Tonight is our last night in Moscow at the 2013 IAAF World Championships. Just like in Beijing, Berlin, Daegu, and London, I have mixed emotions. I am both sad that this current adventure is about to end but also ready to be back home.
There is a little bit of a letdown when a global championship comes to its conclusion. Usually during the last month before an Olympics or World Championships, I spend a lot of time thinking about Shannon Rowbury’s race. I scout the competition, research splits from previous meets, and consider a variety of race strategies and tactics. On Shannon’s race days I feel nervous. And when she’s done competing, I feel pride. But also a little bit of emptiness as this goal race that has been on my mind for at least a month (often longer) is over. “What do I do with myself now?” is what I often end up thinking to myself.
Spending ten days at a global championship for me is like having Christmas ten days in a row. I have almost no concerns each day except what time do we need to get to the track and what event is happening tonight.
I love watching athletes competing in track & field at the highest level. There’s so much excitement, emotion, and drama. Just tonight in the span of one hour, I felt exhilaration for Matthew Centrowitz when he found an opening and sprinted to a silver medal in the 1500, I felt empathy for a courageous Alysia Montano, who just couldn’t hold on in the 800, and I felt frustration when the US women had a bad exchange in the 4X100 meter relay. Taking the kid on Christmas Day analogy one step further, I was a kid on Christmas Day opening presents when Centro saw me waving my US flag as he took his victory lap and he pointed at me. Yes, I am going to miss being at this meet every night.
Today, as often happens at the end of the meet, we got to spend some time with Shannon. We had lunch at Cafe Pushkin and grabbed some pies at Stolle. It’s nice to just spend time with her (and Pablo) and talk a little track, but mostly exchange stories about this current adventure. Like I said on Facebook, it really is a privilege to be at a World Championship meet and feel nervous before a race.
All that being said, I am also ready to get out of town.
Beijing Daegu, and Moscow were particularly challenging trips because of the language barrier (so many Germans speak English that Berlin was nowhere near the same challenge). Every outing, every meal, and every trip to the bathroom required mental thought and that can be draining. We also keep pretty long hours when on the road. The meet tends to be a night meet so we often do not get back to our room until midnight. E-mails and internet surfing tend to occupy another hour or more. Come seven the next morning, I am usually up and ready to do some sightseeting. After all, it’s a limited amount of time we’ll be in this foreign land. No point sleeping the time away. All of this hyperactivity, however, can leave one pretty tired by the end of ten days.
On top of all that, in Moscow, we had to do a lot of walking to get around. The subway was 0.75 miles from the hotel and the subway stop nearest the stadium was a 0.5 mile walk. Just getting from the hotel to the stadium and back required 2.5 miles of walking. Malinda and I estimate that we walked about 55 miles while here in Moscow, so over five miles a day. No wonder I am so tired.
Probably the main reason that I look forward to being back in San Francisco is to see the SHC team and start cross country season and to see my Pamakid teammates and tell them stories about Moscow. The official start of the cross country season is August 19. My assistant coaches will be running practice because I’ll spend most of the day in an airplane traveling home. But I’ll be there on August 20. There may or may not be another Shannon Rowbury on this year’s team, but I still plan to put all my heart into coaching this group and making them the best runners that they can be – just like I did with Shannon and everyone else that’s been on the team over the past fifteen years.
Good night and good bye, Moscow. Thanks for a memorable trip!
As everyone who follows my coaching style knows, I hate Trial Days. If you are one of the favorites then nothing real good can happen, only something bad. If you qualify on, it’s no big deal because you were supposed to. If you don’t qualify on, it’s a disaster. I often use the phrase, “live to run again,” when giving instructions to my athletes at trials.
Today (Wednesday, August 14) was a Trials Day.
On most of Shannon’s trials days at global championships in the past I have been quite nervous – usually indicated by me not talking much (so only Malinda really knows that I am nervous). Interestingly, neither Malinda or I were as nervous as usual today. Last night I was super tired from all the walking we’ve been doing and the less than six hours of sleep we’ve been getting. Upon waking this morning, I was more tired than nervous.
There’s also something to be said about the 5000 trials being less stressful than 1500 trials. In the 5000, Shannon could control more variables and there would be more time to deal with problems during the race (getting boxed in, not the pace desired, etc.). I really felt like Shannon should cruise to the 5000 final….and she did.
