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?