As the Pamakid Open Men prepared for their third USATF Cross Country Club National Championship Meet (Club Nats), they were looking to improve on 50th (and last) in 2011 in Seattle and 45th (and last) in 2013 in Bend. Beating someone, anyone, was all we were asking for.
During the week leading up to the 2015 Club Nats, it was unclear if the Pamakids would be placed into the A race or the B race. While willing to run in whichever race we were placed in by USATF, deep inside, most wanted to compete against the best of the best in the A race. An invitation to run in the A race would also give us the opportunity to do what had alluded us in 2011 and 2013…to get out of last place. It turns out that we were initially placed in the B race but the Pacific Association Cross Country Chair, Carl Rose, argued on our behalf that it was wrong to have the Pamakids as the only club whose A team was being placed in the B race. Rose campaigned for meet officials to move us into the A race and when the start lists came out, the Pamakids were in the A race.
The next step was to find a team of similar speed that we could battle to get out of last place. I scanned the entry list and one team name couldn’t help but jump out at me, the Monterey Bay Wednesday Night Laundry Runners. I didn’t know much about them but I decided to get the Open Men fired up by issuing them a challenge via a group e-mail. The next few hours saw a furry of e-mails that included some predictable laundry jokes. Steve Holcombe did some scouting, also known as Facebook stalking. Before long we had the rundown on their team – one 2:30 marathon runner up front, some 39 minute 10K runners, and a super senior who jumped in to fill out their team. We had our rivals!
The key to victory (yes, that’s what we were calling not being in last place….victory), was for our #1 runner to get as close to their #1 as possible and for our #2 runner to hopefully beat their #2 runner by the same number of places that their #1 beat our #1. Then it would come down to our #3-4-5 runners winning their match-ups, and possibly making up a few more points for us if necessary.
At the starting line, our Open Men went looking for their rivals so we would know what uniform we were targeting. To no surprise, they wore nicely pressed and just laundered Kelly green uniforms. It was game on!
It was amazing how our back pack runners quickly found their rivals. Having not been at the starting line for this race, I didn’t yet know what the rival uniform looked like. My wife, Malinda, ironically carrying a white laundry
basket that the team was using to carry sweats back to our tent, started to describe the Kelly green uniforms to me. But then Ray “Tower” Yu ran by just before the one mile mark and he was pointing excitedly at the runner ahead of him. Now I knew what I was looking for.
Just before the 3K mark, I saw Adam Roach, the Launderer’s #1 runner. Malinda and I started counting the runners between him and our #1 runner, Steve Lloyd. But then Malinda saw Nick Symmonds and yelled, “Hey look, it’s Nick Symmonds!” “Where?” I asked. As we had this conversation we lost track of what number we were on. We cheered on our top two runners, Steve L and Justin Mikecz, and then I started counting the runners between Justin and their #2. But again, I got distracted as people started talking to me. My gut feeling was that it was close but we were probably behind. “The boys are going to have to go to work the second half of the race to make this happen,” I thought to myself. We would later learn that I was pretty much spot on. According to the chip split times, at the 3K mark we were losing to the Launderers by 20 points.
Malinda and I went back into the Polo Fields to cheer for them again. This time I tried to stay away from people I knew so I could stand alone and count undisturbed. I approximated that Steve L was losing his match-up by 90 points and that Justin was winning his match-up by 50 points. That meant we needed our 3-4-5 runners to pick up 40 points for us. Things were trending well. Steve H passed the Launderers #2 (David Erstad). Ryan Pletzke and Ray were not only pulling ahead of their #3 (Mark Moehling) but also closing the gap on Erstad. It was also helpful that our #6 and #7 runners Merick Dang and Jeff Huizinga were beating the Launderer’s #4 (the super senior, Jim Tiffany). Now was not the time to defer to your elders. Take him out! John Gieng running as our #8 runner was still helping the cause, displacing the Launderers #5, Ryan Dunham. We were gaining an important extra one point because at Club Nationals, they score eight runners.
