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Running with Webbed Feet (LMJS Newsletter)

  • 16 Jun 2013 12:02 PM | Anonymous

    [This article was submitted by Ryan Munoz]

    Go inside “A Runner’s Mind.”

    A Summary of the 2013 Golden Gate Relay and team ARMed and Dangerous

    The Golden Gate Relay (GGR) is labeled as “California’s Longest Party.” From Napa to Santa Cruz, 12 member teams run 36 legs through 36 cities across the Golden Gate Bridge in support of Organs R Us. I participated in The Relay last year but, I did not have a team this year. I did not plan on running the event this year until I was invited to join team ARMed and Dangerous, a team formed by the Burlingame running boutique, A Runner’s Mind. A new running adventure begins.

    An event like this takes a lot of planning. Last year, my team took 5 months to plan, coordinate and strategize the days ahead. When I ran with team Lost in Pace I knew what expect. I knew my team; their running strengths, their personalities, their quirks. I ran the plan “get along to get along” strategy .This year, team ARMed and Dangerous formed late and had less time to prepare. It was their first time running The Relay, and I was not sure what they were in for. Due to my knowledge of the race, I went from complete stranger to team captain in a hurry.

    I was happy to share my knowledge and experience to the group. I saved all my documents, spread sheets and team meeting notes from the prior year. However, I did feel a bit pressure being the captain. I only knew two people, kind of knew one another, and the rest were strangers. I did not know their personalities, or how they would react to me. I did not even their 10K time, (which is a requirement for wave start,) let alone if they were fit. Also, I did not want to come across and a micro-manager or OCD or my way or the highway type of person.  With the assistance of A Runner’s Mind shop owner Jennifer and Todd Keleher, they made my job easier.

    The day before the race, we decorated our vans. Since the Golden Gate Relay is on May 4th, Star Wars Day, (May the 4th be with you) we, (Ok just me because no one disagreed with me,) went with a Star Wars theme. We created “tags,” (a mark you leave on other team vans) with R2D2, C3PO, Luke, Leia and Yoda. Our van also incorporated a tribute to the tragedy in Boston. I still had my tribute bib LMJS member; Todd Gleiden created, and placed it on our van noting, “The Force is strong with Boston.” We packed the non-essentials, and ready to “Run like a Bossk.”(Bossk is the name of the lizard looking bounty hunter who had 6 seconds of screen time in the Empire Strikes Back.)

    Race day, the team decided to drive up early to experience the festivities. It did not take long to get in to the spirit of The Relay. While driving up Highway 29 towards the start we noticed another team, “A Brush with Death.” They were four vehicles ahead of our and the light to turn green was really long. I told my team if the light is long again, I will run out and “tag,” their van. A mile down the road at another stoplight, I opened the sliding van door, jumped out, sprinted to the other van and placed our tag in the back door panel and sprinted back. The Brushed with Death did not really know what was going on. We followed their van all the way to the start line but parked on the other side of the lot. Once their team walked to the back of van and saw our tag, they cheered. The games have begun!

    (Stormtroopers??! Where!?)

    Our team arrived at 11:00AM, to check in and to pick up our bibs #243. The temperature was already close to 80 degrees and it was going to get warmer. Our start time would not be until 12:30PM and I am already concerned about my team’s hydration. Van 1, (our first 6 runners,) would be feeling most of the heat. They would be on the road during the temperature would hit its peak at 92 degrees. I reminded them to stay cool, and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  12:15PM, our first runner Christine, would line up with teams such as, Moons over My Hammies, Led Light System, Running on a Deficit  (Haas School of Business), This is the Race That Dozen End, Scotchoberfest and the Jerks and Snatches CrossFit team. Finally, 12:30 came along and it was our turn to run.

    (Christine, second from left at the start.)

    Our van tried to stay relaxed, but that is kind of hard to do waiting 5 hours for your team’s first legs to finish. Since we were in wine country, going to vineyards seems like the obvious choice to pass the time.  With the temperature rising and with our legs still to come, it was best to fuel up and find a place to eat. We had lunch at Azteca Taqueria, (seemed like a good idea) in which I had 6 tacos, (Greg noted that was one taco per mile I was about to run) then headed to the first major exchange at the Crosswalk Church in Napa. Our team tried to take naps but the gymnasium at the Crosswalk Church was loud and stuffy. Outside was hot and sticky, so we rested as much as we can and tried to stay hydrated.  5:12PM, van 1 arrived at the first major exchange.  They were about 35 minutes behind our projected schedule. At this moment time was not important; because of the heat I was concerned about safety. Everyone checked in safe and injury free. The heat did take its toll on Van 1 and they were ready to mark their first legs as done. (Representing LMJS on my first run. Quack!)

    I was just starting. The temperature started to cool so I knew we can make up some time. Sesa, runner 6 from van 1, sprinted towards the exchange to hand off to me. I was ready to go, (Arcade Fire was the first song on my playlist.) My first leg was classified as “moderate” 4.4 mile run.  Once I received the bracelet baton from Sesa, I took off sprinting. I got as far as across the street, then stopped and waited. I was on a major intersection and it took two minutes for the light to turn green. By that time I crossed the street, I was already road kill. The first mile the adrenaline kicked in. I was in a little bit of a panic because I was stuck at the light and already road kill. I had that feeling the tacos for lunch now doesn’t seem it was a good idea,( maybe I miscalculated the taco per mile ratio?) I finally settled in, focusing on my breathing and my stride. Mile two was a 200 foot climb. I went slow and steady until I hit the summit at mile 3. Then it was a bit rolling with a larger climb than decent. The last 1.4 miles was a recovery decent in which I tried to push towards a threshold but my stomach was telling me no. I kicked in the last 400 meters and handed off to my teammate Betty. Leg 7

    Our van was doing well. We were able to make up some time because the temperature has gotten cooler. There was a dead snake on leg 8, but that did not worry us.  Leg 9 is where Greg made up some time. Leg 10 Leslie got lost had to go back to get her. She over ran the exchange by a mile and was met by a coyote. Leg 11, Lucy was so concerned that she would get lost too, and was a bit tentative the first half of her run. By the second half Lucy was flying and made up some lost time. Finally, it was our anchor leg, Chris’ turn to run. We had to wake him from his nap, because he has been waiting all day and after a 5 hour delay. We finally arrived to our second major exchange point at the Marin French Cheese Company in Petaluma.

    Our teammates from van 1 met us at the exchange point. I handed off our official time sheet and waited for our last runner to come in. At the exchange, we witnessed another team argue about being late three minutes for hand off. They held their team an additional five minutes arguing why the runner had a late exchange. Chris came in about 10:00PM, and our shift was done and we can rest for the next four hours. However at the exchange we too were missing our next runner, Christine and no one knew where she was. After witnessing the last team’s implosion, we were more civil searching for runner and started shouting out her name, like searching for a lost puppy. Finally, in less than three minutes, Christine arrived after getting stuck in the food line. Van 1 was off again and Van2 was heading to our resting point in Burlingame.

    Our van arrived to our resting point at Burlingame after a long detour through San Francisco. It was 12:30 AM and everyone was exhausted at this point and there were two more legs left. I found my sleeping spot, set my alarm and crashed. I woke up an hour later because I was paranoid about over sleeping. Five minutes later I received a post that our third runner was on the course. Ten minutes later, I received a text that our 6 runner was on the course and we had to be at the exchange. We thought we had at least another hour of rest, but that was not the case. Our team quietly packed up, went out the door and was on the road to the next exchange in less than 5 minutes. Betty, the van driver at the time, did her best Jimmy Johnson impersonation, and got us to the exchange with 5 minutes to spare. (Ryan at Golden Gate Bridge toll booth, ready to conquer hills.)

    3:30AM and it was my turn to run again, Leg 19. This leg has miles 7-10 (the hill portion) and miles 23-26 on the Great Highway of the Nike Women’s Marathon. I was not looking forward to this leg because what it reminds of. I ran the NWM last year and the hill climbs they were congested, runners did not yield to the faster runner, passing lanes were blocked I wasted a lot of unnecessary energy getting over those hills. Even now when the road is empty, I am still reminded of my bad Nike experience. It makes me angry. I must have embraced the dark side of the force because I used that anger to attack these hills.

    Leg 19 was my longest run of The Relay, 7miles. At mile 1 I was just settling into climb. It was pitch black over Lincoln. I could see a red blinking light up a head, and made it target or at least something to guide me. When I veered onto the trail of El Camino Del Mar, I almost tripped on a root. A faster runner was behind me, but maybe he thought the trial was dangerous too at night and we ran it together climbing to the Legion of Honor around the two and half mile mark. The runner behind me took off, I was road kill again, but I kept pushing trying to keep up. The fog started to roll in. It was black and I can only see the mist across my headlamp and a blinking red light 200 meters ahead from the runner who just passed me. After turn on Clement Street it was on to the downhill. I picked up speed when I saw the Cliff House and headed on to the Great Highway. I thought the rest of the run would be a nice flat 3 mile straight away to the exchange. No one said there would be a 20MPH head wind with sand blowing in my face. The last three miles were a struggle to say the least. I was getting dehydrated, but if drank water sand would get in my mouth. Sand was getting into my eyes and I did not have clear lens glasses. The flat was worse than the hills. When I finally crossed by exchange point, the runner just barely ahead of me agreed, “That leg sucked!” I finished leg two in 1 hour 18 minutes.  I checked my splits and I was faster on the hill portion of the leg then the flats. It was a frustrating run in which the elements dictated my run. Leg 19

    My second leg was over and I was mad. I was angry about my time, the weather conditions and the lack of sleep. I am glad it was over. I handed off to our next runner Betty. Her leg had her run to Pacifica, but she missed a turn and got lost. A runner from team Mountain Hardware did as well, with navigation help from our Team on the phone, both back were on course in no time.  Our first “Road Save”.   Greg ran leg 21 like beast and Leslie ran her leg 22 through a heavy headwind. Lucy was upset that leg 23 was cut in half due to construction she took it out on the course. She ran her leg like it was Tuesday track day at A Runner’s Mind, and showed no mercy to the road kill she dropped. Leg 24, Chris’ family was there to greet him. That visit must have re-energized him because he flew through his  leg. We checked in to our second major exchange Sunday Morning ten minutes past 8. Our team has been on the road for 19 hours so far.  

