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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: 2017-11-24T01:16:02.129-08:00


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 start since you don't know who is going for 3.1 miles only versus the whole 6.2 miles of the 10K. I admit I got caught into the excitement this time and was astonished when I realized my Garmin GPS watch was indicating 5:10 min/mile after the first turn, yikes! No wonder why I was gasping for air already! Sometimes we say "and from then, it was all down [...]

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 which ended up on his forehead so the paramedics evacuated him after place a neck brace. Our sport is rather safe but sometimes scary accidents do happen, stay safe out there!Speaking of 2003, it was my last year in the Open division and I had finished 118th out of 162 finishers, in 33:37 on a shorter course (5.8 miles) won in 28:32 by David Cullum from t[...]

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 first mile in 5:33, good! Well, 5:40 wasn't fast enough for the runner on my heels and I was surprised to see Elliot passing me so early in the race. I know it's just a matter of time that he runs these short distances much faster than I, but I thought this was a pretty aggressive move. I maintained a 5:40 pace and that allowed me to pass him after a f[...]

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 subtle way to remember these decades of tragic history, similar to this other one, a collection of brass-plated cobblestones highlighting locations where Jews lived before being deported and executed in concentration camps (official website, Washington Post article). So far, 61,000 plates have been placed in 1,200 locations throughout Europe, still so [...]

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 previous point, be positive about what you can achieve, get negative ideas out of the way when it's getting tough and you want to quit.As, like a good orator, David was concluding his speech by summarizing again what he had just told us, he threw a last minute bonus tip given the wet conditions we were meant to have during the race this Sunday: lubricate! [...]

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 following the lead bike (for knowing how it feels), while I started seriously doubting after mile 3 that I will ever catch-up. I lost a bit of stamina in mile 4 (5:56) with a wake-up call in mile 5 when I realized that I had slowed down to 6 min/mile. I was able to get back to digging a big deeper and run the 6th mile in 5:52, sprinting to the finish to[...]

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 hands to handle the task, Yoshihiro, and Malinda again who stayed with me at our satellite station. Way to represent Quicksilver, team!Tomorrow is only a 10K race (I hear you saying "phew, what's that?") but it comes with it's own type of apprehension for me, for instance how many sub 6-min miles I'll be able to run. I'd better keep in mind that this isn[...]

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 travel and running buddy, Dr. Neil Bacon (Founder and CEO of, a Yelp-like platform for patients to rate their healthcare providers), it was time to drive to Sunnyvale where Sports Basement very kindly opened their community room for an informal gathering and Q&A of our local running community with Simon.With an invite posted on Faceb[...]

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: fastest mile at 5:37 and fastest 5K at 18:17. Oops, these are far from my PRs, it shows I haven't worked at the track for the past 9 months, I'd better get back to it!While I was cooling down on the course, I ran into Bill Dodson, 82 and took me a while to realize he was still in the race. I ran along, helping him finding his way on this convoluted course in[...]

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 extracted by Max of his video of the start, with my blue GU Energy cap in the center:With a downhill start, the pace was rather fast for such a grueling 100-miler. Despite running under 8 minutes/mile for the first 5 miles, I got passed a lot and had no clue where I was in the field as we started the first steep climb after Les Houches.By then, it was a[...]

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) made me eligible to bypass the lottery (runners between 750 and 849 points get in and pay, those above 850 points don't even pay!).I knew I couldn't maintain this level for too long. As a matter of fact, the ranking doesn't take the age into account so I'm the oldest of these 118 elite men, which is a fate in itself.With that though, I really don't hav[...]

