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.






Small victory at the San Jose 408k

The year 2016 was memorable for so many reasons. Running-wise, it was a year I hit some running highs, but plenty of running lows in the form of injuries. As soon as my injured left hip recovered, my right hip would start hurting. For 2017, I’ve battled the flu a couple times, but simply running around relatively pain free has been a victory in itself.  The San Jose 408k, held last Sunday, was a chance to start the year to see just where I was at.

Named for San Jose’s area code and 8 kilometers long, the point to point course starts at the SAP Center just west of downtown San Jose and finishes at the upscale Santana Row mall. A heavy overnight rain threatened to last into the morning and drench the race, but it died down once the sun came out, leaving the course under undercast skies and ideal running conditions. My modest goal entering the race was to hit 7:00 per mile pace, or 35:00 for the 4.97 mile course.

This goal was complicated by the fact that my GPS watch had some problem, or wasn’t charged right, or something. It had trouble reaching the satellites and started flashing all sorts of warning lights and messages which I could read with my feeble eyes as I desperately stared down at it standing at the starting line. Whatever problems my watch was having, never worked them out by the time the race started and so I race the whole race having no idea of my time until the finish.

It was one of those run where I fought pretty hard to keep pace, but could never find a higher gear.  I just kept working over the course, until I turned down to down the Santana Row mall way, looked up and saw the clock ticking away at 33 minutes and something. Finishing with whatever sprint I could muster, I crossed the finish line at 34:13, way under my goal, or so I thought. Runners finishing next to me remarked their GPS watches had the race distance at 4.9 miles. Uh-oh. GPS watches typically overestimate distance by about 2% meaning the course was short. I’ll just say I met my goal of 35:00 for just under 5 miles, and leave it there.

Next race is The Great Race in Los Gatos April 30th.

Rambles: Slowly Reading Through "The Audacity of Hops" and other new happenings


I’m enjoying a slow meander through “The Audacity of Hops” by Tom Acitelli this summer.
  Time being a precious commodity for me this summer, I’m only getting a few minutes here and there for reading.  I’ve found The Audacity of Hops, Acitelli’s  new book on the American Craft Brewing revolution an enriching read, due primarily to the impressive amount of research Acitelli puts forth in an engaging style on each page.  He’s really captured the people and events of the movement quite nicely.   Books like this often degenerate into “bus schedule” of one tedious event after another.  Instead, we’re given bit sized chapters of a certain place and time in the movement that connect to provide the whole picture.  I’ll post full review once I’m finished.

Some Good Beers I’ve Had Lately
On a recent searing hot day, Bison’s Brewing Chocolate Stout was an unlikely choice but it turned out to be good one.  This dry stout has an impressive depth and complexity to its roasty character.  I’ve also recently enjoyed El Toro’s Awesome IPA. It’s a little sweet and sticky with plenty of grapefruit peel character in the best tradition of West Coast IPA’s.

Headlands Brewing Company Debuts
Headlands Brewing Company, named after the famed Headlands of Marin County, is set to debut in the Bay Area with three beers: Group G Belgian RyePa, Pt. Bonita West Coast Lager and Hill 88 India Pale Ale.  Headlands is co-founded by Patrick Horn of the highly respected Pacific Brewing Laboratories, and Phil Cutti, head brewer at Southpaw BBQ head brewer who is also a well known Bay Area endurance athlete.  (What’s this nonsense about “never trust a skinny brewer?”)

In a press release announcing their new brewery, Cutti declares “Beer is a social and cultural thing and part of our objective is to bring that concept to life by connecting people and maybe even playing a part in their new adventures. It goes without saying that we also look forward to producing some fantastic and thoughtfully produced beer in the process.”  Patick Horn adds  “We are excited to combine our love for the great outdoors and high quality beers. The craft beer scene has a lot of momentum right now in the Bay Area and we are thrilled to be part of this community.”

More information is available on the Headlands website and of course, you can follow them on Twitter.

San Francisco’s W. G. Barr Beverage Company Launches T.W. Pitcher’s Snake Bite
Formed this year by Wilson Barr and Tommy Hester, San Francisco based W. G. Barr Beverage Company enters the world of beer cocktails with T. W. Pitcher’s Snake Bite, based on the traditional British pub mix of lager and cider.  “During my time in the U.K., I saw people at pubs ordering round after round of this mixture of lager and cider called Snake Bite,” says Barr in a press release. “It was flavorful, crisp, and really easy to drink. I quickly realized Snake Bite had the potential to be a successful beverage in the United States.”

