Thursday, February 25, 2016

Simon Wheatcroft: the simplicity of ultra and blind running

The amazing appeal of ultra running (or ultra marathon) is that it doesn't have any limit...

First, there is the distance of course. Ultra marathon running is defined as any distance longer than a marathon, that is farther than 26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometers. Quite a simple definition. Can be one any surface (trail, road, track), flat or super hilly, a few hours or over multiple days, it's all ultra marathon as long as you passed the marathon mark.

Then there is the personal challenges such as the fatigue, worn out joints, non-neutral stride, weight, whose impact is amplified by the number of miles you put into racing and training. Or work and life priorities. This too has hardly any limit.

And then... there is Simon...
I had heard and twitted about Simon Wheatcroft before when IBM advertised his amazing story in connection with one of our cloud hosting offerings, Softlayer. As a kid, Simon has been affected by Retinitis Pigmentosa, a genetic degenerative disease which left him legally blind by the age of 17. Yet, Simon decided that wouldn't prevent him from taking on running! Well, not just running but trail running and even ultra marathon! For that, in addition to an exceptional will and mental, he is leveraging technology and an actually very common and widely spread mobile app: Runkeeper. Among a myriad of other features, Runkeeper translates distance into audio messages which allow Simon to keep track of obstacles on the routes he learned by heart.
It was so moving to see Simon live yesterday, sharing his incredible story, live, during one of our main keynotes. Simon was joined on stage by the Founder and CEO of Runkeeper who announced the acquisition of his company by Asics (darn, I would have rather be it Brooks...), and, of course, talked about the very special relationship with Simon through this unique use of the mobile app.
This Thursday morning, our colleague Scott Knaffla organized the 8th edition of a group run at Red Rock Canyon Park on the last day of the conference.

I was able to participate to it 6 years ago but have had to miss the following years because of early customer meetings and breakfasts (we leave the hotel by 5 am and are back by 8:30).
This year worked out and I'm so glad because that gave us the opportunity to run with... Simon!

After completing a challenging 100-mile trail race in the UK last year, Simon is preparing for a 60-mile solo run through the desert in Namibia. Because there is no trail to follow in the desert, Simon wants to experience running free of any human guidance, just with the help of another mobile we (IBM) will develop to provide some direction/bearing. The event is on May 1st, so we are going to leverage our IBM Design and Bluemix Garage methods to not only get the Minimal Viable Product ready by then, but the app which Simon needs to succeed in this new challenge!

Because of the proximity of this event, Simon didn't want to take the risk of twisting an ankle in the bottom of the rocky canyon and he ran on the park road. I ran the first 3 miles with him and his friend, Paul.

Poor Paul, he had never run more than 3 miles at once before coming to Vegas this week and Simon got him to run/jog 9 miles on the Strip earlier this week and, this morning, we were getting on a 6-mile run while climbing 1,000 feet. Not to mention that Simon and Paul didn't get any sleep at all as they had spent the night with a few of our colleagues! (I only had 2 hours of sleep myself after the amazing performance of Elton John followed by a reunion of the ex-ILOGers present at InterConnect.)

We had a large group with us this morning, almost 30, and 5 had decided to go farther into the canyon than we had originally planned for.

We waited for a while then I decided to chase them to make sure they'd be back on time to the bus. However, I quickly got to a fork in the trail and, per the famous quote of Yogi Berra: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it!", I picked one direction first, didn't find the missing runners after going over slippery sandy rocks, came back to the fork and tried the other branch to no availability. But at least I discovered areas of the park and canyon which I didn't know yet, including a few puddles amid this super dry area!

With the clock ticking, I rushed down the road to the entrance of the park, getting the pace under 5:30 min/mile, and got to the bus just before the 8 am limit, only to find out that we were missing 12 runners! Long story short, everybody made it back but I was a few minutes late to my first customer meeting of the day, oops! The conference is over now, time to fly back home after 10 days in this crazy and insane city.