We ran back to the 7K mark. A lot of the runners had passed already and I missed Roach, so I couldn’t count what the lead over Steve L was. I did count that Justin was 50 or so placed ahead of Erstad. I had the same feeling that we needed to pick up some more points. The points were hard to come by for our 3-4-5 runners because there weren’t that many runners in striking range around them. I felt that Steve L and Justin were the key. With a good finish they could pick up ten places and that might be what we needed. We kept yelling to our guys, telling them where our rivals were and to fight for every place. The chip timing splits would later bear out that it was indeed close. We had made up the gap and pulled ahead by a mere two points at the 7K mark. A big part of this turnaround from 20 points down to two points ahead was Justin moving up 20 places while his match up #2 runner was in the same place.
The way we were passionately yelling for our guys, you’d think we were cheering on the Hoka One One guys fighting for the team championship. The guys were focused like never before, game faces on and laser stares with their eyes. We kept feeding them information about the Landerers. At one point when we were yelling at our team and pointing at one of the Launderers, saying, “That’s their #2! That’s their #2!” The Launderer made a weird expression on his face as if to say, “Are they talking about me? Why does anyone care that I’m the #2 runner on my team?” Didn’t he know this was Club Nats and the Pamakids were coming for them?!
With less than a half mile to go, the runners streamed by us again. It was going to be close so we just kept cheering on our guys. The Launderers #2 runner (it was now Moehling, who had passed Erstad due to an apparent shoelace issue on JFK Drive) was a few steps ahead of Ryan and Ray. This was huge. We could swing two to four points with a good finish. Ray nodded as he came by and I knew he was measuring his kick to pass Moehling and run us out of last place. Ray ended up passing Moehling to give us four runners ahead of their #2. Ryan, Merick, and Jeff all beat their #3. We were picking up “little” points that could be the “big” difference.
The rest was a bit of a blur. Knowing it would take time for the results to be announced, we took some team photos and went back to our tent for our Pamakid potluck picnic. At some point I looked at my phone and saw that the results were in. I called for everyone’s attention as I was about to read the Open Men team results. I held up my phone and dramatically scrolled down to the bottom of the results….this took several seconds and only helped build even greater anticipation. I checked last place, first. Hmm. The Mostly Bearded Track Club had supplanted us for the honor of last place (it turns out the Mostly Bearded #1 runner dropped out after the 7K mark which resulted in a 200 point swing in their team score). In 58th place, 13 points behind 57th place was….the Monterey Bay Wednesday Night Laundry Runners! We were 57th place! A mere 13 points ahead of our new rivals! A big cheer went up in our team area. “They don’t just hand out 57th place, you know,” said Jeff. In the bleachers next to us, the Asics Aggies, who like us missed the podium – with their 4th place finish, seemed to get a kick out of seeing us cheer for our 57th place finish and joined in the whooping and hollering.
Our journey out of last place began in Seattle and included a road block known as Rolling Thunder. The journey continued in Bend. But before we could arrive at our final stop on this journey, we had to battle through a laundromat in Monterey Bay. Thanks for the great race, Wednesday Night Laundry Runners.
The place was Bend, Oregon.
The year was 2013. The same year that I had double bouts of pneumonia, once in February and again in May.
Thanks to the pneumonia, I knew the 2013 Club Nationals was not going to be my fastest race. When I previewed the hilly five loop course on Friday, I hoped that 2013 Club Nationals was not going to be my slowest race.
For him, 2013 was probably just another year. His third year as a masters runner. Another year removed from the PR’s and glory of the late 1990’s back when we were both in our late 20’s.
In between my bouts with pneumonia, we raced three times. At Sac Town 10 he beat me by a comfortable 7 minutes, 25 seconds. In the 5K, I closed that gap to 1:22.
In the fall at Martinez, it took one of my best races of the season to finish 11th in 23:57. He was 6th in 23:17. He must have gotten lost. Or he was injured. Maybe he had pneumonia.
