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:
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:
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!
In November 2012 there was a sad announcement that after fifteen years, John Dye, founder of the website DyeStat.com, announced that the website would no longer be updated. However, a few weeks later RunnerSpace stepped up and bought DyeStat. After three months of prep work, the new DyeStat website was re-launched on Thursday, February 28, 2013.
DyeStat.com, when overseen by John Dye, was a major source of information, statistics, and pictures of high school track and field, and cross country. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s DyeStat.com averaged two million views per month. When I first started coaching at Sacred Heart Cathedral (SHC) in 1998, there was very little information about high school running on the internet. I remember checking Dan Cruz’s cross country website which pretty much consisted of just a weekly Central Coast Section ranking. I was thrilled to see his entry one day that had my SHC girls team were ranked number four. As I expanded my interest to include more than just my local section, to encompass the whole state of California, I found California Prep Track & Field. Then, as Shannon Rowbury got faster and faster, I expanded my interest to the national level and that led me to DyeStat.com.
Dye started with a weekly newsletter in 1996 that covered high school track & field in western Maryland. Dye’s interest stemmed from the participation of his children Derek (high jump) and Natalie (pole vault). Dye started collecting results so that he could create rankings and see where his kids ranked not just against the competition in Maryland but across the whole country. In 1997 DyeStat.com became the first national high school track & field website, featuring top 100 rankings in all events for the whole country.
Dye also went to big meets where he posted results and race re-caps, while his wife Donna took pictures not of the athletes in action but the sidelines – the spectators, coaches, and families. Donna’s section of the website, Donna on the Side, was a favorite place to see pictures and one of my favorite photos is one that Donna took of Shannon Rowbury and me after Shannon’s last high school race – it was both a joyous (Shannon had just won the state championship) and a sad (this was the end of our time together at SHC) occasion. One picture down and to the right of Shannon and me is 2012 800 meter Olympian Duane Solomon and his high school coach.
Around 2004, DyeStat.com added regional coverage and the California Prep Track & Field website that I visited for California high school information became part of the DyeStat family, as DyeStatCal.com. This led to an even larger internet presence, and interest in DyeStatCal surged to its peak during the years 2004-2008. The message boards were filled with discussions about top runners and teams. I excitedly checked DyeStatCal daily for the latest rankings and results. On occasion the SHC team was featured on the front page of DyeStatCal after strong performances.
DyeStat created a new level of interest in cross country and track & field among the participants themselves, especially distance runners. I truly believe that the recent resurgence in American distance running can be partially traced to DyeStat. In 2000, three years after DyeStat became a website, three of the greatest prep runners in history were seniors. Before the internet and DyeStat, each of these three may have run fast against their local competition and been satisfied at that. But thanks to DyeStat, the kid in Virgina who would break four minutes in the mile knew that the kid in Michigan was throwing down some fast times in the two mile. And both of them knew that the kid who lived at altitude in California was right on their heels. When these three future American distance stars faced off at the 2000 Foot Locker Cross Country Championships they already knew all about one another. Perhaps they were motivated by the others’ success, which drove each of them to be better. The end result: Alan Webb, Dathan Ritzenheim, and Ryan Hall led American distance running into a new era – an era that has seen Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, and Galen Rupp medal in the 10,000 meters and Shannon Rowbury, Jenny Barringer, Matthew Centrowitz, and Leo Manzano medal in 1500 meters at the Olympics and World Championships between 2007-2012.
Other than Shannon and Leo, I don’t personally know any of the other successful American runners. But I do feel like know them. These great runners grew up before my eyes, starting when I first read about them on DyeStat. Thank you John Dye, for promoting the sport. You played a big role in the resurgence in American distance running and it was just plain fun to go to your website and read stories.
2013 is a different year and different era than 1997. Websites are no longer new and hip. Today it’s all about smartphones, apps, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s hard to know what sort of influence the RunnerSpace’s DyeStat will have on high school track and field and cross country but I am glad that it’s going to be around. Thank you John Dye for starting this and thank you RunnerSpace for taking the baton and continuing onward.