Last UTMB-prep long run: Playing in the Club's backyard


That's it, I have to be ready for the UTMB beast now, just need to survive 2 weeks of tapering and, guess what, these are not the easiest ones! ;-) Besides, the pressure is on as I just found out that I'm on the Elite Men list, oops! Oh, well, second, from the bottom, quite an old underdog, lol. (At least I didn't get noticed by Meghan in her preview on iRunFar, back in January, phew! But look at the stars showing up.)I started the week taking it really easy with 10K on Monday and Tuesday, 5K on Wednesday after a good strength training session, and even a day off on Thursday. 15K on Friday and this morning before another flight to Dallas, but I still managed to squeeze in another ultra training/long run this Saturday morning in our Quicksilver Running Club's backyard, the hill Almaden Quicksilver County Park. That makes for 1 ultra per week for the past 4 weeks, albeit barely ultra distances for Andy Jones-Wilkins who doesn't consider 50K as an ultra if I recall.Anyway, I've been racing 10 times in this park in club races ranging from half marathon to 100K distances and people must think that, being part of the local club, I must train a lot on this ground but I actually don't live that close, so don't visit that often. I actually checked my running log, it was my 10th training run there so 20 runs total in 10 years. One every 6 months, yet enough course variety to know all the trails and be able to improvise.This Saturday, I started with the trail our club has adopted, the convoluted New Almaden Trail. Then right on Mine Trail toward the McAbee Road entrance, left on Senador Mine Trail, right on Guadalupe, up on Mine Hill including the detour on Providencia Trail, continuing on Castirello Trail after the Bull Run, continuing on the left down to English Camp, right on English Camp Trail the crossing Mine Hill to go on the Hacienda Trail and its steep roller-coaster, returning to the Mockingbird parking lot on Virl O. Norton. That first loop circumventing the park made for 16.2 miles which I had covered in 2:20. While the temperature was very nice at the start at 8 thanks to the foggy layer, it was getting quite warm now at 10 am. I refilled my GU2 and water bottles, ate a banana, grabbed a second Snickers bar and I was back on the trail, albeit having to walk on the steep Hacienda Trail. I was hoping to cover 30 miles this morning, before our Club picnic at noon but, with all the walking and the heat, it looked unlikely. I did push to maintain a reasonable pace but, thinking of UTMB, I was also less embarrassed to walk when I felt the urge as there will be a lot of walking in 2 weeks. I left Hacienda mid way to take the Capehorn Pass Trail to get back on Mine Hill, then the April Tunnel detour, back on Mine Hill, right on Prospect #3 as we do on the new Quicksilver 50K/100K course, left on Randol Trail then left on Mine Trail again to go up Bull Run, Castillero, English Camp, and finishing with Mine Trail, Capehorn, right on Hacienda and left on Vir O. Norton for a total of 29 miles, 5,700 feet of cumulative elevation, in 4:21 (9:00 min/mile). Not a spectacular run but a good long one. And I only twisted my right ankle once, albeit rather badly, a good opportunity to check that it is still super flexible and tender, phew! (It is that same ankle that I rolled and trigger my fall while training for Montagn'Hard early July, when I broke and badly twisted two fingers, one still being a mess after 6 weeks...)Sorry that didn't manage to pick this run, that would have been a great flyover (short of having Jeff C following me with his drone! ;-). And a less boring walkthrough of my run than the above litany of trail names... which I went through for those wanting to do this long run and who are no[...]

Black Mountain and Bella Vista/Indian Creek repeats: that goal checked!


Many miles this week! First, those I'm not so proud of, 200 miles of commute to the office, South of San Jose. At least, I'm glad I changed car because I averaged 42.2 miles per gallon with my new Hyundai Elantra. That's 6.69 liters of gasoline per 100 kilometers, not much to brag about in Europe, but on the right path in the US. There is the car of course, but also the fact that it's mostly highway and against the traffic, seeing the sea of cars coming to work at Apple in Cupertino on 85. And the feedback loop of the live data on the dashboard (like we now have when running with a GPS watch).As some bumper stickers say, "I'd rather be... running" all these miles. At least I did run a few miles this week, 110.9 miles to be exact. It has been a long time since I logged so many training miles in a week, although I'm still far from my 2007 and 2008 max weeks when I was ramping up my training and racing volume.As a matter of fact, I'm possibly in the red zone, at least from a big data/analytics standpoint: out of many gauges on my dashboard, there is one metric which I've gotten out of bound this year. While I actually pledged for not averaging more than 100 kilometers a week this year, I'm at 120 km as of this Sunday evening, oops! That's 624 kilometers too many, although I like to finish the year with a few weeks completely off, like 3 or 4, so 300-400 kilometers in the bank by early December would be ok. I also need to take a couple of weeks off to taper before UTMB, I've certainly room for this in my running log. As you can see below, it's not even mid August and I already ran as many miles as in all 2007!This Sunday, I finally managed to run 3 consecutive Bella Vista/Indian Creek loops after running to the top of Black Mountain. Well, I say run, but the steep climb on Indian Creek was mostly power walking actually. Which is fine given all the walking I'm going to have to do at UTMB. I just wished I had my poles with me but I left them in Chamonix after my successful trial at the Montagn'Hard last month.After my failed attempt the week before Skyline 50K, this time I left home at 7:30 instead of 10 am to avoid being on the loops at the peak of the heat.Got to the top of Black Mountain just in time to see a group of hikers watching a huge rattle snake crossing the area.Here is my route and profile on Strava:And a cool 3D fly-over of the three-peat (click on link or picture to activate it):Lot of power walking on the steep uphills and a few stops where water was available at the Black Mountain campground and on the way down on Montebello Road. Here is my favorite 7-feet tall water wall (or shower), mid way on Montebello Road. It had dried up last year, it is a blessing to have this cooling station this year! Hope this video is refreshing! ;-) allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" frameborder="0" height="266" src="" width="320">Speaking of Montebello Road, repair construction has started and the road is closed during weekdays.I noticed they even got a team come from Colorado apparently, Geo Stabilization Inc., serious stuff.Overall, some good physical and mental UTMB training, and a much needed escape from the terrible news of Charlottesville, VA, this weekend. Wishing so hard for our country to go back to the poll and backtrack 9 months... What a pity, please tell me we can go back to progress for our society and our planet, please...![...]

