Sunday, December 19, 2010

Balcons de Rouen #5: the snow white version

My first run of this great 50K course around Rouen in Normandy was muddy (January 2008) and led by the queen of the Balcons, Annick Le Moignic. I then ran the course twice in the following summer, on July 8 and 9, 2008. Finally, I was back for a fat ass in January this year and, while there was some snow on the trail, the weather was actually very nice.
This December 2010 and 5th edition was quite different this weekend: it snowed for 5 hours and it seemed like we were in the mountains, making a trace in 6 inches of fresh powder. Actually the start was really nice as the snow started falling just as we took off at 8 AM. We meaning Thierry, Guillaume and I. Earlier in the week I posted a message announcing this off on the UltraFondus forum. I got two positive responses and a handful of negative ones from others that I suspected would be interested but here we were, with an opportunity to meet and get to know new ultra runners. (Photo in front of Eglise Saint Jacques in Mont Saint Aignan, courtesy of Thierry).
You can check my previous posts to get the details of the course and more pictures. With all the snow, it was not easy to take pictures. Besides, my camera did not appreciate falling in the deep, fresh and wet snow. Although it is getting better after a few hours on a radiator, it may be time for change after several thousands of good pictures take, and several thousands of miles on the trails (I ran 9,808 miles since my run in the Badlands of South Dakota during which I decided to venture into the blogosphere). Although I'm a big fan and owner of a Nikon DLSR, I cannot say enough good things about the Canon PowerShot (sorry, this is meant to be a non subliminal message to Santa Claus... ;-). I still posted about 40 pictures on Picasa, including 4 from Thierry.
Anyway, the views of the trees covered with snow were wonderful, making this fat ass (or white ass?) exceptional and memorable! We did not see wild boars although we got pretty close to one. We met one hunter who told us they had shot one male and the wounded animal was furious and charging all over the place. He had already got two of the dogs and we indeed saw one covered with blood. The revenge of the beast... Apart from this incident we saw one fox, soon after we left in the morning.
With all the snow, our progression was slow and we were half way after 3 hours of running, at the end of the quays. I told Guillaume and Thierry that I started worrying about the road conditions for my return to Paris in the afternoon and we decided to split. We actually met again 8 miles later as Thierry was using another route, and we would meet again two other times to actually finish together after 6 hours and 22 minutes of running. Between pushing or shuffling off the snow, higher strides when the snow was too deep or shorter strides not to slip on roads, that was more tiring than running in soft sand. A preventing fat ass (50K), before the Holidays...
Getting back to Paris was another adventure. It took me 30' to cover 2 kilometers in Bihorel, then about 70 minutes to cover the 15 kilometers to the highway exit! Fortunately, the highway was all clear from snow on 2 lanes out of three. It has been a big mess in airports in Europe this weekend and I hope the situation will get resolved before my flight home on Tuesday. I know everybody feels I'm very lucky to spend 3 weeks in Europe in December (Denmark and France), but I'm now very much looking forward to getting some time off with the whole family in California... And a much clement weather... ;-)
This is my 52th post this year (#207 overall), fulfilling my goal of one post a week in average. I may take a break for the Holidays and write the next article next... year. Happy Holidays to you all and your families, and all the best for 2011, for your running or anything you aspire to!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Back to Granville: more childhood memories...

A week ago it was my first visit to Copenhagen and a real discovery of Denmark's Capital by foot. This time I spent the weekend in Granville, the land of my mother's family. I probably came to Granville more than 50 times already, yet I never spent so much time photographing the city as during the two short 15-kilometer runs I did on Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday afternoon, I ran from Le Bout du Monde (literally: the end of the world!) to Donville where one of my aunts live. On Sunday I ran from Donville to the harbors of Granville and back. From a place where you cannot see anything on the horizon to a city and harbor with centuries of history... Like The Little Mermaid was part of my childhood memories thanks to a post card (see last week post), check my Picasa album for many new post cards of this other maritime area. You will not get all the healthy iodine that I got the privilege to breath while running the beaches, but this slide show will hopefully either bring good memories if you know the place, or decide you to come and visit if not already!

