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Race Report

(Contributed by Chuck Amital, Pamakid member since 2009)

The short answer is “pretty thin,” although if you run long enough, you could almost pretend that you’ve gotten used to not having enough air to breathe.

You couldn’t say that we hadn’t been warned about this race. Some teammates who ran it last year had these things to say about it:

“A sublime hell on earth!”

“Up, around, down, up, down!”

“Peavine, the biggest little climb in the world… or at least Reno.”

“Did not start…damn you’re smart.”

And perhaps the most prosaic:

“Flat? No. Air? No. Re? No.”

However, some of those very same teammates were running again this year. So, it really couldn’t be all that bad, could it?

Silver State 50/50 Pamakid Runners crew. (photo credit: Eduardo V.)

Silver State 50/50 Pamakid Runners crew. (photo credit: Eduardo V.)

William, Erica and I made our way together to Reno, where we were going to meet Denise, John G., Kelly, Kyria, and Tower. When we took a break in Auburn, I got a text message, “Ohlone cancelled. No reason given other than park issue.” I was hoping that was an omen that we had chosen the right race to run that weekend. We posted an invitation to our teammates, who could no longer run Ohlone, to join us in Reno. Helen took up the challenge on her own, thus completing a mixed 50k team. (We had men’s and women’s teams for the 50M.)

As we approached Donner Pass, light rain turned to light snow, which was also gathering on the trees. When we arrived at the local pizza place in Reno to pick up our race packets, we were greeted by cold weather and more light rain. We were told that runners who were marking the course reported that there was snow on Peavine Summit (elevation 7800 feet), which meant that there would be mud. We went to sleep wondering how cold and wet it would actually be on the following day.

The following day dawned with as close to ideal conditions as it gets: Cold, but not overly so (50s). Overcast skies, but no sign of rain, or of snow, thankfully!

At 7:00 a.m., the 50-milers among us started to make our way up the hill to Peavine, some 12 miles and a 3200-foot climb away. The elevation at the starting line was 4600 feet.

You know how trail races are mostly about going uphill only in order to go down again? Or about going downhill only in order to up again? Well, this race was no different. We climbed. A lot. We gave back any elevation gained on the descent. We went downhill. A lot. And so it went.

Peavine really was the climb that went on forever — from 4800 feet to 7800 feet — on the way out to the turnaround, but more, especially on the way back from the turnaround. You know how there’s always someone at a race who says, “It’s all downhill from here?” Well, that’s what “they” said when the 50-milers crested Peavine again, with 11 miles to go. Sure, it was net downhill, with quite a few rollers thrown in for good measure. “They” were really going to make us work to make it to the finish!

These races always look so much easier to me on paper, as I sit in the comfort of my home, by my computer, trying to prepare myself, mentally and logistically, for the distances between aid stations, elevation gain or loss, etc. I forget that “the map is not the territory,” and that no matter what distance I’m running, I always start at “Mile 0.” There are no shortcuts, and it doesn’t necessarily get easier with time, but perhaps that’s just because with each successive race I’m able to push myself a bit more.

“Was it fun?” you might ask. For the most part, except for those few “dark moments” that weren’t so fun. (Can you say “long slow slog from the turnaround to Peavine?” And “long slog back from Peavine to the finish?”) Fortunately for me, the off-hand comment that I made to a man volunteering at the aid station at mile 44, “Are you going to pace me to the finish?”, yielded the response of “No, but she will.” And he pointed to a woman who had run in to volunteer at the aid station (and whom I subsequently discovered was a very accomplished ultrarunner!).

“Was it scenic?” you might ask. If you like the high desert, you were in for a real treat.

“Would you do it again?” you might ask. In a heartbeat! Those of us who ran that day might not have felt it at the time, but hopefully, the R.E.M. song, “All the Way to Reno,” captures how we feel when we look back on the experience. (Thanks Denise.) But don’t take my word for it, check the course out next year. Here’s the song to inspire:

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(Contributed by Anthony McGrath, Pamakid member since 2010)

“Don’t call it a comeback, I been here for years!” –LL Cool J, Mama Said Knock You Out (1991)

It’s been quite a journey to get back to this place, picking up where I left off as a Masters runner while I got a bit smarter in the process.  This LL Cool J track has been my unofficial theme song as I recovered from surgery and began a rehab process that got me to the start line of the Reach for A Star 5K in Brisbane. This is my journey from July 2014 until now. Hopefully I can offer some tips I’ve learned along the way.

