Yes — I intend to go to Sacramento.

I wasn’t sure how well I could run. I had done only one long run at faster than 6:50 pace, and on that I couldn’t keep up with Lauren.

I had decided a while ago that if I could do the half at faster than 86, I would run Sacramento. If I were slower than 90 min. then I wouldn’t. And if I were in between then I’d decide depending on how I felt.

If I’m not in good enough shape to break 3 hours on a marathon I’d rather wait, get better, and train — and if I can’t break an hour and a half on a half-marathon there’s no way I could break 3 on a full.

At first I was sure I’d never break 90 minutes. But I slowly got better until I could run with Lauren at about a 90 minute pace (6:50/mile).

Then I was sure I’d be just under 90. And that wasn’t really appealing either.

A week and a half before the race Rusty said he thought I would be under 87. That sounded a lot better. I wasn’t sure I could, but it was encouraging to think so.

Then a week before he told me to try for between 84:30 and 85:30. That seemed unlikely to me — I’d had a hard time keeping the faster pace for just 4 miles — I checked with him to make sure and that was what he meant. In fact Rusty seemed a little annoyed with me for doubting both myself and him. He then told me to run what felt good.

(I’m afraid I’ve been rather a depressed wet blanket recently — to all those who have put up with listening to me, my sincere apologies).

The weather predicted Santa Ana winds. Hot. Dry. Windy. Perhaps (worst of all) more fires and smoke. Instead the day started — I hesitate to use the word, “dawned” — with a dense layer of fog. Chilly. Wet. Still. (foghorns in the harbor, but no smoke).

In the past, the half has been the week-end after the end of daylight saving time, but because of the new law it’s now the Saturday before the change, so it’s much darker than I’m used to. Especially with the heavy fog. Even though we started at 8:30 instead of 8 this year, it’s still dark.

I got to the start too early, and chatted with people while trying to stay warm. Then it was time to do a warm up run (2 miles — down to the State St bathrooms and back — the local bathrooms having a ferocious line in front of them), change into my magic shoes (would they help today?), eat a GU, and head to the start.

Half marathon course

Everyone else was very humble this year, and I was the only one near the front for a while. Then Travis and Jeff and Lauren and Melissa M. and Melissa G. showed up. More chat while we wait for the latecomers to register.


Off up hill. Last year I went out at a 6:11 pace. Not a good way to begin a race where I averaged 6:30s. I was determined not to do that again. Rusty suggested 6:45 for the first two (up hill) miles.

After half a mile or so, the guy beside me joked to his friend that they’d do the first mile at a seven minute pace, and then pick it up to 5:20s later. That was a little dismaying — if we were doing a 7 minute pace now, then I was doomed. I thought I was going faster.

At the mile mark I saw: 6:22. Well, better than last year, not quite what I had planned. I slowed and a crowd of people passed me. I’ll catch some of you later, I thought.

I hoped.

On, and up. We pass the first walkers — they start half an hour early. They are being pretty good about not spreading out all over the lane. That’s nice. We also pass the first speed-walker, on his way back down.

As we turn on to Elise Way, I hear Maggie cheering me. Poor Maggie, she injured her calf Thursday and had to give up her plans to run with us today. It’s really good of her to be out here cheering… I’m not usually willing to do that when I can’t run myself.

And then there’s the 2 mile mark. Hmm. 6:51. I slowed down a little too much. Still that’s pretty close to 6:45, and this last mile is always surprisingly hard. Not too concerned yet, but I pick up the pace a bit.

We wiggle around on the mesa. It’s very wet under the Eucalypts on Mesa Lane. Eucalyptus leaves condense the fog and the droplets roll off them and onto me. It’s chilly.

6:31 on the three mile mark. Perfect. And there’s Jeff. We run together. Then into the road of Oliver ran we two, slower runners to the right of us, walkers to the left us, walkers in front of us (volleyed and thundered) with little room for us. We get to the 4 mile mark (6:22, but that’s ok, it was a downhill mile). Jeff wants to run a little faster so he moves ahead. I remind him that I told him last year he’d beat me in this time. He laughs and says “It’s a long race yet.”

And, indeed I pass him shortly after the 5 mile mark (6:23). Now we’re down on the flat again, and I’m worried about slowing too much. But the next mile (6:26) is still on the fast side. I begin to speculate: Could I actually get a PR this year? That would be rather amazing.

Me, about half way
Photo Dennis Mihora

But the next mile, mile 7, is slower (6:35) — still — my average pace is probably under 6:30… And mile 8 seems to bear that out (6:27). Maybe a PR?

Then the long slog up around the cemetery. Mile 9 is 6:40. Ug. But I’m passing some people, so I’m not doing too badly.

I see Travis, and then Melissa and Martin. All looking good.

And here’s the turn-around — I’ve just passed Ricki, but he passes me back (what nerve:-), but not for long, I catch him again.