Talk to you next week from another place and other trails...!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Copenhagen: a quick tour

This is my yearly December break from running and it is timely because it would not have been easy to train this week with the cold and snow in Copenhagen. Still, I had brought one of my pairs of Green Silence with me and was able to squeeze a short 6-mile tour of the city on Wednesday morning before client meetings. It was my first time in Denmark and the thing which surprised be the most upon arrival, beyond the somewhat unusual cold temperatures, is the country devotion to sustainable development. It starts with the number of people biking throughout the city, even in the cold and the slippery melted snow! Locals even told me that, although they were indeed many people still biking in such conditions, it was nothing compared to the whole city on bikes the rest of the year. I also learned that cars were taxed so hard that they were considered as luxury. And, also, that, while preparing for the trip and checking about the culture and business customs of the country, Danish are egalitarian and wealth is not supposed to be shown. Surely, this applies to bikes too, they all look the same, all black! When you see thousands of black bikes parked at the exit of the Copenhagen Central train station, you wonder how they find their respective owner every morning... Not to mention many were covered with snow this week!

Sustainability is integral part of Danish life and you can see it at the office, on the street, at home and of course, as a tourist, at the hotel. Recycling bins in each room, minimal heating, low emission lights, small size beds which saves on linen cleaning, and a true "towel recycling" policy. Not to point a particular city, although it is probably the most unsustainable place in the world, I'm always disappointed at the hypocrisy of the hotels in Las Vegas which claim to be exemplary with regard to environment protection but offer decadent size rooms, freezing air conditioning in huge hallways when the temperature is so high outside and, more annoyingly, would change the towels even if you carefully put them on the rack instead of the floor per the "let's save our planet" flyer. Well, with this cold winter start, who is caring about global warming anyway, certainly not the average American. But the people who live in flat countries like the Netherlands and Denmark, just above sea level, certainly know that there will be many hotter than usual summers once this week's blizzard has passed. Let's be more solidary than that, we only know of one amazingly welcoming planet like ours in the universe!

Anyway, back to my short running episode of the week, I am of course not an expert of the city but here is a suggested route which will allow you to see quite a few typical places of the Danish capital in just 10 kilometers. Including the so famous Little Mermaid, as tourist brochures say: "one of the most photographed woman in the world!" Although I had almost forgot about it, it was one my childhood's dream to see this statue after I had received a post car from my godmother nearly 40 years ago... In exchange, I sent 5 post cards of the Little Mermaid to perpetuate the tradition and maybe create similar dreams which will be fulfill in less than 40 years this time... You have to come and see for yourself if not already how small the statue is compared to its reputation. By the way I felt very lucky to be able to see her as she was just back from a long trip to Shanghai for the 2010 World Expo.
The City Hall, the Strøget which is according to a Danish website the longest pedestrian shopping street in the world, the Holy Ghost Church, the Royal Theater and Charlottenborg on Kongesn Nytorv, Nyhavn and the canal, the Royal winter residence on Amalienborg Slotsplads (Amaliehaven), the Little Mermaid then, Churchill Park and the Kastellet, the Rosenborg and Botanic Gardens (Rosenborg, Kongens & Botanisk Have), Rosenborg Slot (castle), the Round Tower (Rundetårn), Køpenhavn H (the Cophenhagen Central train station), and many other interesting buildings and churches on the way. This tour will give you a great introduction to the Danish Capital if you are up for a run or a walk, the sustainable way to visit a city! Visit my Picasa album for the corresponding views.
The run was quite slow with the slippery sidewalks still covered with snow, the slaloming across the crowd in the busy pedestrian streets and, more importantly, the freezing cold temperature (-5C) not counting the windchill factor. At some point, my fingers were totally numb. Not that it was that cold but I was wearing thin gloves, carrying my cold camera and never got warm as I was stopping every few hundreds yards to take pictures. I made a short halt in a church and luckily found super hot radiators in the vestibule (St Alban's Anglican Church). Just as I could start feeling my fingers again, the Pastor came to politely tell me that the church was actually closed. I was back in the cold for the rest of my tour, feeling like a homeless all of a sudden... Thankfully, I'm not, and actually on the plane back home as I write these lines. With new souvenirs posted on Picasa, and other dreams to run in new places. Safe travels to all, either physically for instance for the Holidays, or virtually over the web!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Silicon Valley Turkey Trot: outpacing the turkey!

