Friday, May 29, 2015

Steve Prefontaine

This post is dedicated to arguably the greatest American distance runner of all time in Steve Prefontaine.  

This weekend, the Prefontaine Classic (Track And Field) will be held in Eugene, Oregon at Hayward Field, home of the University Of Oregon.  Ironically, this coming Saturday is the 40th anniversary of Steve Prefontaine's death.  It happened early on the morning of May 30, 1975 when Prefontaine's car, an MGB crashed and rolled over pinning him underneath. There's been a lot of discussion regarding the death and I'm not here to post about it.  It's about his life and how his inspiration helped get me into a long running career that still goes on today.  

In my first year running at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, California, my track and field distance running teammates talked a lot about him.  We would read "the green sheet." That was known as the San Francisco Chronicle Sporting Green.  We saw how good this runner was from his cross country exploits to what he did on the track at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, Oregon.  In the P.E. locker room, we would see updates on all the high school greats in that era and Prefontaine was on it constantly!

In my second year of running on the roads (1972), we would hear often in the papers what Pre would do in a specific track meet.  That year, the duel with George Young at the U.S. Olympic Trials at Eugene and the Summer Olympics in Munich were the greatest races I saw. Though Pre finished fourth and missing a medal, he decided to make the 5000 meters a race by taking the lead in the last mile of the event!  To this day, I thought it was the greatest distance race I've ever seen.

Prefontaine helped make a shoe company known as Nike what it is today.  It was back in 1975/1976 when I bought my first pair of Nike's which were called the Nike Elite.  Prior to that I was wearing the Adidas SL72 which were okay. The Elite was actually better because it hugged the foot better.

Steve Prefontaine along with Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter and Jim Ryun were major reasons for the running boom in the 1970s.  Those of us who began running in this era and for that matter, today should be thankful.     

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Favorite Running Places

It's often been asked where my favorite running places are in San Francisco.  The city being 49 square miles, you find different terrains. There's the different neighborhoods where this runner-blogger does or has done his training over his career.  In retrospect, there's a good amount of variety each time on a run.

One of my favorite areas to run is in Golden Gate Park, a little over three miles west from home.  There are numerous races that I've run in over the years there.  The recent Bay To Breakers race runs through the heart of the park.  The above photo, the Golden Gate Park Eight Miler was taken back in 1975.  Getting away from the sidewalks and vehicles was a welcome sight to say the least.

One of my other favorite areas is in the Presidio, about two miles from home. Definitely, I like the trails more as the years have gone by.  Before you know it, one can end up near the Golden Gate Bridge or the Pacific Ocean.

During my better years, I loved running in the Mission District.  During my long runs, I would head over to the Twin Peaks area (pictured) or Dolores Street and Park where there would be some more long runs. The divider area on Dolores Street was great because of the grass and palm trees.  The weather in the Mission is the best of any area in San Francisco.

And then, there's the waterfront.  Often, I head over to AT&T Park, home of the baseball Giants to see what's happening in the area.  Just a looped run to the park and back is about six miles.       

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Races

This being Memorial Day, I'm grateful to those who fought to make this country what we are today.  Also, it's a day that I normally run and/or race.

One of my favorite races in the area is the Marin Memorial 10K up in Kentfield in Marin County.  The Tamalpa Runners do a tremenduous job in organizing the event and it's a course that I've done well in.  The above photo was from the 2014 race as I'm nearing the College Of Marin track.  Back in the early 2000s, there was a race that Excelsior Running Club, a good running club in the San Francisco put on.  It was called the Zippy 5K in Golden Gate Park.

Prior to that, I ran in one race on Memorial Day.  It happened back in 1984.  It was an Olympic year.  At the time, I was getting ready for the Corporate Regionals and Nationals while employed at AT&T.  

This runner-blogger traveled to Boulder, Colorado to participate in the Bolder Boulder 10K. It was eight days after the Bay To Breakers 12K and was in decent shape.

Arriving on Saturday, I did an easy five mile run in the afternoon and a four miler on Sunday morning.  It was the first time running in high altitude and was quite an experience.

