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Monthly Archives: March 2013

(Contributed by Felix Tong, Pamakid member since 2012)

Canyon Meadows race day began with the most dreaded part of my race day ritual: waking up. At 6:00am, the alarm goes off and my first thought is, “Ugh!  It’s a weekend, what am I doing?!!!”  I struggle out of bed, clean up, eat a small snack, and put on my Pamakids singlet; the adrenaline starts to wake me up. I finish packing up whatever I will need for race day and food for the potluck.  Somehow, no matter how much time I set aside for my morning race day ritual, it’s never enough, I think, as I rush out the door.

While driving to Redwood Regional Park I play a game of “Who’s heading to the race,” which I am the defending world champion at. As my fellow racers and I enter the park, it soon dawns on all of us that we should have left a bit earlier because the parking lot is full, and we’re forced to turn around to park outside the Park. Exiting the car, the 39 degree ambient temperature hits me, along with the realization that I’m a mile away from the start, and despite leaving 20 minutes earlier than Google Maps told me to leave, I’m running late! Did I mention that it’s the weekend and who tortures themselves on a weekend? As I approach the start line, I see the Pamakids tent and my fellow Pamakids, and a smile comes across my face.  Gametime.

CTR Canyon Meadow Half Marathon elevation profile. From http://www.coastaltrailruns.com.

It’s a little known fact that all trail races are required to have a thousand foot elevation gain in the first mile, this race is no exception. If I was cold at the start of the race, I no longer remember that fact 10 minutes in. As the initial climb levels out, I start to enjoy the scenery.  It’s a perfect running day: cool crisp air, sun shining down and amazing views. I start encountering Pamakids as my legs recover from the incline, I chat with some, give them a thumbs up, or just a quick “Go Green.”  I realize that most of them are doing the ultramarathon and am amazed at their high spirits. They’re smiling and have a bounce in their step. When I run, I like to countdown the mileage (13, 12….6, 5, 4…). I cannot even imagine what it would be like to count down from 31 miles, my legs are shutting down just thinking about it, but somehow these ultra running Pamakids make it seem like it I am missing out on something nirvanic. Maybe I need to give this utlra running a try.

I start to speed up the second half of the race, which just happens to coincide with the downhill portion. I pass by the first aid stations and as a result pass up about 20 runners.  My secret weapon has paid off, a water bottle and a packet of Gu, no need to stop. As I pass, I hear the volunteers chatting it up and giving encouragement along with some yummy gummy bears to those who stopped. The camaraderie, banter and food make me wish I hadn’t prepared so thoroughly.

A little further along, the trail begins to narrow until it becomes a single track. I tell myself to be careful here since it is not just narrow but also very steep. The lack of rain this winter has provided the perfect conditions for an early exit from the race. The runner just in front of me, slips and comes up with a few scratches. Another runner and I help him up and check to see if he’s okay before we continue. As the trail steepens and my fellow good samaritan slows, she offers to let me pass, but I politely refuse as I’ve been doing everything in my ability just to keep up, although I keep this fact to myself. As the trail opens up, a second aid station appears. Remembering how great the snacks were at the first stop I debate stopping, but my legs rebel, wanting to end the suffering sooner rather than later. My legs win this debate and I forgo the second aid station.

At mile 10, I hear the race announcer and check my Garmin hoping I can eat soon, as I’ve gotten quite hungry. No luck, there must be one more loop.  As I approach the finish line, Thang Ta is taking photos of everyone in the race and is encouraging everyone to “bring it in strong.”  This embarrasses me into a painful finishing kick on what was supposed to be a mellow training run. As I finish, I realize that the marathoners need to re-run the the steep incline that started my race and I’m thankful I won’t be needing to do it again. Then I realize the ultra runners actually need to do the mountain climb a total of three climbs. I’m really glad I’m not them.

Felix nearing the finish of the half marathon. Photo by Thang Ta.

Felix nearing the finish of the half marathon. Photo by Thang Ta.

