Category Archives: races

Race #32: Moonlight 5k

We ran the Moonlight 5k on Friday night. It’s the 31st running of this unique event that weaves its way through trails surrounded by marshland on the edge of the San Francisco bay. The race is at the Baylands Athletic Center in Palo Alto, and our 5k race began at 8:45pm in darkness under the Harvest Moon.

Headlamps set for the Moonlight 5k
Headlamps set for the Moonlight 5k

We were told to bring headlamps, but we noticed at the start that only a few people had them. I put mine in my pocket, and headed out without it. About half a mile in, it was pretty much dark, and we’re on an unpaved trail traveling along at a sub 8-minute mile. So, I quickly put mine back on and lit up the trail. Power to the folks who didn’t have one, but I’d recommend it if you’re running the race next year.

Anyway, this was the first of three races we planned to run on the weekend. So, we didn’t exactly crank up the pace to maximum (and you couldn’t anyway — there was over 2,500 people out there and plenty of traffic jams, and it was very dark). So, with those excuses declared, I’ll tell you that Selina came 124th and I came 126th. She was 2nd in her age group (how does she do that every week?), and I was 11th.

Race #32 is officially done, and that’s 20 more to go in this 52 race adventure in 2015.

For those who’d like a little more, here’s a write up from the Palo Alto Weekly.

Race #31: Awesome 80s 5k race

We ran the Awesome 80s race in San Francisco on Sunday morning at 7:30am. Getting out of bed on a Sunday at 6am isn’t that awesome. I’m renaming it the 80s race.

Crossing the line. That must have hurt...
Crossing the line. That must have hurt…

One thing I’ve learnt over 30 races is to be wary of novelty races. They’re either lame, badly organized, or run at some of the least pleasant places you can run. (I’m looking at you The Super Run.)

This race was actually a nice surprise: there were more than 500 people and they took the costumes seriously. We saw everything from a transformer to Slash from GnR, from Tetris pieces to a Star Wars stormtrooper, from bad aerobics costumes to Richard Simmons.

Plenty of costumes at the start
Plenty of costumes at the start

We got a bit lost in the middle of the race. So, the badly organized piece was a little true. Put some chalk down, guys. But, other than that, this was a pretty nice way to spend a Sunday morning: running along a marina near the San Francisco bay, lots of people having a fun time, and a very amusing DJ and announcer guy.

Selina crossing the line in 2nd place overall
Selina crossing the line in 2nd place overall

Anyway, Selina and I ran the 5k, and I guess the few serious runners that were there must have run the 10k. Selina came 2nd overall, and I came 3rd. And it wasn’t like I let her win — she just blew me away at the end.

Good costumes. See what I mean?
Good costumes. See what I mean?

Have a great week…

Race #30: DSE Runners Single Lake Merced 4.5 miler

The Dolphin South End Runners host more than 40 races each year throughout the greater San Francisco area. We decided to run their Lake Merced 4.5 mile race this morning, and enjoyed a cool, foggy San Fran start to our summer morning.

A foggy SF day at Lake Merced. Selina came 3rd in the women's single-lap race.
A foggy SF day at Lake Merced. Selina came 3rd in the women’s single-lap race.

Lake Merced is a large lake in San Francisco, with a popular paved 4.5 mile pedestrian trail around its perimeter. The area is largely residential, and it’s surrounded by reasonably busy surface streets. That’s probably under-selling it: when there’s hundreds of runners circling the park at any one time in both directions, it has a great feel of community and it’s a fun thing to be doing on a Sunday morning.

This was hands-down the cheapest race of the year. Race day sign up is $5 for non-members, and $3 for members. For that, you get a bib and a ribbon when you’re done, and they set up a finish line and it’s timed (without the chip — just remember your time when you’re finish, it’d not that hard). And there was watermelon and a water station. A sweet deal!


Like Race #29, we put in a slightly-less-than-max-speed effort, in the spirit of surviving another 22 races this year. Even with that, and Selina’s unscheduled restroom break in the middle of the race (that’s a first!), she managed to finish as the 3rd woman. I have no idea where I finished, but I am pretty sure it wasn’t in the top 20 men.

