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Archive for the ‘Marathon’ Category

Last Sunday was CTR’s Montara Mountain 10k, 1/2 Marathon, Marathon, and 50k. We had a wonderful CRC turnout with upwards of 10 runners in all events except the 50k and plenty of cheering from those friends, family, and beyond out to dish out that spark to run, yet another loop!

For me, this race was one to continue the transition into letting go and running in the red – training to be in the lead pack, staying calm in the stress of RACING. What better situation than to run my local trails, pull back the distance a touch, and let’r rip!

First off the pace was wild at the start of the race. I blame Sean (training buddy and CRC member that was running the 1/2 marathon). He took off like he owned the mountain and damn straight that’s how you need to do it! His pace and “White Shirt’s” pace drew the longer distance chase group up and down the mountain at course record speed. This was a prelude to why course records fell for the 1/2 marathon, marathon, and 50k on Sunday.

“Wait!  Shit… I didn’t say hi to Tim.”, I thought while running up Brooks Creek.  For a millisecond my legs locked and attempted to turn around.  I always pay my respects to Tim when I run Pacifica; I was SO MAD at myself for forgetting.  Tim was a highschool friend that passed at the age of 33 and a park ranger at San Pedro Valley Park.  There’s a commemorative bench that I always visit before each race.  I pressed on, thinking about how he’s throughout this park.

I made up time on the downhill from North Peak and closed the gap on the 50k and marathon leader. I quick and very cautious look at my Garmin had me doing at 5:50 min/mile pace. I wasn’t too concerned because I regularly do this in training on these trails. This gap closing speed on the single track Montara Mountain trail lead to one of the most flattering compliments of the day as we doubled back on the remainder of the athletes. Those still coming up the mountain would pull to the side for the lead runners (which is so awesome). This trail is rocky in parts and passing isn’t easy. One runner squished to the side as I skipped over precarious rocks on a side bank to get by. While passing I heard, “Holy Shit!!!” That comment right there was so awesome, candid, and real. It alone made me feel like I had been inducted into an upper trail running “team”.

I pulled up on the eventual 50k winner and new course record holder (beating his own record) Leigh Schmitt. We talked about what races each of us was doing this year. He let me know that he was ~1 month removed from his HURT 100 finish and was still nursing sore feet that suffered 1/2 dollar sized blistering during the race. Of course, in the competitive front you’re always trying to gauge your competition. Most are super nice and you simply have to ask, “What are you running?” He asked me and I told him, “I’m running the Marathon so you don’t have to worry about me.” He also commented that this pace was too fast and that we’re all going to blow up. Leigh is a veteran runner and part of me was wondering if this was a tactic. A way to “plant” fatigue in other runner’s minds – primarily those of new runners. Intentional or not, none of us slowed down.

The course re-entered the park proper and I had the opportunity to say “hi” to Tim.  I pulled from the lead pack of marathoners and 50kers shooting over to his bench.  I didn’t know it at the time but I was in 1st place, letting “No Water Bottle” take the lead.  I laid a hand on the bench and said, “Thank you Tim, for looking after us today.”  And with that, I sprinted away drawing confused looks from the race spectators.

I still hadn’t sorted out whom I was competing with, but during the Valley View / Hazelnut loop I kept attempting to lock-in the race numbers of those in front of me on the switchbacks. I couldn’t quite see (despite my brand new laser vision eye sight). At this point Leigh had taken way off with 2-3 other runners. I was mixed in with “White Shirt” and “No Water Bottle”. On the Hazelnut downhill “White Shirt” comes lumbering past me – mind you I’m doing 6:30 min/mile. At the AS he peels off and finishes the 1/2 marathon (2nd place after Sean); that’s one less guy I’m racing. I head into the AS to see Janeth, whom I training for the Western States 100. She gave me a refill on hydration and quietly said, “You’re in 2nd!” By that time I had figured out that “No Water Bottle” Guy was also in the marathon and he was first AND just leaving the aid station. Strangely I then yell out, “Hey first place guy! Come here!” He actually turned around confused then bolted for THE BATHROOM. I ran past the bathroom heading up for our 2nd ascent up to North Peak.

It hit me… I was in FIRST PLACE. Holy Shit!!!!