By the finish, the amazing weather was equaled only by the amazing Pamakids potluck spread, that I am told is the most famous in all the universe.  While enjoying the complimentary beer with my quinoa chili I had the opportunity to rehash race stories with my fellow Pamakids, and to cheer on our marathon and ultramarathon teammates.  It’s not often that the Pamakid ultra-runners will be at the same event as those running more sane distances, so I’m sure it was fun to have so much support as they came into the main aid station.  Leaving the aid station, I was again struck at how the Pamakids ultra runners were full of smiles and pep, which made me feel like maybe I need to check out this ultra thing — there must be something to it if you can do three monstrous hill climbs and still be cheerful before each one.  Overall, it was a great day of running, eating and socializing, well worth waking up before sunrise on a Sunday morning.

[Editor’s Note: The Canyon Meadow trail runs, put on by Coastal Trail Runs, took place on Sunday, March 24, 2013 in Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, CA. Approximately 35 Pamakids participated in events ranging from 5 miles up to 50 kilometers.]

(Contributed by George Rehmet, Pamakid member since 1999)

For all those new members, you may have seen my name on the “Racing Teams” web page. I rebooted the racing teams at the turn of the millennium when I joined the club, served on the Board of Directors, and was newsletter editor for the hard copy version of the award-winning Soonar Soundings. Currently, I serve as the state representative for the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). But you might also know me as the guy who runs all these marathons.

I’m in the starting area of the Oakland Marathon, which I have run each year since it started. I used to work in Oakland as a teacher for nearly 15 years. It was tough. When I tell people, I usually get the comment that I survived combat. Even though I now teach in the West Bay, I still have a love for Oakland — there is something about the grittiness and toughness of Oakland.

When I heard that Oakland was going to have a marathon in 2010, I knew that it would be a good thing for a city that has suffered so much. It’s a chance to help the place that got me started and the place where I still have friends. With the latter, I love that I literally run into so many people whom I know whether as a Pamakid or as RRCA State Representative.

But back to the starting line, I see newly-minted Pamakid Chris Jones shout out, “Hey, George!” I look and he takes my picture. It’s my 5th marathon or ultra in a span of 6 weeks.  I’m ready to take a break after this race. But I’m amazed that for Chris, it will be his 8th marathon in 9 days.

Boom! The race starts and we take a zigzag route through downtown. Up ahead is another new Pamakid, Riya Suising. She, Chris, and I run with each other for a couple of miles until I take my first walk break. I tell them to have fun. I find that walk breaks allow me to maintain fresh legs for longer.

Running down College Ave., in the Rockridge District.

Running down College Ave., in the Rockridge District. Photo by Chris Jones.

I make my way up to the Rockridge district. In a span of 2 miles, I encounter more Pamakids. Tony Rossmann, a course monitor, greets me with a huge smile. As I leave him, I hear 2 runners behind me:

“Dude, did you see his Western States 100 mile buckle?”

“I think it was under 24 hours.”

“Cool!”

As I chuckle under my breath, I hear “Hey Pamakid!” I look around and see some guy I don’t recognize. He says, “You must be George. I’m Ace Ewing and I’m going to join the Pamakids ultra team!” I tell him that he will really enjoy Pamakids. Ace continues ahead as I stick to my pace. Thinking about seeing these new club members, I exclaim to myself: “What did I hatch!?!”

As I’m running, I see banners of Monica Zhuang on the lampposts. Then I’m taken aback at mile 6 when the real Monica, who is waiting for her relay teammate, cheers for me.

The next mile is uphill to Lake Temescal. The sun is in my eyes and I’m a little winded. I think I see Heather Johnson who I know is a course monitor here but I can’t tell from the silhouette. And she may not see me because I’m in with a pack of runners. I just have to move on.

At an aid station at mile 17 manned by the SF Road Runners.

At an aid station at mile 17 manned by the SF Road Runners. Photo by Bailey Penzotti.

The rest of the race goes by without seeing other Pamakids except for the “banner” Monicas. I see other folks I know from other running clubs. I savor these interactions, the city’s diversity, my memories, and the challenge of the course. I cross the finish line of my 91st marathon or longer race in 3:42. Thankful.