    (The 2x2x2 at Bucks)

    We arrived at Canada College in Redwood City; with 4 hours between legs we had two options. One: sleep, gain additional downtime minutes and feel rested. Or sit down and eat, fuel up for our last leg, knowing we are cutting into valuable sleep time. We decided to eat at Bucks, to load up on some proteins and carbs. There was even extra bacon, (which did not last).  After breakfast, we decided to rest up at the college, tried to get some sleep. Meanwhile van 1 was running their final legs which were relativity easy except the last two legs. Each had a 1000 foot elevation climb up the Santa Cruz Mountains. They arrived to the last check point looking relieved their legs are over. We were happy to see them. It was our turn to take over and bring this baby home.

    (LMJS exchange.)

    The end was near. Leg 31 was my last run of the race and it was mostly downhill. Up to this point I have been disappointed in my times. I wanted to finish strong but I was unsure how punishment my body can take. My strategy for the last leg was to find a rhythm the first mile, then run at threshold for the next 5 and max out the last point 2. This was my last leg, and if I am going to crash and burn, this is the time to do it. No turning back. Once I received the handoff from Sesa, I took off. A runner from another team took off a minute ahead I was determined to catch up with him. The first mile I was trying to find a comfortable running rhythm. I looked down at my Garmin and my pace was 7:38/ mile for the first 800 meters. That was way too fast for me and wanted to pull back just a little because I knew I could not keep the current pace.

    Within the first mile, I passed the runner who started before me but I looked at my Garmin again and the first mile was 9:26.  The time was too slow for the course so I quickened my turnover and shortened my stride. I felt comfortable, my breathing felt good and I was cruising towards Santa Cruz. The start of mile three, I saw another runner ahead. I started to push harder. The other runner must have seen me around the bend because he started to go faster too. The road was windy and slightly sloped to the left. I was trying to find the fastest running line without going to the middle of the road. By this time, I ignored my watch and started focusing on the runner. I felt Galen Rupp fast, and I hear in back of my mind Alberto Salazar barking about faster turnovers. Miles were dropping but I did not know how far I had left. Elevation was dropping quickly and the roads were getting more twisted. I saw him in my sites but it was too late. He was 100 meters ahead of me and already close to the exchange. Leg 31

    When my run was finished I was on an emotional high. I felt I redeemed myself to my teammates. My first two runs were horrible. My first leg started off bad to worse. From the slow start at the crossing light to the hill climbs in the heat. My second leg with the hills and fog in the first half then the head wind and sand storms the second half. I over came the elements but I wanted to finish my Relay with one great run. My third leg I transcended from my usually run of comfortable to pushing my physical limits and go all out. In the end it was one of the best runs I have done all year. Checking my splits, Mile one 9:26, Mile 2 9:24, Mile 3 9:00, Mile 4 8:33, Mile 5 8:25, Mile 6 7:33. I could not believe I ran negative splits. (Leslie conquering the hills of leg 34)

    My run maybe over but our journey to the finish line is not. We had to make our way through the mountains before heading towards the beach. Lucy traded legs with Betty, and she tagged 5 road kill. There were three runners drafting off each other going up the hill and Lucy just switched to anther gear. Greg’s last leg was his longest but an easy 6.7 miles. Leslie’s last leg is known as the leg of death and arguably the toughest legs of the race. It starts as a rolling flat course for 2 miles.  The last 3.8 is all hill, the first climb is a straight 50 foot climb for 800 meters. Then flattens out for 400 meters until you continuously climb for 2.8 miles with a 500 foot elevation change along the way. We witnessed a runner from another team have an emotional break down after her exchange. Leslie was a beast through the hills and conquered them all. It was all downhill from here. Betty had an incorrectly labeled easy 3.4 mile leg. Then Chris brought us home against a strong headwind. But since we could not find a parking spot close to the finish, our van missed our runner cross the finish line. We were fortunate Van 1 was waiting and they crossed the line together. We tried to reenact the finish but it was too windy and cold, and we were very tired. I think we hit that point that we all wanted to go home.

    In the end team ARMed and Dangerous finished with the official time of 28 hours, 17 minutes and 4 seconds. We finished 77th overall; and 19th in our division with 113 combine road kill. We raised $1,025 for Organs R Us. It was one wild ride but it was worth the hurt, (TM SF Marathon.) I would like to thank my team from last year, Lost in Pace, the experience made it easier to run this year’s team. Tristen Davis for the supplier of Vito Coconut Water and FRS Energy drinks. Also my teammates, Van 1: Christine Ramirez, Frank McAuly, Julie Wu, Adam Jost, Anna Jost, Sessa Pabalan. Van 2 Betty Taylor, Greg Sam, Leslie Montgomery, Lucy Palasek, and Chris Padilla. Finally, I would like to give a special thanks to Jennifer and Todd Keleher of A Runner’s Mind in Burlingame who sponsored both vans and  provided the team shirts and opened their home during The Relay. They graciously hosted us, spending time as volunteers, coordinating vans and being all around great! It was a great running adventure and I hope to do it again next year.

  • 16 Jun 2013 11:38 AM | Anonymous

    [This article was contributed by Roy Carlisle]

    Monday, Memorial Day, May 27, 2013 Marin Memorial Day 5K / Kentfield, CA

    Jack Mingo / Bib 846 / Time: 26:17 / Pace: 8:28 min/mile 
    Lindsay Boyd / Bib 717 / Time: 26:17 / Pace: 8:28 min/mile
    Kim Spinale / Bib 809 / Time: 34:44 / Pace: 11:11 min/mile
    Roy M Carlisle / Bib 719 / Time: 34:43 / Pace: 11:10 min/mile

    What? A 30% chance of rain in Marin County on Monday morning, Memorial Day. In the East Bay we had been having exquisite weather, sunny warm days and perfect running weather. So the micro-climates of the Bay Area really do exist. I knew that, of course, but it is usually not quite so dramatic. Or, at least, you had to go east through the tunnel to the other side of the hills, or all the way down to the South Bay, or even over to the avenues in SF where all of the fog gathered, to experience them. That evening I mentioned to Kim that I would need to rethink my running gear and maybe even change my pre-race rituals to prepare for a change in the weather. She laughed. Many runners do have these pre-race rituals but mine are actually required because my brain does not engage in the morning. At all. So running togs have to be laid out exactly in the way I will put them on, then stop watch, Spibelt, bib, pins, registration docs, protein bar, phone, other items, all packed correctly so nothing is forgotten. If I don’t do this then it really does make me an anxious runner and I don’t need that since I don’t want to be up in the early morning anyway! These rituals would make more sense, of course, if I were an elite runner and a world class time was on the line. But that is far from the case. And I admit I am a little extreme about this set of rituals. The night before a race I turn off my phone, I neglect all electronic buzzing, don’t email, and go to bed hours before my usual time. And I keep up this fast for the whole day of the race. Usually I am napping anyway but still, it is a nice change of pace. It works for me even if I am not an elite runner and I am sticking to it!

    So I woke up, put on clothes, gathered my prepacked bag, mumbled to my running comrades and tried to be civil, well barely. Eventually Jack pulled me out of that mood because he has no inhibitions about morning conversation. At first I ignored him but we have been doing these races for almost 14 years so he ignores my ignoring him. Of course, Kim and Lindsay are morning people; both of them are often up by 5am every morning, so they entered right into this gabfest. What could I do? I am glad to be with my friends and I am glad to be doing the race, well, I would be more glad if it were at a decent hour, like 11am.  

    I honestly don’t remember what was talked about in the car on the drive to Marin County at 7am. Another symptom of Morning Void. But we parked, made adjustments to running togs because of the weather and walked a few blocks to the registration tables. We picked up our bibs, helped each other pin them on, and then walked to the College of Marin track just to prepare ourselves for the finish by having a fresh image of that track in our minds. I found my voice when I saw that they had removed all of the bleachers and there would be no crowd to cheer us on. I even talked to another person and asked what had happened. She didn’t know. Why would they do this to us? Didn’t they know that we looked forward to having a crowd when no other race in the bay area finished on a track filled with cheering fans in the bleachers.  It was a betrayal of all that is good in the world. Well, it felt like that at 7:30 am on a cloudy cool race morning.  

    Since February I had been trying to “rehabilitate” my lungs after my second bout with pneumonia. It was a short bout but it really knocked my endurance back to the Pleistocene age (right after the Pliocene age and before the Holocene age) and it was frustrating. For the whole past week I had been working out and running with Jack, Kim, and Lindsay, and I could not keep up with them. It made me mad and frustrated, simultaneously. I tried to calm myself by a squawky inner dialogue about how I needed time, and I was getting older, and I was facing this head-on, and this was my only injury, but in a race that inner dialogue just sounds like pissing and moaning, subsets of all out Bitching. Which is, of course, one of the more important skills that one has to learn when entering the world of long distance running. But after several years I had moved past it and was trying not to reinflate that inclination. So periodically I would mention that even running slow made my lungs burn and left it at that.

    Oh wait; there is one more thing I have to bitch about. My Garmin GPS had died a few weeks before this race and so I had no way of knowing my pace or distance. Unfortunately, I am not like many runners who have an innate sense of those two metrics. So without a GPS I am flying (well, jogging) blind and that pisses me off also. This was made very clear after the gun boomed (which startled us even though we knew it was coming!) for the start of the race.