I immediately got stressed thinking I have to hold this for 1 more North Peak and 1 more Valley View/Hazelnut loop. Crap that’s a lot of hills and running!

I also thought of Julie Moss, Hawaii Iron Woman with the famous pre-finish collapse that lost her 1st place. WHY are these thoughts in my head? All I needed to do was run. Julie Moss also said when running, “I’m good at something and now somebody’s trying to take it away from me!” Julie Moss was with me as I started up that hill.

On the Brooks Creek Trail you can look back and see if anyone is chasing you. As expected I saw “No Water Bottle” making a charge. I said to myself he has to crack. Look at the signs: He’s new, He’s not caring water (or GU) that I’ve seen, and he’s having bathroom issues. In my mind he’d charge but break himself in the process. I was tired but continued an even pace up the mountain. I needed to make him work!

A few minutes went by and DAMN he was on me. That was so much quicker than I had expected. He continued to ride behind me pushing me but I didn’t speed up too much, just ran at my pace. Then he passed and looked damn fresh, somehow! What the hell! In a newbie like goofy way he said “Ummm, hey, what distance are you running?” I told him then said, “You’re first and I’m second! Great Job!” Then I thought, “Why’d I tell him that!!!” He had no clue what place he was in. He then turned around and said, “See ya at the finish line… {stumbled on his words} … umm but maybe sooner, or something, ya never know!” as he bounced up the mountain.

Part of me was mad; this was my mountain not his. I tried to get lost in my music and transport myself to running this same trail on a not so distance foggy night where, just before we turn off the single track, I emerged out of the fog to see a cloudy blanket tucked around Pacifica.

I pushed up hill and saw a glimpse of “No Water Bottle” bounding up the hill at a rate I couldn’t match. My only chance was to get him on the downhill. As well as I was running today, my uphill isn’t what I thought in comparison to front runners.

Nearing the North Peak summit I saw the gap and it was pretty big. I re-focused on finding where 3rd place was chasing me. (Thoughts of WS quotes ran through my head, “Always run like  your 15 minutes behind someone and someone is 15 minutes behind you). Fortunately the 3rd place runner was an even bigger gap. I motored downhill trying to gain ground pulling slower 6:30 min/miles on aching legs.

I pulled into the aid station beyond ready to finish my last lap, and dang if I didn’t see “No Water Bottle” just leaving the aid station. Again, holy crap, 1st and 2nd at the last aid station with 10k to go! I scarfed chips, did Coke shots, and raced out of there HOPING he was spent. When I left the aid station I saw nothing of him on the Valley View trail. He was just gone. I was in disbelief that he gapped me that quickly. At first I was deflated, then I thought maybe he made a wrong turn and he’s right behind me!?! I powered forward, unfortunately, never seeing him again.

My goal of breaking 4:00 was complete. I finished in 3:41 in 2nd place overall and 1st in my age group. That’s over 20 minutes faster than the previous course record! And, to average 8:24 min/miles over 26.2+ miles with 5,900 ft of elevation climb and descent is amazing – I’m in disbelief and grateful to be healthy and for the competition in each of us pulling one another to grander heights.

I loved giving my boys each a medal (finisher’s and 1st place) and having a wonderful hug and kiss from my awesome wife Jen at the finish line.

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CIM 2012 Start – Photo Credit: Paul Kitagaki Jr. | pkitagaki@sacbee.com

The buzz of 2012 was weather, not just among the runners but everyone. While potty-breaking for our 4 year old on our drive up to Sacramento I eased dropped on a Berkeley man’s cell phone call in an REI: “Tomorrow morning (Sunday) I’m driving up to Sacramento directly into the jaws of the biggest storm of the century.” I couldn’t help but grin cheek-to-cheek and almost stopped and told him I’ll be running into those jaws, and LIKE it.

That became my race day mantra: Into the Jaws of the Storm!

Most times the weather is exaggerated, but true to reports, once we arrived at the Expo the skies unleashed such a volume of rain that within 5 seconds of us being out of the car we were drenched. In the 5 minutes we took to shelter in the Expo center our clothes harbored so much water Jen was wringing out cup fulls of it from her pants. Crowds of runners huddled at the Expo doors gawking at the comical rain – many taking pictures and video.

