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!
When three Pamakids (Colin Alley, John Gieng, and Janeth Badaracco Siva) were selected in the lottery to run the 2013 Western States, I knew that June 29 and 30, 2013 were going to become important days in Pamakid Running Lore. Tony Rossmann helped me confirm that having three Pamakids in Western States was most likely a club-first. Doing something for the first-time in a club that’s over forty years old and steeped in tradition is no easy feat. I wanted the club to celebrate the event, which is why I encouraged the Board of Directors to approve some funds to offset the cost for a pre-Western States club picnic.
I also knew that I would likely head up to Squaw Valley and Auburn, not necessarily to crew for anyone but to cheer on our runners. I had previously attended the 1995 Western States race as a podiatry student, so I had an idea of what I was getting myself into – a lot of driving on windy roads, a lot of waiting around either in the heat or in the dark, and not a lot of sleep.
Cool! Let’s do this!
Malinda and I stayed overnight at our friend Whitney’s place in Truckee.
Saturday, 3:20am – The alarm goes off and our day begins….sort of.
3:32am – I make my French Press coffee. Technically, NOW the day begins!
4:10am – I am really glad that we drove to Squaw Valley the day before to have dinner with the gang. As a result, we know where to go to get to the start area for Western States. It might not have been so easy in the dark without the knowledge we gained the day before. There’s a lot of energy in the air.
4:45am – A Go Green cheer before the start of Western States. I believe this was the first pre-Western States 100 Go Green cheer in club history!
5:00am – The race begins.
5:09am – Malinda and I help some race officials take down the starting line arch. This prompts a strange dream that I have later.
6:00-8:00am – A short nap back at Whitney’s. I dream that we are back at Squaw Valley after the start of the race. I ask what happens if someone is late starting the race because they take down the starting arch so quickly after the race begins. Someone responds that, “NO ONE is going to be late for the start of Western States,” to which I respond, “What do you mean? Malinda’s right here and she’s supposed to be racing!” The race official says that Malinda can start now, and as long as she catches the safety crew that is sweeping the course by Robinson Flat she can stay in the race. Malinda takes off sprinting and I yell to her, “Pace yourself! You only have to catch the safety crew by mile 29.” Oh boy! Malinda running a 100 miler??!! The race just started and I’m already so sleep deprived that I am having strange dreams!
8:36am – We leave from Truckee and begin our drive westward.
9:37am – We pull off I-80 at Colfax because we know there’s a Starbucks where we can use our devices with the free wireless. I feel somewhat old school because we don’t have a smartphone to help get directions and race updates. Of course I am on my iPad setting up “my favorites” so I can easily get updates on Colin, John, and Janeth whenever I get a wi-fi signal.
10:10am – We buy sandwiches at Subway. Who knows when we will be able to buy food again. Then we’re back in the car and driving towards Dusty Corners.
10:25am – Our first text message update arrives on my flip phone (yeah, old school!) as we’re driving down Foresthill Drive. Colin reached Duncan Canyon at 9:14. Hmmm….the message was over an hour delayed….not exactly live updating. We realize we will need to take that into consideration when navigating our way around the course.
10:49am – We turn right onto Mosquito Ridge road. My printout warns us to “proceed with caution.” The next 23.5 miles are going to be windy and steep. Then we’ll turn on to Road N-44 for five miles, the first two of which will be paved. Why did we decide to go to Dusty Corners again? Oh yeah, because the aid station captain there is Doug White, who is a friend of Jenny Smith from the New Orleans chapter of Pamakids.
10:49am–11:36am – The text updates stop coming because we have no cell phone signal. I’m driving very cautiously and am thankful there are no cars ahead or behind me so I can meander along. Malinda wonders aloud if we are going to get to Dusty Corners before Colin. “We will as long as Colin arrives in the window of time I listed on the meet sheet,” I say, referencing a conversation we had over dinner on Friday, “If he’s early, that’s what he gets. If he’s late, I already told him I won’t cheer for him.” Malinda likely rolled her eyes but I had my eyes on the road like a good driver and therefore didn’t see it.
11:56am – After a potty break on the side of Road N-44 we drive onward. The speeding cars driving the other way piss me off. Just because your runner is on 15 hour pace, doesn’t mean you own the road! We had thought that Dusty Corners was so isolated that there would be hardly anyone there. Nope! We park along the side of the road and end up hiking in about a half mile. We see Jesse, Jenny, and Lavy, experienced ultra runners, who help us figure out where to set-up.