    Kim and I have been running together to provide mutual encouragement but Jack and Lindsay had been training to maintain a much faster pace than Kim and I can muster at this point. Kim and I headed out, slowly I thought, and I asked her if she saw them ahead of us? Which normally is where they should have been. But Kim heard them behind us talking about their pace. They were talking about running an 8:30 pace and maybe they should slow down to an 8:45 min/mile pace. It took me a few seconds to realize that it meant Kim and I were running too fast and didn’t even quite know it. Blame it on sans GPS. Oh, how I would like to give Garmin a piece of mind for selling me a model of a GPS that lasted a few months and then died, cold, no warning, just dead. But we kept going and tried to slow down but that is hard to do when you have all of these runners sloshing adrenaline all over the course and you want to be in the middle of it. Jack and Lindsay finally took off; I watched them go and wished them well. I knew they were going to push each other and that made me glad because it does make a race more interesting when you are running with a buddy and you are helping each other keep the faith.

    Eventually I had to walk. Usually I try to judge what Kim needs but today I was busted early and needed to walk in order to get back to some semblance of a maintenance pace. We walked for a few seconds and started back up, but as it turned out we had to do that about four times in order to catch our breath and slow down. It really is harder to slow down during a race than non-runners could imagine. Soon we saw the lead runners coming back at us, as the course did a U-turn. Watching the faster runners go for broke usually inspires me but today I was not even in the mood for that.

    What did catch my attention during the course was that there were a couple of very young boys running with their parents and doing a great job. After we had passed the 2 mile mark we noticed one small boy who was running with his mother and the father was pushing a stroller and they were slightly ahead of us. I lost track of them but I imagine they stayed ahead of us. There was also another small boy with his father, and we passed them when they were walking but the last time I saw them they were quite a bit ahead of us. That also made me smile. Clearly this young boy was a gutsy runner. And I swear he could not have been older than 6 or 7. I remarked to Kim that it made me happy that he was doing so well. Sometimes I do remember how glad I am that so many people enter these races and have so much fun participating and competing. It short circuits my bitching mode.

    Although I should not have been surprised at how exhausted I was toward the end of the course, I did reluctantly admit to myself (and to Kim) that I usually have more juice left at the end of the race. Before we arrived at the track, Kim and I had a discussion (well, in between my gasping for air) about how we were going to finish up. Were we going to stick together all the way to the finish, or were we going to find our own pace on the track? Eventually she put her foot down (so to speak) and said I should do what I wanted to do. (As you can see from the attached video I was struggling even when we got on the track.) It was hard to imagine sprinting for more than a couple of yards. I did, but I did not have my usual energy to ramp up my pace once we hit the track and then leap up to a faster push. Frankly, it was a pathetic sprint. For a split second I was glad there were no fans in bleachers. We did beat our time from the Zippy 5K race in March. We embraced our small increment of success. And we were glad for it.

    Kim and Roy at the final dash to the finish line.


    To me, the story of Memorial Day morning was about breakthroughs, comebacks and the weeks before the run. Lindsay doing so well with her first road race. Kim increasing her speed and abilities. You (Roy) working on reclaiming your lungs. Me, breaking 9:00 miles for the first time in a few years. The story of this race is largely that of training and encouragement during the weeks before. A lot of that training was the result of you being a team leader, cajoling the lot of us to get together and train to the best of our abilities, to team up in friendship and even friendly competition to get better prepared for this race. For example, I doubt Kim would be running without your encouragement. Lindsay would still be on a treadmill at her health club. Without Lindsay and I pushing each other faster, I suspect I'd still have broken 9 minutes, but probably with a speed about 8:50 not 8:28. And without our every Sunday afternoon six mile run around Bay Farm, even through the months when I'd pretty much stopped running the rest of the week, I would've been in much worse shape and worse position toward reclaiming some of my old speed. 

    So this is a story of personal tests and triumphs, but also of teamwork and synergy. And you could be forgiven for taking a little pride in print about having a hand in that happening for all of us. 

    Lindsay, Roy, Jack, and Kim, very glad it was over! (Okay, this is embarrassing; I tucked my new race tee shirt between my legs for this photo. Well, I could hardly throw it on the ground!)


    My sense of success is much more internal. I don't care that much what the clock says or whether I showed an impressive finish. Sure, it's encouraging to see that I beat my last 5K by some increment of time and it was fun to hear my name announced to the dwindling crowd as I sprinted over the finish line. But there are two things that really keep me running. The first is simply my physical well being. My finish times are not particularly impressive, but I feel stronger and know my body is capable of something that used to intimidate me. I love pushing myself to run when I really want to walk. I love that I no longer wheeze after running and take that as a tangible sign of improved health. And I love hearing someone refer to me as "active," when that wasn't always the case.

    But if I feel the first reason in my body, the second is always in my heart. I think of Joe* when I run, and how surprised and pleased he'd be to see that I've taken up his sport. I think of Gina** and being able to run with her the next time we're together. She'll need to slow down of course, but I look forward to her encouragement as an outward sign of our familial bond. And I am happy to be running with my new circle of friends, Roy, Jack, and most recently Lindsay. I enjoyed our breakfast out after the run as much if not more than the run itself. But, of course, I couldn't have enjoyed it half so much, had it not been earned.  

    *Joe was Kim’s beloved husband, who died of a heart condition at the finish of the Bay to Breakers in May, 2007.

    **Gina is Joe’s daughter and Kim’s lovely stepdaughter, who recently completed a half marathon and lives in North Carolina.  

  • 13 Jun 2013 2:57 PM | Anonymous
    [This article was submitted by Roy Carlisle]

    April 21, 2013, Brisbane, CA, Zippy 5K

    Jack Mingo @ 28:09 for 9:04 pace
    Kim Spinale & RMC @ 36:11 for 11:39 pace

    Zippy the Pinhead and the Wabbit

    My older brother Dick, at the age of 70, is a runner of some accomplishment. At every one of my races I think about him and how running has been so important to him at this phase of his life. In fact, I have often wondered what he thinks about or feels when he remembers fighting and surviving lymphoma cancer six times but still continues to enter races and often wins his age division. Fortunately, he has been in remission for several months now and is living a full life. We share running (and especially racing) and reading thrillers and I know my life is richer because of our new found brotherly connection, which was facilitated by his initial bouts with cancer. I also know that my daily “struggle” with my Type 2 diabetes can’t be even remotely as scary as what he has been through and lives with constantly. My friend Kim has had her own difficult memories to work through. On May 20, 2007 “Joe Spinale, an avid runner, waved to his wife as he crossed the finish line at Sunday's Bay to Breakers race before he collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack. It wasn't until hours later that his wife, Kim Spinale, found out that her 53-year-old husband had died.”

    In our conversations Kim often shared how she and Joe had built a strong and loving relationship during their years together. Her loss reminded me of my musings about Dick’s saga.  I can’t imagine the level of grief she must feel or how Dick coped with his journey through cancer.  Surprisingly, Dick runs with passion, skill, and a keen sense of enjoyment. And now Kim enjoyed accompanying me and my running friends to races just like she had often done with Joe, knowing that she also carries with her the memory of that final tragic race.  Which highlights how delightful it was to have Kim join Jack, Dick, and I at races, performing the “den mother” duties with grace and kindness. She sometimes would sign up to walk the course and participate in that way.

    A few months ago, though, that all changed. She asked me if I would work with her to start training and running, so she could join me and her stepdaughter, Gina –who lives in the east but was planning to move back to the bay area in the fall-- in runs and enter races. Gina had stepped up her training to run a half marathon which she completed this spring. Gina and Kim are very close so this would be one more way they could bond and enjoy their relationship.  

    During our runs Kim and I had talked about finding a race she could enter as a way to keep her motivated and help her set her running goals. Kim is a woman “of consideration” so when she sets a goal that is a sacred task. She means business. I knew that about her and wanted to make sure I paid attention to her desire to get in the running game. Now she and my friend Jack conspired to enter all three of us in the Zippy 5K which was being held for the first time in Brisbane, CA. When I came home from one of my trips I said I was game to enter if they really wanted to do this race. I had thought Kim might want to wait a bit longer but she was raring to go. Jack loves this race primarily because it is usually the funniest and best designed tee shirt among bay area events. So come Sunday morning all three of us headed off to Kim’s first race in her new role as runner not walker and to find Brisbane, a small city south of San Francisco which Jack and I did not quite know the location of. Kim was more informed about its location but none of us knew where the race was within the city. But we found both: All hail the iPod/iPhone GPS apps, now finding unknown locations have been drained of their mystery and the fear of getting lost. We found Brisbane and then the location of the park and the race.

    But what was this? We registered, forked over multiple bills and they handed us a tee shirt with an illustration not in full blazing color but brown and black on gray? What? Disappointment and despair rolled through my body at this betrayal of the Zippy tradition. But this was Kim’s first race so I had to “let this go” and move into race mode. Jack and Kim and I threw our tee shirts in the car and went back to the peppy little expo in the park by the starting line. We said hello to a couple of my fellow running club members, Ross and Laury, with Laury doing her sweet “join the club” routine for the Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders running club with Jack and Kim. I think it worked. 

    As we were walking up to the starting line I kept noticing that the field of runners was young and very fit and probably very fast. It was hard to put it out of my mind because it meant that Kim and I would be at the end of the pack. Years ago when I was first starting to enter races I remember so well that Jack would run with me during a 5K or 10K, even though it meant he had to run very slow. Eventually I found my own stride and could run without his side by side encouragement. Although he never stopped encouraging me and running with me when we were just doing our daily runs. Even as I think about that kind of friendship I feel my eyes misting up. I am so grateful. And now it was my turn to do the same for Kim. To run with her, even walk with her, as she found her own path along this running and race adventure.

    Before the race began there was a certain festive air around the booths and amidst the runners. Here is a picture of us before the race which captures some of that bon vivant feeling. Clearly my little Spibeltundefinedwhich holds my keys, shot blocks and chap stick-- sticking out below my shirt is a high fashion statement.

    As we were all crowding up to the starting line there was a loud bang, as a starting gun went off. It startled me, and there was a collective gasp from the crowd. I guess none of us expected it. For a second I realized that I never heard starting guns anymore, although I have no idea why. I took off and for a few yards I had no idea what had happened to Kim or to Jack. And looking back over your shoulder at the beginning of a race is actually a bit dangerous. But I kept looking over my right shoulder and couldn’t find either one of them. I was irritated with myself for not paying attention. That gun had startled me more than I thought. Then I heard Kim’s voice on my left side and saw that she was fine and running right along. I joined her, and wished Jack well, he was going ahead; since he is so much faster than us I wasn’t worried about him. Although now I will say that I love that Jack finishes several minutes before I do but then he comes back on the course and yells encouragement and takes pictures. The mark of a true friend.

