Monday, October 3, 2011

San Jose

My roommate, Paul Wellman, had been targeting the San Jose half marathon for the last few months of his training.  As I watched his dedication and intense focus, I realized I didn't want to miss out on the party.  When the call came from David Kloz to pace BSK/RC/FlexR teammate Jessica, I readily accepted.  How could I turn down a free entry with VIP privileges, a solid workout, and a chance to see and experience some great racing?  I booked my flight up, made plans to drive back with Jessica and Sean, and attempted to fit in a little bit of training to prepare.

Saturday morning dawned early and I went off to my Team Challenge coaching gig at Cannon Park in Carlsbad after a stop at Pannikin for a pumpkin muffin and soy latte.  My other roommate, Trevor, and his trusty sidekick Jen met up with the team so they could get to know some of them for an upcoming functional strength clinic they will give next Saturday.  The workout was fantastic, we had beautiful sunshine, and I even got most of the group to take their shoes off and do some strides on the grass afterwards.

A quick shower and I was off to the airport and on a plane, surrounded by the SDSU women's soccer team.  Go Aztecs!  That part didn't suck too bad.  Once we landed, I had a choice.  The expo for the race was downtown, which was roughly 4 miles from the airport.  Taxi's were a $15 minimum though, and I was annoyed by that.  So annoyed that I walked instead of taking a ride.  Compared to SFO with BART or PDX with MAX or ORD with the CTA, I gotta go thumbs down on transit options out of SJC.  So, anyway, I spent the next 90 minutes or so making my way downtown, with a little bit of help from google maps on my phone and the trader joe's checkout guy who sold me some fizzy water and a couple of bananas at the halfway point.  I chuckle to myself about how we are all cheap in certain ways and less frugal in others.  I get to the expo, which could be any rock and roll race in any city, you wouldn't know the difference because it's all the same red carpet, black signs, and product booths.  I even found the Team Challenge San Jose booth.

With my packet in my backpack, Mike comes to pick me up as I message with Vince, one of the Team Challenge mentors, about the exactness of the route I set up for that morning's workout.  Note to self, go back and re-measure Cannon Park to La Costa via the campgrounds so I can see just how short of 4 miles it is.  I get to the Buchanan/Hogan residence where I get to meet the newest member of the family, Fiona.


She is very sweet

Mike and I then proceed to evaluate Sarah's 3 guacamole recipes in preparation for her contest at work, a contest she does not intend to lose.  Based on what I sampled, I don't see how she could possibly be beaten.  Sarah just might be the modern renaissance woman, she cooks, she cleans, she puts up with Mike, she saves dogs, she saves the oceans, she doesn't need makeup or fancy clothes, she has great taste in drapes and paint colors, and she's gorgeous.  While Mike and I take Fiona for a walk around the block, Sarah cranks out a delicious risotto which we enjoy with one of the candles from their wedding and 4 hungry dogs at our feet.  Well, 3 dogs at our feet and Woody, the 170 lb mastiff, keeping his distance b/c he takes a long time to feel comfortable with people.

After dinner we walk the 3 frisky dogs to froyo, and I get to pet Woody for the first time, on our 4th encounter.  To do so, I have to sit very low on the ground and stay still and Mike has to drag him over to me.  The contrast between Woody's muscular strength and fear of humans to Fiona's complete lack of fitness and adoration of people couldn't be more striking.  After the walk, Mike and I pass out with Fiona in a dogpile on the floor, the end to a completely wonderful Saturday.

The dogpile

My phone alarm wakes me up at 6am and I wonder to myself, I'm sore, I'm stiff, I'm old, how am I going to hold 6 minute pace for 13 miles today?  I creak out of bed and compose a long winded email to one of my athletes who is going through some tough times.  I BS about the benefits, both physical and mental, of finding time for a yoga practice.  After I brush my teeth, Mike and I head out to the race.  He drops me in the street at 7:30, with the start set for 8, plenty of time.  Except for the fact that I wander around for 20 minutes trying to find the VIP tent.  After some text messages from Mike who luckily parked near the information booth, I finally show up at the VIP tent as Jessica is heading off to the race start.  I grab the race kit she brought for me, change clothes, throw my gear bag into gear check, and at 7:53 I'm on my way.  I arrive at the line as the wheelchairs start, and somehow, in that 5 minute window before the run start I become fully present, alive, awake, and completely fired up.  I find Paul and give him a yell that probably was unnecessarily annoying.  It's gametime and I don't want to be anywhere else.  The music is pumping, Meb and Deanna are inches away, along with all sorts of other superstars, ripped bodies, muscles bulging, six packs on display, what a sight.  The gun fires and off we go, cranking out at a pace that is too fast, but feels just fine for the moment.

