Chanman's Blog

A Championship Day

A Championship Day

A Championship Day

Since getting into running and coaching, I have been less fanatical about the typical professional sports (and teams) that dominated my attention growing up. More LetsRun. Less Sports Illustrated. But the Seattle Seahawks recent run to the Super Bowl re-kindled the sports fan buried deep inside me.

A lifelong Seahawks fan!

A lifelong Seahawks fan!

I became a Seahawk fan back in 1978. I must have liked the logo on their helmet. There was also something special about the lefthanded quarterback, Jim Zorn, and his favorite receiver, Steve Largent. During that 1978 season the Seahawks beat the local Oakland Raiders two times to finish with a record of 9-7. It was not spectacular, nor was it enough to make the playoffs. But for an expansion team in just their third year of existence, it was a solid season. They finished with more wins than losses for the first time and were the first team to beat the Raiders twice in a season in 13 years. The Seahawks of this era were known for their trick plays such as fake field goals and fake punts, onside kicks and scrambles by their quarterback. I was hooked – a fan for life! Little did I know that cheering for the Seahawks would lead to many sad days. When it wasn’t football season and the Seahawks weren’t disappointing me, I had the Houston Astros to step in and break my heart instead. Let’s just say, there haven’t been a lot of championship days for me and my sports teams.

In 2013 on Super Bowl Sunday, I was home sick in bed with pneumonia. For the first time in many many years, I missed the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon. It was heartbreaking to stay home on what most of us in Pamakids consider the biggest day of the year. In the afternoon, I watched Super Bowl XLVII from my bed.

This year was a totally different experience. I have been inspired by my Pamakid teammates and I’ve been training consistently to build back the base that I lost during my two bouts with pneumonia last year. I’ve been giddy with excitement for the Seahawks and Super Bowl XLVIII, reading every article and story that I can get my hands on and watching video after video in preparation for the big game. “I’ve been waiting for this game since 1978,” I told my wife Malinda, every night when she implored that I turn off the device and go to sleep.

I see a little bit of Pete Carroll in my coaching style. I like my teams to have fun but I also hold them to a high level of expectations. If you are on my team, you are expected to commit and work hard. Watching Carroll run up and down the sidelines, cheering on his team and constantly handing out pats on the backside and high fives reminds me of what I do at meets. His post-game speeches have given me new material for my post-meet huddles. And his mantras!? “Tell the Truth Monday.” “Competition Wednesday.” “Turnover Thursday.” “Each game is a championship opportunity.” I love that cheesy stuff!

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson’s leadership and dedication has been truly inspiring. He went to last year’s Super Bowl just to get a feel for what the experience would be like because he planned to make it to the Super Bowl this year. I read story after story about Wilson’s upbringing, how his grandfather instilled a work ethic in his father and how his father passed it down to him. “Why not us?” Wilson told his Seahawk teammates back in training camp, as he planted the seed that the Seahawks’ goal should be to win the Super Bowl.

On the morning of February 2, 2014, I awoke to the sound of raindrops. As we are in the midst of a drought, it was welcome news for us Californians. But not exactly great news for the runners at the 31st annual Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon and 5K. Before the race I tried to keep everyone positive and upbeat. In our team huddle before the race I reminded the team that while every day was a great day to be a Pamakid, that today was an especially great day to be a Pamakid. Then I looked people in the eyes and told them stick to their race plan despite the rain. “Be patient early. The race still starts at the Great Highway and I’ll be there to remind you of that,” I yelled, “Go Green on three!” I felt like I was leading the Seahawks huddle before they took the field for Super Bowl XLVIII.

The race unfolded beautifully. At the seven mile mark on the Great Highway, I saw most every Pamakid. I then ran over to the mile to go mark and waited for the return of the runners. In particular, I remember seeing Zack Hedling approach. I checked my watch. It read 1 hour, 14 minutes. If he wanted to achieve his goal of running a sub-1:20, he had six minutes to get in. Yelling like Pete Carroll, or like I do when coaching the Sacred Heart Cathedral team, I got in Zack’s face, “You can break 1:20 but you need to go now! Six minutes to glory!”

It was a glorious day for the Pamakids. In 2009, Zack was out top finisher in 99th place with a time of 1:24. In 2008, Adam Lucas was our top finisher in 59th place with a time of 1:22. This year, we had 5 runners in the top 59, all with times of 1:20 or faster. We’ve come a long way. Steve Lloyd was our first top 10 finisher in a long time, running an unbelievable 1:12:13.

Zack and Denis draft off another runner into the headwind on the Great Highway on their way to PR's.

Zack and Denis draft off another runner into the headwind on the Great Highway on their way to PR’s.

Reading on Facebook (isn’t that the now official way of finding out if someone is pleased with their race or not) I read several excited status updates. Yes, it was a good day for the Pamakids:

-          As mentioned already, Steve in 7th place (1:12) and Zack, sub-1:20.

-          Matt H with a one minute PR of 1:18.

-          Denis with yet another small PR as he inches closer and closer to 1:20 flat.

-          Fiona pleased with her 1:40.

-          Danielle H very pleased to run 8 minutes faster than last year with a 1:40.

-          Marlyss and Catrine both pleased to be close to their PR’s despite the wind and rain.

-          Akemi, shooting for a 1:53 and running 1:49.

-          Jodi, not only breaking 2 hours, but also kicking in to break 1:59.

-          Jim, running 6 minutes faster than in 2011.

-          Karen, with a six minute course PR and knocking on the door of the 2 hour mark.

-          Keith, Jeannie, and Theo all placing first in their respective age divisions.

-          Marcia with a big last mile in the 5K.

As I settled in to watch Super Bowl XLVIII I was already excited from all the great race performances I had just witnessed. It turns out, there was one more grand performance left on this memorable day.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer writer David Nemhauser posted a blog the morning before the game. In the final paragraph, he eloquently expressed what Seahawk fans were feeling and showed his confidence that the Seahawks would win the championship:

The climb to get to this point has been long and treacherous. Fans deserve to savor every moment. Our shared history is marked by a collection of near-misses and nearly hopeless mediocrity. In a world permeated by equivocation and murkiness, we gather today to celebrate the opportunity for crystal clarity. One team will win. One franchise will walk away with an accomplishment that can never be undone. Seahawks fans know which team that will be. The rest of the world finds out tonight.

The Seahawks journey, much like the half marathoners’, was long and treacherous. I am trying to savor every moment from the race and the Super Bowl. February 2, 2014 was a Championship Day like no other!

The 6th Runner

Posted in Coaching,Pamakid Runners by Andy Chan on September 4, 2013
Tags: , , , ,

In cross country, a team’s score is based on the finishing places of its first five runners. Runners number six and seven are called displacers – they have the opportunity to displace other teams’ runners by placing ahead of other teams’ scorers (i.e. their top five runners). The sixth runner also has important value in the event of a tie between teams, as in most competitions, the tie is broken by which team has the higher placing sixth runner.

If all of this seems pretty hypothetical and “not likely” to happen, guess again. More times than you might imagine, the sixth runner can make a big difference in the final results.