    Then I started to pay attention to the course and it was uphill, and it looked like it went uphill for quite a while. For some reason that startled me also. Oh no, I thought, another one of those races that is up and down hills and that was not going to be fun for Kim. Or for me as I don’t train on hills, I don’t like running on hills and I have a strong feeling that races shouldn’t have hills.  I mumbled a curse under my breath and wished I had checked out this course on a topographic map. But then again I had hardly known I was going to enter this race until the day before.

    Once we watched the majority of the field speed away both Kim and I settled down and found a pace we could maintain. She was running strong and I thought we might be able to go farther than our normal training runs before we might need to take a break and walk. Since we were going uphill for longer than I had anticipated, I did want to take it easy. In previous years I would often do a bit of “hill work” as a part of my training, which is hard and exhausting. As I inferred I don’t do any hills my daily runs so I knew this course could take its toll on our energy levels fairly quickly if Kim and I didn’t adjust. I really didn’t want that to happen, as then it would not be a good experience for Kim and it might make her less excited about doing races. I didn’t need to worry; she was not bitching and moaning about this like I did when I first started doing races.

    One of the hardest tasks in a race for me is to find a pace where my breath is not labored and I am not gasping for breath. At the same time I want to push myself but when you are running mile after mile there are real physical limits and they seem to be different for every race.  Of course, sometimes this is just a mental game and my body can do more than I imagine. But then again I can’t “imagine” running faster than my training allows and that is disappointing. In fact, in every race I have to wrestle with that inner dynamic and force myself to accept what I can do that day, that morning.

    Although I didn’t notice them, Kim said she saw chalk mile markers on the street. It gave us some signposts since my GPS watch had died and I have no accurate inner pace clock. I will confess that not having my GPS is very upsetting and stressful for me. I try to hide it but the truth is that I feel naked when I am doing a race and I have no idea what my pace is or where I am along the course. It is some sort of comfort “food” for me. And right now I hate Garmin for making a version of their GPS watch that was unreliable and impossible to configure. And then it had the temerity to just die. Mein Gott im Himmel, what a horror. I keep threatening to send the watch back and just tell them where to stick it. But I have not done that yet, but I probably will. As if they cared. But I will feel better and it is, of course, all about what I feel.

    We did end up walking about four times throughout the race. We could both feel that we were running at a faster pace than we do usually, so walking was inevitable. Although Kim was clearly pushing herself harder and farther than during our training runs. I had told her before on one of our runs that there was one rule she had to learn: If she was going to walk uphill then she had to run downhill. And learn to run downhill in a way that conserved energy. For me it means I even change my stride so that I can increase my pace, but diminish the stride shock. I lower my hips and take shorter faster strides that are closer to the ground, a motion that is more like riding a bicycle. I have watched too many amateur runners start careening down a hill with little control, which puts them and other runners in danger of falling or being shoved to the ground. I learned early, from Jack of course, to find a way to avoid that precarious situation and still maximize the opportunity. It is rather exhilarating to be passing people that had passed me just a short time earlier. Kim was not missing a beat so we kept moving uphill with the anticipation that at some point we would crest and be able to come back down.

    The course was fairly evenly divided between two halves, 1.55 miles uphill and then 1.55 miles downhill. As we were going uphill I kept reminding myself that we would be going downhill eventually and all of this labored breathing and pain would decrease almost instantly. It is hard to remember those kinds of things when you are running because the present moment is so, well, present! Stress and pain tend to keep you occupied with the present. Participating in a race intensifies those feelings just enough that I never feel relaxed or “comfortable.” It helped that I could talk with Kim and keep encouraging her. That act made me forget about myself even for a few moments. And she was doing a great job. As you can see in the picture, Kim is smiling and I am wearing my usual enigmatic race face. It is not hard to figure out who is having more fun!

    As we were nearing the finish I had to battle a rather heated inner dialogue. One of my great joys in a race is sprinting at the end and feeling the rush of adrenaline, sometimes punctuated by the gasps from the crowd who are not expecting an old white guy to put on a show. It is one of the few glory moments that someone who runs a fairly slow pace like me can anticipate with joy. But I calmed myself, and made another vow to stay close to Kim and not betray my commitment to go with her the whole way. I did tell her that we were going to sprint at the end but we would do it together. And we did finish together and with the exact same time.

    This picture of us sprinting is also a tribute to my fine coaching. Kim is using her arms to propel her legs forward more aggressively; she is lengthening her stride, and breathing in a way that supports the effort. It might also suggest that Kim has natural running ability. In either case I was glad she could dig deep and do this even though she had pushed hard throughout the 5K!

    Jack, of course, had finished long before Kim and I. Being the renowned videographer and photographer that he is, he ran back on the course to take these pictures. And Jack doesn’t just take pictures; he is the constant encourager and has cheered me on, especially when I am sprinting, in more races than I can even count. And he did the same for Kim that morning. A friend indeed, and he is probably a better running coach than me, if the truth must be known.

    We were in for another delightful surprise after we finished. Many members of the Lake Merritt Joggers and Strikers running club were also participating. I have enjoyed being a member of this running club for a few years now and it was a treat to see so many of the team there. You can go to Jeanine Bourcier Holmlund’s Facebook page, and click on this photo and all of the runners in the photo are identified. Thank you, Jeanine.

    Now, of course, Kim, who is goal oriented, is scoping out other races and reminding me that we need to sign up soon for summer races. It will not take long before she is running at a faster pace than I can maintain and she will have to invent her own mental games to keep the mojo working throughout the race. But I will be smiling all the way, even if I am miles behind her.

    Members of the Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders running club who participated in the Zippy 5K

    I would tell you about the Wabbit but since I have not been a reader of the comic strip I have no idea who this Wabbit is.)

    (This race is named after Zippy the Pinhead comic strip character originally drawn by Bill Griffith in the early 70s, please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zippy_the_Pinhead)  

  • 13 Jun 2013 2:54 PM | Anonymous
    [This article was submitted by Len Goldman]

    The 55th annual RRCA Convention was held in Albuquerque from May 2 to 5, and for me it was kind of "deja vu" as the first convention I attended in 2001 was held in the same city. Also attending from LMJS were Karen Andrews and Jeanine Holmlund. This was Jeanine's first convention and I believe Karen has been to 4 or 5 conventions in recent years. I need to preface my remarks that sadness accompanied us to Albuquerque as our friend and club member, John Momper, was seriously ill at the time and passed away upon our return, May 6.
    This was my 13th consecutive convention and up until about 6 weeks before the convention I was not intending to go, feeling it was time to do something different. However, I was selected by the RRCA as the 2012 Browning Ross, "Spirit of the RRCA" award recipient. This is one of the most prestigious RRCA awards as it is named for a long distance running pioneer, one of the RRCA founders, and its first President. The funny thing is that when I first received the e-mail about my selection, I thought it was an early April's Fool day joke, but the RRCA assured me it was for real. I would like club members to realize that this award would not have been possible without the support of LMJS, that it reflects well on all of you, and that our club has a national reputation for its myriad of activities and offerings. In the past 13 years, our club has received seven national awards from the RRCA, which I believe is the most of any running club during this span.
    The RRCA Convention is all about a multi-day immersion in running. It starts from the day of your arrival and ends when get on your airplane to fly home. It is a unique experience and I still find it a lot of funafter all these years.. Each day is filled with fun runs, presentations, inspirational talks, camaraderie, reunion, eating and non-stop talking about running. Its a real test of endurance because you are on the go from early morning to late at night, with a little down time in-between to relax and sleep. Both Karen and Jeanine arrived on a Thursday to take advantage of the welcoming reception and taste of Old Town, while I arrived mid-morning on Friday. This allowed me to meet up with the rest of the attendees at the Western Region breakout session. It was followed by a luncheon in the Grand Ballroom with guest speaker Bob Julyan, who spoke about the history of New Mexico. Friday afternoon consisted of more seminars, followed by the RRCA business meeting and board elections, with some free time to walk around the Old Town section. That evening, we walked over to the nearby New Mexico Museum of Natural History for a buffet dinner of Mexican food cuisine and dining among the dinosaurs complete with disco music and dancing. Jeannine showed a few moves on the dance floor that are not usually part of her dynamic warm-up drills.
    The next morning we got to sleep in a bit and myself, Karen, and Jeanine did an abbreviated version of the scheduled fun run since we would be racing a 10K the next morning. We met the rest of the runners at a nearby park and had a New Mexico favorite, a breakfast burrito about the size of a small torpedo. Thoroughly stuffed from it, we managed to waddle back to our hotel and get ready for a morning of more seminars on running, coaching, and club management. The luncheon speaker was Olympic medalist and well known runner Meb Keflezighi. He spoke about his career as a runner and what keeps him motivated. Meb's has a foundation whose purpose is to promote health, education and fitness. In addition, a 2nd guest speaker was Chester Nez, one of the original Navajo Indian code talkers during WW II.
    That afternoon, there was just one set of seminars to attend and then we had a part of the afternoon to relax or sight see a bit. I choose to relax as I knew it would be a long evening with the gala awards dinner, guest speaker, and the awards themselves. The evening started around 6:00 p.m. with a live auction of big ticket items and the closing of the silent auction with smaller value running related stuff. Those activities ended around 7:30, with dinner being served in the hotel ballroom and over 300 people were in attendance. The guest speaker was a young man, Bryan Boyle who had survived a near fatal car accident, came all the way back from it to run marathons and finish Ironman competitions. His talk focused on the resiliency of the human spirit.
    The 2012 RRCA award presentations were next and each of the award recipients had the opportunity to make some remarks in accepting their award. I tried to emphasize the values that Browning Ross represented and how they are just as important now as they were when he and others founded the RRCA in 1958. The values are vision, leadership, and determination and these traits are critical to the success of any organization. It is a very humbling experience to stand before your peers and address them. At the end of the awards ceremony, it was time for picture taking and it was great to have my fellow LMJS'ers standing with me during the photo op time. The evening finished a bit after 10:30 and we still had to get up fairly early for an 8:30 a.m. race start.
    Every convention has a race as part of the proceedings and it was the "Zoo Run" which features a half marathon, 10K, 5K and kid's fun run. All three of us chose to do the 10K, running at altitude presents an additional challenge. This race was part of the Convention in 2001 and it seemed like the course was pretty much the same. In addition to the altitude, the morning of the race the desert winds were blowing. The course has a gentle elevation gain on part of it and in one section we ran on a dirt road, with the remainder on concrete and asphalt. We started and finished at the Albuquerque Zoo and the race went through a corner of the of the zoo, residential areas and a bike path. It was a very well supported race, clear mile markers and frequent water stops. My goal was to run 7 minute pace, a concession to the thin air, knowing that going out too fast would result in an oxygen debt I probably couldn't fully recover from. The plan was for Jeanine and I to try and run as much of the race together as we could. Since she hadn't been able to train as hard as she usually does, she thought a more modest pace for her was realistic. Our first mile through residential streets went right on pace, a shade under 7 minutes, but as we transitioned to the bike path, we hit the headwinds for the first time. Fortunately, we only ran into the wind for a short distance before turning around and running on the other side of the bike path, but our 2nd mile pace was a little over 7 minutes. Mile 3 continued on the bike path with the wind at our back during this stretch.  Jeanine and I were still together, hitting 3 miles right around 21 minutes and we soon reached another turn around that took us back into the wind, but still on the bike path. Our mile 4 split was a little over 28 minutes and at this point Jeanine fell back a bit off the pace, while I tried to keep it going. At about 4 1/2 miles we turned into a residential area, and that would be our surroundings for the remainder of the race. I continued running 7 minute pace hitting 5 miles at a little over 35 minutes and tried to hold things together for the final 1.2 miles. I managed to finish in 43:30, 7 minute pace and was very pleased with the result plus finishing first in my 5 year age group despite the fact that Ross Bolding, the 2012 RRCA master runner of the year, was also running in the 10K and is in my age group. Jeanine's placing was even better as she was declared the first female master age group runner, and won the "gold medal" and a gift certificate to a local restaurant. Her time was 44:27. Karen had a good race also and finished 7th in her age group in 52:53. So it was a successful end to the convention for the LMJS representatives.
    The 2014 RRCA Convention will be in Spokane, WA.  The convention race will be the
    Bloomsday 12K, one of the more famous races in the U.S. and one I have been interested in doing for a number of years.  I know the convention organizers personally and I think they will do a fantastic job, so mark you calendars for May 2-4, 2014.
  • 08 Jan 2013 9:32 AM | Anonymous
    [Thanks to Roy Carlisle for contributing this article!] 

