Archive Page 2

Kaiser Half Marathon 2012

This was the first road half I have run since the same race last year, when I did not run particularly quickly, finishing in 1:36 or something like that. It was warm and there was some wind, but mostly I was having a period of slowness and scatter-shot training. This time I was coming off a satisfactory full marathon PR, and weekly track sessions that have really revved up my speed. Could I really run a half at better than 7 minutes per mile? (1:31:46 finish) I seemed to have a mental block about that which needed fixing.

The course is a net downhill but has enough uphill to make it not particularly fast. The main element of chance is provided by the last six miles, most of which consists of an out-and-back along San Francisco’s Great Highway. This road runs along the beach front facing the Pacific, and is very prone to wind.

I rode to Golden Gate Park with Debra and her friend John. We parked near the finish area and got on the bus to the start. Yes, this is a point-to-point race with shuttle buses. we were quite early so I had the unusual pleasure of be the first to use a porta-potty. It smelled nice, but I had to unwrap the toilet roll. Nothing is perfect.

Various familiar people showed up and we shmoozed for a while, then went to the bag drop and peeled off our sweats. It was brisk in a singlet and shorts, but OK. I went for a rather brief warmup and ran some strides. Nature was calling again, but one glance at the potty lines and I took a short jog into the trees.

There were pace signs to help everyone line up correctly, but they were worse than useless because the announcer kept their existence a secret until it was too late to move. This was a problem with nearly 9,000 people in the start area. At least they got the 5K runners and half marathoners properly segregated, with the 5K runners on the right. Their course would peel off after about half a mile, not to be seen again. I lined up level with the 7 minute sign and was dismayed to see the droves of slow-looking runners in front of me. Oh well.

The start bell rang, and 27 seconds later I crossed the line at a brisk walking pace and broke into a jog. This was not exactly the way to a PR!. I started to thread though the crowd and was soon at a comfortable pace. This first mile was slightly uphill, so I was pleasantly surprised at the split: 7:08. Oh, must be running a little hard to have done that. Mile 2, slightly downhill: 6:56. Better.

I found myself running next to three young guys who were discussing the splits. Their goal was 7:00 as well, so I ran with them for a while. Mile 3, slightly uphill: 7:02, Hm. My plan was to go slightly slower than 7:00 and make up the time by going faster on the downhills. Their pace was a touch aggressive for me so I let them go in the next mile. Half marathons are easier to pace by feel than fulls, since the pace is just far enough into the threshold zone that you have to push a bit, even in the early miles.

7:04 for mile 4, winding through Golden Gate park, rolling slightly.
5:13 – Wait, What? I know this is downhill but that’s ridiculous.That mile marker was way off!
8:22 – long because of the out-of-position marker, so average 6:48 for miles 5 and 6, which is just right because this is the downhill section. I hooked up with another runner here who also wanted to run a sub-7 average.
6:26 – More downhill in mile 6 before popping out onto the Great Highway by the beach. The spray from the breakers was blowing away from us, revealing that the wind, unusually, was blowing from the land. This was good news. The not-so-good news was that there would be no more downhill. It would be a flat slog from here until the uphill in the final mile. The nice thing about the 7:00 goal average was that there was no need for a wrist band. The multiplication tables were still lodged in my brain from primary school, and I could see I was nicely ahead of goal.

For the next three miles we ran south next to the Ocean, with a few wind gusts but nothing substantial until it blew from ahead as we approached the turn. 7:01, 7:04, 7:05 to mile 10. Pretty consistent there. Just before the 10 mile marker we turned around a pole and started to head back towards the finish. “I don’t know about you but I’m a lot more comfortable to be past the turnaround” said my companion. I know, It’s strange to be running away from the finish line. A shout came across the median “Go Jim!”. It was Debra coming the other way. I waved. “You’re Jim? I’m Eugene.” He said.

Time to apply myself. The road surface was a little rough, with cracks and an occasional pothole, so I ran on a concrete strip to the side which was smooth and level. I was overhauling other runners, and I could hear Eugene just behind. 7:01, 7:09 for miles 11 and 12. I think the wind was responsible for that 7:09, it was getting somewhat gusty, and perhaps I faded a bit. At some point Eugene dropped back.

