Monday, September 27, 2010

Race Recap: Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k, or Running With the Punk Rock Runner

I have one rule when it comes to paying for short-distance races: I won't do it anymore. Especially short-distance races that have 872301982370981237091823 participants.

But yesterday I broke my rule for two solid reasons.

1.) Susan G. Komen is a pretty inspiring cause.
I love all the pink.
Sometimes big groups of people with a lot of emotion move me.
2.) Running with thee one, thee only Punk Rock Runner, Ron, is a pretty good reason to pay a 5k entry fee.
I've been admiring Ron and his hilarious (no, really, be prepared to laugh your ass off) blog for a couple of years. I mean, I was really following his blog: This was before I had my own blog so I didn't get a feed of his postings -- I physically had to type in his URL to stalk his adventures.

I always secretly wanted to be friends with the Punk and pick his brain about his writing, his training, and his running, but I halfheartedly worried he would be one of those famous bloggers who doesn't actually read the comments admirers leave. (Sure, Ron, I know you consider Catra Corbett and Scott Jurek famous, but I'd put you on the same pedestal!) Lucky for me, this was not the case at all -- Ron was the one to reach out to me, welcome me to the city with the nicest care package, and he took time out of more than a few days to send e-mails about races and clubs in the area.

No longer the nerdiest kid in the City, all thanks to Ron.
Imagine my excitement when I got a text message from Ron, asking if I wanted to meet up with him for a jog through Golden Gate Park. While our run in the Park didn't quite pan out as planned, we did meet up at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k. Yesterday, I got to meet someone I admire face-to-face and run a race with him!

Ron's second 5k. Yup, he skipped all the short-distance races and went straight for the marathon.
Ron has accomplished so much in his few years on the planet that even professional athletes bow down in shame. He is a Marathon Maniac, he runs every race imaginable in the Bay Area (sometimes multiple races in a weekend), he's an accomplished triathlete, he's an Ironman dominator -- and he still pushes himself to do and achieve more. Constantly. Placing 2nd in a half marathon the day before the 5k? (And staying out late for a preseason hockey game the night before the half marathon?) No problem for this guy!

I've followed Ron's blog through his training and his races leading up to the Coeur d'Alene Ironman, read about his struggles and his triumphs in mentally preparing for such a daunting task, and continue to read about his journey in extending his races to further mileage and more Ironman distances. Ron is the epitome of determination and perseverance. It's even more inspiring to hear his story in person than through his self-deprecating writing -- he started running just three years ago, and he did so weighing 100 pounds more than he does now.

Ron and I knew that we weren't going to be setting any PRs in the 5k distance this weekend, simply because of the sheer number of pink globs getting in our way. Don't get me wrong -- I loved all the pink and even decked myself out in it, but all that really mattered to me was that I got to run with him. We ran the race as fast as we could, while making sure we didn't bonk, puke our guts out, or shatter any knees or ankles, and yet we still fit in a few words here and there.

The start of the race.
Pre-race excitement
Post-race sweaty messRon looking all smooth after running two races in one weekend! Me looking like I'm missing a foot.
After 3.1 miles trapped in a sea of insanity, Ron and I proceeded to the Ferry Building to consume vegan donuts and, perhaps ironically, discuss how much our nutrition sucks.
Not feeling guilty at all about that delicious Candy Cap donut.
Despite his crazy race schedule and his busy everyday life, Ron is the humblest, nicest, giving-est man. And he's just as funny in person as he is on his blog. I am so happy I got to meet him and run with him.

Ron: Thanks so much for the awesome care package, your e-mails telling me where/what I should run, dropping me a line (and putting up with my subsequent lines) so we could work out the race-day details, letting me steal all of your iPhone pictures, AND putting me in touch with your running friends. I can't wait to see you at the U.S. Half, as long as you can put up with me some more. :)

3.15-mile splits: 8:05, 8:05, 8:09, 1:07 (overall time: 25:26)
Air Temp: 76F

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tour de Fat: Take Two!

Remember a few months ago when I stopped by the Tour de Fat in Minneapolis' Loring Park?

One of the billions of awesome things about moving when I did was that this weekend I got to experience the Tour de Fat again, but this time in Golden Gate Park. While the Tour was fun in Minneapolis, this weekend it was bloated, naked, drunk, and high.
To reiterate my pseudo-biking story, I began riding a fixed gear earlier this year and used it to run many errands around Minneapolis. In San Francisco, I had grand ideas of riding my fixie all over the city, but there kind of are some large, high-traffic hills here, and not having any gears or breaks is a terrible idea.

However, there are decent stretches of flatter land over where I live, so I do ride to restaurants, to get groceries, or to peddle to the Mission. Today I biked over to Golden Gate Park and enjoyed the Tour de Fat, a touring bike festival put on by Fat Tire of New Belgium Brewing, for the second time in one year.

I didn't stay nearly as long this year; mostly because it was nearing 90 degrees and I had spent the entire day in the sun already... but also because I had seen everything just a few months ago. The awesome thing about the Tour here is that everything is just that much larger and funnier. Not to mention, the Folsom Street Fair was this weekend, and much of the crowd was already trying on their costumes for the fetish ball, rendering about half of my photos not-suitable for posting, but really fun for people-watching.

