Sunday, November 19, 2017

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 the Nike Farm. I couldn't be happier to move up a division the following year! The Open division spans 2 decades and make you feel old when you are approaching 40 especially in these shorter and fast races...

Amidst this cheerful reunion of clubs from all over North California and Nevada, it felt odd to the be  the only one from my Quicksilver Club, kind of feeling naked or orphan...
By the way, I put the Hoka-sponsored Aggies in the middle of this collage because their presence was overwhelming, both from an athletic and size standpoint, not to forget the party-style music which was still on when I left by 2 pm! They certainly know how to live by their long standing reputation!

Fortunately, there were a few representatives of the ultra community which now feels like family to me. The Abbs, Alan and Bev, Bill Dodson, Noe from Pamakids, Jason and Chikara from Excelsior, Alex Varner and Jonathan Bretan from Tamalpa and I'm still missing others. (And Jason Reed added that Jonathan is actually with the SF Running Company, and Alex running XC for West Valley TC, something I may should consider too.)

I even met an IBM colleague from our Silicon Valley Lab, Patrick! Beyond them though, many unknown faces especially in the Open division; seeing all these speedsters make you realize you have moved up to another generation, literally! ;-)

Special thanks to Tim Wason and his team from SF Running & Walking for organizing this major event (and the other race in September at the same place too), and these tireless and committed USATF officials who make such Championships possible.
At noon, it was time for our LDR Committee to meet and discuss quite some topics about our respective 2018 schedules for XC, Road and MUT (see agenda).
After working on it for the past 2 months, we've never been that close to finalizing our MUT schedule and we should be ready to publish in on time, next week, before the registration of a few big ultras early December. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, enjoy this most appropriate license plate: repeat the phrase after me "I'd rather be running"! ;-)

PS: More pictures of the race leaders of this morning's Open races. And the no less impressive M80 guys at the bottom of this post.

2nd place, from the Brooks Hansons team, graciously congratulating incoming runners:

And in the much older divisions:

Saturday, November 11, 2017

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.

  1. 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...
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. Before that, was able to squeeze a 17-mile long run of course...
  5. 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 few hundreds yards and maintain a lead.

After quite a few turns on this convoluted course, I had lost my sense of orientation and, when getting back on Pacifica, I saw the motorcycles going left and thought this was the wrong way so went right, then stopped to see what Elliot would think. Must have been only 4 or 5 seconds before remembering the course and resuming my sprint for a win in a time of 17:47, Elliot crossing the finish line right on 18:00 (versus 17:31 last year).

Between the lack of competition and the wet road, we both ran slower than last year.

You can see both of us finishing (and the motorcyles! ;-) in this Facebook video.

The third runner was also under 16 (Elliot is 13!), what a strange and unusual podium that was from an age perspective: 53, 13, 16!

All results available on the chip timing company's website.

I apologize to the race director for having to leave right away and he assured me he'll find a way to pass the award to me. Or maybe it ended up in other happy hands! ;-) (Photo credit: Brian Daniels)
A well organized event overall, certainly worth spending the whole morning to enjoy the full experience which includes especially an obstacle course for kids and the popular landing of the Sheriff's helicopter as I mentioned in my blog post last year.

Last but not least, the 3D flyover from

I was in the shower by 9:37 and parked at Harker by 9:55, seated in the amphitheater by 10 sharp, just in time for the second speaker, what a rush!

I wish the talks were already available on the Harker School and TED websites but they need to go through TED's approval first. I'll post on Facebook when I hear about their availability. We heard from:
  1. Ryan Evans, CEO of Inboard Technologies, about an electric skateboard to solve the last mile problem of public transportation as the city centers around the world keep closing traffic to cars;
  2. Julie Campistron, CEO and Co-Founder of Stop, Breath & Think, on the benefits of mindfulness in all aspects of our hectic lives (pun intended for me...);
  3. Alan Kropf, Executive Director of Education at Anchor Distilling Co., about tips to create your own career through passion and love for what aspires to you;
  4. Last but not least, Andy Semenza, a Senior at The Harker School, on the danger of over-specialization and the benefits of team work to break the silos to address global challenges and complex problems.
Respective pictures (challenging lighting):

There was also amazing exhibitors at the expo:
  1. Giacomo ONO, a $99 3D printer which uses your phone to control the polymerization process;
  2. Serafilm Keybo, a laser-operated virtual keyboard to type text or play the music;
  3. Sesame from Candy House Co, a remotely-controlled widget which can open your existing door locks;
  4. Conduit Sports, headphones which plays music through your skull, not your ears;
  5. Nomiku, providing food to be cooked sous-vide with their device;
  6. And the popular Inboard which gave test drives of their electrical board to students.
I really enjoy, check this amazing set of inspiring resources in case you haven't heard about it!

As for the Silicon Valley Rugby Sevens, I managed to see 14 games on Sunday, a lot of action with only 7 players on each side but a full-size rugby field. Games only last for 15 minutes but may players looked exhausted at the end of each game. Kudos to Team USA for reaching the finals in such a competitive field, and Australia for their win!

2 mini videos for you to see the kind of action with so few players on such a large field:

One of many Team USA tries against England in semi final:

And, a heads-up, the 2018 World Cup of Rugby Sevens will be played in San Francisco (AT&T Park) in 8 months! Oh, and it has been an Olympic sport since Rio 2016, too. More champagne rugby to flow, yeah!!

And the hectic and ultra life goes on, nice to catch-up a week later! ;-)