After a super slow first 800, the pace picked up in such a way that with about six laps to go, it was apparent who the top five would be because there was a sizeable gap back to sixth place. That’s when I started yelling to Shannon that she was clear. In high school, I told Shannon she was never to look back in a race except in a trials race when it was okay to look back to check your position. I think she may still employ this strategy. Over the last lap she checked behind her several times and definitely jogged in the last half lap when she knew she was going to place in the top five and qualify on.
In the end, the times were very slow in Shannon’s heat 1. That led to all the time qualifiers coming from heat 2, where ten out of the eleven runners qualified for the final.
After the race we met up with Shannon, her parents, coach, and boyfriend and went to the Nike House with them for some food and relaxation. With the trials behind us, there was no need to talk track. Instead, we could focus on swapping Russia travel stories. But unspoken throughout the afternoon was the fact that Shannon’s in a great spot. It should be an exciting 5000 meter final and with her speed, if she can hang around with the leaders until it’s time to kick…..well, you just never know.
I’ve been to a lot of track & field meets in my lifetime. Often things happen at meets that stick in my mind – sometimes something big and sometimes something small. Tonight, on the opening night of the fourteenth IAAF World Championships in Moscow, two things, both small, occurred that stuck in out in my mind.
First, after the men’s 10,000 meters, Mo Farah was beginning his celebratory victory lap surrounded by photographers. I noticed some British fans in front of us waving their UK flags. I told Malinda to have her camera ready because Mo might stop in front of our section, because of these UK fans, and do the “Mobot.” Sure enough, he did (photo coming when we can get to a computer with a USB port). After that, Mo motioned to one of the UK fans for his Union Jack flag – Mo needed a flag for the traditional photos and victory lap. The man tossed his flag to a photographer, who was gracious enough to take it to Mo. “Wow!” I thought to myself….what an honor to have Mo take YOUR flag for all these photos and the victory lap! “That guy is going to have a story to tell his running buddies when he gets home,” I told Malinda.
This reminds me of a story from the 2011 World Championships in Daegu. We had great seats, right by the finish line in around row fifteen. After the men’s 5000, I was on my feet waving a US flag and cheering for Lagat. Suddenly, “Kip” looked up into the stands. He was looking for a US flag for the victory lap that all three medalists take. I swear Lagat looked at my flag and our eyes locked for a moment. Then someone closer (maybe around row eight) got his attention and Lagat ended up taking that person’s flag. I was THAT close to having my own, “my flag went on a victory lap” story.
But I digress…
The second small thing from tonight happened with Usain Bolt. As Bolt came out for his heat of the 100 meter rounds, the somewhat sparse crowd in Luzhniki Stadium went wild. It was the loudest the crowd was all night. Malinda and I had a short discussion about whether or not track & field has ever had an icon like Usain Bolt. I think the answer is no. Bolt is the first, the current, and possibly the greatest most recognizable athlete that the sport has and will ever see. Bolt is a world record holder, he competes in multiple events and is thus a multiple time champion, and he knows how to play to the crowd.
In the final moments before the race, Bolt removed his sweats and placed them into the sweats basket. I was thinking to myself, will Bolt interact with the volunteer who is in charge of carrying his sweats. In Berlin at the 2009 World Championships, Bolt was always playful with the volunteers. But Russians are known to be quite serious and maybe he would resist the temptation. But luckily, Usain Bolt is Usain Bolt. He fist pumped the volunteer and then made his way to his starting blocks. I loved it! That young volunteer will have a story for the rest of his life about giving Usain Bolt a fist pump before his race.
The first day of ten days at the 2013 World Championships is in the books. It was a great night of small things.
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!
Andy and I have been going to the USA Track and Field Championships to watch Shannon compete since 2008. At the five meets we’ve transformed from rookies to experienced spectators. Andy loves track, he lives and breathes it and from him I’ve transformed into a knowledgeable track geek, more informed than the many less dedicated fans that fill the stands around us. For this sixth meet in 2013 we stayed home; did nothing to help fill the vacant backstretch in Iowa.
In 2008 everything was exciting and new. Alone in the stands waiting for Shannon’s race I was a bundle of nerves. Andy’s return before Shannon’s final didn’t really help. I don’t think I really relaxed until she had won the race. The race spectating nerves have subsided, but only a little. Nervous anticipation, screaming with the crowd, and celebrating; every year we’ve been there to be a part of it.
We both wanted to be there in person again this year to support Shannon, and to enjoy the meet in a way that’s not possible on TV, but we just couldn’t swing it. Other obligations were going to make the travel expensive, complicated and on a very tight schedule. Our prior experience in Des Moines didn’t help. We stayed home, made plans instead to go to Russia if Shannon made the US team.