Skyline 50K 2017: another gut story!


64th 50K race, 11th Skyline 50K participation, 146 ultra races under my belt, you'd think this is routine. Well, what I love about ultra running, os simply running as we've seen with the World Championships in London these past 2 weeks, is that ever race, every run is different.So many stars have to align for the perfect performance, it's humbling: temperature, humidity, terrain, competition or emulation, race weight, stress level, pre-race sleep, tapering and training. And the guts... feelings.I'll try to stay within the PF-13 realm in this race report but will likely step outside the PG grounds once in a while. Like they say on NPR from time to time, in case you have children listening, this program may contain some disturbing or explicit language, you may want to joins us back in 10 minutes... ;-)Let's get at it right away as a matter of fact. I had plenty of time to get prepared for the start as I forced Pierre-Yves out of his bed with a super early car pool so I could get a great parking spot and watch the early start at 6 am.So early that, like last year, I was on time to help Brian setup the sturdy finish line arch.Yet, early wasn't enough, I was still in the bathroom as Adam was gathering the runners for the official 7 am start, oops! And it wasn't pretty but I thought I had emptied my bowels enough that it will hold for 4 hours... I rushed to the start line and had a quick chat with the other M50-59 age group contender this Sunday, Cliff Lentz.I first met Cliff exactly 10 years ago actually, at the 2007 US 50K Trail Nationals organized by the Tamalpa Running Club in the Headlands (yes, I've been blogging for 10 years, and it's cool to be able to get back to these documented memories). Cliff dominated our Masters division back then, before switching to other priorities with family, work and even politics. I placed 2nd to him in the Masters at these Championships in 2008 but won our friendly duels in 2013 and 2014. He seemed well prepared this year and ready for a good fight!Right off the bat, I was stunned by the level of the competition this year. Half a mile in, I was still running behind 20 or more runners, a sea of bright fluorescent yellow tops, mostly from the Excelsior running team, with many speedy youngsters I had never seen before. This is not atypical of this race with many rookies wanting to experience both trail running and ultra running after great performances on the road. With such fast starts as we go along Chabot Lake on a paved bike path, the results vary. Yet, at this point, I told Cliff that I'd be happy to make the top 10 this year!I did pass a few runners in the first climb but I never felt at ease trying to keep up with Karl Schnaitter and Cliff in the up hills. Besides, I was kind of discouraged that I had lost track of the leaders so quickly. I pointed runners 2 minutes ahead at mile 3 (Marciel aid station), and they were not even the leaders! World-class athlete, Yiou Wang, whom I did pass at this race for her 50K trail debut, had taken off so fast that I lost hope to avoid being chicked today! ;-) After a win at the 50K Trail Nationals in February, then at the very competitive Lake Sonoma 50-mile in April, she had a tough Western States (DNF) and announced son Facebook he was leaving the competition for at least a year while roaming the globe with her boy friend. Well, she changed her mind at the last minute and the two of them decided to run this last race before boarding for their double around-the-world trip.We traded places with Cliff as he was stronger in the uphills and me faster in the downhills. However, and he could probably not tell, I was in much distress to hold my intestine together as we reached [...]

