Monday, October 4, 2010

And San Jose makes 10

There's something special about running in front of your hometown crowd and the Rock n Roll San Jose Half Marathon was a special day for all. Personally it was a great run and put me into double-digits for the Rock n Roll Marathon Series. But it was also an official Team in Training (TNT) event for our summer season which meant I had the opportunity, after completing the event myself, to help our many participants cross the line - many for the very first time.

I have been a coach for TNT since 2007 and I keep coming back because there is no greater feeling than helping someone who has never completed an endurance event - some not even a single mile - grow into marathoners and half marathoners. It is always a special day for them and for us on the coaching staff. And we had nearly 30 people cross the line for the first time that day.It's also extra special knowing that collectively our participants helped raise over $150,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

The week prior to the event the San Francisco Bay Area was experiencing its Indian summer and San Jose was hitting temperatures in the 90s each day. The Sunday before the race, was 98 degrees and we were starting to worry about how the heat would affect our participants. Our final TNT training run along the Los Gatos Creek Trail gave us a taste of what the event might be like as it sapped the energy of nearly every runner - myself included. Thankfully everyone made it through the day without incident.

However, as the week wore on, the mild sumer that we've had all year slowly crept back in and by midweek a cooling trend was sending forecasts for race day Sunday down into the 80s. Sunday morning turned out to be mid 60s at the start and highs in the mid 70s. And since nearly everyone was off the course by 11:30am, no one felt much heat the entire way.

There were approximately 12,000 runners at the start line. I was granted a spot in corral 1 with the elites running the event, including Olympic Silver medalist Meb Keflezighi who won by a huge margin that day. There's good and bad when you are in the first corral. The good is not having to weave through a horde of runners to get to a comfortable pace and being out in front which is a good feeling. The bad is that you can easily get caught up in the excitement of the first corral and take off too fast, burn through your energy and be left with nothing for the final miles. Thankfully I had already done that in my running career and so knew to avoid that temptation.

The San Jose course was flat, fast and for the most part ran through some very beautiful neighborhoods. We had clear skies the whole way and a light breeze in some neighborhoods. The bands, spread out approximately every mile, were playing inspired, upbeat classics and cheerleader groups from the local schools were well spaced along the course to give you that extra boost when you needed it. They had a new inspiration tactic I hadn't seen on the earlier Rock n Roll events - the cheerleader tunnel. The first group to do this was Los Gatos High School's cheerleaders who at around mile 5 lined up on opposite sides of a narrow section of the course, wide enough for 1-2 runners abreast to go through. With cheerleaders on both sides of this narrow passage a runner could get high fives on both hands as they ran. I couldn't pass this up and for good reason - as it totally pumped me up and I flew through that section of the course.

This technique was a real boost to Kristi, one of our first time half marathoners who at mile 11 ran another cheerleader gauntlet and nearly doubled her pace through them as a result.

While many people might not have a strong impression of San Jose - thinking it's a sleepy San Francisco suburb or, being the heart of Silicon Valley, has very little but high tech companies and office parks - would be pleasantly surprised by this run. It snakes through downtown past The Tech and Children's Museums, through San Pedro Square, home of some great local restaurants, and out through the University neighborhoods where you find wide boulevards, classic big-lawned homes and gorgeous old-growth trees. On the way to the finish you also run past HP Pavilion, home of the San Jose Sharks hockey team. Where was Sharkie!?

The past couple Rock n Roll Half Marathons, I had struggled through miles 11 and 12 as I started to run low on energy but not in San Jose. The weather, all the TNT participants and supporters who lined the course and knowing my beautiful wife was waiting for me that end all served to drive me forward at a steady pace. In fact I was even able to pick up the pace after mile 11 and sprint to the finish line.

Former TNT mentor, Riya, was in corral 1 with me and took off like a rocket at the starting gun. I didn't see her again until the finish. She crossed just ahead of me and we high-fived over a great day where we both registered 1:33.

After navigating the finisher's area, I met up with my wife Reesa switched out of my sweaty race shirt and into a TNT Coach shirt and ran off towards miles 10 and 11 where I could cheer on and run with our TNT participants who were quickly approaching the finish line. I'm normally pretty spent after a half marathon but felt fully energized when I saw our team members approaching. And they all looked great!

Hats off to all the finishers of RnRSJ for a great day and a superb effort.

Rock n Roll San Jose also served as my final long training run before the Dodge Rock n Roll Denver Marathon in just two weeks. There are only 4 events remaining in the 2010 Rock n Roll Endurance Series and it will be a challenging finish. Denver is the first of three full marathons in the remaining four events. The lone half marathon is a short seven days after Denver so even that one won't be easy.

But I can see the finish in site now both in running and fundraising. We topped $8,000 raised to fight blood cancers this week so a huge thank you to all my supporters thus far. But we have just under $2,000 to go so keep the donations coming. If you donated in late 2009 to my cause, it's time to reup now for the 2010 tax season. Please give by clicking the Donate Now link above!

1 comment:

Ted M. Young said...

Thanks for the company during the last few miles, James! It's so rare that I get to run alongside you for more than like, oh, 2 seconds. :-)

Hope your back is still (mostly?) pain-free!