Last year at the Pacific Association Cross Country Race at the Presidio, the Pamakids and West Valley Joggers and Striders (WVJ&S) were in a tight battle in the masters race.

The results went like this:


Denis was the hero at the 2012 Presidio Challenge.

Denis was the hero at the 2012 Presidio Challenge.

1. Jose Pina, WVJ&S

2. Anthony McGrath, Pamakids

3. Jorn Jensen, WVJ&S

4. Other team

5. Andrew Chan, Pamakids

6. Adam Lucas, Pamakids

7. Adam Prince, WVJ&S

8. Robert Palos, WVJ&S

9 & 10. Other team

11. Jerry Flanagan, Pamakids

12. Other team

13. Richard Martinez, Pamakids

14. Other team

15. Denis Glenn, Pamakids

16-17. Other team

18. Andy Williams, WVJ&S

19-21. Other team

22. Tomas Palermo, Pamakids

23. Other team

24. Tom Fahey, WVJ&S

25. Jimmy Forbis, WVJ&S

Pamakids    2  5  6  11  13  (15)  (22)  = 37

WVJ&S        1  3  7   8   18  (24)  (25) = 37

The Pamakids took 1st place in this race because Denis, as the Pamakid sixth runner, displaced the WVJ&S fifth runner, Williams, a crucial one point. Without Denis, Williams places one spot higher (17th) and WVJ&S would beat Pamakids 36-37. Instead, Denis displaces Williams one place, thus creating a 37-37 tie that is broken by the higher placing sixth runner. Denis won the tie-breaker placing 15th as compared to the WVJ&S sixth runner, who placed 24th.

If you think that was an isolated incident, you would be mistaken. The sixth runner was the hero again for the Pamakids last weekend at the Empire Open race in Santa Rosa. This time it was a tight battle for third place (and third place in the Open Men’s division does get prize money) between Pamakids and the Wolfpack.

The results went like this:

Merick, seen here at the 2013 Couples Relay, was the hero at the 2013 Empire Open.

Merick, seen here at the 2013 Couples Relay, was the hero at the 2013 Empire Open.

1-10. Other team

11. Simon Novich, Pamakids

12. Alex Esparza, Wolfpack

13-14. Other team

15. Casey Strange, Wolfpack

16. Other team

17. Joe Tomkins, Wolfpack

18. Matt Herzog, Pamakids

19-21. Other team

22. Zachary Hedling, Pamakids

23. Ryan Pletzke, Pamakids

24. Other team

25. Benjamin Willis, Pamakids

26. Eric Huynh, Wolfpack

27. Other team

28. Merick Dang, Pamakids

29. Bjorn Samson, Wolfpack

Pamakids    11  18  22  23  25  (28) = 99

Wolfpack    12  15  17  26  29          = 99

Merick, like Denis the year before, really was the hero for the Pamakids. By placing 28th, he displaced Samson to 29th place. Without Merick, Samson is 28th and the Wolfpack beat the Pamakids, 98-99. But thanks to Merick beating Samson, the Wolfpack score was pushed up to 99, creating a tie, and Merick broke the tie and gave Pamakids third place by being the faster sixth runner (Wolfpack didn’t have a sixth runner).

I don’t have the exact statistics, but I am quite certain I have been on the winning side of more sixth runner tie breaker situations than the losing side. At one memorable Sacred Heart Cathedral league finals meet in 2005, both our JV Girls and Sophomore Boys beat Mitty on the sixth runner tie-breaker (and the Freshmen Boys beat Mitty by one point).

I like to think that one reason the teams that I am associated with come out ahead in these close scenarios, is that I preach the importance of always running like every place will matter, whether you are in the front, the middle, or the back of the pack. Racing with that mentality is often worth one or two points for the team and more often than you might think, those points make a difference in the final team standings.

Keep these stories in mind when you need motivation to keep pushing in the last half mile of a race. You never know when you might score a valuable point or two for your team and be the hero!

The Last Night


Tonight is our last night in Moscow at the 2013 IAAF World Championships. Just like in Beijing, Berlin, Daegu, and London, I have mixed emotions. I am both sad that this current adventure is about to end but also ready to be back home.

There is a little bit of a letdown when a global championship comes to its conclusion. Usually during the last month before an Olympics or World Championships, I spend a lot of time thinking about Shannon Rowbury’s race. I scout the competition, research splits from previous meets, and consider a variety of race strategies and tactics. On Shannon’s race days I feel nervous. And when she’s done competing, I feel pride. But also a little bit of emptiness as this goal race that has been on my mind for at least a month (often longer) is over. “What do I do with myself now?” is what I often end up thinking to myself.

Spending ten days at a global championship for me is like having Christmas ten days in a row. I have almost no concerns each day except what time do we need to get to the track and what event is happening tonight.

I love watching athletes competing in track & field at the highest level. There’s so much excitement, emotion, and drama. Just tonight in the span of one hour, I felt exhilaration for Matthew Centrowitz when he found an opening and sprinted to a silver medal in the 1500, I felt empathy for a courageous Alysia Montano, who just couldn’t hold on in the 800, and I felt frustration when the US women had a bad exchange in the 4X100 meter relay. Taking the kid on Christmas Day analogy one step further, I was a kid on Christmas Day opening presents when Centro saw me waving my US flag as he took his victory lap and he pointed at me. Yes, I am going to miss being at this meet every night.

Lunch at Cafe Pushkin the day after Shannon finished 7th at the 2013 World Championships

Lunch at Cafe Pushkin the day after Shannon finished 7th at the 2013 World Championships

Today, as often happens at the end of the meet, we got to spend some time with Shannon. We had lunch at Cafe Pushkin and grabbed some pies at Stolle. It’s nice to just spend time with her (and Pablo) and talk a little track, but mostly exchange stories about this current adventure. Like I said on Facebook, it really is a privilege to be at a World Championship meet and feel nervous before a race.

All that being said, I am also ready to get out of town.

Beijing Daegu, and Moscow were particularly challenging trips because of the language barrier (so many Germans speak English that Berlin was nowhere near the same challenge). Every outing, every meal, and every trip to the bathroom required mental thought and that can be draining. We also keep pretty long hours when on the road. The meet tends to be a night meet so we often do not get back to our room until midnight. E-mails and internet surfing tend to occupy another hour or more. Come seven the next morning, I am usually up and ready to do some sightseeting. After all, it’s a limited amount of time we’ll be in this foreign land. No point sleeping the time away. All of this hyperactivity, however, can leave one pretty tired by the end of ten days.

On top of all that, in Moscow, we had to do a lot of walking to get around. The subway was 0.75 miles from the hotel and the subway stop nearest the stadium was a 0.5 mile walk. Just getting from the hotel to the stadium and back required 2.5 miles of walking. Malinda and I estimate that we walked about 55 miles while here in Moscow, so over five miles a day. No wonder I am so tired.

Probably the main reason that I look forward to being back in San Francisco is to see the SHC team and start cross country season and to see my Pamakid teammates and tell them stories about Moscow. The official start of the cross country season is August 19. My assistant coaches will be running practice because I’ll spend most of the day in an airplane traveling home. But I’ll be there on August 20. There may or may not be another Shannon Rowbury on this year’s team, but I still plan to put all my heart into coaching this group and making them the best runners that they can be – just like I did with Shannon and everyone else that’s been on the team over the past fifteen years.

