California Internationa Marathon 2013

This was my 5th CIM, and my first trial of the Hansons training program. I was curious about it having seen so many good reports, and decided the best way to learn about something is to do it. I added some miles to the Advanced plan in Luke Humphrey’s book, peaking at around 75, but the “Something Of Substance” workouts were performed as written.

I was feeling pretty good going into the race, and set a goal of 3:15 or better. I made up a ‘flat’ pace band of 7:25 minute miles and left the Garmin at home. The temperature was in the 20s at the start, but the road was mostly dry and ice free. Mostly. I did slip on a small patch of ice in the start corral but took the warning to heart, and only slipped one other time. I carried a “throwaway” water bottle which in fact lasted the whole race, allowing me to avoid most of the ice at the early aid stations.

I lined up at the back of the 3:15 pace group intending to use them as a rough pacing aid. I had my own geeky scheme for the first mile, where my pace band included target splits for six intersections, the first of which was just 107 meters from the start. Thanks Google Earth.

The first half mile was a little slow, but I got into gear on the downhill and reached the first mile marker just 2 seconds behind the pace band. The 3:15 pacer had zipped off ahead, then gradually come back to me. I think that without the reassurance of my mini-splits I would have wasted energy staying close to him. The group ran mile 2 about 5 seconds fast, then the next mile 16 seconds fast! While I was cogitating this, the pace leader slowed at an aid station and I found myself out ahead of the group. Hmm. If you think the group is going too fast, is it really wise to quit it frontwards?

Things felt good at first, and I was entertaining thoughts of going for a big PR, but by mile 6 I decided this was a little optimistic, and allowed myself to give up some time on the uphills. Note to self: More hill training next cycle! While in this cruise mode, 2 to 7 seconds slower than goal pace, I reached the half in 1:37:06 and got all the way to mile 14 before the group came level again. By this time they were hitting their splits with some accuracy, so I stuck around.

At mile 20 I oozed ahead again to see how much under 3:15 I could get. Not much it would seem. The pacer’s encouraging exhortations were still audible behind me. After the bridge around mile 22 a headwind got up, which pierced both my shirts with little needles. I found a young guy to draft behind and worked hard as the cross streets counted down. He gapped me at mile 25 but that was OK.

I was still ahead of the group, which seemed to have gone quiet. They were no further away, but were now so few in number that the pacer had no need to raise his voice! The surge was not happening, I was actually losing 1 to 3 seconds per mile at this point, but much of that was extra distance, snaking through the slower runners. The 3:10 pacer had also slowed slightly to get back on schedule, or he would have passed me. He is in the background of my finish photo, about 20 yards back. Chip time 3:14:50, somewhat slower than my PR(3:13:14) of two years ago, but I cheered myself up by plugging the times and ages into an age-grading calculator. At 77.1% this was an age-graded PR, so there’s that.

Could I have beaten that PR with better pacing? It’s a stretch. If the wind had been friendlier at the end, then probably. Hansons worked for me, although there’s nothing magical about it. I will continue to use a version of it because it’s pattern suits me. For instance, not everyone can do a lengthy MP run on a weekday, but I just about can. The dialed-back intensity of the workouts was also helpful in keeping injuries at bay.

Trying to put some space between me and the 3:15 pacer!

Trying to put some space between me and the 3:15 pacer!


San Luis Obispo Marathon 2013

I went to New York, but so did Sandy…

It was six am, and still dark. The only audible sounds were our footsteps and easy breathing as we ran easily, almost stealthily, down Monterey street in downtown San Luis Obispo. The only evidence that there was anything “official” about this collection of people dashing through the gloom were the flashing lights on a police motorcycle leading the way. After the music and rah-rahs back at the start area, we were on our way. Fear not, that’s all the poetry you’ll get out of me today.

My training for this race had been a little uneven, since I had been battling Plantar Fasciitis in my left foot for some months. By dint of rolling, stretching, compressing, resting, and simply waiting, it at last seemed to have retreated. This was my first goal marathon since, when was it, CIM 2011? Yikes. I went to New York, but so did Sandy, so there was no fall marathon for me.