When we started traveling to international track meets to cheer on our favorite runner I was thrilled. It was a way to get Andy out of the US and travel! However, after trips to Beijing, Berlin, Daegu and London I now just want to go camping in the desert…. and Moscow has never been on my list. I love Andy and am extremely fond of Shannon, so it was with some guilt and conflicted emotions that I admitted that I really wanted Shannon to qualify for the US team, but also really didn’t want to go to Russia. I reminded myself that I should enjoy this while it lasts, because no athletic career lasts forever.
At home in San Francisco, busy at work on Thursday I missed Shannon’s preliminary round; a first for me. Andy sent me an email message summing up the race, and I watched it later on the computer and felt confident about her chance of making the team.
The day of her final I was at an out of town event. Andy made plans to watch the race at his parents’ house, where they have cable. On the way back I used my cell phone to call Andy, eager to hear him confirm that she had made the team. Instead, over the noise of the car on my cheap phone I heard that it was the worst possible scenario as far as us making travel plans. Shannon had finished fourth, but the woman who finished third lacked a required time standard. Shannon might get to the World Championships, but we might not know until mid-July, depending on her competitor’s ability to obtain a qualifying time standard by the deadline.
I hung up and discussed with the friend I was with the complexities of the situation, both for Shannon, and for my own plans. After a short time I remembered the 5000. Would Shannon run that race? She had entered it as part of her back up plan. I called Andy back. He told me that a lot of good women were entered in the race and he didn’t know if she would run it or not.
Sunday morning Andy and I were hanging around the house, getting ready for the Pamakid’s Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run kick-off picnic at a very leisurely pace, when we decided we should go to Andy’s work, where they have cable, to watch the 5000. We picked up the pace, and made it with enough time for him to get the TV on and find the right channel. Not much later the womens’ 5000 began. The start list on the TV screen was a mess, it included the names of women who had scratched, and flashed two pages of information very quickly. It didn’t answer our question about whether Shannon was running or not. We scanned the starting line and didn’t see her. I figured Shannon must have decided not to run it. I couldn’t really blame her; terrible weather for distance races, physical and mental exhaustion from the 1500, not the event she’s been training for. Oh well.
Midway through the race, with no butterflies in my stomach for a change, Andy said something to the effect of, “Is that Shannon there, in the middle of the pack with sunglasses on?” Sure enough, there she was, in the race and well positioned. So much for the lack of nerves, suddenly I was on the edge of my seat. As the race neared the end the top six runners stretched out. Shannon wasn’t racing for first, but she wasn’t out of it either. She could still make the team. I began yelling at her through the TV. She was just as unlikely to hear me as she would be if I were in the stands in Iowa – but I felt a bit sillier. The camera began to focus on the top two runners. The race for third was obscured. I yelled loud. The camera cut away to the victor and Andy and I were left to wonder, did we just see Shannon take third? We thought so, but not without some doubt.
The internet! Andy rushed up to his office. I followed him trying to connect my iPod to the network. Then I ran back to the TV and arrived just in time to see Shannon’s name listed in third. I ran back upstairs to tell Andy. And then back downstairs hoping there would be an interview. Success with the internet! Since I wasn’t there to hug Shannon on her victory lap, I sent a Facebook message instead. I sent a text message to my colleagues that I will be going to Russia for vacation this year. Excited and happy Andy and I collected ourselves and headed off to the Western States picnic.
I’m suddenly thrilled to be going to Russia, thrilled for Shannon and impressed with her guts and determination.
You never know what is going to happen in sports. A five point deficit with 28.2 seconds left in a basketball game usually means you will lose the game. But not always. Trailing by three goals with ten minutes left in a hockey game is usually an insurmountable deficit. But not always. Not if you’re tenacious. It’s the unpredictable nature of competition that draws so many of us to sports in the first place.
At the 2013 USA Championships, the women’s 1500 meters was predicted to be a tightly contested race but most experts figured the three runners who would place in the top three and qualify for the World Championships in Moscow were Treniere Moser, Mary Cain, and Shannon Rowbury. But that’s why they run the race. In the USA spots on national teams are earned on the track, not on paper. If this race were run ten times, there might be ten different outcomes. But the only outcome that matters is what happened on the track at Drake Stadium on Saturday, June 22, 2013.