Ok, not literally, we were not chasing a live turkey... This Thanksgiving Thursday, I had the pleasure to join more than 11,000 other runners and walkers to raise money for local charities with the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot. And to make the event even more enjoyable, Agnès joined me to walk the 5K, just 9 weeks after her surgery. Like the surgeon told her: "I wish I had more patients like you!" The temperature had fallen below 32F during the night so the morning was really cold for us Californian. Thankfully, there was not one single cloud and the sky was so clear, of an amazing blue.
Last year I ran the super competitive 5K race which has only one Open division and participants flying from all over the country to make this event one of the fastest 5K of the country if not the fastest. Needless to say, the field is really thin and I ended up at the back of it, although not the last one, even among the three registered Masters. This year, I wanted to go longer anyway to add two more points in the count for the USATF Phidippides Award (every Master who has paid his/her dues to USAT&F is eligible), and finally put my 2010 racing season to an end, with some speed. And no better place than downtown San Jose for a flat and fast course (well, maybe Chicago).

The 10K start was scheduled for 7:50 and the 5K run/walk for 8:15. We parked close to the HP Pavilion and I finished a conference call with Denmark while Agnès was picking up our bib numbers. I had just 10 minutes left after the call to warm-up, or maybe not getting colder in this chilly morning. I met Adam at the start line and saw several other familiar courses. I was in the top 10 after a few turns with Armen Vartanian building an amazing lead right off the bat. He was so fast that my GPS displayed an average pace of 4:59 min/mile after 500 yards or so; oops, that was certainly not sustainable for me and most of the surrounding runners anyway! I passed the 1st mile mark around 5:26 and was in fourth then. Mile 2 in 11:12, then stabilizing my average pace on 5:35. I gained one more spot between mile 4 and 5 and kept pushing to get closer to the next runner (Ian Sharman). I did not catch him but my tired calves can testify that I pushed hard and tried to get my stride as long as possible. It is such a change from running on trails or the shorter strides I use in ultras, it has been a while since I felt such soreness throughout my two calves. Granted, I worked so much these past weeks that I did not run much and "under slept" too. Time to enjoy my December and annual break and recharge for the 2011 season!

With these thousands of runners flowing through the finish line, I missed Agnès and it took us a while to find each other. Eventually we decided that we had time to come back home to keep the cooking that Greg had started going, before driving back to San Jose for the award ceremony. Needless to say, with a ceremony at 11:30 on Thanksgiving day, very few people attended. The ceremony started with the Elite 5K and I was amazed when I heard the name of Alan Webb. Alan is the US record holder of the mile with 3:46!
He won the 5K in 13 minutes 36 seconds (4:21 min/mile pace!), followed by one of his fellow Oregon Track Club teammates, Galen Rupp. The female competition podium had 3 different cultures represented, a nice image of the Silicon Valley's diversity:
At 13, Jose Pina placed first in his age group and would have even placed in the M14-19 age group so, with a finish time of 38 minutes, he is definitely ready to move up and even surpass his super fast dad!
As for me, with the super fast guys focused on the 5K, 3rd overall of the 10K and 35:05 was good enough for 1st in the Masters division:
Quite cool to get on the same podium as legend Alan Webb, no? 4118 runners completed the 10K and 6992 the 5K, very impressive numbers for a Turkey Trot! In this healthy crowd, Agnès and I actually met quite a few people we know from our local communities. You can check all the results on the RaceCentral website.