An e-mail from W. G. Barr CEO Wilson Barr confirmed Snake Bite is bottled and brewed in the Midwest for eventual distribution on both coasts, adding “Snake Bite is only available in the Bay Area at the moment, and we will focus on building a solid base here in San Francisco before expanding.”

Circle the Calendar

The organizers of the 408k Race are expanding into new Bay Area codes beyond the South Bay.  On July 21st is the Marin 415 mile (a five mile race) to benefit Girls on the Run.  And then the series heads to the East Bay for the Let’s Go 510k (a 10 k race) October 19th on Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley, with the race finishing on the horse race track. 

This year’s debut of the Muscle Milk Woodsy trail race series includes a race this September 7th in Oakland’s Joaquin Miller.   It’s an 8.5 mile trail race, and you can check out the event website for further details and registration.

No Stupid Flu was Keeping Me Out of the 408k!


The leaders at the start of the 408k
(Photo from 408k Facebook page)

Last Thursday afternoon, it wasn’t looking good that I’d make it to the starting line of the San Jose 408k.  The race is 8 kilometers, or five miles, not 408 kilometers  (408 is the San Jose area code) and started from the HP Pavilion and finished at San Jose’s upscale Santana Row Mall, benefiting the Pat Tillman Foundation.   I came down with this horrible flu which pretty much knocked me out for a couple days.  I’ll spare you the gory details except to say it involved headaches, a slight fever, and lots of urgent skedaddling to the bathroom.  But by Saturday, I was feeling much better and my condition had, um, solidified, and I think  “Hey let’s give this race a go.”  I went in with no high expectations, and  certainly didn’t want to kill myself.  But I’d rather run a race when I’m a little under the weather than stand by and watch it.

So without further ado, here’s a mile by mile run down of what was going through my head each mile of the race.

First Mile
Hey, I don’t feel so bad.  And whoever you are cranking out the Chuck D and Flavor Flav jams, thank you!!!

One of the three Mariachi Bands in the Last Mile
Serenading the Runners (photo from 408k Facebook page)

Second Mile
I am not sick!  I am a racer!  I live for this stuff!  (Passing several people as I work my way up the field.)

Third Mile
Keep working the middle miles!  That’s the key to a successful race!

Fourth Mile
C’mon!  You can hang in there for just a couple more miles.

Fifth Mile
I am sick.

That’s right, the last mile was pretty tough, with my being less than 100% finally catching up with me, and was really dragging the last mile before gathering myself for a decent finish through Santana Row Mall.  This despite the fact the last mile was “The Mariachi Mile” where three Mariachi bands were assembled along the finishing stretch.  While I appreciated the Mariachi bands, giving them all a little fist pump salute as I ran by, I could have really used some more Chuck D and Flavor Flav.

Despite straggling in over the last mile, I finished with a time of 32:02, or 6:27 per mile per, good for 4th in the old guys 45-49 age group.  Since this race was intended as a tune-up for the Santa Cruz Half-Marathon in four weeks, this plan when I signed up for this race was to get a five mile run at a pace significantly faster than half-marathon goal pace.  Since I don’t expect to be going much faster than 6:45 per mile pace at Santa Cruz, I’d say “mission accomplished”.

And that called for a beer, even if it was only 9:00 am. Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub held the race after-party, and it didn’t take long after the first finishers crossed the line before the place was jumping.   As much as I would have liked to savor malt-hop balance and flavor profile of the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale I ordered, I was too drained to really think, and sipped it slowly down while watching English Premier Soccer on the big screen TV with all the festive commotion around me.

On the way back home, I stopped at Campbell’s Psycho Donuts for a Dead Elvis, a donut stuffed with banana pudding topped with bacon, with peanut butter and jelly icing heavily drizzled over all of that.  Trust me, they’re great and do not taste anywhere near as heavy and clunky as you would expect.  The Dead Elvis Donut seemed to go well with the bling-like finishers medal that Elvis would most certainly approve of.

Just four more weeks until the Santa Cruz Half-Marathon!