I see Lauren just as I loop back to the other side of the 9 mile marker. I’m 1:47 ahead of him, not much. Wow, he’s doing really well. (Ricki’s doing well too, he’s gotten quite fast this last year).

I see various other people I know, cheering them on when I have breath for it. And I slowly realize — I haven’t seen Jeff — where is he? Hmm was he right behind me at the turn, or am I blind?

Mile 10 proves little better than 9: 6:36. Now I’m running against the oncoming hordes and they are pushing me out into the street as they try to pass each other. I can’t really blame them, but it is annoying.

I see a break in the hordes, and zip across to the sidewalk, just before mile 11 (6:33) and then on to the bike path. I’m feeling pretty tired; I’d really like to stop now. As mile 12 approaches I tell myself I should not look at my watch.

But I do. 6:39. Damn. I thought I was going faster than that.

Something in me gives up. I’m going forward doggedly now. I’m not racing. I’ve passed my last person (it turns out). I watch the woman in front creep slowly further off and I know I can’t catch her.

I’m in the final parking lot — AND WHAT HAVE THEY DONE!!!? THERE ARE CARS DRIVING THOUGH HERE!!! THERE’S NO ROOM FOR THAT. NOT WITH RUNNERS. And then just at the narrowest point, where there really is no room, there is a car motionless, completely blocking my route forward. I muster what breath I’ve got left and roar at it to MOVE OUT OF THE WAY!!!

But it doesn’t.

And then I can see the finish line, and I’m in the shoot and — what? Jeff just passed me! Good for him:-) I told him he’d beat me this year.

I finish. 1:25:50. Just under my 86 minute cut off. I didn’t think I was going to do it. Yay!

Having done it, I start to complain to myself “Why couldn’t I have beaten last year’s time?” There’s just no pleasing some people.

However… I’ve gotten older. My age graded percentage, is exactly, exactly the same: 76.71% both years. So, in a sense, I’m no worse…


Queen Elizabeth, I, in Rochester

But I’m not done yet. Not a perfect race, but, as the queen said, good enough. If I’m running Sacramento (and I am now) this isn’t a race day, it’s a marathon training day, and I’ve got another 5 miles to run. I drink my recovery drink, then head over to the food tent. They won’t let me in. How unfriendly. I decide it isn’t worth asking them for? What? one muffin and a cup of soup? Pathetic. I’d like a banana, but I don’t see any. Don’t see much of anything really. I walk off. Someone hails me. It turns out to be Garrett’s mom — she wants to tell me she enjoys reading this blog. (It always amazes me the other people actually want to read this). Says I look just like Garrett. Poor Garrett, to be compared to a balding man twenty years his senior. She wants to know — Will I run Sacramento?Yes.I check with Lauren, who has also finished now; does he want to cooldown with me? Assuming he has the same schedule (he does). Nope. He’s got to tend his family. So I head out on my own.

At first I think I’ll run back to the cemetery, but then I’d be running upstream against many runners. I do the Mesa Loop instead. I’m moving v e r y   s l o w l y. But I’m feeling surprisingly good. It’s very calm here now. There’s no one else around. The fog gets denser again as I climb up to the Mesa.

I’m pretty tired when I get back. As I head for my bike I see a guy with a tee-shirt on which reads
My girl-friend can run a marathon.
Can yours?

This amuses me. Then I notice he has no racing bib on. Perhaps the real question is Can he?


6 Responses to “Yes — I intend to go to Sacramento.”

  1. Adger Says:

    Here’s the bit I saw that confused me about Sacramento:

    But I’m not done yet. Not a perfect race, but, as the queen said, good enough. If I’m running Sacramento I’ve got another 5 miles to do.

  2. georgeruns Says:

    Prior to this I was not sure whether I was training for a marathon or not. If not, then racing the half marked the end of the day’s running. If I decided to run Sacramento then I had a full marathon workout to do — in this case 20 miles — 2 miles of warm up, 13.1 mile race and 5 miles thereafter.

    The race was “good enough” that it persuaded me to commit to the marathon. I was not exactly pleased with the race, but “satis.”

  3. Leah Says:

    I’m glad you’ll be running Sacramento. I’ve decided to opt out. I couldn’t get excited enough about the race to register early, even though my training has been going well.

  4. Annie Says:

    George, congrats on a great race! I knew you would pull out of your funk soon. Funny that when you finished you were asking yourself why you didn’t break last year’s time. I myself have never run a race without regrets…

  5. Ricky Says:

    Good job,George! Have fun to run with you on sunday this year. Keep up your good work. Just found out we both got 4th place. May be top 3 next year? Actually, I was 3rd but got change to 4th after the final results and I retured my plaque to SB running. Just feel the right thing to do and I was only 8 seconds short to get 3rd. Sad but will move on for next year.

  6. georgeruns Says:

    Ah, but Ricky, last year I was third. And two years before that second. If this trend continues next year I’ll be fifth.

    You, on the other hand, …

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