Oh my hips! Or is it my groin?

After a busy spring of racing in 2013 I started feeling shooting pain in my hip flexors that radiated into my adductor (groin) area. I tried rest and home remedies, but the symptoms persisted. I couldn’t  run more than 20 miles a week before the pain started, making the days and nights miserable. After about 9 months of this, I became proactive and got some steroid injections that helped to diagnose the origin of the problem — the effectiveness of the injections ruled out the hip labral tears an MRI had indicated.  I found Dr. William Brown in Fremont who specializes in adductor repair.  On July 19, 2014 he repaired both adductors with outpatient surgery. My rehab began in earnest two weeks later.

Rehab and Clean Up

Tony 1

I lucked out and found great PT at Therapydia here in San Francisco. Lindsay Haas built me back up and focused on strengthening my hips and glutes. I zeroed in on my running form, what was wrong with it, what was right, and what could use some help. It’s important to look at your form, especially as you get older. Wear and tear can be worsened by over reliance on certain muscles (in my case the adductors) and under reliance on others (usually glutes in runners–and I was no exception). I encourage you (yes you!) to have your form evaluated and see if it can be “cleaned up” to maximize efficiency and minimize over reliance on muscle groups that aren’t designed to carry the full load.

Cross-training and making friends with the Treadmill (boo!)

One thing in my favor during my injury woes was cross-training.  Cardio-Tone is near my house and offers spinning, TRX, core and more! I could spin to my heart’s content during this injury, so I became a dedicated spinner. Shannon Boughn made sure I wasn’t sandbagging and I got some great workouts under her guidance. I still incorporate spinning twice a week in my training regimen and is a secret weapon when used as active recovery. As I ramped up the training, I started to incorporate treadmill running. It’s a great way to get in the miles without too much pounding. You have more control over pace and it’s a great place to focus on your form. I have some great recommendations for podcasts now that I get on the treadmill twice a week.

Tony 2

Race Time

I had a good build up over the winter and was ready to test my fitness against the PA’s finest at the Reach for A Star 5K (formerly Zippy) in sleepy Brisbane. 5Ks are over before you know it, so with that in mind, I decided to pace aggressively for the first mile and let the chips fall where they may. Shortly after mile 1, the first woman caught up to me. I had raced her before, the formidable Kris Paaso of Strava Racing Club (formerly NB Silicon Valley). She and I duked it out for the next 1.5 miles. She really made my race. I was able to gap her in the last 800 but she was right on my tail the whole way!  My chip time was 17:01 which is a road 5K PR for me.

Tony 3

The Road Ahead

I’m happy to get the “Don’t call it a comeback” race over with, and I’m looking forward to a great year of racing on the PA circuit for both road and cross-country. We have quite a group of talented Masters Male runners and we hope to build on the success of what the Masters Women achieved in 2014. Everyone has a role to play and contributions, large and small, are made by Pamakids like me and you. I’m proud to be part of a “big-tent” inclusive club like Pamakids and also want to inspire my fellow Pamakids to be the best runners they can be. Follow me on Twitter @runtony67 as we have a great 2015! Go Green!

(Contributed by George Durgerian)

Braving Friday rush hour traffic, Fiona dragged both 13 year-old Anya and slightly older me a full four hours up to Redding (“The Jewel of Northern California,” per Wikipedia).  The epic journey for a race most would finish in 1/8th of total travel time included a novel 3-in-one dining experience at a Franchise trifecta of an Arco Am/PM, Baskin Robbins and Togo’s.  No better night-before meal than that!

The Mighty Sacramento

The Mighty Sacramento

Arriving at the retro-chic Thunderbird Motel (“Jewel of Pine Street” per the owners) we enjoyed a late-night symphony of trains, food chains and automobiles, before enjoying the long, sweet sleep you get when a race has a 10:00 a.m. start time.

Mighty Captain Dennis

Mighty Captain Dennis

Heading out the next morning, we noticed a stainless steel bowl laden with drying chili peppers the owners put out for their evening meal.  That cool bit of culture was chilled by the noon check-out time.   Dreading a return trip with an hour’s worth of runners’ aroma, I vowed to finish the full ten miles in less than 90 minutes.  Ambitious, yes, but worth the effort.