Feeling optimistic, I created two pace bands. One for 3:15 and another for 3:20. In retrospect, a 3:25 might have been a good idea. We drove most of the course on the Saturday and I was alarmed at how hilly it was, more than it had appeared on the elevation profile. Lots of steepish little rollers. Forget that 3:15 band!
I also tried a geeky little experiment. When doing track workouts, I always check my 200 meter split to permit an early pace correction in each bout. Wouldn’t it be great if marathon courses had a 200 meter marker? Yes, I could pace by Garmin, but I really don’t like racing with it. It takes a while to settle down after the start anyway. I visited the start area and a volunteer helped find the course measurer’s mark where the start line would be. The distance to the first corner by Garmin: 171 meters. A little light math predicted that it should be reached in 47 seconds at goal pace.

… and then the inflatable start arch blew over.

Another looming problem was the weather forecast. No rain. and the temperatures should be comfortable, but a 25mph wind? Oh dear! It should be a tailwind for much of the first half, then a headwind for the return leg. Hopefully it would not reach full force in the morning whilst the race was in progress. It would be tempting to run fast with that tailwind, but I resolved to restrain myself and leave plenty of energy in the tank for that return trip.

The start was at 6 a.m. The corrals were self-policed and everything went smoothly as we walked up to the line, Dean Karnazes gave a little speech, and then the inflatable start arch blew over. Well not completely over, some volunteers righted it and held it in place, and we started.

Would I be able to get that pace check in the dark? Yes, thanks to a street lamp on the corner. 42 seconds. Wow, five seconds fast over less than 200m meters, that’s ridiculous. And I’ve probably been doing that for most of my races, this is just the first time I’ve measured that starting burst. I dialled it back and let a few runners ooze past. Here’s the lead woman, I really shouldn’t be in front of her! There’s visor guy, who had exchanged a few words in the start corral. I asked him what his goals were. “Oh, 3:20 to 3:30, I’ll see how it goes.” “Me too”.

We did a little loop around downtown, which was sheltered from the wind. I still had the motorbike in sight at mile one but lost it thereafter. We commenced the first uphill on the road out of town. Visor guy pulled ahead. Either I suck at hills today or he’s overdoing it. Probably both. We’ll see how that works out!
I was still ahead of the 3:20 pace band at this point, but was concentrating on conserving energy. No hard uphill running for me, not in the first half anyway.

I really do suck at hills today!

Even with the wind from behind, the rollers soon put me behind schedule, but this was not shaping up to be a by-the-numbers day. It was light now, and the vineyards looked pretty nice in the morning glow. A teenager up ahead kept me entertained. He had been running with the lead group, then stopped to tie his shoelace. I ran by, then he whizzed past on the next uphill. I passed him again at the next aid station, as he slowed to wrestle with a gel packet. Then he passed again. I eventually reeled him in on the straight and level, and he meekly let me go by, but was then stirred into fresh exertions on being passed by the third placed woman who was just behind me at that point. His surge was soon over, and we saw no more of him.

A little after mile 12 the course doubled back for about a mile and we could see who was ahead and behind. I was pretty sure there was no one in my age group in front of me, so that was OK. Dean Karnazes seemed to be having a fun time of it with the 3:40 pace group. The third placed woman was now ahead of me, perhaps I should try to catch her for something to do? The headwind was strong enough to be bothersome, so I tucked in behind a tall young runner for a while, then took my turn in front. Our two-man peloton soon caught up with 3W, who had fallen behind the group she was drafting behind. She ran behind me for a while until we came to an uphill that was sheltered from the wind, and away she went. So did tall guy. I really do suck at hills today!

We got into some flatter country where the headwind was quite strong. 3W had rejoined the group up ahead and I tried to do the same, but could not quite manage it. I had to endure the full blast for about two miles until we changed direction. At least it was not as strong as forecast. I was still feeling quite good, but a little sad about how slow I was going.

At mile 22 we reached the half-marathon turn-around point, and from here on would be passing slower half marathoners. Many of them were walking. This made it still relatively easy to pick out my fellow full marathoners. Here I had a lucky break, on being caught by two young guys, one tall the other wide. I drafted both of these two for a while, which felt like being on rollerskates after the previous stretch. The wind reduced as we approached town, which is in the lee of a large hill.

I came up with a guy who had passed me earlier. He wore a headband withe “For Keith” written on it. “Who is Keith?” I asked. “He was my good buddy who passed away six months ago.” “Oh, I’m sorry. For Keith then!” I punched the air and left him.

