Saturday, December 3, 2016

I've Been Moved part 1: bye bye Alviso!

If you stay at IBM for a while, you are certain to experience another meaning of the International Business Machine acronym: I've Been Moved, as we say when changing either location or organization... ;-)

In this case, my office is moving from the North San Jose site we had in Alviso, to our Silicon Valley Lab on Bailey Avenue, South of Santa Teresa. And, with that, I'm saying good bye to the Alviso County Park where I ran 806 training miles these past 7 years!

Since I came to the US, this is my 5th work location in the Bay Area: three with ILOG (two in Mountain View and one in Sunnyvale), two with IBM, respectively at the North and South outskirt of San Jose. Twice as many miles of commute but now against the traffic.
Of course the Alviso Marina Park remains open but it won't be as convenient so I ran the full 9-mile loop once more last week.
Here are few pictures for you to see what I will be missing: the views, the birds, running along the water, ... As a matter of fact, I only had my iPhone with me which isn't the best way to capture the abundant wildlife enjoying this very quiet place in the middle of the Bay Area. It actually feel amazing to be so close to such a busy and crazy place, yet experiencing the outdoor and quietness of this preserve.

By the way, on your way to the Marina, please make sure to drive around the few blocks of the Alviso neighborhood. The City of Alviso was incorporated in 1852 and is name after Corporal Alviso, a member of the de Anza expedition which reached San Francisco in 1777. Alviso remained independent until it joined San Jose as a neighborhood in 1968. It even has a Yacht Club which can host a handful of boats and has access to the Bay via the Guadalupe River (read more about Alviso on Wikipedia).

Next to Alviso Marina County Park is the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge which I highlighted in a post in 2014. Yes, we are so blessed to live in such an area full of amazing outdoors opportunities!

More pictures...
 First time I see paddle boards on the Guadalupe River!
And it was a busy morning on that usually quiet and desert river, with this boat hauling construction material.
 Super soft ground on the levee (the dirt gets very sticky after heavy rain).
A sort of jackdaw (Steve Patt will surely correct me in the comment section below) and a vulture.

 Grey heron?
 Yes, this is the home of WWW (the Wide Wild West), you have to fight for your food to survive! ;-)

 Toward Fremont/Mission Peak
 On the Bay Trail

 A trail of Hope and Change... Quite a symbol and good reminder: life is all about keeping moving...! ;-)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Quad Dipsea 2016: not worth it...

How dare I?! The venerable ultra Quad Dipsea not worth it? Oh no, I mean that I wasn't worth the Quad Dipsea today, just me, sorry...

I knew I was taking a big risk by showing up this morning. I was notoriously under train having just resumed running after yet another break, right with a race on Thursday, a solid 36:10 10K at the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot. The soreness in my legs afterwards was attenuated with a 9-mile training run this Friday, yet my legs still felt tired when I woke up at 4:30 this morning. However, I didn't feel it was a good reason not to honor my registration. Nor was the fact that I already won my age group PAUSATF MUT Grand Prix for the 10th consecutive year. Indeed my main goal today was to avoid getting a DNS (Did Not Start) this year. After last March stroke and a combination of minor injuries and bad stress at work, I had to pass on a few races and championships I had in mind at the beginning of the year but at least I have been lucky enough to be able to start all the races I was in, even if that triggered a few DNFs (Miwok, TRT). The other risk which I knew about getting to the start was that it was going to be rainy and that's definitely the weather I like to race in. That was my 5th Quad Dipsea and I have been quite lucky so far with the weather: I wasn't blogging in 2006 but Agn├Ęs' pictures show a perfectly clear blue sky (my finish time was 4:20:52). In 2008 (We all did it!), the conditions were also perfect when Erik Skaggs improved the course record and I PRed with 4:19:19. In 2009 (Chasing too many turkeys), the course was still in great conditions but I had run 2 Turkey Trots prior to the race and had a bad fall which slowed me down a bit (4:25:32). However, in 2014 (No fall, almost...), the trail got very slippery and everybody ran slower, even Chikara Omine (4:12) and Dave Mackey. I clocked my worse time at Quad Dipsea, 4:38:31.