But what stood out in this race? As I go past each intersection, I thank the course monitors and the police officers. In return, they sincerely thank me for racing in Oakland. And that’s a big reason why I run Oakland because the community (way more so than San Francisco) is so grateful for an event that, for a day, wipes out all the negativity that’s associated with this city.

(Contributed by Danielle Bisho Jones, Pamakid member since 2006)

The Tenderloin. I’m down there at least weekly for my job, doing home visits. Driving or walking almost every street in this neighborhood, I see lots of people hanging out-alone, in groups, sitting, sleeping, talking to themselves, doing drugs, dealing drugs, you name it! I bring this up because I had the opportunity to go down there at night and witness the same activities, and more notably, the same amount of people. What’s my point? These people, who I pass by during the day, are there all day and all night. They don’t have a place to cook dinner or a warm bed to sleep in. They are homeless.

Jerry in fashion safety yellow. Photo by Noe.

Jerry in fashion safety yellow. Photo by Noe.

Just realizing the severity of San Francisco’s homeless problem made my experience of volunteering with the Salvation Army Harbor Light Center, worthwhile. But, being able to do this with my fellow Pamakids made it a sincerely positive experience. Groups of three to five traveled with a Salvation Army leader to various neighborhoods throughout the city: South of Market, Civic Center, and Haight Street to name a few. We passed out sandwiches, juices, granola bars, and the hot commodity of the evening (due to the day’s rain), was socks! Phyllis Nabhan, Danielle Hashem, and I had a unique experience of literally being swarmed by people in need of those items. We had to regroup several times by redirecting people to stay on the sidewalk and calm them down by trying to ensure them that they would receive something. At times it was intimidating, but in retrospect it shows how truly desperate these people are…for even juice. Most people expressed great appreciation for not only the items we passed out, but also for just chatting with them and asking how their night was going. The fact that we stuck around for a while, even after the food was gone, shows that Salvation Army Harbor Light Center is more than just giving tangible things; they make a connection with the individual.

We reconvened back at the Center and it was interesting to hear Pamakids’ experiences based on what neighborhood they went to. Ask someone who volunteered and they can share their story, which I hope encourages you to come out the next time we do this.

Our club has volunteered for running related events for years and years, but more recently because of our enthusiastic and creative charity committee, we are expanding our volunteer opportunities to non-running related causes. I feel very lucky to not only be running with Pamakids but also relating with members (new and old), doing non-running activities, which also make a positive impact on our community! Pamakid Runners Club is so dynamic and for that, we are the best club ever!

(Contributed by Akemi Iizuka, Pamakid member since Feb 2013)

As a child growing up in Tokyo, I dreadfully remember the physical fitness competitions in elementary and junior high school. I tried to find excuses to skip class when races were scheduled.  The Japanese school system is notably competitive. I was competitive in most things, and I enjoyed academic success among my peers. However, when it was time to line up for a race, I always finished last.

There was a dissatisfaction I associated with athletic competition. At least with academic competition, I felt it was possible to achieve seemingly unreachable goals by pushing through challenges with study and hard work. On the other hand, athletic endeavors were hinged more on natural and innate abilities. Students at this age did not train for physical fitness. You either had ability, or you did not.

Then came the aerobics craze in the 80s after college. Suddenly working out became part of my daily habit, not to mention the fun fashion associated with it :). That was my introduction to daily fitness.  Since then, I don’t remember missing a single day of working out for over 25 years (including travel, vacations, etc.). I distinctly remember one New Year’s Eve in Paris to celebrate the Millennium, and desperately seeking to find a gym just to ensure I got my workout in that day. As time was running out before the millennium, I had to resort to repeatedly running hotel stairs. Since my move to the US some 20+ years ago, my typical workout has been constrained to the gym with weight training and something aerobic, generally a treadmill or Stairmaster.

When I met Brian four years ago, he encouraged me to run outdoors. Only within the past few months have I started having an interest in running outdoors instead of the never changing 30 minutes on the treadmill.

