Sunday, April 20, 2014

One Memorable Easter Sunday

This past Sunday was more than an ordinary Sunday as Easter is being celebrated worldwide.  Here in San Francisco, besides Easter, the second weekend of the Cherry Blossom Festival was being held in Japantown.

Also on the third weekend in April, and more than 2000 miles east to northeast of San Francisco, the city of Boston along with New England is celebrating the Patriots Day weekend.  On Monday, 35,000 fans will file into Fenway Park and take in a Boston Red Sox game.  The game generally starts around 11:00 a.m.

Also on Monday, the 118th Boston Marathon will make its way from a small town southwest known as Hopkinton and will finish on Boylston Street in Boston.  More than 500,000 spectators, and possibly close to one million, will watch 36,000 starters making the 26.2 mile journey.  Each one will have a marathon story to share.

A few weeks ago, there was a commercial on Universal Sports that caught my eye while watching a replay of the Tokyo Marathon.  The Boston Athletic Association and its major sponsor - John Hancock came up with an amazing idea.  The Boston Marathon World Run was established for those who didn't qualify for this year's race.  A participant can sign up and can decide on whatever distance they want.  Also, there's an option to donate money towards a charity.  When signing up, you receive a bib number (mine is above this paragraph).  The run can be done anytime up to Monday, April 21st.  During the signup, I chose 26.2 miles as the distance and would be donating to The One Fund.

Last year after the tragic events during the Boston Marathon, a number of us made a donation to The One Fund towards the victims.  After a few days, I wanted to qualify for the 2014 race.  In June 2013, though I ran my best marathon in nine years, I fell short by 14 minutes in the Wipro San Francisco Marathon.

This last week has been quite an experience.  Up until this week, my best long run was 16 miles and was wondering if "this was over my head" to do this run.  However, a couple of running friends from the San Diego area have been visiting me for the past several days. Along with four of their friends, we decided that we'd do this early on Sunday morning.  We ran the first 18 miles of the San Francisco Marathon course and did a switchback in Golden Gate Park before heading north to Lake Street.  The weather at 5:00 a.m. was cool but it warmed up when the sun rose on this Easter Sunday.

At 14th and Lake Street, my friend's Garmin read 23.1 miles and we covered the distance in a surprising three hours and 23 minutes (3:23:18).  It certainly wasn't what I expected given the training.  My friends knew beforehand that I would do this distance with them and finish with the 5K DSE Roller Coaster Run in the Presidio.  I've done this on Easter off and on for several years now.  With 100-plus runners doing this each year, hopefully there would be no problem completing the toughest 5K in San Francisco.

With Bill and Greg who know something about marathons and ultra marathons.  Thank you Paul for the photo.  

Getting to the location with about 25 minutes to spare, the concern was to keep from stiffening up.  Meeting up with Paul, Greg, Bill, Johnny and a few other DSE members is always fun.  Getting the last slices of the banana down along with some water was good as well.  In the last five minutes, it was walking, slowly jogging and stretching again.

My friend and Pamakid teammate - Tony was the race director.  Amazingly after a great effort and PR in yesterday's Ruth Anderson Ultras, he had the energy on this day.  A little after 9:00 a.m., we took off for the climb to Presidio Blvd.-Pacific and back.

The run went a lot better than expected.  Coming back, I was pushed by long time friend - Jim and teammate - Patrick.  Other than feeling a little soreness in the quads due to the downhill, everything went well.  The 5K took 28:47 and the combined marathon distance took 3:51:41!  This wouldn't have happened without those I saw and ran with on this day. No longer do I have a Garmin to track any of the miles so depending on friends, those who've measured courses and mapping it on Google is a plus.  Definitely, the total time was a total surprise and didn't realize it until five minutes after crossing the finish line.  During the run, I was thinking a lot more of what the run was for.  Finishing was essential!  

Being this close to a Boston Qualifier has now pushed me to run another marathon.  I guess there's one still in the tank!  Later this week, I plan to enter the Two Cities Marathon down in Fresno in early November.  San Francisco, unfortunately isn't in my plans though I may run Santa Rosa in August.

With this run in the books, the mindset is on Monday's 118th Boston Marathon.  Several of my running friends are there for an event that they'll never forget.  Seeing the photos and stories on Facebook has me recollecting the memories from 1999, the one and only Boston I've run.  For those of you who have never been to the city, it is a very historical one besides just the marathon. I recommend visiting it one day.  

I'm sure on Monday, all of us won't forget this marathon and the memories that it will provide!  Hopefully we'll see the likes of a Meb, Ryan Hall, Shalane Flanigan and/or Desiree Linden on the podium!     