On Monday morning, it was very crisp outside.  There was snow flurries on Sunday but it was clear for the race.  The Rockies had some snow on them but is was really cool to see them while warming up.  This runner-blogger remembered that he was in the third wave of runners.  They would take off every five minutes.

Unlike today, the runners back in 1984 started about a mile north and had a slight downhill in the first portion of the race.  I remembered going out slightly too fast with the downhill start.  The toughest part seemed to be around five kilometers when there was a slight incline.  The best part was the finish, a slight climb to Folsom Field, home of the Colorado Buffaloes football team.

There were about 30,000 spectators in the stadium cheering each of the participants that day.  I finished in 37:55 and in 632nd place out of over 15,700 who ran that day.  It was the second largest race I ran in at the time.

About three weeks later at a regional corporate 10K at Irvine, California, I ran a 34:55 time for 10K which is my fastest 10K ever.  Running at high altitude has its advantages when returning to sea level.        

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bay To Breakers Recap

Well, the 104th Bay To Breakers is now history as is my 37th time running in the event.  I really enjoyed it this year compared to last.  There was no 25 minute delay due to a banner being blown down.  There wasn't a bunch of drunks parading all over Howard Street in the first two miles either.

Ironically, I woke up an hour late this year and made it down to Corral A on Main and Howard Streets about 20 minutes before the race.  Because of the adrenalin, I had to leave the corral to find a port-a-potty that had a long line of people.  Fortunately, there was still some time to get back into the corral.

Unfortunately upon returning, security wouldn't let several runners get back into our corrals though we had the proper bib number.  The race had just started. Several of us thought about the possibility of running up Mission Street. However, that would have been an issue with the race organizers.  Fortunately, the security person turned her head shortly after begging to get back in.  Several of us sneakingly took advantage of passing the gate and getting back into our corral.

It was several minutes, possibly five or six minutes before we crossed the start line. There was some bumping and pushing but it was orderly for a lot of people in a short area.  I believe we crossed the mat.  Right before reaching the next block, which was Beale, we were able to start running.

Unlike last year, Howard Street was very orderly.  I noticed security at every intersection until we reached Golden Gate Park.  What a relief compared to last year. It was a lot cooler than in 2014, but no wind like what the Bay Area was experiencing throughout the week.  There seemed to be less costumes than in previous years.

As we reached Howard and Ninth, one couldn't help seeing several runners dressed as nuns.  There used to be an active Catholic church on Howard and 10th about a block away.  While on Ninth Street, it was noticable that it wasn't quite as crowded. Interestingly, when crossing Market to Hayes Street, there were already a lot of people on the Hayes Street Hill.  It was a great sight!

I checked my watch at the two mile mark just past Hayes and Van Ness and it read 15:36.  I knew I was running as well as I had been running in several years.  The legs were already feeling it but one needs to keep moving in the moment.  It felt good when Laguna Street arrived.  It was the start of the fabled hill and staying in contact was important, even if you were already tired!

The first two blocks were good and as always, the block between Webster and Fillmore Streets posed the biggest problem.  It is the steepest climb of the course. However, I chopped the stride and really leaned into the hill like doing it back in the 1980s and 1990s.  It paid off big time!

Fell Street was a major challenge for me this year. For much of the stretch, there were runners left and right that were slowly passing me.  The street is a slight incline until reaching Ashbury.  I heard several people encouraging me on before reaching Golden Gate Park.  The overcast stayed intact throughout the race, but there was still no wind.

The next three miles beginning in Golden Gate Park were the best done in several years.  It seemed that the cadence was picking up and noticed it when reaching each of the mile markers.  It felt like that this runner-blogger was going back in time, like 10 to 20 years ago! Between the sixth and seventh miles, I ran 7:17.  One realizes that it is a downhill mile but I haven't done this in years!

The last .46 of a mile was a struggle because of the turns and the fact that the street width shortens a bit.  However, turning right on the Great Highway, the finish didn't seem to be as far as it did last year.  I checked the watch while finishing and it showed 58:52.  Wow!  It was an emotional feeling as it's been nine years since last breaking one hour in this event!  I felt that I left everything out on the course as the walk to getting the boxed water was a slow one!  