“You can die in about three miles”

The course went along a bike path, and as we reached the faster half marathoners, most of them were now running. This made it harder to spot the people I was racing against, and I was surprised to suddenly be running alongside W3 again. She gave a smile of recognition and announced “I want to die!”. I tried the pep-talk. “You can die in about three miles. There’s no wind now, and it’s downhill from there.” This was not entirely accurate, but she rallied for a while before abruptly falling behind. Next up was visor guy, who remarked “Looks like you were stronger than me after all” as I passed. Then W2, who had passed me at at mile 2 and gone out of sight. She was also fading, but perked up on learning that her second place was looking safe. Out on the streets again, amongst kids holding up signs, we passed a (buddhist?) monk beating a gong.

Oh no! I had seen this in the course video, then blotted it out of my mind. A tall bike/pedestrian bridge over the railway, with switchback ramps involving a series of 180 degree turns. I charged up this, my ragged breath giving the half marathoners plenty of warning of my approach. I only had to gasp out “On your left!” once. My legs felt like they might give way when I reached the top, but everything held up as I switchbacked down the other side.

All over bar the shouting. A few more blocks, then another bike path. A sharp little uphill, and the Madonna Inn finish line came into sight down a nice quarter mile downhill. There was Cathi hanging over the fence and yelling at me. Across the line and it’s done.

My time was 3:29:02. I was 37th overall (out of 600-odd) and won my age group by over 13 minutes. Not a bad result, but could I have run it faster? Probably. Even though I was passing people at the end I was fading myself. I had gone from low-to-mid 7-minute miles at the beginning to some 8-plus minute miles into the wind on the return leg.  My policy of conservative pacing in the first half paid off, but I could perhaps have done it even more. Also I was not all that fit. The Plantar Faciitis made for an uneven training cycle. The next one will be a lot better. I always say that.

As a footnote, that time is a 10-minute Boston Qualifier. I thought nothing of that at the time, but after the events in Boston, I would really like to run it next year. So would a lot of other people, and I think that margin will come in handy.

Alameda 4th July 5K 2012

Although this flat course presented an opportunity for a fast time, I was more focused on starting my marathon cycle for New York, so did not taper for it. I even did a track workout the previous evening, if not a very strenuous one. Four repeats of two minutes on, three off. I’ll have to remember that one, in light of what happened in the race.

I jogged the half mile to the start area and registered. Various familiar faces showed up – Suzette, Debra, Karen, and Larry, who is just coming back to racing after some time off with tendon problems. Welcome back.
After warming up I joined the throng in the start area. There seemed to be a good number of runners (463 according to the results), so it’s a pity that they currently have just three age groups: sub-18, 18-40 and Masters, which oddly start at 41. Oh well.

I was about three rows back from the line, which worked out pretty well. Across the line in a couple of seconds, I concentrated on not going too fast. Remember that you’re running 5K, This is not a 400 meter track interval. I glanced at the Garmin. Too fast, but not by much. adjust. This is surprisingly comfortable for a 5K, I’m usually gasping a bit at this point until I get adjusted. I ease past some school kids who had burned off their initial exuberance and were settling in for the long haul.

And so it went. I was easing past people for most of the way. I think I check the pace jus once more, in mile 2, to guard against slacking off. There was a gap in front as I got within sight of the line, and also a gap behind (I checked), but some young guy covered it and blew by me just before the line. I did not mind that. Hey, he’s decades younger than me and really should have paced his race better.

20:34 was the official time, beating my previous best by 6 seconds. Chipping away at it. I would like to get below 20 minutes one of these days, but it might take some work. Larry was well under 20, so he’s back. Suzette got 3rd in the womens Masters.

Bay to Breakers 2012

It’s been five years since I ran this one, but it has a special place in my heart because it was the race that started me on this whole running thing. I had been cycling 10 miles a day to get rid of some extra weight, and felt that the new fitness could be put to some use. I found a 10K training plan online at and followed it. I extended the distances by 20% beacause the B2B is a 12K. Were it a 10K, they would have to rename it to something like “Bay to Somewhere in the Park”. I ran it in about 70 minutes and caught the bug. Since then, I have been running the LMJS Tilden Tough Ten which always falls on the same day.