I have a few follow-ups with Simon, both on the professional and running sides, I'm so glad we had this opportunity to meet. The power of...! I also met other remarkable colleagues, partners and customers, from all running backgrounds. Starting with our inimitable Fellow, Chief Scientist and innovation disrupter, John Cohn (first time I meet him in person after seeing dozens of his super engaging videos):
Very special social run then, especially this opportunity to experience the simplicity which characterizes Simon's approach to the goals and challenges he is setting for himself. So inspirational...

It was also a nice break from my rectangular loop around the LAS airport these past 8 days...! ;-)

I need to close this post before I fall asleep while typing but you can read more about Simon's amazing journey to change the world by making it more inclusive for vision-impaired persons, both at work and in the outdoors:

  1. Simon's bio on his website (&
  2.'s article about Simon's carrying of the Olympic torch in 2012
  3.'s article on Simon's determination
  4. Simon's interview by The Guardian
  5.'s coverage of Simon's run from Boston to New York's marathon

And after that, nobody can make excuses not to... Outthink limits (the tagline of our IBM Cognitive Computing business)!

Running in Las Vegas: well, what about the LAS (airport) loop?

The first time you visit Las Vegas, and you like running (which isn't for every casino player...), it's exciting to get on the Strip and run along these humongous hotels or resorts. I am a big fan of visiting and discovering cities by foot, and Vegas is no different, you can run quite a few miles on each side.

Well, that what it looks like on the map. In reality, running the Strip is more of an obstacle race. First, there is the crowd, at least from 9 am to way past midnight. And not any crowd: you have people smoking (after all it's sin city...), drinking, begging, yelling, people of all shapes and sizes, large groups, etc. And better not touching someone when slaloming the sidewalks. But even if you beat the crowd by running at dawn in the early morning, there are the numerous road crossings and don't even think of jay walking because the car traffic never stops here. Then there is the convoluted overpasses going from casinos to casinos.

Bottom line, once you've discovered the city, and I've been here more than a dozen times already, you'd better find other routes. This time I stayed in the Southern section of the Strips (MGM, Tropicana, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, New York New York) and when looking at the map, I realized how close all these hotels were from the airport, code name LAS. From a quick look at the Google Map, I estimated the route around the airport to be between 9 and 10 miles and here I was, last Thursday evening, starting my run at 7 pm after a busy day of (work) training.

The route is a rectangle with the Tropicana (Hilton) in the right lower corner, opposite the MGM Grand. But you can start from any point across Mandalay Bay of course. It's right 2 miles between the Tropicana corner and the intersection of the Las Vegas Boulevard (the end of the Strip) and Sunset Road. The pavement on Las Vegas Boulevard if very smooth, all concrete. As you turn onto Sunset Road, there is no pavement on the left side, along the airport. It's quite uneven and lose gravel so, but there is some street light to help with the footing. However, if you aren't used to running on trails, you can cross Sunset and run on the right side. I chose to stay on the left side as I prefer running against the traffic. Depending on the time of the day, the traffic isn't too bad, for instance at night or early morning, and you can take the (your own) risk of running on the pavement.

It's exactly 3 miles on Sunset Road before turning left on South Eastern Avenue, so it makes for quite a simple geometry quiz to compute the perimeter of a 2 by 3-mile rectangle!

There are a few road crossings on the 2-mile long segment on S Eastern, but not too bad. The pavement is not as smooth as on the other side, but okay. In the second mile you pass a shopping mall and few fast foods in case you need water for instance.

Then you are back on Tropicana which has also quite a worn out sidewalk but, more importantly, a few major road crossings with the heavy inbound and outbound airport traffic (so many cabs!).

Overall, a great 10-mile loop if you want to log a few miles while in Vegas and keep some sanity between parties or meetings. I ran the loop on Thursday and Friday night, then twice on Sunday (2:23:06) and improved the course record on Wednesday morning (1:05:59 elapsed time and 1:04:54 of moving time, that is without the waits for green lights at the major crossings on Tropicana). Actually, my Garmin gave 9.95 miles for the loop and Strava rounded down to 9.9.