The Mighty Captain Monica

The Mighty Captain Monica

There was a nice atmosphere about the place, with friendly locals and kids everywhere. The race started below a 100-foot tall railroad trestle, a pedestrian bridge and a auto bridge, all crossing the mighty Sacramento River. The gently rolling path followed the river, crossed yet another bridge, and returned.

The Mighty Green

The Mighty Green

Dennis, David Ly, Bill Wheeler and Mike Axinn made up the core of the men’s team, teeming with actual running skills and stamina (as opposed to their 5th member), and finished very well.  The strong, swift women’s team of Louise, Riya, Monica H., Fiona and Anya also finished quite well.  After gaining consciousness, I joined the family, rushed to that shower, and gathered with the entire team at the Lumberjacks’ Restaurant, “Where the Big Boys Eat”.  Huge meals and 22-ounce beers covered a table that could have been every waitress’ nightmare: 11 San Francisco foodies.  But Pamakids would have made Andy proud with plenty of good conversations, clean plates, and a generous tip.

(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 Danni Baird. She joined the Pamakid Runners in early 2013.)

For those who don’t know me, my name is Danni Baird. I joined the Pamakid Runners Club early in 2013 and have loved being a part of the ultra team. I have also run a couple of the other races too but my passion lies with the ultras. I’m not a fast runner but I love the endurance aspect of pushing boundaries.

Pre-race team picture.

Pre-race team picture.

February 1st 2014 was a chilly early morning with an amazing group of 18 Pamakid teammates gathered together ready to take on the Jed Smith 50k. Jed Smith is the first PAUSATF race of the season. This race is also unusually flat for an ultra marathon, which presents a different kind of challenge. The course consists of one short out and back, followed by 6 loops. Being able to see faster teammates and cheer for them is nice, and also having a personal aid station of your stuff can be quite handy. We had our little Pamakid rest stop/aid station just before the finish area.

I’m not usually crazy about flat races because the repetition really wears on me and I start to get bored. I like hills — using the uphills to recover and the downhills to speed up. But I’m trying to become a more versatile runner and have some big races coming up that are quite flat so this was a good challenge and preparation. And I really love running with the team! So I jumped on the opportunity to run this race.

Jenni and Danni after both getting new PR's!

Jenni and Danni after both getting new PR’s!

The first few laps went great, and the day went from chilly to pleasant running weather. The fourth lap was difficult mentally and physically as the miles were adding up, and I hit a bit of a wall. But I rallied, pushed through and kept it going. As I was nearing the end of that lap it dawned on me that I was well ahead of pace for my PR and it was possible to keep going and score a good PR, even if I slowed down some. The last two laps were challenging but exciting with the possibility of a PR, and knowing that the finish line was approaching. And then that amazing moment, I finished with a whopping 40 minute PR! And my previous PR had been a downhill trail 50k! Couldn’t believe it. Running with friends and teammates is so encouraging and it helps me push myself (and the flat course might have helped too!). The weather really was perfect — being cool but not too cold and warming up without being hot. To top it off we didn’t have drop of rain (unlike the Kaiser San Francisco Half Marathon the next day).

After the race there was a fabulous post race potluck of all kinds of great foods and lots of wonderful socializing. Truly a wonderful day!

Pamakids relaxing at the post race potluck.

Pamakids relaxing at the post race potluck.

Special congratulations to our Top 10 individual finishers:

  • Charles Wickersham- 4th place Men
  • Colin Alley – 8th place Men
  • Kyria Wilson- 3rd place Women
  • Noriko Bazeley- 5th place Women

Since Jed Smith had 91 finishers in the 50k and 18 of them were Pamakids, the course was quite covered in green! It was very encouraging to see so many teammates running, and fun to cheer for each other. GO GREEN!

(Contributed by Riya Young [Riya Suising in other clubs]. Riya joined Pamakid Runners in 2013.

This is my first year with Pamakids, and the Clarksburg Country Run Half Marathon was the most fun race for me with the Pamakids team so far.  I have been running for 5 years now, and I also run with DSE Runners and the Palo Alto Run Club, but it’s always fun and exciting to race with Pamakids in the green singlets and to join the post-race potlucks.  What better reason is there for racing?