This is a big race, with about 40,000 entrants and almost as many bandits. Many wear fancy dress, and some wear nothing at all. There are corrals and a two-wave start, but congestion is still a problem in the first mile or so. I was able to get around this problem by submitting a recent race time and ben awarded a sub-seeded bib, allowing me to start from the front area ahead of the A corral. I picked up the bib at the expo (yes, there was an expo) and wandered over to the Skechers booth. I have been looking for a lightweight shoe with less heel drop than the Brooks T7, and was intrigued by the Skechers Goruns. I tried a pair on, ran a few circuits of the nearby VW stand without hitting anyone, and made the purchase.  I will likely review them soon. I had a longish chat with the guy in charge of the booth telling him that it wa a lot easier to take these shoes seriously since Meb Keflezhigi wore them when he won the US Olympic Marathon Trials. “yes, he’s been a big help to us, and he’s a really nice guy. He will be here in a few minutes, by the way. So I stuck around and met Meb.

He sighed my bib. “Best Wishes and Run to Win”
So next morning I got a ride into town with my friend Suzette, who was running with her daughter. and went to the seeded enrance. There seemed to be no distinction between seeded, subseeded, and elites. We all did our warmups in an area ahead og the start line, and were then crowded into an area about 30 feet deep between the line and the start of corral A. I stood at the back of this area, just in front of a linked-arm line of volunteers that separated us from the corral. I noticed that these volunteers were wearing bibs.
“So what do you guys do at the start, scoot off to the side or something?”
“No, we’re going forwards!”
Some of the runners just behind them looked pretty fast. I wished him luck with that.
I stood on tiptoe to watch the elite women start. They started about four and half minutes ahead, is the difference between the mens and womens course records, with a big cash prize for first across the line. The headed up Howard Street at an impressive pace.

Then our gun went. I settled in to what seemed to be an OK pace. Not only is this race an unusual length, but it has a big hill in it, which makes it tough to plan. I figured I could beat 55 minutes, all being well, perhaps around 53 if I was lucky. That would be an average pace close to 7:00, in the high sixes for this flat first portion.
Because the seeding was age-graded, I knew that almost everyone in that little area would be faster than me. Staying amongst them for this first mile might be well advised to avoid engulfment by the ravening hordes of corral A. The first mile is dead straight, and I stayed near the middle of the road while trying to concentrate on good form. Just in front was was one of the elite womens centipedes (13 linked runners and two spares). Hm, the Impalas. I’d better not try to pass them. Someone in the group must have been “steering” because they swung left in unison like a school of fish, then drew up alongside another womens centipede. Oh, those others are the UC Davis Aggies. They usually win. I definitely should dial it back a bit. They drew away from me gradually as the Impalas completed their passing maneuver. They eventually won. My split at the first mile marker, 6:20, was faster than the plan, but not insane. Mile 2 came up in 6:54, and my breathing was getting back to normal.

As we swung onto Hayes Street I noticed that the TV helicopter was hovering over the top of the hill. The tail end of the elite mens pack was just visible at the top. Brightly colored dots.
The Hayes Street hill goes up about 190ft with an average 10% grade, with a short level “step” at each intersection. The steepness increases towards the top. I paced it by feel, noticing that some of the folks around me were attacking it hard. I reeled some of them back in later. Of course, I would not have noticed the ones that fell behind. There was an abrupt downhill for two blocks, two turns, then the third mile marker. 7:58. Hey, less than 8!
The Google men’s centipede passed me going at a good clip. They must have started well back in corral A. Most of the next mile was gently uphill along the panhandle and into the park, producing a 7:20. A level mile with some small rollers – 7:04. I started to push. Some more uphill, then we started the descent. Unfortunately the next marker was out of position, causing a laughable 5:48 split. Yes, we’re going downhill, but oh please! This also caused the next mile to be long – 7:36, so lets say 6:42 average for those two miles. The last half mile started dowhill, then swung left along the Great Highway for a level dash to the line. With about 80 yards to go I was kicking as hard as I could when a guy passed on my left. Grr, this always happens to me. He might even be in my age group. I somehow found another gear and passed him just before the line.
52:02 (6:58 average pace). Better than I had expected. That in fact was faster than my 10K PR, despite being longer and hillier. Not bad. A week later I ran the Marin Memorial 10K on a flat course, and PRd by 5 whole seconds. I still did not beat the B2B pace. I probably had not fully recovered.

Update, and Some Races.

So what have I been up to since the Oakland marathon? Running somewhat reduced mileage, working on my speed, and trying my hand as some short road races with strong fields.

First up was the Sactown 10 miler, on a loop course in downtown Sacramento. This was the first time I have done this distance on the roads. It was a mostly flat course, in good conditions, just a week after Oakland. I decided to wing it on pace, but try to get in under 70 minutes. That turned out to be challenging, especially since I lined up near the front and went out somewhat fast.