The last third of a mile was uphill, quite steep, and for some reason they don’t put out a 13 mile marker for this race. I redlined it, and the 1.1 miles took 7:50, which was 7:03 pace. That was hard!

Somewhat recoveredChip time was 1:31:28, which works out to 6:58 per mile. I was chatting with some buddies at the awards ceremony and they called my name out. Second in my age group.

California International Marathon 2011

Preparation.

This has been my fourth year in a row running CIM. The previous three have all produced PRs, so I was definitely returning to the trough for more. I had seemed to be slowing down in the spring, having run a 1:36 half marathon, and the Napa Marathon in 3:24.
So a I took a two week break, then worked up to lots of volume, 70-80 mile weeks, while also doing weekly track workouts. Another half would have been a good pointer to how things were going, but I never got around to it.
The arrows started to point up. I got a small PR in a tricky 10K at Lake Merritt. The two cross country races where I ran the same courses as last year were also course PRs.
So what would be a good goal, assuming conditions were suitable? Well Duh. I had been aiming for 3:15 last year and missed, so it was time to knock that down before it became an insuperable barrier in my mind. What else?

The New York Marathon is changing it’s rules for guaranteed entry times. They used to be just a little harder than Boston qualifications, but too many people were qualifying so they are toughening it up for 2013.  So for instance a man under 40 would need to run under 2:45, and I would need to get under 3:14. I have sometimes felt envious of those who have struggle to qualify for Boston. Not for the struggle part, but for the huge sense of achievement when they get it. My BQ time is 3:40, which um, lacks excitement. But 3:14 could be my reachable Holy Grail.

Last year I followed the 3:15 pace group, but eventually fell off it after some non-ideal pacing. The CIM course is easy to foul up on. The early downhills tempt a runner into going too fast, while the rolling hills are short enough to invite attacking at constant pace. This approach, while satisfying, burns precious fuel that needs to be conserved for the fast final miles.

My training was extemporized around a weekly framework. A track workout on Tuesday and something else challenging at the weekend, either a race, long run, or combination run with faster miles. Weekly mileage was in the 70s with the biggest week at 83.

People.

Early in the program a suggestion had cropped up in the Runner’s World Online forum that I frequent, which I described to Cathi:
“CIM is on the morning of the 4th, the Las Vegas marathon is in the evening of the same day, and there’s a flight…”
“Hahahahaha!, I’ll go straight to Vegas and scrape up what’s left of you, then.”
“I’m not going to do it.”
“Oh.”
But others would, and we had a get-together at the Spaghetti Factory on the Saturday evening. Some familiar faces were there, including James, who has run three or four marathons with me. “With” in this case means “Some considerable distance on front of”, but we seem to have a knack for bumping into one another at expos. He was doing the double, and was planning to run CIM at about 3:20 to leave something in the tank for Las Vegas. 3:20 was considered the cutoff for making the plane. At the dinner he was talked into trying for a PR (sub-2:58), then risking total flameout in the evening. Excellent advice as it turned out. Steve, who was doing his own version of the double, arrived to applause. He had run the North Face 50-miler in Marin that morning, cutting nearly two hours off his previous year’s time, and would be running Las Vegas the next day. In the company of these people, the prospect of attempting to PR at 26.2 the next day lost all it’s gravitas. It was as if I were about to run a 10K turkey trot. There were some new faces present, including Joel, about whom more later.