So, while, like me, you'd certainly rather run on trails in the surrounding mountains, if you don't have the time to drive and leave the city, and you are staying on the South part of the Strip, here is a very reasonable option to log a few consistent miles away from the crowd. Still with views on the mountains, plus the distraction of the planes taking off and landing. At least it worked for me, I managed to run 5 loops (50 miles) during the week despite the craziness of our annual InterConnect conference. Not quite my average weekly mileage, but still much better than running on a treadmill!

Run, baby, run!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The anatomy of an Ultra Grand Prix: Pacific Association's

The USA Track & Field organization has 57 associations, but I don't know how many have an ultra Grand Prix. Our local chapter is called the Pacific Association and cover the North of California including San Luis Obispo and a few counties in Nevada. It is the second most populous area of the US with 13.5 millions people living in that area, far behind the South California Association whose base includes 19 million souls!

In South California, they have a separate group which organizes its own ultra/mountain/trail Grand Prix. It counts 46 members and 48 ultra events in the year, phew!

It is my 11th year competing in our local Mountain Ultra Trail (MUT) Grand Prix. In 2006, Way Too Cool was my first ultra race and I didn't even know the existence of such a competition. I registered to USATF in the middle of the year and got my first points at Helen Klein 50-mile and Quad Dipsea. That got me quite hooked and I won 9 straight Age Group Grand Prix since...

2015 was such an amazing year again for my running, I even logged a record-breaking 570 points (I shared that in my review of 2015 but I published it on New Year's eve so this post got very few visitors, everybody being busy partying! ;-). Not only a personal record but I believe an all-time one. Granted, fastest runners usually don't focus on the Grand Prix as much as I've done all these years...

Anyway, this Saturday is our annual Long Distance and Ultra Running award banquet but I can't attend because I'm already in Vegas for one of our largest IBM conference with 25,000 participants. Since I got questions from people who recently joined our Quicksilver club and ultra running team, I thought I'd illustrate the rules of the Grand Prix. As a matter of fact, this Grand Prix is in its 30th year, an amazing milestone under the leadership of our co-chairs Bill Dodson and Hollis Lenderking, with Gary Wang having done the super meticulous job of keeping scores all these years (see his amazing website, and chip in a few bucks if you can). After decades of volunteering with such dedication, they will happily pass the reins to the next generation and change will likely come to the list of events at least.

Indeed, for the past 10 years which I participated, the races have been pretty much the same and that has become of a problem as a few of them are not subject to very competitive lotteries dues to too many applicants (most notably: Western States, Way Too Cool, Tahoe Rim Trail, Miwok).

So, what did this Grand Prix consist in last year? Let's look at the individual version first:

  1. A series of 17 events from February to November and ranging from 28 miles to 24 hours;
  2. A few events offer different distances (e.g. 50K, 50 miles and 100K at Ruth Anderson) but you can only score in one distance for an event;
  3. Each distance as a coefficient/multiplier, from 1 for 50K to 3.3 for 100-milers or 24-hour races assuming you ran more than 100 miles. That coefficient is used to compute the number of points, a first place being worth 40 for a 50K for age groups between 30 to 59 years, 20 below 29 and over 60. 40 for 1st place, then 31, 24, 19, 16, 14, 12, then on minus 1 down to 1.
  4. In addition to this, you can get a bonus for improving an age group course record. 10 for races/courses less than 10-year old, 20 otherwise (for the 30-59 age groups, or half that for the others). [January 2017 update: this bonus got dropped by mid 2016.]
  5. But you can't score 17 races, only 7 counts, and not just the 7 highest scores. To ensure that you don't kill it with a few 'hundos' (100-milers), you can only score 1 100-miler (or 24-hour), no more than 3 scores can be for 100K or longer races, and at least 2 of the 7 have to be 50Ks.
To further illustrate, here would be the optimal/maximum configuration:
  1. 1 100-mile win, 2 100K wins, 2 50-mile wins, 2 50K wins that is 132 + 2 * 80 + 2 * 64 + 2 * 40 = 500
  2. And 7 age group records of more than 10 years for 140 additional points, and a total of 640.
Now, out of the 22 races last year, 11 were run on courses which changed over the past 10 years, so that limited the options and there was no way to get to this theoretical 640 maximum. In 2015, I got the 500 points and 70 bonus points.