12:29pm – We hike up the trail a short way thinking we have some time before Colin arrives. But all of a sudden, there he is. Malinda is able to take a picture and then we rush back to the aid station so we can talk to Colin. He started conservatively because of the heat (it’s forecast to be over 100 degrees) but ran a good downhill section coming into Dusty Corners. John G’s “hot year” pace chart suggests that Colin is on sub-22 hour pace.
1:20pm – We’re back up the trail waiting for John. I have my iPad out ready to take some video. As runners come by, they see me with the iPad and yell their bib number to me because they think I am a race official recording bib numbers. Sheepishly I tell them all thank you. I start thinking about hiding the iPad behind my back so as to not cause confusion.
1:42pm – Suddenly we see John coming. He’s the first runner (that I know of) to be racing in the new Pamakids singlet. At the aid station John tells us that he’s really hot and he needs to lower his core temperature. The aid station volunteers give John ice and pour water over his head. A couple minutes later, John’s off.
2:20pm – The challenge with spectating is that you really only have an estimate of what time a runner will arrive. There is a lot of “hurry up and wait” time.
2:40pm – Malinda and I hike up the trail again to wait for Janeth. She’s easy to spot with all her pink. She sounds very positive about how things are going. She rolled her ankle a few miles back but she plans to tape it here and then she’ll be able to push harder on it.
3:23pm – We load up, walk to our car, and leave Dusty Corners. The drive out is less stressful because I know what to expect. We know that we have cell phone reception again when my phone starts beeping like crazy. The thirteen text messages I missed while we were out of range arrive all at once. There’s one voicemail and one text from Jerry but I figure he’s just saying hi so I don’t worry about responding to him right away.
4:27pm – We arrive in Foresthill. There are A LOT of cars and people here. I luck out and someone pulls away and I get their parking space very close to the aid station (and more importantly, the gelato stand). I finally get back to Jerry and it turns out he’s had a rough day. Colin’s car battery died and Jerry’s been dealing with that most of the day. He’s gotten everything taken care of but he’s a little stressed and his most important job, pacing Colin the last 38 miles, is about to begin shortly.
5:30pm – Malinda and I start walking towards Bath Road, where we will meet Colin and run him in to Foresthill. I end up going back to the car three times to make sure I am not over the white line as the Sheriff warns us that they will tow illegally parked vehicles. The Pamakids already have had one car issue, let’s not have a second. As we walk down Bath Road we say hi to all the runners we pass – the ultra running community is very friendly and the runners seem so appreciative that it motivates me to offer even more encouragement everytime I see a runner. Bath Road is a pretty steep hill and every runner we passed has been walking up the hill. Then we see Colin and he’s running! We start running with him up Bath Road. My job was to call Jerry and Erin to let them know when Colin was about 15 minutes away but I have no cell service. When I finally get service we’re more like five minutes away so I hurriedly make my calls.
6:00pm – Colin and Jerry leave Foresthill. I go to buy Malinda the gelato I promised her when we first arrived at this aid station. Our plan had been to go to the hotel to sleep after Foresthill and skip the middle of the night cheering. But Malinda’s having fun, my coughing hasn’t been bad, and who knows if we’ll ever do this again. We decide to connect with Tan and Ray and see if we can tag along with them. I think this is the moment I realized we were crew, not spectators.
6:55pm – It’s time to head back to Bath Road to see John. Fatigue is setting in and we happily accept a ride from John Spriggs part of the way.
7:37pm – Ray and John S are tougher than us and they run from Foresthill to Bath Road and all four of us wait for John. When he arrives, he’s clearly pretty tired and he’s not saying too much. We accompany him to Foresthill.
8:14pm – Ray will now pace John for the next 16 miles. We make a plan with Tan – we’ll go get dinner, then leave our car at the hotel and get in the car with Tan. John S joins us for dinner while his carmate, Kelly, remains in Foresthill to cheer on Janeth.
8:38pm – We’re just a mile or two from the hotel but traffic comes to a standstill. We can see that there’s a helicopter landing on the bridge in front of us. Malinda checks it out. It doesn’t seem like a medical emergency and we hear rumors that this is “sheriff activity.” Thankfully it doesn’t last long and we are on the move again.
9:55pm – Malinda and I are now in the car with Tan. He knows where to go, which is a relief because since we didn’t plan to go to this aid station, I hadn’t studied the map. Tan thinks it will take about 40 minutes to get there. But from there we’ll have to hoof it to the river. Based on how John looked when he left Foresthill, I am thinking he won’t arrive at the river until well after midnight but Tan says we should try to get there by 11:45 just in case.
