Monthly Archives: February 2013

(Contributed by Justin Mikecz, Pamakid member since 2009)

How did I become a Runaway Pancake—I mean—a Pamakid? There is the story that when I moved to the Bay Area my sister-in-law Susan (another byproduct of the Andy Chan-coached Lowell High School teams in the 90s) introduced me to John Gieng, who in turn introduced me to the K-Stars and Pamakids. Sure, it really helped that the K-Stars Saturday morning run and the Pamakids track workouts were both within a half mile of my apartment. However, beyond geographic convenience, there is another reason I was drawn to the Pamakids: this running club also doubled as a non-profit charitable organization.

Given my busy schedule, I loved the fact that with the Pamakid Runners I could combine my passion for community service and charity with my passion for running. It didn’t take me long to realize that the money for the club’s charitable endeavors came largely from the annual Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon. I became interested in how the club distributed all the money raised from this event to charities.

So I joined the Charity Committee. Led by Ashley Rich Rodwick and supported by John Spriggs and Tomas Palermo (with the later additions of Kelly Haston and myself), the committee solicits and reviews grant applications looking for local charities that fit in with the club’s mission “to support a healthy lifestyle.” While there is a little bit of regret when we have to turn down charitable requests, it is always rewarding to be able to say ‘yes’ to an applicant because we determined that the organization’s charitable efforts fit in with our mission and that we felt our modest donation would make a difference.

Pamakid Runners Charity Committee. Photo by Justin.

Pamakid Runners Charity Committee. Photo by Justin.

Because of the efforts of Ashley and the rest of the committee, it is quite apparent that the charitable giving process is in good hands. As a committee, though, we want to take it a step further. We’d like to make a deeper connection with these great organizations that we financially support by engaging with them and offering human resources (volunteers) as well as monetary contributions.

As a start, John S, Kelly H, and I did a test ‘run’ with one of the major beneficiaries of the San Francisco Half Marathon: Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Center. We spent an evening with other Salvation Army volunteers (including some former clients) delivering hundreds of sandwiches and performing general outreach to homeless people throughout the city. John and Kelly went to SoMa and the Civic Center while I went along with a group to the Haight/Ashbury neighborhood.

Haight/Ashbury was my neighborhood for the first 3½ years I lived in the city so it was especially eye-opening to make a connection with some of the many homeless people that I would walk or run by every day. While it would be the first time I had ever talked with some of them, I did recognize several of their faces. It was gratifying to tear down that wall we tend to defensively put up between ourselves and the downtrodden around us. The people we delivered to would often recognize us from a distance (with our Harbor Light reflective vests) as friends. If they didn’t see us at first, their faces would often perk up with a smile when we would ask the simple question, “would you like a sandwich?”

Not only would they graciously accept, many of the recipients would happily engage us in conversation. You see, the outreach efforts of Harbor Lights goes beyond delivering food. The organization’s no-strings-attached approach allowed us to connect more meaningfully with the recipients. Whether they wanted one, two, three, or zero sandwiches; whether they wanted to talk or not; and whether they wanted additional help, the idea was their wishes would be granted. The more experienced Salvation Army staff and volunteers were prepared to offer and connect people to the Salvation Army’s network of shelters and addiction counseling if needed, but nothing was forced and no judgments were given.

On the evening of Wednesday, March 20th, the Pamakid Runners Charity Committee would like to invite you to help us expand our efforts by joining us in another homeless outreach/delivery. We will meet at 7:00 pm at Salvation Army and should be done by 9:45 pm. If you’re interested in joining us or just want more information, you can email me directly or email the committee at With enough interest we can set up additional dates as well so even if you can’t make it March 20th, please let us know if you would be interested in joining another time.

This is just our first step in connecting more with the charities we support so stay tuned for future outreach opportunities.

For more information go to the Pamakid Runners Club Charity Committee Page.

[Author’s Note: I am engaged and did already know that prior to Yvonne’s blog. However, I did not know about her high cholesterol!]