Being sick stinks! There’s no two ways about it. I should know. I’ve been battling a scratchy throat and lingering cough since December 27, of last year. Those were my symptoms until last week when it turned into a full-on pneumonia. But just like I tell the runners that I coach, try to take away something positive from every experience. In this case, my illness reminded me (or taught me depending on who’s perspective you like to take) that I can’t and don’t have to do it all.
My excellent assistant coaches (and one emergency volunteer) at Sacred Heart Cathedral ran track practices on Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday. The athletes may have missed my witty banter but they still got their workouts completed. We took positive steps towards our more immediate goal of having people in shape for the tryout trials next week and our longer term goal of having people prepared to compete at their best come championship time in May.
The week leading up to the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon is one of my favorites of the year. There are the countdown blog posts on this site, the data collecting of Pamakids’ projected time, and constant race tips and motivational words delivered both in person and via e-mails. On Friday night I send out the much anticipated meet sheet. Saturday I lead a pre-race run and striders, followed by Goodie Bag stuffing. Sunday morning we all gather in Golden Gate Park. Fifteen minutes before the race we take a Pamakids group photo. Then everyone gathers around me and I lead our Go Green cheer. It’s a moment I look forward to all year long.
This pneumonia thing really put a damper on things. Living in the digital age I was able to do many of the usual things. Others stepped up to fill in where I was missing. Notably, my wife Malinda, who led this year’s Go Green cheer, delivering my motto for this year’s race: “The running starts here at 8:00 A.M. But the racing starts on the Great Highway!”
The day after the race, all things Pamakids continued to roll right along even with me still lying in bed. Monica ran the Board of Directors meeting while I “attended” via speaker phone only.
The 2013 KP Half itself was a great success. Although, perhaps due to the same bug that hit me, and also due to the 49ers playing in the Super Bowl, we had a higher than normal no-show count. But the race sold 10,200 bibs and nearly 8,300 runners crossed the finish line in either the half marathon or the 5K fun run.
I was particularly proud of our Pamakids. First of all, we had ten runners race at the Jed Smith 50K on Saturday – that’s a 31.1 mile race. Of those ten, eight of them were out on the course volunteering at the KP Half on Sunday, no doubt reporting to their station sometime around 6:45 A.M. or earlier. That’s bleeding green! I’ve been recording in great detail all the finishing times and places of all the Pamakids at the KP Half since 2008. Over those six races, three people have run all six races in Pamakid uniform – Denis Glenn, Danielle Bisho Jones, and Monica Zhuang. Congrats, you three! Also, congratulations to our five medal winners. The medalists were: Adam Lucas-2nd, M45-49, Mike Axinn-3rd, M50-54, Roy Clarke-2nd, M55-59, Theo Jones-2nd, M70-74, and Patrick Lee-3rd, M60-99 in the 5K. Our Pamakid masters men continue to defy age with their outstanding races.
However, the last three runners I particularly want to highlight are three Pamakid women. First is Sarah Goins, who two years ago ran this race in 2:38:23, which is 12:05 per mile. On Sunday she was 28 minutes faster at 2:10:00, 9:55 per mile. Kudos to Sarah who knocked over two minutes per mile off her time from two years ago!
Marlyss Bird last ran this race in the rain in 2008. Since that time she has been beset with injury after injury. She saw therapists, did exercises, took a patient approach, and after five long years made her return to the half marathon on Sunday, running only 21 seconds off what she did in 2008. Well done, Marlyss!
Jodi Thirtyacre was featured before the 2011 race in the San Francisco Examiner. This year, the Kaiser employee, was even more active than usual in the lead-up to the race, arranging for guest speakers at the Saturday Sports Basement Training Runs and writing a blog to help Kaiser employees get ready for the race. Jodi’s enthusiasm for this race was rewarded this year. She’s been knocking on the door of breaking 2 hours for the last four years – 2:02 in 2009 and 2010, 2:05 in 2011, and 2:00 last year. Her goal this year was to go sub-2. And she did it! Chip time: 1:59:49. Gun time: 1:59:59. Either way you look at it, Jodi joined the ranks of the sub-2 hour half marathoners!
