Cones? What cones?

I dreamt my alarm went off and I woke up to find it was 3am. I looked hopefully out the window and saw no moon, thinking that might mean fog — but no, the moon was at zenith and bright. Damn. Hot. (Not to be confused with “Hot Damn.”)

Moonrise Over SB Harbor, 5 Sept 2009, ~8pm
So I dozed and dreamed of the moon, and racing, and the Indian climate (Prahlad tells me they run the Mumbai marathon in temperatures in excess of 90) and other things of that kind until my alarm did go off.

No fog. Unfortunate. It will probably be hot. Now I have to decide. Do I carry water with me? If so I might as well expect a poor time; I could take a camera and just enjoy the run — or do I gamble that it won’t be all that hot at 9:20…

Here in my wind-tunnel of a canyon it is chilly.

I decide to gamble. Rusty said to wear my racing flats. Magic shoes get packed. I’m going to take some GU packs. 2? 3? Oh… and I better bring some electrolyte pills just in case.

Biking to the race it feels hot and humid on the Mesa. My glasses fog up. Perhaps I took the wrong option…

I get to the pier a little before 6, there’s Dennis out on the bike path taking a picture of the pier against a sky which is just beginning to show signs of light. Looks like it will be an interesting shot.

And there is Laura, we chat a bit. I ask her to warm up with me, but she goes in search of a bathroom instead. Laura has recently and suddenly become really good and I’m hoping she’ll be running with me, but I’m a little afraid she’ll take off at mile 8 and leave me in the dust as Drea did last year.

On my warmup I bump into Jamie. 6 months ago I was running faster than he, but no longer; he’s now faster than I. But he’s never done P2P before. So he asks how I plan to run it. About 7 minute miles for the first 4 (which aren’t so steep) and then whatever I can after that. He says that’s about what he planned too.

When we get back, the start is swarming with people. And beginning to get light. I greet my friends (or those I see). But all too soon, we line up, and are off.

Wait… we’ve started now?

I get off to a slowish start, in spite of everything I just wasn’t ready when they said “Go!”. Sara D. was right beside me on the line, but somehow she’s a pace ahead. Oh well, she’s going to be ahead, I just didn’t expect it to be happen so quickly. But I’ve found my stride and am about where I should be. Shiggy passes me (Damn. there goes any chance of being first in my age-group). I count people ahead: 12. No, the ponytail ahead of Sara is a cyclist not another runner. 11.

Down the hill under the freeway, let the legs go. Zip. Enjoy this little bit of downhill. And then up on the other side.

I’m slowly catching the guy ahead. I can tell he went out too fast and is now slowing drastically. I pass him. 10 ahead.

I try to put names to backs. Shiggy, yeah, and Sara, and Ricky. Ricky usually goes out too fast, and I usually catch him later (or I do on long courses), but Ricky has gotten fast this year, and I’m not sure I’ll catch him this time.

I’m starting a blister on my right foot, already, just between the ball of the foot and the arch. My flats give me blisters (probably because I can’t squeeze my orthotics in them, so they don’t quite fit right). I hope this doesn’t cause problems later (it’s ok for now).

Here’s the 1 mile mark. 6:34. Oopsie. I really did mean to go out at a 7 minute pace. Oh well, I didn’t. It doesn’t really matter, the first mile is the closest to flat of any, 6:30 is probably a reasonable pace. Yeah. And I’ve got a bridge to sell…

I’m catching up on the guy in front, and then I pass. Only 9 people ahead now, I’m in 10th place. That’s about where I expect to finish.

At the two mile mark I see 7:02. Excellent! that’s what I want. The guy behind (whom I just passed) runs up close enough to ask for the total time 13:30 I say (close, but it’s too much effort to remember the small digits). I add this is too fast for me (and he agrees for him too), but that the last mile was at the right pace.

Apparently not for him as he drops back again.

Feet behind. Someone else passes. Being in 10th place didn’t last long.