At Club Nationals, on the first of the five loops, I noticed a familiar figure ahead of me – long hair, black jersey. Could it be? I knew I wasn’t tearing it up, so I concluded he was having an off day, probably running despite an injury. I passed him. But he would re-pass me. I kept hoping I would be ahead of him when we ran by people I knew who had a camera. Maybe a picture would be taken showing me ahead of him. That would make this race memorable, I thought, because certainly neither the speed in which I was running nor place I was in in the race were memorable. I was so “not in the zone” and un-focused that this is what I thought about for most of the second, third, and fourth laps.
On the fifth lap he passed me on the final uphill. Normalcy had returned, I thought to myself. Even injured he has so much talent that he beats me. But as we approached the downhill sprint to the finish, I noticed I was catching up to that black jersey. At least I thought it was him. You see, I had never been this close to him in a race before, so I wasn’t familiar with what he looked like from such close range.
The last 200 meters. I may never have a chance to beat him again in my life I thought. And so I gave it my all out kick on the uneven terrain. I passed him in the final glorious meters, edging him out 40:22 (144th) to 40:25 (148th).
But it gets better. My Pamakid teammate, Monica Zhuang, was right by the finish line. And she was taking pictures. She captured the moment.
For him, it was a race that’s probably been long forgotten.
For me, it was the day I beat the 1998 USA 1500 meter champion, Jamey Harris. I have the picture to prove it and a story for the ages.
“I didn’t think it would ever happen.”
“At least, I didn’t have it on my radar for this year. That’s why when the opportunity presented itself this last week, and it became apparent the Pamakids were going to win our first PA team championship in club history, I was beside myself with excitement.”
“Hopefully we will win more. But I will always remember this first one.”
I have been quite fortunate in my life to have been part of numerous championship teams – league titles at Lowell in high school, a Pac-10 championship at UCLA as manager, CCS and league titles as the SHC coach. Not to mention other achievements that have been worthy of a celebration – qualifying the cross country team for state, Shannon winning two individual state championships and qualifying for the Olympics and World Championships. As the coach and president of Pamakids, we hadn’t won any championships….until last Sunday.
“I didn’t think it would ever happen.”
We’ve come a long ways since 2007 when the only Pamakid presence in the Pacific Association (PA) was a women’s cross country team. It’s been five years since the announcer at the cross country championships saw a Pamakid cross the finish line and exclaimed, “Pamakids? Wow, I didn’t know they were still around.” We didn’t revive the Pamakid racing team for the glory of winning championships. That was probably the farthest thing from our mind. The only thing father back was our pack of runners behind the race leaders. We definitely owned the middle and back of the pack for several years.
However, our philosophy of welcoming everyone to the club and showing appreciation for all runners, no matter their speed, has paid off. We have great team depth. Our team spirit, which is evident at races, motivated new runners to join and inspired current runners to become faster. All of a sudden, we were a team in the top half of the results.
“At least, I didn’t have it on my radar for this year. That’s why when the opportunity presented itself this last week, and it became apparent the Pamakids were going to win our first PA team championship in club history, I was beside myself with excitement.”
I realized on Saturday morning that it was pretty inevitable that we were going to win the PA Women’s 40+ Grand Prix title. It was important to me that everyone in the club feel excitement and pride in the achievement, not just the 40+ women. My philosophy is that it’s about the whole team, not individual groups within the team. A good example is the SHC track & field team in 2010. When the JV Girls won the league title, the whole team celebrated together – girls and boys; JV and varsity. It was a team achievement and we all felt pride in it. It’s the same philosophy with the Pamakids.
I wanted to do something special to commemorate this championship. I already had a big pre-race motivational speech planned. I needed something tangible that people would get to keep as a souvenir from the day. It would be another reminder that this was a Pamakid championship, not just a women’s 40+ championship.
Championship hats in 24 hours? Uh, no.
Championship shirts from the mall? What am I, made of money?