Back home for a last tune-down before Skyline 50K


After 5.5 weeks out of the country, it felt good to be back home and reconnect with my usual running routes and routine. Traveling has been amazing, with so many opportunities to see family and friends and the discovery of new places in South Africa and Namibia, but it has its toll on the running, especially when we join an organized group tour like in Namibia.My first run after flying back from Africa on Wednesday was on my local neighborhood 5K loop, which I covered three times, getting faster and faster, down to the last mile in 5:58. Between the heat of the summer, the elevation in Winthoek and Johannesburg (5,500 feet), the steep and rocky terrain in the Alps, it has been months since I broke that pace on a mile, last time was probably during the Boston Marathon as a matter of fact. Well, except a short spike at 4:42 min/mile (!), flying down the Lion's Head mountain in Cape Town as Max noticed on my flyover.On Friday, I ran 9 miles again, albeit slightly slower given the heat (92F) and the rolling terrain of our trail loop at work. And, after experimenting with much success my new pairs of Brooks Caldera since May, I broke a new pair of shoes: the other Brooks trail shoes, called Mazama (that makes 5 different trail running models with the well-known Cascadia, now in their 12th release, the light and fast PureGrit and the Adrenaline ASR 14).On Saturday, after these two runs, I felt quite bullish and aimed at running a 50K, to the top of Black Mountain plus 3 Bella Vista/Indian Creek trail loops, which I've never done more than 2 at a time. Although I was up early thanks to the jet lag, I only left the house at 10 am and got stuck at the top of Black Mountain in the middle of the blazing heat, which I was completely unprepared for after enjoying the winter season for 2 weeks, down under. I actually had pushed quite a lot on the climb up to Montebello Road, passing 2 bikes and being passed by 2 other bikes (which is rare on this steep climb), just before the top. At the beginning of the first loop down Bella Vista, I ran into Chuck Wilson and we chatted for 5 minutes about many topics: Namibia and South Africa, which he visited too, Vespa, his recent switch to a low carb diet, where to find the best water in the area, etc. As I resumed my run, I started feeling dizzy but that passed after another mile of down hill. To save some energy for the next loops, I alternated running and power walking in my first climb on Indian Creek, but even walking was hard in this heat.I stopped for 3-4 minutes at the backpack campground to refill my bottles and cool off a bit in the shade, but was still hopeful of completing the three loops. However, struggling on the second climb, over heating, I decided it was more reasonable to cut it short and return home and keep the 3-loop goal for later in August as another UTMB-prep exercise. Before hitting Montebello Road again on the way back, I still went on the Waterwheel trail detour for a total of 31.2 miles, and I stopped at every creek on Montebello Road to cool off. Despite some walking, even in the last flat miles across Cupertino, I was stunned to see that my overall average pace ended up close to 9 min/mile, I certainly had pushed too much in the first climb! It took me a few hours and a good night of sleep to recover, and I was able to run 9 miles before jumping on a plane again this Sunday morning, this time for Dallas, Texas. As a side data for this ultra experiment, I weighted 137 lb after my 2-day trip back from Namibia and 124 lb after this challenging 50K training run, quite a difference over 3 days! Thinking about it, I believe the main reason I bonked is tha[...]

Running in Swakopmund, Namibia: back and forth the water front


I'm just back from an amazing 6-day tour of Namibia but I had very sparse Internet connection so here is an after-the-fact post from my run in Swakopmund, last Friday.As you can guess from this lighthouse, Swakopmund is a seaside city on the Atlantic Ocean, and here is a large map to situate it, as well as Namibia, which is still a country that many don't know much about, between South Africa, Angola and Botswana (Swakopmund is the black and white spot in the middle of the coastline).As for the name, Swakopmund literally means the mouth of the Swakop river and shows the very strong German heritage from this ex colony (Germany lost it to South Africa after WWI). Now, what the Germans might have not realized is the actual meaning of the word Swakop, for which I'm quoting Wikipedia (Swakop River):The name comes from the Khoekhoe languages of the Nama and Damara Tsoa-xaub. Tsoa means ‘excrement opening’ or ‘anus‘ while xaub stands for the ‘contents of excrement.’ This name derives from the observation that the flow of large amounts of brownish sludge in the rain with it and discharges into the Atlantic Ocean.So, for the locals, as our great guide Gabriel pointed out, this city name sounded more like the mouth of the diarrhea... oops!Anyway, back to running, the lady I asked for a potential long route at the front desk of our hotel said that I was in luck because there was a 20-kilometer (13 miles!) paved path along the coast, going to the North. As it was challenging to run during our group trip (2,200 km in 6 days!), this was the perfect opportunity to escape for a few hours and run a marathon! I woke up at 4:30 am and was out in the dark as it is winter down here, with the sunset around 6:30 am in July.But, indeed, I was super pleased to find not only a paved path but a lit one, right along the alternatively sandy or rocky beaches. I told myself that even if that path was only 10-kilometer long, it was still very much worth it. However, it came to an end as I was less than 3 miles in my run, oops! I went on on the packed sand and a path resumed through a very nice park, the Paddock Gardens.The Paddock Gardens after the fog dissipated, later in my run:After that, no more trail but an intricate network of roads through recent and ongoing housing developments. It was so foggy in the early morning, with visibility shorter than 100 yards, that I wasn't sure which direction I was going. Luckily, I ended up on the main road, at the exit called Mile 4, which is indeed the Northern end neighborhood of Swakopmund. Because I didn't use the straight main road to get to this intersection, I had 6 miles on my GPS and decided to turn back, to avoid the dangerous traffic of C34.I stopped by the hotel (mile 12), then went on for another round, albeit not quite to the Mile 4 intersection, so I could get ready in time for the continuation of our trip.On my 1st way back, I experienced a phenomenon that I don't recall seeing before: a white rainbow as the fog dissipated. I was going to create a neologism for that, fogbow, but the term Fog Bow already has its Wikipedia page, of course!Here are other views at/from the end of the paved path (around 3km North of downtown, not quite 20 kilometers!)A nice promenade to finish my run on:A total of 21 miles and a nice opportunity to run, not to be missed in this busy road's 3D flyover animation (click on the image below, then the white arrow):By the way, shortening my run actually allowed me to get a few minutes on the Internet to post a few pictures on the Chameleon Safaris' Facebook page.And win [...]

