Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cupertino Big Bunny Fun Run 5K: 3.1 miles, really?

[For those only interested in the pictures I took of 250 or so finishers, here is the link to my Picasa album.]

A quick post for a quick run. And a big change from the 50K, 50-milers or 100-milers! Yet a good cause, a fund raiser for charity: water, all that one block from my house!

I've ran this Big Bunny Fun Run 7 times already in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 and, since I'm blogging, 2007, 2008 and 2010; basically every year where Easter wasn't falling either too close to the Boston Marathon weekend or conflicting with an ultra race (American River 50-mile or Ruth Anderson 100K).

This year was special because, as Teen Commissioner, Greg was volunteering to lead the Big Bunny who has limited peripheral sight in its, err her, costume. In this function, Greg and her buddy saw many many kids this morning for a unique Easter shot opportunity.
Kids were also on the starting line of the 5K race, which always creates a risk of tripping to pass them before they slow down, breathless, by the 50-yard mark. Right off the "blocks" Brad Parker took the control of the race. When finishing my warm-up, I thanked him for wearing Brooks shoes but little did I know that was going to get him so close to a 5 min/mile pace! ;-)
At the start I was next to a high schooler, Liam McNell, 16, who wanted to break 16 minutes so I thought he would be the one in front. I ran the first 3/4 mile in second place before getting passed by Ollie Enlinger with whom I traded places several times in the next miles. Ollie eventually pulled away in the last stretch. Brad took first in 16:02, Ollie second in 16:12 and I crossed the finish line in 16:20, good for third overall and first M40-49.
Although my Garming GPS indicated 3.11 miles, I still suspect the course to be slightly short. At least the race was chip timed which allowed for an instant ranking and results posted right away to your mailbox, great improvement from the previous editions. Here are Brad and I with Jeremy, my Quick Silver Ultra Running teammate and track workout buddy:
Brad is going to Boston in 2 weeks to run his second marathon, we exchanged a few tips and I wish him good luck (my other track workout buddy, Bob, is also going there again and, per our recent workouts, is definitely in shape to break 3 hours!).

After finishing, I stayed for 15 minutes to take pictures of the 50K finishers. I got about 250 of the 450 finishers (red bibs), and that's not counting the walkers (black bibs). Nor the many children who took part in the kids race.
If you ran today, check if you are among the 250 finishers I captured in my Picasa album. As mentioned above, all the results have been posted very promptly thanks to the chip timing on RaceMine's website (Silicon Valley Endurance timing).

Thank you to the Cupertino Park & Rec team for organizing such an event at every Easter and all the great volunteers helping on race day but also before and after the race with the logistics.
And thanks to the sponsors too for the food, drinks and raffle prizes which kept the community together after the award ceremony. Rain showers were announced but only came in the afternoon, and still not compensating for the deficit of such a dry winter. I'm going to Marin Headlands to do 30 or more hilly miles tomorrow, maybe I'll get soaked there...

In the meantime, happy Easter weekend to all and a fruitful egg hunt this Sunday!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Running in Mexico City: Chapultepec and Paseo de la Reforma

I already wrote about running in Mexico City and Chapultepec in particular when I first visited this huge and vibrant city for the first time in August 2012.

However, this time, I had my camera so let me offer a visual tour of this nice neighborhood including the most opulent Polanco with the most expensive avenue in Latin America: Presidente Masaryk.

I flew right after my great Way Too Cool 50K race on Saturday evening and landed shortly after 4am. I slept a few hours upon getting to my room to complement the short 4-hour red-eye. I was then up for a recovery run which I intended to do on the 3K-loop in the park of Chapultepec (see one of the many distance markers, in meters).
However, on a Sunday and in a city of 22 million people, that was not counting on the herd of locals who converged to this particular place to enjoy the warm and sunny afternoon.
There was also a green/sustainable development fair on the 3K-loop course and the crowd made running impossible. On the other side of the park, people were lining up to drop their recycling at stations and get points.
I just completed one loop and decided to venture in the city without a map.
First, I ran on the Paseo de la Reforma along the park. Between two sets of busy car traffic lanes, this is an interesting dirt (quite dusty actually) trail, a straight 1.6 miles. If you stay at one of the nearby hotels on Campos Eliseos (not as large and fancy as the Parisian Champs Elysées!), and the Chapultepec is closed (it opens at 5am I believe but in case you are jet lagged and want to run at night), this may be an alternative good place to log a few miles.
I don't know for how long the exhibit will remain, there is a great collection of bronze sculptures from Jorge Marin currently on display on this Paseo de la Reforma section (plus a more eclectic collection of modern art sculptures on a bell theme).
After passing the impressive and majestic Auditorio Nacional, I explored the wealthy Polanco neighborhood, home of several international communities including the French one, and a display of quite a few of the most luxurious brands (fashion, watches, cars, ...).
With 17 client and business partner meetings over 5 days and two cities (Mexico City and Monterrey), I could only run twice, early in the morning: a half marathon on Wednesday morning (7 laps in Chapultapec) at 6:54 min/mile and 15 kilometers on Thursday. Not much mileage but a good altitude training at 7,375 feet or 2,250 m elevation!

