A Sharkie Selfie and a 10K PR at the Sharks Fitness Faceoff

If you live in San Jose – or anywhere in Silicon Valley, for that matter – and are not a San Jose Sharks fan, you either:

a) don’t care about hockey at all, or
b)…

wait, I can’t think of anything else.

People around here love their Sharks, simple.

Not a surprise, then, that the Sharks Fitness Faceoff, now in its 2nd year, was a big sell-out success. More than 2,600 people showed up at the SAP Center (home of the San Jose Sharks) on June 29 to participate in one of the five run or bike events held that day. There was a 5K and a 10K for runners, a 20-mile or 50-mile ride for cyclists, and a fun kids’ run.

I ran the 10K and KidRuns sprinted the kids’ run before going back to the expo area where there were a ton of fun things to do for kids and adults alike.

The 10K

Both the 10K and 5K run courses weave through downtown San Jose: flat and fast. If your goal is to PR, the flatness and lack of distracting scenery – unless you find downtown San Jose beautifully scenic? – will definitely help! The 8 a.m. start wasn’t bad, either: not early enough to require a 5 a.m. wake-up call, but not too late to get scorched by the sun, either.

I got dropped off near the SAP Center start area around 7:40, but later heard that parking was easy and free. Boom.

A few minutes before the official 10K start, Sharkie showed up and, seeing how I was lined up front and center, I darted off and took the first Sharkie selfie:
Everyone followed suit and Sharkie was quite busy taking photos for the next five or so minutes. Soon enough, though – after the requisite national anthem and a warm send-off by San Jose’s own Brandi Chastain – Sharkie fired off the official start gun. It was quite spectacular:
I ran the first few hundred yards with those paper garlands wrapped all over me, by the way. Maybe that cost me a second or two?

Who cares about time, though. My goal for this race was to enjoy the day and run a “solid effort tempo run,” per Coach D’s orders (Coach D is the triathlon coach at my YMCA tri-training club. He’s awesome. In fact, if you live anywhere in the area, you should check out our club, we just started a new training cycle. One-on-one training from a professional triathlete for $40 a month? Believe it. Sign-up info is right here.)

Since the race was only two weeks out of Ironman 70.3 Vineman (now only FOUR short days away, eeeek!!!!) and I had been hammering two- to three-hour training days for the past couple of weeks, running a fast 10K – or at least as fast a 10K as I could possibly run on fresh legs – wasn’t going to happen.

Instead, I settled into a manageable 8-minute mile pace as early on as I could. That meant holding back a little in that first mile – you know how it is when you start a race, what with all the excitement and adrenaline, it’s easy to overdo it.

About a mile in, Joe from our tri club caught up and that’s when the fun began! We run intervals at the track at about the same pace, so naturally, we fell into step and – with some talking but mostly grunting – ran the rest of the race together.

We kept an even pace for the most part, in the low 8-min mile range according to my Garmin. There was one short climb around mile 3 where we slowed down a bit, but I guess we managed to make up for those seconds because my net finish time was 49:13 (and 49:00 for Joe, who had done the California Sprint Triathlon the day before. Respect!)

It may not have been the fastest 10K I could possibly run on fresh legs, but it was still the fastest 10K I’ve run so far in my life (my previous PR was 49:58 from last year). A 7:56 min/ mile average, I’ll take it!

Race Time: 49:13
Pace: 7:56/ mile
Overall place: 80 (out of 760 for the 10K)
Gender place: 16 (out of 446)
Age group place: 7 (out of 143)

Post-Race Expo Fun

After a quick post-run water + banana break and a change of clothes (found a clean porta-potty, too: score!), we all headed to the Post-Race Expo, which was chock-full of fun activities and giveaways. A Sharks Fan’s heaven!

There was field hockey practice (is there a special name for this setup? Like a hockey batting cage?):A rock climbing “wall” (little dude went up six times, getting a solid total-body workout in before his run): and several spin-wheels where we won Sharks-themed goodies (two plastic water cups, two key chains, a tumbler, a rubber hockey puck… all extremely necessary stuff that everyone needs to have in their house).

After an hour of fun activities, it was time to head back over to the run route:

Kids’ Fun Run

The Kids Run was the the reason why I signed up for this race to begin with. I may not be as Sharks-crazy as 99% of San Jose, but our little dude makes up for it and then some! [From a few months ago…]

By 10 a.m. the day was too hot already to be wearing a Sharks jersey, but no worries: the race shirts were Shark-y enough to make the fans happy! The Kids’ run was a short loop around the SAP Center. It couldn’t have been more than a third of a mile, but I swear I could barely keep up with the little dude! Also: running in flip flops = winning. Try it some time for a different experience!