Running at JNB: Jones Road


My first flight out of 3 to get back home from Namibia got delayed by 3.5 hours at Windhoek so I got stuck at JNB, Johannesburg's O.R. Tambo International Airport for a night and a day. But that's not an excuse for not running, isn't it?Now, as I mentioned in my previous posts, there are a few places which are not recommended to explore on foot, and Johannesburg is high on the list. But, when I woke up and open the curtains of my room this morning, I noticed not only the great winter weather, with blue sky and 56F/13C temperature,  but what looked like a very smooth sidewalk along the airport perimeter. That looked too good to pass on...Well, between a busy airport and highway, and crossing a large industrial complex visited by many trucks, that's certainly not the nicest run you can experience but, again, if you get stuck for a day at this airport, it's an ok place to log a few miles. I did 11 miles.Note the elevation chart at the bottom which oscillates around 5,500 feet (1,700 m), the same altitude as Windhoek's, and you can feel it's slightly harder to breathe.The sidewalk doesn't go all the way but the side of the road otherwise is easy to run on.This is the South extremity of the road, when you get to the end of the tarmac, where you can see the big birds landing (video clip). allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" frameborder="0" height="266" src="" width="320">'s 3D flyover (click on the picture, then the white arrow to see the animation):Here is a map ti situate JNB with regard to the city.And, a bit of advertising at the airport...Oh, and I couldn't resist, for my family which has been so close to Christian Dior's history from Granville to Paris and around the world. South African Airlines put us in a very nice hotel owned by Peermont, with several casinos and hotels on the premises, including one called... MONDIOR!Anyway, I should now get home 27 hours later than initially planned but I'm glad that, unlike most of the other passengers who missed their connections, I could at least get my suit case to allow me to run these 11 miles during this unexpected long stop![...]

Running in Cape Town #2: Waterfront and Boardwalk rather than downtown


I love leveraging my passion for running to discover the new countries and cities I visit, and share what I see for those who can make the trip. Unfortunately, there are a few places where running on your own is dangerous and South Africa is one. It's even an issue for locals and natives, even more so for tourists. On Friday, I decided to hike a non urban place, Lion's Head. On Saturday, I went to explore downtown but I quickly felt uncomfortable as, a few blocks from the financial district, I got into either entrances to highways or homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk. I was hoping to run along the Ocean on the North side but that's not an option, with the busy industrial harbor. Disappointed, I turned back and passed by the City Hall. It was Saturday morning and, except for a craft market in front of the Town Hall, the city was super quiet.From there, I traversed a busier area and made my way toward the place all tourists end up in Cape Town: the V&A Waterfront (V&A for Victoria & Alfred). By chance, I ran into Agnès who was on her way to check if we could get last minute tickets to visit Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and many other apartheid opponents and activists were imprisoned for many years of their lives. It was oversold already, she will go with Greg, when she is back here after Namibia. I was at least able to visit the small exhibit at the deck.I resumed my run along the shore and found these signs for a 3.1-mile loop from the Waterfront.I ran part of it but then continued farther South along the Ocean.Wonderful place to log a few miles, away from the dangerous car traffic and with views of the incredibly powerful waves breaking on the rocky or sandy beaches.On Sunday night, after our trip to Boulders Beach (to see the adorable African penguins) and the spectacular Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope, I went back on the his boardwalk and pushed to the end of the sidewalk at the exit of Camps Bay, after going through Clifton.It was dark already (sun sets before 6 pm in winter), but I could hear the Ocean's breakers for the 6 miles (and back) so the views must be incredible all the way (the Ocean on one side and Table Mountain on the other). By the way, I ran with a headlamp, just to be safer, but the boardwalk (Cap Town) and sidewalk (Clifton and Camps Bay) have street light most of the way. There are also bathrooms in many places on this route, albeit not open at night.Note that there is also a mile-worth of smooth, flat and straight bike path along Main Street, starting at the National Stadium.Here are the 3D flyover videos from Saturday and Sunday.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} From my short 3-day experience of Cape Town, this boardwalk is the ideal place to log miles if you are staying near Sea Point or Green Point; highly recommended route if you visit the Mother City![...]

