Monday, November 1, 2010

Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley Half Marathon - 10/31/10

This was the first race that I seriously considering skipping in favor of sleeping in when my alarm went off at 5a. Not only was I exhausted, but I'd consumed more then my usual self imposed two beer limit before race day the night before. I didn't have much more then two, so I wasn't necessarily hungover, but I was definitely dehydrated and not looking forward to having to get to San Jose for the 7a start. As I pondered what to do all snug under my warm down comforter, I weighed my options. Option 1: Sleep in, forget the race, and be mad at myself later for not just getting up and doing it. Option 2: Suck it up, run the race, come home satisfied and take a nap. It didn't take all that long for me to decide option number two was the way to go, after all, I was already awake.

I was out the door in record time and it felt odd that my morning was just beginning when clearly there were a number of people whose night had yet to end. As I headed toward the freeway I passed a lot people still in costumes, looking a little worse for the wear, stumbling home. In a way I was jealous that they were all headed for their beds, but I knew I'd be back in mine as soon as I finished. On the way down, I tried to combat my dehydration by drinking as much water as I could. Immediately when I arrived in San Jose I had to go the bathroom. Luckily, the previous day when I'd picked up my packet at the Hilton San Jose, I scoped out a bathroom so knew exactly where to head. Much better then standing outside in a huge line for a porto potty.

I ventured over to the start and still had a good 20 minutes before race time, but I wasn't ready to give up my jacket and sweatpants because it was freezing out. So I found a corner to hideout in in hopes of blocking out the elements and I sat there watching everyone. Runners are funny people. Everyone has their pre-race rituals. A lot of people do silly stretches which I'm not sure are actually even useful, and then there's the runners that feel the need to run up and down the streets. I assume they do it to warm up, but personally, I've never understood this. The way I look at is I've got 13.1 miles to warm up. No need to warm up before the race just to cool down again when you're standing in the corral waiting for gun. Me, I like to expend as little energy as possible and do absolutely nothing until the race starts.

With ten minutes to race time I had to relinquish my sweats to the volunteers at the UPS van. Now I was really cold, so I folded my arms into my shirt which made me look like a double arm amputee. Ultra-marathoner, Dean Karnazes, said a few words of encouragement before we all took off. I was ready to go knowing I'd warm up quickly. We departed at the same time as the full marathoners. It was a bit crowded for the first mile, but I blame myself for not starting closer to the front. I promised myself when I made the decision to run while still in bed two hours earlier, that I wouldn't push myself. Having run a PR the weekend before, I was feeling pretty satisfied and didn't feel the need to try and set another one. Plus, I was too tired.

The race started only a few blocks away from the start of the San Jose Rock and Roll I ran a few weeks back, but this was a completely different course. I could only hope it wouldn't be a repeat of that horrible race. I soon found out it it wasn't going to be. At least I didn't think so. I experienced something I rarely ever feel when I'm running. I felt like I was running really slow, but in all actuality I was settling in to a fairly quick 8:20 pace. Despite the fact that I was running that pace, it still felt like it took forever to reach mile 4. For much of those first miles we wound our way around residential neighborhoods which was entertaining because a lot of the houses were decorated for Halloween. Some families who clearly weren't affiliated with the race were outside drinking their coffee with their kids and dogs watching all of us run by.

Not long after mile 4, we passed Willow Street Frank Bramhall Park where I saw a lady with two dogs the size of labradors, but with full, thick coats of longish hair. They looked like they were wearing sweaters which immediately disgusted me. I'm not a huge fan of dogs wearing clothes unless it's a Halloween costume. However, as I got closer I realized they were wearing plain white t-shirts that were written all over with messages of support for a runner. I thought that was a great idea. Forget holding a sign yourself, have your dog wear it! And yet another exception to the dogs shouldn't wear clothes peeve of mine.

It was right around this time where there was a young kid, maybe 14 or so, who was running around our pack. He'd pass us, then slow down, and we'd pass him, and this went on for awhile, which isn't that odd for a young runner, or older runner for that matter. What was odd was that every time he passed, I could hear him talking to himself. But I couldn't really understand it, he was just muttering phrases, and he sounded incoherent. There was a part of me that was actually kind of concerned for him. Shortly after mile five I passed him right as we turned onto a trail. As I passed him, he was talking gibberish again, but I did mange to hear him say Los Gatos Creek Trail which was the trail we were on. I'm still not sure what he was saying the rest of the time, but that was the last I saw of him and I can only assume he was just reading aloud signs that he saw or street names we were on, but it was very strange. Regardless, I'm always impressed with these young kids I see running long distance races.

