Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fwd: California International Marathon Race Report

Sacramento, CA -- December 10, 2009

For those who enjoy happy stories, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is currently playing on a loop on the USA network.  This race report is for those who think Jackass is an exceptional film.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Turkey Trot Race Report

Walnut Creek, CA, November 26, 2009 -- Walnut Creek Turkey Trot 10k

It's tough to take a race seriously when the race mascot is wearing a Turkey costume.  Which is how it should be for a turkey trot.

As the runners lined up, I deliberately avoided the type-As in the front row.  I looked around, locating a non-threatening spot in the third row next to a spry older woman -- kind of a Kathryn Hepburn in On Golden Pond-type.

I gave her my best holiday-cheer smile and said good morning. 

She eyed my compression socks, gave me a steely-eyed stare and shifted into the starting stance used by elite 5000 meter runners. 

What's this about?   

I tried to ignore her, standing nonchalantly as if I might walk the first 100 meters.  I was only running this race as training for next week's California International Marathon, I lied to myself. 

Daydreaming, I belatedly heard the announcer say:   ".... 3, 2, 1, Go!" 

I sprang forward.  No one else moved, except to get out of my way.  I nearly took out the first two rows. 

"So that's how I'll be counting down when we start the race.  "3, 2, 1, Go.  Got it?" the announcer said again.

My adversary grinned, crouching a little lower even.  "Damn it.  She's in my head," I realized.

And now she knew I wasn't here for an easy jog.  I had lost the element of surprise.  I couldn't even lie to myself any longer.  But I had been running 60 miles per week, hopping up hills on one leg, plyometricizing, speed training and weight training.  So, game on, Ms. Hepburn.

And we were off.  She was surprisingly fast for an AARP member.  I was quickly in the red zone trying to hold onto her heels through the first 200 yards.  I had hoped to run the 10k in about 40 minutes at a 6:30 pace, but she had me sprinting too hard, too early. 

At the first corner I tried to take the inside lane.  She deliberately cut me off.  She was trying to put me away early with a scalding 6:00 minute per mile pace through the first half mile.  But I was not going away easy, holiday cheer be damned. 

I thought I noticed her slowing a touch at the three-quarter mile mark and I began to look for a weakness. 

And there it was.  She didn't like running in the ditch between the street and the sidewalk.  I could see her looking for room on the curb, so I moved alongside, running at the edge of the sidewalk, pinning her in the gutter.  She would have to speed up or slow down to claim some sidewalk. 

She slowed.  I made my move. 

Just as the sidewalk turned into a narrow trail, I nimbly cut between a couple guys who were fading and blocking the path.  I opened a gap on her.  Without looking back, I strode out at a blistering 6:20 pace for the next two miles.  When I looked back, she was gone.  Beat the ones you can, I say. 

Surprised by how good I was feeling, ( I had never averaged better than 6:50s for a 10k in any previous race) I began to worry about that I had gone out too quickly.  And indeed, I started to slow a little right about the time a dude running barefoot and topless came through. 

This guy was the anti-compression sock racer -- almost naked, except for a pair of 1980's green short-shorts.  Looking for a new challenge, I was determined to prove the superiority of the compression gear.  I ducked in behind him and kept pace as we picked off runners every quarter mile through mile 4. 

But that's when the early effort to drop Kathryn Hepburn caught up with me.  I watched helplessly as Short-Shorts padded off with his naked feet.  No wonder Ostriches run so fast. 

I slowed just enough to leave something in the tank for the last mile.  But this was an unnecessary strategy, because the race slowed all on its own at mile 5.  At that point -- the point at which the course narrows dramatically -- the fast 10k runners caught a few hundred 5k walkers enjoying a leisurely Thanksgiving stroll.

Bedlam ensued.  The unsuspecting 5k crowd with their baby strollers, dogs and iPods were stampeded.  Being somewhat nimble I managed to avoid solid contact with the walkers for a few hundred yards, until I found myself on the heels of a big guy running flat-out for the finish.  Lacking lateral quickness, he was yelling "on your left", bowling over anyone and everything in his path. 

It was surreal.  One second I'm running a 10k -- the next I'm the cop in a movie chase scene on a busy sidewalk in New York City.  The big guy ahead of me was bouncing off people, crashing into dogs and strollers, forcing me to dodge and hurdle through the chaos as I chased him through the crowd.  As we finally broke into the open, I half expected the guy to run down a dead-end alley and attempt to scale a chain-link fence.   

