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!
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!
On Sunday, April 21, 2012, the thirteenth annual Zippy 5K will take place in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. I have a special place in my heart for this race because as a member of the then Hoy’s Excelsior Running Club in 2000, I was the co-race director for the inaugural Zippy 5K. I remember a lot of passion and planning went into creating this race. This is also the race where just last year I achieved a milestone goal of mine by breaking 17 minutes in the 5K as a masters runner.
Here are my race tips for my Pamakid teammates and anyone else from the Pacific Association who happens upon this blog.
The start will be fast. Try to settling into your race pace as soon as possible. If you do so successfully you will be surrounded by like-paced runners for the first half mile. It will be crowded but don’t worry. Fall into step with the runners around you and just ride the wave.
After about half a mile it will start to spread out, which is good because that way you can see the road ahead of you. Make sure you run the tangents, which means running the shortest route. There are some minor ups, downs, and turns but your goal should be to maintain your pace for the entire first mile.
The second mile is basically a counterclockwise lap around Stow Lake. I recommend that you study the turns and elevation changes. My mantra for this section is, “if you aren’t moving up, you’re probably slowing down.” Focus on catching and passing people. If you don’t, you can easily run mile two twenty seconds slower than mile one. The more familiar you are with the lap around Stow Lake, the easier it is to stay locked in on your pace.
I love the 0.1 miles between the two mile mark and the mile to go mark. There’s a sweeping right turn on a gradual downhill. I like to accelerate slightly after the two mile mark and say to myself, “run like a bat out of hell.” As I pass the mile to go mark and the road merges on to John F. Kennedy Drive (JFK), I gather myself mentally for what will be a painful but potentially rewarding last mile.
The last mile of the course is almost a straight shot down JFK. It can be mentally challenging because there are really no turns to speak of, just one long long straightaway. My Pamakid teammate Denis Glenn’s mantra for this mile is, “stop means go,” referring to the several stop signs you will see along JFK. Every time you see one of those stop signs surge a little and go!
I find that during this final straightaway, I am constantly talking to myself. My legs and lungs are burning and begging me to slow down. But my brain pushes me to keep going, reminding me of my goal and the miles of training I have put in for this very moment. I’ll make bargains with myself, “float until the museums but then I have to surge” or “a small surge now will be less painful than an all-out sprint later.” Is this the dialogue that goes through all runners’ minds in the final three minutes of a race? Last year some of the positive mantras I was saying to myself during this stretch were, “This is my mile,” or “It’ll be over soon and then I’ll own the time forever.”
Good luck everyone. Study the course map. Hydrate. Know your start of the race pace. And Go Green!
I delivered this speech at the Pamakid Runners Club General Meeting on March 26, 2012.
I’m a little sweaty and in sweats instead of being formally dressed but I think Betty would forgive me. I’m wearing the same shirt I was wearing in 2010 when I took this photo, my favorite photo of those I’ve ever had the privilege of taking with Betty.
Betty Cunneen was our club’s first President.
Some of you may have seen her at the club picnic last July. Alzheimer’s had taken its toll on her but it was nice to see her at a Pamakid event.
She went into hospice care early last week. The Cunneen kids (Connie, Kelly, Pat Jr., and Garrett) were all there with Pat Sr. in her final days. Pat assured us that they were at peace and ready to let go. On Sunday, Betty passed on.
Our club, the Pamakid Runners began in 1970. The Cunneen and Boitano families met every Wednesday evening for a run around Lake Merced and then pizza at Shakey’s. At the time there were members of the San Francisco Dolphin South End Runners (DSE), the San Francisco Rowing Club, Dolphin Club, and South End Rowing Club who wanted to compete as a club at local races. The AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) would not recognize them because they were a combination of multiple groups, not one single club.
