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!
In April 2010 I ran a somewhat surprising 17:10 at the Zippy 5K. I wasn’t really training hard for the race and my recent 5K’s had been in the 17:20-17:40 range. I made it a goal to run sub-17 at the 2011 Zippy race, when I would be forty years old. It was a pretty ambitious goal since the only other time in my life I ran sub-17 was in 2000 when I ran my PR of 16:35 – I was twenty-nine years old. I will always remember that race because it was the Jamba Juice Banana Man 5K and they gave free Jamba Juice for a year to the top twenty-five finishers. Me and my 16:35 came in twenty-sixth.
The sub-17 goal seemed like a reasonable one to make at the time. It was a whole year until I would need to back it up. I raced well during the fall so I stayed optimistic that I could break 17 minutes. Last December I crossed over into the world of masters runners. My first three races of 2011 were all solid. But they were all just a little slower than I had run them in 2010. Did being forty add ten seconds to my time by default? I needed to drop ten seconds, not add ten seconds.
After running an 18:00 5K at the Lake Merritt Joggers & Striders Couples Relay eight weeks ago I realized it was time to actually do some training for my sub-17 goal. My savior was the Tuesday night “Spot Run” attended by many of the Pamakid Runners. For most of the runners at the Spot Run, Tuesday is a tempo run-type workout that supplements their weekend long run and their Thursday night speed workout on the track. Due to my high school track & field coaching responsibilities the Spot Run was my tempo run, my long run, and sometimes my speed workout all rolled into one hour between 6:30 P.M. and 7:30 P.M. on Tuesday. Thanks to the camaraderie of the Spot Run group I ran three mile tempos, two mile repeats, fartleks, and other workouts that improved my fitness and confidence.
I supplemented my training by going to the weight room with my track & field team once a week. I jumped on the track and ran 200’s with the kids a couple of times, and I even went out and ran 4 X 1200 meters on the track alone once. I ran a tough 3 X 1 mile workout on the Zippy course two weeks ago to prepare my legs to run 5:30’s per mile. Just as importantly I followed some of my own coaching advice – I started talking about my goal. Talking about it to my Pamakid teammates and posting about it on Facebook made me accountable for the goal.
The weekend of the race I was in the zone. I drank lots of water all day Friday and Saturday. I ran a pre-meet workout with striders on Saturday. I had pasta for dinner. I laid out my race shoes and uniform the night before. I did lots of stretching and went to bed early.
Race morning I made sure I left myself lots of time to eat before the race and to do a long warm-up. The fact that it started to rain during the warm-up didn’t bother me in the least. I kept doing what I needed to do to be ready to race.
Last year when I ran 17:10 I ran 5:37 and 5:36 for the first two miles, then surged a 5:54 for the last 1.1 miles (approximately 5:23 for the third mile and :31 for the last 0.1). My plan this year was to run an aggressive first mile and then try to be at 11:10 or faster at the two mile mark. I decided earlier this week that if I was faster than 5:28 for the first mile I would focus on just holding my position and pace during the second mile around Stow Lake. If it was slower than 5:35 I would focus on picking it up around Stow Lake. If my split was between 5:28 and 5:35, I was going to make an in the moment decision. I hit the first mile in 5:25 so I settled in and tried to keep the same place around Stow Lake. I actually slowed down a bit, but I hit the two mile mark at 11:05 so I was where I wanted to be. But now I needed to run a fast last mile like I did last year. “Run like a bat out of hell” is what I said I would do on Facebook. I wasn’t sure if I was doing it. I wasn’t moving up and passing people like I did last year. With three quarters of a mile to go, I thought about Desiree Davila and her race at last week’s Boston Marathon. “Do it like Desi did,” I said to myself. With a half mile to go Mark Hermano yelled, “This is your mile!” All this was helping me stay on pace for a sub-17.
I looked at my watch at one point and it said 15:27. I had just over ninety seconds to get in. I looked up and could see the finish line… to my oxygen deprived brain it looked about ninety seconds away. It was going to be close. I needed to speed up or I might just miss. I thought of a quote I once read in Runner’s World, “It will be over with soon, and once it’s over, you’ll own it forever.” I wanted to own a sub-17.
Inspired by some of my SHC runners like Michael Fuerte surging on the third lap of the mile to run a nine second PR in the mile, Juliana Flynn running a 2:42 800 at the end of a tough interval workout, and Carlos Flores who split 5:07 and 5:21 on his way to a 10:28 3200 meters, I started kicking for the finish line. I passed a couple runners in the final stretch and crossed the finish line.
The clock read 16:57!