Homemade championship pennants? Now we’re talking. Usually Malinda gets sucked into my last minute projects. This time, she put her foot down. She would help figure out the process. But if I wanted to make 50 of these pennants, I was on my own. I’m not the most confident person when it comes to being artsy and crafty. My wife usually handles those jobs. But not this time. So off to Lowe’s I went on a mission to buy dowels. Then it was time to print out the pennants, cut them into triangles with the papercutter, and glue them to the dowel. Being the runner/coach geek that I am, I timed it. It took me on average three minutes to glue each one. My PR was 2:38. I made 50 of them. Yes, a significant portion of my Saturday was spent on this project. It was all worthwhile.
“Hopefully we will win more. But I will always remember this first one.”
Making the accomplishment even sweeter, it would be the first PA team championship in club history. You always remember the first one. Five of my most memorable coaching days of my life are the day Shannon won her first state championship, my first dual meet win at SHC, the first time the boys team qualified for state, the day the SHC JV girls won the league title, and the first time both the boys and girls qualified for state. I think about those days often and it always brings a smile to my face. I now have a sixth “first time” memory.
I will never forget opening the bottle of champagne and pouring it into cups for our celebratory post-race toast. I will never forget walking around from person to person, to clink our plastic cups of champagne. I will never forget the sight of the pennants and the smiles and hearing the laughter and cheers.
As the celebration wound down, I went over to Betty’s memorial bench with two pennants and had Thang take a picture of the pennants next to the bench. I later posted the picture on social media and sent Betty, the club’s first president a message:
Hi Betty. You would have been so proud of us today. We won our first PA club championship in club history. And appropriately we clinched the title about 100 meters from your bench. Thanks for getting us started back in 1970. Proud to be carrying on your legacy today.
Everyday is a great day to be a Pamakid. But Sunday, December 14, 2014 was a particularly great one.
To read an account of the race from one of the runner’s perspectives, checkout Heather Johnson’s blog: http://heatherraejohnson.com/2014/12/15/teamwork-can-stop-the-unstoppable/
Since getting into running and coaching, I have been less fanatical about the typical professional sports (and teams) that dominated my attention growing up. More LetsRun. Less Sports Illustrated. But the Seattle Seahawks recent run to the Super Bowl re-kindled the sports fan buried deep inside me.
I became a Seahawk fan back in 1978. I must have liked the logo on their helmet. There was also something special about the lefthanded quarterback, Jim Zorn, and his favorite receiver, Steve Largent. During that 1978 season the Seahawks beat the local Oakland Raiders two times to finish with a record of 9-7. It was not spectacular, nor was it enough to make the playoffs. But for an expansion team in just their third year of existence, it was a solid season. They finished with more wins than losses for the first time and were the first team to beat the Raiders twice in a season in 13 years. The Seahawks of this era were known for their trick plays such as fake field goals and fake punts, onside kicks and scrambles by their quarterback. I was hooked – a fan for life! Little did I know that cheering for the Seahawks would lead to many sad days. When it wasn’t football season and the Seahawks weren’t disappointing me, I had the Houston Astros to step in and break my heart instead. Let’s just say, there haven’t been a lot of championship days for me and my sports teams.
In 2013 on Super Bowl Sunday, I was home sick in bed with pneumonia. For the first time in many many years, I missed the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon. It was heartbreaking to stay home on what most of us in Pamakids consider the biggest day of the year. In the afternoon, I watched Super Bowl XLVII from my bed.
This year was a totally different experience. I have been inspired by my Pamakid teammates and I’ve been training consistently to build back the base that I lost during my two bouts with pneumonia last year. I’ve been giddy with excitement for the Seahawks and Super Bowl XLVIII, reading every article and story that I can get my hands on and watching video after video in preparation for the big game. “I’ve been waiting for this game since 1978,” I told my wife Malinda, every night when she implored that I turn off the device and go to sleep.
I see a little bit of Pete Carroll in my coaching style. I like my teams to have fun but I also hold them to a high level of expectations. If you are on my team, you are expected to commit and work hard. Watching Carroll run up and down the sidelines, cheering on his team and constantly handing out pats on the backside and high fives reminds me of what I do at meets. His post-game speeches have given me new material for my post-meet huddles. And his mantras!? “Tell the Truth Monday.” “Competition Wednesday.” “Turnover Thursday.” “Each game is a championship opportunity.” I love that cheesy stuff!
