Archive for September, 2010

Race: Golden Gate Open XC 2010

My second go at cross country racing occurred in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on Saturday. We – The LMJS – still do not have a scoring mens team so I was running for fun, while getting my butt kicked by the people who are good at this. It’s almost like learning a different sport. Fortunately the basics are simple enough that the newbie does not embarrass himself too badly. Start running when gun goes. Follow the markers. Stop at the finish.
I watched the women’s race, saw that there were two laps of the course. and noted the leaders times. “This course seems to take a little longer than Santa Rosa, so don’t go out too hard.” That was the entire plan. Pacing by watch or Garmin is not much use on these courses. Relying on feel and the other runners makes a refreshing change from to-the-second marathon pacing plans!
We started on lumpy grass with molehills, then went up a slope leading to a gradual downhill on a dirt trail. There was quite a bit of positioning going on here, the reason for which soon became apparent. After a sharp downhill turn we were on a single track trail for a while, making passing difficult. We wound though trees going uphill and I started to feel it. We jumped over a log across the trail. Errgh, I’m feeling trashed already. Am I going too fast? should I quit at the end of this lap? Nah, even finishing slowly is better than not at all. A couple of runners had passed me during this phase, but the course flattened out and I started to feel better. OK, hang onto that guy. Isn’t he the one I passed at the finish at Santa Rosa?
Towards the end of the first lap the LMJS women’s team was running their cooldown jog and gave me a cheer. Most welcome thanks! I was being threatened from behind by a tight group of four runners. On the gradual downhill they oozed past me but I was feeling better and more upbeat. I would stay in contact with these guys and see what transpired. On the single track I found myself behind a slower runner and a gap developed, but I closed it again at the first opportunity. OK, I can do that. These guys are toast, and so probably are those others I can see ahead.
I started my surge with about a mile to go. I expected these people to hang on behind me, but their sounds quickly receded. I took a couple more runners then there were no more visible. No one came back at me and I finished in 30:12. About as fast as I would run a marathon, but over tougher terrain. These shorter races don’t seem to do much harm training wise, and might even be beneficial, introducing more hard tempos efforts into the mix. I’ll take another shot in two weeks.

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Race: Empire Runners Cross Country 2010

The Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders have been fielding a women’s racing team this season, and we are making small steps toward getting a men’s team off the ground. To this end John McDougall and myself joined up with the ladies in Santa Rosa for a USATF Cross Country race. This happened to be the home turf of Carrie, a virtual acquaintance from the Runners’ World Online Forums, who I met in person for the first time.

I had not raced cross country before, and studied the course map with interest before going. The sections had names like “Rocky Roll” and “Gravelator” which all sounded a little challenging. So I showed up wearing my new trail shoes. Having looked at the course a bit I shamefacedly jogged back to the car to substitute something a little lighter. Part of the course was paved, and the rest was mostly smooth dirt and gravel wish some rocks and a couple of steep slopes to make it interesting. So this was basically trail racing only faster, being just 3.4 miles long. Perhaps this would not be too bad, although I was starting to regret having run 14 miles the day before.

The women raced first, the leader finishing in around 20 minutes. Nice. The depth or talent at these USATF events is quite impressive. Carrie was part of host club team, and put in a fast time. I remarked later that she was lucky I lacked a camera, since her “race-face” while kicking for the finish looked quite intimidating. She had a camera, and took the picture below.

The masters men started from the wide line and ran across the grass before joining a paved uphill path. I was startled by the crump crump sound of the cross-country spikes that some of my fellow runners were wearing. Back on the dirt and gravel, I realized that I had gone out too fast and this was a pretty high-caliber bunch I was with. I settled in and let an occasional runner pass me. My road shoes performed just fine until we reached a gravel path that ran down the back base of an earthen dam. I had to slow quite a bit to stay upright, allowing two runners to go by. Oh well. Things got better after that and I held my own for the second and third miles. Part of the loop was run twice, including that downhill, and one runner came by on the second descent. This ticked me off, so I stayed right on his shoulder on the single track that followed, pushing the pace from behind to wear down his kick. As we hit the paved trail again I passed him and managed to look like a proper runner at the finish.  Mid pack, but hey, most of these guys are younger than me.