Brian had been encouraging me to run a half for a long time, but again, I didn’t picture myself doing it. I didn’t believe in myself. After participating in a few short DSE races, I signed up for the KP Half three weeks before the race. I trained over the weekends with Pamakids before the race. It was my first experience running with other runners and I enjoyed it very much.

My goal for the Kaiser Half was to be able to finish. I didn’t even think about my time. Brian (somewhat randomly) submitted my estimated finish time of 1:54 to Andy.  I still don’t know how to look at my time/pace and don’t know how to answer the question when someone asks, “what’s your pace?” I just try to focus on my breathing, and not going too fast.

Akemi (R) running with Joanna (L) on the Great Highway at the 2013 KPSFHM.

Akemi (L) running with Joanna (R) on the Great Highway at the 2013 KPSFHM. Photo by Diane Okubo-Fong.

During the race, Joanna Luk kindly ran with me and informed me of our pace throughout the race.  Knowing someone was pacing me was a huge help for my first half. Not only was I able to finish it, but it also helped ensure it was a pleasant experience. Joanna paced me to a precise finish time of 1:54.

Today, I still find it is amusing that I am a member of a running club/racing team. Ironically, my father was an accomplished short distance runner. He passed away just a few years ago, but he would have been very surprised and proud of my accomplishment. On the other hand, when I shared my accomplishment with my mom recently, she takes the predictable “motherly” approach. Her reaction was only with concern about caution of exposure to sun damage to my skin. Life is funny, the predictable…as well as the certainty of the unpredictable. Me? On a racing team? That must be some kind of a joke! That is how childhood friends in Japan jokingly react.

(Contributed by Tan Nguyen, Pamakid member since 2008)

Unless you’re exclusively running and racing short distances, chances are you’ve consumed many-a gels, chews, water, electrolyte drinks and tabs, cookies, chips, candy, bacon or what have you, to keep your energy levels high enough to get you across that finish line. (Although, there has been a time when I’ve stopped and gotten water in the middle of a 4-mile XC race…don’t judge, I guess I’m just programmed to stop when I see a table with water). I’ve also been unfortunate enough to not be blessed with an iron stomach so choosing the right fuel and fueling at the right times has been just as difficult as running the ultramarathon distances themselves.

What gels taste the best? Which one offers more? How about salt tabs? Does one contain more sodium and potassium than the other? How about electrolyte drinks? Is Gatorade no longer acceptable?

Who knows? I don’t, and honestly, I may never know. But after countless races and training runs of vomiting up my gels, having upset stomachs from sports drinks, or having salt tabs the size of a horse pill stuck sideways in my throat, I finally came across something that worked for me.

Tailwind Nutrition. Photo by Tan.

Tailwind Nutrition. Photo by Tan.

Developed by endurance athletes who have also dealt with GI issues, Tailwind’s recent claim is it’s “All you need, all day. Really.”

Each serving (1 scoop with provided scooper) contains 303mg of sodium, 88mg of potassium, 25g of total carbs, 26mg of Calcium, and 14mg of Magnesium. One bottle per hour takes care of my nutritional/fueling needs for a 50k. I would like to state it would last beyond that, but haven’t tried it yet. I used it at the Dick Collins Firetrails 50-Mile, but miscalculated the amount I needed so I ran out before the race ended. Around mile 35, I started tanking because all I had for the 6 prior miles was just water and the Tailwind residue that was in my bottle. But for the first 35 miles, I felt great.

The company offers a “Tailwind Challenge” where you buy four large bags (50 servings each). Let them know what race you’ll be using it for. You train with it, and race with it and if it doesn’t “blow you away,” they’ll reimburse your race entry fee up to $150! That’s standing behind your product. If you’re not ready to take the Tailwind Challenge, they also offer 15% off their products if you like them on Facebook. Check them out at www.tailwindnutrition.com.

Now it’s all I use on runs longer than 2 hours. I’ll still carry a gel or two, in case, but lately it’s been to help other runners who haven’t found Tailwind yet.