Saturday, October 6, 2012

I'm Back!

Inspired by my the race reports from my good friend Blue Benadum's and his SoCal crew about this year's Tahoe Triple, I decided to get back in the game and I have officially started training for next year's Super Triple.

It's going to take a while to get back into the kind of shape I was in for the 2009 event, and I might have to powerwalk a good part of it, but it's going to be a blast no matter what. For work, I just received my awesome standing desk, which will help a lot (If you're sitting down all day for your job, definitely check that out).

Huge congrats to Blue for another big Triple win (second year in a row), and to Jimmy Dean Freeman for doing a fantastic job winning the Super Triple this year and almost wiping out my course record (20:32:23) on his first try (he signed up on a whim during the regular Triple, too!).  Now we'll have to see if Dave "The Jackal" Yeakel, Jon Burg, and Keenan Follis will come back in 2013 to make it a proper reunion ;-)

I'll leave you with this timeless classic ;-)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Victor Ballesteros Completes TRT in 53:03

Victor at Mile 118 at Tunnel Creek (Photo courtesy of Dalius Kumpa)
A fantastic effort today by Victor Ballasteros, finishing the entire 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail in one go in 53 hours and 3 minutes. Victor was the last man standing/running from the group of four who started their TRT speed record attempt on Monday morning. As far as I can tell, Victor just is now the 3rd fastest time in the TRT after Kilian Jornet and Tim Twietmeyer.

I am sure it was an unforgettable journey. Congrats, Victor—now go and take a nap!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Joining Google

Big news! After about four great years at Kaazing (a Mountain View-based start-up company focused on building a world-class enterprise WebSocket server), I'm super excited to report that I will be joining Google. I will start as a Program Manager in the Chrome Developer Relations team on Monday!

About two years ago, I had the opportunity to co-author the book Pro HTML5 Programming together with my former colleagues Brian Albers and Frank Salim. While writing the book, I turned some of the concepts covered in the book into what would become the first formal HTML5 training course in the world.

The 2nd edition of Pro HTML5 Programming (also in Chinese, Russian, Korean, and other languages) 

Demand for our training skyrocketed and before long I was teaching HTML5 training courses all over the world and we built a bigger training team to handle the demand. I flew about 450K miles over the last 4 years to places far and near and met great people along the way. All in all, it has been a great ride and I feel very privileged to have been able to do so.

With my HTML5 License Plate

Shortly after launching the HTML5 training, I founded the San Francisco HTML5 User Group and that rapidly grew to be the biggest HTML5 user group in the world, with almost 4,500 members today (thanks in large part to my co-organizer and former colleague, Vanessa Wang). 

In the process, I found that I was really passionate about explaining (in training courses, user group meetings, and at conference talks) how you can use HTML5 technology to build cutting-edge web applications. I also really enjoy working with a wide range of bleeding edge technologies. So, when the opportunity came along to do just that at a global scale at Google with a world-class team, I could not pass it up. I can't wait to get started!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The 2012 DeCelle Lake Tahoe Relay

Our 2012 Team at the Finish

Last Saturday it was, once again, time for our favorite annual tradition: running the 48th annual Decelle Memorial Lake Tahoe Relay. This was our fourth time running it already. Over 100 seven-person teams participated in this running race; some extremely competitive and others mainly out to have a good time, finish before the 13h.15m cutoff, and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with relay races in particular.

 All Smiles the Evening Before

We ran our first Tahoe Relay in 2008 with Chris, Turi, and Amber and we were instantly hooked. Since then, our team has been a little different each year. For example, Hayes, who had been our anchor for three years is now in college in Southern California and, unfortunately, he still had some exams to finish.

With Part of the Team at the Start

This year, our team was—as RD April Carter commented—younger than ever! Our anchor (leg 7) runner, Sean S., was actually graduating from Nevada Union on Saturday morning and would drive up with his brother Nicky (leg 6) as soon as he was done.

Ricky Tackles the First Leg of the Relay

To start, we had another new runner, Ricky Mendoza. We had a last-minute cancellation and Ricky volunteered to join us the day before the race, never having run further than about 6 miles. He kicked off the run for us and paced himself extremely well. He just kept cruising while we leapfrogged him with the car, stopping to give him water and Gatorade every couple of miles.

Sean Starts Leg 2, the Relentless Climb to Spooner Summit

Ricky finished his leg at Zephyr Cove in 1:30 and handed off to Sean. It was nice to see Ed Walsh and his wife again at the relay hand-off point. They have timed this leg for around 20 years now!

The Tunnel on Highway 50, Coned Off for Safety, as Always, by Angel

Sean had run leg 2 last year and wanted to run it again. Leg 2 is the shortest (8.2 miles), but also the toughest, with a relentless climb to Spooner Summit. Just like Ricky, he kept a super steady pace and kept climbing the hills. He finished in 1:25, a very good time considering the steepness of this leg. We also ran into Grass valley area's George Raynsford on this leg, who ended up running almost three consecutive relay legs for his team. Wow!