The ride home from the State Cross Country Meet in Fresno, California is one filled with different emotions. I have been fortunate to take this ride home fourteen times in my fifteen years as the SHC cross country coach. The last three years (2010, 2011, and 2012), I’ve been particularly lucky that both the boys and girls teams have qualified for the State Meet and thus, this ride home from State Meet was made in the front seat of a charter bus, not from behind the steering wheel of a van.
My mind wanders a lot during this ride home. I think about the season that has just concluded and the various highs and lows that have occurred. I think in particular about the obstacles that were overcome to qualify whoever was able to qualify for State. And like any good coach, I am already thinking about the next season – who is not graduating and will be back next year, what do we need to do to be even better, which people will step up to be the new varsity? All these thoughts usually make me feel a weird combination of emotions that makes me cry and smile at the same time.
The 2012 ride home from the State Meet was particularly sentimental. Of the fourteen kids who raced at State, half of them were seniors, many of them ran at the State Meet three times in their career. It was a veteran group and we had achieved and experienced a lot together, not just this season but over the course of the last three or four years.
This season’s high and lows were many. At Woodbridge, we experienced a high as both teams ran incredibly fast at this night cross country meet in Southern California (84:53 for the Boys and 101:13 for the Girls). But the next couple weeks made me question if we were not as good as I had thought. The Boys ran 92:06 at Stanford and 90:10 at Baylands and the Girls were even further away – 108:44 at Stanford and 107:56 at Baylands. But we turned it up a notch and ran well at Crystal Springs, 85:28 and 101:12 respectively, and my confidence that both teams would qualify for State returned. The next two meets brought mixed results. The Boys ran well but not great at the Polo Fields (86:10) and Toro Park (86:55). The Girls were beset with injuries and I wondered if I was going to be able to motivate them to “bring it home” come championship time. At the Polo Fields (102:28) the Girls had a horrible last mile where we fell from third place to fifth place. At Toro Park (105:01) we ran a pretty un-inspiring race that left a bad taste in our mouths heading to league finals. But that led to the perseverance that will forever define this year’s team.
Two days before league finals, we had yet another injury and I was forced to move a girl up from the JV, to run Varsity. The Boys needed to hit the time standard to qualify for the section meet. I don’t know if I’ve ever been as worried about simply qualifying out of league as I was this year. But, the kids showed their toughness and made it look easy. The Girls beat two teams that had been beating us all season to easily qualify. The Boys were over a minute and a half faster than the time standard.
The road to Fresno went through Saratoga on the boys side and Valley Christian on the girls side. I had decided that the key to achieving our goal was for the kids to have fun. We didn’t need any special workouts or fancy race plans. We needed to have fun. If we were having fun, we’d be relaxed. If we were relaxed, we’d run well. And I truly believed that if we ran well, we would qualify both teams for State.
The Boys race between us and Saratoga was incredibly close. It was impossible to tell at the finish line which team was ahead. We’d have to wait for the official results. Our nervousness was heightened because I thought I saw Saratoga’s fifth runner finish with our fifth runner. But it turned out that that runner was from another school that had a similar white uniform top. Twenty agonizing minutes later, in the middle of the girls race, we learned that the boys had qualified. The Girls, bless their hearts, made it much easier on all of us watching. Our 3-4-5-6 runners got themselves ahead of Valley Christian’s third runner and stayed there to clinch it.
I relived all of those memories in my head as the bus made its way towards San Francisco. I then started thinking about next year. I would really miss these seven seniors. The boys team will return five runners, and the alternates and underclassmen are pretty strong so they are in good shape. The girls, on the other hand, graduate all but two runners. Plus we are losing a lot of leadership…
At that point I decided that worrying about next year was something to do tomorrow. Today, I should be celebrating the achievements of this year’s team. I got up and looked toward the back of the bus. It was very quiet. A lot of people were asleep. Some were talking quietly to their seatmate. Others had their headphones on and were playing a game or watching something on their phone or laptop. I wished that I could freeze time. These were the final moments of the 2012 cross country season. For the last month, these fourteen runners, five alternates, and four coaches had spent a lot of time together. We’d experienced nervousness together and we’d celebrated success together. There were team dinners, a Zumba class, a team service project, tons of group photos, and a unity ceremony with colored sand that will forever unite us.