(Contributed by Tomas Palermo, Pamakid member since 2004)

The past few years I’ve volunteered at the Kaiser-Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon: twice as a water coordinator, a few times as course captain, and even as the unofficial team “bag roller” – a private bike shuttle of sorts – taking sweats down to the finish line for our members. Early in 2012 I decided it was finally time to the run the race for the first time. I jokingly refer to it as my “backyard half,” because, well, the starting line is a 5-minute jog from my apartment. I also train on the route the course follows a couple times a week. There was also a slim chance that a few of my neighbors might show up on the Panhandle to cheer. So, I was all in.

Tomas racing at the 2011 Zippy's 5K. Photo by Malinda Walker.

Tomas racing at the 2011 Zippy’s 5K. Photo by Malinda Walker.

Prior to the 2013 KP Half I had a very enjoyable 2012 cross-country racing season with the Pamakids, a 1:26 PR in the half marathon at Humboldt Redwoods, and ran my debut full marathon at the very stormy California International Marathon (CIM) in Sacramento. I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to stay “trained up” to compete seven weeks after the marathon for another half. Turns out I was only half right.

The first two weeks of recovery after CIM were difficult. I had every manner of IT tightness, charley-horse muscle pain, and just plain fatigue. Needless to say, I caught up on a lot of PBS Frontline episodes on the couch. But I bounced back eventually (more like limped back, but you get the idea), and returned to running just in time for Coach Andy’s Saturday morning KP Half training runs at Sports Basement in the Presidio. I really enjoyed participating in these training runs, meeting new runners, and getting the latest Niners news from Raymond “Tower” Yu.

The last Saturday 12-mile training run went well and I felt ready for the half. Still, I had the specter of marathon recovery in the back of mind, so I determined to set a reasonable race goal: 1:27:30. This would be close to a minute off my PR, but I figured I would allow for anything good, or bad, to happen on race day, including those notorious Great Highway winds.

Running out of my apartment door with just my uniform and sweats on race day, I jogged to the starting line with a smile, taking in the pleasure of my neighborhood racecourse. I saw Mike Axinn and other Pamakids during warm up, got a big greeting from Phyllis and heard a fantastic cheer lead by Malinda. Then it was race time. My compadre from Thursday night Spot runs, Drew Lindsey was nearby after the race started, and we ran the first three miles together. After that, I knew I couldn’t hold his pace, but we saw Pamakid long-distance phenom Roy Clark just up ahead; I suggested to Drew that he pace with Roy for a bit. He did, and apparently they both worked off each other’s effort, contributing to a PR race for Drew.

Tomas Palermo running in the 2013 KPSFHM on the Great Highway. Photo by David Ly.

Tomas Palermo running in the 2013 KPSFHM on the Great Highway. Photo by David Ly.

The rest of my race went by quickly. Before I knew it, I was through the downhill section of John F Kennedy Blvd, past the buffalo paddock and cruising on to Great Highway. There was no wind to be felt…but that’s when the race caught up to me. By mile 9 I couldn’t hold an even split, and despite the enthusiastic Pamakid cheers from Tony, Galen, Paul and Jerry, the last three miles were a slog. The last 400 meters heading to the finish I could see the clock and make out that I was close to my goal time. I ran as hard as my legs could manage and just squeaked in: 1:27:23. Phew. Seven seconds to spare.

Afterward I reflected that not every race has to be a banner effort, a huge breakthrough or momentous PR. Some races should be – and, in fact I wish more races were – a chance to compete, enjoy your surroundings, be present and thankful for the ability to just run. This year’s KP Half was that kind of race, and I’m happy it took place in my backyard.

[Editor note: 1) Tomas is the 2012 Most Inspirational runner of  the Year for the Pamakid Runners.]

(Contributed by Mike Axinn, Pamakid member since 2011)

If you haven’t yet, check out Part I.

At some point in 2011, I began running with a colleague from work in the mornings. We lived close to one another off the Panhandle and ran up in the trails near Mount Sutro. He’d discovered the run in a blog by an awesome Master’s runner who had a club that trained weekly at Kezar. I asked him to send me the link.

2013 Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon.

I showed up at Kezar on a Thursday evening and introduced myself to Coach Andy Chan. I don’t remember what the workout was or even how I did. All I knew was that I could still hold my own in the middle of the pack, and it was so nice to be part of this very welcoming group, to banter and commiserate with at the end of a tough series of intervals. I’d done this all through high school and college, and though I reveled in kicking the behinds (and having my own behind kicked) by teammates and rivals alike, the real thing I loved (and missed) was the camaraderie.