Running in Cape Town #1: tricky and steep hike on the Lion's Head


I landed at 1 pm in Cape Town on Friday, after leaving Paris at 7 pm the day before (connection in Frankfurt and Johannesburg) and, by 4 pm, I was ready to explore one of the key hills or mountains above the Mother City. I had actually no idea what this run was going to be but I could see some traces along the mountain which looked like trails and the neighborhoods looked wealthy and safe enough.I had heard about the famous Table Mountain but that first one was called Lion's Head, and looking over a very nice area of the city including Sea Point and Green Point where we were staying.The first steep climb was actually in the direction of Signal Hill, entering the park through the entrance at the end of Springbok and Glengariff Roads.Looking back already gives you nice views of the city, for instance the stadium built for the recent Soccer World Cup.And other users were enjoying these aerial views as well while paragliding!The rocky and steep trail reminded my of last week's Montagn'Hard. The sharp rocks made running too hard actually and I was already missing my new Leiki poles!Going around Signal Hill, I reached Signal Hill Road and was impressed with what remained to be climbed to get to the top of Lion's Head. I took the trail going straight to the top on the North side, still quite a rocky path.The end was more climbing than hiking, with ladders and chains.Short of time, I didn't quite make it to the summit, it wasn't worth the risk of falling, I already had enjoyed rather amazing aerial views of the city and the beautiful sunset.Signal Hill: Downtown and the harbor: Clifton and Camps Bay:Here is the Lion's Head casting its huge shadow on the nearby Table Mountain.I took the South route/trail to go down, a very smooth one which most of the tourists use. But that led me on the other side of the park, at the entrance of the Table Mountain National Park. From there, I took the road back to downtown, with a reasonably good sidewalk on the right side.The overall route and profile on Strava:And, more interestingly, look at the 1-minute 3D flyover animation on, more a hike than a run, but a great way to get some perspective on the Mother City![...]

Montagn'Hard 107K 2017: tamed that beast, finally!


More than 5 weeks without posting, how sloppy is that for a blogger aiming at weekly updates... I feel really bad about it but at least it's not that I've been injured, I certainly did run in the meantime, 338 miles actually. As a matter of fact, I wrote two articles which I didn't dare to post as I was coping with extensive travel, a few family events and a few demanding situations at work, and needed a break from the social networks pressure. Anyway, I'm back as I'm taking a real vacation in Africa and here is a special race I have to talk about first, La Montagn'Hard.We are so spoiled in California with our smooth trails, great weather and runnable hills. We even label our local Grand Prix 'MUT' for Mountain and Ultra Trail but, in comparison with the Alps, the word mountain is way overstated and misleading. I actually ran this event 4 years ago but, unprepared to run through the night, I had picked the option to drop to the 60K distance, instead of the 107K. This year, as I'm in UTMB thanks to my ITRA ranking which allowed me to bypass the lottery, I really wanted to finish, with several other goals in mind: to test my fitness on these insane slopes, experience an ultra with a backpack filled with mandatary equipment, and, a first for me, run with poles.Ah, these poles, how much I thought of them this year! First thing we did when we got to Chamonix was to stop by le Vieux Campeur in Sallanches to buy a pair of Leiki poles. I was actually going to pick the Black Diamond ones based on a few recommendations but I got mesmerized by the convenience of the straps of the Leiki model. As for the length, the store rep advised for 120 cm.On Monday before the race, I went for a short trial run below Planpraz, above Chamonix. Just 6 miles, but it takes for ever on these tricky and steep trails. I went for a longer loop on Tuesday, 12 miles including a climb up to Le Brévent (2,500m). In the switchbacks below Bel Lachat, I badly twisted my right ankle. This happens often and I'm so lucky to have super flexible ankles but, this time, it was so painful that, to avoid falling toward the valley, I turned toward the slope and fell on a rock, first with my left hand. The whole fall probably lasted less than a second but I can remember each step of it: after the pain in the ankle, I felt a terrible pain in my fingers, then I let go, falling on my right knee and heavily on my head, ouch! While assessing the damages, I was surprised that my sun glasses, which dropped on the rock when I hit it with my head, weren't even broken, no scratch on the glass, just on the frame. I felt lucky about that but what about my body...? The head was hurting but there was no blood, phew! (It's particularly important for me not to bleed as I'm on blood thinner since last year's TIA.) Just a small scratch on the knee. And my ankle seemed okay. As for the fingers, they hurt really bad but I was pleased by the fact they could still move. With that, I went on very carefully with the few downhill miles to return to Chamonix. Here are the corresponding two 3D flyover animations by Monday and Tuesday (worth checking in particular if you don't know Relive yet. Although their wintery conditions satellite maps don't work so well for a July run...)I know, I should have been tapering (e.g. not running at all), but I had to test the poles. Actually, I was satisfied with the help they provided both in the steep uphills and downhills but I felt I could benefit from longer poles and I did buy a second pair on Friday, [...]

Global Running Day @ IBM SVL: 300 miles in the bank!