Armed with a desire to run as part of an official running club, Betty Cunneen called a meeting to form a new AAU club. They set a date for September 2, 1970 to discuss club details, including the name. The group tossed out several good ideas, including gems such as the Lake Merced Striders, Pacific Pacers, and my personal favorite, the Runaway Pancakes. Grant Newland invented the name Pamakid Runners and a bird called Soonar as the club mascot. That name and that mascot, won by a landslide.
With their name intact and Betty Cunneen on board as the club’s first president, the Pacific Association of the AAU officially sanctioned Pamakid Runners Club in January 1971. The Wednesday night runs continued for more than 15 years. The club’s first organized race was an 8-mile jaunt from Daly City to Lake Merced. A few years later, they organized a relay race at Lake Merced. This race later evolved into the annual Rites of Spring Run and Dinner, which we still celebrate to this day.
That’s just a small part of our club’s history but in a few paragraphs it gives you an idea of how we got started. We are not a jump on the bandwagon kind of club – we were founded before the running boom of the 1970’s began. Before Frank Shorter’s 1972 Olympic marathon gold medal made running popular. Before women were freely allowed to participate in races (Pat Cunneen has told stories about Betty and the girls having to register with fake names to get into Bay to Breakers because women were not allowed to participate).
Pat has shared some great pictures and stories from the Pamakid years in the 1970’s. What stood out was that Pat and Betty were out doing what they loved – running. It seems like the Cunneen kids had no choice…they could either run with their mom and dad or wait in the car.
Malinda shared this photo with some club members last month. It’s of Betty running with the caption, “Watch out Cheryl Bridges.” Well it turns out the reference is to Cheryl Bridges, known now as the mother of Olympian and American record holder Shalane Flanagan. But in 1971 she was simply Cheryl Bridges, 2:49 marathoner, which happened to be the women’s world record at the time. Cheryl must have been one of Betty’s running rivals in the 1970’s. Malinda and I are casual acquaintances with Cheryl and when we contacted her, she commented that she distinctly remembers the runners with the bird on their singlet.
This got me thinking that it’s a good thing Betty helped pick Soonar and Pamakids as our mascot and club name. I don’t know if I would be so excited to have a big pancake on my singlet and to be yelling “Go Flapjacks!” before races.
Let’s take a moment to remember and reflect on Betty and what she’s meant to the club. We all owe Betty as well as Pat and the Cunneen family a lot.
If you didn’t get to meet Betty take a moment to realize that when you race for the Pamakids, when you attend a Pamakid social event, when you’re part of a “Go Green!” cheer or feel pride in the success of your running club or in the fact that your club donates so much money to charities, remember that it all started 41 years ago in large part to Betty Cunneen.
For those that knew her, think of a favorite memory of Betty.
With that in mind, let’s pause for a moment of silence.
Thank you. This ends the official part of our general meeting. I invite you to now mingle and share some favorite memories of Betty Cunneen.
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.
I’ve seen various “12 Days of Christmas” lists so I thought I would put together my own. Re-capping my year in running and coaching, I give you They Chanman’s 12 Days of Christmas:
12 – Twelve dogs (and two Eskimos) in a Bay to Breakers Pamapede Iditarod centipede.
11 – Eleven (and a half) miles, the least number of miles I ran every week this year.
10 – Ten (and a half) miles from Wunderlich to Huddardt and back. I finally made it all the way to both ends. This was one of many long trail runs this summer that got me into great shape.
9 – Ninth row at the finish line, our seats at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu.
8 – Eighth master runner at the Zippy 5K, a race where I achieved a major goal of mine, breaking 17 minutes for a 5K as a master.
7 – Seven events at CCS Finals, in which the Irish Track & Field team had an individual qualify. We had someone place in the top five in all seven events.
6 – Six Irish athletes qualified and competed at the State Track & Field meet. First time we’ve had someone qualify since 2003.
5 – Five dollars, the new price for Thursday night track workouts. After seventeen years at the original $4 price, I raised my rates effective July 1, 2011.