Detailed rules can be found on the PA USATF website. And the result archives in two places: most recent years (from 2014 on) and 2002-2013.

Oh well, I must have lost you already with all these numbers, didn't I? Indeed, as Agnès reminds me before each race, we do that for the fun of it, at least not for the money, if even for the points...! But it's healthy to have some specific goals to chase.

By the way we were 249 participants in the MUT Grand Prix, quite a number. That of course only counts runners who live in the area and pay their USATF dues.

I'm sorry to miss the banquet and especially the guest speakers, Olympian Kim Conley and renowned podiatrist Dr. Amol Saxena. If you haven't registered yet, here is the Eventbrite link from the hosting Strawberry Canyon Track Club. And I look forward to another blogger covering and reporting on the event since I can't do it this year.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

2nd Saratoga Fat Ass 2016: still missing winter!

As the name states, we do have 2 yearly Fat Ass events organized at Saratoga Gap. This year I missed the first and original one due to a business trip to the Middle East. In the meantime, I did a few 50K runs already (including a fast road one last week and a fast one on the treadmill in Chamonix), but that was actually my first hilly trail run of the year, it was about time...!

I'm leaving this week for 10 hectic days in Vegas (no, not what you think, it will be intense work), so I didn't want to miss this opportunity to log a few miles before this trip. We had friends for dinner last night for a raclette which isn't the best way to carbo load, and I got less than 5 hours of sleep. So, when I woke up and heard the rain, I hesitated to get back to bed, but thought that was too pussy and got up. What a great decision, the cloud was just over the Bay and the cloud cleared as soon as I left Cupertino and entered Saratoga, quite unexpected! Here is still a bit of a cloud patch over Saratoga but you can see the ridge completely clear (Agnès told me afterwards that the sun broke through only around 11 am in Cupertino).

The attendance was quite low, maybe explained by the fact this is a long weekend for those who get a day off for President's Day on Monday (not my case at IBM). There were 2 early starters, plus this joyful group ready to fire it up at 8 am!

Here is the event/race director, Keith Blom, showing what a great photographer sometimes has to do.

Using a super strong flash light! ;-)

Getting acrobatic and flexible to take low angle shots.

Or even lower... ;-)

5 of us, all from our Quicksilver Running Club, ran the first half mile together before Pierre-Yves and I picked up the pace down Loghry Woods Trail: Keith, Pierre-Yves Couteau, Andy Benkert and Keith Lubliner.

It was great running with Pierre-Yves again (he raced Jed Smith 50K too last week) because he knew every turn by heart, it made a big difference from last year when I got completely lost on the 2nd loop and ended up adding 4 miles and eventually not completing the last and third loop (the three loops are different but all start from the Saratoga Gap parking lot, making this spot a natural self-service aid stations at our cars).

Sweeping views from Ridge Trail over the Santa Cruz mountains.

Overall, the creeks were either dry or still really thin, we can't emphasize enough how much more water we need. Still very much a drought in the meantime and, back to my title, the absence of winter conditions with temperatures above 75F most of the past week and still in next week's forecast! Here is the tiny waterfall under Saratoga Gap Trail's viewing platform.

We ran all the uphills sections and completed the first loop in 1:46 after passing the two early starters: Myling Nguyen and Chow Pham.

Pierre-Yves was really excited with our pace and didn't stop at all at the parking lot. It took me about 2 minutes to refill my bottles, and a mile on the Skyline to the Sea trail to catch-up with him.

Steve Patt had gone on the second loop while we were running the first one, to mark a handful of key turns and avoid the errors a few of us made last year. Although I had Pierre-Yves's course expertise today, a big thank you, Steve for your initiative and volunteering duty! Steve posted a few pictures on Facebook today showing that, like us, he vey much enjoyed the gorgeous weather, views and trail conditions.

We met 3 of the groups who were running a combination of loop 1 and 2.

At mile 15, Pierre-Yves mentioned his legs were getting tired and I waited for him at the top of the service road, near the noisy Los Gatos Rod & Gun Club (I still can't get used to all these shots, make me think of all the wars around the world...).

