Monday, April 13, 2015

Speed and Sun At The 2015 Presidio 10-Mile/RRCA 10-Mile National Championship

Yesterday, I joined 4,000+ runners at Crissy Field in San Francisco, CA, to soak in the sun and enjoy the challenging course of the Presidio 10-Mile road race. This was my fourth running of this hilly and fast route around the Presidio and Golden Gate Bridge put on by The Guardsmen, and it was once again the Road Runners Clubs of America (RRCA) 10-mile National Championship. It was the perfect tune up for the Boston Marathon just a week away, so I was curious to see how my tempo pace would hold up now that I was finally free of that pesky two-month chest cold. But most of all I was thrilled to join many smiling runners on a perfect sunny day and roll through the familiar world class landmarks of the area. Honestly, we have few excuses to not have a great time given our slice of California heaven. Today would be no exception!

(Hanging with the Guard Dog, the mascot for The Guardsmen)
At the starting line, you wouldn't believe that just nine years ago this race had only 300 participants. Now it's one of the bigger races in San Francisco, with a dozen sponsors including Levi's and Hint beverages, while still retaining that fun and local atmosphere. It's all thanks to The Guardsmen, a fantastic volunteer group that raises money for youth programs, where RD Damon and his hearty crew just keep improving. One thing for sure is that there would be music, pancakes, and beer at the finish...that's all the motivation I need!

After a short parking debacle (one drawback of the bigger crowds), I hustled up to the start line just in time for the 8am start. Phew! I'm worse than Cinderella at midnight with these things, I swear. It's usually at this point I realize I'm missing something (camera this time, but have shown up without shoes before, so anything that doesn't involve sprinting in Crocs is fine by me), and laugh to myself that Mr. Big Shot Chief Blah-Blah Officer is basically a preparation train wreck any given weekend. Then again, maybe that fly-by-night freedom is part of the release that makes racing so fun. It wasn't so long ago that racing was the only structure my life had. 

(And we're off!)
We were sent off into the Presidio hills at 8am sharp, and the front runners immediately stretched out the massive pack of runners. As we cruised the first half mile of flat, I ran with former Women's champ and new Mom Sarah Hallas while we watched a pack of five set off on a 5:45 min/mile pace into the first set of hills. I settled into 12th or so, knowing this course was all about saving your legs for the turnover required on the last 2.5 miles. So far, so good!
(Through the barracks we go..)
As we rolled through the barracks of the Presidio and climbed to the top of the peak, I was already running alone and enjoying a few flashbacks. I love how when you run a race a few times, you can remember the puddles of '12, the Boston Strong colors of '13, the cold naked guy of '11...the streets become alive with your memories. At the turnaround (mile 2), it was South Lake Tahoe's Alex Sharp setting the pace, with Turlock, CA's Vojta Ripta, and known-speedster from Santa Rosa, Ezra Becker, both within a few steps. Sarah Hallas had some good competition from SF's Angela Strange, about 10 slots behind us. The second mile marker was about 0.8 we all had a good chuckle as we eased into our world record pace.

(The lead pack takes the downhill fast)
My downhill form let me pick up a few more positions (thanks, trail running!) before we headed into the long stretch across the Golden Gate Bridge. The wind was perfectly still, the sun had baked off the slippery fog, and the police had done a great job clearing the walkways of tourists. Basically, no excuses left, so tuck in those elbows and go, go, GO! The speed check machines clocked us at 11 mph, so I knew we were moving fast. Yet somehow the guys in front of me never get closer...the long distance mirage. 

(Just follow those cones all the way across the bridge)
(Okay, time to put the camera away!)
By the time I finished the return trip on the bridge (mile 6), I had worked my way up to 9th, and picked up one more slot on the downhill bomb to Crissy Field. I was a good 30 seconds off my time of previous years, so it would take some serious stomach-churning digging to get this race done sub-60 minutes. I focused on what I could do, and saw that I was within 30 seconds of two more in front, but also had four guys closing on me quickly. These short races are so tactical! You can't just wait for 10-20% of them to blow up like the ultras. My legs were burning, and I couldn't help but do the math that I would need to pick up 15 seconds/mile to catch these guys when I am already nearing my top speed. 
(Heading down from the bridge, photo courtesy of Chris Bragg)
(The leaders head into the final stretch)
"Well, bad do you want it?"

It's always the question that hits my head at this point, and for some reason, the voice always sounds like Sean Connery in his 007 heyday. If I've put in the training, my head always finds the same answer. I want it, and I want it all. Unapologetically. I want to catch that guy with the grey hair and pick up my 4th RRCA Masters win. I want to simulate the pain I will feel when I go flat out on Boylston Street at next week's Boston Marathon and take a few precious seconds off my marathon PR. I want to earn my beer, pancakes, and post-race PAX'ing. I want my 4-year-old daughter, Quinn, to sprint around the house for hours with my medal around her neck pretending she is winning. I want what we all want...everything I can get by maxing this moment. Honestly, is that too much to ask?
So I leaned forward, stood tall, and pushed my leg turnover to a road runner blur. The pain felt good, cleansing. My form was holding up despite protest from every orifice, but the self-destruct time clock had also been set. With a mile to go, I reeled in one runner as I went gasping by. With 500 yards to go, I pulled in one more while the tunnel vision poured in. Then the finish line came...1:01:17 for 6th, and the Master's win...not my fastest here, but enough for the day.

(To the finish!)
As I hydrated and enjoyed the free breakfast and beer, I found out that Vojta Ripta (59:18) had won, with Ezra Becker (59:37), and Alex Sharp (59:49) all coming in under one hour. Angela Strange (1:03:51) won the Women's division just a few weeks ahead of her wedding, holding off Sarah Hallas (1:04:38) and Sarah Portman (1:05:35). There were also a number of outstanding age group performances, including Roseville, CA's Steven Butler (M55-59, 1:06:29) and Colorado's Bruce Kirschner (M60-64, 1:08:35!). Turns out the "grey haired guy" in front of me was 25 years old...he just happened to have light colored hair. I guess we all see what we need to see in the moment! All in all, an amazing day.

(Hanging with Chris Bragg and William Smith, who was 9th in 1:02:02)
(The band rocks out the 80's tunes)
(Selfie city near the bridge)
(Some nice bling and a tee)
My thanks to The Guardsmen, their great sponsors, and the fun volunteers who continue to make this race so much fun. Next stop, Boston! Hope to see some of you there.

(Quinny gets her medal)
(See what she's like with a medal? So worth it. ;-) )
- SD


  1. Wow - way to lay it out there and get it done! Congrats on the Masters win (and giving a 25 year old gray hair just to help make it possible!). Enjoy Boston!

  2. WOW! That was so well written!! I was almost anxious for you hahaha that's awesome, well done. Have fun in Boston!

  3. Good writing job and thanks for mentioning me. In 2016...I'LL BE BACK!


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