The Race

It was clear, chilly and windless in Folsom that morning. Predictably I ran into James at the bag drop. He showed me his well-stuffed CIM drop bag. “Everything is in there, street clothes, phone, everything.” Wow, talk about traveling light. He headed forward while I lined up near the 3:15 pace group. I asked the leader if he was the same guy that had led this group last year. No. I considered this excellent news.
I hung back a little as we surged to the line, wanting to take care of my own pacing until the pace leader proved himself. Even at a runners race like CIM there are a few rubes who start too close to the front, and once I’d weaved though them I was about 30yards back from the pace leader’s stick. Perfect. Nothing to do but relax, think about good form on the downgrade, and keep an eye on that stick. I was not wearing my Garmin, having reverted to the old-school method of stopwatch and pace-band (7:25 per mile, 3:14:27 finish). Nothing to obsess over until that first mile marker came into view. This pace felt more like casual group run than a race. What a lovely morning!
The leader was scoring points with me. There was an abrupt little rise just before the first mile marker, and he slowed quite a bit. First mile 7:35, so far so good. now for the real test. I missed the mile 2 marker, but mile 3 (22:30) revealed he had given up a little bit more and was in no big hurry to claw back those seconds. Excellent! I moved up level with him, complimented him on a good job, and looked around to see if I recognized anyone. Ther was Joel. He was a very fast runner at shorter distances who had yet to run a satifactory marathon. On top of that he had had a dose of strep throat that week. “Hi. How are you feeling?” “”Pretty good at the moment, but I always hit the wall at 23 miles.” “Don’t say always, say up till now.” I advised. The only other runner whose name I knew was because she had felt-tipped it down the sides of her legs. “Go Brittany!” “Ha! Apparently they don’t do that here.” She was from Detroit.

We ticked off the miles over the rolling terrain, 7:16, 7:28, 7:24, 7:25, gradually homing in on the 7:26 average required for 3:15. The leader knew the course well, and would loudly announce upcoming hills and aid stations. After the first relay handover point I found myself ahead of the group and went on autopilot for a little while, then I discovered I could not see the stick behind. Oops, this was too early to be leaving the group, no matter how comfortable I felt. I wanted to make solid sure of beating 3:15 before trying for anything faster. I tried to relax and pretended I was driving a car on empty. Just enough gas pedal to get up this hill, don’t pass that guy, coast down the other side. Relax, relax… After about two miles of this the group caught me again, and I stayed with them for quite a while. 7:33, 7:27, 7:14, 7:23 to mile 11.

I missed mile 12, but mile 13 was 14:49 (7:25 average), and we reached the half in 1:37:16. Still able to do basic math at this point, I thought Hey, we’re now ahead of 3:15 pace, how’d he do that?  Gradually. We were right on my 3:14-and-a-half pace band.

Things got more purposeful now. While the pace was still comfortable, there would be no inadvertent drifting ahead anymore. My disposable water bottle finally ran out at mile 15. One unexpected problem had come up. My gels were in a small 4 oz. flask so that I could avoid the whole rip, squish, sticky fingers dance. Usually I diluted them a little bit but this time I had wanted to get the maximum gooey goodness into the flask. Big mistake. I had to squeeze really hard to get any out, and ended up only consuming about half of the contents. Oh well.  Joel was running a little ahead of the group, and I joined him. “I seem to have got ahead of the plan” He said. Without really discussing it we dropped the pace slightly and started passing people.

7:19, 7:17, 7:19 to mile 16, speeding up a little now than most of the rollers were behind us. My friend Karen, out to support several LMJS runners in the race, intercepted my headband and gloves as I dropped them in front of her. She later commented “They skidded right past me. I was amazed at how fast you were going”

7:17, 7:17, 7:18, 7:20 (some uphill there) to mile 20. Joel was quite entertained by the ‘wall’ archway that we ran through at mile 20, with the grim reaper capering beside the course.

7:17, 7:17, 7:15 to mile 23. The hill to the bridge was the last uphill of any significance, So we just punched over it. This late phase of a race where you are passing people has been described as “assassin mode”. You pick out a runner, reel them in, pick out the next one, etc. This was not so much assassination as massacre, we were passing dozens and dozens of runners. It was good to have someone to run with to help keep a steady pace amongst all these slower runners. Joel was overjoyed not to have experienced the wall this time. “It’s a modern miracle” he exclaimed, and dropped the pace quite a bit. This was faster than I wanted to go, so he waved goodbye and tore off at sub-7 pace.

On my own now, it was time to do some serious work in the last three-plus miles. The pace band put me in sub 3-14 territory but my brain was now in innumerate mode and I wanted to make sure. At one point I had had to remind myself “Er, number on watch lower than number on band, that’s good, right?” The course did a quick left-right onto Sacramento’s L street. Brittany brushed elbows as she took the inside on the second turn. Assassinated! She must have been chasing us hard for several miles. Having passed me she faded a little and I was soon in front again. I saw from the results she finished a few seconds back, so must have witnessed what happened next.