From there, I picked up the pace on the Skyline Trail section back to the car where I filled my bottles for the last time. I waited for Pierre-Yves for about a minute but didn't see him coming so decided to hammer down the 3rd loop, hoping to at least break 5 hours this time. With more stops and some walking, my second loop was 1:54 so there wasn't much time to lose (I left the parking lot after 3 hours and 42 minutes of running).

I flew down Charcoal Road and I'm even credited with the all-time 'course record' of that section on Strava tonight! Given that I was still very careful about my footing to avoid a bad fall, and it was after running 23 miles, something tells me some people haven't tried that hard... ;-) Besides, that Strava section is just one mile so 7:27 isn't that great.

Anyway, while it made up for some time, the clock was still ticking and, at the bottom of the Table Mountain, I had about 40 minutes left for 4.5 hilly miles, yikes. I swallowed a Gu gel and tried to do my best in the uphill but, this time, my legs were getting tired too, not sure what did I do last weekend to make that happen, not to mention the 53 miles I ran since then, including an intense speed work out at the track on Thursday, phew!

Back on the final stretch of Saratoga Gap Trail, I almost got hit by a mountain biker and could barely breath after this stressful encounter, but that did cost me just a few seconds to be honest. 500 yards from the finish, I crossed Keith Lubliner who were starting his 3rd loop. Poor Keith, I was pushing so hard in that final downhill to the parking lot that I didn't even give him some encouragement, ouch, sorry Keith. Despite that final surge, my final time was... 38 seconds... over 5 hours, darn!

At least I'm really pleased that I got to run the complete course this year, at least I have the trace which I can load back into my GPS next year. Sure I feel I can shave off a few minutes on this course (Strava gives 4:44 of moving time for my run today), especially in the perfect conditions we had today, but I'm still amazed by the 4:42 which Pierre-Yves ran in 2010. By the way, my GPS indicated 29.1 miles for the whole course which seems to correspond to the indication on markers along the course. Not quite 50K but still a great workout with around 5,500 feet of cumulative elevation and a few technical sections.

Special thanks to Keith for organizing this event. This year was the 8th edition, making in on of our local ultra early season traditions and what a wonderful course design taking advantage of all these different trails while offering a very convenient central aid station.

And thank Pierre-Yves for making sure I was staying on course in the first 2 loops!

Glad to be back to trail running. After these first 6 weeks of the year focusing on speed on flat terrain, it's amazing how running hilly trails make other muscles work. And the mind too, in a very different way, especially while running uphill. The wonder of ultra running: its diversity!

Stay healthy and injury free out there, and, for the locals, enjoy these Spring/Summer conditions while it last, but hopefully not too long. We need this darn winter and El Niño!!!!!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

M50-54 American 50K record: a Rich-able 34-year quest at Jed Smith!

For those following my ultra running peregrinations, you must know I've been chasing my Age Group American record on that distance for 2 years. 50K is my fetish distance, by far the largest number of races of this format, it was my 55th today! (Next is 47 10Ks, 30 50-milers, 26 Half-marathons and only 22 marathons.) And it was my 8th consecutive participation (I couldn't participate in 2007 because of a trip to Tokyo, nor in 2008 as I was just done with the 6-day Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica).

So, for this 8th edition, and before turning 52 in a few weeks, I had hefty goals:

  1. Chikara was in, so I wasn't aiming for the win but for 2nd place (which has been the case for 5 out of 7 runs so far),
  2. and my age group win (40 points).
  3. I wanted to at least run faster than last year to set a new age group course record for 10 bonus points (3:21:58)
  4. But more importantly I wanted to set that new M50-54 American record which has been resisting for close to 34 years! (3:19:33 John L Sullivan (53) in Washington, DC on 1982-Mar-13)
  5. I thought I could even improve my PR, set on that course in 2012 at 3:19:09 (thanks to Victor's friendly emulation and competition).

With all the speed work I put in my training in January, all that looked doable, right? Based on who was registered on the web site. But, wait, look at what is written on the right tent in this picture: Race Day Registration...