Good night and good bye, Moscow. Thanks for a memorable trip!

Trials Day


Cheering Shannon at the 2013 World Championships. Photo by Paul Merca.

Cheering Shannon at the 2013 World Championships. Photo by Paul Merca.

As everyone who follows my coaching style knows, I hate Trial Days. If you are one of the favorites then nothing real good can happen, only something bad. If you qualify on, it’s no big deal because you were supposed to. If you don’t qualify on, it’s a disaster. I often use the phrase, “live to run again,” when giving instructions to my athletes at trials.

Today (Wednesday, August 14) was a Trials Day.

On most of Shannon’s trials days at global championships in the past I have been quite nervous – usually indicated by me not talking much (so only Malinda really knows that I am nervous). Interestingly, neither Malinda or I were as nervous as usual today. Last night I was super tired from all the walking we’ve been doing and the less than six hours of sleep we’ve been getting. Upon waking this morning, I was more tired than nervous.

There’s also something to be said about the 5000 trials being less stressful than 1500 trials. In the 5000, Shannon could control more variables and there would be more time to deal with problems during the race (getting boxed in, not the pace desired, etc.). I really felt like Shannon should cruise to the 5000 final….and she did.

After a super slow first 800, the pace picked up in such a way that with about six laps to go, it was apparent who the top five would be because there was a sizeable gap back to sixth place. That’s when I started yelling to Shannon that she was clear. In high school, I told Shannon she was never to look back in a race except in a trials race when it was okay to look back to check your position. I think she may still employ this strategy. Over the last lap she checked behind her several times and definitely jogged in the last half lap when she knew she was going to place in the top five and qualify on.

In the end, the times were very slow in Shannon’s heat 1. That led to all the time qualifiers coming from heat 2, where ten out of the eleven runners qualified for the final.

After the race we met up with Shannon, her parents, coach, and boyfriend and went to the Nike House with them for some food and relaxation. With the trials behind us, there was no need to talk track. Instead, we could focus on swapping Russia travel stories. But unspoken throughout the afternoon was the fact that Shannon’s in a great spot. It should be an exciting 5000 meter final and with her speed, if she can hang around with the leaders until it’s time to kick…..well, you just never know.

Opening Night in Moscow

The view from our seats at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.

The view from our seats at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.

I’ve been to a lot of track & field meets in my lifetime. Often things happen at meets that stick in my mind – sometimes something big and sometimes something small. Tonight, on the opening night of the fourteenth IAAF World Championships in Moscow, two things, both small, occurred that stuck in out in my mind.

First, after the men’s 10,000 meters, Mo Farah was beginning his celebratory victory lap surrounded by photographers. I noticed some British fans in front of us waving their UK flags. I told Malinda to have her camera ready because Mo might stop in front of our section, because of these UK fans, and do the “Mobot.” Sure enough, he did (photo coming when we can get to a computer with a USB port). After that, Mo motioned to one of the UK fans for his Union Jack flag – Mo needed a flag for the traditional photos and victory lap. The man tossed his flag to a photographer, who was gracious enough to take it to Mo. “Wow!” I thought to myself….what an honor to have Mo take YOUR flag for all these photos and the victory lap! “That guy is going to have a story to tell his running buddies when he gets home,” I told Malinda.

This reminds me of a story from the 2011 World Championships in Daegu. We had great seats, right by the finish line in around row fifteen. After the men’s 5000, I was on my feet waving a US flag and cheering for Lagat. Suddenly, “Kip” looked up into the stands. He was looking for a US flag for the victory lap that all three medalists take. I swear Lagat looked at my flag and our eyes locked for a moment. Then someone closer (maybe around row eight) got his attention and Lagat ended up taking that person’s flag. I was THAT close to having my own, “my flag went on a victory lap” story.

But I digress…

The second small thing from tonight happened with Usain Bolt. As Bolt came out for his heat of the 100 meter rounds, the somewhat sparse crowd in Luzhniki Stadium went wild. It was the loudest the crowd was all night. Malinda and I had a short discussion about whether or not track & field has ever had an icon like Usain Bolt. I think the answer is no. Bolt is the first, the current, and possibly the greatest most recognizable athlete that the sport has and will ever see. Bolt is a world record holder, he competes in multiple events and is thus a multiple time champion, and he knows how to play to the crowd.

In the final moments before the race, Bolt removed his sweats and placed them into the sweats basket. I was thinking to myself, will Bolt interact with the volunteer who is in charge of carrying his sweats. In Berlin at the 2009 World Championships, Bolt was always playful with the volunteers. But Russians are known to be quite serious and maybe he would resist the temptation. But luckily, Usain Bolt is Usain Bolt. He fist pumped the volunteer and then made his way to his starting blocks. I loved it! That young volunteer will have a story for the rest of his life about giving Usain Bolt a fist pump before his race.

The first day of ten days at the 2013 World Championships is in the books. It was a great night of small things.

The opening ceremonies were not small at all.

The opening ceremonies were not small at all.

For the Fifth Time

We made our Go Shannon banner in our hotel room in Beijing at the 2008 Olympics after an adventure buying the necessary art supplies.

We made our Go Shannon banner in our hotel room in Beijing at the 2008 Olympics after an adventure buying the necessary art supplies.

For the fifth time, Malinda and I are off to an international destination to watch a global track & field championship. In 2008 it was Beijing, 2009 it was Berlin, 2011 it was Daegu, 2012 it was London, and now in 2013 it’s Moscow. Thanks to good timing, Shannon Rowbury and I both arrived at Sacred Heart Cathedral fifteen years ago, in the fall of 1998. The next four years were filled with fun times as I experienced coaching a state champion. The last five years have been equally fun, traveling the world to cheer for her at the Olympics and the World Championships. Each year has been slightly different.

2008 – Everything was brand new to us (and Shannon) in 2008 and it all happened so fast. In May she was chasing the Olympic A standard. By July she was the US Olympic Trials champion and the owner of a new 1500 PR of 4:00. By August, we were in the Bird’s Nest cheering her on to a seventh place finish.

2009 – Things were different in Berlin for the 2009 World Championships. Shannon was one of the favorites and the expectations and pressure were a lot higher. We rode an emotional rollercoaster watching her fall in the first round and move on only because of a successful protest. Then in the final, she was in the front pack, then someone fell and Shannon dropped back and crossed the line fourth. But there was a protest and after an hour of nervous waiting the winner was disqualified and Shannon was a World Championship bronze medalist.

We added some German to the banner in Berlin in 2009 and took a photo with Shannon and Sherie. Notice the bronze medal Shannon is wearing.

We added some German to the banner in Berlin in 2009 and took a photo with Shannon and Sherie. Notice the bronze medal Shannon is wearing.