We saw fellow CRCer Ron and his friend Dana at the Expo, which was GREAT. Since he was going miss the CRC group dinner because of a big pre-race dance party on the docket {::wink::wink:: Ron} it was good to wish him the best before the race.  At the time, I thought it unlikely we’d see each other race day because of all the dang people.

Off we went to the hotel to get some rest then head out for dinner. A quick change of plans called for a wonderful (and rainy) walk into Old Town Sacramento with Mor, Mandy, Margaret, and Jim from the CRC.  We meandered into Fat City Bar and Cafe and immediately dipped into some bread while discussing race strategies. Around the table most ordered pasta pre-race meals. I couldn’t help but indulge in my primordial craving for some chicken fried steak – and boy was it GOOD! The culinary choice did draw curious looks from the CRC crowd.

Race Morning!

Race Morning!

Get out of bed time finally arrived after I had been waking up every hour on the hour. I ate some bread from last night’s dinner and Cliff and Luna bars donated to my breakfast cause by Mandy and Mor (thanks!). Note to self:  pack your dang oatmeal and banana next time!

I went down to the lobby to catch the 5:00AM one-way bus to the starting line. Still no rain yet but the wind was increasing with unsettled weather; you could tell some big weather was building. The bus ride was fun.  I loved listening in on all the excited/nervous chatter, especially with the weather being so threatening. The gentleman next to me was trading text messages and I saw him get emotional after one.  I angled over managing to casually read it:

You’ve trained so hard for this, but if conditions are too bad there’s no shame in not running. We love you.

He ran.

The gentleman one row up and across the aisle seemed unfazed by the entire ordeal.  He too was texting but it was something to do with state laws (completely non-race related) while rummaging through his drop bag and eating all kinds of foods. He was a busy guy. Once his texting was done he put on some sun screen.  Really?  The UV index = 0 and there are black clouds outside. He was kind enough to offer everyone else the sunscreen. No one took it. And yes, I’m nosy and I also noticed he had a personal roll of toilet paper in there too. This guy was READY and awesome comic relief.

While driving up 80 to Folsom the rain started pouring and the wind rocked the yellow school bus.  In the darkness we saw a huge flash that lacked the trailing rumble of thunder. We concluded it was a nearby transformer that exploded. Grrreat.

We finally arrived at the start. There must have been 20-30 large school buses parked really close to each other. The doors opened and a few runners ventured out including me. Off I darted to the porto-potties in my running gear + temporary garbage bag rain coat. The garbage bag immediately whipped up into my face as I thought about the small child suffocation dangers abound.  After wrestling it down I made it to the 200+ line of porto-potties with zeros lines.  Once in I realized this was a great shelter from the wind (a little teal colored oasis that smelled funny). Leaving it the wind ripped the door from my hand and smashed it into the adjacent porto.  Dang, it was windy! I darted back to the bus to shelter in place. I found that many non-bus riders were now in the bus trying stay warm with 45 minutes until race start. In fact simply standing in the make-shift bus city was reprieve from the elements and warm — thank you diesel exhaust.

The weather got so bad that race officials reversed the one-way rule and runners were allowed to ride the bus back to the hotel.

This created an odd partition of runners waiting to ride the bus of shame and runners waiting until the last minute to leave the confines of their warm school child shelter.  Fifteen minutes to race start I gave in to the mounting peer pressure and ventured into the weather. Drop bag deposited in the Ryder truck, now off to the start to find my place in the 6,000+ garbage clad runner mob. I looked for the 3:00 pace group and didn’t see them; it was minor chaos. Anyone attempting to hold a sign up had it immediately blown down so I figured it would pop up eventually. Some quick warm-ups and a GU and I was ready. Interestingly just before the race began stuff began flying everywhere. I saw someone in the crowd throw a rain drenched sweatshirt to the side only to land on the side of another runners’ face with its arms twirling around to complete the cranial hug. Unfazed the runner simply unwrapped it and continued on with his pre-race routine. It was weird!

The race began and it starts fast! The start immediately goes downhill and the runners bolt for warmth. It’s crowded, some trip, there are clothes and trash bags flying everywhere. My biggest obstacles were 1) runners just cutting me off 2) the speed bumps in the middle of the roads and 3) manhole covers.