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson’s leadership and dedication has been truly inspiring. He went to last year’s Super Bowl just to get a feel for what the experience would be like because he planned to make it to the Super Bowl this year. I read story after story about Wilson’s upbringing, how his grandfather instilled a work ethic in his father and how his father passed it down to him. “Why not us?” Wilson told his Seahawk teammates back in training camp, as he planted the seed that the Seahawks’ goal should be to win the Super Bowl.
On the morning of February 2, 2014, I awoke to the sound of raindrops. As we are in the midst of a drought, it was welcome news for us Californians. But not exactly great news for the runners at the 31st annual Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon and 5K. Before the race I tried to keep everyone positive and upbeat. In our team huddle before the race I reminded the team that while every day was a great day to be a Pamakid, that today was an especially great day to be a Pamakid. Then I looked people in the eyes and told them stick to their race plan despite the rain. “Be patient early. The race still starts at the Great Highway and I’ll be there to remind you of that,” I yelled, “Go Green on three!” I felt like I was leading the Seahawks huddle before they took the field for Super Bowl XLVIII.
The race unfolded beautifully. At the seven mile mark on the Great Highway, I saw most every Pamakid. I then ran over to the mile to go mark and waited for the return of the runners. In particular, I remember seeing Zack Hedling approach. I checked my watch. It read 1 hour, 14 minutes. If he wanted to achieve his goal of running a sub-1:20, he had six minutes to get in. Yelling like Pete Carroll, or like I do when coaching the Sacred Heart Cathedral team, I got in Zack’s face, “You can break 1:20 but you need to go now! Six minutes to glory!”
It was a glorious day for the Pamakids. In 2009, Zack was out top finisher in 99th place with a time of 1:24. In 2008, Adam Lucas was our top finisher in 59th place with a time of 1:22. This year, we had 5 runners in the top 59, all with times of 1:20 or faster. We’ve come a long way. Steve Lloyd was our first top 10 finisher in a long time, running an unbelievable 1:12:13.
Reading on Facebook (isn’t that the now official way of finding out if someone is pleased with their race or not) I read several excited status updates. Yes, it was a good day for the Pamakids:
– As mentioned already, Steve in 7th place (1:12) and Zack, sub-1:20.
– Matt H with a one minute PR of 1:18.
– Denis with yet another small PR as he inches closer and closer to 1:20 flat.
– Fiona pleased with her 1:40.
– Danielle H very pleased to run 8 minutes faster than last year with a 1:40.
– Marlyss and Catrine both pleased to be close to their PR’s despite the wind and rain.
– Akemi, shooting for a 1:53 and running 1:49.
– Jodi, not only breaking 2 hours, but also kicking in to break 1:59.
– Jim, running 6 minutes faster than in 2011.
– Karen, with a six minute course PR and knocking on the door of the 2 hour mark.
– Keith, Jeannie, and Theo all placing first in their respective age divisions.
– Marcia with a big last mile in the 5K.
As I settled in to watch Super Bowl XLVIII I was already excited from all the great race performances I had just witnessed. It turns out, there was one more grand performance left on this memorable day.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer writer David Nemhauser posted a blog the morning before the game. In the final paragraph, he eloquently expressed what Seahawk fans were feeling and showed his confidence that the Seahawks would win the championship:
The climb to get to this point has been long and treacherous. Fans deserve to savor every moment. Our shared history is marked by a collection of near-misses and nearly hopeless mediocrity. In a world permeated by equivocation and murkiness, we gather today to celebrate the opportunity for crystal clarity. One team will win. One franchise will walk away with an accomplishment that can never be undone. Seahawks fans know which team that will be. The rest of the world finds out tonight.
The Seahawks journey, much like the half marathoners’, was long and treacherous. I am trying to savor every moment from the race and the Super Bowl. February 2, 2014 was a Championship Day like no other!
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!