Again, enjoy a few (~70) pictures of Chapultepec and Polanco in my Picasa album.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Way Too Cool 2013: so cool!

My 8th participation in a row at this iconic North Californian 50K race which was also my first ultra back in 2006. This year, it was actually my 79th ultra race, time flies... With the presence of the King, a.k.a. Max King, Leor (Pantilat) and last year's course record setter, Gary (Gellin), it promised to be a fast race at the front. With a super dry winter :-( on top of that which made the trail completely mud-free and an amazing weather, sunny with cool temperatures, you had all the ingredients for a very very fast year.

After a challenging January with a nagging calf injury which kept me out of running and training for 3 weeks, I had a good February, logging 295 miles in 4 weeks (74 miles/week). Yet, even with a few track workouts with Bob and Jeremy, I still feel far behind my fitness level of last year. And 4-5 pounds over my targeted race weight. At least, with a business trip in New York the week leading to the race, I had a good excuse to taper.

I drove straight from a business meeting in San Francisco on Friday afternoon and hit the usual weekend traffic with speed alternating  between 65mph and above to... zero. I was actually super lucky not to hit or be hit... Between Fairfield and Vacaville, in one section where the traffic was fluid, I was following a Rav4 on the left lane when it suddenly stopped to avoid a car which did two full spins across the four lanes in a cloud of smoke before exiting the road on the right side which was, very fortunately, flat and open (no concrete, no gully, no tree, just flat grass...). I stopped in the left emergency lane to avoid the Rav4 and looked in the mirror to see the 4-lane traffic stopping behind us, phew! The only accident I had in my life was a rear-end which destroyed our mini van on our our way to American River in April 2010 (see picture), I certainly don't want to make "accident on the way to ultras" a tradition...

Anyway, had a good 8-hour sleep in one of the motels in Auburn (the same Leor was staying at) and was up at 4:40 am for some break before driving early to the start to secure a good parking spot. The moon's first quarter was amazing in the clear sky at dawn:
It was about 6:10 when I arrived at Cool and the first parking lot was already half full. Omni-present ultra volunteer Stan Jensen ( was assigned to my bib pick-up area and not too busy yet, so we could chat a bit.
Our Grand Prix co-chair, Bill Dodson, was also part of the early birds. At 78 he was the veteran of the race and still managed to finish 556th out of 831 finishers!
With more than 900 participants, race director, Julie Fingar, set a 2-wave start at 8 and 8:10. She also gave me a nice bib, 20, although, in such a competitive field, I was definitely not looking to finish in the top 20. My dream was just to break 4 hours again, which has been very challenging for me at this race (respective times from 2006 to 2012: 4:29:50, 4:45:42, 3:56:52!, 4:14:43, 4:58:32, 4:18:10, 4:06:00) with several occurrences of exercise-induced asthma or hypothermia.

I toed the start line 5-6 ranks behind the front runners, next to John Blue, Tim Twietmeyer (22nd Way Too Cool!) and Megan Arbogast. I passed the first mile mark in 6:27 which was barely fast enough to still see Leor and Max as they were switching from the road to the trail in the distance in a blazing sub-6 min/mile pace. Imagining their duel helped my pushing my own pace whenever I could on this rolling course.
I completed the first 8-mile loop just under 57 minutes (smiling while breathing on John Medinger's picture, above) and was able to maintain this 7 min/mile pace for the first half of the race. I traded a few places along the American River and felt really good in the uphills which was a great sign.

Yet, I was trying not to get too excited and making sure to hydrate properly as the second half is always the challenge for me on this course. ALT (Auburn Lake Trails, mile 21) was the first and only station I would stop. Thanks to the efficient volunteers, I was out in 40 seconds with my Gu2O bottle refilled, my average pace dropping from 7:23 to 7:25. Like my Asterix magic potion, I also swallowed a pouch of ultra-concentrate Vespa to keep the engine running at full steam (I ran the entire race on 2 GUs, 1.3 bottles of Gu2O and 1 small cup of coca-cola, and didn't even cramp once).

I kept passing a few runners especially in the hills but one almost caught up with me at the bottom of Goat Hill. Too bad for him, that gave me the guts to try to run the whole thing (those who know will appreciate...) which I did, at last! I was thinking of just stopping by at the Goat Hill aid station to hug the Birthday Boy, aka Norm Klein, but, not seeing him, I kept going and passed another runner. My average pace was down to 7:36 after the "wall" of Goat Hill (and the marathon mark) and, after 3 hours and 17 minutes of running, I started thinking I could break these 4 hours which gave me even more energy to maintain the effort in the last miles. Here is a picture credit to Eric Schranz from, around mile 28:
I didn't walk at all this year and that's what it takes to finish break 4 hours. I was thrilled with my 3:50:25 finish time. The first thing I inquired about, right after passing the finish line and thanking Julie for an amazing experience, was what happened at the front and Julie told be that 4 runners were under Gary's 2012 course record with Max clocking a blazing 3:08! Chris Vargo from Colorado Springs took second in 3:18 followed by Leor in 3:21. Gary gave everything he had this year to finish 6th overall and 1st Master, 29 seconds before Rod Bien who is now 40. Surprisingly I was third Master today, an honor I never got at this race, and 9th overall. This got me a nice bottle of The Climber, a wine from the Clif Family Winery (yes the same family at the head of Clif Bar!).