This 2012 ride home from State Meet was particularly emotional for me. I think I summed it up best with a Facebook status post: Cried a little. Smiled a lot. Thanks, Seniors!
Last week I completed one of my least favorite tasks as the head cross country coach at Sacred Heart Cathedral (SHC). I finalized our team’s final roster by making some final cuts following our team’s annual eight minute time trial run. The 2012 season’s final roster is 54 runners strong.
As an athlete and then as an assistant coach at Lowell High School there were no cuts (at least to my knowledge). Everyone who wanted to be on the team got to be on the team, provided that they came to practice and worked hard. The only people dropped were people who stopped coming to practice by their own choosing or those who came to practice infrequently enough that the coach told them to turn in their uniform.
When I became the head coach at SHC in 1998 I employed this same no-cut policy that I had experienced at Lowell. My goal was to build up the SHC program and making cuts was not the way to grow the team. As it was, we had so few people that often times we ran incomplete teams in the freshmen/sophomore (F/S) and junior varsity (JV) races. We were so thin, that sometimes I didn’t even have enough bodies to put the maximum seven runners on the line for varsity races. We had plenty of back of the pack runners during my early years at SHC. There were also plenty of instances when the coaches had to pay particular attention to make sure we didn’t lose one of the slower runners on a run through Golden Gate Park, and when faster runners had to wait for a slower runner to catch-up. The 2000 season in particular was quite small. I had no seniors and a total of 32 runners. We often joked that they had one of the best athlete to coach ratios in league history.
Over the years, my athletic directors encouraged me to make cuts. They believed that it was a privilege to be on the SHC cross country team and that the runners should feel that they’d earned something. I was against this and clung to my belief that you never knew who might improve a lot and grow to really love running, so it was best to keep everyone while I searched for diamonds in the rough. We compromised and I began to use the eight minute run as a tryout time trial in 2002. In the eight minute run, runners run laps on the track and try to cover the most distance that they can in eight minutes. This gave me an objective number to use for making cuts.
The reality of the situation, however, was that hardly anyone was ever cut. An occasional returning runner who was not very dedicated or badly out of shape would be cut but almost no freshmen were ever cut after the eight minute run. The only freshmen that got cut were ones so slow that I felt it was unsafe to have them on the team because they couldn’t keep up with the rest of the group. I would have needed to dedicate an assistant coach to give them special attention at every practice and that didn’t seem fair to the rest of the team. I would estimate that 95% of the freshmen who ran the eight minute run during this era, made the team. They didn’t know it, but it was pretty easy for freshmen to make the team.
The poster child for the “diamond in the rough” theory is a kid named E.J. In 2006, E.J. was one of fourteen freshmen boys who ran the eight minute run. E.J. bordered on that “so slow I need a special coach for him” line. In eight minutes, E.J. ran three laps or 1200 meters. Actually he ran 1200 meters in seven something minutes and then spent the remaining 40 or so seconds of the trial grabbing his stomach and gasping “I can’t run anymore.” I must have had a soft spot in my heart for E.J. that day because he ended up making the team. Of course this story has a happy ending. E.J. would improve tremendously over the years. He ran varsity his junior and senior year and we share the same personal record at Crystal Springs – 17:13. In E.J.’s final high school race he ran the 3200 meters (just under two miles) in 10:41. It brought tears to my eyes when we realized that in this final race, E.J. came through 2400 meters (six laps) in eight minutes – he ran twice as far in eight minutes in his last race (and kept going for two more laps) than he did at the trial his freshman year.