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Returning To The Bay To Breakers

Looking back down the Hayes Street Hill from the top.  Alamo Square is to the left side.

Sunday, May 18, 2014 will be the 103rd edition of the Bay To Breakers 12K.  It will be a day that a number of people including myself are looking forward to.

Starting with the Wasserman Media Group, I'm sure they're excited.  Last fall, they took over the ownership of the race and have made many positive changes.  For those unfamiliar with the Wasserman Media Group, they have put out two documentaries in Spirit Of The Marathon I and II.  

Back to the race, all registered runners finishing the 12K will receive a finisher's medal.  It will be the third time that this has happened (finisher's medals were given out at the 100th and 101st editions).  

One of the sponsors, Under Armour, will be providing finishing tech shirts, an improvement of the cotton shirts that you see at many races around the world.

Also, the start of the race will go back to the 8:00 a.m. start time from what it was several years ago.  To me, it doesn't matter if we start at 7:00 a.m. or 8:00 a.m.  It's good that we have new ownership that will put some needed energy into the event.

Back on October 31st of last year, there was an early signup for the race ($31 plus the convenience fee).  Along with this, the new ownership heard from several long time participants of the event and were very appreciative what the running community had to say.

When learning of the change of ownership, I couldn't wait until the signup.  In fact, I signed up about 10 minutes after the entries opened!  After missing last year's race, I couldn't wait.  I did watch some of it out in Golden Gate Park and remember Ryan Hall, the U.S. Olympic Marathoner participate.

Since the year began, the training has been such, that once a week, I've been out on part of the course.  This past two Sundays have been time trials on the new course.  Running at nearly a sub-60 minute workout about five weeks prior is very encouraging.  It was the fastest 12K (workout or race) since 2006.

With 34 days remaining, we'll learn more about this year's event.  Will there be a local television or radio station carrying the event?  Will the San Francisco Examiner post the first 10,000 runners this year after not doing it last year for the first time in many years?  We'll leave that to the organizers of the event.  I'm more than happy to be back to run this event for the 34th time!  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Never Satisfied!

Finishing the Across The Bay 12K race last Sunday.

It had been five weeks since last being at a road race event.  There were a couple of opportunities locally, but the training was more important.  However, one of my favorite Pacific Association USA Track And Field races was coming up.

The Across The Bay 12K race is one of the popular races in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The start is at Fort Baker, just south of Sausalito.  After a hill climb and a jaunt south across the western portion of the Golden Gate Bridge, the finish is at Aquatic Park in San Francisco.  It would be the 11th time running in the 31st edition of the event.

Most of the runners like myself are school bused from Ghiradelli Square over to the start area.  The ride takes about 15-20 minutes so there's a lot to see on the journey.  I slowly jogged the mile and a half down to Aquatic Park.  The summer-type weather that we were having was evident as the full moon was slowly setting in the west.  What was also evident was a low, but patchy fog covering the lower part of the Golden Gate Bridge and also hearing the foghorn.

Getting off the bus, it felt a little cooler but was still nice.  Just a few minutes after seeing the moon nearly set, there was a beautiful sunrise just over Oakland's East Bay Hills.  One kind of knew that we were fortunate to have good weather for this event.  It hasn't always been that way.

I caught up with several of the Pamakid Running Club teammates and eventually started warming up.  Other than some chest congestion that had been around for a few days because of the pollen, the feeling was very positive.  It was great to see 45 club members running and was definitely noticeable amongst other teams and individual runners. 

The race starts in a southernly direction before leaving Fort Baker.  The hill climb to the western portion of the Golden Gate Bridge was tougher this year because of the congestion but I battled through it.

Once on the bridge, this is the portion of the race I really enjoy because, though the width is narrow, one is able to pass runners.  There were several runners I passed but the same runners passed me later in Crissy Field.  The weather on the bridge was cool and there was a little bit of patchy fog.  However, no rain and wind that the runners had to endure several years ago!

This year because of work on the southern portion of the bridge, we detoured to an underpass, and eventually to Lincoln Boulevard.  The downhill portion to Fort Point went well with no hitch.  However, as we reached Crissy Field, there were three instances were I had to slow down because of some breathing issues.  The congestion was acting up again.  Eventually it got to a point where I was jogging at 11 minutes a mile.  That's something that I would do in a warm down after an interval workout.

This continued while the Marina Green, and eventually to the final approach at Fort Mason.  Remembering what happened last year, I was about a minute ahead of my worst 12K and didn't want that to happen again.  Also, there was another runner ahead of me from a (friendly) rival club whom I hadn't beaten in nearly six years!  Hearing the cheers and encouragement from his teammates for nearly a mile was nice for him. However, hearing it was a little annoying!