I realize I’ve seen no sign of Laura or Kary or Kent. I thought they might run with me, but not today. No sign of Jamie either, but I don’t know his back as well as the others, he might be ahead.

At the first water stop I take water. I normally don’t this early but I’m still worried about heat later, seems like a good precaution.

And here’s the Mission and a small crowd is out to watch the race. There’s Fred (why isn’t he running? Oh well, he’d be faster than I so maybe I’ll be 9th place with him gone). Good heavens, Mickey, a yoga friend, is watching; what’s she doing here?

We turn. Well, I turn, onto Mountain Dr. A narrow windy road. And here are the first walkers. They’re being pretty good, no large clumps. They are walking at most two abreast. I’m grateful.

At mile 3 exactly 7 minutes.

There’s a guy in front now. We’re running at a similar pace. No immediate likelihood of passing him.

I have never seen the 4 mile mark on this course. I’m beginning to think that it just never gets marked. I know it’s before the old reservoir. When I get to the reservoir I click my watch 7:52, but I really don’t know what that means as a mile pace. 7? 7:30? more?

The guy in front has slowed for the water station, and the people there are talking to him and have no water for me. I am annoyed. Water is going to be important today, but I’m not going to stop. I pass the guy in front.

About twenty feet after I hear “Do you want water or gaterade?” are they talking to me? or to Ricky? I yell back “I wanted water but you weren’t ready.” Looking back, that was nasty of me.

Still, they weren’t ready, and they should have been.

But I wasn’t ready either. I had intended to have my first GU here and then drink. But I didn’t have it out. I get it out now, ready for the next water stop.

The guy I just passed passes me. I expected he would. Still #11. At the start of Gibraltar someone cheers “Todd”. Ah. That’s the guy in front. Todd turns to talk to him. I reprove him: Never turn to look behind when racing, it slows you down.

It’s not as hot as I feared it would me. A little voice says “Not yet, anyway. Still a long way to go, and the hottest part is yet to come.”

The views are good today. Clear skies, very little haze. The islands are nicely visible.

Also visible are the scars left by the fires. First the Tea Fire, then after the switchback the Jesusita Fire.

I’m gaining on Todd, and then I pass him. I cheer him on. I’m in 9th place now.

I hear heavy footfalls behind me, and hard breath. You are running too fast, whoever you are, I think. But he passes me and keeps going faster than I.

Sigh. Ok, 10th place again.

And then more footfalls behind. Damn it. Stop passing me, people. It’s Jamie. We chat a bit and then he, too, pulls ahead. 11th.

At mile 6 (6? where was the 5 mile mark?) I see 15:38. For miles 4 and 5 together. That’s quite good for the first really steep bit (of course mile 4 was probably a bit short, but that’s still close to 8min/mile for those two. Nice. OK people may be passing me, but it’s not because I’m slow, it’s because they are fast.)

My quads let me know that they’d rather not work this hard. Silly selfish quads. I remind them we’ve a long way to go yet and they should just calm down.

I see water. Time to eat that GU.

Drink water at the next water stop.

Mile 7 is 9:53. Oh, dear, that’s not so good. Jamie and Roman (I have learned his name from people cheering him on) are running together, slowly getting ahead of me.

The big switchback. Looking straight into the sun. Can’t see anything at all. Suddenly I realize there’s a photographer in the middle of the road, he’s got a perfect shot of me, and all I see is sun dazzle.

Tammy gives me some water (thanks!), and on and up. Jamie and Roman are still in sight.

At mile 8 I see 9:06. OK, that’s not bad. 10 minute miles are too slow, but 9 min seems reasonable.

I’m getting annoyed at Roman, he keeps cutting the corners (We were asked not to do that on this course) while Jamie does not. The result is that often he and Jamie are on opposite sides of the road. The cars don’t like that and aren’t passing them so a small traffic jam develops and I start breathing exhaust.

There’s a sign “Ice ahead.”

