Sunday, September 30, 2012

Max King - 3 Titles, 3 Distances, One Week. He is the KING!

Bend, OR's Max King, known for his crazy back-to-back race schedule even among his Team Montrail colleagues, has had a helluva streak this week. Last Saturday (9/23), he won the Flagline 50k, defending his USATF 50k Trail Championship. He then flew to Ogden, UT (9/24), to win the XTerra National Trail Run Championship (21k) for the fifth time. Impressive for sure, but Max has won that double before. This time he upped the ante by winning the prestigious Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100k for an additional $5,000 payday yesterday. Way to go, Max!

(2012 USATF 50k Trail Champion)
(XTerra National Trail Run Champion)
(UROC Champion)
What a season he is having! I really enjoyed watching him represent the trail running clan at the USA Olympic Trials this year (16th in the marathon with a 2:14, 6th in the Steeplechase with an 8:30). He is simply on fire!

BTW, he's set up on Twitter now...@MaxKingOR if you want to follow.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fog and Fun at the 2012 Half Moon Bay International Marathon

Last Sunday, I had the great pleasure of joining 1,000+ runners for the 2nd annual Half Moon Bay International Marathon in Half Moon Bay, CA. The secret is now out about this fun local race after their debut last year, and people from over 35 states and six countries showed up for the 10k, Half Marathon, and Full Marathon distances. It was foggy, fast, and fun, and everyone had a blast. Such a great race!

(M1 and F1 ready to roll!)
(Some fast new faces this year)
I was in the rare-for-me position of being the defending champion this year, but knew that my 3:00:36 course record didn't stand a chance with a bigger field and newly announced $500 prize for the winner. But I was happy to don the M1 number and run the first half mile with Jennifer Pfeifer Devine, donning her F1 number. Glory days! About ten runners got out ahead of us, but we knew to ease up for the hilly first half. Jen knew for sure since this was her old high school stomping grounds. It was fun to catch up and hear about her amazing 21 hour run at Western States this year, particularly after hearing her brother/pacer's version last weekend.

(And we're off into the fog!)
(Michael Slevin takes it out fast)
We cut through town and did a quick out-and-back along a cove trail before climbing into some nice single track. The fog was still pretty thick, but we could hear the volunteers around every corner. Once again, the course was impeccably marked (thanks, Fernando Ramos, Ron Little and team!) complete with huge mile marker signs from The GraphicWorks. The lead couple of Ryan Neely (a new neuroscience graduate student at Berkeley) and Kimberly O'Donnell (heading to UC Santa Cruz for graduate work after running 400m hurdles for Harvard) were quickly setting a fast pace side by side, and local David Lara was the only one who could stick with them. All of them donned racing flats, so I thought it best to not worry about their pace until they got through some trails and hills.

(Heading out along the cove trail)
(Kimberly O'Donnell and Ryan Neely go stride for stride)
(Palo Alto's Daniel Guzman enjoys the sand)
As we came out of the hilly trails and started through the even-hillier neighborhood, I paced along with Sean Handel from Moss Beach. He said he was new to marathoning, but his stride was very efficient and he was doing a great job staying on liquids and calories early in the race. He soon confessed to being a competitive cyclist for years, and it all made sense. One thing for sure is Sean had the best cheering section, complete with kid-made signs and smiling wife. GO DADDY!

(Sean's super awesome cheering section)
(Kisses from the kids...a bigger boost than Clif Shot Blox!)
(Omaha, NB's Matt Atchison runs by one of the many motivational signs...this one says "strong lives are motivated by dynamic purposes")
The volunteers took great care of us as we zig-zagged through the neighborhood (mile 4-7), and the out-and-back sections gave us a chance to give some high fives to fellow runners. There were lots of red bibs denoting first-time marathoners, and they were crushing it! So impressive they started with a tough little course like HMB. David Lara took the lead on the way back, but the Ryan/Kimberly dynamic duo stayed within striking range, and never more than a few feet from each other. Sean commented, "she looks fast...and her bodyguard is keeping up!".

(The historic Maverick's big wave break is just out in the distance)
(David Lara out front)
(Nice little neighborhood!)
(Volunteers were ON IT)
As we wound through the trails one more time and headed back to town, Sean and I picked up the pace to ~6:45 min/mile. We passed the start/finish area where half marathoners were coming in to applause and music, and took turns drafting off one another until we put a minute on the group behind us. When we got back on the single track, Sean found one more gear and dropped me around mile 15. I better keep him in sight! I sped up, but remained about a minute behind him.

(The coastal trail winds down along the beach)
(Sean and I working together)
(Waving to the waves)
(Erin Katsura is having waaay too much fun in the 10k)

(You never know who you have to share the trails with!)
(Sean builds a lead on the single track)
(AAHHRRR...the pirate aid station!!!)
The pirate aid station (mile 17) was a lot of fun, and I gulped as much as I could for the tricky stretch out to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and back. This was the last out-and-back section, so the last chance to get a sense of where I was in the race. Ryan and Kimberly had regained the lead and were moving FAST, with David Lara just a few seconds behind. All three of them were running close to 6:10 min/miles even with the hills, and had a solid five minutes up on me. Sean was looking good, and if my calculations were right, he was GAINING on them! Wow! I had a two minute lead ahead of the next guy, so it looked like I had a few lonely miles ahead of me. Luckily there were plenty of spectators, lots of volunteers, and gorgeous views in all directions.