Pace: San Francisco Marathon 2010

This is a story about how to make a ton of mistakes and still get it mostly right. I got the job of co-pacing the 3:50 group for this race. Since I ran it in 3:22 last year this promised to be an easy cruise from the running point of view. We had dinner in North Beach the night before with some of my online friends – James (Forno Bravo), Amy (Agile) and Angie (Pace Runner). James was going to attempt a PR on the SF course, and none of us doubled he would manage it. Angie has long experience with Plantar Fasciitis and gave me the benefit of her experience. Apparently backing off the miles does not really work, so I might as well stick at it. This firmed up my resolve to train full-out for CIM, even though the 18-week program would start just a week after this 26.2 mile run.
My co-pacer Dan is an ultra runner who has done some 100-milers. He an his buddy Paul (also running with us) had followed Dean Karnaze’s example and run The Relay, a 200 mile race from Napa to Santa Cruz as a single leg. Extreme stuff.
Dan put his Garmin on the roof of the car to acquire satellites, and there it stayed until he retrieved it after the race. Oops. Never mind, I had my Garmin with and a regular stopwatch as backup, and my terrain-compensated pace band. We were all set. I stood in the wave 4 enclosure with my 3:50 sign in the air and soon attracted a cluster of runners. Amy had run the Leadville Marathon just three weeks prior and so was going to run with us to enjoy the view and add another marathon to her list. She is on track to run 10 in 2010, including ultras.
From our mid-corral position we were passing other runners fairly steadily as we ran up the Embarcadero in the gathering light. Holding a pace sign has its advantages since I was able to call “Excuse me!” and “Coming through” without attracting any surly looks. I realized that our stock of useful timepieces was now down to one, having neglected to put my Timex into chrono mode before hitting “start”. Argh!

The Garmin, while dutifully keeping time, was being a little strange on pace as we ran along the Embarcadero. I had planned to refer to it during the first mile then rely on the pace band thereafter, but the nearby tall buildings were bothering it. I was quite sure we were NOT running at 10:30 pace. Fortunately I have a reasonable feel for the required 8:4x pace as it falls in the middle of my easy range, so I winged it. At mile 1 we were a few seconds behind schedule, but that was fine. We settled in. I had not warned Amy that the first hill on the course is the steepest, and it seemed to startle her. She took pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, with its towers hidden by the overcast. At the mile 3 marker (back on schedule) I noticed that the Garmin distance was somewhat out of sync after it’s early problems, so stabbed the lap button to start a new mile. Except that I didn’t. I had mistakenly hit “Stop” and failed to realize it until we were running across the bridge. I never do that on training runs! I confessed to Dan and Amy that we were now running blind, pace wise, and Amy loaned me her Garmin. Dan took my other watch to make room for it. Buckling on a watch while running is a little tricky, but I managed it without mishap. “Don’t push any buttons!” exhorted Amy, and I did not, simply checking the elapsed time against my pace band for the rest of the course. And so I have no recorded splits, other than my recollection of how far ahead or behind we were at some mile markers.
What with the timing adventures and going faster than I had expected through the Presidio we arrived at the halfway mark about a minute early. Amy could not believe her eyes when she saw the bison enclosure in Golden Gate Park and took some pictures to show her hubbie. Bison are something of a running joke with them apparently. We took things easy on the long uphill in the park to burn off time. This portion is where I went too fast last year and ran short of steam for the second half. By the time we emerged onto Haight Street we were exactly on schedule once again. Dan and his friend Paul were chatting about their ultra-running experiences which was quite diverting. The group was still strong, but seemed to have lost a few members. We commenced the downhills. Dan had a remarkable mental map of the course, and knew where all the course switches and uphills were. The one remaining significant uphill stripped away most of our group, but we picked up a couple of runners from the group ahead. When we got to the ballpark, I casually remarked “Oh by the way, its best to run on the right here, because there’s a wave in the path on the left” Everyone immediately went single file on the smooth bit next to the railing, with no room for me. I ran on the wavy part while Dan laughed.

As mile 26 approached I gave the 3:50 sign to Amy and she carried it to the line, which made for a nice finish photo. We had all sped up a but as we smelled the finish, so arrived about 30 seconds early. Although the running was not stressful for me, I still had that “just run a marathon” feeling on stopping. I recovered quite quickly though.


Race PRs

5K20:43 (LMJS 6/28/09
10K43:44
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)

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