4 – Fourth place overall in the Pacific Association Grand Prix (Short) Road Series in the masters division.
3 – Three cherry picker race first place overall finishes: Run For Recess 5K, July Fourth Rocket Run, Miles for Migraine 10K.
2 – Two years in a row the Irish qualified both the boys and girls teams for the State Cross Country Meet.
1 – One hundredth of a second, the amount of time by which Shannon Rowbury beat the fourth place woman in the 1500 meters at the USA Championships to qualify for the World Championships in Daegu.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all. And to all, Happy Running!
Since 1994, Thursday night has meant track night. Even accounting for vacations, workouts moved to an alternate day, and periods when I was away for podiatry school-related internships, I believe it’s a low estimate to say I’ve coached 600 Thursday night track workouts over the last seventeen plus years. The weather God has been quite kind, stopping all rain at 6:30 P.M. on Thursdays.
Beginning in January 2012, these coached track workouts will move to Tuesday nights. I believe there will be less Kezar Stadium facility-related conflicts and I myself have less work conflicts on Tuesday than Thursday. I also think the track workout on Tuesday fits in better for people racing or running long on the weekend. Rather than risk running too hard at the Thursday track workout and being flat for your race or long run the next weekend, attendees will be able to adjust the intensity they run at the Tuesday track workout based on how they are feeling from the previous weekend’s race or long run.
But change is hard (heck, I kept the price of the workouts at $4 from April 1994 until July 2011, before raising them one dollar to $5). I will miss measuring the nearness of the weekend by seeing my friends at the track on Thursday. I may have to cook dinner on Thursday nights now unless the Off the Grid trucks decide to make the switcheroo to Tuesday as well.
I first started coaching the Thursday night track workouts in 1994 at the request of the Dolphin South End (DSE) Runners. Members of the DSE, specifically people like Sandra Seiki and Ken Reed were looking for someone to coach track workouts to help them get faster. I agreed and created a training plan that would work for runners of varying abilities and varying race goals. Week one was distance intervals, week two was sprint intervals, week three was power workouts, and week four was a cut-back week. I still incorporate that basic outline today, but I now modify workouts to mesh with the Pamakid racing team schedule. Among the runners who were there at the very beginning are two people who still come to the track workouts today: Patrick Lee and Keith Johnson. We were all two age groups younger back in 1994! You can do the math yourself on Patrick and Keith, but I was twenty-three when I started coaching these workouts.
The first workout was April 21, 1994 at San Francisco State’s track at 6:30 P.M. The workout was 2 X 1200, 2 X 800, and 2 X 400. The cost was $4 per workout or $15 for four consecutive workouts. The price did not change for seventeen years, although I did change the credit policy, allowing people to roll their credit forward if they were absent. In October of 1994, when daylight savings time ended, we had to move from SF State (which had no lights) to Kezar Stadium and we’ve stayed there since. When the workouts moved to Kezar, John Spriggs started coming, making John number three in seniority out of the current attendees, behind only Patrick and Keith. In 2001, George Rehmet got the Pamakid Runners to subsidize the cost of track workouts for Pamakid members. In May 2002, Dave Parrish and David Hoatson started the K-Stars. Their Saturday runs and website brought many new runners to Thursday night track. Since 2003 the results of the workouts have been posted online thanks to the work of Dave Parrish, Tomas Palermo, and Heather Johnson. On June 30, 2011, the last day before the price increase, an estimated 655 track workouts were pre-purchased at the old price – runners know a bargain when they see one!
We have several special track workout traditions such as Christmas Relays and the one mile time trial. There is also a tradition of going out to eat to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, big races, and anything else we can come up with to use as an excuse to go eat together. The all-time record for attendees is 37 for the Christmas Relays workout on December 16, 2010, which was also my fortieth birthday. The record for a “normal” workout is 30, on January 27, 2011. If you know me, you know I am a creature of habit. We had the same stretching routine that ended with four striders until 2008 when I changed with the times and moved from static stretching to dynamic stretching – though it still ends with four striders.
