2018 Wharf to Wharf is in the books

wharft to wharf start 2018
Wharf to Wharf start photo from race Facebook page

Warming up for this morning’s Wharf to Wharf race, I took note how little nervous or pumped up I was for the race. It’s not like I was just going through the motions, but well I found myself struck how nonchalant my approach was minutes away from start time. Not knowing if that was a good thing or a bad thing, I just reminded myself of the game plan: Go out in 6:25-6:30 per mile pace for the first few miles and go from there.

Last year, I ran the six mile run smart and well paced and completed it in about 39:30.  This year, I figured I could do a minute faster so the goal was sub-39 minutes. The plan looked good from the opening gun. First, I had to negotiate the usually crowded, chaotic start, dodging around a couple runners who crashed to the ground. Looking at my GPS watch after what I felt was a pretty relaxed half mile and saw I was around 6:10 pace.  I slowed it down slightly, coming across the first mile around 6:20.

From there, I felt reasonably comfortable covering the next few miles in 6:25-ish miles until I started running out of gas around mile four.  But I held on, and while I didn’t have that much left on the 600 meter downhill finish where I usually catch a bunch of people, I came through in 38:26, good for 6:24 per mile pace, which is a sub-40 minute 10k pace if you think the Wharf to Wharf course is accurate.  (I think it’s a little short.)  Any how, another nice finish for me and the moral of the story is, if you don’t feel all that inspired at the start of the race, make sure you have a plan and stick to it at the beginning.  The heat of the battle will often give you the motivation you need.

A lack of preparation pays off in the Los Gatos One Mile Bang

One Mile Bang Start
The Open Women’s Race in the One Mile Bang

When I decided to run the One Mile Bang, a road mile race in Los Gatos, it was with a fair amount of trepidation. I hadn’t run a one mile race since my high school and college running days in the 80’s.  Even though I ran a bunch of mile races, about the only thing I can remember about them is being in heavy oxygen debt the whole way and getting out kicked by a bunch of guys at the finish. So while a one mile road mile seemed like a fun challenge and welcome change to the usual distances I race these days, all I could think about how soon oxygen debt would kick in and how many people would pass me at the finish.

It also didn’t help that I was just recovering from the Across the Bay 12k a couple weeks ago and haven’t been doing any track work, tempo runs, fartlek, or anything else to prepare myself to run fast over a shorter distance. So it was with an attitude of “whatever” that I entered this thing this Sunday morning, my “pizza and beer” socks summing up my general attitude.

Of course, when I get to the line and there’s a bunch of old guys just like myself in the over 50 division race, trying to relive the lost glory or their youth, all revved up ready to blow off the line….well, I started to get pretty serious, too.  The gun goes off and a pick off maybe 75 of us charge down University Drive along the western border Vasona Park in Los Gatos.

My plan was to go no faster than 80 seconds for the first quarter, preferably something like 83-84.  I look up and see the quarter-mile clock displaying 1:15 and pass the 1st quarter in 77. Too fast! But it didn’t feel that uncomfortable. “Just hold pace,” I told myself, afraid of falling into oxygen debt too early in the race.

I come through the half way point in 2:40, and think, “You know, this really doesn’t all feel that bad,” and started to reel in the runners in front of me.  It certainly helped the course was downhill and by the time I got to the 3/4 mile mark, I started picking off a few people crossing the finish line in 5:12, which at least 30 seconds faster than I ever thought I would run.  A couple of my training buddies finished ahead of me, but I didn’t expect to get anywhere near them considering they’ve been in a lot better shape than me all year and actually did some track work to prepare.  What happened?

Most likely my indifference and lack of preparation played to my advantage. I didn’t get caught up with the pack charging off the starting line. Not saying you shouldn’t train for specific type of races, but I’ve fallen into to traps where I’ve trained hard to meet a certain time and then get carried away at the start, go out too fast, and pay for it.  Quite frankly, I think a was a little too scared of the bear jumping on my back that never came and if I had to do it all over again, would have pushed a little harder from the first quarter.

At any rate, I’ll easily take a 5:12 mile, even if it is downhill.  Next race up is the Wharf to Wharf next month in Santa Cruz.

The Best Laid Plans Sort of Worked at The Across the Bay 12k

The Across the Bay 12k I ran this morning is a race of two distinct halves.  The first half starts on a winding road in Sausalito, takes a series of switchbacks to climb up the Golden Gate Bridge, crosses the Golden Gate Bridge, and then takes a bike trail down hill to Fort Point.  That’s about four miles of hills and turns. Then, it’s about a 3.5 mile straight shot to the finish in San Francisco’s Aquatic Park.