Well, all week I wondered if Rich Hanna would get in on race day and, sure enough, when I arrived to the start line after our early carpool with Pierre-Yves, I saw Rich who confirmed he had just gotten in the 50K and shooting for the record. Rich is such a nice athlete, he even offered that we run together at 6:20 min/mile pace (the record corresponding to 6:25), but Rich is obviously a much faster runner than I am. For instance, Rich ran that course in 3:13 2 years ago (we were both 49), and has already broken 3:30 at Way Too Cool (he set our M50-59 age group record to a blazing 3:41 last year). Rich is particularly amazing because his specialty is cross-country but he is able to keep that same super fast cadence for 31 miles!

With this news, I must admit that I was devastated. Of course, very happy for Rich that he had finally the perfect opportunity to break this long-lasting record with the ideal weather and a course in pristine conditions, plus the official USATF label and course certification in place this year (as opposed to last year). Not to forget the chip timing handle by Rich's own company as a matter of fact (Capital Road Racing Management).

But, his participation meant that I had lost 4 of my 5 goals, so I was left with pushing hard enough to break 3:19 and PR, without the rest of the motivational goals. With his usual optimistic, Pierre-Yves tried to lift my spirit up, but he didn't know Rich, and there was no way Rich would miss this opportunity. Besides, he is so much faster and has run this course in times way under the targeted record, so it seemed like a done deal. I knew that I had a very little window of opportunity last year at the 50K Road Nationals and it made my sub 2-minute miss even more bitter.

During all this melodrama on my end, we still managed to see the start of the 50-mile at 7:30 am, our 50K starting one hour later. As usual, it was a small group, the event not being part of our Grand Prix. Karl Schnaitter took the control right away with a clear intention to run a fast 50-mile today.

Temperature was around 45F and forecasted to reach 65F in the afternoon, perfect conditions! And beautiful views of a much healthier American River than the past years.

Conversely, on the 50K, our group was close to 100 participants! Right off the bat, Chikara took off at 6:10 pace. Rich and I ran the first 3 miles together starting at a more conservative (everything being relative...) pace. Our first mile turned out to be slow actually at 6:26, in the first mile of of the out and back. Rich was trying to entertain some conversation but I told him I wouldn't hold a 6:20 min/mile pace if I had to talk... Our second mile, coming back to the start, clocked a blazing 6:04, with the excitement of crossing the rest of the pack and the course being slightly downhill. By the third mile we were at a 6:15 average pace with Chikara disappearing quickly ahead and Rich showing no intention to slow down and honor his initial proposal of running together at 6:20. Needless to say, that was too fast for me and I did slow down but barely losing 1 second on the average pace, closing the first 4.86-mile lap in 30'30" (6:17 pace) which was 30" faster than what was needed for breaking the record.

I ran the second lap in 30'45", loosing some ground on Rich but still pretty close. At the end of the third lap, I made a 12-second stop to change GU2O bottles and drink a Vespa so my lap got to 30:54. Without that stop I was still running at 6:17 and my legs started to notice and complain. A few signs of cramps got me to slow down a bit and double up on the S!Caps. 4th lap ended up at 31'10", there weren't much room for margin and, this time, between me slowing down and all the other 30K and half marathon runners on the course, I lost sight of Rich. As well as much hope to catch-up eventually. As mentioned above, my only remaining motivation was to PR and, at this time, I actually thought my PR was 3:19:42 (instead of the 3:19:09 listed above for 2012).

Between the few cramps, the fatigue and the motivation erosion, my 5th lap turned out to be an abysmal 32'27", ouch! That meant that I had to run the last lap at an average pace of 6:30. With cramps... I threw my bottles to the side of the course, near my car, to get my arms free and give it all. I managed to accelerate for a few hundred yards and Strava gives my miles 27 and 28 at 6:39 and 6:37. Not bad given the circumstances but quite not fast enough, except that my legs rebelled and punished me with more cramps. During my marathon years I learned to keep running with (painful) cramps, so I kept moving, albeit slower. I passed Pierre-Yves with more than 1/2 mile to go but only 4 minutes left to break my PR. Despite his encouragement, I couldn't run faster at that point, I was in the red zone at 6:47 min/mile and crossed the finish line in 3:20:55 (32'39" for the last lap). 1 minute and 18 seconds off this damned record...