There have been times in the dead and dark of winter that we were the only ones on the track. We’ve seen a lot of other groups come and go. The track has been particularly crowded with the rise in popularity of charity running, especially Team in Training. We’ve shared the track with PacWest and MacCanDo on Thursday nights and now we will share the track with the Impalas, West Valley, and Excelsior on Tuesdays. Melvina Hill policed Kezar Stadium in the evening for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department for years. With her booming voice Melvina kept order at the track, but her position was eliminated in 2009 and now we’re out there on our own with the Frisbee players, soccer players, and people walking in lane one. We’ve been joined by some top notch runners like Shannon Rowbury (a future Olympian) and Tyler Small (in 2010 before he ran 2:34 and came in fifth at the San Francisco Marathon). On July 6, 2000, a woman named Malinda Walker attended her first track workout. The rest of that story, shall we say, is history! We aren’t the only couple that first laid eyes on each other at one of these track workouts. There are several others, including Nathan Wong and Leah Evans, who now live in Boston, are married and are the proud parents of twins.
It is with a heavy heart that I bid adieu to the Thursday night track workouts. But I excitedly look forward to the new tradition of Tuesday night track workouts. I just hope the weather God gets this memo…you can now rain on Thursdays at 6:30 P.M. but I would greatly appreciate it if you can create a no-rain zone for Kezar Stadium for Tuesdays at 6:30 P.M. moving forward. Amen!
Running the race you want to run, when you want to. That’s the challenge all of us runners face. It’s what keeps us motivated to train and to sign-up for big races – all in the hope that things will come together perfectly on race day. The 2011 USA Club Cross Country National Championships (aka “Club Nationals”) was my big goal race. I first thought about the Pamakids attending this meet over three years ago. We started talking specifically about the 2011 Club Nationals last year. Trip planning to go to Seattle has been going on for the last nine months. To say I’ve been targeting this race would be an understatement.
Since turning forty last year I have had a great year of training and racing. However, in the fall my focus was on coaching more than my own training. As a result I had some up races and some just okay races. At the Pacific Association Cross Country Championships (PA Champs) on November 20, I went out too hard and lost a lot of places as I fought through the muddy conditions. Coming off that disappointing race I really wanted to run a better race in Seattle. My main goal was to be competitive for the entire 10K, ideally moving up as the race went on rather than being passed.
I bought cross country spikes problems in case the grass was wet and muddy so that I would not have traction problems as at the PA Champs. I studied the course map and on Flotrack video of the course. The course was more or less a 2K loop that would be run five times. I decided I would use the kilometer marks to monitor my pace rather than the usual mile markers. Based on my recent previous times, I figured I could run sub-37 minutes on this 10K course. My goal was to run 3:40 per kilometer and 7:20 per 2K loop in order to run under 37 minutes. With those splits, I calculated I would place around 130th, but my more ambitious goal was to try to break into the top 100, which would likely require a low 36 minute time.
The energy at the starting line was intense. Over 350 of the fastest masters runners were toeing the line and there was an electricity in the air. I was excited to be with my Pamakid teammates at this meet, but I also had my game face on. I noticed Margaret Gallagher taking my picture as I did my drills and stride outs. Five minutes before the race began the officials fired a gun to indicate sweats off and no more run outs. Our Pamakid masters men’s team stripped down, took a team photo, and did our “Go Green!” cheer. As we stood at the starting line anticipating the gun it grew eerily quiet. I looked down the row of runners, all crouched in the set position, toes behind the white line. Then bang, the gun fired and we were off.