2011 – Unbeknown to most, Shannon was battling an Achilles injury for much of the 2011 season. It took everything she had to kick by Christin Wurth-Thomas by one-hundredth of a second to get the third and final qualifying spot for the Daegu World Championships.  Her parents didn’t make the trip to South Korea, so we were Shannon’s surrogate family on that trip and were there to cheer her up when she failed to qualify for the final.

2012 – We were fortunate to be able to buy Olympic tickets through Shannon and USATF back in December of 2010 because it’s become almost impossible for the average person to buy Olympic tickets, even if you’re willing to pay scalpers’ prices. Watching the women’s 1500 in London, I have to admit, was frustrating because so many of the top contenders were shrouded in doping allegations. Shannon placed sixth but we couldn’t help but feel she was probably much higher among the clean athletes.

2013 – Shannon is competing in a different event. At the US Championships she came in fourth in the 1500, which was not good enough to qualify. She came back the very next day and tenaciously ran the 5000 and qualified for the World Championships in a new event!

Good luck wishes in Korean were added for the 2011 World Championships in Daegu.

Good luck wishes in Korean were added for the 2011 World Championships in Daegu.

I know that I am lucky and blessed to be going on these trips to cheer for Shannon. First and foremost, I am lucky to have a wife who despite the moniker “Track Widow,” doesn’t leave me alone every summer. She is willing to go with me on all these trips, which is a good thing because I don’t know if I am adventurous enough to go alone. Five out of the last six summers our summer vacation was to an international locale for a track meet. The one summer we didn’t travel to another continent, we drove halfway across the country to Iowa and then back via Eugene to watch track meets!

The second way in which I am quite lucky is to have been Shannon’s high school coach. It’s pretty rare to coach someone who goes on to compete in college. It’s rarer still to coach someone who goes on to compete at the national level. And rarer still to coach someone who goes on to compete at an international championship. Well, not only has Shannon competed for Team USA at an international championship, she’s done it five times! Since football season is just about to begin, to put this in football terms, not only did the kid I coach play in college, get drafted by an NFL team, and earn a starting job for an NFL team – they’re a five-time All-Pro player, to boot!

Over the last eleven years going back to 2003, there have been nine global championships (either an Olympics or a World Championships). The only years without one were 2006 and 2010. I looked up the roster of US distance runners over this time span (see chart: US Distance Teams_2003 to 2013). During this period there were 321 slots on the USA team in the men’s and women’s 800, 1500, 5000, 10,000, 3000 steeplechase, and marathon. Those spots were filled by 156 different people. Out of those 156 people, 16 in particular have been the dominant distance runners of this era, qualifying for USA teams five or more times. That’s the company that Shannon is in.

The most dominant USA distance runner of this era is Shalane Flanagan. She has qualified for every US team since the 2004 Athens Olympics, a string of eight straight global championships. Right behind her with seven is 800 meter runner Khadevis Robinson. There are seven runners tied with six global championships: Nick Symmonds, Bernard Lagat, Leo Manzano, Galen Rupp, Dathan Ritzenheim, Jenny Simpson, and Jen Rhines. Of those, Symmonds, Lagat, Manzano, Rupp, and Simpson have a current streak of making six straight USA national teams. There seven more runners tied with five global championships during this era: Abdi Abdirahman, Matt Tengenkamp, Hazel Clark, Kara Goucher, Deena Kastor, Alice Schmidt and Shannon. Out of these, only Shannon has a current streak going with five straight teams made. Of note, if my chart went back further it would be seen that Abdirahman has qualified for seven national teams, including four Olympics (2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012).

My list is somewhat skewed because while the Olympic Marathon is quite glamorous, the World Championships Marathon is not seen as a must-try-to-make team. The top USA marathon runners will often forego the World Championships Marathon in favor of competing at a big city fall marathon like Chicago or New York. Thus, names like Ryan Hall and Meb Keflezighi appear less on my chart than they would if the World Championships Marathon was more highly regarded.

In any case, these sixteen runners, who I consider the dominant USA distance runners of this era, have earned twelve out of the fourteen medals won by distance runners since 2003. Lagat is the only one with multiple medals, winning the gold in the 1500 and 5000 in 2007 in Osaka, a silver (5000) and bronze (1500) in 2009 in Berlin, and a silver (5000) in 2011 in Daegu. Those with one medal in their collection are: Kastor (bronze, 2004 marathon), Goucher (bronze, 2007 10,000), Flanagan (bronze, 2008 10,000), Simpson (gold, 2011 1500), Rupp (silver, 2012 10,000), Manzano (silver, 2012 10,000), and Shannon (bronze, 2009 1500). The only two medalists who aren’t among this “dominant fraternity of this era”  are Meb (silver; 2004 marathon) and Matt Centrowitz (bronze, 2011 1500).

What does all that mean? I don’t know but it was a fun chart to make instead of doing what I was supposed to be doing, which was packing.

You’d think that after five trips we’d have this packing thing down. But, no. The last couple days have been filled with laundry and picking out what to bring with an occasional break to check letsrun or study Ken Nakamura’s World Championship stats on the women’s 5000. I think we’re ready now, though.

USA flag? Check!

Go Shannon banner? Check!

Talk to you from Moscow! Время разговора для вас из Москвы

No new language needed in 2012 in London. And there's still some space left to add some Russian in 2013.

No new language needed in 2012 in London. And there’s still some space left to add some Russian in 2013.

Who Is Cory McGee?

Cory McGee racing at the 2013 USA Championships. Photo by Paul Merca

Cory McGee racing at the 2013 USA Championships. Photo by Paul Merca

Congratulations are in order for Cory McGee, who by running under the IAAF B standard for the 1500 meters with a time of 4:06.67, stamped her ticket to the World Championships in Moscow later this summer. McGee’s time was well under the 4:09.00 that she needed and was more than a three second PR.

McGee’s previous best time of 4:09.85 came on July 6. On July 13, running at the KBC Night of Athletics meet in Heusden, Belgium, McGee shattered the 4:09 mark.  She went out hard and was right behind the rabbit, coming through the 400 and 800 meter marks in 63 and 2:08. She hit the bell at 2:59 and the 1200 mark at 3:16 and was in second place. She faded somewhat over the last half lap to finish in seventh, but what was important was the time, which was easily under the B standard. She now joins Treniere Moser, Mary Cain, and Jenny Simpson as the US representatives in the 1500.

McGee’s 4:06.67 ties her for third fastest collegian in history, with some pretty illustrious company.  The three women with her on the chart have all won medals at international championships. Two of them are foreigners who attended US colleges, so out of American collegians, McGee is number two behind only her 1500 meter Moscow teammate, Jenny (Barringer) Simpson.

Name School Time Year Achievement
Jenny (Barringer) Simpson Colorado 3:59.90 2009 2011 World Championship Gold in the 1500
Hannah England Florida St 4:06.19 2008 2011 World Championship Silver in the 1500 for the UK
Sally Kipyego Texas Tech 4:06.67 2008 2011 World Championship Silver and 2012 Olympic Silver in the 10,000 for Kenya
Cory McGee Florida 4:06.67 2013  


I have been paying particular attention to McGee’s pursuit of the B standard because whether or not she got the time would have a direct effect on Shannon Rowbury. If McGee didn’t get the time by the July 20 deadline, Shannon would have been the final USA qualifier in the 1500. Having also qualified in the 5000 meters (and having been training for the 5000 for the last several weeks), Shannon would have had a tough decision to make. But now that decision has been made. The 5000 it is for Shannon!

