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Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon and 5K

(Contributed by Steve Lloyd. Steve joined the Pamakid Runners in June 2010 after his brother in law convinced him it was the best running club in the Bay Area.)

I still haven’t seen the leaders.

This wasn’t my first time running down the seemingly endless Great Highway, eager to hit the turnaround just before the ten mile mark of the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon. In previous years, I was always stunned by how early I saw the leaders on their return trip. But here I was, well past the nine mile mark, and the other side of the road was still empty.

By the time they finally went by, the turn was in sight. First, a lead pack of three just beginning to break up. Four, five, six, and seven were strung out, then a gap. Eight and nine rolled by as my pack of five was about 100 yards from the turn.

We’re fighting for 10th place.

I immediately dropped the pace to the low 5:20s and left my pack behind. I didn’t really think about the fact that there was still 5k to go, and six weeks earlier I had only been able to manage 5:27/mi for a 5k time trial. Or that I was about to hit ten miles almost 2:30 faster than I had in my 1:16:30 half marathon PR from 2011, when I faded hard in the sun on a tough grind back in to the finish. Or that there were at least ten guys within striking distance of me if I ran out of gas.

If I was thinking anything, it was that there was a reason why I titled my pre-race shakeout run ‘Countdown to #BEASTMODE’. That yes, my goal of 1:14:59 was being conservative, or ‘sandbagging’ as a couple fellow Pamakids might say. That I had been running aggressively since the first mile with thoughts of a top ten finish in the back of my mind. I was in unknown territory, but confident that my training would carry me to the finish.

The rest of the race was a blur. By the time I made the last turn onto JFK I was in 9th, and I passed two more guys going up the hill to hit the line in 7th overall with a 4+ minute PR of 1:12:13. My last 5k took 16:53, three seconds faster than my 5k time trial six weeks earlier. The most common word I heard others use to describe my race was ‘unbelievable’.

At the finish.

At the finish.

So how did that happen?

I have no training secrets. I post every single run publicly on Strava (Disclaimer: I am employed by Strava, Inc.). Every run, from my fastest workouts to my ugliest bonks, is online for the world to see. Here’s a view of my training in the lead up to the race:

January Training

January Training

More Volume, Fewer Workouts

I’ve recently been experimenting with higher mileage and less frequent workouts. In the past, my volume would generally range from 50-60 miles per week, with two workouts and one long run each week. In this training cycle, I pushed my mileage up to 75, but rarely had more than two harder efforts (one workout, one long run) in a week. The extra recovery has also allowed me to run my long runs a little harder. It takes me a little longer to get fit with this strategy, but it has paid off tremendously with late race strength. This was the first half marathon I have ever run where I actually felt like I was racing in the closing miles.

Race-Specific Workouts

I have a tempo loop in Golden Gate Park that I run at half marathon effort about once a month. These tempo runs have helped build up confidence that I can really push the pace on the downhill sections through the park. Two weeks before race day, I ran half marathon effort from Stanyan to Great Highway on JFK as part of a workout.  My three miles going downhill were 5:33, 5:17, and 5:19. On race day I hit those same miles in 5:26, 5:14, and 5:14, confident that I could attack the downhill without costing myself later on.

Stroller Resistance Training

“Beach and Back with Kaia” is my staple Sunday recovery 10 miler pushing my daughter Kaia in the baby jogger. I’ve yet to average under seven minute pace with the stroller, but I’m starting to get close. It’s hard, but it makes running without the stroller seem that much easier.

What’s Next

I’m currently forcing myself to run short and easy to recover from the half marathon before kicking my Boston Marathon training into gear. Boston is only 10 weeks out, and it’s tempting to try to really push my training even harder, but I know that I’m already in shape for a big PR. The important part is getting to the starting line at 100%, and I can let Beast Mode take over after that.

(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 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.]

(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?)

(contributed by Ashley Rodwick)

Whether you are running to reach a goal, visit with friends, or try something new, know that your participation reaches beyond the finish line at Golden Gate Park—it supports worthy non-profit organizations that work very hard to make our community a better place for those in need. Giving back is important to the Pamakid Runners, so important that it is included in our mission statement:

“to promote a healthy lifestyle, support the running community and charitable causes by organizing, volunteering, and participating in running related and social events in the San Francisco Bay Area”

Every year, the proceeds from the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon and 5K Fun Run are given back into the community through donations to several local charities throughout the year. But most significantly, the race features 4 primary beneficiaries who will receive nearly $20,000 each.

So as you wash down that last PowerBar, retie your shoes, check your watch and think about your goal time, remember all the great things Sunday’s race stands for.  I know I will:

Meals on Wheels of San Francisco believes that all seniors have the right to live independently with dignity and respect in their own homes for as long as it is safely possible. For 40 years, it has been their mission to provide homebound seniors in San Francisco nutritious meals, daily human contact and supportive services.

Support for Families of Children with Disabilities  ensures that families of children with any kind of disability or special health care need have the knowledge and support to care for their children’s development and well being. They offer information, education, and parent-to-parent support free of charge to families in San Francisco.

Salvation Army Harbor Lighthouse has been providing comprehensive chemical dependency treatment for men, women, and families, has been successfully serving the San Francisco bay area for over 70 years. Through a program of progressive care, education, workforce development, and personal development, they transform people’s lives.

Family House is a non-profit guest house providing temporary housing to families of patients at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. As a home away from home for families of children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, they provide physical comfort and emotional support, free from financial concerns.