Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of joining 3,000 runners for the Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley 5k/Half Marathon/Marathon in San Jose, CA. It was a wonderful romp through San Jose that introduced me to some great running areas, and a chance to test my speed at the half marathon distance.
Just when I thought Dean's announcement from the Chicago Marathon was big time branding (he thanked his sponsor, Volkswagen...whoa!), lo and behold a marathon that bears his name and face. He's definitely in a whole new stratosphere this year. I said hi to Dean and his wife after he spoke at the Expo on Saturday, and there were plenty of folks asking for autographs and pictures. Most of them, and I'm talking dozens of people, said his story was a key element to inspire them to get off the couch and do their first race. Say what you will about his promotional prowess, but there's no doubt in my mind he is using his powers for positive change.
My goals for this race were a bit more self-serving. I had one more long tempo run on my training agenda for the weekend (15 miles with 13 at 6 min/mile pace) before tapering down for the Lithia Loop Marathon in two weeks. I figured the DKSVM09 would be a good place to do it, since mile markers and snacks would be provided. And, of course, a t-shirt for the shwag hag (that's me!).
At 7am, the race was off, and at 7:00:30 I finally crossed the starting line (the port-o-pottie line was a bit longer than I had planned). The marathoners and half-marathoners took off together, and we made our way through the streets of downtown San Jose before heading into a nearby neighborhood. I saw some familiar faces in the pack, including Michael Kanning (shooting for a sub-7 min pace in the marathon), John Burton (marathon), and Jon Kroll (half marathon, his first race after States in June and pacing friends at Leadville). I ran with Jon for a few miles, chatting as we watched the sun come up on a clear, cool day. At mile 3, we were 18:22, just a tad behind my goal pace. I bid a good luck to Jon, and picked up the pace and we headed into Willow Glen.
25-year-old Lenin Zapata was in a league by himself, off the front clocking 5:15 min/miles for the half marathon. It didn't take long before none of us could see him on the multi-block straightaways. A few more runners were spread along the course, and I was cruising with Brian Winco, Ironman Fred Haubensak, and marathon leaders Ed Conrad and Bruno Fiore in the first "pack". As we hit the bike trail, I spent most of the time hanging on the shoulder of a hard-running Rhodes Walton, who was doing a great job of surging on the tops and bottoms of every hill, making me pick up the pace to catch him again. The pace was a perfect tempo run - solid, hard 6 min/miles that always felt like I could go a bit harder.
We caught up to some early marathon starters/walkers as we cut through one of many parks, and wished each other well. The sun was peeking over the trees and warming up the course. At mile 10 (1:00:20), runners split in two different directions after the aid station, and I hesitated just enough for Ed Conrad, Brian Winco, and Fred Haubensak to fly by. I caught up to Ed, but Brian and Fred were clearly in their final kick.
Ed Conrad is an extraordinary runner, and his steps were so light they weren't even scaring away the birds and squirrels (I took care of that when I caught up). The crowds let us know that Ed was leading the marathon and I was 7th or so, but Ed kept his cool and focused on his fueling. At mile 12 he stopped for bio break, and I set my sights on the two runners in front of me.
As we hit the track in the last half mile, Seaside, CA's William Swick sprinted by me with a phenomenal kick. Rhodes was just ahead, glancing over his shoulder to keep tabs on us, and William gave it his all to pick off one more. Unfortunately the track wasn't the last bit, and as we crossed into a grass field I was able to repass William as he faded. I finished in 1:19:34, good enough for 7th place, and turned around and congratulated William for laying it on the line! I love seeing that.
My pace felt good, and I had plenty left in the tank at the finish. The first thought I had was "Wow, am I ready for Lithia!". I guess that's the point of those last few tempo runs. It may not bring much to your body, but your mind is thoroughly convinced you can kick butt. I was all smiles as I got snacks and cheered in the finishers.
I took the bus back to the start just in time to see Bruno Fiore (2:41:43) edge out Ed Conrad (2:41:47) in a close finish for the marathon. Age over beauty? Perhaps it was that bio break, Ed. ;-) The kids race also kicked off, with plenty of smiles to go around. All in all, a great way to spend a perfect California morning.
I packed up my goodies and headed home, so we could hit the pumpkin patch with Sophie before the three of us went to the Bridge School Benefit Concert to hear Wolfmother, Sheryl Crow, No Doubt, Chris Martin, Neil Young, and a VERY impressive Adam Sandler who covered The Doors "Break On Through to the Other Side" and Led Zeppelin's "Hey, Hey, What Can I Do" with screamtastic accuracy. Sophie loved it!
Exhausted? Yes! But I wouldn't want it any other way.