The area past the finish was really cool.  There was an area where you could pick up your finisher medals.  There was plenty of boxed water to go around.  I was humbly honored to be interviewed on KGO Radio 81 briefly. After getting some goodies, it was leaving the area and catching a MUNI 31 bus for the ride home.

After returning home and showering, it was off to the New Village Cafe for a great breakfast.  I've never had Russian Pancakes before but it was delicious! There were several people that came over to congratulate me from the ownership to the customers.  It was a very humbling experience.

After breakfast, and now being in the early afternoon, sharing the moment with my co-workers at the Giants Dugout Store was fun.  I was a little exhausted but wanted to share the moment.  The picture above showed a couple of Giants fans from Sacramento sharing the moment as well.  My co-worker - Steven took this shot and it was appreciative.

Career race #1112 and my 37th Bay To Breakers is now history.  In about five weeks, I'll be running in a 10K in Golden Gate Park.  My long range plan is to run a major 10K in August.  The Giant Race, sponsored by the San Francisco Giants is on the calendar and is a race that this runner-blogger is looking forward to.  Finishing inside AT&T Park is the next best thing to playing left field for the Giants.  

Have a good summer everyone!                

Friday, May 15, 2015

One Famous Hill

Top of the Hayes Street Hill, 2.69 miles into the Bay To Breakers.

In my running life, there are two famous hills that I've run and conquered. Back in April 1999, I ran in the Boston Marathon and survived the famous Heartbreak Hill. It was tough but finished in three hours and 23 minutes.  The tough part was the downhill portion when my quads were barking.  It was an experience that I'll never forget.

And then there's the Hayes Street Hill.  I don't think the hill was that popular until the Bay To Breakers decided to change the course in 1968.  Because of the BART construction, the race was moved from Market Street to Howard Street.  The first two miles of the race have nearly been the same ever since.  

My experience with the five block climb (roughly .43 miles) began in 1972, my first year in the event.  I was okay until the third block of the hill between Webster and Fillmore Streets.  The running became walking at that point.  It is the steepest portion of the hill.  I regained a jog the last two blocks and was able to go on and finish the race in a little more than an hour. 

The spectators and neighbors in the Western Addition portion of the city get out and support the participants.  I remembered music coming out of the apartment buildings on both sides of the street.  Some of the tunes from "Rocky" to "Eye Of The Tiger" were very popular the first several years running in the event.  Last year, people were encouraging more than ever.  

My long time friend, blind athlete - Harry Cordellos came up with the slogan "I get my thrill on Hayes Street Hill."  Each year, he would cut out a cardboard with the slogan on it and pin it on the back of his singlet.  I was thinking of this yesterday a great deal.  Unfortunately, Harry, because of an injury and advice from his doctor, will miss his first Bay To Breakers since his first one 47 years ago.  I'm sure someone will come up with one in his absence. Hopefully, we'll see Harry next year.

The last month has been focused on running the hill and running it stronger than the last several years.  I'm in better shape than the last two to three years. Thursday was the strongest workout I've had this year and it's now on to Sunday.

Friday's expo was held at the Fort Mason Center for the first time.  The weather following an early morning run was overcast. There have been other races that have had their expos there.  It's good to see the change. I liked it at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for several years but there's more space here.

I'm not sure if there are more participants this year but the list didn't seem as long. We did get into the center a little after 11:00 a.m. and received the bib numbers and t-shirts by Under Armour.  There was a mix up regarding this year's shirts but Under Armour did a good job giving us either a black or gray tech shirt with the Bay To Breakers logo.  For the first time since the 1999 Boston Marathon, I bought a race warmup top that will keep one warm during the chilly mornings here in the Bay Area. I saw several running friends in the 20 or so minutes at the expo before heading out to breakfast.

There were two television stations at the expo that were interviewing people. One started to wonder if there would be any television, radio or newspaper coverage since one noticed an absence of it this week.  Maybe it was by design.  Who knows?

Anyway, my next report will be Sunday following the race.  Good luck to those running it this year!