Approaching Mike somewhere after 5k
My job for the first 10k is to slow Jessica down.  After that, my job is to speed her up.  It's a strange juxtaposition, but one I know well, having raced quite a few half marathons myself.  I use words like "slow" and "easy" to calm her down as much as I can while we settle into 5:55-ish pace.  I figure that's close enough to where we want to be.  I have to keep pushing my palms down and running just off her side and behind her to encourage her to take it easy and not drop into 5:40's.  She complies every time I remind her, she isn't trying to sabotage her race, she's just fired up and ready to go which is exactly what you want for a PR attempt.

Along the way, we group up with Scott Dunlap who managed to get a great shot of Jessica from his camera, _while_ running 6 min pace.  Very good blog skills, Scott!  Around this time Jessica asks if she should have a gu, but I don't hear her so I apparently ignore her.  My streak of ignoring women continues!  I tell Jessica we are going to build starting at 6 and that it's OK to start opening up her can of whoop-ass now.  She responds with a request to hold pace.  I tell her it's my job to worry about pace, she just has to put her head down and run.  We wind up doing what she says b/c women know best, right?  Each clock we pass ticks off the seconds at :45 after within one or two.  There's something just awesome about a round number mile pace, you get all this great feedback from your garmin, your brain, and the clocks along the way, you know your over/under to within a second or two, and it just makes the effort so much more focused.

At mile 10, Jessica is in 10th position (based on the official results).  I tell her it's time to suffer and she responds.  We catch one girl who had started to fade, with her stride unraveling.  I tell Jessica that it'll feel great to catch the next group of 3 women, that she'll feel a tremendous boost if she can do that.  As soon as we get close, however, that group of 3 really starts to separate, so we wind up catching and reeling them in one by one.  I use phrases like "tractor beam" and "make contact" but I doubt Jessica is hearing anything other than my tone.  I continue to increase my urgency and Jessica continues to respond.  We are holding pace, but the effort is increasing, the crescendo builds.  After the mile 12 marker I remark that it's time to give up everything she has left.  I want so badly to catch and pass the woman in front of us, but Jessica has to be the one to do the work, to make the decision, to sacrifice and to hurt.  As we round the final turn, Jessica has managed to get in front and I'm not sure if it's going to be a battle or a surrender so I stay as wide as I can and cheer from the side.  I get a front row seat to a strong kick and a triumphant PR for Jessica, the end to an exciting race and one of the most enjoyable half marathons I can remember.

A front row seat to the final sprint at the last turn
Back in the VIP tent, amongst all the elite and leaned out runners, I proceed to demolish the free food.  Since nobody else is interested in it, I figure I should do my part.  I down 3 cups of coffee and try one of everything else available.  I suppose skipping breakfast before the race worked out just fine, but I'm sure I'm net positive 3000 calories for the morning.  Mike and I bs a bit with Dunlap, then I head off to Jessica's hotel room and bump into Meb in the hallway.  A shower, a long drive home with Super Sean at the wheel, and a fantastic dinner seal up a wonderful and memorable weekend.  I couldn't have asked for anything better.

Next weekend is Chicago.  After how well the pacing duties went at San Jose, I'm feeling confident that we can get Lisa her 2:45.  If she is even half as tough as Jessica, it should be a cakewalk.


  1. Great to officially meet you, and thanks for letting me draft off of you guys for 7 miles (right up until "now it's gonna hurt", yeah...see you at the finish!). I look forward to the AR25/AR25 battle in April!

    Have fun in Chi-town...


  2. Super cool! You are totally the best to run/race with, especially at the end when it hurts! Nice!

  3. Holy crap - all of that is so fast!

    I ran a half this weekend, too. I had no plan as is my usual lately. I just tried to speed up through the whole thing. I had a friend running with me who told me all of my splits (I forgot my Garmin - oops?) which Saturday didn't freak me out - probably because I felt really good.

    Anyways, having someone run a race with me always makes a huge difference so whoever you paced is very lucky!

  4. Update from Hogan about the guac contest:

    I won the preliminary round by a landslide, boys. The credit goes to you both for your excellent tasting skillz.

    No, onto the finals on October 25!!