 Sean hands off to Lisa (voted best action shot ;-)

At the top  of Spooner, another first-time relay team member, Lisa, was waiting. She had joined our team only a few months before and had only run a 10K once in training, but because she takes dance lessons at her school, she proved to be very fit... and tough!

Lisa Powers Down the Hill Towards Incline Village

During this leg, the temperature started to rise and it was slowly getting hot. The sunscreen came out and we had to stop more frequently so Lisa would not dehydrate. She kept running and just did an incredible job, finishing just under two hours in 1:59. Boo Yah!

And then it was my turn. I was ready at the relay hand-off point, with a new iPod playlist that Rocky had created for me just minutes before the start. I had just come back from a 3 week business trip to Europe and had flown in the night before, so still had plenty of jet lag (yep... excuses, excuses!) My training had consisted of running and bicycling at hotel gyms and walking around the different towns I visited and I had not run much further than 5 or 6 miles in one go this year yet.

Lisa Hands Off to Me (yes, that's really me)

Leg 4 is not particularly tough, but it is a bit longer than most (12.6 versus mostly 10 miles). I decided to get started slowly to get into a good rhythm and that worked well. It was very hot, but fortunately Vicky and the kids stopped every mile and a half with drinks and encouragement.

Hand-Off to Rocky

The section from Crystal Bay down to Kings Beach is one of my favorite runs and this is where I finally felt warmed up and started cruising. Rocky's new custom playlist (Tiesto, Wolfgang Gartner, Bingo Players, Nicky Romero, White Stripes, and more) certainly helped keep the pace. I thoroughly enjoyed this run with a prolonged runner's high.  Running around Tahoe again brought back many memories and made me feel somewhat nostalgic.

Tahoe in All Its Glory

It made me think about a big return to the Tahoe Super Triple in 2013. We'll see ;-) If I do, I better start training, because I finished with an all-out sprint to catch one more runner, which was fun. My time was 2:06, which is of course nothing to write home about, but I was very pleased with my steady fun run. Nothing beats running 72 miles around beautiful Lake Tahoe with family and friends.

Rocky on Leg 5

Rocky ran leg 5 this year, which starts with an unexpected monster climb and then goes into Tahoe City and around the lake to Homewood. It was still quite hot, but Rocky had been training for quite a few months with the others and he did amazingly well. Sean's friend Sean S. and his brother Nicky joined us during this section, Sean S. had just graduated from high school earlier that morning. Talk about timing!

Rocky and Vicky, Water Break

Rocky sprinted to the finish (2:03) to hand off to Nicky who would run leg 6. That 10.5 mile leg includes the dreaded "Hill from Hell." Nicky was also more or less a last-minute recruit, but fortunately he happened to be quite fit as well.

Rocky Hands Off to Nicky

The temperature dropped a little at this time and it started getting a bit windy. After a mostly flat first part, Nicky just put his head down and gutted out the long, tough hills. He finished in an amazing 1:30, also with little long-distance experience. A great feat.

Go Nicky!

We were originally a little worried about the 8:15 p.m. (the race started at 7 a.m.) cut-off, but once Nicky finished so strong, we were relieved. It looked like, with all the great efforts, we would almost have an hour to spare!

Sean S. Starts the Final Leg

Our anchor was Sean S. Our Sean and Sean S. are about to leave for a one-month summer trip to Europe by themselves (including Amsterdam, so watch out mom and dad!). Sean S. had been part of our team last year, so he knew what was in store.

A Well-Deserved Drink for Nicky

He started his leg with a downhill around Emerald Bay and then a steep climb to the top of Inspiration Point. By now it was evening and Sean was really moving, passing many other runners. From Inspiration Point, the road snakes down very steeply and Sean was clocking 6-minute miles!

Emerald Bay

Everyone that had finished their leg would immediately put on the new race T-shirt, so by now we already had six shirts walking around and we would show Sean S. the shirt for extra motivation. The grey 2009 t-shirt is still my favorite, but this one was was also quite nice.

Sean S and Sean on the Home Stretch

A couple more stops for drinks and Sean was already cruising to the finish where we all waited to run the final 100 yards with him as a team. Sean finished in 1:24, and our overall time was 12:00:05. If we had known it was that close to the hour mark, we probably pulled out the cattle prod to make Sean run six seconds faster!

The Team Finishes Together with Sean S.

We all received our medals and posed for the finish line pictures and then we promptly went to the Tahoe Brewery, which has also become a bit of a tradition (think chicken wings and beer samples). It took a while to get a seat, but we had a great time unwinding from the long day, and already planning on improvements we can make next year! We'll definitely be back!

Proud Finishers!

Next Up: A Major Career Change! Yes... Stay tuned for details!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rest in Peace Robert and Linda Mathis

The always-smiling Robert and I at the Grand Prix awards ceremony in 2009

2012 started with the shocking news that series race directors Robert and Linda Mathis were struck and killed by a DUI driver on Highway 28 in Incline Village (full story in the Tahoe Bonanza). The Northern California ultrarunning community was left speechless.