I must admit that prior to June 22 of this year, I did not know who Cory McGee was. But on June 22, at the USA Championships, possibly acclimated to the hot and humid conditions from growing up in Mississippi and attending school in Florida, McGee placed third in the 1500 meters in a slow tactical race. Ahead of her were Moser and Cain. One place and less than half a second behind her was Shannon. It was a great accomplishment for the twenty-one year old from Florida University, who came into the USA Championships as the twelfth seed and out of the finalists had only the eighth fastest PR. Her third place finish did not ensure a birth on Team USA for Moscow, however. First she had to chase the B standard, which she successfully did.

Prior to all of this, McGee has had a very solid career that, in lieu of her recent 4:06, deserves some attention. Her dad, Jim, played football in the mid-70’s at Florida. Jim took a job as FBI security liaison for the 2004 Athens Olympics so the family moved to Greece temporarily. While there, as a sixth grader, she ran cross country for an American school and her first meet was in Egypt. Shortly after her family returned to the US, Hurricane Katrina devastated her town of Pass Christian, Mississippi (a beach town along the Gulf of Mexico between New Orleans and Mobile). The McGee’s temporarily lived in New Mexico with Cory’s great grandmother.

When they returned to Pass Christian, McGee’s running career really took off. This is all the more amazing when you consider that Pass Christian High School, with an enrollment of four hundred, did not have a cross country team when McGee first started there. In 2006, at the age of thirteen, McGee set a new world record in the indoor mile for her age (4:49.32). During her high school career she won 22 state championships (17 in track and five in cross country). She was the Gatorade Mississippi Runner of the Year three times in cross country and three times in track. She holds Mississippi state records in cross country and on the track in the 800, 1600, and 3200. In 2007, in cross country, she qualified for Foot Locker Nationals where she was 27thplace. Also running at the same 2007 Foot Locker Nationals meet were her future Moscow teammates Jordan Hasay, Chris Derrick, and Ryan Hill.

An interesting comparison is the high school PR’s by McGee and Shannon.

  Cory McGee ‘10 Shannon Rowbury ‘02
800 meters 2:10.04 2:08.52
1500 meters 4:25.88 4:30.28
1600 meters 4:49 4:51.0
3000 meters none 9:38.41
3200 meters 10:39.57 10:50.55
5K XC 17:29 17:52


Currently a junior in college, McGee has accumulated numerous accolades at the NCAA level. She has earned All-American status seven times in her first three years at Florida. In 2011 she was the Southeast Conference (SEC) Freshman Indoor Runner of the Year. In her primary event, the 1500 meters, she has steadily improved each year, tenth as a freshman in 2011, sixth as a sophomore in 2012, and second as a junior this past June 2013.

Given her impressive past, it probably should come as no surprise that the latest addition to McGee’s running resume is Team USA for the 2013 World Championships. Good luck, Cory!

Crewing the 2013 Western States 100

Pamakids at the 2013 Western States 100

Pamakids at the 2013 Western States 100

When three Pamakids (Colin Alley, John Gieng, and Janeth Badaracco Siva) were selected in the lottery to run the 2013 Western States, I knew that June 29 and 30, 2013 were going to become important days in Pamakid Running Lore. Tony Rossmann helped me confirm that having three Pamakids in Western States was most likely a club-first. Doing something for the first-time in a club that’s over forty years old and steeped in tradition is no easy feat. I wanted the club to celebrate the event, which is why I encouraged the Board of Directors to approve some funds to offset the cost for a pre-Western States club picnic.

I also knew that I would likely head up to Squaw Valley and Auburn, not necessarily to crew for anyone but to cheer on our runners. I had previously attended the 1995 Western States race as a podiatry student, so I had an idea of what I was getting myself into – a lot of driving on windy roads, a lot of waiting around either in the heat or in the dark, and not a lot of sleep.

Cool! Let’s do this!

Malinda and I stayed overnight at our friend Whitney’s place in Truckee.

Saturday, 3:20am – The alarm goes off and our day begins….sort of.

3:32am – I make my French Press coffee. Technically, NOW the day begins!

French press. 3:32am.

French press. 3:32am.

4:10am – I am really glad that we drove to Squaw Valley the day before to have dinner with the gang. As a result, we know where to go to get to the start area for Western States. It might not have been so easy in the dark without the knowledge we gained the day before. There’s a lot of energy in the air.

It's almost race time.

It’s almost race time.

4:45am – A Go Green cheer before the start of Western States. I believe this was the first pre-Western States 100 Go Green cheer in club history!

5:00am – The race begins.

5:09am – Malinda and I help some race officials take down the starting line arch. This prompts a strange dream that I have later.

Always willing to lend a helping hand.

Always willing to lend a helping hand.

6:00-8:00am – A short nap back at Whitney’s. I dream that we are back at Squaw Valley after the start of the race. I ask what happens if someone is late starting the race because they take down the starting arch so quickly after the race begins. Someone responds that, “NO ONE is going to be late for the start of Western States,” to which I respond, “What do you mean? Malinda’s right here and she’s supposed to be racing!” The race official says that Malinda can start now, and as long as she catches the safety crew that is sweeping the course by Robinson Flat she can stay in the race. Malinda takes off sprinting and I yell to her, “Pace yourself! You only have to catch the safety crew by mile 29.” Oh boy! Malinda running a 100 miler??!! The race just started and I’m already so sleep deprived that I am having strange dreams!

8:36am – We leave from Truckee and begin our drive westward.

9:37am – We pull off I-80 at Colfax because we know there’s a Starbucks where we can use our devices with the free wireless. I feel somewhat old school because we don’t have a smartphone to help get directions and race updates. Of course I am on my iPad setting up “my favorites” so I can easily get updates on Colin, John, and Janeth whenever I get a wi-fi signal.

Checking the meet sheet and status updates.

Checking the meet sheet and status updates.

10:10am – We buy sandwiches at Subway. Who knows when we will be able to buy food again. Then we’re back in the car and driving towards Dusty Corners.

10:25am – Our first text message update arrives on my flip phone (yeah, old school!) as we’re driving down Foresthill Drive. Colin reached Duncan Canyon at 9:14. Hmmm….the message was over an hour delayed….not exactly live updating. We realize we will need to take that into consideration when navigating our way around the course.

10:49am – We turn right onto Mosquito Ridge road. My printout warns us to “proceed with caution.” The next 23.5 miles are going to be windy and steep. Then we’ll turn on to Road N-44 for five miles, the first two of which will be paved. Why did we decide to go to Dusty Corners again? Oh yeah, because the aid station captain there is Doug White, who is a friend of Jenny Smith from the New Orleans chapter of Pamakids.