    Saturday, December 1, 2012
    Alameda Midway Shelter 5K Run
    Time: 31:33 / Pace 10:09
    58th of 95, no age divisions

    When I stumbled out of the house at 8am on a Saturday morning it was raining hard. In the East Bay of Northern California we usually have 60-66 days of rain annually and often the hard rain days produce more than an inch of rain, quickly. It is not that wimpy drizzle I grew up with in the Pacific Northwest. It comes down with intention and vengeance. Anybody in his right mind, not me obviously, would have taken one look at the pouring rain and stumbled back into bed. Instead I thought of my friend Walker, who lives in Atlanta with his lovely wife Joy, and his repeated statements that he likes to run in the rain. But I don’t know if it rains hard in Atlanta. And I remembered Jack, my running friend who lives in Alameda, where I was going, who ran this same 5K race with me back in the early 2000s, when it was storming something fierce. With wind gusting, rain pouring down, seemingly in more than one direction, cold that invaded your personal space no matter how many layers you were wearing, it was weather nor a race to forget. It was, in our minds, the worst weather either one of us as endured for a race. When you realize that together we have probably run more than 200 races in every season and throughout the country, including ones in the snow, that is “high” praise for that little local endeavor.

    Was I really going to endure this again? I was on autopilot, like I usually am in the early morning, and so I was going to head for Alameda and see what happened. I could always sit in the car while others with more fortitude carried on. Although I knew I had too much pride for allowing myself to do that. Driving down the freeway, I became a bit apprehensive; the rain was coming down so heavy and fast that we were all driving about 35 miles an hour. A flash of an accident I had many years ago because of this kind of storm niggled at me and kept my pace slow. But then I began to worry that I wouldn’t be able to get to the race in time for the start. I sped up a little, but I could feel myself holding a tight grip on the steering wheel. With my little car it a gust of wind or a sudden swerve could be prelude to an accident. I was determined to avoid any sudden anything.

    After making a wrong turn and having to navigate out of what seemed like dozens of cul-de-sacs on Bay Farm I finally found my way to the parking lot at the Alameda/Bay Farm ferry landing. I was irritated with myself for getting somewhat lost but alas, the rain had slowed. Good sign. Opening the car window I found that it was not raining hard enough to even need an umbrella. Maybe we were going to have a charmed moment. I calmed down and got moving. Usually all of the registration tables, small piles of shirts, and awards were out on display but this morning everything was crammed into the small covered waiting space along with runners trying to stay dry. I was hoping there would be coffee because I had skipped my latte and I do need it. I mean, I need it, it was part of my pre-race ritual and when the weather is not cooperating, the rituals are even more important. I know that all runners understand this but it is hard to explain to others.

    Then the rain slowed even more and people began to venture out into the parking lot and onto the course (a bike/walk/run path) to warm up. I walked quickly to the waiting area to get my bib/tag and pick up my tee shirt. Black is an unusual color for a race shirt but it certainly fit the mood of the morning. This tee had primitive art on it, which spun home that we were raising money for homeless women and children. It made me determined to run even though they already had my money, now they would have my feeble effort to kickstart my “I hate the early morning” body.

    Front tee shirt art for the Alameda Midway Shelter 5K Run

    Many registered runners didn't show up so it was a small crowd of us that bunched up to the starting line. Now I was ready to go. Let’s do this, I thought, and that small tingle I always feel at the start of a race, made me smile. I love races, I really do. Somebody hit the start button by saying Ready! Set! Go! and hearing that phrase made me smile even more. Many of the younger runners shot ahead and I even started too fast but what the heck, we were running to help people. One guy older than me--No, I don’t really know that he was but he looked older--passed me and that made me even more determined to get into steady pace just slightly faster than my normal pace. I watched a very attractive woman slowly pass me and I thought, now if I followed her, that could help me keep going. It was a nice thought and it worked for about a half a mile but then she was gone. Too bad, now I was running alone but I did feel good, even if I could not go quite as fast as I had hoped.

    This path we were on is the same path that I run every Sunday afternoon with Jack so I was very familiar with it. But that also meant that I didn't spend any time enjoying my surroundings like I normally would during a race. Besides, the cloudy weather bathed the scenery in gray and so the bay, the coastline, nothing was very eye catching. I returned to the “tunnel” of my own running space and kept moving ahead.

    Since a 5K is only 3.1 miles it meant that we would run out for 1.55 miles and then come back on the same path. That can be interesting because you can see the lead runners and faster runners coming back at you. This is fun if you don’t get discouraged by the fact that they are running almost twice as fast as most of us middle of the pack runners. But I actually enjoy this spectacle because I think fast or elite runners are a joy to watch. It inspires me; it doesn’t discourage me. That joy increases when I see someone who is older running at a very competitive pace. That morning the man who finished second overall was 51 years old! Mauricio’s pace was 6:02 minutes per mile, which really is almost twice as fast as I usually run. But I loved watching him and the other elite runners chew up that path.

    For a few moments, right before I hit the halfway turn around point, the rain began again and I thought we would be in for a serious downpour. But it only lasted about 3 minutes, it never got heavy and it quit again. Thank God for small favors because I had not donned by running cap which I wear to keep the water off my glasses. It can be a bit tricky to see any obstacles--like other runners--if my glasses are covered with rain and then also fog up. But that didn’t happen and I cruised along.

    Since I do know this path very well I also didn't have to think about when I would sprint. The path comes out of a stand of trees right before the parking lot and it is only about 75 yards from that point until the finish line. I was ready. The rain had restrained itself as if Mother Nature knew that few pleasures in life are as sweet to me as sprinting at the end of a race with every ounce of energy in my body. There were not enough people to constitute a “crowd” or crowd noise but I did hear a few gasps and encouraging yells when I wound it up and took off. Yesss! And then, passing the finish line, I was gasping for air, pulling off my marker tag so they could compute my time and picking up my “medal.” Now look at those pictures of the medal, is that cute or what. My black marker inscription did not help “cutify” it but it did designate it for my race medal/ribbon collection.

    Now I wasn’t on autopilot and I was very glad, again, that I had forced myself to run on behalf of my body and others.

    Midway Shelter 5K “Medal” with Inscription
  • 08 Jan 2013 9:28 AM | Anonymous
    Dear Dr. Jess,

    I had ACL, miniscus repair surgery 11 years ago have pain in that knee when I run, but only sometimes.

    Do think you I will be stressing my knee too much to plan to run marathon distance? Do you recommend any exercises in particular to do that can be done without a gym? (links?) Are there foods for promoting joint healing? What about glucosamine or such supplements?

    Hoping to run Oakland this year!

    Dear Hopeful,

    Thank you for your inquiry regarding your knee and the Oakland Marathon.  I think it's great you have that as a goal.  First off, without doing an exam and a running analysis, it's extremely difficult to give you advice on whether to train or even give you exercises (which is the purpose of an exam and running analysis since the exercises and advice are tailored to your body, running technique, and exam findings.)   Secondly, we don't have a current MRI ruling out a meniscus injury that can be causing your pain.

