especially as I was excited to see the finish line. I started sprinting with what I thought was a quarter of mile to go and was breathless when the course monitor sent us on the first out and back we had to do in the first mile, ouch.But I wasn't going to DNF this time, with less than a mile to go, so I kept pushing harder... At the finish line, I had no idea what my place was, I just knew I had given it all at 6:03 min/mile pace on an uneven surface (22'49"). As a matter of fact, my GPS watch was happy, celebrating with vibrations two new records since I bought it in December last year: faste[...]

UTMB 2017: what happened…


First, a warm thank you for tracking my progress during the race, sending encouragements before and as I was moving, or checking on me when I wasn’t anymore… And to all of those who either trained hard but couldn't make it to the start, toed the line or even finished, congratulations, this is quite the beast I imagined, a race worth being the epicenter of the worldwide summit of ultra trail!Well, now, with all the live coverage provided by the top notch race organization, there isn’t much suspense to hold in this race report, isn’t there? By now, everybody knows that we had quite some bad weather and that I dropped around kilometer 98, out of about 167. The weather was bad enough that the course got two minor changes a few hours before the start, to avoid two of the exposed peaks but still leaving the insane difficulty of this course pretty much intact. Another way to look at it though is that the weather wasn’t as bad as a few years ago when the race stayed on the French side of Mont Blanc. UTMB has definitely seen a broad spectrum of weather conditions in 15 years!After having a blast at Boston on a hot year, and winning Ohlone for the 6th time thanks to the traditional high temperatures which suit me well, I felt sorry that I didn’t run UTMB the past two years instead of this one since they were hot years. While I did run my fastest 50Kin freezing temperatures in March 2016 in New York (3:18:05), it was short enough that I could resist. More than 5 or 6 hours in the cold, and I’m missing body fat and/or will power to hold on… Throw some rain, hail or snow, and I’m way too Californian now to survive! So, while I was super stoked that the weather looked ok at the start of the UTMB 2017 edition, I knew I was on for an epic run if the bad weather forecast materialized at any point, and especially during the first night...Ah, the start… this is probably the best souvenir which will stick for many years. As I mentioned in my previous post, I had just enough points in the ITRA ranking to have a preferred access to the elite corral, I just had to get to the start line 20 minutes before the gun (which got delayed by 30 minutes to 6:30 pm to account for the course change). The closest to that was when I got an elite start at the Chicago Marathon in 2003 or the first corral at Boston.With that I couldn’t have better pre-race conditions, leaving our apartment with the family and friends by 5:50 pm and having the opportunity to approach and mingle with the World crème de la crème of ultra running!However, being the oldest in this special elite group (see my previous pre-race post), I humbly went to the back of the corral where I actually met Dominick Layfield, who lives in California but was running here for the Union Jack. We both ran Quicksilver 100K this year, him taking 1st and I, 3rd.Look at how many runners are behind us, more than 2,500 starters this year! They even seem to come out of the church...So cool to start that close of the UTMB arch or door:Thanks to this ideal placement, I was able to run through the start line, something 2,000 runners behind weren’t able to do as we are channeled by one deep row of spectators on each side for at least the first kilometer. I was amazed by how many people there were, all yelling and almost each of them holding a smart phone: how many hours of video where taken at this point, that must be a lot of cumulative disc storage! ;-)An image [...]

UTMB 2017: so close to the start, how did I even get here?


UTMB, Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, a beast I tried to avoid for so many years, and it is now around the corner. yikes! I am even deemed ready for it, not injured, all the mandatory requirement gathered, checked in as of yesterday, and even with the privilege of an elite start, so really no way to escape at this point. Even for the bad weather ahead.But... how did I get here, this is actually a long story... shortened into the 6 following vignettes.0. PrehistoryIt started many years ago as a matter of fact. First, my wife has spent vacations in Chamonix every year since she was a baby so, when I met her in Geneva, we got accustomed to stay together here. Leaving in California since 1998, we only spend a few days every year but it always feel good to visit, this is such a unique place for people loving the mountains. I only wish I didn't lose my agility on the trails after I broke my shoulder 5 years ago. Since then, I've developed a fear of falling as soon as the trails turn technical, and there are plenty of them on the UTMB course, even more so dangerous with rain, snow and at night.1. UTMB multi-year preludeMy first encounter with the course and the idea of running this beast was actually pretty amazing as I had the opportunity to tag along with the Lafuma ultra running team in August 2007; what a blast it was to share the trails with such experienced and talented runners! I titled my blog post UTMB training camp: trail review for 2008? But I then decided to focus on North American races since then. Due to the bad weather on day 1, we covered the whole course in 5 days instead of the 3 in the original plan.In 2008, the excitement went up a notch as I joined Team Lafuma again but with a notable addition, Scott Jurek! However, I had a train to catch on day 2 of their program so only covered the first third that time (UTMB training with Scott and Team Lafuma).In 2009, I ran almost the whole course in two days, but had to call it a day at Le Col de la Forclaz, fighting GI issues after eating a delicious cheese omelette at La Peule. I assure you, I won't touch any cheese during the run this year!In 2010, I ran my own CCC, albeit missing the final climb to La Tête aux Vents and coming back to Chamonix through Argentière.And, this Monday, 4 hours after landing in Geneva, I took the train from Chamonix to Vallorcine with my Silicon Valley mate, Mike Kreaden, to run the final section which I didn't know, up to La Tête aux Vents and through La Flégère. (Next three pictures are from Mike.)With that, I can't say I don't know how tough the course is, I've been warned as we say... ;-)2. The elite corral, really?The news came by email last week, I was invited to join the elites at the start of the race, what a cool honor and perk. With 2,300 registered runners, I wasn't planning on standing for an hour or more in order to start at the front. Well, now I'd better start fast if I don't want to get hurt by 2,000 charging bulls behind!How is the elite status determined? With the ITRA (International Trail Running Association) ranking which has almost a million runners in its database (close to 997,000 to be more exact)! It is actually this ranking which got me to run UTMB this year. I must admit, I wasn't found of the idea of running a single trail with 2,300 other runners, furthermore in bad weather conditions potentially. But, last year, I discovered that my ranking (785 points at the time)[...]