Archive for January, 2009

Going to meet the Kaiser

The Kaiser Permanente Half is on Sunday in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.. Here’s a look at my thought processes going into this event.

This is my first time running this race, so I’ve been researching it a bit. There is a single start, with pace signs to indicate where runners and walkers should line up. Some runners complained that they found themselves behind walkers who seemed to be unaware that 5:00 was an unlikely walking pace! There are chips this year for the first time, which should help.

Now for the matter of pace. Here’s the elevation profile, courtesy of They make it look a lot steeper than it is!


Could be a fast one. That 2 mile downhill should be worth at least a minute. Wind might be a problem for the next 5 miles. It seems reasonable to predict this race from my CIM result, which was 3:26:49. The equivalent performance for a half would be 1:38:04 (McMillan), which would be a really nice PR. The pace for that is close to 7:30.

I like simple pace figures. My goal for CIM, 3:30:00, was approximately 8:00 pace, and I was able to carry those splits in my head. 7:30 is another neat one, being exactly 1/8 of an hour. The first 8 splits will be: 7:30, 15:00, 22:30, 30:00, 37:30, 45:00, 52:30, 1:00:00, then it repeats with the hour added on. Even my mathematically challenged running brain can remember that sequence. This is shaping up!

All this attention to times is because I race Garmin-less. Apart from considerations of reliability and accuracy (There’s a lot of tree cover on this course), I like to keep things simple, so I can focus on the running. My Timex shows lap and elapsed times, with numbers large enough for my unassisted eyes. That’ll do.

The finish is hidden around a corner so I should probably start kicking near the top of the final hill. I’ll watch for landmarks on the way out, since that section is an out-and-back. Hopefully the finish line will be quite visible in it’s turnoff as I go by.


Down is Up?

Urrgh! I can  no longer deny it. I have a cold. Doesn’t seem to slow me down much once I get going, but knocks some of the fun out of it. Good job this is a taper week with short runs. I hope it clears up for Sunday.

I’m still a relative newbie at this running game, coming up to 2 years now, but here’s a matter of terminology that’s still bothering me. Paces are expressed in minutes per mile (or per Km), so of course a faster pace is a lower number. All right so far. But when we speed up, is it correct to say that we lower the pace, or raise it? I’ve seen experienced runners write things like “On the downhill, I dropped the pace to 6:30”. I’ve see it the other way too, but most writers seem to avoid the ambiguity by using expressions like accelerate, slow down and so on.

Yes, it’s a small thing, but this enquiring mind needs to know.


On Sunday I was co-race director at Lake Merritt for the 4th Sunday run. It’s a nice feeling watching the runners cross the start line and knowing that I just initiated that. No chips or computers for these races, the results are done the tried-and-tested way, with spindles and tick sheets. We had a good team and everything went smoothly.

I’m doing something of a taper this week, since the Kaiser Half is coming up on Sunday. This morning, some easy cruise intervals. 4 instances of 1200 meters tempo and 2 minutes rest. I’m still not used to the eccentricities of my Garmin 201. I hear the newer models are better, but mine does not cope with acceleration too well, It starts out by reading slow, then reads fast for a while. I did not watch it for long enough, which led to my doing the tempos at about 7:30 instead of 7:20. And I was rejoicing in how easy this stuff is getting! I might have done better just estimating it.

My 2-mile cool-down route takes me past two of the Alameda lifting bridges, then across the third one. The warning bells were ringing as I passed the first one at High St. Uh oh, that early in the morning it had to be the local dredger heading out. It goes at a good clip, too. I had better pick up the pace or the Park St. bridge would be up when I got there. The race was on, and just to make things interesting I stuck to my usual route and ignored a shortcut. Making up for my earlier slowness I covered 3/4 of a mile at 7:01 pace. My unwitting competitor the dredger could be seen from the middle of the bridge. A distant second.

Weekend Stuff

I’ve not been scribbling much this week, work has been keeping me busy. Here are some items.

On Wednesday I did a sort-of fartlek from Jack Daniels’ book. Hard for 4 minutes, recover for 3 minutes. Repeat until you’ve covered 4 miles.  I took the “hard” instruction to heart, and five of these things took me somewhat further than four miles. Paces: 6:28, 6:40, 6:45, 7:03, 7:20. I had to pause to cross a street during that last one, but yes, I was slowing down. “Fartlek” means Speed Play, but this did not seem much like playing towards the end!

Today the weekly group run was on home territory for me, in Alameda and Bay Farm. I did 14.3 miles, mostly in the company of Den, one of our younger runners, who peeled off to do some extra miles. He is training for the Napa Valley marathon, which is coming up soon. We mostly went at about 8:15 pace, which is a little faster than conversational for both of us. We spoke in short sentences.