Back at mile 18 or so Joel had remarked “These bottles are a life saver.” My response: “Er yeah. Wait, what? Bottles?”. Since my hand-held ran out I had been drinking from the little cups held out by the volunteers and had failed to notice a table at each station stacked with 12oz water bottles. Thus alerted, I guzzled two of them in the next five miles which turned out to be too much. After the 24 mile marker the queasiness set in. Uh oh. Please go away, I have a race to finish here. I fought for control but it got worse. That mile was unsurprisingly a bit slower at 7:24. By the 25 mile marker it was obvious I was going to be sick. I thought about Meb Keflezighi, who stopped to spew at mile 18 before running a PR at New York this year. Do I have to stop? let’s find out… After a some preliminary sputters, about half a pint of water/gel mix came out in a neat stream and hit the roadway. None on my shirt, Whoohoo! I was going though the final aid station at the time. My sincere apologies to the volunteers and to Brittany for that grossness. The effort of doing it made my head swim, but I felt better after slowing for a few seconds and started running hard again. That was one of my fastest miles at 7:15.

The remaining .2 was disposed of in 1:35 (7:12 pace). I saw Cathi yelling at me in the last 100 yards. She was startled at my slightly early arrival and failed to get a picture. I saw 3:13:low on the finish clock and felt very much better coming up to the line. Someone was handing out cartons of chocolate milk, and I chugged one right down.

Postscript

So: 3:13:14 chip time with a 1:12 negative split. Mission accomplished. Joel must have really hauled ass after leaving me, since he managed a 3:10. I found him with his friend Rachel (3:05) from Australia, gleefully reading splits from their Garmins. I had failed to notice training buddy Bob quietly tailing the 3:15 group. He got a 3:14 PR.
And the Vegas-bound crew? Gone when I got there. James ran a 2:55, Matt a 3:01, Kevin 3:02, all PRs. Paul, whose crazy idea that had been. missed the flight to Sacramento and only ran Vegas. That was a terrible race, so it it was just as well that they slow-jogged it.

Santa Rosa Marathon 2011

The Santa Rosa Marathon is smaller than most – they only got the course certified this year – and is run in attractive surroundings along the banks of Santa Rosa Creek, with around 500 runners each for the full and half marathons. I wanted to try a smaller marathon, and also see what results my current self-designed training program was producing. This mostly consists of high mileage, some track work, and short marathon-pace runs up to 10 miles. My peak week was 90 miles.

We stayed in the Marriott, which is a few minutes walk from the start area. This was a good move since I had no need to join the long potty lines in the park.

I met up with Carrie, an online running friend who lives in the area who had first suggested this race to me. She had recently lost her Garmin and was missing it, so we agreed to run together for the first part of the race.

The organizers were attempting to line up the faster runners (with the women ahead of the men for some reason), but were hampered by the sound system which kept cutting out. In the confusion Carrie ended up two rows in front of me, then we were off. I went out fairly fast in order to catch her up, and could see her looking around for me. “I asked a guy what pace we were going, and he said 6:50, so I thought I’d better slow down a bit.” she explained.

A word on paces. Carrie’s everything-goes-perfectly goal of sub-3:10 would be 7:15 minutes:seconds per mile pace, mine of sub-3:15 would be around 7:26. I was not particularly wedded to that goal though, as the real goal marathon is CIM in December. I really wanted to get some feedback on my training in a full-length race. I had set the Garmin to auto-split at 1.01 miles to compensate for running imperfect tangents, and that came out about right. Those are the mile times I use here, which are somewhat slower than the paces displayed at the time.