Thanks to the perfect weather, such a professional organization, many generous and notorious sponsors, the perfect weather and courses, so many participants and volunteers, this edition turned to be another huge success, raising more than $400,000 for local charities. And getting many to exercise and enjoy the benefits of running, before the traditional Thanksgiving agape. From a running perspective, I am so thankful for living in the Bay Area, having had a great and injury-free season during which I still improved on a few distances (50K, 50M and 100M) and participated in my first 12-hour event. And that's just for the running part of my life... Hope you too had a great experience today and have reasons to be thankful, if not for a good harvest!
"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." William Arthur Ward

"Gratitude is our most direct line to God and the angels. If we take the time, no matter how crazy and troubled we feel, we can find something to be thankful for. The more we seek gratitude, the more reason the angels will give us for gratitude and joy to exist in our lives." Terry Lynn Taylor
 And, no, the wings below are not the ones of an angel, but a simple cool turkey... ;-)
PS: my calves were still tight this Friday but I still had a nice 6-mile run to enjoy the wonderful weather. And spent the afternoon shopping with Agnès to honor the Black Friday tradition and have a full Thanksgiving experience before I fly to Denmark this Saturday.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Give Light 10K: happy return to Shoreline

Last time I ran at Shoreline was in September for the Trailblazer 10K race which I won, partly thanks to first no Kenyan participating this year and also thanks to Jose Pina not toeing the line in preparation for the San Jose Rock'n'Roll half-marathon where he did beat me by mere 35 seconds the following week.

Looking for some motivation to keep training before the December break, I was excited when one of my neighbors, Fari, told me about this event (the Give Light Walkathon 2010) and I registered right away as we had no other big plans for that Saturday. With my busy ultra running, I like taking any opportunity to come back to Shoreline, a park in which I ran literally thousands of miles when I was working for ILOG in Mountain View and Sunnyvale between 1998 and 2008.
What a change a week can make here... Last Sunday in the rain, chilly speed workout at the track on Tuesday morning (43F) and a summer weather this weekend: bright sun and temperatures above 75F!

Without claiming any credit for my advertising of the race last week, I was thrilled when race organizers announced that they got about 400 participants instead of the expected 220 or so! Of course, such success and late registration came with a downside: the start was delayed by 20 minutes for the 10K, followed by the 5K 10 minutes later and another 10 minutes for the start of the 1K.

No lead bike this time so the other runners joked and said that they will just have to follow me, as long as I was not going too fast. I know all the trails of this park of course but each race has a different layout and I had just briefly looked at the map before leaving. With a start at a 5:32 min/mile pace, I quickly got in the lead and started discovering the course at every turn. There were numerous cones but, unfortunately, with arrows drawn on paper with a pen, not a marker so I had to literally stop at most of the cones to figure out the direction. I did not stop at the water/aid stations and ran most of the race at a 5:45 min/mile pace. One tall and younger runner was quite close behind me at the turn around so I kept pushing all the way back, slaloming through the back of the pack of the 10K and 5K racers, including kids and strollers on each side of the bike path. On my way back I started passing the 5K lead runners and, by mistake, indicated to one of them that we should be back to the starting line the same way we went out. Which was true for the 10K but not the 5K apparently. The guy was in second position and the rest of the 5K runners ended up running at least 4 miles instead of 3, oops...

I crossed the finish line in 36:53 with my GPS indicating 6.37 miles. Knowing that it has been a bit optimistic these past weeks, the 10K course was probably of the right distance and I was just slower than usual, not chasing anyone and getting to the end of the season.
After my finish, I rushed to my car to grab my camera and took a picture of the next 8 10K finishers (see my Picasa album) as well as a few pictures of the abundant food stand and the Give Light Foundation booth. I gave some encouragement and relief to the volunteers as some of the 5K finishers complained about the course issue. Reminding them that it was just a fund raising event and fun run, and that they should run PA USA Track & Field events if they want certified courses and much serious competition... It took slightly more than 2 hours to get the final results and a simple ceremony awarding a medal to the top 2 runners of each race. During that time, we hung out in the warm sun, sharing our various experiences with the course and many other running stories, tips and plans.