The finish!  Thank you Danni for the photo!

Reaching the top of the Fort Mason hill, I caught him and three other runners in a pack and started the descent downward.  It wasn't a sprint by any means but it was quicker than any other time in the race.  Hearing my teammates right at the turn on Van Ness was a boost.  The finish line that seemed a long ways away in previous years arrived very quickly this year.  The clock at the finish read 1:08:05 (chip time and GARMIN was 1:07:48).  The improvement was about a minute and 40 seconds from 2013.

Though not satisfied with parts of the race, it was good to be out there.  However, it almost felt like having asthma.  After getting the souvenir t-shirt, my warmup shirt and some goodies, I headed home.  After showering, I headed to St. Francis Hospital.  While there, my doctor said the condition was short of having bronchitis and eventually, pneumonia.  I was given an antibiotic and am now feeling much better.

The following evening, it was nice to see some of the same runners and a few members at the Pamakid Running Club General Meeting at Forest Hills Lodge.  Though I'm never satisfied with the previous race, it was nice to relax, have a Guinness, talk with teammates and ponder on the next race.  The nice thing is that there are few good races in the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California.  Already, I have one race scheduled for April and two for May.  In closing, hopefully never satisfied is not a bad thing!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A February To Remember

Taken at the Eight Mile Road Race in Golden Gate Park on April 12, 1975 and wearing the Pamakid green singlet .  

This post is dedicated to the many involved in running from Bruce Grant, my good friend and Tamalpais High School Track And Field coach during my two years (1968-1970) to so many runners over the years who have shared their running experiences and training methods.

Recently, a running question was brought up regarding a defining moment, race or an event in the sport that helped me both physically and mentally.  

Before proceeding, so much has changed in the sport from what it was 40 years ago.  Yet, one thing that hasn't changed in the sport is getting from the start line to the finish line as quickly as possible.      

I've never been one to think for a split second that I was a good runner back then.  Being there and running a specific distance was a learning experience each time out.  It was a carry over from the two years each of Tamalpais High School cross country and track and field.  Track and Cross Country was far more fun than "riding the pine" or sitting on the bench during basketball season!  The feeling that I got in high school basketball was that I was never good enough.  Using that experience helped during the next few years.   

Moving forward in the 1970s, the first four years of road racing (1971-1974) was okay. In 1973, there was a decision made that I'll always remember, and for the better.

The green-clad Pamakid Runners Club was organized in 1971 and a fun group to be a part of.  Joining it in 1973 was an important phase in my running career.  Several club members talked to me about the club's philosophy and it was more than deciding to give it a try.  Becoming a member was an opportunity of running with some really good runners who had tons of experience.

The group would meet during Wednesday nights at the Lake Merced Boathouse parking lot for a near five mile run clockwise around Lake Merced.  After showering at the boathouse, we would have pizza in Daly City and share experiences whether running or what was going on in the world.       

The men's team back then had Ken Scalmanini, Alex Monterrosa, Pat Cunneen, John Novitsky, Gene Fitzgerald, Bill Jensen, Tim Swezey, Bruce Dingwall, Jim Fauss, Phil Paulson, Harry Cordellos, Theo Jones and many others.  They  provided much needed confidence for this runner-blogger.  On the women's side, Betty Cunneen and her tireless work putting on the Wednesday night runs put a lot of quality into one's training week.  There was also Helen Fauss, Jeannie Jones, Robyn Paulson and many others.

Prior to joining the Pamakids, the two years of road racing didn't show any improvement whatsoever.  However, listening and learning from the training procedures was priceless.  The above runners weren't bashful or hid what made them the runners that they were then.  Indeed, there was plenty of room for improvement.

It was no accident that at the start of 1974, the mid to back of the pack runner changed.  In May, I was fortunate to finish fourth at the Avenue Of The Giants Half Marathon.  It was the first time at an out of town race and wearing the Pamakid green.

Two weeks later, on May 19, the Bay To Breakers race provided another personal best at the time.  Finishing in the top 150 places and timed in 42:27 was a 12 minute improvement over the time in 1973!  

Having and wearing the green uniform was with pride.  There were a lot of good Pacific Association AAU clubs that year such as West Valley Track Club, Excelsior Track Club, Marin AC and others.  However, I always felt that the group had a lot of fun, especially when we participated in the very first Christmas Relays in 1974.  The route was from University Of California Santa Cruz to Half Moon Bay by the way of Highway 1.  Watching the relay as a participant and a spectator had a meaning back then as it does today with some of the big relay races on the West Coast.