We ran along the Los Gatos Creek Trail for the next seven miles. This was by far the best part of the course. Without sounding like an old lady, it was really lovely. It was a paved path, but it runs alongside a creek that is lined with eucalyptus trees and lots of other trees I couldn't identify. It reminded me a little of last weekends trail in Livermore, especially in the sense that we passed a few small parks on the way, and went under a number of overpasses, but this trail was much more dense with greenery and seemed further away from traffic. Having seven straight miles of trail was fantastic. Sometimes it's fun getting to run down the middle of the street during races, but I love that feeling of being out in nature, not hearing cars driving by or the busy sounds of the city. Maybe it's because living in the city, I don't get the opportunity to run on trails as much as I would like.

I was running well. For the first nine miles I kept a very steady pace of 8:20, my splits only fluctuating a few seconds on either side. I knew I was going to slow for a PR, but I was happy with how I was feeling so I just decided to do what I could. The thing is, I always want to do good, and unless I feel like shit, I'm going to run as fast as I can because it's so much more satisfying at the end. Just as we hit mile 10, the trail took us through Vasona Lake Park, that given the name, not surprisingly, had a good size lake in the middle of it. There was a decent number of spectators here cheering us on which was much needed at the time. I was starting to get a bit tired, but knew I still had a good three miles left.


For much of the race I was running with males. I'd venture to guess most of them were doing the full marathon. This was a bit hard for me because I like to focus on a female ahead of me with the intent of passing her. It keeps me going at a good pace and gives me a short term goal. There was a good stretch of the trail where I couldn't find any women to focus on. That all seemed to change when we hit the park. Not only could I pick out female runners ahead of me, but there were a few that were passing me as well. After placing in last weekends race, and having looked at the previous years race results, I thought I stood a very slight chance at doing it again. I was wrong, but I didn't know that then, so every time someone passed me I'd try to guess her age to see if she was in my age group. Regardless, it usually made me step up my pace a bit, even passing one or two of them again, while some I never regained the lead from.

When I hit mile 10 is usually when I can get a good feel of what my finishing time will be. I looked at my watch and calculated that I could possibly finish under 1:50, but it would mean I'd have to make up some time, which I didn't think I had in me. I tried though, but when my next split was 8:36, I knew that wasn't going to happen. At mile 12.5 we exited the trail and entered into Los Gatos High School where we ran along 2/3rds of their track. This is where the marathoners split off and continued back to the start, and where we went to the finish. At the split, I was shocked to find that two of the women who had passed me, that I wasn't able to catch, went the route of the marathon. I was a bit in awe. They were on track to run a 3:40 marathon, which is a BQ time, something that seems so unattainable to me right now. They'll never know it, but they really motivated me. Seeing them has really made me want to work on my marathon times because I know I have a lot of room for improvement there. For that matter, I even have a lot of room for improvement on my half marathon time if I ever want to get to a sub 8 minute pace.

Immediately after the split we ran into the ballpark and ran along the circumference towards the orange and black balloon finish line. By my watch the course was about a tenth of a mile long, though I'm sure this was a result of my weaving in and out of traffic. At 13.1, I stopped my watch with a time of 1:50:30. There were two of us coming in at nearly the same time, and the announcer called out both of our names and cities. I love it when they do this, it makes me feel special. My official time was 1:51:14. Luckily for me, there was only a very short line at the massage tent, so I quickly got a 10 minute massage to loosen up my legs. By the time I was done, there were so many more finishers that the wait was over 30 minutes. The massage was much needed given that I started getting some piriformis and hamstring pain the previous week. I'm fairly certain it's due to some new strengthening exercises I started doing, but I figure I'll let my sports med doctor work it out. After all, she's worked wonders on all my other running aches and pains.

This was a point to point course so I jumped on the school bus after getting my sweats for a ride back to the start. When we got deposited at the finish area for the marathoners which was only a block from the start, I checked to see what place I'd finished in. It turns out I came in 7th out of 77 runners in my 30-34 division. Even if I had run a PR, I still wasn't close to the 3rd place finisher who came in at 1:42. I really enjoyed this race, not only was the course great, which I owe a lot to that trail, but having been held on Halloween made it a little more interesting. A number of the volunteers manning the aid stations were dressed up in costumes, one of the police officers directing traffic got into the spirit and wore a witches hat and accessories, and there were even a number of runners dressed up as well. One guy was running in a a nacho libre type mask. How he ran with one of those on is beyond me.

I left feeling great. I ran the race in a much faster time then what I was expecting when I was trying to decide if I wanted to get out of bed four hours earlier. I had passed the 1,000 mile mark for total miles run in 2010, and as I knew I would be, I was pleased I was able to motivate and get to San Jose. Not only that, but I left with some new motivation to push myself a little harder to become a faster runner.



No comments:

Post a Comment