10:49am–11:36am – The text updates stop coming because we have no cell phone signal. I’m driving very cautiously and am thankful there are no cars ahead or behind me so I can meander along. Malinda wonders aloud if we are going to get to Dusty Corners before Colin. “We will as long as Colin arrives in the window of time I listed on the meet sheet,” I say, referencing a conversation we had over dinner on Friday, “If he’s early, that’s what he gets. If he’s late, I already told him I won’t cheer for him.” Malinda likely rolled her eyes but I had my eyes on the road like a good driver and therefore didn’t see it.

11:56am – After a potty break on the side of Road N-44 we drive onward. The speeding cars driving the other way piss me off. Just because your runner is on 15 hour pace, doesn’t mean you own the road! We had thought that Dusty Corners was so isolated that there would be hardly anyone there. Nope! We park along the side of the road and end up hiking in about a half mile. We see Jesse, Jenny, and Lavy, experienced ultra runners, who help us figure out where to set-up.

12:29pm – We hike up the trail a short way thinking we have some time before Colin arrives. But all of a sudden, there he is. Malinda is able to take a picture and then we rush back to the aid station so we can talk to Colin. He started conservatively because of the heat (it’s forecast to be over 100 degrees) but ran a good downhill section coming into Dusty Corners. John G’s “hot year” pace chart suggests that Colin is on sub-22 hour pace.

1:20pm – We’re back up the trail waiting for John. I have my iPad out ready to take some video. As runners come by, they see me with the iPad and yell their bib number to me because they think I am a race official recording bib numbers. Sheepishly I tell them all thank you. I start thinking about hiding the iPad behind my back so as to not cause confusion.

Getting ready to take some video. No I'm not a race official.

Getting ready to take some video. No I’m not a race official.

1:42pm – Suddenly we see John coming. He’s the first runner (that I know of) to be racing in the new Pamakids singlet. At the aid station John tells us that he’s really hot and he needs to lower his core temperature. The aid station volunteers give John ice and pour water over his head. A couple minutes later, John’s off.

2:20pm – The challenge with spectating is that you really only have an estimate of what time a runner will arrive. There is a lot of “hurry up and wait” time.

Hurry up and wait....but use your downtime to re-check the meet sheet.

Hurry up and wait….but use your downtime to re-check the meet sheet.

2:40pm – Malinda and I hike up the trail again to wait for Janeth. She’s easy to spot with all her pink. She sounds very positive about how things are going. She rolled her ankle a few miles back but she plans to tape it here and then she’ll be able to push harder on it.

3:23pm – We load up, walk to our car, and leave Dusty Corners. The drive out is less stressful because I know what to expect. We know that we have cell phone reception again when my phone starts beeping like crazy. The thirteen text messages I missed while we were out of range arrive all at once. There’s one voicemail and one text from Jerry but I figure he’s just saying hi so I don’t worry about responding to him right away.

4:27pm – We arrive in Foresthill. There are A LOT of cars and people here. I luck out and someone pulls away and I get their parking space very close to the aid station (and more importantly, the gelato stand). I finally get back to Jerry and it turns out he’s had a rough day. Colin’s car battery died and Jerry’s been dealing with that most of the day. He’s gotten everything taken care of but he’s a little stressed and his most important job, pacing Colin the last 38 miles, is about to begin shortly.

5:30pm – Malinda and I start walking towards Bath Road, where we will meet Colin and run him in to Foresthill. I end up going back to the car three times to make sure I am not over the white line as the Sheriff warns us that they will tow illegally parked vehicles. The Pamakids already have had one car issue, let’s not have a second. As we walk down Bath Road we say hi to all the runners we pass – the ultra running community is very friendly and the runners seem so appreciative that it motivates me to offer even more encouragement everytime I see a runner. Bath Road is a pretty steep hill and every runner we passed has been walking up the hill. Then we see Colin and he’s running! We start running with him up Bath Road. My job was to call Jerry and Erin to let them know when Colin was about 15 minutes away but I have no cell service. When I finally get service we’re more like five minutes away so I hurriedly make my calls.

6:00pm – Colin and Jerry leave Foresthill. I go to buy Malinda the gelato I promised her when we first arrived at this aid station. Our plan had been to go to the hotel to sleep after Foresthill and skip the middle of the night cheering. But Malinda’s having fun, my coughing hasn’t been bad, and who knows if we’ll ever do this again. We decide to connect with Tan and Ray and see if we can tag along with them. I think this is the moment I realized we were crew, not spectators.

Colin with Jerry and his son Cadin leaving Foresthill. Only 38 miles to go (Jerry went with Colin, Cadin went back to the car after 138 yards).

Colin with Jerry and his son Cadin leaving Foresthill. Only 38 miles to go (Jerry went with Colin, Cadin went back to the car after 138 yards).

6:55pm – It’s time to head back to Bath Road to see John. Fatigue is setting in and we happily accept a ride from John Spriggs part of the way.

7:37pm – Ray and John S are tougher than us and they run from Foresthill to Bath Road and all four of us wait for John. When he arrives, he’s clearly pretty tired and he’s not saying too much. We accompany him to Foresthill.

8:14pm – Ray will now pace John for the next 16 miles. We make a plan with Tan – we’ll go get dinner, then leave our car at the hotel and get in the car with Tan. John S joins us for dinner while his carmate, Kelly, remains in Foresthill to cheer on Janeth.

8:38pm – We’re just a mile or two from the hotel but traffic comes to a standstill. We can see that there’s a helicopter landing on the bridge in front of us. Malinda checks it out. It doesn’t seem like a medical emergency and we hear rumors that this is “sheriff activity.” Thankfully it doesn’t last long and we are on the move again.

9:55pm – Malinda and I are now in the car with Tan. He knows where to go, which is a relief because since we didn’t plan to go to this aid station, I hadn’t studied the map. Tan thinks it will take about 40 minutes to get there. But from there we’ll have to hoof it to the river. Based on how John looked when he left Foresthill, I am thinking he won’t arrive at the river until well after midnight but Tan says we should try to get there by 11:45 just in case.

10:37pm – We arrive at the closest parking area to the far side of the river. It’s going to be a 1.25 mile downhill hike to Green Gate and then another 1.75 mile downhill hike to Rucky Chucky Far Side (a.k.a. the river crossing). The parking situation is a mess. Cars are parked on both sides of the road. There are no parking spaces near the trailhead and nowhere to turn around. We need to get the cars behind us to back up and then Tan is going to have to back his car up. I sigh to myself because I feel like Tan needs to get going by 10:45 and if we can’t get parked by then, he’ll have to just go and I’ll have to take over parking the car. The parking gods are with us again, however, and someone pulls out.

10:45pm – We’re parked and we start hiking down to the river. It’s slow going because the trail is dark and not smooth at all. I’m glad we’re walking and not running, but I also don’t know if I would be any faster running.

11:19pm – I get a text message that John arrived at Peachstone aid station at 10:29pm. I tell Tan that we don’t need to rush anymore. John won’t be crossing the river until at least 12:15 and more likely some time between 12:30 and 1:00am.

11:44pm – We arrive at Rucky Chucky and check out the river crossing. Malinda lies down on a large boulder and takes a nap. I’m starting to get tired now, too. I think about the fact that we have to hike three miles uphill back to the car and start feeling even more tired.