But no, we were still racing a 10k, so after bouncing off the last person in his path, the big guy hit the afterburners and opened a gap, beating me to the line by a second.

So much for holiday cheer and goodwill to men.  But hey, I finished 3rd in the 40-49 age group in 40 minutes and 45 seconds, 2:20 faster than my previous PR, which was so cool that I didn't even mind that there wasn't a prize for 3rd place  -- again.  And next year, I'll know to avoid lining up next to the the little old lady in the third row.  

Next up.  CIM.  Boston Qualifying Time, here I come. 



Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nike Women's Half Marathon Race Report

Nike Women's Half-Marathon, San Francisco, CA – August 18, 2009

So here are the stats: 1:36:07, 2nd in 40-44 AG, 9th male.

Yes, half of the 15,000 participants walked, but I issued a huge beat-down to all those people.  Some, I beat by over 3 hours, which is no small feat in a half-marathon.    

I lined up in the middle of the 6:00 to 7:30 pace group, about 500 people behind the start banner.  I hoped I was far enough back that I wouldn't get trampled.

No worry there.  Most of the folks ahead of me thought the 6:00 to 7:30 pace coral was for marathoners targeting a 6:00 to 7:30 finishing time.

At the gun, the fast folks sprinted away while the pack in front of me jogged or walked at a leisurely pace for the first quarter mile.   The fast runners with the sense to start at the front disappeared into the distance.  Those of us too stupid to line up at the front weaved in and out of the mass of people, desperately trying to maintain a reasonable pace. 

I cleverly jumped onto the sidewalk and ran behind the spectators lining the curb while hurdling the homeless folks sleeping in the doorways.    

Other than the inconvenience of steeplechasing the first mile, I was running effortlessly onto the Embarcadero and through Fisherman's Wharf, holding a 6:50 pace.  I had broken out of the pack and was running nearly alone, with just a smattering of runners in sight.

I figured that I needed to run fast to the 10k mark, because from 10k to the finish the Nike Women's Half Marathon goes from flatish to ridiculously hilly.  Nevertheless, I'm not exactly Edwin Moses and I was surprised by how few runners were nearby.  Even the folks at the aid stations seemed surprised to see us. 

At mile 4, I saw a really slow split that made me think perhaps the mile markers were not entirely accurate.  They weren't.  It didn't matter.  I was running as fast as I could and I wasn't planning on making any strategic pacing decisions, other than to keep the 3 or 4 guys who were running near me in sight.

I hit the 10k point in 45:05, a good, but not great pace – right around 7:10's.  I figured this put me about a minute ahead of last year's pace, but  I knew I would have to suffer hard to better last year's 3rd place and to slice time off 2008's 1:38:50.

Not being a great uphill runner, I unhappily began the trudge up the first big hill near the Golden Gate Bridge.  I wasn't sure where I was in the pecking order because of my unorthodox start, but wherever I was, I wasn't moving up at that point.

Is it just me, or does anyone else dream about dropping a few pounds of body fat when you're running uphill?

Fortunately, he who runs up, gets to run down.  And I love downhill.  I assume it has something to do with the type of muscles you build as a tennis player, but whatever the reason, I pass a lot of people on the downhills.  And there's no bigger downhill in San Francisco than the mile and a half from the Veteran's Hospital at mile 9 past the Cliffhouse and down to the Great Highway just before mile 11. 

I moved up 5 spots in that stretch.  Of course, I gave 3 spots back on the uphill in Golden Gate Park to mile 12, but then took a spot back on the downhill to the finish, and headed into a crowded finish area with fans screaming, music blaring and photographers snapping shots like I was about to win the Olympic Gold Medal. 

That's when I nearly bowled over Joan Benoit-Samuelson, who had finished a couple minutes earlier and was already giving an interview in the middle of the finishing line.  Cool.  

I graciously accepted my Tiffany necklace from an uncomfortable dude in a tux and collected my pretty finishing shirt.  Having done this race every year since it's inception in 2004, I have come to accept this weirdness.   

In the finishing area, it became pretty clear that I had finished near the top of the mens' division.  There just weren't a lot of us around.  In fact, the finishing area was almost empty.  Dreams of being on a podium for the second straight year danced through my head. 