E.J. is also part of why I started to make cuts. As I mentioned, E.J. was one of a fourteen boy freshman class. By 2007 the group grew to be fifteen sophomore boys. That group would be known as “The Sophomore Boys” and it wasn’t exactly a term of endearment. Whenever there was trouble, “The Sophomore Boys” were in the middle of it. It wasn’t one or two of them. It was ALL fifteen of them. That same season, I followed my usual policy of not really cutting any freshmen and ended up with a 77 person team with 24 freshmen. It took two buses to get us to meets. In addition to some discipline issues with “The Sophomore Boys” we had a huge number of DNF’s (Did Not Finish) from the freshmen. They were just dropping out of races all the time. The team captains and I were quite frustrated. We felt the freshmen were a bunch of quitters – but due to the sheer size of the team, I really didn’t get to know the freshmen very well. I didn’t instill the passion for running cross country that I normally did. I couldn’t give my usual personal attention. At the end of the season I decided that the large team had negatively affected the program. I made the decision that starting with the 2008 season we would have a smaller team.
The philosophy of shaping the team roster that I use currently has been the same since that 2008 season. I believe that having approximately fifty kids on the team is what works for me. We fit on one bus to travel to meets and I feel that the athlete to coach ratio is perfect for providing proper guidance and instruction. I use the same eight minute run as a tryout trial. Veteran runners who are pretty certain they are going to make the team still get excited and run hard at the eight minute run because they are trying to improve on their mark from previous seasons. Borderline non-freshmen know that they are going to have to run up to a certain standard for me to keep them. The freshmen get three days from the first day of tryouts until the eight minute run. Over those three days, some quit because they just don’t like cross country. Of those that stick around and do the eight minute run, approximately 80% make the team – still the majority, but it’s also something to be earned, just like what my athletic director wanted.
We have had some tremendous team successes since I went to the smaller team size in 2008. However, I know that my cut-policy is always evolving. I will make adjustments based on the circumstances with the team. For now, this is what works for me and my team and my coaching style, so I am going to stick with it.
Any good head coach will tell you, any success you have is most likely due to the athletes and your support staff. The athletes are the ones doing the training and are out there competing. Good assistant coaches make all the difference because they are hands on with the athletes on a day-to-day basis. Behind the scenes you also have the trainer, strength and conditioning coach, and a host of other vital people who comprise a track & field program. This past season the Sacred Heart Cathedral track & field team had one other key player who contributed to our success – one of our bus drivers, Patrick Scott.
We first met Patrick last spring when he drove the team to the Central Coast Section (CCS) Finals in Gilroy, and then waited patiently in the parking lot at Applebee’s while the team shaved my head to celebrate our three state meet qualifiers. During the fall cross country season we often had Patrick again, and I requested him specifically for our two overnights, to the Mt. Sac Invitational and the state meet in Fresno. He was always laid back and flexible about things. The kids liked him and he genuinely showed an interest in getting to know them. One time when we pulled into a shopping center for lunch, Patrick got on the PA system and told the kids where all the “hot spots” were – “In ‘n’ Out is in this section, cross the street to the right to get to McDonald’s, cross the street to the left to go to Starbuck’s.” It was awesome. While we were at the meet, Patrick had been scouting the area to help us quickly find the food of our choice right after the meet.
This track & field season, week after week, meet after meet, when I walked up Gough Street to our bus, there was Patrick sitting in the driver’s seat. An avid sports fan, Patrick admitted to not knowing too much about track & field. But at most meets he would come in and watch and cheer. He got to know the kids and what events they did. One afternoon, it warmed my heart when I saw Patrick giving fist bumps to the kids as they boarded the bus. Another time when we coaches got our wires crossed and we only had one coach (me) for two buses, we had no choice but to send the kids on the bus with Patrick with no coach. When we got back from the meet, Patrick sent me a text message reporting that the kids had behaved superbly and that they left the bus extra clean. I was proud of our kids that day, but also it reinforced the idea that since Patrick was so polite to them, they just naturally reciprocated. Almost every kid thanks Patrick by name for driving us when they get off the bus back at school.
Halfway through this season I was having problems coordinating my ride home after meets. My wife was picking up our car at the end of her work day and going home. This season I had no assistant coach living near me to give me a ride. On a lark, I asked Patrick if he was going back to the Coach USA yard after dropping us off, and if he was, could I get a ride there. The Coach USA yard off of Evans Street is an easy three minute drive for my wife to pick me up, as opposed to a thirty minute drive (fifteen each way) if she had to come to school to get me. A ride with Patrick to Evans Street became our weekly ritual. Patrick would comment on some of the things he saw at the meet and I could explain some of the nuances of track & field to him.