See you next time for Race #31.


Race #29: Brazen Racing Trail Hog 10k

The good news: this was an amazing trail race. The bad news: thieves got into my car and stole my wallet and phone, and ran up $3,000 worth of expenses before we even got close to home. The good news: the card companies removed the charges without an ounce of hassle. The bad news: I have to buy a new iPhone, and good old AT&T is taking 10 days to send me a new SIM card. Sigh.

The Race

The Brazen Racing Trail Hog 10k is awesome. It’s within the Joseph Grant County Park on Mt. Hamilton Rd in the hills east of San Jose, California, and takes you on a run with magnificent views of the surrounding hills including a close-up view of Lick Observatory. This was our second time running it, and you can be assured I’ll be back a third time.

About a mile from home. A gentle climb to the finish.
About a mile from home. A gentle climb to the finish.

It’s a challenging, beautiful trail race. I’d imagine the Half Marathon is a tough grind, because the 10k certainly is (starting with the fact that it’s actually about 6.6 miles or 10.6 kms). At the 1.5 mile mark, there’s a pretty tough 500 foot climb — and after that it’s an undulating run that ends with a gentle climb back to the start. But, overall, it’s pretty hard to beat for scenery as the pictures show.

If you put a camera near the lady...
If you put a camera near the lady…

I was the 4th male in my age group, and Selina was the 2nd in hers. We didn’t crank it out — we’re trying to get in the habit of running the races at a below-competitive pace in the spirit of making it through 52 races in the year. Anyway, that’s 29 races done!

The Theft

I opened the trunk of my car, put my phone inside, and closed the trunk. I walked away from the car without locking it, since my car locks automatically in 30 seconds or so when I take the key with me. I’m guessing as I walked away, the thieves quietly opened one of the doors a few inches.

Once I’m out of sight, they popped the trunk, grabbed the phone, and then emptied out the console in the front and found my wallet. With the booty stolen, they jump in their car, and head for two different Walmarts to run up $3,000 in charges on one card. They also stop and buy $50 worth of gas on another card.

Once I’m done with the race, I figure out I’ve been robbed. But we can’t call anyone from Selina’s phone, since there’s no cell coverage in the park. We drive back, cancel the cards on the ride, use the “Find iPhone” app to erase the iPhone, and suspend the phone service through AT&T.

The card companies cover all the losses (thankfully!), and AMEX even sent me a new card within 24 hours.  Fidelity are taking their sweet time. And AT&T still hasn’t delivered my new SIM card.

You live, you learn. Smart thieves come to races — since racers are definitely not coming back anytime soon. And you should lock your car manually — don’t wait for it to auto-lock, even though that’s a cool feature.

See you next time.


Race #28: 12th Annual 10k on the Bay

Today’s race was the 12th Annual 10k on the Bay.  Perhaps surprisingly, you can choose between a 5k or a 10k, and both meander through the foreshore of the San Francisco bay next to the San Mateo bridge in Hayward.

Shoreline 8_201405071147043259

It doesn’t matter where you live, you know your main topic of weekend conversation is the weather. We spent most of the past two weeks complaining about heat and humidity. Especially the humidity, which we never get. Oh, and especially the heat because it was, well, hot. Today, we complained it was cold and breezy. It really wasn’t. But it smelt seaweedy.

Looking slightly cold before the start of the race
Looking slightly cold before the start of the race

We ran the 5k. We thought about the 10k, and thought again, and decided the plan right now should be to run lots of races (and get us closer to 52 races this year). I’m sure there’s a few 10ks and maybe a half-marathon in our future this year.

We took it a little easy for the first mile, and then got somehow caught up in the racing. The end result was Selina was the 2nd female (about 30 seconds behind an 11-year-old speedster), and I was about the 10th guy. We were both the first in the 40-49 age groups, so that made us feel good.

Onward and upward… we’re hoping to run two races next weekend too!

Race #27: Troy’s Annual Almaden Hills Run 5k

I’d been lurking for while on Troy’s website, checking out his race calendar. Today we dived in and tried his Annual Almaden Hills Run, and put Race #27 for the year in the history books. And what a great experience it was!