After a few hundred yards on the streets we turned onto the trail alongside Santa Rosa Creek. This is a multi-use path, concrete for the early part, which dips under each of the bridges that cross the creek. That first mile came out about right: 7:21 including a little bit of acceleration at the start.Then we got faster: 7:18, 7:06, 7:11, with little surges when we were passing other runners. The Garmin was actually displaying a sub-7 number for a minute or two during this, of which we were both skeptical. Carrie: “It must be the trees. I’m still talking and I don’t think I would be at that pace.”  I was having a good time at this speed, However it was guaranteed that I would be in difficulties if I stayed at this pace much longer. Carrie was looking strong, though, running with impeccable form.

Soon we crossed over the creek for the first time – under the bridge, 180% turn, up the ramp, 90% turn, over the bridge, 90% turn, down the ramp onto the first unpaved section. “Here you go Jim!” Carrie knew I had been apprehensive of the unpaved parts. This softer going did indeed increase the effort level a bit and after a few minutes I decided it was time to dial it back and gradually dropped behind. Carrie seemed to have found her pacing groove now. I let a small cluster of about five runners pass me and then followed them. This was a little lazy of me as they turned out to be poor pacers. They were slowing down already at mile 6, and I fell into a slower groove: 7:20, 7:36, 7:42. They were probably half-marathoners who had gone out too fast. That was stupid of me. I tried to speed up again, picking off the stragglers from the group which was now coming apart. But what with the bridge crossings and gravel, I stayed in the 7:40s all the way to the halfway point. Apart from a few at the aid stations, there had been no spectators out on the trail, so it was nice to be among people again in the start-finish area. A volunteer pointed to a prominent bump in the trail, calling out “Be careful!” Carrie told me later that she had fallen at this spot on her way through. Aha!

 People shake their heads about double-loop marathon courses on the grounds that it’s soul-destroying to head back out onto the same course again. In fact it was just fine, I was now running a familiar course! It was a thinly populated one now that the half-marathoners had gone. I got into a pattern: See a runner up ahead (sometimes two), reel them in, pass them, look for the next victim. I ran the second half slower than the first, but it felt fast because of all the passing I was doing. There is a proportion of marathoners who start to slow down soon after halfway, providing a plentiful supply of people to pass. Since you do not get to see the runners ahead who are maintaining pace, this creates the illusion that you are speeding up and passing everyone on your way to a glorious come-from-behind win. The Garmin exposed the lie by revealing how slow I was in fact going, still in the 7:30s and 40s, with a couple of 7:5x miles where bridge crossings and aid stations were involved. My legs confirmed that they were quite liking this speed thank you very much. They should have been hurting just a little by this point! I rationalized my lassitude by telling myself that I needed to recover quickly after this race to start training for CIM. My age-group position (whatever it was) seemed secure at this point. I had been studying the other runners at the turnarounds. There was one balding guy who looked about the right age, so I asked him how old he was when I caught him. 50-54 age group, it turned out. My bright response to this information: “I’m 56, so you don’t need to worry about me.” was supposed to be good news, but on reflection was probably a cruel blow. Balding Guy, sorry about that if you are out there reading this. Talking to runners as you pass them is something of a minefield. Even an encouraging remark can seem like irony. Oh well.

Coming up to the turnaround at 19 miles, I was surprised to see a young woman who had passed me very strongly in the first half. She heard me coming and put up a fight, surging for a minute or so. I held pace and simply oozed on by when she faltered.

Nice run in the country.

Nearing the finish. Not a crowded race!

And that was about as dramatic as it got. The only time I was passed in the entire second half was by a pair of young guys at mile 23 who were going pretty fast. I surmised they must have started late and were pacing for 3:10 or thereabouts. I could not find any late-starters ahead of me in the results though, so they must simply have been running a strong negative split.

Mile 25: “Oh, we’re nearly there”

Mile 26: “Dammit, I could do with another half mile to catch that next guy!” (But I beat him on chip time)

So, chip time 3:21:53. Half splits were 1:38:53 and 1:42:59, which is quite a big positive split, even though I moved up 18 places in the second half. I can blame some of that on the zippy first four miles, but it was fun having a Carrie’s-eye view of the race for a little while. But mostly there was no incentive to beat myself up in the second half. About 5 minutes off a PR, but encouraging nonetheless. I took home a bottle of wine for winning my age group. Carrie also won her AG, and was 4th female with a  3:12.