    Other diagnoses for knee pain in running include Patellar Femoral Pain Syndrome, Patellar Tendonitis/Tendonosis, Hamstring Tendonitis/tendonosis, Pes Anserine Tendonitis, bursitis, Bakers' Cyst, IT Band Syndrome, etc.   

    Unfortunately, there can be many causes for each diagnosis.  Every IT Band or Patellar Femoral Pain Syndrome can have a completely different cause over the span of the running population.  

    With that said, again, not knowing more about your exam findings, video analysis, sEMG data, it is VERY common for gluteus medius and maximus to become inhibited, thus causing aberrant biomechanics and putting unnecessary strain on the knee.  Other causes can be from a weak or restricted foot/ankle, weak or restricted hips, unstable pelvis, scoliosis, leg length discrepancy, etc.

    I recommend you consult with a sports medicine practitioner and in the meantime, make sure you start training your gluteus to fire correctly.  Research tells us that Patellar Femoral Pain Syndrome usually is caused NOT by a glute weakness, but the glute max ENDURANCE.  This is an important concept to grasp, especially for marathoners.  

    I recently wrote a blog on how we helped a cross country runner get back on the trails by doing glute medius and maximus endurance exercises while getting sEMG feedback.  The results were astounding.   http://innersport.com/archives/2136

    Hope that helps and feel free to email me any other questions you have. 

    Dr. Greaux is a sports medicine practitioner in Berkeley and Walnut Creek specializing in running mechanics, video analysis, functional movement and rehabilitation as well as ART, a medically patented soft tissue therapy.    Learn more about running injuries at www.innersport.com  and sign up for informative newsletters.  drjess@innersport.com 
  • 08 Jan 2013 9:26 AM | Anonymous
    Q:  “What energy supplements do you experienced marathoners recommend? Gu gels, chews, etc?”

    You need to consume carbohydrates during long training runs and during your marathon to prevent muscle and mental fatigue (i.e. hitting the wall or bonking). It is recommended to consume 100-250 calories of carbohydrates after every hour of activity during prolonged endurance events. So when you start doing training runs that last for more than one hour, this is when you need to start practicing fueling and devising a plan for how you will fuel yourself on race day. Gus or gels, chews and classic carbohydrate-electrolyte beverages (i.e. Gatorade and Powerade) all serve the same purpose in providing simple carbohydrates that are easily digested and become readily available as glucose to fuel your muscles. It is up to you to experiment and decide what your body best tolerates. REI and Sports Basement offer a great variety of gels and chews you can experiment with to see what you like. Gels each supply about 100-150 carbohydrate calories, 8 ounces of Gatorade supplies 50 calories, and 3 Cliff shot blocks supply 100 calories. You can try one source, or do a combination to prevent your tongue from getting bored during your run and also to better ensure you get enough calories you need. I like to drink Gatorade throughout my runs in combination with water and also have a gel pack every hour. When taking in gels or chews, remember to drink fluid at the same time so the sugars can be better absorbed through your digestive system and reach your muscles more efficiently.

    Also keep in mind what is going to be available on the course or how you will carry your fuel, if you choose to bring your own, during race day. The Oakland Marathon will be offering Gatorade and Gu brand gels -- if you are relying on the aid stations to supply you with fuel, make sure you experiment to see that you tolerate Gatorade and Gu during your training runs. Also, feel free to try other “whole food” sources of carbohydrates such as pretzels, banana chips or granola bars (choose varieties that are lower in fat and fiber). These food sources will also give your muscles the fuel they need and leave you without an overly sweet and sticky mouth feel. The most important point to remember is to experiment with different fuel options in training and not on race day to prevent that unexpected stop at the porta-potty!

    Shauna Pirotin is a registered dietitian, runner, and a member of the LMJS women's racing team. She looks forward to hearing your questions on nutrition and fueling! 
  • 02 Dec 2012 11:25 AM | Anonymous

    [This article was kindly contributed by Joanna Harper, who runs with the Red Lizard Running Club in Portland Oregon. The article originally appeared in the Women Running Together Blog.]

    I just returned from San Diego where I had another memorable race, with a fun weekend thrown in; or was it the other way around?

    Over the last few years, Team Red Lizard has been building up a strong cadre of master’s women, and we have had some notable successes in national cross country competitions, capped by our winning two team medals in last year’s club nationals. All of our team medals, however, have come in the friendly environment of the Pacific Northwest. This year I hoped we could change that.

    I contacted all of the mature women who had previously run over hill and dale for our club, and I asked them if they had any interest in going to San Diego for the master’s cross country race or to Lexington for clubs. The overwhelming favorite choice was to go to San Diego, as it was closer, cheaper, a better travel destination, better weather, and two of our women have daughters living in the city. Even still, only four of these women eventually wound up making the trip.

    This left us with somewhat of a dilemma that requires a little background information to understand. Master’s women’s cross country teams consist of three members, and are scored based on ten year age divisions.   Women can run for team divisions less than their age, but not greater. With two of our women in their fifties and two in their sixties, we could all run in the fifty team race, but understandably, our sexagenarian women wanted to run for the title in their own age group.

    And thus it happened that Jeannie Groesz contacted a sprinter friend of hers named Betty Schaefer, and asked if she would run. Betty had only raced longer than 800 twice in her life, and had never run a cross country race; but after some persuasion was convinced to go. It didn’t hurt that she would be in Palm Desert prior to the meet, and would have a relatively short drive to get there. Meanwhile Betsy Seth and I tried to get another runner to join us for a fifties team, but in the end could not find anyone willing to make the trip.

    With Suzanne Ray and Jeanie heading up our sixty plus team we would have a very good chance of winning, even with a novice as the third runner. But it soon became clear that we would face some stiff competition. The Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders team out of the Oakland area had been cleaning up, in what the Pacific Association of USATF calls the super senior division, and they entered a team not long after we did. Their ace, Sharlet Gilbert had beaten Suzanne in the Twin Cities marathon twenty years earlier, and was backed up by solid runners Carmen Briones and Kate Stewart.

    There was another connection between the clubs, as they also were bringing along two “younger” women who would run as individuals. One of these two women, Maria Briones (Carmen’s sister) and I would be battling for individual medals in the 55-59 age group. The other woman was named Jeannine Holmlund and she would be running in the 45-49 division.

    Being an analytical person, I couldn’t help but make projections on the race outcome, and to follow my reasoning, one needs to understand cross country scoring. The finish places of each of the first three runners for every team are added together, and the team with the lowest total wins. Additionally, in master’s running, only those runners who belong to teams within a given age group are scored. Thus if Suzanne could beat Sharlot, and Jeannie could beat Carmen (both reasonable possibilities) then we could win, even though Kate would surely beat Betty by a few minutes. There was a third sixties team from the hometown San Diego track club, and while they weren’t in the running for the team title, the placing of their runners would also affect the outcome.

    It was with this expectation of a tight battle that we converged upon San Diego, the day before the race. Betsy, Jeanie, Betty and I met at four o’clock to go over the course, which consisted of a one and half mile, figure eight loop that we would run twice. Suzanne was still en route, and wouldn’t arrive until the evening. The terrain consisted mostly of grass and dirt, but with some bark chips, and more pavement crossings than I would have preferred. The route was also fairly hilly, with one serious climb that we would hit at about one mile, and again at two and half miles.

    As we were jogging along, four women asked us if we were running the course, and could they join us. Given their ages, and the fact that two of the four were similar looking Hispanic women, I guessed who they were, even before introductions confirmed my hypothesis.  Just as our sixties star wasn’t there, neither was their ace, Sharlet.  I ran much of time with Kate, and she spoke of how amazing she thought Suzanne was.

    I was staying at the race hotel with Jenny Newton, a fine runner from Missoula that I had met last year at Club Nationals in Seattle. Betty and her husband Don were also staying there, while the rest of our team was either staying with Suzanne’s daughter Mercy, or Betsy’s daughter Lisa. The Lake Merritt gals were also staying at our hotel, but did not have a car, so Don and I drove them back after our run. They seemed much impressed that we would go through any trouble to help a rival team. I joked that we were glad to take them to the hotel; however, if Sharlet had asked for ride, we’d drop her off in Tijuana.  After a little reflection, I regretted the jest, as it might sound racist to Carmen and Maria.

    The rest of the evening consisted of banalities such as showering, eating, picking up our numbers, and getting settled into our new spaces for the night. Jenny was clearly a very neat and organized person, and I hoped that it wouldn’t bother her that I was neither.

    Race morning dawned clear and pleasant, but warmed up quickly as the sun rose. It is always fun to see plenty of familiar faces while warming up, and it also affirming to see so many older women preparing for a cross country race. As we got ready, we also cheered on Mercy in the accompanying open race. Mercy finished as the fifth woman in a race that was competitive enough, that former NCAA champ, and pro runner, Angela Bizarri could only place second.

    Soon enough the gun sent us on our way.  At one point early on, I could see the leaders across the course; Sonja Friend-Uhl had a good margin over Grace Padilla, with Jenny at the head of a tight chase pack that was not threatening the two leaders. Farther back in the pack, Sharlet was in front of Betsy, followed by Carmen and Maria running in tandem, and then came Suzanne, Jeannie and I more or less together. Suzanne is a notoriously slow starter, but always picks off runners as a race goes on, so I wasn’t worried.

    Sharlet (508) leads Betsy (461) and Tracy Golba (458)


    As we approached the tough hill, just past the mile point, Suzanne was gaining on Sharlet (and Betsy), while I had caught the Briones’ sisters, and I knew that Jeanie would be close behind.  I passed both Carmen and Maria on the hill. I hoped that Jeanie was right behind me and would get them too.

    On the second circuit Suzanne corralled Sharlet, but couldn’t pull away from her.  Meanwhile, I was running out of steam, and a Latina in Lake Merritt colors went past me. At first I thought it was Maria, but I soon realized it was Carmen. That was bad news for our sixties team, although good news for my individual medal hopes.