Here is Dian, the President of the Give Light Foundation, thanking the generous sponsors, the volunteers and all the participants for this successful event:
This Sunday, the highlight of the day was to see Alex participating in his first rowing competition with the Los Gatos Rowing Club. The event was held in Foster City at the Leo Ryan Memorial Park, just across the street from our IBM office there. Alex had just landed on Saturday night at San Jose from a 4-day trip on the East Coast during which he combined a visit to Max at Yale and 2-day boot camp with as part of his tenure on the Youth Advisory Council.
Agnès drove up with Alex and they left by 6:30 AM to be there at 7 AM. Long wait until the race at noon, when Greg and I joined. I'm not sure this sport is for me, although I did row for one season in College in France and I like the athletic aspect making your whole body work hard. But that's a lot of idle time for a 5K race...

Anyway, after the race, we drove back to the South of the Bay and I asked Agnès to drop me at the Baylands Athletic Center near the Palo Alto Baylands so I could run back home. Another opportunity to run through Shoreline that weekend! 2 hours and 12 minutes for 19 miles, it was a good long tempo run right on a 7 minutes/mile pace. The afternoon was gorgeous again and many people were on the trail, hiking, running, biking or bird watching. A nice tour through Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Sunnyvale and Cupertino.
Have a good week, even if it is not as sunny as here on your end...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Running in the rain

It was really cool to hear from some of you after my last post about all of... you! The week has been ok from a running perspective although I was not able to run every day. On Wednesday I went to a conference in San Francisco and only realized the night before it was the Giant's parade; what a circus on the train... On Friday, I started with a teleconference at 7 AM (later than usual) and left the office at midnight, having just a nice lunch break with Jerome where we mostly talked about work so it was almost 17 hours non stop... 18 miles on Montebello Road last Sunday, 11 miles at Alviso on Monday, 6 miles in the neighborhood on Tuesday, 5.5 miles at the Mountain View High School track on Thursday with Bob under the stars and a super clear and dark sky, 22.5 miles to the top of Black Mountain yesterday and 9 miles today, in the rain... So, while I was enjoying running in the rain, I was thinking of what I would blog about and came up with a poem, which applies both to my laps in the neighborhood today and my 74 laps on Crissy Field at the San Francisco One Day race. Not alexandrines but some rhymes still. Enjoy before you too go for a run or a walk in the rain.

Running in the rain

Fall, it is this time again
For running in the rain!
Nature has its bag of tricks
To fill up our nearby creeks…

With this effort, is it the sweat
Or the rain which gets me wet?
Miles pass but the rain won’t stop
And there is more than one drop
On and under my rain jacket
Oh, the fun is not over yet!

My eyes are well protected
Under the visor of my cap
And my mind not too affected
So let's go for another lap!

Musing apart, it was a big race weekend for many between The New York Marathon, Helen Klein 50K and 50-mile or the Lithia Loop US Trail Marathon Championship. Looking forward to reading about my friends' results and race reports. I signed up for a much more modest event next Saturday at Shoreline in Mountain View, organized by the Give Light Foundation to raise funds to create durable orphanages in response to natural disasters and extreme conditions (poverty and war). Please consider joining us if you live in the area or are in town next weekend. There is a 10K and 5K run and 5K walk and it's on Saturday November 13th.
I also plan on closing my running season with the Applied Material Silicon Valley Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning, hesitating between the 5 and 10K, while Agnès aims at walking the 5K (she is now back to swimming, cycling and NIA, albeit refraining herself from training for strength...); amazing recovery!
More miles and fun in perspective, in the rain! ;-) What about you, do you like and enjoy the rain?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

My dear blog readers: who are you?