Tahoe Relay 2011

This relay is an all-daylight circuit of Lake Tahoe on the roads. It’s about 72 miles, varies in altitude from about 6500 to 7000ft, and is run by self-supported teams of seven runners. I ran this once before, two years ago, and this time was given the same leg to run. Leg 4 is the longest, least hilly leg at 12.2 miles, running around the north end of the lake. We were the “East Bay Flyers” Mixed Masters team. Larry, our captain, secured a house for us to stay in. Due to a late substitution we were four women and three men. We had a fine evening playing a Jeopardy-like game, which I won by a complete fluke. Then we got up early to watch Suzette at the start.

Suzette and Larry at the start

We divided into sub-teams of two runners running adjacent legs, and sharing a car. I was with Minori (leg 3) and her boyfriend Chris who did all the driving for us. We had some time to kill, so went back to the house for a while before setting out for the handover point at the start of leg 3. On the way we passed Larry who was tackling the serious uphill of leg 2, from near lake level to 7000 ft. We got Minori to the handoff point in enough time for a bathroom break  before Larry arrived. Her leg was rolling downhill, and she later said it was the toughest thing she has yet done, due to the thin air and downhill pounding.  Chris and I supported her, handing her a bottle about every two miles.  The pullout areas would fill up with support cars doing the same as us, and we would see the same people again and again. We would cheer on the other runners too.

Minori running leg 3 in Nevada

Then it was my turn. The leg started with a downhill, which got me off at a good speed. I was a little worried about the pace. With the altitude and the hills, this 12.2 miles was about equivalent to running a half marathon, but I was almost alone. On a along straight i could only see one runner in front, but he seemed to be getting nearer. It took over a mile to catch him – “Looking strong.” “Thanks, You too” – then I could see the next one and got to work catching him.

The first part of the leg had been shady, and when I merged into the sun it became apparent that my careful preparation had omitted an important item. No sunscreen! I could get severely burned at this altitude. “Need sunblock” I said to Minori as she ran alongside with a Gatorade bottle about a mile later. She handed me a tube at the next available pullout, and I slapped on the goop without slowing down. I somehow missed my shoulders, which came up in blisters later. By the halfway point I had climbed the main hill of the leg and passed some people, was feeling pretty good, then I was passed by a young woman wearing a pink tutu! That open women’s team were all wearing dresses of some sort, and we passed them back later. My team-mates kept reminding me about getting passed though!

On the downhill we passed from Nevada back into California and the terrain started to roll gently. I was having a hard time remembering any of this from the last time I ran it.  The Garmin ticked off the miles, I worked to keep pink tutu in sight, and passed a couple more teams. Before long there was a corner ahead with some runners looking my way. They were there to watch for approaching team-mates. I started my kick, and the handover came into view around the corner. I tagged Debra, and commenced some serious air-sucking. I’m not an asthmatic, but running at 6500 ft gave me some idea what it must be like.

Francisco starts leg 6

I switched cars and helped to support our remaining runners. Debra, Francisco, and Karen. Our last refuelling point was quite coincidentally just outside a really good ice cream place that Suzette knew. We were enjoying our ice creams so much we didn’t quite  make it to the finish in time to see Karen cross the line. We were second out of nine in the mixed masters, in 10 hours 3 minutes. Not bad for a day’s work.

The team at the finish

Lake Chabot Trail Challenge 2011

This race is a half-marathon run over the trails around Lake Chabot in Castro Valley. It departs from the edge of the lake to go over some hills that get it up to half marathon length.Some magazine (Runners World?) called it the toughest half marathon course in the country.