Sunday, 12:37am – Suddenly we see Ray and John more than halfway across the river. We cheer them on and all five of us walk up a short hill to enter the aid station area. John is still feeling very hot so he really enjoyed getting wet up to his waist as they crossed the river. We begin the hike up to Green Gate. John is much more talkative than he was at Foresthill. I think he is now pretty confident he’s going to make it to the finish. As we hike, the pace picks up. Tan and Ray are trying to keep John moving at a decent clip. I am the one falling off the back end, but I have the car keys so I am not concerned.

1:19am – We arrive at Green Gate. From here, Tan will take over pacing. John and Tan head out along the race course and Ray, Malinda, and I start walking (more uphill) towards the car. More than once, Malinda thinks she sees something that indicates we are there, only to realize it’s just the headlamp of someone coming down the trail. It’s like seeing a mirage in the desert, only it’s dark out.

1:55am – We’re about as happy to arrive at the car as John will probably be to arrive at Placer High School in a few hours. There’s a chance we could see Colin at the finish but the text message updates are so delayed we really don’t know. We decide we are better off heading to the hotel for a nap before John comes in.

2:17am – The pick-up truck in front of us on Highway 193 is driving very erratically. We think it’s a drunk driver. Ray gives the truck a lot of space and I call 9-1-1 to report the possible drunk driver.

2:41am – We need gas so we stop at Beacon to fill up. I get a text that Colin is at Robie Point. 1.3 miles left.

3:03am – Tower needs food so we go through the drive-thru at Jack in the Box. Malinda asks him to order her some fries. I get a text that Colin is in – 21 hours, 57 minutes!

Jack in the Box Drive Thru at 3:03am. Almost 24 hours since that French Press.

Jack in the Box Drive Thru at 3:03am. Almost 24 hours since that French Press.

Great news!

Great news!

3:20am – We’re in our room at the Comfort Inn. I post to Facebook that Colin is in, just in case there is someone up at 3:20 in the morning and relying on my Facebook status to track Colin’s progress.

3:50-5:50am – A couple hours of much needed sleep. Ray wakes me up before my alarm goes off and suggests that I check the iPad for an update on when John will finish.

6:02am – I still think John is projecting to finish after 7:00am. We have time. Ray and I continue our debate about how to get to Robie Point with a minimum amount of running on our part. We’re so tired that we are considering shuttling cars, rather than running one mile.

6:13am – Tan sends me a text. He and John just crossed No Hands Bridge. We don’t have time. I wake Malinda and tell her we need to go now or we’re going to miss John.

6:33am – There are a zillion cars at Placer High School. We end up parking on a side street, which works out well for us. I have plotted a shortcut route to Robie Point that goes by this side street – we saved another block of running; Ray looks happy. We take off running towards Robie Point. Since we’re taking a shortcut, there is a chance that we may miss John completely and not even know it. I lead the way up a pretty steep hill. Ray lags behind trying to yell directions to us that he’s reading from his iPhone. I keep reminding Malinda and Ray that we only have to run to John; and that John will probably be walking so we will be able to just walk with him.

6:42am – I get a text that John is at Robie Point. We’re a couple blocks away. Then we see him! Tan is playing the Rocky theme from his phone.  John is running, not walking. We’re all so excited that Malinda and Ray don’t give me dirty looks. Not only is John running, he’s running pretty fast. We crest the hill. It’s less than a mile on the streets to the high school. The pace picks up some more. We’re probably running at least an eight minute mile pace. Malinda’s shoe gets un-tied but she doesn’t want to miss this. She hands me the camera and sprints ahead to tie her shoe. We pass her. I worry that she’s going to miss running John in but she sprints back to catch up to us as we enter the high school track. Ray and Malinda are breathing harder than Tan. People are clapping. Kelly runs to the corner of the field, jumping up and down, and taking pictures. The announcer calls John’s name and he sprints down the final straightway to the finish line.

John, running up the hill from Robie Point. One mile to go.

John, running up the hill from Robie Point. One mile to go.

A bunch of us accompanying John on the track at Placer HS in Auburn. Less than a lap to go.

A bunch of us accompanying John on the track at Placer HS in Auburn. Less than a lap to go.

6:54am – John crosses the finish line.



7:32am – We’re sitting on the grass in the shade. Everyone is tired (OK, John deserves to be the most tired but it’s not for sure that he is). We decide that we’ll go back to the hotel so people can shower and then come back to see Janeth finish.

7:50am – I post a picture of John’s finisher medal on Facebook. I think Janeth will finish between 9:30 and 10:00. There’s not really time for a nap.

The back of the Western States finisher medal.

The back of the Western States finisher medal.

8:25am – I’m craving coffee. We decide to head to Starbuck’s to get something to eat and then head to the high school.

9:15am – Malinda and I are sitting in the shade watching runners finish. Ray is hitting the complimentary breakfast line the same way that he and Jerry hit the frozen yogurt samples back at Squaw. I never drink soda but I’m so tired, hot, and thirsty that I start craving a Coke.

9:50am – We see a big mass of pink on the track. It’s Janeth and her pacers, crew, and family. We start cheering and taking pictures.

9:51am – Janeth with her husband and sons cross the finish line.

Janeth runs the final steps of the race with her husband and sons.

Janeth runs the final steps of the race with her husband and sons.

Three Pamakids started the 2013 Western States 100 nearly 29 hours ago, and three Pamakids are now in. All three have earned their buckle. Tony Rossmann e-mails that he believes this is a club record!

Three for three - a club record!

Three for three – a club record!

The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run

Posted in Pamakid Runners,Race/Meet Report by Andy Chan on June 27, 2013
Tags: , , ,


The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run is considered by many to be the ultimate ultra marathon. Their website proclaims the race to be the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile race in the world. The race starts at Squaw Valley near the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics and ends at Placer High School in Auburn, California.

The race began as a race for horses in 1955. That race was known as the Western States Trail Ride or the Tevis Cup “100 Miles One Day” Ride. In 1974 the first two-legged creature, known as an ultra runner ran, the route with the horses. His name was Gordy Ainsleigh and he finished in 23 hours, 42 minutes. In 1977, fourteen men ran the first official Western States Endurance Run, which was held in conjunction with the horse race. Due to an increase in interest, the race for runners separated from the horse race and became its own entity in 1978.

Today the race accepts about 400 runners each year. To gain entry into the race, one must complete, 1) a 50 mile race in under 11 hours, 2) a 100K race in under 15 hours, or 3) a 100 mile trail race. More people qualify and want to run the race than there are spots, so a lottery based system is used to gain entry into the race. Runners receive extra entries into the lottery for each consecutive previous year of not getting into the race. There is also a special bonus drawing on the day of the lottery open only to those who attend the lottery at Placer High School.