Linda (right), Robert (left) and I at the finish line of the River City Marathon in 2009

Today, all the runners who knew Robert and Linda were invited to a Memorial Group Run in their honor, organized graciously by Aaron Summerhays and Jennifer Lee Dicus.

Aaron Summerhays and Jennifer Dicus organized the wonderful memorial run today

Since I have not been running any ultra races lately, it was great to see so many of my running friends again. I had not seen many runners for over a year and it was good to catch up with Gretchen, Ray, Catherine, Ed Walsh, Jethro Smith, Matt Thau, Bev and Alan Abbs, Norm and Helen Klein, and many others.

Runners gather at the start of the Memorial Run

Just before 9 a.m. Aaron made some announcements, we had a minute of silence, and several of the runners shared some of their memories of Robert and Linda with the group.

Aaron Summerhays

Robert and Linda's family

Quite a few of Robert and Linda's family members had come out. They wore orange t-shirts from Robert and Linda's favorite race, the Disney Marathon. That was a race they lived for. Robert was one of only 158 runners (out of 17,000) to have the "Perfectly Goofy" classification, finishing every single Goofy challenge since the race started in 2006 (The Goofy challenge consists of running a half-marathon on Saturday, then the full marathon on Sunday). Robert and Linda were about to go to Florida to run it again when they were tragically killed. They even hosted the very popular Disney Running site.

Two beautiful sets of (biodegradable) balloons are released at the start of the race

It is still hard to believe they are no longer with us. Over the years, it has been a great pleasure to get to know Robert and Linda. There are very few race directors that consistently put on such a large number of high-quality ultrarunning events.

Gretchen, Catherine, and Ray

One of Robert and Linda's aid station organizers, Brad McGrew, talks about how it was to work with them

Frequent grand prix race runner, Ron Peck, thanks Robert and Linda

Norm Klein talks about Robert and Linda's top-notch race directing and volunteering

Heading out on the trail

We decided to walk and run the Memorial Run with the whole family. It started in Auburn and followed the Western States trail down to No Hands bridge, on the trails where a lot of the ultrarunner races were held. It was a gorgeous day to be out and about.

Runners enjoy the beautiful day

Robert and Linda inconspicuously created a stage for all of us to grow both physically and emotionally, to develop great friendships, to test and continuously improve ourselves. They were always there, taking care of us with a smile, a stopwatch, and a finish-line meal.

Sean, Rocky, and Vicky walking up the Western States trail

Norm Klein said, "unless you have been a race director, you have no idea about how much work it really is to pull these events off."I had promised to bring some refreshments to the Memorial Run and just putting together the coolers, buying water, bags of ice, some snacks, and Gatorade for the pot-luck style barbecue gave me a better understanding of what is involved in putting a race together and a deeper respect for Robert and Linda.

With Gretchen at the finish line

As a runner, it is easy to show up at a race while caught up in your time and your splits. By the way, all of those people who always ask "what do you think about on those long runs?" have probably not run any grand prix races—the point calculations can more than keep you busy out there! With Robert and Linda's races there simply was nothing else to worry about; their races ran like well-oiled machines and it is only when you hear of other races that are having all kinds of trouble that you realize how well they were prepared.

Ed Walsh powers over No Hands Bridge

We hiked the first part of the trail and without a clock ticking at the finish line we had a little more time to stop and look around. We were treated to a rare, up-close view of a bald eagle taking off out of the canyon and flying towards Auburn. A magnificent and comforting sight.

On eagle's wings

The trails brought back many memories. One of these flashbacks was the Gold Country 20-Miler, which was run on the same exact trail. In that race I had an added incentive to race hard: I had to catch a plane to Europe an hour and a half or so after my estimated finish time. It's amazing what one will do to gather ultrarunner grand prix points!

Matt Thau and his girlfriend on their way back

Of course, No Hands Bridge in particular brought back many memories of the exciting grand prix series in 2007. Scott Dunlap took a wrong turn at the bridge's aid station, causing him to lose some valuable points.

It then became such a close race that it wasn't decided until the very last race in the series (in the end the difference was only 1.5 points out of a 282 point total). We'll forever cherish our many memories from these races. Unfortunately Scott could not make it today, but he created a beautiful memorial site close to where the accident happened in Incline Village.

Rocky at No Hands Bridge

Robert and Linda's accident made me think off the Greek myth about Baucis and Philemon. Baucis and Philemon were a couple known for their hospitality—very much like Robert and Linda who would always accommodate everybody who wanted to come and run their races. In the Greek myth, Zeus visited their town in disguise and they were the only ones that welcomed him into their home. For their "guest friendship," Zeus granted them a wish and they requested to stay together forever and that when it came time for one of them to die, the other would die as well. It is hard to come to grips with this terrible accident, but in a way it helps knowing that they were and will continue on together, like the balloons and the eagle we saw soaring into the sky this morning. Robert and Linda, rest in peace dear friends.

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