With just a week since running a 10K PR I was unsure what was in store here. My legs seemed to be in good shape, but the trails not so much. Normally June in the Bay Area is bone dry, but this year it was set to break a century-old record for monthly rainfall in the first few days. On the trails this means mud and plenty of it. This would slow everyone down equally, perhaps some more than me, but who am I trying to kid here? As if I am ever going to place on one of these hilly trail races. Hah!
We started along the paved trail along the lake shore for the first mile. This rolls up and down but was nothing compared to the hills to come. Once again I found myself in the company of Christine, and Debra, who was grumbling about the speed we were starting out. She had a point, this was a bit fast.
Leaving the pavement, I attacked the first hill fairly hard, running most of the way up until it got really steep near the top. The surface was a little slippery but presented few problems. On the descent the cleats on my trail shoes kept things under control and I gained some places.
After a level stretch and a suspension bridge across an arm of the lake, the serious climbing began. The big hill varied in gradient which resulted in a run-walk mix. Things seemed to be going well, and I moved up some more. There was one oldish guy who never seemed to walk, jogging slowly up the steepest gradients. He was a little faster than me on these sections, but I would catch him again on the levels and downs. It was one of these early downs that my race newly ended. My toe caught a protruding rock while I was going fast downhill. I took a couple of big steps before going down, and was able to tuck and roll. A chorus of “Oh my god, are you all right?” from nearby runners, and I jumped back up, retrieved my hat and drink bottle, declared “I’m fine, thank you.” and ran on. I noticed that my right shin was hurting somewhat and looked down to check that that was nothing stuck in it, but it was just scraped.
Shortly after this we came to a fallen tree. There was no getting around it, with the canyon going steeply up on one side and down on the other. It was all branches, with no trunk, so we had to climb over the branches near the top where they converged under gravity. Since I was already banged up and dirty I went fast over this obstacle in about 20 seconds. Some reported taking over a minute to get over it. There were some slippery downhills after this, where I skated the straight route instead of skirting the muddy bits. More gained places.
Near the top of the next uphill I looked around and saw Debra close behind. Not surprising, since this style of running is right up her street.
“So you caught me at last!”
“Just wanted to make sure you didn’t fall again.”
“Oh, you saw that?”
“Yes, it was scary!”
She went by. I was paying for my early speed here, but hopefully had enough in the tank for the remaining, mostly downhill, four miles.
It was a bit of a slog. I managed the downhill section OK, but did not have a lot of speed for the rolling section at the end. I had left behind most of my early companions from the hills, but was passed by a couple of younger guys and Barry of LMJS who seems to be running really well at present. I reached the finish in 2:01:51 by the official clock, just about three seconds slower than last year’s time. But there was no mud or treeclimbing last year. I came second in my age group, so perhaps I can place in these trail things after all.

Marin Memorial Day 10K 2011

Here’s another race that I also ran last year. In fact it’s my current 10K PR, so that would be a nice goal to try and beat. But really I wanted confirmation that the slump that hit me at Kaiser and Napa was truly gone.

I carpooled up with Debra, Suzette and Karen of the LMJS Womens team. Chatting with the ladies turned out to be a nice low-stress way to approach a race rather than driving solo.  After the usual preliminaries – bathroom, warmup, strides, we lined up in the start area. Since this is a USATF event it was a very strong field, and I took care not to line up too far forward and get sucked out too fast. I had set my Garmin to metric again, with auto-laps at 1km intervals. Target pace would be sub 4:20 minutes/km which if maintained would get me a narrow PR. There were no km markers, but the splits here have been corrected for GPS variance.

The line was crowded, and we were a little sluggish getting away, but once up to speed things were fine. The runners around me were mostly going at the right speed, and the few who were easing up after a too-fast start were soon left astern. Here was Debra, who beat me at Tilden, although I have an edge on her on flat roads like this. I eased ahead and didn’t look round, assuming she would be staying fairly close. She later told me that she did stay in contact for a while before deciding she was not comfortable at that pace and dropping back.  There was a headwind in the early stages, but the trees and houses sheltered us from the worst of it. First three km: 4:21, 4:26, 4:27. This looks a bit slow now, but the numbers I was seeing at the time were about 4 seconds faster.  I must remember to aim a few seconds high when using the Garmin as a pacing tool.

On the return section of the loop I went a little faster, probably aided by the tailwind, and was already passing people. This was not great, since there was no one to latch on to get ‘pulled’ along. I just had to keep passing people and glancing at the Garmin to confirm that I was on pace. 4:18, 4:19, 4:21 for these three km. Very nice pacing, though I say so myself.