We're going up those hills in the background
We’re going up those hills in the background

If you love well-organized races, trail running, hills, small crowds, and a friendly vibe, this race checks all five.  It starts and finishes just inside the beautiful Almaden Quicksilver park, and climbs the peaks to offer amazing views of the Silicon Valley. You’ve got the choice of the vaguely sensible (5k, 10k, 8 mile) or the slightly crazy (half marathon) or the completely bonkers (21 miles, 50k). Even the 5k offers 600ft of elevation gain in the first mile.

600 feet of elevation gain in the first mile. And that’s just the 5k!

Troy told us at the start that the cutoff time for completing the race was eight hours, but he’d hang around for nine hours just in case. I’m not sure that I’d want to be out in the late August summer heat (it was mid-80s Fahrenheit today) for eight or nine hours and running 50k. But, hey, you’ve got to admire those who can do that.

Anyway, getting back to reality, we wanted to run today and tomorrow, and I’m even contemplating a mid-week race in San Francisco to get this 52 race challenge back on track. So, 5k it was today for us. And that was plenty to be honest.

I came third overall, and was the first man. I am not entirely sure there was a second man in the 5k race. Talk about girl power! Selina came fourth overall. We didn’t entirely cruise the race, but we certainly held something back given we want to race again tomorrow. I got a nice certificate, and headed on my way.

Love Troy’s races after a sample of one. We’ll be back for more. See you for tomorrow’s report!

Race #26: Crystal Spring Trail Run 5 Mile

I’m going to retire from road racing and run only trail runs from here on (maybe!). You can’t beat the feeling of running on a dusty, shaded trail through towering redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains. It’s so magnificent that the 1,000 foot climb even seems like a reasonable trade-off. What a great way to celebrate the half-way mark — we’ve now run 26 of the 52 races we’ve committed to run as a fundraiser for the GBS/CIDP Foundation.

The magnificent trails of Huddart Park near Woodside, CA.
The magnificent trails of Huddart Park near Woodside, CA.

Anyway, today’s race was the Crystal Springs Trail Run 5 mile. The race starts at Huddart Park near Woodside CA, and meanders mostly on single-track dirt trail through the woods. The race starts with some downhill — a nice warmup — and then climbs for around three miles, and finishes with a near-sprint on a fire trail for a mile.

The elevation profile of the Crystal Spring 5 miler.
The elevation profile of the Crystal Spring 5 miler.

The first mile or so was steady and slow. It’s a very narrow single-track, so there’s pretty much no overtaking, and we were way back in the pack and it wasn’t too fast. We left plenty of room in front of us so we could see rocks and roots on the trail, and navigate them carefully — at least two or three people twisted ankles or had other mishaps from going a little too hard or getting a little too close to the person in front. You’ve got to take it easy when trail running.

Ready to start the race -- very dusty and dry in the California drought
Ready to start the race — very dusty and dry in the California drought

After the mile, I probably passed 20 or so people during the climb on the wider trail. In the end, I finished 15th or so, and Selina finished 20th. We certainly weren’t trying to do a great time or win the race, but my mountain goat legs certainly help me get into contention when there’s hills involved.

It’s been a monster week for exercise in our family. It’s time for a rest, recharge, and some planning for next week’s racing. Have a great week!

Race #25: Emerge 5k

My fastest 5k time in living memory was a 20:50 at the 2012 Emerge 5k at Lake Almaden. That day hurt a lot — I raced after a couple of speedsters for 2/3rds of the race, and then couldn’t keep up the pace I’d set — that last third is still etched in my memory as a painful experience. For a while there I was on pace to break 20 minutes, but I was still happy going under 21.

Getting ready to run the 2015 Emerge 5k at Lake Almaden
Getting ready to run the 2015 Emerge 5k at Lake Almaden

Fast forward three years, and the 2015 Emerge 5k was yesterday’s Race number 25 of my journey to 52 races in 2015 to raise awareness for the GBS/CIDP Foundation.

One of the great things about running 52 races for charity is that we get the chance to see others raising money too. The Emerge 5k is a fundraiser that tugs at the heart strings. Six years ago, Jessica was driving her car, was hit by a speeding car, and suffered a traumatic brain injury. This race is a fundraiser for not only her, but also for others who’ve suffered serious brain injury. Her parents are amazing folks — they’ve cared for Jessica at home since her injury, and done so without a ton of help from government funding.