For the first 400 meters the challenge was to get a good start but not get sucked out at too fast a pace. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a field this large and competitive. Over 350 runners from all over the country were jockeying for position along the grass straightaway. I had to use my elbows to protect my space and avoid falling. There were many times that I was surrounded by other runners and had no choice but to go with the crowd. It was so crowded that speeding up and passing was not an option, nor was slowing down unless you wanted to be trampled. When I hit the 1K mark, I clicked my watch and carefully took my eyes off the course to check my watch. It read 3:36. Beautiful! Only four seconds faster than goal pace. I settled into a rhythm and ran with the crowd of runners around me. I had no idea what place I was in but I saw Dan Mancini of the River City Rebels next to me so I figured there was a good chance I was in the right group.
I hit the 2K mark at 7:15 and smiled to myself. I was right on pace and the danger of going out too fast was pretty much over. Now I could concentrate on maintaining the pace and passing people. I was in a real groove and that’s exactly what I did. I passed twelve runners on the second 2K loop, running 7:11 and pulling away from Dan Mancini. I hit 5K in 18:02 so I knew I was not only well on my way to a sub-37, I was flirting with a low 36 minute 10K. The third loop was another 7:11. I was in the zone.
Sometime mid-race I noticed that Nick and Francesca Cannata-Bowman, two kids that I used to coach at Sacred Heart Cathedral (SHC) who now live in Seattle, were cheering for me. Their sister, Sophia, is a current SHC runner. I’ve been to a lot of meets coaching members of the Cannata-Bowman family and it made me feel great to know that this time they had come to see me race.
Slightly after 6K, I noticed an Asics Aggie uniform ahead of me. I surged and passed the runner. Seconds later I heard someone cheer for this person. “Go Hongo,” they said. “Hongo? Jeff Hongo? I just passed Jeff Hongo!? I must be having a great day,” I thought to myself. Now I had to work to make sure Hongo didn’t re-pass me, so I tried to speed up just a bit. I next lapped my Pamakid teammate Mark Huffman. Mark encouraged me saying, “Go Andy, you’re having a great race!” I was getting pretty tired and started wishing the race was 8K instead of 10K. I knew I had enough gas in the tank for the fourth loop. It was the fifth loop I wasn’t so sure about.
By this point in the race, although I felt like I was surging, all I was doing was working harder in order to keep from slowing down. The good thing was that I was still passing runners fairly frequently. I tried to never settle into my position but instead constantly target the next person I wanted to pass. It was working, though, as my fourth 2K was 7:18. One lap to go. Pamakid teammates were all over the course cheering. There was no chance to let up or someone would see you and give you an earful. Malinda had told me that my form was tight the last couple races so I made a conscious effort to relax. As I rounded the final turn I knew I had about 400 meters to go. It was a long straightaway but I had plenty of company around me and I knew I needed to kick better than I had at the PA Champs if I wanted to be proud of my race. I got up on my toes and pumped my arms hard. As I approached the finish line I could see the clock, 35:55, 35:56, I was still 50 meters from the finish line so breaking 36 minutes wasn’t going to happen. But it was going to be a great time (and later I would learn that I was 92nd, achieving my top 100 goal!).
I looked up and saw the National Championship banner that indicated the finish line. At the team meeting the night before the race, I had reminded all my Pamakid teammates to take a mental snapshot of the scene as they raced towards the finish at the USA National Championships. I took my own personal snapshot so that I will always remember coming down the final straightaway at my first Club Nationals….having run the race I wanted to, on the day I wanted to.
The USATF National Club Cross Country Championships are taking place in Seattle, Washington on Saturday, December 10, 2011. For the first time in recent memory and possibly in club history, the Pamakid Runners have runners traveling to compete at this meet. The last time the club had representation at this national championship meet was in 2006, when the meet took place in San Francisco. At that meet in 2006, newly minted master, George Rehmet placed 120th in the 40-44 age division and Keith Johnson placed ninth in the 65-69 year old age division. Also racing in 2006 representing the Hoy’s Excelsior team was John Spriggs. John will be racing for Pamakids this weekend.