“What pace do you have?”
“Um, eight twelve at the moment. (breathe) A bit fast for a long run really.”
“Yeah, (breathe) We can always slow down later!”

That’s the spirit. We talked about marathons we’ve done. He did several while still in school, including a bad one or two where he ended up walking. He’s targeting 3:30 for Napa. It’s quite a fast course, so endurance permitting, he should manage it. Go Den!

A tip of the hat to Julie, who linked to Jim2’s update of his BQ survey. You might recall that I evaluated the fairness of BQs by age grading them. He has gone back to the raw data, and collated the results of most of the marathons run in the US (more than a million individual finishing times in a three year period) to see what proportion BQd in each age and gender category. He did find that although it’s progressively harder for women to qualify after age 50, a surprisingly large proportion of 80+ women qualified. He thinks that it could be an anomaly caused by the small numbers – only 5 BQs in three years – for this group. Something else occurred to me. Most marathons have a six hour time limit, so only the above-average octogenarians will get finish times. That will skew the stats in favor of a higher BQ percentage.
He also approaches the oft-discussed topic of whether women have it easier than men. His verdict: They probably don’t.

Truthiness on Streakyness

You know streakers, those people who run every day no matter what. “Gotta keep the streak going”, they say, so they run when they really shouldn’t. Fools.
I’m  not like that, oh no. I take days off all the time. Let’s see (looks at log)… Ummm… Here’s one, only six weeks ago! I’d just run a race, and took a whole day off to lounge about in a non running sort of way. What’s that? Well, it was a marathon, since you ask, but it didn’t affect me that much. I could walk around and it barely hurt at all. Except perhaps going down stairs. but not like these people.

But I wouldn’t run when sick, that’s a no no. Although come to think of it, I did feel like crap yesterday, but not really ill, per se. I only ran a couple of miles, perhaps five.
Why are you looking at me like that?

Gait Changer

Let’s start out with a picture. Here I am nearly a year ago, running the Emerald Across the Bay 12K. It’s a race from Sausalito to San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge. Yes, Suzee, this is what I look like. Say Hi if you see me in Alameda or Bay Farm.
More about the picture in a moment. A few days after the race I was at a neighbor’s house, and was invited to try his treadmill. I set it for 6 mph with no gradient, and settled into a comfortable jog, Actually not all that comfortable. Every few steps the belt would check slightly as my heel hit it. Mac (the neighbor) was concerned about this, and I reassured him thus: “I’m not used to treadmills, and I must be overstriding rather badly to push the belt backwards like that.”
Later, I looked at the race photo proofs online with Cathi. She ordered the above print, while I thought: “Looks like I don’t just overstride on treadmills!”

The next morning I tried an experiment. I ran 4.5 miles, doing a shorter joggy stride, with my feet landing underneath. It felt awkward, and seemed slow. Without a backlight on my watch, I could not check my splits until later. It was NOT slow.  Comparing this run with other recent ones, heart rate went down while speed went up. Taking these together gave me 15 seconds per mile improvement on the first try. So I stuck with it. It was only later that I read Jack Daniels’ assertion that elite runners usually have a cadence of 180 steps per minute. I measured mine. 180, Yess! At least there’s one thing I have in common with those people…

The other bad thing in that picture is that my posterior is sticking out. Karen, who organises our group runs, suggested that I do core exercises to try and fix this. Situps, pushups, planks and so forth. So I did that, and paid attention to posture whilst running. Within a few weeks, the straightened spine and improved posture led to a half inch increase in my height! And yes, I was getting faster.

It’s an ongoing process, and I tend to backslide a bit when tired. But it has transformed my running.


Is this an interesting week or what? I had that book thing. There was the Airbus-in-the-Hudson thing, all the Inauguration ballyhoo, and on and on.

Today I went long, not because It’s in the program, but because I felt like it. Circuit of Bay Farm Island, plus all along the beach both ways, and a detour to the bagel shop on the way back. 15.5 miles total, at a variety of speeds.
The bagels and lox spread were a whim. I’ve never gone shopping on a run before. The staff at the bagel place did not bat an eye at this sweaty guy in a marathon tee shirt. (Yes, tee shirt. anyone on the East Coast reading this should know we’re having a heat wave at present). Carrying the paper bag was not a problem, in fact I did that last mile at 8:00 pace.
Cathi was enthusiastic over my choice of breakfast, but then she said: “You know, it’s strange. I was thinking yesterday that it would be nice to have bagels for breakfast, and maybe you could pick some up, but I wasn’t sure how you would carry them, so I didn’t ask.”

One more for the list.

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)


January 2009
    Feb »