As if this wasn’t enough, when one of the kids left her laptop on the bus, I called Patrick. Typically a forgotten item like that is placed in the Coach USA office and the kid and their parents have to go retrieve it during business hours the next day. Even though it was 9:30 P.M., Patrick went back to the bus to retrieve the laptop. He called me saying he had it. I had walked to dinner so I didn’t have my car with me and couldn’t go get it from him. Patrick’s solution? He asked for directions to where I was having dinner and he drove the laptop to me.
Because of this terrific relationship that our team has with our bus driver, I look forward to opportunities to buy Patrick a meal when we’re on the road or invite him to our end of year banquet. I think he’s become a real track & field fan, too. Although we probably won’t be using a bus for the CCS meet this year, Patrick has already indicated that he’s kind of hooked on our team now and wants to see us through to end. He’s texted me after CCS Trials, asking “How’d we do today?” and I know he’s trying to take the day off and driving himself down to Gilroy to cheer us on at the CCS Finals.
Now that’s a bus driver that’s part of the team!
On Saturday, February 11, 2012, I had the privilege of running for more than just myself.
As a high school coach, I look for opportunities to teach the students about life and how running can be a part of their life beyond high school. “Running is more than just training to run in a high school meet,” I began. I went on to mention that I was living proof that even after high school, one could run in order to compete and accomplish goals. I pointed out that running is often used as a means to raise funds for charities, through organizations like Team In Training. “Finally,” I said, “Running is a way to honor and remember people – sometimes people you don’t even know, and that’s what we will do today.”
I went on to describe Sherry Arnold, someone about the same age as me, a math teacher at Sidney High School in Montana, a mother, a wife, and a fellow runner. I told the team that on January 7, 2012, she went out for a run and didn’t come home and that it appears she was abducted and killed.
It was a good reminder to all of us runners to be as safe as possible when out running. I reiterated to the team that they are not to wear headphones while running so that they can hear things all around them. I re-emphasized the importance of paying attention to the traffic and people around them. I re-stated our policy that they run the exact route the coaches prescribe and that they try to always be with a teammate or at least in earshot of one.
I then told the team that we would join thousands of other runners around the country in honoring Sherry Arnold by participating in a virtual run. I passed out the running bib for Sherry and safety pins. When everyone had their bib on, we gathered for a prayer led by my assistant coach, Natalie Martinez:
Let us pray in the memory of Sherry Arnold. A wife, mother, teacher and fellow runner whose life was cut too short one Saturday morning. Her tragic death is a simple reminder to be thankful and appreciative of the many blessings we have especially the chance to run on this team. Let us celebrate her life, her spirit, her strength and courage as we run in her honor today. And we pray we have a safe and successful track season.
Holy Founders…Pray for us
Live Jesus in our Hearts…Forever.
After that, we headed off for our run. We ran what the kids call the “box run,” a route that includes the beauty of Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach. We’ve done this run many times but today, running for Sherry, it was just a little bit more meaningful.
I think February 5, 2012 will go down as a race day that many of us Pamakids remember for a long time. The conditions were excellent to have a good race. The work by RhodyCo and the race volunteers ensured an excellent race experience for all. Not all of us ran personal records (PR’s) or met or exceeded time goals but many Pamakids did and I think overall we’re pretty happy with the race.