I wanted to mark the special milestone of the 200th post on my blog with a special "issue", a post about you! Technically, it is my 201th post since I had to publish a race report last week but that's close enough... I still remember passing the 26-post milestone like I was finishing a marathon, I had no idea then that I would more or less keep up with the pace of one post a week for 4 years... (See my post Ultra blogging: passing the cap of the 26.2th blog.)

So, who are you who visit my blog either regularly or occasionally? To answer this "Web 2.0" question, I have a few tools but you will see they are somehow limited. Analytic tools include:
  1. StatCounter,
  2. Google Analytics,
  3. ClustrMaps,
  4. Flag Counter,
  5. Post comments, either anonymous or not (as Scott Dunlap used to say: "we, bloggers, starve for comments!")
  6. FaceBook messages,
  7. Email messages,
  8. Verbal messages before, during or after the races.
With that, here is the simple taxonomy representing how I see the audience of my blog:
  1. Family members, mostly non-runners,
  2. Friends, either runners or not, who enjoy the posts because they cannot travel or they cannot run, or others who find inspiration in the posts to run farther and faster
  3. Work colleagues,
  4. Club mates,
  5. Other runners looking at race information, race reports, tips or event pictures, from the Bay Area, California, the US or many other countries,
  6. Race directors, organizers
  7. Spectators, volunteers, relatives of event participants.
Surprisingly, apart from my Mom, my family doesn't represent the most active audience, mostly because of the language barrier. One of my sisters and my Dad have recently discovered the online and automatic translation offered by Google and they are using it more consistently now, albeit having some fun with some weird translations...

I started blogging in March 2007 but I only tracked traffic from late 2007 on, with StatCounter which has logged 106,000 hits to date. Although I'm quite impressed with this number, I realize that it must be very far from what super blogger Scott Dunlap got on his web site. For one thing though, Scott has initiated the blogging wave in our Trail Running sport in particular and writes on many very popular and diverse topics which draw a lot of traffic. On my side, I'm keeping the theme of the blog around my personal running experiences only, my personal journey toward sustainable running and my personal crazy quest to run either faster or farther... My most popular article has been by far Born to Run: the Tarahumara secret which I wrote after meeting Chris McDougall at Zombie Runner in Palo Alto, before his book became a best-seller.

Other things I know about you? You have visited from 134 countries with the US leading most of the traffic (72%) followed by France (8%) despite the language barrier, then UK, Canada, Japan, Germany, Australia, Austria and Italy. The presence of non-English speaking countries in the top 10 attests for the strong development of ultra and trail running in these countries.

You spend an average of 1 minute and 26 seconds per page and look at 1.58 pages per visit which I feel show a genuine interest although I do spend much more time actually writing these posts! ;-) 75% of you use Windows as Operating System with either Internet Explorer or Firefox as web browser (that's a pretty much worthless statistics, isn't it?). See below for more detailed statistics and charts.

Bottom line, you see, I don't know much about you but I would love to know more through the feedback you can leave at the bottom of the posts. Looking forward to hearing from you then!

With that, at least for the majority of you who live in the US, Happy Halloween and enjoy the Trick-or-Treat tradition either by opening your door or going door to door in your neighborhood. Either on the receiving or giving side, this is a very nice tradition of making our neighborhoods more friendly. Before we get to Trick-or-Treat on the web...

-------------- More detailed analysis of blog traffic (click on the images to enlarge)

Geographical coverage by ClustrMaps:
Geographical statistics from Flag Counter:
 List of countries from Flag Counter:
Worldwide map with flags, from Flag Counter:
Geographical coverage from Google Analytics:
Visits from California:
Visits from Australia:
Total number of hits and visits from StatCounter:
Most popular pages (Google Analytics):
In-Page Analytics showing that you do use the blog archives by year and month, as well as the list of tags and topics in the right margin:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

San Francisco One Day 12-hour 2010: a great first, for me

This is my 200th post on this blog, but I will have to come back on this anniversary next week as this is not the topic of the day.