My plan was to get to the mid-point of the Golden Gate Bridge feeling pretty good to take advantage of the down hills. And that seemed to be working, as the hill climbing 2nd mile didn’t seem so bad, and as I crested the Golden Gate Bridge a third of the way into the race, I was feeling all right. Time wise, I had no idea how I was doing since my GPS watch was having trouble finding the satellites until I got onto the Golden Gate Bridge.  So far, so good with a little bit of a timing hiccup.

The bad news was that by the time I got down to Fort Point, I was still hanging in there but couldn’t find another gear. From Fort Point to the finish, I passed a women in front of me and was gaining on a pack of 2-3 at the finish, but never could quite catch up with them despite pressing hard the whole way on the flat section. Of course, that’s a lot better than falling apart over those 3 1/2 miles and getting passed by a bunch of people

I crossed the finish line is 50:04, good for 6:40 pace. Next up, in two weeks I’ll run my first mile race since my high school and college days at the One Mile Bang, a point-to-point road mile in Los Gatos. Given most of my training has been distance runs with some tempo work thrown in, I ought to be suitably unprepared for it.

An Irregular PR at the Gr8ter Race

This morning I ran the Gr8ter Race, an eight mile race that starts in downtown Los Gatos, heads west on Highway 9 through residential neighborhoods to downtown Saratoga, which then doubles back to finish in downtown Los Gatos. The race was part of The Great Race, which starts in Saratoga and finishes in Los Gatos along the same course. The Gr8ter race is just The Great Race doubled.

Well, the good news I set my all time 8 mile PR. Never mind I’ve ever run an 8 mile race before. I finished in 53:18 which is about 6:39 per mile pace, not bad for a race full of rolling, nagging hills. None of the hills are particularly tough but it’s one of those courses where you’re always going either up or down. Considering I ran around 6:30 pace for five miles eight weeks ago on a much flatter course at the 408k, I’ll call this an improvement.

I would give you the blow by blow of the race, except I barely remember what happened out on the course just a few hours ago. Only about 100 people ran it, so the field thinned out pretty quickly.  After the first couple miles, I was pretty much by myself. Then I tired towards the end and with about 1 1/2 miles to go, a couple people caught me. I finished in the top ten, so I thought I might win the 50-59 age group, but it turns about a couple guys over 50 beat me. It’s great that old farts like us dominated the race, but then where were the young guys?

There a some races where you do well, creating that satisfying sense of accomplishment and excitement. Then there are bad races which you simultaneously try to learn from and forget at the same time. Then, there are others like the Gr8ter Race where you do OK and move on.

So the Gr8ter Race is over and done. On to the Across the Bay 12k held in San Francscio in six weeks.

finish gr8ter race

Racing into 2018 at the 408k / The passing of running legend Sir Roger Bannister

Running seemed to be going good for me early 2018, but you never really know how good running is going until you test yourself in a race. So I eagerly lined up in Sunday morning’s 408k, a 8 kilometer race that starts at the SAP Center (I still call it the “Shark Tank”), weaves through San Jose’s Rose Garden neighborhood and finishes at the swanky Santana Row Mall. It was 35 degrees F during the early morning warm-ups, frigid for Bay Area conditions.  But with clear skies, the sun quickly warmed things up for ideal conditions at start time.

My goal with to break 33:00, and felt a hitting a time faster than 32:30 would be pretty difficult. So when I passed through the 1st mile just under 6:30 pace feeling reasonably comfortable, I took that as a good sign.  Continuing to focus on pace, the next mile was about the same time and mile three was even a little faster, all the while slowly moving up the field, picking off two or three runners each mile.  Some small hills on mile 4 and mounting fatigue begin to wear on me, and my pace slowed to over 6:30 per mile pace. I started to get a bit gassed on the last mile, but had enough left to finish strong and crossed the finish line in 31:50 on a course that was probably about a tenth of mile short, based on my GPS watch. Adding about 40 seconds to my time to compensate for that tenth of a mile seemed about right, which puts me right at 32:30 for the 8 kilometer distance, right on fastest target. So I really couldn’t ask for a better racing start for 2018. Next race up is the Gr8tr Race, an 8 mile race from Los Gatos to Saratoga and back, held on April 29th.

That success was tinged with sadness that morning with news outlets reporting the  passing of running legend Sir Roger Bannister.  In many ways, Roger Bannister was in the right place at the right time to break the 4 minute mile barrier, but mere circumstance could not have picked a greater running ambassador. His humility in his achievement of excellence was inspiration to countless runners, including myself. During a time in the early 90’s at my running peak, I devoured his book, The Four Minute Mile. Bannister’s amiable style, coupled with a scientific approach to running, honesty about his failures and weaknesses, and a matter-of-fact attitude about his supreme accomplishments moved me at the time. I wanted to be him.