In July, I ran in the timed mile at Kezar. A college teammate was up from LA and I invited him to “watch me break 5:30.” He sat in the stands and smiled as I struggled to bring it home in 5:40. “You used to string together 4:30s in practice,” he said at dinner. “You must really still love it.”

I did and I do. With nearly thirty years between now and my last serious race, I’m practically another person. Following that time trial, I agreed to join the club for some cross-country races. I ran with Paul Zager, John Spriggs, and Roy Clark as the 4th man on an awesome team of seniors. I figured I’d run a few races at the most. I ended up running eight and rejoiced at the small improvements I made over the course of the season. By January, I was looking at the other side of five minutes in the 1500 and racing in the PAUSATF road series. All of it on 2-3 days of training, unable to do more due to lingering pain and injuries from the bad old days in college. I wanted to compete again, but my Achilles felt like it was at the breaking point and each race felt like might be my last. In May, I ran the Marin Memorial 10k on fumes, and then stopped training altogether.

Yet I was now a Pamakid, my experiences and ties to the club already so strong, I felt I must do what I could to try and get healthy again. A few teammates (Adam, Tony) had noted some of the times I’d run previously. “We’ve got our eye on you,” they said. That, and the joy and pain of the Tuesday [formerly Thursday] workouts, kept me going.

Fortunately, the profession of sports medicine has come a long way since 1983. In June, I went to see an amazing ART provider (Dr. Jessica Greaux) and an amazing mad scientist of a podiatrist (Dr. Richard Blake). Between them, they addressed mechanical problems in my stride that had led to my original injuries, and helped minimize the pain to the point where I began run three, four then five days a week.

At 52, I’m finding a pattern of improvement I’d thought I’d lost forever and scaring some of the other old geezers who’d been in college when I was. No matter what I did or didn’t do before, and what I might do now, it’s an amazing thing to compete and truly no less exciting than it was before. I am privileged to be part of an amazing group of individuals who race hard, play hard, and contribute generously to the local community.

I think back to when I was 19 and people thought I was doing too much too soon. Now I’m on the other side, and though I missed out on a pretty big chunk of competitive running in those middle years, I’m starting to enjoy the idea of being able to do too much too late.

[Editor notes: 1) The first workout that Mike did at Kezar with Andy Chan was on June 16, 2011 and the workout was 4X400, 4X300, 4×200; 2. In the photo above, Mike is pictured racing the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon, finishing in 1:22:53 and placing 3rd in his age group.]

(Contributed by Mike Axinn, Pamakid member since 2011)

At some point back in the last millennium, in another lifetime, I had a running career. During college, and for a short while after, I was an elite runner: winning races, setting records, and generally taking for granted the idea of stringing sub-five-minute miles for a half marathon, getting close to four minutes in the mile, and doing just about everything else in between.

1983 Continental Homes 10k – A Blurry Vision of Races Past – I’m two left of the middle yellow.

1983 Continental Homes 10k – A Blurry Vision of Races Past – I’m two left of the middle yellow.

My career had a bittersweet end. Within a year of college, I pulled up with an injury. Posterior tibial tendonitis, a diagnosis I’ll not soon forget, complicated by an arthritic tendency, which led the noted orthopedist I went to see in Eugene to advise my giving up any thoughts of ever competing again. My dreams of attaining world-class status and perhaps one day qualifying for the Olympics were over. Still, I’d had a wonderful career: Olympic Trials, Division III National Cross Country Runner Up, and three-time All American. The 2:20 marathon I ran at 19 is still one of the fastest all-time US junior performances, my 14:06 5k is also near the top of the all-time list for D-III. Plenty of laurels to remind me I once had a running existence, but without the ability to move on to even greater heights, I had no reason to ever want to compete again.

So I moved on. Career, marriage, kids; all took their proper place as the focus of my life. Running became something I did once a week. I could still bang out 6 or 7 miles on a Sunday, and I liked to run at least that far to allow the familiar exertion-exhaustion to kick in. Once in a while, I’d jump on the track and see how close to five minutes I could do for a mile. And yet as that marker grew dimmer with each passing decade, I knew it didn’t matter. Kids, work, and sleep all took precedence in a typical week. I had a nice little route up in Tilden on those Sundays. I hadn’t really put on too much weight and I could still break a sweat. I was content.