This race, the San Francisco One Day, has been very special to me. I have 175 races in my log including 54 ultras but I had never run a time-based event, even less an event on such short laps. The closest is Ruth Anderson but the loop is 4.5 miles, where as the San Francisco One Day consists in a 1-mile (1.061 exactly) loop around Crissy Field. People not living in the area who pay a lot to run with such spectacular views of the San Franciso Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, Marine Headlands, Angel Island, Alcatraz, The Presidio, the Exploratorium and the City's skyscrappers including the famous Transamerica Pyramid. I'm so glad Sarah is perpetuating this PCTR tradition since 2006. I have been dreaming of running this event but my focus on the PA USATF Mountain & Ultra Trail Grand Prix prevented me so far as the event was too close to races such as Rio del Lago 100-mile or Helen Klein 50-mile. Based on the current standings (special thanks to Gary Wang for the recent update!), I am in a comfortable position to win my age group again, for the 4th year in a row, so, with 11 events in the bag, I decided to enter this 12-hour event and skip the three remaining events of the season: the wet Whiskey Town of this weekend (Victor did set a course record there!), the Helen Klein 50-mile in two weeks, and the torturous Quad Dipsea at the end of November.
Now, it was not an easy choice because we still have our team strategy in the Grand Prix. Per my maths, we won the Men Team division again this year, but we can still improve our Mixed Team ranking if we line up a team at Helen Klein. We have enough men going there, so I'm off the hook. Then the second parameter of the decision was from the health standpoint: I spent 11 days on the East Coast last week and this week and got a bad cold on day 3, on the 12th, which was exactly 10 days before the race... I was still feeling bad this past Wednesday, barely being able to speak in client meetings, but got better on Thursday, which was also our 21st Anniversary. I told Agnès how excited I was with this race and, with her consent, went on to register in the evening. Little did I know about the forecast, which I checked just after registering...
On Friday afternoon Agnès and I drove to Zombie Runner for a delicious coffee and chocolate at Don's coffee shop and to buy some Vespa and GU2O. On Saturday, the start was late, at 9AM, so that left plenty of time for a good and much needed sleep before driving up to Crissy Field. I was so glad it was not rainy on the highway, nor at the start which I reached around 8 AM. Yet, I was already chilly with the wind and overcast sky. I saw a few familiar faces but less than usual as PCTR draws a different community than the usual PAUSATF one.
Among others, there were teammate Mark who finished third in the 24hr last year, David Pirogowicz, John Koester who volunteers with the Striders at Last Chance, Gary Sparer from the San Jose Fit, Lisa Huerta and her son Jonathan (14), and here is Mike Nuttall, co-founder of Ideo, who ran 107 miles last year and 110 miles in 2008:
I wrapped my bag and stuff into a large and sturdy plastic bag in prevision for potential rain during the day. We started right on time at 9AM and, not having run much for the past 2 weeks, I could not refrain myself of starting fast although it felt really easy on this flat course. I did many of the first miles under 7 min/mile pace, starting lapping runners or walkers by the end of my second lap. The weather was great and we even got some sun around noon. I ran 8 laps/hour for the first 3 hours which was way too fast, but I wanted to put some miles in the bank before the weather might change. Oddly enough on such a flat and open terrain, my GPS appeared to be about 5% off after a few laps so it was hard to keep track of the exact distance and number of laps. Thankfully, we were wearing a transponder (timing chip) and the computer was doing the count for us. With that, I believe I ran my first marathon in 3:10 and first 50K around 3:49. Here is a picture from Stan Jensen, just before noon:
Unfortunately, the rain started at 1 PM, 4 hours into the race, and would not stop for the next 8 hours. I did a long stop (5-6 minutes I believe) to dry, change and put a light rain jacket over a new and dry long sleeve top. At this time, I switched to running about 6 laps an hour depending on the stops at the aid station. It was not actually much about the time spent at the aid station, it was more about the time to get back into the pace as I was getting so cold and my leg muscles were tetanizing every time I would stop moving. Thanks to taking a Vespa every 3 hours and one S!Cap and GU every hour, I did not have to eat too much. Yet, I took two cups of the delicious chicken noodle soup, enjoying something warm.