For me personally, I had several moments that stand out. As always, it was thrilling to be in the middle of the Pamakid Go Green team cheer. Along the course, my Pamakid friends who were volunteering did the perfect job, yelling for us to be patient for the first seven miles and then getting in our faces and “demanding” that we go hard late in the race. As Adam, Tim, and I ran through the park, I felt very smooth and relaxed. We made it a point to not waste energy in the early stages of the race. When we hit the seven mile mark I felt as if I had just finished a long warm-up run. I was ready to get after it on the Great Highway, which was perfect because all week I had been telling people that the race didn’t start until the Great Highway. As I surged and ran 5:49, 5:46, and 5:50 for miles 8, 9, and 10, I knew that I was having a good day. I made eye contact with Tony at the turnaround and enjoyed boisterous cheering from Jerry, Eduardo, Olga, Anne, and Janeth. When I spotted Denis I pretended to pull on my singlet ala Superman. I was feeling great and enjoying myself so much that I didn’t even care that the wind had seemingly shifted and was in my face both southbound and northbound on the Great Highway. I felt some twinges in my hamstrings at mile 11 and had to slow down a bit. One runner passed me with half a mile to go. Two more passed me with a quarter mile to go. That’s when I decided enough was enough. Malinda’s been saying I’ve had a back kick of late and I felt that I needed to stop that. When we hit the stop sign, I started my kick and re-passed two of the runners in the final 100 meters. I heard Mike, the announcer, call my name, “and here’s our first Pamakid, it’s Andy Chan, the President of the club”) as I crossed the finish line with tired legs but a tremendous feeling of pride.
Below is a table comparing various PamaStats from the 2008, 2010, and 2012 races.
|Runners in the half marathon in Pamakid uniform||24||26||41|
|Top 100 finishers||2||4||9|
|Women in the top 100 females||5||4||5|
|Top 10 in their age group||10||5||13|
|Medalists (top 3 in their age group)||3||1||4|
Special congratulations to our 2012 race medalists: Patrick Lee (first in his age division for the 5K), Theo Jones (second in his age division for the half marathon), Markham Miller (third), and your truly (third).
I would like to thank our partners at Kaiser Permanente, and Dave Rhody and the RhodyCo gang. Buzz Ayola, the finish line timing extraordinaire offered a new feature of race day live results so you could get your results via a smartphone at the expo or have friends follow you from home. Pamakid members Mike (race director), Phyllis (volunteer coordinator), and the volunteer captains do a tremendous amount of work, not just on Sunday but also in the days and weeks leading up to the race. We would never have such a highly successful race without people willing to volunteer for their fellow runners.
Please support our race sponsors (see a list of them here) and remember that your participation in the race helped support the Koret Family House, The Harbor Light Center for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, and Support for Families of Children with Disabilities.
Results are now available at: http://www.buzzwordproductions.com/iat_016.htm.
Brightroom pictures are available at: http://www2.brightroom.com/96766.
One day to go. Not much more to be done. It’s just about game time.
Think positive thoughts. You can’t go back and do more training or control things like the weather. Focus on things you can control in the final 24 hours. Think happy and positive thoughts about being out there doing an activity you love (or at least like) with 9,000 other people.
Look at the course map closely. For many of you who run often in Golden Gate Park this is as close as it gets to being a “home course.” As you look at the course, pause to think about what it physically looks like in that area. What will you see when you’re out there? What landmarks can you look for? Nothing makes the miles go by faster than knowing the course. Without going crazy, try to constantly have something you are looking for during the race. This isn’t hard when you are super familiar with the area. To combat the monotony of the Great Highway, I suggest looking ahead only to the next stoplight. The stoplights are conveniently staggered a quarter mile away from each other. It gives you a psychological boost to be “seeing what you’re looking for” every one to two minutes because you feel like you are making progress. If your landmarks are every mile mark, you pass a mile mark, you run two to three minutes, don’t see the next mile yet, and start looking around for it. Then you spend the next two to five minutes looking for the next mile mark, constantly checking your watch, and consequently feeling like you are going to be out there forever! This can be quite discouraging. There is value in having a landmark to look for pretty frequently.
Spend some time visualizing yourself running fast on the Great Highway. Close your eyes and see yourself running strong and passing people. Imagine that it feels effortless and yet you are running very fast. Tell yourself how fit you are. Remind yourself how hard you’ve trained. Tell yourself you can do it. Heck, hum the Chariots of Fire or Rocky theme as you visualize. In high school, I visualized my cross country championship race over and over every night for weeks while listening to “One Moment In Time.” The race played out just like I had imagined it and to this day I have a hard time differentiating what I visualized and what I actually experienced in the race.
If you are nervous, keep this in mind. There are 1.3 billion people in China and none of them (unless you have a close relative there) are going to go to http://zinsli.com/results/ on Monday to see if you PR’ed. I also like to remind people that they’ve trained hard and they deserve to run well.