Then a few years ago, we moved to San Francisco. Our oldest daughter was now in college and the youngest in high school. A college teammate had convinced me to run Bay to Breakers. I added a few extra days to my Sunday routine, plus a few track workouts so as not to embarrass myself. And so my old teammate and I ran together for the first few miles, dodging the costumed revelers and butt-naked fools I wouldn’t have even seen in former days. At some point, we lost touch with one other. Thinking he’d gone ahead, I began to run faster. But I didn’t see him again until he crossed the finish line, six minutes behind me. I’d run 53 minutes and I felt pretty good about it. I even looked myself up in the results to see where I’d finished among my age-group peers.

My excitement was tempered by a slight embarrassment about showing up my friend. We’d agreed to run together and I’d been a particularly bad host by kicking his ass. Plus, I wasn’t at all sure I wanted or needed to be running competitively again. The fact that I would never in my life be able to run a PR had always led me to dismiss any thoughts about running competitively again. What could I possibly want or need to prove? I went back to my routine of once a week running.

[Part II]

[Editor notes: 1) The 53 minutes run at Bay to Breakers was in 2011; 2) According to Track and Field News, Mike currently holds the 6th fastest marathon time in the U.S. run by a male junior with a 2:20:28 time, which was run on December 1, 1979.]

(contributed by Yvonne Ou)

Justin chasing Yvonne at the Tamalpa XC race in 2011.

Justin chasing Yvonne at the Tamalpa XC race in 2011. (photo by Malinda Walker)

the last few months have been exciting (if not bone breaking) thus far: justin asked me to marry him (wait, did i just come out to the pamakids on the soonar or later blog?), i fractured my fibula during the cooldown after betty cunneen’s bench dedication and MLK workout around lake merced, and during an annual exam i requested a cholesterol check and discovered my donut-eating ways may be catching up with me after all. while i don’t run nearly as much as i used to (2 days max per week), and some have suggested running is bad for me (see above re: recent fracture), i still exercise almost 6 days a week and ride my bike to and from work. not only that, but justin and i follow what i thought was a fairly healthy diet — we don’t cook meat at home, so most of our home-cooked meals are full of goodies like whole grains, kale, chard, beans, occasionally fish, and wine. wine is supposed to be good for your cholesterol, right? ok, so maybe the daily baked goods and chocolate to satisfy my sweet tooth take a toll. and i admit, i enjoy a high-fat, high-calorie restaurant meal and super bowl sunday gluttony too. but seriously, how can i have high cholesterol — i’m a runner!

this is not the first time my cholesterol has been high. i had my cholesterol checked during medical school prior to starting a medication. it was high then, but my doctor thought i ate too much shrimp and didn’t seem concerned. after all, i was a marathon runner back then. if memory serves me right, the cholesterol did come down the next time it was checked. both of my parents are on statins, so could genes be playing a role? as long as one doesn’t experience side effects, i’ve often joked that statins should be in our drinking water. but when faced with the option of taking a medication vs. making lifestyle changes, i’ll gladly sign up for the latter. when i googled “diet changes to lower cholesterol” and read the harvard heart letter recommendations, i realized i’d already incorporated a lot of the foods. so now i’m considering going on an actual “diet” to lower my cholesterol. i’ve never done a regimented “diet,” but maybe now i have the motivation to actually GET IT DONE. so this first blog post poses these questions: have you had your cholesterol recently checked (recommendations are that adults over age 20 have it checked every 5 years)? which diet would you recommend (i’m considering the ornish, TLC, and engine 2 diets)? perhaps our resident pamakid nutritionist and soonar or later blog editor will weigh in, but i’d love to hear any comments — especially from vegans — please feel free to post below. i love to cook, so will share some heart-healthy recipes that are pamakid-tested as i go along and attempt to lower my cholesterol — my plan is to get it rechecked in 3 months.

my cholesterol as of feb 6, 2013
total cholesterol: 220 mg/dL; suggests borderline cardiovascular risk
triglycerides: 81 mg/dL; desirable
HDL cholesterol: 55 mg/dL; acceptable
LDL cholesterol: 149 mg/dL; suggests borderline cardiovascular risk

John and Yvonne cheering on the runners at the PAUSATF XC Champs in Golden Gate Park in 2012.