The first three miles: 6:32,  6:53, 6:59. Yup getting carried away there, but I was surprised at how good I was feelng at this point.

Next three:  7:01, 7:13, 6:56. That’s more like it. There were some small rolling hills in that middle mile.

Then: 7:16, 7:10, 7:10,. The wind was coming out of my sails somewhat. a few people passed me.

Final mile: 7:04. I was shoulder to shoulder with a young guy for much of this, and passed the final turn ahead of him, but he outkicked me.  Official time 1:10:22, Not terrific, but not a]terrible either. I had to settle for a sub-75 shirt rather than a sub-70. Nice idea on the shirts.

Next up was the Zippy 5K in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. A mostly flat first mile, then a rolly middle mile around a lake, then backtrack to the start. I paced this one much better. after starting behind someone I know to be slightly slower. I ran it in 20:40 for a 3 second PR. A whole 24 seconds faster than I ran the same course last year. The splits:

6:31 (Yay, not ridiculously fast for once)
6:59 (Hills, and a sinking feeling. Not done any serious hillwork lately)
6:30 (Maybe I’m not so terrible after all)
0:41 (6:23 pace. Try not to puke on the volunteers…)

OK, that’s better. Another 5K came next, at Portola Valley, south of Stanford U. This was the inaugural race, and was reputed to be a flat course. Perhaps another PR in the offing? Haha no. It was an out-and-back on a rolling downhill. The turnaround was about 150 ft below the start/finish. So having disposed of any PR dreams, its was quite fun. These races are timed from the gun, so it gets a little packed on the start line. I was a little too far back, and got somewhat boxed on the initial corner. Then we headed downhill for a mile and a half. The splits are in kilometers, since you get more that way, Having the Garmin set to metric also gave me an easy reference: A 20 minute 5K is 4:00 per K.

3:52, 4:03 for the first two mostly downhill.

4:09. 4:23 going more slowly back uphill

3:28 A fast finish uphill. So I had something in the tank there and could possibly have gone out a little harder. It is hard to judge on a course like that. Official time was 20:5, so there are about 15 seconds missing from the Garmin record. Everytime I soften and take that thing racing it gives me a sharp reminder why I shouldn’t.

But it was fun, even uphill. Next up, The Bay to Breakers, which will be gracing this page shortly.

Oakland Marathon 2012

This was the second time I paced this race, again leading the 3:40 group. The first time was two years ago, and after carefully following the official terrain-corrected pace band, the group lost all its members anyway. This is not unusual, particularly on a hilly course. I have been marking the long runs for the LMJS marathon training group this year and so have had a marathon cycle of sorts, with not as many miles as I would run for a goal race.
I signed up to pace 3:40 again, but with two weeks to go I pulled an adductor muscle while at the furthest extremity of a 15 mile group run. Fortunately my marking duties were complete. I walked to the aid station and got a ride back to my car (Thanks Susan). After three days off and a very cautious return I was able to mark the 10 miler the following week. Phew!
We had the luxury of two other pacers in this group. Colin and Justinia were a young boyfriend/girlfriend team from the ultra-running world, and they showed up without pace bands. I was somewhat relieved by this, since I had created a custom band that differed from the “official” terrain-corrected bands. I would not now have to justify it since the alternative was a loosey-goosey Garmin average pace approach. Here is the course profile, courtesy of

Only one hill...

We tell our trainees “The good news is that there is only one hill. The bad news is that it’s 600 feet high.” But that is only half true. The profile above is smoothed, and conceals quite a few short rollers. My pace band had us reaching halfway in 1:51:05, a 2:10 negative split, twice as much as the official band.

Off we went, crossing the start line just a few seconds after the horn. Thanks to the tall buildings here, our Garmins gave some wild readings, so we just winged it for the time being. in the event, our pacing in the early miles was about right. As we started to go uphill, we gauged our pace to how hard our pacees seemed to be working. This may have been a mistake, as we started to fall behind the pace band. as we got to Lake Temescal about mile 6, a runner asked me: “Is this the top?”

“If I was evil I would say yes, but it isn’t. It does get more gentle for a while.”