10:37pm – We arrive at the closest parking area to the far side of the river. It’s going to be a 1.25 mile downhill hike to Green Gate and then another 1.75 mile downhill hike to Rucky Chucky Far Side (a.k.a. the river crossing). The parking situation is a mess. Cars are parked on both sides of the road. There are no parking spaces near the trailhead and nowhere to turn around. We need to get the cars behind us to back up and then Tan is going to have to back his car up. I sigh to myself because I feel like Tan needs to get going by 10:45 and if we can’t get parked by then, he’ll have to just go and I’ll have to take over parking the car. The parking gods are with us again, however, and someone pulls out.
10:45pm – We’re parked and we start hiking down to the river. It’s slow going because the trail is dark and not smooth at all. I’m glad we’re walking and not running, but I also don’t know if I would be any faster running.
11:19pm – I get a text message that John arrived at Peachstone aid station at 10:29pm. I tell Tan that we don’t need to rush anymore. John won’t be crossing the river until at least 12:15 and more likely some time between 12:30 and 1:00am.
11:44pm – We arrive at Rucky Chucky and check out the river crossing. Malinda lies down on a large boulder and takes a nap. I’m starting to get tired now, too. I think about the fact that we have to hike three miles uphill back to the car and start feeling even more tired.
Sunday, 12:37am – Suddenly we see Ray and John more than halfway across the river. We cheer them on and all five of us walk up a short hill to enter the aid station area. John is still feeling very hot so he really enjoyed getting wet up to his waist as they crossed the river. We begin the hike up to Green Gate. John is much more talkative than he was at Foresthill. I think he is now pretty confident he’s going to make it to the finish. As we hike, the pace picks up. Tan and Ray are trying to keep John moving at a decent clip. I am the one falling off the back end, but I have the car keys so I am not concerned.
1:19am – We arrive at Green Gate. From here, Tan will take over pacing. John and Tan head out along the race course and Ray, Malinda, and I start walking (more uphill) towards the car. More than once, Malinda thinks she sees something that indicates we are there, only to realize it’s just the headlamp of someone coming down the trail. It’s like seeing a mirage in the desert, only it’s dark out.
1:55am – We’re about as happy to arrive at the car as John will probably be to arrive at Placer High School in a few hours. There’s a chance we could see Colin at the finish but the text message updates are so delayed we really don’t know. We decide we are better off heading to the hotel for a nap before John comes in.
2:17am – The pick-up truck in front of us on Highway 193 is driving very erratically. We think it’s a drunk driver. Ray gives the truck a lot of space and I call 9-1-1 to report the possible drunk driver.
2:41am – We need gas so we stop at Beacon to fill up. I get a text that Colin is at Robie Point. 1.3 miles left.
3:03am – Tower needs food so we go through the drive-thru at Jack in the Box. Malinda asks him to order her some fries. I get a text that Colin is in – 21 hours, 57 minutes!
3:20am – We’re in our room at the Comfort Inn. I post to Facebook that Colin is in, just in case there is someone up at 3:20 in the morning and relying on my Facebook status to track Colin’s progress.
3:50-5:50am – A couple hours of much needed sleep. Ray wakes me up before my alarm goes off and suggests that I check the iPad for an update on when John will finish.
6:02am – I still think John is projecting to finish after 7:00am. We have time. Ray and I continue our debate about how to get to Robie Point with a minimum amount of running on our part. We’re so tired that we are considering shuttling cars, rather than running one mile.
6:13am – Tan sends me a text. He and John just crossed No Hands Bridge. We don’t have time. I wake Malinda and tell her we need to go now or we’re going to miss John.
6:33am – There are a zillion cars at Placer High School. We end up parking on a side street, which works out well for us. I have plotted a shortcut route to Robie Point that goes by this side street – we saved another block of running; Ray looks happy. We take off running towards Robie Point. Since we’re taking a shortcut, there is a chance that we may miss John completely and not even know it. I lead the way up a pretty steep hill. Ray lags behind trying to yell directions to us that he’s reading from his iPhone. I keep reminding Malinda and Ray that we only have to run to John; and that John will probably be walking so we will be able to just walk with him.
6:42am – I get a text that John is at Robie Point. We’re a couple blocks away. Then we see him! Tan is playing the Rocky theme from his phone. John is running, not walking. We’re all so excited that Malinda and Ray don’t give me dirty looks. Not only is John running, he’s running pretty fast. We crest the hill. It’s less than a mile on the streets to the high school. The pace picks up some more. We’re probably running at least an eight minute mile pace. Malinda’s shoe gets un-tied but she doesn’t want to miss this. She hands me the camera and sprints ahead to tie her shoe. We pass her. I worry that she’s going to miss running John in but she sprints back to catch up to us as we enter the high school track. Ray and Malinda are breathing harder than Tan. People are clapping. Kelly runs to the corner of the field, jumping up and down, and taking pictures. The announcer calls John’s name and he sprints down the final straightway to the finish line.