John and Yvonne cheering on the runners at the PAUSATF XC Champs in Golden Gate Park in 2012. (photo by Malinda Walker)

Response from John Gieng:

First off, congratulations to you and Justin!

Diet-wise, you said you already follow many of the recommendations in the Harvard Heart Letter. Additionally, you a fairly active person despite being injured and not running much. These are good things and may indicate that your lipid numbers aren’t as bad as they seem.

According to experts, the desirable blood lipid profile:
Total cholesterol: <200 mg/dL
Triglycerides: <150 mg/dL
HDL cholesterol: >60 mg/dL
LDL cholesterol: <100 mg/dL

Just some facts: Everyone has their own set-point so comparing your values to a standard cutoff or range is moot. Your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol are high and close to borderline cardiovascular disease risk. Your HDL is good indicating decreased cardiovascular risk. One thing to know about total cholesterol is that it is notoriously a bad stand alone indicator of cardiovascular disease risk. What you really need to monitor is changes in total cholesterol over time. Second, LDL cholesterol actually includes a spectrum of varying size sub-particle classes. It’s possible that your LDL comprises mostly large-buoyant particles and less small dense particles. This pattern is associated with good health despite high total or LDL cholesterol. Together with the lipid profile, you should also have a look at your fasting blood glucose and hsCRP (inflammatory marker). If these two indicators are out of desirable range (70-92 mg/dL for glucose and ❤ mg/dl for hsCRP), then likely your high lipid indicators are of concern.

In regards to dietary recommendations, there are multiple one’s that have shown a benefit in regards to improving your blood lipid profile. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have shown that in a weight loss situation, it isn’t the macro-nutrient composition (carbs, proteins, and fats) that make the difference in effectiveness to lower cholesterol. This suggests that reducing energy consumption alone by 10-20% may be effective. If eating less isn’t your style, I would definitely recommend reducing the amount of vegetable-based oils (like canola, corn, and soy) and the products that use them (lot’s of the pre-packaged processed food) and increasing the healthy omega 3-fats, especially from cold water fish or algae sources. Two other nutrients I recommend are vitamin D (supplement if you’re not in the sun 30+ minutes/day) and magnesium (think green leafy stuff). All of these items will boost your energy metabolism and immunity, which are both critical to normalize blood lipid levels. Lastly, that glass of wine most certainly has been shown to be of cardiovascular benefit. Keep up the good work and good luck!


(re-posted with permission from Anna Kurtz of Accelerate Running)

For the past few years, my partner’s younger daughter Maeve has tagged along for one of our running club’s annual traditions. The Pamakid Runners have put on a half marathon in San Francisco since 1983–celebrating its 30th! birthday this year as the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon on Super Bowl Sunday.

A ton of work goes into putting on the race, and there are club members who spend hours in the weeks and months leading up to race weekend figuring out the logistics and making it happen. The big group volunteer activity, though, is stuffing hundreds–thousands–of race goody bags on the Saturday before the race. This is an assembly line like you’ve never seen. Paper cuts abound. Tedious, maybe a bit–but not when you’re next to great running friends figuring out quirky ways to pass the time (watch out for flying mini Clif bars.) It’s also worth it when you consider that your work is for 10,000 runners who will toe the starting line the following morning.

Last year, Maeve, her dad and I went together to stuff goody bags. Ahead of time we talked about how we were “going to volunteer” for the Pamakids. She asked me, what’s a volunteer? I explained that volunteering means helping with a task, without getting paid; that it is offering to help make something better for other people. Over the past year volunteering has come up a few times in conversation, and she always mentions the Pamakids. For Maeve, the club is associated with that act of doing good. Nice lesson for a club meant for “Pa, Ma, and the Kids” to teach a five year old.

Thanks to all of the runners, club members and other volunteers who made this year’s race happen! (As for Maeve, she has joined her sister in attending school on Saturdays, meaning we both missed out. Next up, Rites of Spring?)