Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tempo Fun Run at the Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley Half Marathon

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!).

(Nervous runners in the port-o-pottie line)

(Gathering at the start)

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.

(A beautiful dark morning on the bike path)

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.

(Sunny morning along the creek)

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.

(Finishing on the grass)

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.

(At the finish!)

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.

(Women's half marathon winner, Michell Meyer from Carmel, CA, clocked a 1:28:58)

(Jon Kroll and his friend, Luis Montoya, celebrate a solid race)

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.

(Marathon winner, Bruno Fiore)

(Bruno outkicks Ed at the finish)

(Sharkie wins the two fins and over group)

(Future champion gives it her all...hey, how did she get a medal already?)

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!

(Sophie rocks out to Wolfmother; Bose headphones provided by nervous parents)

Exhausted? Yes! But I wouldn't want it any other way.

- SD


  1. 1:19 is not bad! Is that a PR? Certainly bodes well for Xterra in December. - Mike

  2. This insignificant person humbly requests to be added to Dean Karnazes fan list. Seriously, he's an expansive guy, his book was inspiring, and he's having fun and helping people. Hm, kinda like SD...

  3. Thanks, Boris! I'm also a Dean fan.

    BTW, he flew in the day before the race after doing a marathon in Wisconsin in the sleet. Check out his travel/speaking schedule on his site, it's just insane. At the DKSVM, he ran the 5k with his wife and kids. He was super-stoked about it the day before. It's nice to see him have some fun and not feel like he needs to go "extreme" all the time.

    Mike - 1:16 is my PR for the half marathon, but it didn't feel nearly as good as this 1:19. ;-)


  4. Way to go, Scott. That speedwork is working out well. Did Michael Kanning make it sub-3?

    Oh, and, don't forget to taper before that marathon!

  5. Nice job with the half as a tempo run! It sounds like you are perfectly prepared for the marathon. Have a great taper - I can't wait to hear how the race goes.

  6. What-up cowboy! Love the hat!

  7. Jon - once you get the States belt buckle, you gotta go cowboy hat! Boots are next, and then straight to two-steppin'. ;-)


  8. Peter - Michael Kanning finished in 3:16 after having to slow in the second half. Still, not bad for an 18 year old.


  9. I love running on grass, so a race that finishes on grass would be nice. Great pics, looks like fun!

  10. Love the blog, will be following you on my blog here.

  11. This is an awesome blog! I love the photos- thanks for sharing them :) I have been trying to run and have been so sore lately from it. Ug. I have practically lived on my heating pad and my Topricin pain cream but I am not willing to give up on the idea. This is inspiring to me, thanks!

  12. Scott,
    It was great meeting you in person at Zombierunner last week. I agree with you on your comments about Dean Karnazes' promotional skill. While many may criticize it, he has made a tremendous positive impact on society. I didn't even know what an ultramarathon was until I read his book a little over a year ago. For some, just getting off the couch is exactly what is needed. Thanks for the great report, as always. Mike

  13. Scott,

    Dean Karnazes is great.

    When I hear others criticizing him, although I still may see them as great folks and great runners in other respects, I just think that these folks criticizing him are jealous, and full of sour grapes, for whatever reason, and if so should just sit down and do the hard work it takes to write a book of their own to make money writing about what they love to do, or change their life so that they are not spending their time criticizing someone else that happens to be inspiring a whole lot of other people!

    Congratulations on your great race.

    I just ran 6 miles+ around a track in 37:45 the other day, and I am obviously no where near to being in your league because it kicked my axxxxxxx!

    Take care.

  14. Wow Scott, nice job! That is pretty darn speedy to feel like there is plenty left in the tank. I predict good things for you at Lithia. Good luck!
    Also, I personally think there is no better recovery from a race than to attend a sweet concert. Love the picture of you and Sophie. Good to know you are bring her up right--at races and concerts all day! ;)

  15. It was nice meeting you at ZombieRunner two weeks ago. The DKSVM09 was my first marathon (3:41), and I have been meeting a lot of awesome, inspirational runners lately, you being one of them. Your Western States blog is right up there next to Born to Run and ULtramarathonman, in terms of must reads. Honestly, I think you should write a book. Most of your blogs would provide plenty of material. I think Dean's book and Born to Run is going to leave a lot of runner's craving for inspirational running books. And I think at least half of your book is already written (in blog format!). Heck, I would be the first to buy your book.

    I plan on running a Ultra (possibly a few) in 2010, and I hope to target one with you at the starting line.

    Looking forward to seeing you again,

    John Nguyen

  16. Great post and an amazing run Scott! If I was certified to give grades in perfect, tempo pacing and post-race recovery concerts - you would definitely get an "A. Sounds like you are ready to tear up the Lithia Loop trails! See you there. Cheers, JC

  17. Hey Scott - just found your awesome blog!


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