So on we went. Colin took an amazingly quick pit stop and was back with us. The group seemed to have thinned out somewhat, and we were not even to 10 miles yet. My co-pacers were unfamiliar with the course, so I was briefing them too. Soon after a couple of miles of rolling hills we were  going up another steepish one. “OK, theres a sharp turn to the right,and a little steep bit, then that’s the top”. This was duly accomplished, and we briefly admired the view across the flatlands to the bay as we started downhill. I had two things to worry about now. The group was looking beat already, and we were now more than two minutes behind my pace schedule. The coddling would now have to cease, and we needed to get within striking distance of the schedule before we merged with the half marathoners at mile 17. We ran four consecutive sub-8 miles on the downhill. My friend Suzette who was with the group later commented that she realized at this point that she was not going to finish with us. We passed through reached halfway in 1:52:59. Oh dear, this was going to be a deep negative split, about six minutes. Time to boogie. We mostly ran low 8’s from then on. Justinia took a pit stop and did not catch up again.

We still had a group of sorts when we got to mile 17 and merged with the half marathoners. Their race had been going for around half an hour at that point, so the people we merged with were going quite a bit slower than us. We did not have much trouble running past them, but it was crowded enough that we could not keep track of the people following us.   I was keeping an eye on the pace band and it looked like we were going to just catch up with it by the finish. The half marathoners were getting faster as we moved up their field, and received us warmly, saying things like “Wow, go 3:40!”. The marathoners we passed would  greet up with something like “Oh crap, 3:40”. Nice to see you, too. We did pick up one woman who was targeting 3:40 but had been running ahead of us. She confessed she was now dying, but we chatted to her and she hung with us most of the way, managing a 3:40:xx finish time.

We didn’t match the pace band until mile 25, and by 26 we were 10 seconds ahead of it. There is a pronounced uphill the last two blocks, and we figured that would slow us down. Um, not really. Mt finish time was 3:39:42, so 18 seconds ahead. Well within the bounds of accuracy. I’m wishing I had gone a little faster up the big hill though. Amusingly, I finished second in my age group, just 17 seconds back from the age group winner.

A Visit To The Asylum, or My First 50K

So are ultra runners crazy? and what’s with all that food they have at their aid stations? These questions and more have lurked in the back of my mind for quite a while. While of the opinion that it is the job of ultra runners to make marathoners appear sane and normal, I have wanted to try one just to see how t was done. Who knows, I might even like it?

I think it was James, my online running friend from Pebble Beach, who first suggested running the 50K at Lake Chabot. This is not the Skyline 50 put on in the summer, but another race put on by Inside Trail Racing. As well as the 50K (31 miles), there are also 30K, half marathon and 10K distances.  Unfortunately James came down with a knee problem and was unable to make it. I vacillated for a while, then pulled the trigger and signed up with a week to go.

I had not prepared for this race especially, no back-to-back long runs or anything like that. I had not even done much trail running lately. I just tapered for a few days and went for it, telling myself that it was not a goal race and I would just take it easy.  It’s not just the distance that was a little daunting, but the hills. Here is the elevation profile:

A little hilly

Vertical scale exaggerated, of course, but each horizontal band is 200ft.

The course was two loops around the lake, the first being extended by a trip up the river valley towards Oakland. That section is about from mile 9 to 13. If you look carefully at the second hilly section, it’s a repeat of the first loop without that extra bit in the middle.

And so a cluster of runners assembled at the appointed time. There was no start line, we just faced the RD who addressed us with a bullhorn, reminding us of the color sequence of the trail markers. Then he said “Ready, Set, Go” and we were running.

OK, Jogging. We began on a paved trail, at an effort level that could perhaps be sustained for several hours. Slower than 9 minutes per mile, what I would normally think of as “recovery” pace. After a hundred yards, the trail sloped up for a short way. A voice within the throng groaned “Oooh, a hill!” and I blurted out “It’s OK, there aren’t any more after this!” which got quite a laugh.

We were soon off the pavement onto a fire trail, then over a single-track suspension bridge that creaked and bounced under our feet, then more fire trail. Uh oh, my pace was creeping down into the mid-8’s. Remember how far you’re going Jim? Gently does it. The runners were spreading out. Already by mile 3 I could only see two or three in front in front of me, although generally In this forest I could only see 50 yards or so most of the time. We got to the first serious hill at mile 3, and I only walked the really steep part, maintaining a slow jog up the rest. It’s a trick I leaned by observing other trail racers. You maintain a normal running cadence but take very short steps. Rather to my surprise I was able to keep doing this throughout the race. I half expected to be walking all the hills by the end! We turned onto a single track and rollercoasted through a fairly dense eucalyptus forest. Some of these rises were quite steep but short, and momentum from the downs carried me over the ups. I was probably going a little fast on those downs though, which I was to regret later.