The club-sponsored races are always a big motivation, but earning PAUSATF points for Pamakids is always an exciting and competitive thing to do, for both myself and for the team.  For Clarksburg (near Sacramento), I decided to join this for two simple reasons – I had some free time in my schedule that weekend (actually I had a client appointment Sunday afternoon which I was able to push out to fit in the race), and I had a very convenient carpool to join, to make it all the merrier!

Go Green!

Go Green!

The race itself was a major local event.  The event had 20-mile, half marathon individual, half marathon relay, 10K, and 5K categories, with the half marathon individual being the PAUSATF championship race.  So besides lots of other fast PAUSATF runners at this event, we also had a share of local runners come join the scenic course through the local Clarksburg vineyards.

The course was flat, fast, and scenic.  The half marathon course was an out-and-back route with several sharp turns, but coming back the exact same route, so we knew exactly where we were all the time on the return and could expect when to turn next and when the next aid station would be.  In my carpool to the race, Mike Axinn warned us of a small “hill” in the first mile where we would cross over a levee.  We never noticed that, but did notice a slight downhill decline in that area on the way to back to the.  The “hill” must have been at most 3 feet in elevation.  The only other change in elevation I noticed on the course was approximately a 6-inch dip in the shoulder on the tight turns.  Besides that, the course was super flat and mostly straight, almost to the point of being boring even with the colorful vineyards, but strategically useful for helping me focus on my own pacing or counting the miles or aid stations.   The out-and-back course was also tactically helpful, to let me watch the leaders come back in, and I could also count my place back from the leaders, and focus on whom to pass on the way back to the finish, if I was able to maintain my pace.

The final mile of the race was fast and exciting.  Even though I was tired and looking forward to finishing, I could hear the crowd in the distance cheering on the finishers, which gave me the motivation to put in a final boost rounding the curves in the road approaching Delta High School.  Scoring was done on gun time only, as there were no timing chips, and timing and scoring was done manually but very accurately by race officials as finishers were pretty well spread apart at the finish.

The race itself was simple and local, but very well organized.  Arriving at Delta High School, a number of volunteers were guiding us to the athletic fields for parking, lining up the cars efficiently into rows, Disneyland-style.  Registration and bib pick-up were clearly organized in the high school gym with the port-a-potties and start line visible right outside.  We all got a very nice black, colorful, long sleeve tech shirt, but small sizes all ran out, and just a few were lucky enough to trade down sizes post-race.  The finisher medal was nice and colorful, and all runners were treated to a complimentary yet modest lunch in the school cafeteria, which had some real restrooms in addition to the port-a-potties outside.  Volunteers were friendly and plentiful at the event and throughout the course, making it a great experience to attend for the weekend and worth the sub-2-hour drive from San Francisco.  Registration fees were only $50-60 for the half marathon, making it very affordable for all runners, even as a non-sponsored race.

Probably the best part of my experience was carpooling with some of the Pamakids runners and getting to know them better, as I was a new member myself.  Louise Stephens drove her Honda Pilot SUV, and was able to take a total of 6 in the car, including Andy Chan, Mike Axinn, Roy Clarke, Danielle Hashem, and myself.  I’ve learned from races that my most memorable experiences come not from the race itself, but from the weekend experiences I spend with my travel buddies.  Besides enjoying the running, we were all able to enjoy our love for Peet’s Coffee both in San Francisco at Potrero Center before departure, and at Davis on the way back.  I scored an extra brownie point when I got a $1 discount off my Peet’s holiday drink from my Yelp check-in, and helped my teammates get the same discount off of theirs.

Louise, Riya, and Danielle before the race.

Louise, Riya, and Danielle before the race.

At the end, our carpool got back to San Francisco right on time, and I was able to quickly shower and get to my client appointment in San Jose 2 hours later, right on time as well.  Besides my carpool, other Pamakids at the Half Marathon included David Ly, John Spriggs, and Theo Jones, who placed 2nd in his age division.  It was a great weekend for a very nice race, and awesome to be able to run with a talented and supportive racing team.  Thanks everyone and Go Green!