There are two cross country championships a year in the USA. In February what is commonly referred to as the ”Winter Cross Country Championships” takes place. This serves as the qualifying race for runners who want to run at the World Cross Country Championships. This meet tends to be more elite and individual runner oriented. The list of recent champions at this meet include Olympic medalists and American record holders like Dathan Ritzenhein, Meb Keflezighi, and Shalane Flanagan. In 2008, Jocelyn Rodriguez ran in the Junior race at this meet for Pamakids, placing 33rd out of 63 runners.
The second meet is the National Club Cross Country Championships and it takes place in December. This is the meet taking place this weekend and it is often referred to as “Club Nationals.” The meet is more team-oriented with an emphasis on clubs from all over the country coming together to compete against one another. The list of recent champions, while still impressive, includes more the second tier of elite athletes like Aaron Braun, Scott Bauhs, Renee Metvier Baillie, Rebecca Donaghue, and Delilah DiCrescenzo.
I am very excited that the Pamakids are going to Seattle. To say that going to Club Nationals has been on my bucket list is not quite accurate, because I’ve been wanting to go to Club Nationals for longer than saying something is on your bucket list has been in vogue.
The Pamakids will have 21 runners competing this weekend, with two supporters (one fiancé and one six month old baby). Most of us are staying at the Seattle Hostel so that we get a real road trip/team bonding experience.
The races will take place at Jefferson Park Golf Course, which was also the host for the 2010 Pac-10 Conference Cross Country Championships. The course is basically a 2K loop that is run multiple times depending on the race distance. There will be four races (Masters Women, Masters Men, Open Women, and Open Men), with all the women’s races 6K and all the men’s races 10K.
The first race of the day is the Master’s Women at 10:45 A.M. Representing the Pamakids will be Louise Stephens (2011 Pamakid Female Runner of the Year and sixth place in the Pacific Association Cross Country Grand Prix), Malinda Walker, Amy Sonstein, and Cammie Dingwall. Registration shows that we can expect 140 runners in this race with 16 masters teams. The Pamakids look like they have the potential to finish somewhere between 10th and 13th.
At 11:45 A.M., the Masters Men will take the course. Running in Pamakid green will be Anthony McGrath, Adam Lucas, Jerry Flanagan, John Spriggs, Paul Zager, Mark Huffman, and yours truly, Andy Chan. Over 340 runners are expected in this race with 23 masters teams. With a solid day, the Pamakids can shoot for top 20. If everyone has a great day, maybe top 15.
The Open Men will be the final race of the day at 1:45pm. Justin “Beast Mode” Mikecz, Steve Holcombe, Raymond Yu (fresh off a 3:06 marathon at CIM last weekend), John Gieng (the 2011 Pamakid of the Year), Steve Perez, and Thang Ta (2011 Pamakid Most Inspirational Runner) will represent the Pamakids and be amongst the 370 runners with 45 teams.
For many, this will be the largest and most competitive cross country race they’ve ever run. It will be an experience to toe the line with runners from all over the country, many of whom are the best of the best in their respective age divisions. The Pamakids may not be in contention for the win in any of the races but we’ll compete hard like we always do and we plan to paint the Emerald City, Pamakid Green!
In April 2010 I ran a somewhat surprising 17:10 at the Zippy 5K. I wasn’t really training hard for the race and my recent 5K’s had been in the 17:20-17:40 range. I made it a goal to run sub-17 at the 2011 Zippy race, when I would be forty years old. It was a pretty ambitious goal since the only other time in my life I ran sub-17 was in 2000 when I ran my PR of 16:35 – I was twenty-nine years old. I will always remember that race because it was the Jamba Juice Banana Man 5K and they gave free Jamba Juice for a year to the top twenty-five finishers. Me and my 16:35 came in twenty-sixth.