    At the finish, Sonja had widened her lead over Grace, and they finished well up on everyone else. A few gals passed Jenny, and she finished seventh overall and fifth in her age division. Sharlet and Suzanne came to the finish straight locked together, and sprinted for the line. Suzanne later commented that it couldn’t have been an attractive sight: two old ladies, one with no kick (herself) and one with a wild flailing kick (Sharlet). The wild kick beat the no kick, securing the individual sexagenarian win for Sharlet, and putting our team in a deep hole. Betsy crossed the line a few seconds later; then came Carmen, yours truly, Maria and Jeanie finishing in consecutive spots. At this point there was no doubt that the Lake Merritt gals would defeat us for the sixties title, unless disaster befall Kate. No such thing happened, and they earned a much deserved title.

    During the cool down and award ceremonies that followed, all of us had plenty of chances to catch up with other runners we knew, and make some new acquaintances too. Silver was the lizard color of the day, as our sixties team, Suzanne and I all garnered medals of that hue. Team titles also went to the local team JH Cohn in the forties, The Impalas out of the Bay Area in the fifties, and the host San Diego Track Club in the seventies. Individual titles were awarded in five year increments; Sonja won the 40-44, Laura Stewart won the 45-49, Eileen Brennan Erler took the 50-54, Debbie Lee won the 55-59, Sharlet won the 60-64, Linda Frisby took the 65-69, Marie Louise Michelson got the 70-74, and Anne Garrett won the 75-79.


    The winning sixty plus team of Carmen, Kate and Sharlet (l to r).


    Most of the money went to teams, as it should, but there was also age graded money to the first three individuals. Marie Louise, Melody Ann Schultz (both seventy one), and Sonja went 1,2,3 in that competition. Jeanie was 6th and Suzanne was 10th. Once again I wound up chauffeuring the Lake Merritt ladies back to the hotel, and once more they were appreciative. They said if I was ever in Oakland, I could find a place to stay.

    Suzanne, Jeanie, Betsy and I stayed through Monday to soak up some sun and relax. Most of us went to the beach Saturday afternoon; I had a nice dinner with Jenny Saturday evening, and went for a great hike Sunday afternoon with Suzanne. I also had two lovely morning runs Sunday and Monday, at Torrey Pines and Mission Bay respectively.

    I also confirmed a few Facebook friend requests, including Jeanine from Lake Merritt. After I accepted her request, she sent me a very nice message thanking me for our comradeship, competition, and transportation.  She also said that she wished that she could see our team more often.  Her thoughtful message was just one more reminder that more important things than medals, and recognition are gained from traveling to these races.

  • 02 Dec 2012 11:03 AM | Anonymous
    [Many thanks to Mary Beth Kierstead for contributing this race report!]

    After hearing so many rave reviews of the fast, beautiful, mostly downhill Bizz Johnson Marathon, I decided this would be the perfect race for my first ultra.  It's mostly downhill!  It's a fire road!  It's through the beautiful Cascades!  I am in!  In February, I registered.

    After a summer full of 20 mile runs in preparation for this race, I could not believe two weeks out I had my first case of poison oak.  Determined not to take steriods for fear of how it would effect my body, I tried to fight it with calamine and benadryl.  A week before the race, it had spread to my feet and ears.  I called the doctor and took the predinsone unsure if this would ruin my ability run the race.  I figured worst case, I would step down the 1/2.  I would just have to see how I felt.  Ad the day approached, my poison oak almost disappeared but I was getting some strange pains in my quads.  This happened last time I took predisone.  I just hoped it would be gone by race day.

    Kathryn, Sarah, Michele and I were not a bit disappointed in the beauty of Susanville and the warmness of its residents.  We were awed driving through Mt. Lassen National Forest.  Susanville is a little town tucked inside the eastern side of the forest.  Clearly the town had fallen on hard times.  Most the restaurants we had read about were closed and the downtown was all but abandoned.  But when we arrived at the railroad depot to pick up our bibs (don't think expo, think bib pick-up), there was a fun community market going on complete with beer and a band.  We headed over to the Best Western which was about two miles away.  The staff was very friendly and assured us they would have breakfast up early for us.  They informed us that we could leave our bags with them in the morning and would have a room where we could take a shower after the race.  The rooms were much nicer than we had expected.  They were very clean and big and the beds were super comfy.

    We found a little family owned restaurant, Rosie's, and had a decent pre-race pasta dinner, along with every other runner in town.  We passed on a night cap at the bar next door in spite of the name, T & A!  Since it was almost 7, we decided to call it a night. The race didn't start until 8 but we had to be on the bus at 7, still, not bad for a marathon.  I didn't have much hope for sleeping but the bed was so comfy I actually slept most of the night.

    Feeling rested but stunned by the sub 30 degree temperature, we found the breakfast to be just what a runner needed.  We chatted happily with runners from all over the country and guaranteed them they would have a great run.  We headed off to the buses and Sarah and I headed up the mountain thrilled by the scenery.  At the top, we dropped our sweats and shook with cold while Wendell explained the 5 mile out and back we would head out on before circling around and meeting up with the marathoners at the BizzJohnson Trail.

    We ran fast the first few miles, trying to warm up.  Right away I noticed that I felt winded and light headed but my body felt fine, no pains in my quads.  At mile two we headed into some deep dust.  Every step my foot would sink, as if in snow.  My lungs were burning and my legs felt like rubber.  A car was heading towards us, kicking up a thick cloud of dust.  I started seeing spots, my ears were ringing and I felt like I was going to pass out.  Sarah urged me to stop and slow down.  I did.  Finally I made it to the turn around and starting heading down the slight decline.  I knew I was in trouble. 

    No matter how slow I went, I could not get my breath.  I could not get into that zone.  I started panicking, realizing that I could not run 31 miles like that.  Marathoners were flying past us.  Where were they getting that energy?  I started making deals with myself.  Things will be better when I see Kathryn.  She will tell me what to do.  I convinced myself that there would be a 1/2 marathon starting line at mile 18 and then I would be able to leave the race.  I saw Kathryn.  Drink water and slow down, she advised.  I tried.  My misery, coupled with the guilt that I was ruining everyone's race made me got to that dark place reserved for distant runners.  I felt sorry for myself.  I trained so hard and now the altitude is going to ruin my day?  Not fair!  I told Sarah and Kathryn to go on.  They hesitated but I convinced them that only I could get me through this run.  Magically, I had stuck my i-pod in my fuel belt, just in case.  I hate running races with it but I knew the only way I was going to check off the miles was to drown out my thoughts with music.  I decided to just focus on the mile and to reward myself with a walk break at the beginning of each mile.  And that's what I did.  Slow at first, then faster and faster, the miles started ticking away.

    The course is lovely but hard because it is 20 miles of downhill quad pounding.  The road is gravel, which is tricky after hours of running.  There was a lot of support from the local scouts and I did an impersonation of the Cookie Monster at each stop, trying to fuel myself through this endless race.

    Finally, I finished, surprised to find I wasn't hours behind my fellow runners and shocked that I finished third in my age group.

    I will never run above sea level again!
  • 02 Dec 2012 10:39 AM | Anonymous

    [Thanks to Roy Carlisle for contributing this article!]

    PALO ALTO MOONLIGHT 5K RUN Friday, September 28, 2012

    GLIDE FLOSS BRIDGE TO BRIDGE 10K & 8K RUN Sunday, September 30, 2012

    On Wednesday, my older brother, Dick, came riding in to Oakland on the morning train. He was in town early so he could prepare for two of his favorite races in one weekend. Our Palo Alto Moonlight 5K race started at 8:45 pm on Friday night and our SF Bridge to Bridge 8K started at 9 am on Sunday morning. We had faced this before and we both knew that we would be spent after it was all over. We also knew that it was a twisted sort of fun to challenge our 65 year old and 70 year old bodies to ride the adrenaline rush of these two completely unique races within 36.25 hours. There was a part of me that dreaded trying to do this. One race on a weekend was enough to put me into a long nap afterwards but running two meant that I was going to be crashing for a whole day after, not just for a nap. I now knew, after a few years of entering races together, that this was physically taxing for Dick also. It wasn’t just the race itself for him but he put a lot more effort into prep for a race, rising hours before each race to stretch and sort out various aches and pains.

    Another part of me was excited about having Dick here to do these two fun races. Dick and I had been too far apart in age to be close when we were growing up but a few years ago we started to bond, first because he had contracted cancer and I was genuinely scared for him, two, because he started to join me in running again (he had been a star runner in his early days) and three, by sharing and reading the same books that we swapped back and forth.

    It was also fun for me to include him in my extended circle of friends and family here in California because Dick is one of those genuinely easy going and friendly good men that show up on the planet every once in a while.  So every trip he made down here from his home in Vancouver, WA was a cause for joy for me and my social network.  And what he didn’t know about this specific trip was that I had been scheming with his daughter, Chandra, a lawyer in Seattle, to fly down on Saturday to join us for the Bridge to Bridge run. Chandra had recently started running herself and she was going to enter the 10K on Sunday morning. It would be a wonderful surprise for him and make the weekend even more joyous.

    On Friday night I cajoled my friend and running buddy Jack to join us for the Moonlight run, and Jack’s nonstop wisecracking humor always helps us keep our spirits high for a race. Being around a mind as quick and witty as Jack’s makes both Dick and me want to run a quicker race. Of course that makes no rational sense but it is true. And Kim, my friend came along to encourage us, and just help us out. At a race we men need someone to keep track of us, watch our stuff, as we get very focused on the competition and the race itself. As if we were truly competitive. Well, I am not but Dick actually is. He often wins his age division in a race and he is always trying to pull off a PB, a personal best [time].