Hmm. I could put some in my cap. It still isn’t very hot yet, but it won’t hurt.

Another sign: “5¢, exact change only.”


I get ready to hold out my cap (I assume they aren’t serious about the 5¢), but it isn’t ice, it’s a bottle of ice cold water. Even better. I drink some, and pour some on my head.

I’m shock. I gasp. It really is cold. I pour a bit more on my head. Perfect time to have my next GU. I eat it and drink more water. And an electrolyte pill too. More water.

These people were life savers. It’s not one of the standard water stations. Probably Brian’s wife and Brooke? And perhaps Nichol’s water. Didn’t recognize anyone, but I am grateful.

Hmm. But now I have a bottle to run with. Oh well, it was worth it.

Mile 9 is in the shade of gibraltar rock: 9:06. Exactly the same as the last mile, and a reasonable pace too.

We’re coming up to Flores Flats. There’s a tiny bit of down hill here and I mean to take advantage of it. I pick up the pace as the road levels, and then pound down into the gully. My friend Bob has his pottery studio (and lives) here, but I have yet to see him when I race by.

Jamie and Roman are almost out of sight now. I didn’t catch up with them by that short burst of speed.

This always feels like the steepest section, climbing out of Flores Flat.

I see Roman ahead — walking. Ah, I thought he was going too fast. He runs a bit, and then walks again. I catch him, and pass. I try to encourage him by saying that this is the steepest bit.

I’ve been there. My first (official) year I went out too fast and had to walk…

Mile 10: 9:36. Now that is excellent for this section. Let’s see I’ve been running for 1:21:?? and I’ve got three and a bit miles to go. If I can keep this pace I’ve a  chance of breaking 1:50! Nice.

Grab some water at the next stop and toss them my empty bottle.

As I come away from the stop, I realize that someone I thought was a volunteer was actually a runner, and I just passed him. I’m in 9th place now.

Best finish I’ve ever had was 10th place (and I was younger then). 9th place sounds neat. I wonder if I can maintain it.

I’m can’t pass anyone by speeding up. I can only pass people who have miscalculated and slowed down drastically because they went too fast at the start.

Of course someone might still pass me. I think that’s unlikely, but…

There’s another runner up ahead, I’m catching up quickly. He slows to a walk and moves out into the road for me to pass him. I encourage him to keep going, “Oh,” says he, “I’m just out for a morning stroll.” He’s not in the race. Rats. “You’re in fifth place.” “I am? I thought I was about 9th.” “Nope, 5th.”

I’m not sure I believe him, maybe he missed people. I start naming people I know are ahead: Sara, Shiggy, Jamie — none are likely to have problems and stop. Sara was first woman last year, Shiggy’s usually about 3rd overall. Jamie’s just good.

And here’s Camino Ciello, quick right turn, little bit of water, and up hill. Someone tells me “Turn round at the cones.” I know that, but I guess they need to tell every one.

Nonetheless the cones take me by surprise, I guess I sort of zoned out. I thought they were further away than they are. Also there’s no chalk, but I’m pretty sure this is the 11 mile mark, even though it isn’t indicated. 9:10. Not bad.

I realize I haven’t seen anyone coming down. Am I so far behind the next person?

And now there’s a nice long downhill run. Almost a mile. Well maybe ¾. I try to pick up the pace a bit. It feels like I’m just flying down the hill, but I’m probably only doing 8 minute miles or something. There’s Todd coming up. I’d hoped he was further back, but at least he’s behind me.

Down and down. Past the intersection with Gib again and on toward La Cumbra. Still down but not as steep.

Conner hails me. Where? Oh, 🙂 he’s perched on top of one of the fire reservoir spools. I try to ask how many people are ahead but I must have garbled it, for he tells me I’ve a mile and a half to go. Oh well, I knew that. I think it’s probably closer to 1 ¾ miles though.

Last year I was quite tired at this point, this year I’m feeling pretty good. Training for a 50 mile ultra is probably a good way of preparing for P2P.