The race is not for the faint of heart or the un-trained. The course follows the same trail that gold and silver miners followed in the 1850’s. It’s the middle part of the Western States Trail, a nationally dedicated recreation trail that stretches from Salt Lake City, Utah to Sacramento, California. There is 18,000 feet of elevation gain and nearly 23,000 feet of elevation loss. Temperatures can vary from 20 degrees at night to 110 degrees in the middle of the day. Recently the range has been more like a low in the 50-60’s and a high in the 80-90’s. Runners summit passes and dropdown into canyons. At mile 78 runners, using a guide rope for assistance, must cross the middle fork of the American River.  If conditions are particularly harsh and portions of the normal course are not accessible due to snow, race officials may use one of two snow routes. Also, if the river crossing is deemed to be too dangerous, boats are used to transport the runners across the river.

A total of 1,500 volunteers make sure that the race runs smoothly. The river crossing station alone has 125 volunteers. There are twenty five aid stations with names such as Dusty Corners, Devils Thumb, and Rucky Chucky spread throughout the course. Runners must weigh-in at the ten medical checkpoints. If they have lost more than 5% of their starting weight, they must remain at the aid station and re-fuel and re-hydrate until their weight returns to within 5% of their starting weight.

Runners are allowed a pacer who can accompany them (for safety reasons) from the Foresthill station (mile 62) until the finish.  There are very specific rules about what a pacer may and may not do and violating the rules will lead to runner disqualification.

Since 1998, runners must fulfill a service requirement of eight hours. This service can be trail maintenance or any other volunteer service for a running event. Pacing, crewing, and coaching other runners does not count towards this service requirement.

The Western States awards are among the most prized in the ultra running community – a silver belt buckle for finishing in under 24 hours and a bronze buckle for finishing before the 30 hour cut-off.

The 2013 Western States 100 holds particular interest for me because three Pamakid Runners, a former SHC assistant coach, and a former Pamakid who helped start our current ultra running team will all be running Western States. The three Pamakids are Colin Alley, John Gieng, and Janeth Silva. Mary (Fagan) Churchill is the former SHC coach. And Eduardo Vazquez, who became a father for the first time earlier this month, is the former Pamakid (now Tamalpan).

Good luck to all the runners in this year’s Western States Endurance Run!

Western States 100_Pamakids 3

Good luck, Colin, Janeth, and John. Go Green!

Guest Blog: A Different Year

You could say that Andy and Malinda are big big fans of Shannon Rowbury!

You could say that Andy and Malinda are big big fans of Shannon Rowbury!

Andy and I have been going to the USA Track and Field Championships to watch Shannon compete since 2008. At the five meets we’ve transformed from rookies to experienced spectators. Andy loves track, he lives and breathes it and from him I’ve transformed into a knowledgeable track geek, more informed than the many less dedicated fans that fill the stands around us. For this sixth meet in 2013 we stayed home; did nothing to help fill the vacant backstretch in Iowa.

The Track Widow hugs Shannon after she made the 2008 Olympic Team.

The Track Widow hugs Shannon after she made the 2008 Olympic Team.

In 2008 everything was exciting and new. Alone in the stands waiting for Shannon’s race I was a bundle of nerves. Andy’s return before Shannon’s final didn’t really help. I don’t think I really relaxed until she had won the race. The race spectating nerves have subsided, but only a little. Nervous anticipation, screaming with the crowd, and celebrating; every year we’ve been there to be a part of it.

We both wanted to be there in person again this year to support Shannon, and to enjoy the meet in a way that’s not possible on TV, but we just couldn’t swing it. Other obligations were going to make the travel expensive, complicated and on a very tight schedule. Our prior experience in Des Moines didn’t help. We stayed home, made plans instead to go to Russia if Shannon made the US team.

When we started traveling to international track meets to cheer on our favorite runner I was thrilled. It was a way to get Andy out of the US and travel! However, after trips to Beijing, Berlin, Daegu and London I now just want to go camping in the desert…. and Moscow has never been on my list. I love Andy and am extremely fond of Shannon, so it was with some guilt and conflicted emotions that I admitted that I really wanted Shannon to qualify for the US team, but also really didn’t want to go to Russia. I reminded myself that I should enjoy this while it lasts, because no athletic career lasts forever.

At home in San Francisco, busy at work on Thursday I missed Shannon’s preliminary round; a first for me. Andy sent me an email message summing up the race, and I watched it later on the computer and felt confident about her chance of making the team.

Celebrating with Shannon in 2009.

Celebrating with Shannon in 2009.

The day of her final I was at an out of town event. Andy made plans to watch the race at his parents’ house, where they have cable. On the way back I used my cell phone to call Andy, eager to hear him confirm that she had made the team.  Instead, over the noise of the car on my cheap phone I heard that it was the worst possible scenario as far as us making travel plans. Shannon had finished fourth, but the woman who finished third lacked a required time standard. Shannon might get to the World Championships, but we might not know until mid-July, depending on her competitor’s ability to obtain a qualifying time standard by the deadline.

I hung up and discussed with the friend I was with the complexities of the situation, both for Shannon, and for my own plans. After a short time I remembered the 5000. Would Shannon run that race? She had entered it as part of her back up plan. I called Andy back. He told me that a lot of good women were entered in the race and he didn’t know if she would run it or not.

Sunday morning Andy and I were hanging around the house, getting ready for the Pamakid’s Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run kick-off picnic at a very leisurely pace, when we decided we should go to Andy’s work, where they have cable, to watch the 5000. We picked up the pace, and made it with enough time for him to get the TV on and find the right channel. Not much later the womens’ 5000 began. The start list on the TV screen was a mess, it included the names of women who had scratched, and flashed two pages of information very quickly. It didn’t answer our question about whether Shannon was running or not. We scanned the starting line and didn’t see her. I figured Shannon must have decided not to run it. I couldn’t really blame her; terrible weather for distance races, physical and mental exhaustion from the 1500, not the event she’s been training for. Oh well.

Midway through the race, with no butterflies in my stomach for a change, Andy said something to the effect of, “Is that Shannon there, in the middle of the pack with sunglasses on?” Sure enough, there she was, in the race and well positioned. So much for the lack of nerves, suddenly I was on the edge of my seat. As the race neared the end the top six runners stretched out. Shannon wasn’t racing for first, but she wasn’t out of it either. She could still make the team. I began yelling at her through the TV. She was just as unlikely to hear me as she would be if I were in the stands in Iowa – but I felt a bit sillier. The camera began to focus on the top two runners. The race for third was obscured. I yelled loud. The camera cut away to the victor and Andy and I were left to wonder, did we just see Shannon take third? We thought so, but not without some doubt.

Hugging Shannon on her victory lap has become a favorite tradition.

Hugging Shannon on her victory lap has become a favorite tradition.

The internet! Andy rushed up to his office. I followed him trying to connect my iPod to the network. Then I ran back to the TV and arrived just in time to see Shannon’s name listed in third. I ran back upstairs to tell Andy. And then back downstairs hoping there would be an interview. Success with the internet! Since I wasn’t there to hug Shannon on her victory lap, I sent a Facebook message instead. I sent a text message to my colleagues that I will be going to Russia for vacation this year. Excited and happy Andy and I collected ourselves and headed off to the Western States picnic.

I’m suddenly thrilled to be going to Russia, thrilled for Shannon and impressed with her guts and determination.


Guest blog by the Track Widow

Guest blog by the Track Widow

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