When I race, I have my game face on. I’m competitive and I care about how the race goes. That’s just how I am. I’ve been told (and the pictures and video back this up) that I get that same game face on when I coach. (Side story: At my wedding reception we had Sacred Heart Cathedral kids helping. Right before we got started Tomas, my assistant coach and wedding reception master of ceremonies, came to me and said, “Don’t worry about anything. Everything’s going to go great. Ethan has his game face on. He looks like he did before the CCS Finals.” As the coach who taught Ethan to have a game face, it was, in the middle of a busy and memorable night, a proud moment.) Anyway, if it works for you, have your game face on. After all, Sunday is the Super Bowl. And you did pay $40-50 to be on the starting line. Why not have that focused game face on that tells everyone that you are about to go out and race as hard as you can.
Good luck, everyone, it’s just about game time!
Race Day and In-Race Nutrition.
If you want to spend time pondering nutritional things this week, think about:
- What are you going to eat race morning and at what time?
- Do you plan to take water at the water stops? (Hint: this is a trick question, the answer is yes!) Which water stops? And do you have an idea of where these stops are located on the course?
- Do you plan to take the electrolyte drink that will be available around mile 6.2, 8.4, and 11.1?
- Do you plan to ingest some sort of energy gel during the race?
There are as many pre-race food combos as there are runners. Do what your body is used to. Don’t try something new because it’s race day. What do you eat before you go for a morning long run? How much time does your body need to digest it? My wife needs to eat a more substantial breakfast before a run than I do and she doesn’t need as much time to digest her food as I do. I used to eat very little before a race (half a Power Bar and water) and I tied to finish eating two hours before the race started. Now I have found that my body likes a little more pre-race fuel so I have two pieces of toast with peanut butter at home approximately two hours before the race starts. Then upon arriving at the race, about an hour before the gun goes off, I eat half a Cliff Bar. Do what is right for you and your digestive system.
You need to stay hydrated to keep running your goal pace. The course map indicates water stations around miles 1.7, 3.2, 4.5, 6.2, 8.5, 10, and 11.5. Taking water is important because your body does not function well when it is not fully hydrated. It’s often on a cold and wet day when people sweat less and are less thirsty that they forget the need to drink water during the race. Don’t be one of those people. I suggest taking water at, at least three of the water stations if not more.
3. ELECTROLYTE REPLENISHMENT – SPORTS DRINKS
As the race progresses, even in cooler temperatures, your body is losing electrolytes via sweat. Maintaining proper electrolyte balance keeps the cells in your body communicating properly and is a key to preventing dehydration. It is said that electrolyte replacement becomes a factor after exercising for over an hour and a half. To replenish electrolytes there will be electrolyte drinks available at three spots on the course (mile 6.2, 8.4, and 11.1). I recommend sipping a little electrolyte drink as long as you are used to drinking something besides water during a run. If you are not used to drinking anything besides water, those carbohydrates in the electrolyte drink may not sit well in your stomach.
4. CARBOHYDRATE REPLENISHMENT – ENERGY GELS
During the first hour to hour and a half of the race your body produces energy from glucose in the liver and muscles, and the breakdown of fats. Thanks to the high glucose level in the bloodstream, fat metabolism occurs rapidly. But sometime around an hour and a half to two hours the glucose stores in the liver and muscles get depleted and the blood glucose level begins to drop. Fat metabolism still occurs, but because there is less glucose circulating around it occurs at a much slower rate. Pretty soon, if nothing is done to provide more fuel, you will run out of energy and experience the proverbial “hitting the wall.” To combat this runners often consume an energy gel mid-race*. Energy gels contain complex carbohydrates (glucose) in an easily and quickly digestible state. They enhance performance by raising your blood sugar and giving your body an immediate fuel source. Again, in a race of an hour and a half to two hours you may not require energy gels. You should know your body and whether you need it or not. As you get closer to two hours and further from an hour and a half you may benefit from a carbohydrate or sugar boost mid-race. But don’t try this if you haven’t done it in practice on the long runs. Any benefit from the gels may be countered by stomach distress. The race does not provide energy gels, so you’ll need to carry your own.