As we threaded through the Marin College campus for the first time I head a pair of male voices behind. Who the heck chats in the second half of a 10K? Ultra runners? The subject matter confirmed it: “I saw so-and-so last weekend. We ran 30 miles together.” Yup, ultra guys, and they were about to pass me. When they did, I was surprised to recognize Dean Karnazes. Yup, that guy. What was he doing running a 43-minute 10K? Then I realized that he probably ran upteen miles to get here and would probably run home again too.  This little distraction, along with the twists and turns, had slowed my pace a bit, so I determined to stay within striking distance of Dean and friend, running about 50 yards behind.  Splits: 4:26, 4:25, 4:25.

We went across a bridge and turned back towards the campus. There was a fierce headwind. I had closed a bit on Dean’s group, which had grown to four.  Two runners that they had passed were hanging on grimly in order to draft them. I was fully exposed about 30 yards back and getting killed by the wind. I managed to surge and catch them up, but it was an expensive move. There was little relief once I had caught then since they were now speeding up for that last half mile to the finish.  Urrgh!

We entered the campus once again and the course marshals recognized Dean, grinning as they pointed the way with orange flags. We were out of the wind now, and I started to sag off the back of the group as we entered the running track. My kick was gone thanks to that surge, but it was the right move.  I crossed the line 13 seconds behind Dean, but just 2 seconds adrift on the chip.  That last kilometer took 4:12, for an overall time of 43:44.

A 5 second PR! Thanks DK. I did not place in my age group, but some of the LMJS ladies did, (Laurie, Suzette, and Kate) Much fun all round.

Tilden Tough Ten 2011

Tilden Tough Ten 2011
I was not sure what to expect coming into this race, since I had taken a two week break, followed by a ramp up to quite high mileage in the previous weeks. This had not been long enough to build much of a base, so a course PR over last year’s 80 minutes might be difficult. Still, it would give me something to roughly gauge my current fitness.
Conditions were cool with some wind and intermittent rain, but fortunately it was not raining as we got ready for the start. With 300 runners on a not-very-wide paved trail, the sub-8:00 pace runners stepped up to the start first, followed by the rest. I found myself near the front with Christine and Debra, two masters runners who are fast on the trails(pretty good on the roads too). We needed to make up time on the paved section because the trail would be muddy and slow. Mile 1 was mostly downhill and took 7:01. One of the bends revealed a glorious view across the Bay. It looked to be raining quite hard over by Sausalito and the Golden Gate, so we could likely be expecting to be getting wet soon.
Mile 2: 7:29, more the sort of average we would need. I was still in close company with D. and C, feeling comfortable so far.
Mile 3: 7:27, some wind here on the more exposed areas, the rain was only an occasional sprinkling.
Mile 4: 7:49, A big down, then uphill in this mile, with a strong headwind and heavy rain. I’m surprised I ran it as fast as I did. Too fast perhaps. Debra was a short way ahead, Christine just behind.
Mile 5: 8:23. The muddy trail. The downhills were sufficiently steep and muddy to require slowing down. I passed Debra at this point while running on the grass for better traction. There were some cows on the trail coming towards us, one at a run. There was enough room to pass by them, fortunately.
Mile 6: 10:40. The uphill return. I walked the two steep uphills like most other people. We encountered the cows again, this time going in the same direction, two of them were running but they left the trail when it widened out. They mooed at us as we went by.
Mile 7: 7:49. Back on the pavement, I felt a little done in and should have run this mile faster. Debra came by on the downhill, and Christine soon after. At the moment things looked to be on track to equal or beat last year’s time, but the wind was picking up and mostly ahead, so the rest of the return leg was going to be hard work.
Mile 8: 8:25. Lots of uphill into the wind here.
Mile 9: 7:46. More sheltered and pushing hard. I passed Christine again on the steep uphill at the end of this mile. Debra seemed to be too far ahead to catch. I was passing a few other people though.
Mile 10: 7:43. Gently uphill, but well sheltered from the wind here. I closed on Debra a bit, but did not catch her. 1:20:49 finish (chip time). So A little slower than last year’s 1:20:00 but satisfactory. The difference was mostly the wind, I think. The performance slump of Kaiser and Napa seems to be over, and it’s time for some more aerobic building.


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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