The pace was extremely slow – 85 seconds for the first 400, 2:40 at 800 meters. I have result sheets with splits faster than that from some of our high school meets this season. It was over ninety degrees Fahrenheit. It was windy. The humidity was high. No one wanted to lead the race and that led to a lot of pushing and shoving and a bunched up group of twelve runners. The race would come down to who could run the fastest last 400. For Shannon, this probably wasn’t the ideal scenario, but she had to deal with it. Cain, Moser, and Shannon pulled away from the rest of the field with 200 to go, but over the last 100 Cory McGee, a junior from the University of Florida, kicked by Shannon to get third place. Shannon found herself in unfamiliar territory – fourth place.
The bad news was that this meant Shannon was not guaranteed a spot on the team for the World Championships. She would have to wait to see if McGee achieved the B standard (4:09.00). Having another athlete’s performance determine your fate is not a situation any athlete wants to be in. The good news was that Shannon’s 2013 USA Championships did not have to be over. The next day was the 5000 meter final, in which she was entered. It’s not her primary event. It’s 12.5 laps. Her legs would be tired from two 1500 meter races (the preliminary round and the final) she had already run this week. It would still be hot, windy, and humid. But if Shannon wanted to clinch a spot to Moscow, this was her way to do it.
The situation reminded me of another Sacred Heart Cathedral track & field athlete – Christina Young. Christina was in the class of 2004, two years behind Shannon. They were teammates in the 2002 season. When Christina was senior, her primary event was the long jump. At our WCAL Trials meet, however, she had a bad day, jumping 15-4 (15 feet, 4 inches) well less than her season best of 16-5. She finished thirteenth and failed to qualify for the final. As I said at our awards banquet in 2004, “all Christina had left was the triple jump, which was not her best event…but it was about to be.”
Some background on Christina’s triple jumping. In late April of her senior year Christina would often jump less than 30 feet in the triple jump. As of April 27 her best mark was 30-11. She improved to 31-10.5 at a meet against Valley Christian. That next weekend she missed a meet in Carmel. At that meet in Carmel, Christina’s teammate, just out from the basketball team, jumped 34-7 in the triple jump to become the team leader in that event. At our next dual meet Christina had a one foot PR, improving to 32-10. Then at WCAL Trials, with her back against the wall as she had already failed to qualify for the final in the long jump, she placed fourth with yet another PR of 33-1. Then on May 15, she had the meet of her life. She not only set a new PR of 35-5.75 (that’s a 2 foot, 4 inch PR). She took first to become the WCAL Champion…in her off event! Over the last 18 days of the season she improved 4.5 feet. I’ll never forget Christina. She was versatile and she was tenacious. When the long jump didn’t go well, she didn’t let it bring her down. She set her sights on the triple jump. Not only did she PR in the triple jump, she became the league champion.
When I went to bed Saturday night, I didn’t know if Shannon would be running the 5000 or not. From the interviews I’ve seen, she may not have known herself. But Shannon, like Christina, is a fighter. She wanted to be on the team to Moscow so she had to put the disappointment of the 1500 behind her and take her best shot in the 5000.
The early pace of the 5000 was modest, which was good for Shannon. With about a mile to go, Shannon was well positioned. The others in contention were Jenny Simpson, Molly Huddle, Amy Hastings, Kim Conley, Abby D’Agostino, Chelsea Reilly, and Shannon. Hastings, tired from the 10,000 on Thursday, would drop out. Six runners remained. With a lap to go, all six were still in it. Conley led with a lap to go. On the backstretch Huddle would take the lead from Conley and a few meters later Simpson would take the lead from Huddle. Simpson and Huddle would battle to the line for the top two places. Meanwhile with 300 to go Shannon was in sixth place and slowly losing ground on the others. With 200 to go, Shannon started moving up on D’Agostino and it looked like she might have a shot at fourth. Suddenly Reilly started to tie up in the last 100 and Conley surged by her. But Shannon, who later said she was thinking about Moscow and her late grandmother, Nonie, kicked it into another gear in the last half lap and passed Reilly and Conley to get third place!
I’ve been privileged to witness some amazing kicks by Shannon over the last fifteen years. Her kick to get third place by one hundredth of a second at the 2011 USA Championships stands out. And her kick at the 2013 USA Championships, again to get third place but this time in her “off event” showed Shannon’s tenaciousness.
Athletes that are tenacious, don’t make excuses when things don’t go the way they want. They don’t let a disappointing performance get them down. They can comeback from disappointment in their main event. They fight for a spot or a championship no matter how the odds are stacked against them. By being tenacious and not giving up, these athletes sometimes shock everyone with a performance that earns a lot of people’s respect. That’s tenaciousness. That’s Christina Young and Shannon Rowbury.