Oh, no, I didn't run 300 miles today, just 5% of that, but the point was to get as many colleagues to run, or walk, and log as many miles as a group. Since it was a first for our site, there was no previous reference or benchmark and I'd say: mission accomplished!The first Wednesday of June has traditionally been National Running Day in many countries. I'm not sure who had the initiative, or if it was even connected to the infamous Global Warming threat, I don't recall the event being global, that is worldwide, the previous years.I few years ago, I had organized a National Running Day event at North San Jose, the IBM location I was the Senior Site Executive of, on North First Street. This location being vacated last November, I moved to a site further South on Bailey Avenue, so deep in the countryside that we have our own park and farm, or ranch, including a private 2.1-mile trail loop!We have more than 1,600 people working at the site and reporting to quite a few distinct divisions or groups so it's really challenging to gather everybody around a single theme or activity. Given this context, it was great to get 107 participants accepting to log their run or walk at lunch time for a total of... 300 miles!I was hoping we would log more than 100 miles as a group, and dreaming of breaking 200 miles maybe, now the bar is set at 300 miles for our next event, wow! Which many asked to occur more frequently than this yearly milestone. We'll certainly try quarterly at least, aiming at monthly eventually.The weather was perfect, not as hot as yesterday thanks to a nice breeze and a thin layer of clouds. I even heard on NPR tonight that some rain was expected on Sonoma Valley and Silicon Valley tomorrow, very unusual for California in June. It should be light rain showers anyway, but fresh water is always welcome!Participants appreciated getting refreshments, fruits and granola bar to recharge after the effort, thank you Sandy for setting it up!I spent more time chatting with participants, answering questions, making new connections, than running but I still managed to run a few loops for a total of 14 mile. Here is the pretty cool flyover (click on the link or the image below to watch the 1-minute video). By the way, it includes an episode when I stopped to chat with colleagues and forgot to restart/resume my Garmin watch, translating in a straight line across the longer loop; oops, rookie mistake! At least you see that we are really in the middle of nowhere, albeit still in San Jose.I pledged/reported our 300 miles on the Global Running Day website tonight, and the overall number of participants is now at 1,247,761 from 186 countries!Special thanks to the IBM managers who supported this event, and all the colleagues who joined the fun of this healthy activity on a very special day! Hope you, readers, had your own Running Day celebration with some miles on the treadmill or, better, outdoor (you can let us know in the comments).Run Happy all as we say at Brooks!PS: sorry, no group picture, our hundred participants popped up randomly over a period of 3 hours around lunch time.[...]

Back to Stevens Creek: another 100-mile work week...


I used to do more of these 100-mile weeks 10 years ago, so I'm happy when I can squeeze one in as it's not getting any easier. Still not much elevation (about 5,500 feet of elevation this week), running in the Alps in 5 weeks is going to be brutal. Just a moderately hilly 50K this Saturday with one climb to Black Mountain from the back side (Canyon and Bella Vista Trails). And an opportunity to run again along the Stevens Creek and its refreshing and healthy flow this year.I also enjoyed stopping by the weekly Club meeting of the Stevens Creek Striders on my way up to Black Mountain. That was the first running club I joined in the Bay Area back in 2003 and it was great to see new faces and old friends alike, looks like the club is in great hands and healthy! (While I remained a member of the Striders for more than 10 years, I transferred to the Quicksilver Running Club of San Jose in 2008 when it put a serious racing team up under Adam Blum's leadership and sponsorship.)For those who ran in our group this Saturday morning, you should be able to access them in Google Photos (I was only carrying my iPhone 6, which is still not the best camera for me).In the upper left corner on this collage is Hugo de Groot, who is directing this year's edition of the Striders' trail races on Saturday September 23, with 3 options: a 50K (see my 3-peat in reports from 2011, 2012 and 2013), 30K and half marathon. More details on UltraSignup's page, a great event on our local trails, go for it!Here is for another 50K training run, this time without GI issues and making it all the way down Montebello Road, phew!And, courtesy of Striders Michael Dhuey who let me know about this new startup,, here is the corresponding flyover, pretty cool summary of a 4-hour 50K in 1 minute! (click on the arrow to start the video)With that, please mark you calendar and don't forget, it's National and Global Running Day this Wednesday, no excuse not to log a few miles, ok? I'm organizing a group activity at my IBM site, check this website to pledge and log your own miles: , we are still pretty far from the 1,000,000-mile goal as of this Sunday![...]