At the dirt road leading to the dam the road goes back up, and I deliberately slow. If I were to try to go this fast uphill, I’d burn up.

Mile 12: 6:48. Now that is impressive. This far into the race, I was probably doing a 6:20 pace on that downhill section. Which is my half marathon pace, so, yeah, OK, that makes sense.

Last water stop. Get some water and it goes down the wrong way. Some gasping before I settle.

Only another mile. Moderately steep. Doesn’t seem as bad as I remember last year. Fair amount of shade.

Me at about mile 12. Photo by Dennis

Me at about mile 12. Photo by Dennis

I pass Dennis: “You’re second.”


I’m ninth. Or tenth. Possibly eighth. I might be off by one. But second? No way.

Well, that would explain why I didn’t see anyone on the out and back section, there was just no one ahead to be seen.

I consider picking up the pace. If I’m second now, I really don’t want anyone to pass me, for once I’ve got something to race for. But there’s still a mile to go. I feel good now, but I know that if I go to fast here I can easily burn up completely. Better not to push it. Check the watch: HR of 91% — yeah — best not push things yet.

And here’s the turn onto the peak. I think this is 13. It isn’t marked (they rarely mark mile 13 on a half). Hmm 8:55. Not bad. Next .1 mile is really steep though.

How far back is Todd. Push.

There’s the clock.

1:47:?? good heavens, maybe I’ll beat my best time even though it was on the shorter course!

But no, the seconds climb inexorably. And I pass under at 1:48:10.

That’s a PR for the longer course, and since the out and back section adds 2~4 minutes (I’ve never actually timed it), it’s a pace that would have been a PR on the shorter course too. (John (see comment below) says it took him 2:34 for the out and back section and as he wasn’t far behind me that’s probably about right for me)

I have to ask it: “What place am I?”


Gott in Himmel.

What happened to Sara, Shiggy, Jamie? And a small bunch of other people?

Eric is first. Not surprising. Why wasn’t he on my list of people ahead? I guess he was so far ahead that when I checked out the ones in front I didn’t even recognize him. Eric is far out of my league.

We congratulate each other. Both of us are masters runners. 1:48 is not a very good time for the second place person on this race (It’s good for me, don’t get me wrong, but there should be more than just Eric ahead of me). Where is everyone?

Eric wasn’t even sure he’d be able to run today (baby sitter problems or something). It occurs to me that if he hadn’t run, I’d have been first. Damn it Eric why did you find that babysitter? 🙂

Todd is third. I congratulate him.

Someone interviews me. I’ve never been interviewed before. They are surprised that a 50 year old guy was second. So am I. Well, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Shiggy were second. Where is he?

I see Sara. She looks furious. She’s first woman (of course). But she got lost. No one told her to turn at the cones so she (and a bunch of others) just ran on down (and up) Camino Ciello for an extra mile or two until they realized they’d gone too far.

Ah. I’m not really second.

What a pity.

The other side of Camino Ciello

The other side of Camino Ciello


5 Responses to “Cones? What cones?”

  1. John Says:

    Nice report. I’m not as fast as you but I did time the ‘extra’ 0.4 miles at 2:34. I finished about 4 mins behind you so I don’t think you’d be far wrong if you assumed the extra takes you 2:30 or a bit under.

  2. Nirmal Says:

    Did Prahlad mention that the humidity is usually 80%+ in Bombay?

    Congrats on the 2nd place finish George. It doesn’t matter how, all that matters is you crossed the line second. 🙂

    • georgeruns Says:

      I don’t think he did. One more horrible tidbit.

      I remember watching a long race in Sri Lanka (I don’t know what it was, people just started running past my study site). I was sweltering standing still in the shade, and here were people running. Rrrr. Not for me…

  3. Pier to Peak, 2010 « George’s Meanderings Says:

    […] I set myself a goal and often hope to better the previous year. That didn’t seem likely. I thought I’d probably come in around 1:50. But the most […]

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