I stopped at mid race (6 hours) to put on another warm layer and an heavier rain jacket, two of my warmest layers which I usually use in the middle of the winter when running in the snow... After that, I was more comfortable, yet was getting cold again every time I would stop for a minute or so at the aid station. My feet were getting soaked at each lap, going through the puddles. One highlight of the day was the visit of teammate Toshi and his wife who took picture of Mark and I, while Toshi ran a couple of laps on Mark's side. I also ran one lap with Ron Duncan and Willem Van Dam, from Tamalpa, who came to watch the competition.

I looked at the leader board several times and saw that I was not increasing my 4-lap lead over Shiran Kochavi. With such a blazing start on my end, I had thought the lead would have been more important and I was therefore forced to go to the end of the 12 hours to make sure I was at least taking first since the course record was now out of reach. Of course, it was quite audacious to even think about a course record for my first attempt at this event format, and especially given who set the record in 2007: Akos Konya has finished 2nd three times in the grueling 135-mile Bad Water, won Lean Horse 100-mile a couple of times and already logged 85 miles in 12 hours or 146 miles in 24 hours. Anyway, my new goal was now to win, log as many miles as possible, hoping to run 3 marathons within the time limit. As the rain was going on, the puddles were increasing both in number and size. The aid station was muddier at each passage and I was glad that Agnès did not drive to the race (I learned later that she tried to convince Alex, but he had too much school work in addition to the College apps and essays).
I put my headlamp on around 7 PM. It was more to avoid the puddles as the course had no difficulty at all. There were actually quite a few runners just running at the lights of the city, and the full moon above the thick clouds. I completed my 74th lap after 11 hours and 57 minutes of running (78.5 miles, so just over 3 marathons indeed). I put another 10 minute/lap in the last hour but, otherwise, I was going slower and slower, so it was time to stop...
Between the start at 7 min/mile pace, the pit stops and the second half closer to 10 min/mile, my overall average pace was 9:07 and I finished 5 miles behind the course record Akos set 3 years ago in a much nicer weather and at the age of 32, so very satisfied with my first attempt at this format. I was glad I had not signed for the 24 hour this time though and that gave me a lot of appreciation for the runners going on for the rest of the night. Among them, my team mate Mark Tanaka who deliberately started slow but was running like a metronome and managed to win the 24-hour event!
I was really cold at the finish and was anxious to drive back after the award ceremony to get a hot shower and soak in our hot tub. This Sunday, my entire body is sore of all the shivering... I know this is kind of ridiculous to say as the temperature was really not low yesterday (60F on the parking lot when I left at 10 PM), but that's how my body responds to the effort and the humidity.

Overall, I enjoyed the format of the race, especially the length of the loop, very close to 1 mile. Running for 12 hours on a standard track and passing the finish line 4 times more often would be overwhelming, while the 4.5-mile loop at Ruth Anderson would be too long. As noted above, the views are wonderful and changing with the weather, there are many runners and joggers going on the course in the morning, and going through the aid station at every mile provides a lot of variety and distraction. Unlike some people may think about such a format, I never got bored. The organization was perfect although I learned this Sunday morning that the webcast updates were a bit frustrating for the ones "watching" the race online (lack of regularity). I'm particularly appreciative of the volunteers who continuously manned the aid station for hours, in the rain and the wind. With this format, there is always runners going through the aid station, for 24 hours non stop... Thanks Sarah and the extended Pacific Coast Trail Runs (PCTR) team for all your hard work to provide us with so much "serious fun!" ;-)
Bottom line, it was tough as I pushed myself through new limits, and I am eager to give it another try. In a more clement weather if possible... ;-)