I was so disappointed to have missed all my goals (5 out of 5!), I have to apologize to all for having been so grumpy after that finish. I know, how many 50-year old guys can run a 50K under 3:21? Or even break 3:30 on this distance at half this age? Couldn't I be just happy to take 3rd today behind two amazing champions? Having run a 2:47 marathon on the way? And getting a performance worth 96% on UltraSignup in spite of such competition? Oh, not to forget, being healthy and injury free... Indeed, many reasons to smile and be grateful for! Well, sorry, I still struggle at stopping pushing the envelope and keeping setting higher goals...

Chikara finished in 3:11:47 and Rich set a new M50-54 American record at 3:17:44, an improvement of 1'52". It was time that he gets the fame for this, he is such an accomplished distance runner in addition to being such a nice person dedicated to our sport.

Here is the informal and friendly Men 50K podium:
And with Race Director, John Blue:
7 podiums in 8 participations, one more reason to smile (I took 4th in 2013, coming back from injury).

Speaking of records, Bev Anderson-Abbs also set an American record for the distance, F50-54. Here she is, flying to a 3:48:06 finish, a women win (yes, the 50-59 age group is a tough one at Jed Smith! ;-), and 6th overall. And, yes, she looks easy because the Canadian record she set last year was even faster than this one!

Exactly 2 hours later, our Grand Prix co-Chair, Bill Dodson, also met his goal, improving the M80-84 American record for 50K by 7 minutes at 5:48:09. Bill now owns the 50K, 50-mile and 100K records in his age group, and he has a few others at reach (what about less than 64 hours for 100 miles, Bill?)!
While Bill was on his last lap, Karl Schnaitter won the 50-mile, breaking 6 hours (5:56:43). He, too, had an aggressive start, running the first 4 laps at a sub 7 pace, still managing to run the last 2 laps at sub 7:30 min/mile paces!
Adolfo Andrade took 2nd in 6:45:50

And Ray Sanchez cruised for 3rd Men, 4th Overall in 7:02:00.
While the competition was again dominated by the Excelsior, we had only 6 participants from our Quicksilver club today.

Pierre-Yves returned to the competition with a 14th place overall and 4:02:56

Marc Klemencic 4:34:24

Joe Swenson 4:44:47 and his first win in his new M60-69 age group!

Stephen Strauss 6:19:33

And Kat, Powell allowing us to score in the mixed division, 6:45:02.

A few things I learned from my run today:

  1. There are some stars that you can't control, for instance what the competition will be and what they will be capable of, and that can certainly affect some of your goals.
  2. After the long tapering in December, and more business traveling in January with irregular training, I'm still 6 pounds over my ideal race weight, I need to seriously work on this.
  3. I drank my two bottles of GU2O (typically 20oz every 15 miles), but only one bottle of water which wasn't enough and explained some of the cramping.
  4. Vespa did very well again but, running in the red zone for so long (sub 6:20 pace), I should have taken one or two more Gu gels (I only took 3).
  5. Record hunting is a dangerous sport when you are not the fastest in your sport or even age group... ;-)
  6. And, more importantly, happiness is a state of mind, and like someone (anonymous) once said: "Happiness is not having what you want, it's wanting what you have."

Again, it was a beautiful day on the American River, it felt so good to see much more water flowing than the previous years. Yet, El Niño has been pretty mild so far, we need so much more water to catch-up. At least a sunny weekend made our runs much easier and the Super Bowl fans are very happy too!

Big thanks to the Buffalo Chips club for organizing this yearly event, ideal to kick start the ultra season on a fast foot. And Co-Race Directors, John Blue and Dennis Scott especially, plus all the volunteers along the course (course marshals) and at the aid stations (which I never stopped at during the race to save precious seconds...). We even had a couple of cyclists marshaling the course and making the event and records even more officials.