More uphill jogging, then we switchbacked up an exposed hillside. I was slowly gaining on a small group in front. I caught up while they took turns to wriggle under a fallen tree. At the next turn  of the switchback the runner in front of me waved me through, and I recognized her. “Oh Hi Christine!” She is a fixture of the local trail running scene,  and passing her worried me a little. She was running the 30K, and her speed on the trails is close to mine. Was I going way too fast?

We got to the first aid station. I topped up my handheld bottle and grabbed at the various foodstuffs, putting them in my pockets for nibbling on the run. I knew those shorts with pockets would come in handy someday. Half a banana, Peanut M&M’s, pretzels, boiled potatoes, stuff like that. I munched while going up a gentle incline way from the station. So far so good, even if my pockets were rattling for a while. Love those peanut M&Ms.

For the next few miles I could not see anyone in front and had to pay close attention to the trail markers. I have run these trails before, but not this exact route. This was mostly gentle downhill until I reached the turnoff onto the orange marked section. I could see a runner in front now, a youngish guy in an orange shirt. he was slowing and would bend to rub a calf occasionally. We passed though another aid station, and spoke briefly. “Cramping up?” “No, but I ran a 100-miler last weekend”. Well that answers that question. Ultra runners are crazy. Looking around, I  was glimpsing Christine from time to time. She was pacing to keep me in sight, apparently. The sun was out, the temperatures cool,. It was a perfect day for running, in a rather beautiful valley.    I started up another switchback, jogging the straights and walking the corners. Christine had closed up  somewhat, and we made “Urrgh” noises at each other as I passed above her on the slope. Going down the other side I nearly missed two turns. I’m sure she noticed my sudden changes of direction. Things were uneventful for a while. Christine would close up on the ups, and I would go ahead again on the downs. I knew that at some point she would get to work and pass me. About 5 miles from the end of her race, I was going uphill and heard her signature “up, up, up” behind me. She came by and I urged her to “Go get ’em!”. No need, as it turned out. She won her age group by half an hour.

Oh cruel fate, there was an aid station right next to the finish line and I had to do another 20K yet.  Oh well, all in a day’s work. I was feeling pretty good. A little stressed, but  well past halfway, wondering if I would see any runners at all during the remainder of the race. Well, here was one already. A young woman running without a bottle. She confessed to having left it at home, and was having to do all her drinking at the aid stations. I had been throwing back a couple of cups of flat coke myself at each stop, which answered another ultra question. What’s so good about flat coke? It’s the nectar of the gods.   I left her behind on a downhill and was alone for a while. Still hammering those downhills.

I was still feeling OK at this point. A little stressed, but nothing out of the ordinary for the second half of a race. The pace felt natural now. As I got to mile 20 or so, the downhills became less comfortable, but it was a very gradual thing, no “wall” or anything like that.

I was keeping an eye on the Garmin as 26.2 miles approached. I missed the actual number because a rocky downhill was engaging my attention as the mark was passed. This was now my longest ever run, let alone race. I punched the air and let out a quiet “Yay!” Despite the fact that I was still jogging most of the uphills, I was fading quite a bit. The downs were becoming painful to my knees, although it was my quads that were getting the battering. The sensible approach for a non-goal race would be not to push hard against this, just plug away till the end. I would recover more quickly that way. The hills would not really let me do this though. There was nothing really steep enough to justify walking up, and I just had to grit my teeth for the downs. Three runners passed me in the last five miles but that was OK. I was going to finish.
And finish I did, in 5:35:01. A small group of people by the line whooped each runner in, and the RD told me I had come third in my age group. This was a slip, since I was listed 4th in the posted results. Oh well. I felt pretty bleh for the rest of the day, and my quads were extremely sore the next two days.  Plainly recovery would take a while. Will I run another? Ask me again in a few months.

Race PRs

5K20:43 (LMJS 6/28/09
12K54:36 (Across Bay 3/21/10)
15K1:09:51 (LMJS 19/27/09)
Half1:31:28 (Kaiser 2012
Marathon 3;13:14 (CIM '11)


July 2018
« Dec