Unfortunately, this is when I learned that I had missed out on 1st place in my Age Group by 15 seconds.  And then to rub salt in the wound, it turned out that the good folks at Nike had implemented a rather restrictive new podium policy -- the "if you're not first, you're last" policy.  2nd in the Age Group was first loser.  No plaque, no trophy, no 15% off at the Nike store – nothing.  Well, unless you count a 3 minute PR, the joy of knowing you gave it all you had and a free bottle of Aquafina.  Which, given the current recession isn't all bad, I suppose.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kids v. Cats

While visiting a public restroom yesterday, I overheard a dad potty training his son in one of the stalls.  With a combination of detailed instructions, gentle encouragement and patience, the mission was a success.

"You're so smart!" dad exclaimed.

Harvard he here comes.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ironman Canada Race Report

Penticton, Canada -- August 30

I hate it when a race hurts as much the day after as at mile 140. On the other hand, the pain confirms that you gave it all you had. And that can be comforting; particularly, when you're asking why the race didn't go as planned.

I woke up too early the morning after the race. I was sore and my brain wouldn't stop replaying the race. I rolled myself sideways out of the bed and limped to the bathroom, where my legs objected to squatting on the toilet. With a little creativity I figured that if I stood a couple feet further in front of the toilet and fell back, catching the toilet seat behind me, I could execute a triceps press into the seated position. Bad idea. When my hands hit the seat, my stomach muscles screamed bloody murder.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Vineman Full Aquabike

Windsor, CA -- August 1, 2009

I was gypped. I first noticed at the finish line.

I had raced for almost 6 and a half hours. For a guy who hadn't had a rest day in 3 weeks, I had pushed the bike 112 miles at a pretty decent clip -- way past the limits of my endurance -- arriving within 300 yards of the finishing chute. I could hear the announcer calling out names. The crowd was loud and the music was pumping. The noise was giving me a last badly needed boost of energy as I headed towards a raucous finish line.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Vineman 70.3 -- 2009

Vineman 70.3
First, congratulations to everyone who raced. Like Nate says, 80 percent of life is showing up and we showed up. I can't count the number of TPBer's who shouted encouragement to me, but of those who I know, I registered Duane, Dorrette, Hailey, Rosie, Nick and Arianne and that was only about the half of it. I even got a nod from the ballistic missile that turned out to be John Dahlz sprinting the last couple miles to the finish.

And inspiration was to be had even after the race. Nick, who lost almost 10 minutes waiting for the fire department to clear a tree from the course, was cool as the other side of the pillow about his bad luck, saying, "hey, this stuff happens, I just felt bad for the guy who got hit by the tree. Who really cares about a bike split." Dude, I've whined about way smaller time losses than that, and I will again in this report. :) But, thanks for supplying a dose of perspective.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ironman Kansas 70.3 -- 2009

Lawrence, KS -- June 14, 2009

Mark Allen said that there's no such thing as a bad race so long as you learn something. By that standard, I had a great race.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Ironman Hawaii 70.3 -- 2009

Waikoloa, HI -- June 1, 2009

I love the Big Island. I get a great vibe from it and I always feel like I'm going to race fast here -- contrary to every result I've ever had. My goal was to go close to 5:00 hours (ok, maybe even to break the magic barrier) -- a very ambitious goal given last year's heat induced bonk and 5:37 finish, but I'm all about overestimating my own abilities.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Wildflower Long Course -- 2009

I'll skip the window dressing since I think we all know how hard the Wildflower course is and how tough it is to sleep in the back of an SUV.

My own race started for real after making the right turn around the second triangular buoy as swam back to shore. As is my custom, I aim for the blue shack on the left side of the return leg and I start to pick up the pace a bit. Unfortunately, as it sometimes happens when I put my head down and start grinding out the yards, I slice to the right, a fact of which I became aware when the dude on the surfboard screamed "wrong way, dude!". Damn.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ironman California 70.3 -- 2009

Driving home, replaying the details of the CA 70.3 race in my mind for the 4th time, I figured I'd better commit this valuable information to email before I drive myself nuts.  First, let me say that this was my first race of the year with the Team Pac Bikes gang and it was great to have a little camaraderie on the course.  There was a also a little motivation as I tried to not get lapped on the run by Nate.

The morning was a little chilly and I was a popsicle by the time I got in the water.  In fact, the air was so cool that the 58 degree water felt warm on my hands, face and feet.  I was hoping to swim under 32 minutes and I felt pretty much on pace until shortly after the turn-around when my right hamstring completely seized up.  It felt like I'd been harpooned in the back of the leg.