I carpooled with Jeremy Johnson and Kent (Bull) Dozier to the start and we got a great parking spot thanks to the early arrival (~6:40). The bib desk crew was composed of 3 eminent ultra personalities: the founder and Race Director of the first 30 years, John (Tropical) Medinger, his wife Lisa Henson, and the omnipresent ultra volunteer, Stan Jensen.
It was drizzling at 8 am so I started with a light rain jacket and arm warmers on as well, which looked weird next to so many runners in singlets. The rain wasn't that bad on the first leg yet I was barely getting warm with the jacket so I kept it until our first passage at Stinson Beach, mile 7. With my tired legs I didn't want to slow people down in the first flight of stairs and let many runners rush in the bottleneck. I passed a few in these stairs but was surprised how hard it was for me to push, not a great feeling right off the bat. The climb to Cardiac, between mile 2 and 4 was challenging and, as opposed to my previous runs here, I did walk many sections which I felt quite bad about. Jeremy caught up with me before Cardiac and we ran the next 10 miles together, him faster on the descents, me catching up on the steep climbs. From the published splits we were between 25 and 30 at the Stinson Beach turn around. We barely gained a few spots on the way back to Mill Valley but caught up with a couple of runners. Just before the Cardiac aid station, I was just behind Jeremy when I saw him slip and fall in the mud, fortunately without injuring himself. A few minutes later, I caught up with another Quicksilver teammate,  John Burton, who was trying hard to stay up in the super slippery mud in Dynamite and, here again, he fell hard on his side just before my eyes. I was running in road shoes (Brooks Trance) to get some adherence in the stairs this time but I must admit it wasn't working very well in that mud either. That being said, everybody seemed to have issues in that section, even with trail shoes and I was quite pleased I didn't fall myself on that second leg, clocking the 19th time overall (1:13:52).

At the Mill Valley turnaround, I lost a few seconds trying to untie the jacket I had put around my waist. I was convinced that we had seen all the rain for the morning, don't ask me to predict the weather in Marin County...

I had a strong start of the third leg and was in good spirit at Windy Gap, passing by Willem van Dam who got this shot (Willem spent many hours at this road crossing, and Christine Chapon at the next one. An opportunity to remind all of us/you that Christine is still looking for volunteers for next week's North Face weekend in Marin Headlands).

However, I fell apart in the super muddy and slippery climb to Cardiac, both literally and mentally. I lost so much time and energy there that I started forming the thought of dropping at Stinson, not good... You cannot be ever proud of dropping but I must say I felt good to be in a car when the rain started pouring for the next 30 minutes or so. Without my jacket, I would have been miserable, like at Miwok in May. Moreover, I did not want to get back down Dynamite and risk another fall, it wasn't worth it. But the main reason I dropped is that today's experience and performance were way too far from the previous ones I had here and great memories of clocking legs around 60-65 minutes. Today my splits were 1:11:01, 1:13:52 and 1:23:07, I felt way to slow to be worth a Dipsea finish... But at least, with a Tri Dipsea, I got a good hilly training run and saw and met many familiar faces which definitely made the trip up to Marin County worth it! Special thanks to Eric and David from Sebastopol who drove me back to the start after their aid station shift at Stinson. And to Errol (Rocket) Jones for making me smile just before I decided to drop, you can't resist Rocket's jovial enthusiasm! ;-)

Favorite David Roche remained in control of the race throughout the morning and won this year's edition in 4:11:32 (Buzzword Productions did a great job of posting preliminary results and splits promptly on Saturday evening. And I didn't contact them already to let them know that I didn't run the 4th leg as opposed to what's in these initial results). Quite a performance in these conditions, I'm sure he'll be back to get closer to Alex's record on a dry course. The thing to note about David is how many "You are amazing" encouragements he must have mentioned to runners today, probably a few hundreds!

By the way, speaking of amazing, it appears that the M50-59 age group record has been busted by 2nd place finisher, Darrin Banks. The previous record, 4:28:23, was set by Alfred Bogenhuber and did stand for 25 years! Darrin's time in today's poor conditions was a blazing 4:21:16. WOW!!

Before leaving, it was fun to watch Jamil Coury and Schuyler Hall live recording their next clip which I look forward to watching.

If you haven't seem some of their videos, check this one for instance (no rating, but some graphic content... ;-):
Speaking of drop bag, here was mine today, that was the only plastic bag I had in the trunk of my car to keep a couple of items dry in this storm, at the turnaround. So long for thinking that this age group record was in the bag as I joked with our Quicksilver Club President, Greg Lanctot (photo credit)! ;-)
On our way back, we stopped by the San Francisco Running Company (SFRC), after contemplating a sharp and full double rainbow captured by Kent from the car. Big thanks to SFRC for all the support they provide to our local races and community, and, Jorge, good luck for North Face 50 next week!

Again, back to the audacious or provocative title, of course Quad Dipsea is super worth it! Amazing experience to run and race on the legendary Dipsea trail, great athletic challenge despite the short ultra distance (28 miles), outstanding organization, super experienced volunteers, many if not most being ultra runners themselves. Great show from the local Tamalpa Running Club, both among these volunteers and on the course too. This race is so well organized that its Race Director, John Catts, was even able to run it! It was also cool to see Craig Thornley, Western States Race Director running with the bib #1. As well as Steve Jaber celebrating his birthday by running Quad Dipsea in such great spirit.

Finally, after 4 years of serious drought, we certainly can't complain about a bit of rain which is much needed! So running Quad Dispea this year was definitely worth it again, quite a few actually PR'ed today (yes, Nakia and Loren!)! As for me, I just need to keep sorting things out in my mind and body...