The 2013 USA Championships are upon us. Athletes at this year’s USA Championships will be vying for spots to represent the USA at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow in August.
This will be the first Olympic Trials or USA Championships that I have missed since 2007. I attended the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Trials in Eugene and the USA Championships in 2009 and 2011 (also in Eugene) and in 2010 in Des Moines, Iowa.
That means I will be cheering for Shannon Rowbury and other athletes from my computer and television rather than from the stands. USATF just announced that there will be over 50 hours of webcast coverage of the meet on their new internet broadcasting outlet, USATF.TV. In addition, ESPN2, Universal Sports, and NBC will be broadcasting more traditional television coverage of the meet.
The broadcast information from USATF is as follows:
USATF.TV Webcasting Schedule
2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships and Junior Track & Field Championships
All times Eastern
June 19, 1pm to 7:20pm
June 20th, 11am to 10:25pm
June 21st, 11am to 10:35pm (Only field events from 8-10pm)
June 22nd, 7:30am to 7pm (Only field events from 4-7pm)
June 23rd, 8am to 6pm (Only field events from 3-6pm)
USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships
All times Eastern. Check Local Listings.
June 21, LIVE 8-10 p.m. on ESPN2
June 22, LIVE 4-5 p.m. on Universal Sports, LIVE 5-7 p.m. on NBC Sports Network
June 23, 2-3 p.m. on Universal Sports, LIVE 3-4 p.m. on NBC Sports Network, LIVE 4-6 p.m. on NBC
Athletes who achieved the qualifying standards and entered the USA Championships were required to declare their intent to compete in their event(s) last Sunday and Monday. There were several declarations in the women’s distance races of particular note that directly affected the event I follow the most, the women’s 1500 meters.
Women’s 800 – Brenda Martinez, who had qualifying times in both the 800 (1:58.18) and 1500 (4:04.86), chose to scratch from the 1500 and focus solely on the 800. Her time of 1:58.18 is the second fastest in the world so far in 2013.
— Brenda Martinez (@bmartrun) June 10, 2013
Women’s 1500 – High school phenom Mary Cain, who seems to have set a new record every time she’s stepped on the track to race this year, also had qualifying times in multiple events (including an impressive 1:59.51 in the 800). She decided to declare for the 1500, where her time of 4:04.62 makes her a legitimate contender to make the team for Moscow. There was also some speculation about which event Treniere Moser would chose since she had qualifying times in both the 1500 (4:02.85)and 5000 (15:11.00). Moser is still declared in the 5000, but she has indicated that is just a back-up race and her intent is to compete for a spot on the team in the 1500.
Women’s 5000 – Jenny Simpson, as the defending World Champion in the 1500 meters, has an automatic wild card entry into the World Championships. To get this wild card, USATF rules only require that she compete in an event at the USA Championships. That event does not need to be the 1500 meters and that event could be just a preliminary round race. Simpson decided to make her USA Championship event the 5000 meters. So although Simpson will race the 5000 in Des Moines (and who knows, might qualify in the top three and make the team in the 5000 as well) she will be an automatic fourth qualifier for the USA in the 1500, in addition to the top three finishers in the race in Des Moines on Saturday.
Women’s 10,000 – Neely Spence, who was granted a World Championship 10,000 meter “A” standard by virtue of her top 15 finish at the 2013 World Cross Country Championships, has a stress fracture and had to withdraw from the 10,000 meters.
Women’s Steeplechase – Emma Coburn, a 2012 USA Olympian in the 3000 steeplechase, scratched due to a back injury.
Sadly, I won’t be able to compete at the 2013 USA Championships. Thank you everyone for the support, time to get well! http://t.co/R1BRyQ1ROw
— emma coburn (@emmajcoburn) June 16, 2013
Saturday, February 16, 2013 was a record-setting night at the Armory for the 2013 Millrose Games.
- 1. Chris O’Hare of Tulsa set a new collegiate indoor mile record with a time of 3:52.98 in the Wannamaker Mile race. O’Hare, who placed fourth in the race behind winner Lopez Lomong was the 2012 NCAA Indoor mile champion. The previous record was set by BYU’s Miles Batty at the 2012 Millrose Games (3:54.54).