The sub-17 goal seemed like a reasonable one to make at the time. It was a whole year until I would need to back it up. I raced well during the fall so I stayed optimistic that I could break 17 minutes. Last December I crossed over into the world of masters runners. My first three races of 2011 were all solid. But they were all just a little slower than I had run them in 2010. Did being forty add ten seconds to my time by default? I needed to drop ten seconds, not add ten seconds.
After running an 18:00 5K at the Lake Merritt Joggers & Striders Couples Relay eight weeks ago I realized it was time to actually do some training for my sub-17 goal. My savior was the Tuesday night “Spot Run” attended by many of the Pamakid Runners. For most of the runners at the Spot Run, Tuesday is a tempo run-type workout that supplements their weekend long run and their Thursday night speed workout on the track. Due to my high school track & field coaching responsibilities the Spot Run was my tempo run, my long run, and sometimes my speed workout all rolled into one hour between 6:30 P.M. and 7:30 P.M. on Tuesday. Thanks to the camaraderie of the Spot Run group I ran three mile tempos, two mile repeats, fartleks, and other workouts that improved my fitness and confidence.
I supplemented my training by going to the weight room with my track & field team once a week. I jumped on the track and ran 200’s with the kids a couple of times, and I even went out and ran 4 X 1200 meters on the track alone once. I ran a tough 3 X 1 mile workout on the Zippy course two weeks ago to prepare my legs to run 5:30’s per mile. Just as importantly I followed some of my own coaching advice – I started talking about my goal. Talking about it to my Pamakid teammates and posting about it on Facebook made me accountable for the goal.
The weekend of the race I was in the zone. I drank lots of water all day Friday and Saturday. I ran a pre-meet workout with striders on Saturday. I had pasta for dinner. I laid out my race shoes and uniform the night before. I did lots of stretching and went to bed early.
Race morning I made sure I left myself lots of time to eat before the race and to do a long warm-up. The fact that it started to rain during the warm-up didn’t bother me in the least. I kept doing what I needed to do to be ready to race.
Last year when I ran 17:10 I ran 5:37 and 5:36 for the first two miles, then surged a 5:54 for the last 1.1 miles (approximately 5:23 for the third mile and :31 for the last 0.1). My plan this year was to run an aggressive first mile and then try to be at 11:10 or faster at the two mile mark. I decided earlier this week that if I was faster than 5:28 for the first mile I would focus on just holding my position and pace during the second mile around Stow Lake. If it was slower than 5:35 I would focus on picking it up around Stow Lake. If my split was between 5:28 and 5:35, I was going to make an in the moment decision. I hit the first mile in 5:25 so I settled in and tried to keep the same place around Stow Lake. I actually slowed down a bit, but I hit the two mile mark at 11:05 so I was where I wanted to be. But now I needed to run a fast last mile like I did last year. “Run like a bat out of hell” is what I said I would do on Facebook. I wasn’t sure if I was doing it. I wasn’t moving up and passing people like I did last year. With three quarters of a mile to go, I thought about Desiree Davila and her race at last week’s Boston Marathon. “Do it like Desi did,” I said to myself. With a half mile to go Mark Hermano yelled, “This is your mile!” All this was helping me stay on pace for a sub-17.
I looked at my watch at one point and it said 15:27. I had just over ninety seconds to get in. I looked up and could see the finish line… to my oxygen deprived brain it looked about ninety seconds away. It was going to be close. I needed to speed up or I might just miss. I thought of a quote I once read in Runner’s World, “It will be over with soon, and once it’s over, you’ll own it forever.” I wanted to own a sub-17.
Inspired by some of my SHC runners like Michael Fuerte surging on the third lap of the mile to run a nine second PR in the mile, Juliana Flynn running a 2:42 800 at the end of a tough interval workout, and Carlos Flores who split 5:07 and 5:21 on his way to a 10:28 3200 meters, I started kicking for the finish line. I passed a couple runners in the final stretch and crossed the finish line.
The clock read 16:57!