Runners packed together to wedge through the elements.  Rain poured, Wind ripped. It was really fun. At times it rained so hard the drops stung my lips. We passed some brave spectators and in the early miles runners were still throwing off their clothes. One spectator yelled, “Ya! Take your clothes off for me.” I figured he wasn’t talking to me so I kept mine on.

As the miles passed I settled in with the 3:05 pace group, a mob of 20-30 runners so closely packed I’m still baffled as to how no one tripped. It was also an intimidating group because when they ran up on you it was like a stampede of bison.  Wavering runners were engulfed then excreted out the back.  On 3 occasions I attempted to leave the herd but working outside of it was difficult and required a lot more energy. I would be sucked back in, typically riding its left side, until my next attempt.  While tucked away in the group the pace leader would intermittently hold up his “3:05” sign.  Once a wind gust caught it and it whipped back and almost smacked me in the face. I also really, really, really recognized the pace group leader from Western States but simply could not place his name.  I later found out it was Erik Skaden, 2 time Montrail UltraCup Champion and 8x Western States finisher with his fastest time being a 2nd place 16:36 !

By the way the even more famous Tim Tweitermyer was the 3:35 pace group leader behind us!

Around the 13.1 mile mark the headwinds eased and I was able to once and for all dash ahead and leave the herd behind with their sign flailing, monster ultrarunning legend. I hit the 1/2 mark at 1:31:30 and felt good but was slightly slowing and a feeling of building lactic acid in my legs. I GUd up, attempted to drink on the run (most went up my nose), and picked up the pace. This was the sub-3 decision point and I began to push. My energy waned a bit as the miles flipped by; I found myself checking my watch all too often.  That’s usually a sign I’m tired. My stomach grumbled and I GU’d some more which lifted me.  I saw another ultrarunner Jady Palko ahead and took a moment to say hello. He mentioned you look fresh, why aren’t you way up there? I bid him luck then motored off.

Shortly after this very familiar bright orange CRC shirt pulled up to me and said, “Franz?” It was Ron. He was by far the best closer in the bunch of runners around us. He was running smooth and effortless while most struggled the last 6.2 miles. I yelled out something like, “Ron, SMASH IT!” as he pranced ahead. Inspiring, I too kicked up the speed. I felt Ron driving toward a sub-3 and thought he could pull me. Over the miles it was just too much to run at a sub-7 pace to keep up.  The orange, pumpkinish blur that was Ron faded into the crowd ahead. I was happy to see him execute such a great race plan and honored to have worked so hard to race a fast marathon and that work to have put me within a few minutes of finishing with Ron.

Home Stretch, Pointing to Mackie and Jen.

Home Stretch, Pointing to Mackie and Jen.

About 0.3 miles from the finish I hear the lovely Jen screaming! With the rain and having Max this was the only place she could see me and it was wonderful having that blast of energy from her to help me close it out. I saw Max wrapped up and smiling. I burst out with a “HEY MACKO!!!!” and pointed to him as my inspiration. This trip, although filled with running, was a great time for him; he reveled in the Mom and Dad alone time and having the hotel bathtub all to himself!

Through a quick series of left turns I finished in 3:03:39 well under my 3:10:00 Boston Qualifying time and a huge marathon PR of 35 minutes (granted my other marathon was the Sedona marathon — much, much, harder).

At the finish I quickly found Jen and Max and gave them both hugs, kisses, and shared some chocolate milk. It was still pouring and Max was turning a bluish-gray so we had to move along rather quickly without cheering in more CRCers (I wish I could have but the weather just wasn’t working with my little family).

We did see Ron.  He did wonderfully and finished in 3:01:32 and was all smiles. Mixed in between Ron and I was Dr. Dan Rhodes but I missed him in the finish chute.

Amazing Job EVERYONE from the CRC and beyond!!!

Ron: 3:01:33
Dan Rhodes: 3:02:59
Franz: 3:03:40
Todd: 3:20:07
Mor: 3:37:03
Margaret: 4:36:22
Jim: 4:37:18
Rachael Sage: 4:00:07

Rachel Weeks: 5:28:34

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