At 51 Megan Arbogast won the race in 4:06, 53 seconds ahead of Rori Bosio in an exciting duel of generations ;-). As Megan told me at the finish "hey, I didn't catch you this time!" Yes, first time I am not chicked at WTC, in 2008, winner Susan Beck passed me 3 miles from the finish and 1 minute ahead of me.

The Tamlpa team had a very strong representation and amazing presence among the top men finishers. On our side, after Gary and I, it seemed like there was a team meeting happening around 12:45-1pm with a few finishes in that quarter: Clare Abram (4:44), Scott Laberge (4:53), Lauren Lewis (4:54) and Andy Benkert (5:00). Our two other runners also finished close to each other, Stephen Strauss in 6:29 and Tim Allen in 6:35.

Again, in such perfect and pristine conditions, most of the runners had a blast and many were thrilled to have PR'ed this Saturday. A huge thank to Julie Fingar and her team for getting all the stars aligned and, although I quickly passed through all the aid stations but ALT, for all the volunteers who spent the day to assist so many runners out on these nice but remote trails. Here I am, hugging the WTC frog after the race:
The report wouldn't be complete without the mention of the double deep-tissue massage I got from the Monsters of Massage (ouch, it hurts but it feels good to get all these toxins quickly expelled from tight muscles). This massage allowed me to have a nice recovery run this Sunday.
I had to rush to get prepared for a red-eye to Mexico City that same evening so I left at 1pm after having had lunch with Leor and Erica. Thankfully the drive back home was without incident and much faster than the Friday afternoon commute.

My next race is American River, also managed by Julie (Northcal Ultras), and I count on her for an equally amazing experience now that the bar is set even higher! ;-) Well, it was good to get some rain in the Bay Area (while I was in NYC under some snow), out trails and more importantly our reservoirs, creeks and parks, also need water, not just sun. Have a good week all!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

And the ultra award goes to...

Last week it was all about the movie business with the famous night of the Oscars. I was stunned to learn that an estimated 1 billion people were watching when it appears to really be about an American tradition and almost exclusively a celebration of the American movie business, apart for one award attributed to a foreign movie. Not that foreigners are excluded from the competition (e.g. Jean Dujardin in 2012), but working at or with Hollywood and speaking English seems a big plus...

Anyway, that was last week. This week, I received my copy of the March issue of Ultra Running magazine which includes "The Year In Review"compilation of the top performances in our sport in North America.
It's not a scoop as it was announced a few weeks ago already, the magazine ultra runners of the year for 2012 were easy to pick this time: Mike Morton and Ellie Greenwood who both made the cover of this issue. Like for the Oscars with so many great movies to pick from, it was a year so rich in outstanding performances that it wasn't the best year to get the top awards. Besides, as the article notices, there has been 20% more ultra finishers in 2012 than the previous year, which is a huge increase for a sport. With many young and talented runners joining the ranks, it's just getting harder for the older guys and gals to compete as this isn't just a mental game anymore.

Last year I managed to have 6 listing in the 2011 year in review. As I wrote a year ago, I didn't expect to have my name in the 4-or-more-wins section this year, I even said "just enjoy the moment..." Well, not counting my 14:54:58 top performance at the low key Run d'Amore 100-mile, I still had 4 wins again this year (Ohlone 50K, Quicksilver 50K, Ruth Anderson 50-mile and Stevens Creek 50K). Unfortunately, an despite a time which was the 6th fastest 50-mile in 2012, there were only 18 finishers for that distance at Rajeev's Ruth Anderson, so that didn't make the cut (20 or more finishers). Oh well... My Run d'Amore 100-mile wasn't listed either for the same reason (would have been good for #17 top 100-mile performance); nor my Miwok time (3 minutes shy of the 75 top performances cut-off). My 3:19:10 at Jed Smith was good for #19 (behind Victor with #15), and the Ohlone win was #45 in the ranking by field size (219 participants).

Again, given the competition and presence of so many way more talented and faster runners, I should be happy with 3 spots. Make sure to get your own copy for more data and statistics (yes, it's time to subscribe if you are not yet! ;-), here are a few, just as a teaser:
  1. There were 2,890 finishers of ultras in North America in 1980, 9,300 in 1990, 46,280 20 years later and 63,520 in 2012!
  2. 54% were 50K, 8.4% 100-milers
  3. 71% guys and 29% gals.
A big thank to the data crunchers behind all these statistics especially: Mark Gilligan and Bill Carr of and Gary Wang at And here is to a new season, good luck all!