Memorial Weekend: recovery and training tips, maybe


"You are crazy!" that's what a cyclist said while passing me on the way up to Saratoga Gap on Highway 9. I don't think he was referring to the fact I was running on such a busy road because I believe the danger of car is so much greater to road bikes. These past days, there have been a few very high profile accidents reported again on Facebook, involving several champions in Europe especially, while they were training or cross-training. It is so terrible to see lives of such people enjoying the outdoors, taken away by cars or trucks. That makes me appreciate trail running even more.So, what was I doing on this road this Saturday?! I was going to use my standard route up to Black Mountain but Agnès had reminded me to enjoy my run before I left the house and I decided to improvise this time, deciding where to go next at every turn. Instead of taking Montebello, I took left through the Stevens Creek Park, on Tony Look Trail. At the end of it, I went right on Stevens Creek Canyon Road, then veered left at the next intersection on the steep Redwood Gulch Road which connects to Highway 9. Although I was already 9 miles in my run, I got excited to play with the bikes and keep up the pace, hence the comment or compliment I received above, and a few others as we were passing each others.Now that you know how I got on Highway 9, what was I doing pushing the pace just 7 days after Ohlone and 3 demanding ultra races in May. Well, I'm not sure, but that's my way to recover by keeping training for the next gig. Which happens to be a hilly and tough one in the Alps, early July. The day after Ohlone, last Monday, I was really sore but decided to go for a few miles along the Colorado River in Austin. While I felt terrible in the first 2 miles, running at 8:30 min/mile along with the casual joggers, the leg muscles soften eventually and I was able to finish the run closer to 7 min/mile. Too much work the other days and too short nights, so I had to taper by necessity and ran 9 miles on Friday after flying back home.Memorial weekend used to be my biggest training weekend of the year, starting in 2007 when I was preparing very seriously for my first Western States and participated in the super engaging and exciting Western States Memorial Weekend Training Camp. 88 hilly miles on the Western States trail in 2017 became 126 hilly miles in the Bay Area in my own training camp in 2008 and 122 miles in 2009. But international travel, especially to the Middle East, prevented me to keep up with this training tradition.Speaking of recovery and training: people ask sometimes what I've been doing to allow me to keep racing so hard all these years. I must say that, except from rarely slowing down, either to take care of a nagging injury or to take a 3-week break at the end of the year, my approach is to keep looking forward, toward the next objective. Sincerely, I couldn't be a coach because this is all based on guts, not even guts feelings, and I don't see how I could demand as much from someone else as the pressure I put on myself. Besides, with the stroke I had last year, I couldn't imagine a coach pushing me beyond the bar I already set for myself.Yet, let me list a few principles, most of them so basic you'll find them in most articles on recovery or sustainable training.1. Listen to your body. Just enough. Ah, yes, that principle number 1. Super important to listen to signals coming from your body, in particular the mechanical [...]

Ohlone 50K 2017: back at it, to it and on it for the 30th!


Back at it: it had been 8 days since I raced an ultra, it was time to race again, albeit half the distance of my last two races in May, just 50K!And one year has passed, time to get back to this Ohlone 50K event and local ultra tradition. Nothing will ever match my love for Agnès but, from an ultra perspective, I must confess I've had a love story with the Ohlone 50K race from day one, that is on May 20, 2007. I'm even feeling a special connection with the native Ohlone people and culture! I had run 3 ultras for my debut in 2006 (Way Too Cool 50K, Dick Collins Firetrails 50-mile, and Helen Klein 50-mile) and was lucky to get in Western States in 2007 in my first lottery. With that, I signed up for most of the Grand Prix races that year, which included this one in May, a perfect heat training opportunity.I had no idea about the course and, after the Hawks Nest steep climb, I ended up in second place, just behind Graham Cooper. I had seen Graham winning Western States after I captured the collapse of Brian Morrison on tape, a sequence which made it into Ethan Newberry's A decade On movie (see on YouTube).Being on Graham's heels by mile 13 on my first Ohlone was really intimidating. Or foolish. Especially when Graham suggested that I 'go ahead' and I complied. Back then, I thought that Rose Peak culminated at 5,000 feet, and that it was then downhill from the highest point of the course. While it was a great surprise when I saw my Garmin indicating only 3,700 ft and being given a bracelet at the top, proving we had reach the highest point, the last 12 miles were certainly not all downhill, yikes. I was cramping so bad but hold on my leading spot, that was my first one, and incidentally the 20th edition.I ran all the editions except 2014, so I could attend Alex's graduation at Georgetown that Sunday (but I ran Silver State 50-mile, and won it, so I have a special connection with that weekend of May...). And last year was the first time I had missed the podium, finishing 4th overall, mere 15 seconds behind Remi Delille. Overall, I was 1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 1, 1, 1, 4. 5 wins, and 6th this year from an UltraSignup ranking.In addition to being my 10th Ohlone, 2017 was really special at it was the 30th anniversary!After 5 am for Miwok 2 weeks ago and 4:30 an last week at Quicksilver, I love the 8 am start. Especially as we had a dinner party last night! At least, that gives us plenty of day light to see others at the start instead of blinding each others with out headlamps. The legendary Errol 'Rocket' Jones was coming back on this course after 22 years (1995) to celebrate this special anniversary. Here he is with two super venerable ultra volunteer, Stan Jensen, omni present at our local races, and Hollis Lenderking, who has presided over our Pacific Association Mountain and Ultra Trail Grand Prix for several decades. Ultra love in this community! Proud bibs 1 and 2! ;-)While we were busy chatting, I missed the early 7 am start and had to rush up the hill to catch these pictures, a first sweat of the day!It was already quite warm as the sun rised over Mission Peak.Two buses this year brought the runners who had parked at the finish, which is a good idea as the city of Fremont has recently restricted parking on nearby residential street on weekends.We got a cool Quicksilver group picture, thank you, Agnès!Missing were John Burton (calf injury) and our team captain Loren Lewis, who[...]