Going into 1975, the confidence that was built up in 1974 carried over.  Setting personal bests in the mile, half marathon and 25 kilometers were nice, but I craved to continue to get better.  Also, I won one road race in July 1974, but wanted to at least duplicate it in 1975.

Early in January, things went okay with a couple of second place finishes in Dolphin South End Runners fun runs. With February 1 in sight, there was a popular AAU event in Vallejo known as the Channel To Lake 10 Miler (the course was later remeasured to between 9.7 and 9.8 miles).

Channel To Lake 10 Mile Results courtesy of the DSE 1975 results archives. 

Remembering some of the events of that day, the weather was showery with some peaks of sun.  The only issue back in that time with wearing the Pamakid singlet was it would really stick to your skin in the rain.  However, that didn't hurt as I quickly covered the course in 55:49 (according to the 1975 DSE Newsletter) and finished 10th overall!  Among the Pamakid Runners Club contingent running that day were Bill Jensen, Alex Monterrosa, Bruce Dingwall, Theo Jones, Harry Cordellos, Bob and Priscella Meyers, Roger Anawalt and Connie Cunneen.  My apologies for anyone left off but the DSE had their members only on this list.  Nor Cal Running Review might have the full list but was unable to find it on the DSE Archives website.

You would think that I would be satisfied with running a personal best for a near 10 miles!  However, I doubled the following day (February 2) in the Dolphin South End Ferry Building Run.  The distance was 3.83 miles and was an out-and-back from the Dolphin Club to the Ferry Building.

Finishing the DSE Ferry Building Run on February 2.

The result was a fifth place overall finish and a podium (five deep) appearance.  The weather appeared to be a carbon copy of the day before with some sun mixed with rain showers.

The San Francisco skyline from Twin Peaks.

The following Sunday was February 9.  The DSE had scheduled the Twin Peaks Run, an out and back course starting near the corner of Twin Peaks  Drive. and Portola Avenue.  The course ran north up Twin Peaks Drive and over to the other side until it intersected with Clarendon Street.  The runners would touch a fire hydrant and return the same way making the distance 3.63 miles.  Once a week back in the day, I would do hill running training on the largest peaks in San Francisco known as Twin Peaks.  Sometimes, it would be running up and over the peaks to get to the former McAteer High School to do interval training.  McAteer was the first San Francisco High School to have an all weather surface and for a few years had the City High School Championship meet.

The Thursday before the race, I did a time trial on the course that we would be running at roughly 4:30 p.m.  The course record was roughly 17:30 and I knew I wasn't that quick.  The regular wrist watch that I was wearing showed me finishing just over 20 minutes, not bad for running by myself.

Race morning was an hour earlier at 9:00 a.m. because of the potential heavy traffic.  The weather was partly cloudy but ideal for running.  I remembered that there were several good runners including a U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon participant - John Weidenger.  John ran a sub-2:30 marathon at Eugene in 1972.  The course had some positives and negatives.  I wasn't and am still not a good uphill runner.  Back then, I enjoyed the downhill part of running and was confident that I could do well on this course.

The whistle blew for the start and without a watch, I was in a pack of five to six runners.  Staying with the lead pack for the entire uphill, I knew the course very well.  The plan was to make a break right before descending downhill to the turn around at Clarendon Street.

At the start of the downhill, I was five yards in front and extended it to nearly 20 yards at the turn around fire hydrant.  Being the target was something I wasn't used to.  Going back uphill and heading south on Twin Peaks Drive, I kept thinking that someone was closing until several runners yelled out encouragement to pump the arms more.  At the top of the hill, I looked back and the 20 yard lead was now about 30 yards.  I was tired but knew that those following were just as tired as I.

Twin Peaks Run results courtesy of the DSE archives in 1975.

The downhill to the finish was the toughest part mentally.  The runners ran on an open road which meant there was vehicle traffic.  The DSE had no permit, something that any running club that puts on a race has to have today.  My problem was that in front of me during the last 400 yards was a tour bus that I actually caught up to if you can believe it.  Luckily and fortunately for me, there was another tour bus right behind me keeping the next runner behind it.  It was a bit scary but there was enough room (25 yards or so between the buses.) The exhaust from the tour bus was bad enough but not enough to keep me from finishing.  With 125 participants finishing, I won in a time of 19:19, 17 seconds ahead of the second place runner, Dennis Martinez.  John Weidenger finished third and was the first to come over and congratulate me afterwards.  He mentioned that I ran a strong race and used the hills to my advantage.  He had seen the improvement over the previous year and told me to not alter the way I was training.

Two weeks later, I ran very well at Lake Merced in the 4.95 mile run covering the course in just over 27 minutes.  I guess that February 1975 was a February to remember!