Event website at http://www.clarksburgcountryrun.com/

Results at http://www.clarksburgcountryrun.com/results/2013-results/

(Contributed by Chuck Amital. Chuck joined Pamakids in 2009, when he started running ultras. After a 2½-year hiatus, in 2013, he started running 50ks again.)

Truth be told, going into this race, I was thinking more about the one that would be coming 5 weeks later – the Quad Dipsea, with a total elevation gain of 9200 feet over 28.4 miles. Somehow, even though it was right there on the website, I missed that the elevation gain for Whiskeytown was going to be 6120 feet. I was aware, however, that most of the running was at 2000 feet. For some reason (call it denial if you want), my pre-race assessment of Whiskeytown was “not too shabby,” although not quite as impressive as some of the other 50ks that my teammates and I had already tackled this season. (Can anyone say, “Headlands 50k,” with 7300 feet of gain?!)

And so, with the race set for Saturday morning near Redding, John (G.), Kelly and Lavy piled into my car on Friday around noon and headed north. One of the things that I enjoy so much about hanging out with other runners is the common language and shared love of running that enables us to establish a sense of camaraderie so easily. Most of all, I enjoy the ever-so-dry sense of humor that so many of our teammates possess in spades! Suffice it to say that the four of us quickly fell into an easy rhythm of discussion, question and answer, call and response, banter, etc., about running and a host of other topics.

We arrived in Redding, picked up our bibs, checked in to the Thunderbird, and headed over to Black Bear Diner, where my companions’ orders roundly disabused me of the notion that runners dine on pasta the night before a race! After a series of errands, we found ourselves back at the motel at 7 p.m. with some time on our hands, so we decided to head out to the movies to take our minds off the race. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, in Gravity, were just the ticket.

Arriving back at the motel after the movie, each of us organized our gear before settling in to get a good night’s sleep before the race. Not that I ever sleep well the night before a race. Thankfully, morning eventually arrived, and a more serious mood took over, as we all went through our final pre-race rituals, before loading up on caffeine on the way to Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. Time compressed in the last hour before the race as we made our last-minute preparations and connected up with Noriko (who had driven up with her husband), for a pre-race team photo. Then, off we went.

Before. (Photo by Roger)

Before. (Photo by Roger)

Ultras are just my speed because it usually takes me 4 to 5 miles just to warm up and begin to find my sense of rhythm. Being out on the trails for 5½ to 8 hours means that a race is comprised of lots of moments. Some of those moments seem unforgettable at the time, but they become a blur, even during the course of the same race. One recurring moment that I’ve learned to embrace is my “Forrest Gump” moment – that inevitable point (or points!) in the race when I wonder what the hell I’m doing there, who the hell I think I am that I can pull this off, and on and on and on. Although that “moment” sometimes lasts longer than I’d like – for example, the length of that god-awful climb up to who-knows-where – it, too, often becomes a fond memory. I enjoy both the solitude of the trail – this race had lots of that – and the companionship of other runners (misery loves company after all) – which this race also had.

A few moments, however, do stick out in my mind:

Coming upon Lavy and Noriko, who were having way too much fun chatting (personally, I’m in it for the suffering!), as we were contouring along a tricky section of the trail that was covered in shale.

Running through scrub oaks in glorious fall color.

Exchanging shout-outs with Kelly at an unexpected overlapping point in the trail.

Crossing Mill Creek multiple times. (I stopped counting after 7.) It doesn’t sound like much, but try rock-hopping across a stream after 18 miles of trail running. I took the RD’s advice, and waded through most of them, cooling my paws in the process.

Tripping and falling around mile 26, only to have my left calf seize up, picking myself up and running on (“running” being a relative thing 5 hours into a 50k), although my calf kept telling me who was boss.

True confession: I was relieved to cross the finish line. With both of my calves wrapped in ice, John and I waited for the rest of our group, who arrived in dribs and drabs shortly thereafter. We relaxed for a bit, and Noriko’s husband took an “after” shot of the group.

After. (Photo by Roger)

After. (Photo by Roger)

We folded ourselves in the car for the ride back to SF, and more enjoyable conversation. We all agreed that Whiskeytown was harder than we thought it would be. Although we all swore that we won’t be back again next year, I don’t believe it for a minute.

Race Results.