The Pamakid Master Men
In 2010, I was like a nine year old boy. I couldn’t wait for my birthday. Only I wasn’t nine. I was thirty-nine, and just as I couldn’t wait to turn ten, I couldn’t wait to turn forty. Why the eagerness of a little boy for a birthday? Because turning forty in the running world means entering into a whole new world. The world of Masters races, where young, fast twenty- and thirty-somethings no longer exist (or at least run in a separate race that I get to spectate instead of participate in from the back).
My first year as a masters runner went quite well, but it was nothing like this past year. All of a sudden my team, the Pamakid Runners, have a kick-butt team. Our transformation from not having a team, to having a mid-pack team, to having a podium-worthy team has happened gradually and slowly or, if you prefer, we just went out on pace rather than too fast.
The Pamakids participate in the USATF-Pacific Association Road Grand Prix and Cross Country Series. In 2011 we were fifth on the roads and fourth in cross country. We were solidly in the middle but were not really any threat to the top teams. Our top places were third place finishes Across the Bay 12K and Zippy 5K in the road race series, and at the Presidio race in the cross country series.
2012 looked like it would be a similar story. But after a second place at Zippy followed by back-to-back third place finishes, our team started thinking we might be able to challenge the “big boys” from the Aggies, Strawberry Canyon, West Valley Track Club, and New Balance Excelsior. At the San Rafael Mile we pulled a first place team finish, winning on a tie-breaker. It was our first PA first victory in at least a decade.
The win at the mile, spurred interest and hope for the fall cross country series, which is made up of eleven races plus the championships. Teams score their best five races out of the eleven, plus the championships. The season began typically with a fourth, a third, and a sixth. Then things got interesting. After being somewhat disappointed with our sixth place at Garin Park in early September, we were ecstatic two weeks later when we placed third at Golden Gate Park. We rode that positive momentum to our first PA cross country victory at the Presidio race, a race in which we had three runners in the top nine and five in the top 21. The next two weeks brought a second and another third place finish. All of a sudden we found ourselves in third place for the season and nipping on the heels of the second place team, the West Valley Joggers & Striders.
Back on the roads, the grand prix resumed with the October 21 Humboldt Half Marathon. Sensing a chance to make a serious impact on the rest of the PA, we made sure we had a full team at the race. Roy Clarke, Denis Glenn, Carlos Urrutia, Tomas Palermo, Steven Pitsenbarger, and Theo Jones as the sixth runner, just in case, came through in a big way. The Pamakids took first place, by a scant twenty-two seconds! That’s two PA road race wins in a row!
What’s been the key to our success? Depth. “Scary” depth as we’ve heard one team call it. At any given race any number of our runners could step into the scoring role for the Pamakids. Out of the five scorers in the half marathon team victory, only Carlos was among the five scorers at the road mile team victory.
In this cross country season so far eleven different runners have placed in the top five at one time or another. The Pamakids aren’t reliant on a core of five runners who do all the heavy lifting. We’re a team in the true sense of the word. That’s how we’ve weathered injuries to Tony, Carlos, and Adam; me missing races due to coaching obligations; and others missing races as they prep for fall marathons.
It sure helps to have a guy like Jerry Flanagan, who has run at all the cross country races where we’ve scored a team this year. And like Richard Martinez, who ran a great last mile at Presidio after Carlos was injured in the race to help us secure the win. We are lucky to have fifty year olds like Mike Axinn, Paul Zager, and Roy, who can drop down to help score for the Masters team when needed. Our incredible depth showed at Golden Gate Park when we lined up thirteen runners, enough for a “B” team of Colin Alley, Galen Carnicelli, Tomas, Steven, David Ly, and David O’Connor that beat one other team. Since John Spriggs was instrumental in the rejuvenation of the Pamakid Masters team, we sure hope he can heal his injury and be able to step on the starting line and race at the championships with us.
If I had known that turning forty was going to lead to so much fun, I would skipped right past that tenth birthday and gone straight to masters!