When I heard about the inaugural resurrected Oakland Marathon to be held the last weekend of March, I quickly emailed inquiries about the possibility of being a pace group leader, having been unsuccessful in similar attempts at other northern California road marathons. Fortunately, they needed people. Perhaps unfortunately they especially needed faster runners to pace the faster groups, so pace group leader coordinator Len Goldman currently slotted at the 3:20 pace group, but will be another story. As part of the preparation, all pace group leaders needed to get some pacing practice in, and the either the 10k or 15k distance of the monthly runs held on the 4th Sunday of every month around Lake Merritt in Oakland were suggested as a quick and easy way to meet the requirement.
A start time of 9am allowed me to wake up well rested before my alarm, shove a couple of slices of toast in my mouth and drive up 580 to the Grand Avenue exit. They were charging $5 to park right by the lake, so I parked on the street and jogged in the 1/3 of a mile to the start. Although I was wondering who on earth was going to show up for an event they have every month when there was a chance of rain, there were plenty of runners headed the same way. I briefly talked to one woman, who just recently started running again, and wanted a real low key event before doing the Kaiser Permanente 5k being held with the Half Marathon in 2 weeks. I even saw a couple of ultrarunners I didn't recognize, talking about States.
Indeed it was low key. But well organized. Registration was a cinch, and I was waived the $5 entry fee charged non-members. No line to the bathroom, which I needed. Len showed everyone a map of the course, just in case clockwise loops of the lake was too complicated for anyone. (Actually there are plenty of sections with more than one path to take, with significant differences in distance.) One loop was certified at just under 5k. They had finish lines for the 5, 10 and 15k races lined up maybe just 10-20 meters apart.
LMJS registration volunteers Alain Boutefeu, Jim Eckford, Gisele Boriolo, and Joe Davis. Thanks all volunteers!
I had to decide what pace I was going to run. I decided since a 3:20 marathon was 7:38 minute mile pace, I should do something like a 7 minute mile. Faster than that would bring me close to racing, defeat the purpose of pacing practice.
I felt pretty rested, having done my first spin class at my gym 3 days earlier; 65 minutes on my first elliptical machine and 30+ minutes lifting weights at my hotel 2 days earlier; and a hilly 4.3 mile hike the day before in which I had carried my 2-year-old less than half the time (my 4-year-old has that distance down).
I turned on my Garmin Forerunner 305 (actually my friend Baldwyn Chieh's since I couldn't find mine) and decided that the mode showing lap pace made more sense than seeing current pace. The race started and about 10-15 people shot off ahead. I looked down at my watch and watched the pace settle at about 6:40 per mile, too fast, from the usual adrenaline. As we made the first turn along Lakeshore Ave., I noticed that slight variations of speed would change the entire lap pace by several seconds. I focused on relaxing, feeling relieved that I had no incentive to catch all those people up front, as I normally would.
Everyone pretty much stayed on the quickest route, the mostly concrete bike and jogging path, and not on the sometimes meandering alternate trail closer to the lake, or the muddy dirt paths sometimes running along. Also, no detour to go around Children's Fairyland (the model-inspiration for Disneyland).
A 7-minute mile pace turned out to be a good pick. I felt like I was getting a decent fast workout, but without too much pain. However, several times I deliberated whether I should do a bonus lap. The running was uneventful, except for a several times the path got crowded or a walker, trying to get out of my way, actually moved into my path. In terms of pacing, honestly, I don't know how I'd have done it without my GPS device giving me feedback the every 30-60 minutes I looked at it. Marathons usually give you mile marker splits. Perhaps if I ran flat road more often, but even my flat running short commute to and from the BART station has enough hills and traffic lights to prevent a steady pace.
I finished the 15k in 65:56 (65:53 per my Forerunner's recorded split time, good for 5th place overall and 1st in my division). After pausing 5-10 seconds to tear off and give that strip at the bottom of my bib to a volunteer, I sped off to do a bonus lap at a faster pace to make this whole event a little more honest in terms of self-punishment and training.
I had to make up for the pause to get my lap pace down to 6:30 minutes per mile. I was hoping to increase the pace for each successive mile, but despite feeling the burn and breathing hard, couldn't sustain the acceleration, and barely continued the pace. My last split took 20:50, a 6:35 minute/mile pace, and accounting for the initial delay maybe 6:32/mile. In ultras I often beat guys with marathon PRs run at the same or faster pace. This morning I could barely hold this for 3 miles. What is up with that?
race gear and schwag: non-Sportiva road shoes (Mizuno Wave Runners, I think); Baldwyn Chieh's Garmin Forerunner 305; 15k finisher's ribbon-- first finisher's award of the decade, and perhaps my first ribbon ever as an adult; bib
After crossing the virtual (and estimated) 20k finish line, I had to explain to those at the finish that I already finished and I had just done a bonus lap. Then I jogged back the third mile to my car to grab my camera, came back to take the photos posted, and then back again to my car to hurry home and write this blog report before my wife and kids got back from the gym (didn't quite make it.) So over 13 3/4 miles running and jogging this morning. And luckily it never rained.
So fast. Like a flash mob. And so low impact--absolutely no trouble walking down stairs. Wow.