6:54am – John crosses the finish line.
7:32am – We’re sitting on the grass in the shade. Everyone is tired (OK, John deserves to be the most tired but it’s not for sure that he is). We decide that we’ll go back to the hotel so people can shower and then come back to see Janeth finish.
7:50am – I post a picture of John’s finisher medal on Facebook. I think Janeth will finish between 9:30 and 10:00. There’s not really time for a nap.
8:25am – I’m craving coffee. We decide to head to Starbuck’s to get something to eat and then head to the high school.
9:15am – Malinda and I are sitting in the shade watching runners finish. Ray is hitting the complimentary breakfast line the same way that he and Jerry hit the frozen yogurt samples back at Squaw. I never drink soda but I’m so tired, hot, and thirsty that I start craving a Coke.
9:50am – We see a big mass of pink on the track. It’s Janeth and her pacers, crew, and family. We start cheering and taking pictures.
9:51am – Janeth with her husband and sons cross the finish line.
Three Pamakids started the 2013 Western States 100 nearly 29 hours ago, and three Pamakids are now in. All three have earned their buckle. Tony Rossmann e-mails that he believes this is a club record!
The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run is considered by many to be the ultimate ultra marathon. Their website proclaims the race to be the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile race in the world. The race starts at Squaw Valley near the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics and ends at Placer High School in Auburn, California.
The race began as a race for horses in 1955. That race was known as the Western States Trail Ride or the Tevis Cup “100 Miles One Day” Ride. In 1974 the first two-legged creature, known as an ultra runner ran, the route with the horses. His name was Gordy Ainsleigh and he finished in 23 hours, 42 minutes. In 1977, fourteen men ran the first official Western States Endurance Run, which was held in conjunction with the horse race. Due to an increase in interest, the race for runners separated from the horse race and became its own entity in 1978.
Today the race accepts about 400 runners each year. To gain entry into the race, one must complete, 1) a 50 mile race in under 11 hours, 2) a 100K race in under 15 hours, or 3) a 100 mile trail race. More people qualify and want to run the race than there are spots, so a lottery based system is used to gain entry into the race. Runners receive extra entries into the lottery for each consecutive previous year of not getting into the race. There is also a special bonus drawing on the day of the lottery open only to those who attend the lottery at Placer High School.
The race is not for the faint of heart or the un-trained. The course follows the same trail that gold and silver miners followed in the 1850’s. It’s the middle part of the Western States Trail, a nationally dedicated recreation trail that stretches from Salt Lake City, Utah to Sacramento, California. There is 18,000 feet of elevation gain and nearly 23,000 feet of elevation loss. Temperatures can vary from 20 degrees at night to 110 degrees in the middle of the day. Recently the range has been more like a low in the 50-60’s and a high in the 80-90’s. Runners summit passes and dropdown into canyons. At mile 78 runners, using a guide rope for assistance, must cross the middle fork of the American River. If conditions are particularly harsh and portions of the normal course are not accessible due to snow, race officials may use one of two snow routes. Also, if the river crossing is deemed to be too dangerous, boats are used to transport the runners across the river.
A total of 1,500 volunteers make sure that the race runs smoothly. The river crossing station alone has 125 volunteers. There are twenty five aid stations with names such as Dusty Corners, Devils Thumb, and Rucky Chucky spread throughout the course. Runners must weigh-in at the ten medical checkpoints. If they have lost more than 5% of their starting weight, they must remain at the aid station and re-fuel and re-hydrate until their weight returns to within 5% of their starting weight.
Runners are allowed a pacer who can accompany them (for safety reasons) from the Foresthill station (mile 62) until the finish. There are very specific rules about what a pacer may and may not do and violating the rules will lead to runner disqualification.
Since 1998, runners must fulfill a service requirement of eight hours. This service can be trail maintenance or any other volunteer service for a running event. Pacing, crewing, and coaching other runners does not count towards this service requirement.
The Western States awards are among the most prized in the ultra running community – a silver belt buckle for finishing in under 24 hours and a bronze buckle for finishing before the 30 hour cut-off.
The 2013 Western States 100 holds particular interest for me because three Pamakid Runners, a former SHC assistant coach, and a former Pamakid who helped start our current ultra running team will all be running Western States. The three Pamakids are Colin Alley, John Gieng, and Janeth Silva. Mary (Fagan) Churchill is the former SHC coach. And Eduardo Vazquez, who became a father for the first time earlier this month, is the former Pamakid (now Tamalpan).
Good luck to all the runners in this year’s Western States Endurance Run!
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!