Back to the race. Selina and I promised each other “we’d just cruise” and a good measure of that is whether or not we can chat while we’re running. I’d say we chatted 2/3rds of the way, and didn’t chat so much for the last 1/3rd — there’s something in us that just makes us go faster when folks around us are racing. Anyway, while it was mostly a cruise, Selina (yet again) placed as the 2nd woman overall, and I came 10th (and 7th in the 40 to 99 age group!).

Lake Almaden is a nice place to run. The trails are mostly flat and shaded, and there’s plenty going on with bikers, walkers, runners, and dogs. It’s got a nice community feel, while not being too busy to race. If you live in the South Bay, it’s worth a visit.

In reality, it was a pretty cruisy race relative to 2012 and a few other races we’ve run this year. I’ve decided that it’s more important to get on track to run 52 races than it is to run fast in every race. So, while I’d love to get close to my 21:06 for February, I’ll settle for a 24 minute cruise and the near-certainty of being able to run next week!

Have a great week.

Race #24: Firefly Run 5k

We dragged ourselves off a plane from LA on Saturday morning after a few long days. The idea of waking up Sunday and racing a 10k trail race with elevation wasn’t too appealing. So, I set about looking for something a little easier for this weekend. And, as luck would have it, I found the Firefly 5k starting Saturday night at 7:30pm.

Relaxing in the bleachers before the race
Relaxing in the bleachers before the race

Novelty races are supposed to be fun for the kids. In this case, the gimmick is flashing lights and neon glow sticks, and a start and finish in the mighty San Jose State Spartans football stadium. The video looks good from the website:

In reality, it was a pretty lame experience. We started at 7:45pm: still bright daylight and sunglasses weather. We ran on pavement (what Australians call asphault) for 3.1 miles or 5ks, and finished in the sunshine in the stadium. So much for the lights and neon glow.

The race itself was 1.6 miles out and 1.6 miles back with a little “dogleg” to make it a little more depressing. Hot, hard, flat, and roads. Maybe I just needed to lighten up a bit (pun intended) — and walk or something. Anyway, I thought it was lame. Net result, Selina was I think the 3rd woman over the line and I was top 10, but it wasn’t designed to be a competitive race. The time was somewhere in the low 23s.

Anyway, that’s race #24 in the books, and another weekend to plan. I’m still about 5 races behind plan, but that just means 5 weekends with two races any time in the next 5 months. That feels ok. The trick is to stay healthy and not to miss any more weekends.

Race #23: Lighting the Way 5k

Hi! Hello! Yes, I am still running. Yes, I know it’s been a slow couple of months. But, hey, I have run 23 races this year, and that’s more than most people — though I do know a couple of people from around here who are on track to 80+ races. Crazy.

Getting ready to start. Nice new shirt from 2XU!
Getting ready to start. Nice new shirt from 2XU!

Anyway, today we ran the Lighting the Way 5k.  My time wasn’t great, about 23:08 (they didn’t have a timing chip), but it sure felt great to be out there racing and to pull up without pain and swelling in my left foot. I’ve got a bit of an ankle and Achilles niggle, and I’ve been managing it carefully — so carefully that I dropped out of the 10k trail run I’d planned last week.

This was the 5th annual Lighting the Way 5k. It’s a great little race with a fairly small field (though it was sold out!), and it’s the most sensible race I’ve run at Vasona Lake. This time, we just started near the railroad, and ran out 1.6 miles to Lark Ave, and turned around and ran back. Sensible. Much better than all the ducking, weaving, and getting lost that other races do in Vasona Lake (scroll down in this story and you can read about it).

It was a well-organized race, and not too competitive. I suspect most of the folks weren’t serious, and maybe there was more competition in the 10k. I came 4th. Selina was the 2nd woman. If you can do that in 23+ minutes, you know it ain’t too serious.

Anyway, great to be back. If I wake up feeling great, who knows I might run another race tomorrow. Might see you then, or next week at the latest!