- 2. Mary Cain bettered her own high school indoor mile record, running 4:28.25, which bettered her mark from the New Balance Games (4:32.78). Cain came in second in the race behind Sheila Reid and ahead of several professional runners and All-American college runners. With Cain’s achievement the high school girls indoor mile record has dropped over ten seconds in 2013. Debbie Heald held the record with a 4:38.5 for over forty years, from 1972 until January 26, 2013.
- 3. Edward Cheserek, who just this week announced he would be attending the University of Oregon next year set a new high school boys indoor two mile record, running 8:39.15 to better Gerry Lindgren’s old record (8:40.0) from 1964.
- 4. Bernard Lagat (in the same race as Cheserek) ran 8:09.49 to re-claim the American record for the men’s indoor two mile from Galen Rupp (8:09.72 in 2012).
- 5. Alysia Montano, in the seldom run women’s indoor 600 meters, shattered the American record, running 1:23.59. The previous record was 1:26.56 by Delisa Walton-Floyd in 1981. Ajee Wilson, who recently decided to skip collegiate competition and signed a pro contract with Adidas, came in second and also bettered the previous American record time with a 1:26.45.
- 6. Erik Sowinski, not Olympians Nick Symmonds or Duane Solomon, set a new American record in the men’s indoor 600 meters with a time of 1:15.61. Solomon was the previous American record holder with a mark of 1:15.70 at a meet in Glasgow in January.
Upon reading about these record performances, one stood out as a little more shocking than any of the others. Wasn’t this 600 meter race supposed to be a battle between Solomon and Symmonds, who placed fourth and fifth respectively in the 800 meters at the 2012 London Olympics?
Who is Erik Sowinski and how did he set an American record over Solomon and Symmonds? Perhaps Symmonds said it best in a post-race interview, “…that’s what’s great about track. You can fly right in, step on the track and get an American record.”
Even more amazing is that Sowinski was not even scheduled to be in the race. Three days before the meet, Kevin Borlee scratched so meet director Ray Flynn called Sowinski. Two days before the meet an excited Sowinski tweeted, “It’s official! I will be running the 600m at Millrose Games this Saturday!”
So who is this man who was a last minute addition to the race, who then went out and set an American Record?
Sowinski attended West High School in Waukesha, Wisconsin where he was on the cross country, basketball, and track & field teams. In his senior year he set personal records (PR’s) and school records in the 400 meters (49.46) and 800 meters (1:54.29). He was state champion in the 800, anchored West to the state championship in the 4X800 relay, and also ran a leg on the fifth place 4X400 relay team.
From West, Sowinski moved on to the University of Iowa where he steadily improved each season.
|800 indoor||800 outdoor|
Freshman year he set a school record in the 600 meters indoors and advanced to the NCAA Midwest Regional as a member of the Iowa 4X400 relay team. Sophomore year he set a school record in the 800 meters indoors and earned All-American honors in the 4X400 relay (Iowa ran 3:05.61 to place seventh at the NCAA Championships). Junior year he earned All-American honors indoors in both the 800 (4th) and 4X400 relay (4th) and outdoors he qualified for the NCAA Championships in both the 800 (15th) and 4X400 relay (10th). Senior year he was the Big-10 Indoor champion for the 800 and placed third at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Outdoors as a senior he bettered the Iowa school record in the 800 meters three times. The previously school record was a 1:47.64 set by Bill Frazier in 1962. In front of a hometown crowd at the 2012 NCAA Championships, Sowinski ran his current PR of 1:45.90. Sowinski capped his 2012 season by running at the Olympic Trials in Eugene. He advanced to the semi-finals but was unable to qualify for the final.
Sowinski, who was a five-time All-American while at Iowa, owns or shares seven school records including the indoor 600, indoor 800, and outdoor 800. He was the 2012 Big-10 conference champion in the indoor 800 meters and in 2011 helped Iowa to their first Big-10 conference championship since 1967. In addition he graduated with a degree in integrative physiology and was an academic All-American. In 2012 Sowinski was the recipient of a Big-10 Medal of Honor that recognizes student athletes who have “attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work.”
He had a very solid collegiate track career with some nice academic achievements to go along with his athletic achievements. I think most impressive is his steady improvement every season, both in terms of improving his 800 meter time (see chart above) and doing better each year at the NCAA Championships (not qualifying as a freshman, qualifying in the 4X4 but not the 800 as a sophomore, 15th as a junior, and 2nd as a senior).
Although his college career is now complete, Sowinski’s running career may be just taking off. He is now an American Record holder. He has now beaten Solomon and Symmonds, the two best 800 meter runners in the country. Only time will tell what stories will be added to Erik Sowinski’s storybook career.
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!