The valet bike parking on crack, compared to the 10 bike stands they had in Minneapolis.
Gogol Bordello-sounding music. Again, really should find the name of the band.
Drunkards trying their hand at the crazy bikes.
There were more games, activities, and music, but most of my pictures involve mostly nude people that I definitely feel the need to spare you from. The 2010 Tour is just about wrapping up, but if it comes to a city near you, it's a lot of fun and is worth checking out.
As I settled down for the evening in anticipation of an early-morning race on Sunday, I was surprised with this tasty little treat... a perfect way to wrap up a really fun day.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Race Recap: Marina Green 5k

This week I got my California driver's license in the mail, and I got it on the same day I celebrated my 1-month anniversary of arriving in the city. I've had my "papers" for a while, but seeing my name and new address on a thick piece of stocky, shiny cardboard is making me feel like I'm not just here on vacation.

They couldn't have zoomed out on my ID picture any more, but in this case that's quite alright.
This morning, I marched my brand new ID down to the Marina neighborhood and signed up for my first race as a San Franciscan. My half marathon training program had me doing a step-back weekend, where I spent more time resting than I did running. During this long weekend, I had just a 30-minute tempo run, a couple days of rest, and a 5k race on the docket. While I was originally planning on sprinting 3.1 miles for my "race" workout, I figured there had to be some sort of Labor Day 5k happening in the city. I searched and searched and searched and found nothing -- but I did find a running group, the Dolphin South End (DSE) Runners, the oldest running club in San Francisco; a group that just happens to hold unofficial races almost every weekend.
This morning, I headed over to the Marina for a "flat, fast out/back 5k course along the Marina Green and Golden Gate Promenade." Because it wasn't a get-a-tech-shirt-and-medal kind of race, I paid my $5 non-member entrance fee (when's the last time you paid for a race with spare change you find in your car?!) and joined a handful of people on this short scenic run. You know it's a quality race when they do hand-scoring and their course map says things like "turn around at the fourth sandy beach entrance."

Just a little haze on Alcatraz this morning.
Runners registering; the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
The countdown clock with the Palace of Fine Arts behind it.
The haze lifts as we get ready to run.
I haven't specifically been doing any 5k training lately, so I wasn't expecting to do that well. I have done plenty of hill training and even some tempo runs in the past month, but I didn't know what to expect for this 5k. I knew it would be flat, but I had no idea what kind of terrain we'd be running on. And since it was an unofficial race, our path was not immune to bikers, joggers, dogs, tourists, and strollers getting in the way.

I'd guess there were maybe 150 people who showed up to toe the line. After deciding I'd like to finish in under 24 minutes, I pushed my way to the front of the crowd. I heard some mumbling, saw everyone duck down like they were about to sprint, and in the blink of an eye, everyone was off. No gunfire, no one shouting "Go!", no "Star Spangled Banner", no nothing. It was such a calm way to start a run! There was no time to anticipate the start or even get nervous.

Mile 1: 7:37
I took off with the front of the pack knowing I was going to get dropped quickly -- most of these guys looked awfully serious. I picked out a lady wearing a DSE singlet and decided she was going to pace me. I followed her closely for the first mile; then we hit some turf that apparently she nor I were anticipating: gravel. I was definitely not wearing the right shoes for a gravel run, but I watched my step and kept up with Miss DSE.

Mile 2: 7:43
At the fourth sandy beach entrance turnaround, I continued to curse myself for wearing mesh racing flats, but I got ahead of Miss DSE. I started to get a side stitch and knew I was going to lose my breakfast, so I tried to watch my breath and slowed down a bit. There were some great water views with the Bridge close by and I tried to look up to take the sights in. Right around this time, I watched the first runner finish up ahead -- his official time was 15:59. These people are fast.

Mile 3: 7:38
The one thing I both love and hate about 5k races is that it's basically a really long sprint (well, at least this pace is pretty close to sprinting for me...). Miss DSE caught up to me while I was slowing down, and I decided that I didn't want to give up that quickly. I picked my pace back up but wasn't able to catch her once we were off the gravel.

Mile .1: :43
It's no surprise to me when I gag or vomit after crossing nearly every finish line, but this was the first time I actually started gagging before I completed the race. With just a few feet to go, I almost lost it. My "don't puke, don't puke" mantra kicked in and I was able to finish in one piece.

Just barely holding it together.
While I didn't PR, I'm really surprised I ended up finishing in under 24 minutes. Without proper 5k training -- and with having to dodge people and having more than a few non-racers randomly stopping in front of us -- I feel like maybe all these hill runs have been making me stronger.

Another reason you know when you're running in a quality race: I got a finisher's ribbon. Yes, a ribbon! This brings me right back to those 3-legged gunny sack races we did during our elementary-school Track & Field days where everyone was a winner. So exciting!
After swearing off paying for short-distance races, I have a feeling I'll be making an exception for these cheap, unofficial DSE races. It was well-organized for being so tiny, and it was a lot of fun.

Happy Labor Day!

3.1-mile splits: 7:37, 7:43, 7:38, :43 (average speed: 7.85mph)
Overall time: 23:42
Air temp: 63F