(The piper returns!)
(The bluffs near the Ritz)
(Rocklin's Eric Williamson charges the hills)
(Jen Pfeifer holds on to 2nd at mile 19)
(Kristin Barsoom is the 3rd woman, and is busy dodging golfers)
(Hao Liu powers up the climb)
The single track trail on the way back is, IMHO, the hardest stretch of the course. Just when your legs and feet are feeling the distance, you gotta balance and dodge oncoming runners on uneven footing. It was much better than last year, much in thanks to the staggered start times, but it still took its toll. When I got back to the pavement and searched for a sprint gear, my quads just groaned something about UTMB and forced me to cruise along at 7 min/mile pace. This is how it played out last year too! Perhaps I should wait more than two weeks after a 100-miler to race a marathon one of these years. ;-)

(Matthew McKloskey leads a pack down the single track)
(Michelle Contini is all smiles in the dirt)
(First time marathoner David Minden takes advice from the sign...the faster you run, the faster you are done!)
(Fremont's Thomas Marrin cruises over a bridge on his way to an age group win in the M70+ class)
With one last wave to the surfers (mile 25), I hit the final stretch and crossed the line in 3:01:44 for 5th place (all results), just a minute slower than last year. Race Director Eric Vaughan and guest of honor Dean Karnazes were there give congratulations and hand me a fantastic finisher medal. I had forgotten that it was Half Moon Bay where Dean's grand adventure began almost 20 years ago!

(Surfers waving back)

(Eric Vaughan, Dean Karnazes, and me at the finish)
I found out that Ryan Neely and Kimberly O'Donnell had crossed the line together in 2:53:58, setting new course records, and Sean Handel finished 3rd less than a minute behind, and five minutes ahead of a fading David Lara. This was only the second marathon for the two winners (they both ran the San Francisco Marathon, where she went 2:51 and he went 2:39), and now that Kimberly was in the capable hands of the New Balance Silicon Valley Team, I suspect we will see more! An impressive performance by all.

(The amazing volunteer team)
(Big money winners!)
At the finish line, I got the biggest surprise of all...Christi and the girls had come down to see me! It has been a few years since they graced a finish line, and I was super stoked to walk them down to the Half Moon Bay Brewery for beers, clams, and grilled cheese sammiches. We came back to cheer on a few more finishers and thank the many volunteers/sponsors, just as the sun broke through the fog and lit up the finish line. Once again, Eric Vaughan and the volunteers did an amazing job putting on a top notch race with all the trimmings. I'll see you guys for sure next year!

(Quinn and Sophie meet me at the finish!)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Smooth Riding at the 2012 Guardsmen Tour

Last Saturday, I had the great pleasure of joining 120 fellow cyclists for the fourth annual Guardsmen Tour Century Ride in San Francisco, CA. This fun, low-key ride provides 20-, 60-, and 100-mile distances that take you across the Golden Gate Bridge, up Hwy 1, and through some gorgeous towns and countryside of the Headlands. The goal was fun, fellowship, and philanthropy, and thanks to great sponsors and volunteers, we had plenty of all three!
(The Golden Gate, and me having fun with iPhone camera filters)
Mother Nature set us up with some great weather, and the sun lured us across the Bay from our start at Crissy Field. The Guardsmen, a great group of guys who love nothing more than to have fun raising money for at-risk youth, know how to do an event right. I've found this out from both their rides and runs like the Presidio 10-miler. This morning was no different as the first volunteer pulled up with a trailer/smoker/BBQ with 110+ lbs of pork that had been going all night, as well as enough kegs of Figueroa Mountain beer to host Octoberfest. YEEESSSS! Let's get this ride done!

(Dude, I seriously need a trailer like this...the parking lot smelled like bacon for hours)
(@ the start)
About sixty of us opted for the metric century (60-miler), including my brother-in-law (and co-event Captain) Brian Drue, his college buddies Zac Granger, Todd Maderas, and Chris Devine, Doug Feliciano (co-event Captain) who had joined us at the Auburn Century this summer, and many more donning the dark green Guardsmen jerseys. I was still feeling the UTMB in my legs, but knew the pace would be sorest muscles would likely come from smiling over the next six hours. We gathered up around 8am, and headed out over the bridge.

(A busy day on the bridge!)
(Doug and Brian lead the pack up the first set of climbs)
We worked together to get through the windy sections, and soon found ourselves on the newly paved, incredibly smooth Hwy 1. Todd let us know they just finished laying new pavement a few weeks ago and it was amazing! It's easily the smoothest road in town, and combined with the views and eucalyptus-and-sea-salt-filled air, this was quickly becoming an epic day. Time just flew by, and before we knew it we were fueling up at Stinson Beach.
(Hwy 1 is wicked smooth)
(The descents were fast and fun!)
(Lots of food options...and we sampled them all!)

(Awesome volunteers!)
The volunteers were amazing, and the food was plentiful enough that many of us wondered if we would be gaining weight today. We took our time getting to know the many other riders, then headed up the highway to Olema.

(Zac and Brian soaking up the sun)
Once we headed inland to Fairfax, we had to leave the smooth roads behind. Crazy Todd took a bunch of folks through a semi-dirt bike path detour, but we all caught up with each other at the Fairfax aid station.
(San Anselmo is super cute)
(But not as cute as meerkats! Sqa-wish!)
(Heading to Sausalito)
We cut through the cute little town of San Anselmo before doing some sweet climbs through Kentfield, Corte Madera, and Mill Valley. Before I knew it, we were cutting through Sausalito again and had the bridge in sight. Pulled pork and beer, here we come!

(Ryann and Cameron Drue serve up some pulled pork and ale...ahhhhh)
(Team HSBC rocked it all day)
(Delicious brew from Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co)
(There better not be beer in that sippy cup, young man)
The food at the finish was delicious, and we soaked up as much beer and sun as we could with the great sponsors, volunteers, and family members. Everyone had a fantastic time, and The Guardsmen raised $50,000 in the process. Very nice! My thanks to the RD's, volunteers, and sponsors for giving us a great excuse to enjoy a picturesque summer day in the Bay Area. I will see you next year!

- SD