    The Palo Alto race on Friday night has a treacherous start for the 5K because it begins in a parking lot but within a few yards it narrows down to small path that winds out along the bay. So hundreds of runners are bumping into each other, jostling for position, and trying to keep from getting knocked on their kiesters. And this is done in the moonlight, with neon glow tubes as the only guides, so it is hard even to see the runners around you. Every year the danger inherent in this frantic jostling start to the race surprises me. Why do this? But I am not the race director so who knows why they keep doing this. Having hundreds of runners bumping into each other in the dark seems crazy to me (although there did seem to be more runners with headlamps and glow tubes this year). It also seems odd to me since the 10K goes the opposite direction on a wide regular street so there is none of this jostling and scrambling. I can complain loudly about this but there I was running towards that small path just like everyone else. My body loves to run at night so there is no way I was going to miss this race even if I don’t like that odd starting line setup. Plus, it was one of the only races of the year that gives out a long sleeve tee shirt. And that dear readers, is highly motivating in the world of running and races.(Ask me sometime to show you a picture of 60 race tee shirts that my dear friend, Soozung, made into a quilt for my 60th birthday and you will see why these are prizes to be coveted.)

    Roy, Dick, and Jack after the Moonlight Run (Jack has on a long sleeve tee shirt from running this race in a previous year).

    So I can also complain about the miles of running on gravel along the edge of the bay but it was a beautiful event with the moon shining bright and hundreds of runners enjoying the crisp fall air. A race in the moonlight did have one other advantage; I lost track of time and distance and that feeling was heightened when I couldn’t check my GPS watch in the dark for my usual race markers, pace and distance.  I knew I was running slowly and carefully but that was acceptable; I didn’t’ need any bone bruises from the gravel and I did have another race to consider in a very short time. Every runner knows that there is always something to complain about with every race, it is a part of the gestalt of doing races. But the thrill of entering into these semi-competitive events always outweighs the stream of complaints that I voice at every race.

    After a couple of miles treading carefully on the gravel path the course files onto a residential street and then we know that we are about ¾ of a mile from the finish. We emerge out of the darkness into the glow of street lights which illuminates not only all of the other runners but for me it highlights the decision about whether to increase my pace or continue to lope along.

    Running slowly in the dark meant that I was always on alert for being bumped off the path, or even of being knocked to the ground by faster runners. Fortunately that had not happened and now we were in the home stretch. Coming into the light juices up my competitive streak and I start my inner dialogue about how I want to finish the race. Usually I am thinking about sprinting and how much energy did I have left? I know I am going to sprint with maybe 30 yards left to the finish line, well, unless something unusual happens to prevent it, but I found myself experiencing a laissez faire attitude about it that night. My pace had been very slow so a sprint would not carry me under the 30 minute goal that I usually want to accomplish for a 5K, and so sprinting seemed superfluous. Who cared? Really. I decided I didn’t. But then I turned the last corner toward the finish and heard all of the fanfare that goes on at the end of a race. People yelling, runners speeding up, friends loudly encouraging their running buddies. I didn’t speed up; I didn’t prepare to sprint. As I got closer to the finish line Jack came out of nowhere on my left side and started yelling Go, Go, Go! Oh Damn, now I had to respond to his intense goading or live with unrestrained runner’s ridicule on the ride home! So I did, I took off like a shot and then did my own pushing and moving up through the few unsuspecting runners ahead of me. I admit that it does feel like I have run a better race when I sprint at the end, no matter what my pace or the distance. And I do like that feeling.

    On that night Dick handily won his 5K age division with a speedy 25:25 time / 8:12 pace and even with my slow pace I placed second in my age division with a 34:23 time / 11:05 pace. Clearly Dick was burning up the gravel while I was loping along. Jack ran as an outlaw so we don’t have an official time for him but he is in Dick’s league, not a plodder like me. It is surprisingly fun to see Dick run like the wind, and I can celebrate his wins heartily although I have moments of nostalgic sadness because I remember when I could run at that pace. But those days are behind me, so now I can let him carry the winner’s desire to keep improving on a personal best time.

    The drive back to the East bay was filled with the bonhomie of a shared experience and I hoped that I could recuperate with two nights of rest before the Bridge to Bridge on Sunday morning.


    I picked up Chandra at the Oakland airport on Saturday morning, after a fitful night of so-called rest on Friday night. Dick was not aware that Chandra would be in the car when I went to pick him up for a lunch with family and friends at my daughter Erica’s beautiful house in the Oakland hills. He also didn’t know that we wanted to welcome Chandra into the California contingent of the extended family since we had not had a chance to visit for many years. You can imagine Dick’s surprise when I showed up at the LaQuinta Inn with his beloved daughter in tow. My normally taciturn older brother was very expressive about this act of love and kindness on Chandra’s part. That she had registered to run the 10K on Sunday morning made him even happier as Chandra was new to the running game and he enjoyed race outings more when Chandra was able to join him.

    Dick and I have run this Bridge to Bridge race in San Francisco now for several years. In fact, it is one of the scenic races that he most looks forward to each year so he plans a trip down from his home in Vancouver each fall in order to join me for this annual event. Usually the two races are only a week apart but every few years they end up on the same weekend which is a bit grueling but it does make for a less expensive and more “efficient” trip for Dick.

    Kim, Roy, Dick, and Chandra before the 2012 Bridge to Bridge 8K/12K

    Sunday morning was sunny with a crisp edge and that is usually a good day for running. Kim was going to walk the 7K course (but she said she actually did do some running) and Chandra was ready to run the 10K, while Dick and I were signed up to do the 7K (?) Except when we finished we checked our GPS devices and this course was definitely closer to an 8K. Odd, but it did make a certain kind of sense because they had changed the actual course radically for the first time in many years. Instead of a 12K and 7K they now had a 10K and so called 7K that was an 8K and it didn’t finish in the Presidio but on the flatland at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. But I am surprised that there weren’t more outcries because obviously it takes longer to run an 8K than a 7K. But these distances are not very standard in the race circuit so most people probably didn’t even think about it. You couldn’t compare your time to the much more standard 5K, and the 10K was probably more accurate since that is an Olympic distance. But my brother Dick is a very consistent runner and knows his pace well. And I don’t think that both of our GPS watches would both be “off” in the same way. One GPS watch maybe but not two, so they could say 7K all day, but we knew different. But you are wondering, who cares? Well, for runners the comparison to previous times and distances is keenly watched and comparing is, in fact, a small industry. There is a website that keeps track of every official race and all of the runners’ times automatically. You can got to www.athlinks.comand see some 70+ of the 150 races I have run in the last thirteen years listed. Now it is not always accurate and they do seem to miss a lot of races for some reason but they wouldn’t do it at all if every runner wasn’t keenly interested in these stats.

    The BtoB course starts on the Embarcadero next to Justin Herman Plaza and right in front of the Ferry Building. It is a big enough race and accompanying crowd that they close down the whole street and we all run unencumbered right into and through Fisherman’s Wharf. It is never too crowded to find your own pace and there is an energy that wafts out of the stream of runners at these big races. I always feel enlivened by a race like this one. Although I will admit that both Dick and Chandra were long gone within seconds of the start. Dick cannot help himself. His legs are like pistons and many times he has told me that it hurts to run slowly, so he switches on the machine and off he goes, like some small locomotive.

    I kept trying to find someone to “pace” myself with but that didn’t seem to work this year. Usually I can find a group of runners that are going at the pace I want to maintain and it helps me to keep a steady pace. So I had to bounce around from one side of the street to the other but it was such a beautiful morning that it was a joy just to be out in the crisp fall air, running along one of the most delightful waterfronts in the country.

    For many years I have complained about how wonderful this course is until you get close to the finish. In the past it was a third of a mile uphill, and not some tiny incline but up a serious hill into the Presidio. That just pissed me off, and it made it hard to sprint at the end, although every year I valiantly gave it a go.

    But this year we had a whole new finish on the flatland at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. Although I had never noticed it before there was a wide path that made it easy to gauge how far you were from the finish line and with no “bunching” up that would obstruct a sprint to the end. When I realized, and I didn’t know this until I had almost arrived at the end of the course, that a new finish line was not at the end of a steep uphill into the Presidio but was at the end of a track-like path straight ahead toward the Bridge, I was elated! Now I could seriously think about when I was going to sprint, calculate it, anticipate it, feel it rising in my blood. And sprint I did, until I felt like I was going to fly. No one really noticed but me, (Well, except for the race photographer whose pic below shows both of my feet off the ground as if I am running in the air) but that was okay; it is a satisfaction that will always make me glad I am alive.

    Roy sprinting to the finish in the 2012 Bridge to Bridge 8K!

    It was not an eventful race, no big storms, or unbearable heat, or runners tumbling and getting injured, but an enjoyable one. And I was glad, once again, that I was running in a race with others who enjoyed this solitary/social sport. Running is a requirement for me for health issues. Fortunately I enjoy the sport so much that I work to stay healthy and want to run, like my brother, well into my 70s, which would be a wonderful gift.

    Dick, Chandra, Roy after the 10K/7K (8K) with Kim, our resident photographer behind the lens.

    Eventually, after we were convinced that the course was closer to an 8K, we came up with the following stats. Roy did the 8K in 50:57 for a 10:15 pace and Dick ran the 8K in 40:31 for an 8:09 pace. Chandra ran the 10K in 62:32 for a 10:04 pace. Kim did walk/run the 8K in 66:17 for a walk/slight run pace of 13:20 which is a very brisk walking pace.

    There is a sad note in all of this for me. When I started doing this particular race back in the early 2000s there were many more participants. For the old 12K, in 2000 there were 5,525 finishers, and in 2003 there were 4,660 finishers, and in 2012 there were only 1,655 in the new 10K. For both distances this year had only 2,554 finishers, so it would not surprise me if the sponsors finally decide that this race is too expensive to stage anymore. The precipitous decline in participants may indicate a growing loss of interest in formal races. But this might also indicate that registration fees--the registration fee for a typical 5K is often $30 to $40 and a marathon can cost as much as $100-- are a luxury that many people can’t afford today. This might also contribute to the growth of the number of “outlaws” in the bigger races. (Outlaws are runners who don’t register and pay the entry fee). I am not casting stones, as I have done that outlaw thing myself when a registration fee just wasn’t in my budget for the month.

    Races are so much fun for me that I am constantly encouraging friends to enter races with me, to increase the social experience. For my own budget I have had to be more selective but I want these races to survive. Running invigorates me mentally and physically and it is important to me to do something I love. Even though doing two races in one weekend is a challenge that I hope only comes around once every few years!

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