I’ve choked up a couple times since learning of his death. Rest in peace, Sir Roger. You are so badly missed.

roger-bannister1.jpg

 

 

 

 

Starting 2018 off right…sort of

After an encouraging 2017 running year, I decided to lace up the racing flats for the Kiwanis 2018 Resolution Run held New Year’s Day at Mountain View’s Shoreline Park, one of those small charity races where a couple hundred people show up in a good mood full of holiday spirit.

Won’t bore you too much with a blow by blow of the race, mostly because with the small field, everyone basically separated after the first couple miles and I was running by myself for the last five miles of the 6.2 mile course. My goal was to break 42 minutes, which seemed challenging as my legs felt a little creaky and not so energetic.  Going out at what felt like an easy pace, I looked down at my Garmin watch and noticed I was running about 6:25 per mile pace, significantly faster than 42 minute pace. I eased off just a little more, and still passed a runner just before the mile marker.  Up ahead was a guy in a blue shirt. Keeping eye contact on the blue shirt while trying to keep a 6:40-6:45 pace, a followed him over the winding path through Shoreline Park. When it was over, crossed the finish line in 41:24, which is 6:40 pace. Having run a number of well-paced races in 2017, it was an encouraging running start going into 2018. I have a goal to break 40 minutes in the 10k this year, and the morning’s effort made that seem very possible.

Unfortunately, that afternoon’s home brewing session was a lot less successful. It’s been a couple years since I brewed, and it showed. I had no good way to cool down the boiling wort so after stacking the big stock pot on bags of ice, and then pouring it into a couple 1-gallon jugs I used as fermenters, the wort eventually cooled down enough after a couple hours and I pitched the yeast in the warm brew.  Twenty four hours later, not a lot of fermentation is going on and I fear I may have killed off or severely weakened the yeast by pitching it into wort that was too warm. We’ll see what happens in a couple weeks.

A good 10k race and a dicey homebrew session.  I can think of far worse ways to start 2018.

wort 1-1-2018

 

Still not too old for this shit at the Monterey Bay Half-Marathon

Let’s face it, 2016 was a bummer for me as far as running was concerned. I showed up to the starting lines at the Napa Valley Marathon and Healdsburg Wine Country Half-Marathon with nagging injuries which led to both disappointing results in both races and bad hip injuries, which took a few months to fully recover from. Hobbling into 2017 at age 49, I began to hear the whispers of self-doubt that maybe I was just starting to get too old to be running races and handling all the day-to-day training grind.

Well, screw that! This year turned out to be a fun year for running. Starting from last March, every 4-6 weeks I raced a series of shorter 4 mile to 10k events as I gradually shook off the injuries and slowly upped the weekly mileage. By the end of the summer, I decided I was ready to give the Monterey Bay Half-Marathon a go.

I’ll do my best not to bore you with how the half-marathon training went. I opted for the tried and true “hard-day/easy-day” routine, but made the hard-days a little less intense than past years and also mixed in a greater variety of work-outs. Most hard days were some new challenge and it took away from the “if it’s Wednesday, I must be doing a six-mile tempo run” rut. Not only was this a more enjoyable way to train from previous years, this routine kept both my legs and mind fresh so I got the starting line last Sunday ready to go for 13.1 miles.

As for the race itself, my plan to start the early miles no faster than 6:45 per mile pace worked to my advantage as I maintained almost exact pacing throughout the whole race. I crossed the finish line in 1:29:00, a 6:47 per mile pace, good enough for 4th in the 50-54 age group. Without going into a tedious play by play of the whole half-marathon, let’s just say the musicians along the course and enthusiastic crowd gave me a lift for the first few miles, while the beautiful scenery along the ocean-side miles of 5 through 10 was inspiring, even if I could’ve done without the wind and rolling hills of those middle miles. I’m grateful a large pace group shooting for a final 1:30 time, which was actually running about 1:28:30 pace, caught me just before the 11 mile mark just as I really started struggling.  Holding on to this small pack for dear life the next couple miles provided a badly needed lift and I actually slightly picked up speed the last couple miles.

That concludes my last race for 2017. What’s in store for 2018? Haven’t decided what races to do yet, but where ever running takes me in 2018, I’m looking forward to it.

Finishing 2017
Yours truly in bib 441, looking at my watch at the finish, looking unimpressed.

 

Post race beers 11-12-2017
Post-race beers enjoyed at Spread in Campbell