The only downside to having the kids run at 10 a.m. was that this was just about the time when cyclists were coming back in from their 50- or 20-mile rides and being out on the same course was a bit dangerous. But with an adult present to keep an eye on their kid(s), everything went smoothly. The kids got the same medals as the adults and, of course, photo ops with Sharkie:After all that, there was more Post-race Expo fun (a second, third and fourth rounds of hockey, more rock climbing, more Wheel of Fortune spinning). And just when all the kids must’ve been thinking that this day couldn’t get better, a man pushing an ice cream cart showed up.

A day at the San Jose Sharks Fitness Face-off: fun. Double-handed high-five and a photo op with Sharkie: even better. An oversized three-flavor popsicle to top it all off? Priceless!

The 49ers Half Marathon and the Merging of the Sports Fans

Update 2: I emailed the organizers on Friday, asking for a refund. I received a prompt response and my refund was processed minutes after that (it will take 5-7 business day to appear on the credit card statement).

Update; Friday, June 13: the 49ers Half Marathon is now officially the Santa Clara Half Marathon. Looks like the race organizers were a bit too happy-go-lucky and rushed to promote a race under a name that was not officially licensed or endorsed by the NHL. The race will have a 49ers theme, but will not finish on Levi’s Stadium as originally advertised. I have a query out to the race organizers for details.

There’s a new half marathon in town and I have a feeling it’ll make football fans happy:I got the email from the race organizers this morning and it got me thinking about all the races I’ve seen pop up in the past couple of years sponsored by (and named after) sports teams.

The Giant Race is in its fifth year now – the inaugural one was in 2010 and it immediately exploded in popularity. San Francisco loves its Giants! Even yours truly – a European-born baseball ignorant – loves that race. Hanging out in AT&T Park is just so much fun, especially if I don’t have to watch baseball (ha, don’t hate – it’s a weird game if you didn’t grow up with it!)

For hockey fans, there’s the Sharks Fitness Faceoff. The inaugural event was last year and, judging from all the photos I’ve seen, it was a huge success. If you’re a Sharks fan, you won’t want to miss your chance of grabbing a Sharks t-shirt and this medal:

And even the San Jose Earthquakes had a race last year: the Earthquakes Challenge, put on hold for this year but coming back in 2015 with a start and finish at the Earthquakes New Stadium in San Jose.

Sports-team sponsored events like this are a great idea for several reasons:

  1. A guaranteed contingent of participants. Faithful team fans will sign up for the t-shirt and medal alone. Throw in some team memorabilia (like the SF Giant Race bobble heads) and a race sellout is imminent.
  2. Introducing more people to the joys of running. As I was waiting in line at packet pickup for the SF Giants race last year, I realized all the conversations around me were about baseball, not running. Why? Because a good portion of the people who sign up for these events are probably not into running as much as they’re into their team. Anything you can do to get more people to go out and run a 5K or 10K (and train, get healthy, fit, etc.) and I’m a fan.
  3. Engaging fans in a whole new way. If you’re a Giants fan, you probably love going to AT&T Park. But how often do you get to hang out on the field itself? Smell the grass? Wear a huge blinged-out medal that looks like your team’s championship ring? This December, 49ers fans will get a chance to cross a finish line and hang out at the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. I’m no football fan myself (OK, don’t hate – again, European-born, raised on a diet of steady soccer and occasional volleyball person here) – but any chance I get to hang out in a stadium, I take it. There’s just something about the atmosphere, it’s so grand and sporty. Love it!
  4. Benefitting charities. All these races support a good cause – through a designated charity or a non profit organization set up by the team itself. Whenever you can get thousands of people to donate a bit through their race fee or encourage them to fundraise for a cause, that’s a good thing.

So yes, I’m already signed up for the 49ers Half Marathon. It strikes me as a bit pricey at $99.49 (special introductory price, it will likely go up), but there’s no registration fee (there’s a $7-9 savings right there!) and if the spiffy race website is to be believed, photos will be free? Say it ain’t so, I’m posting a screenshot here and holding the organizers up to their promise:Who knows, maybe all these team events will make a baseball/ football fan out of this runner. Who’s doing it with me?

Divas Half Marathon Race Recap: The Pinkiest Half Marathon PR of All

Sometimes, an impulse half marathon registration has a very, very happy ending. And if you’re my buddy on Facebook or Instagram, you know exactly what I’m talking about:

Before I tell you about the Divas Half Marathon (San Francisco Bay), I’ll just go ahead and put it out there that I ran a new personal best of 1:49:35.

I ‘m beyond happy with this result, so my review may be… seen through pink glasses. Or just pink. (It was all so, so pink!) I loved everything about this race, even the half-naked firefighters child models at the finish line (though I did feel, surprisingly, a very motherly concern towards one of them – what with his blue eyes and blonde locks, I kept thinking this is what KidRuns might look like a mere 10 years from now!)

[The Real KidRuns wearing my tiara and feather boa post race.]

But let’s start at the beginning:

Divas Half Marathon Race Background

The Divas Half Marathon and 5K race series is a women-only event. (But men are more than welcome to sign up; in fact 48 of the 2777 half marathon runners this year carried both X and Y chromosomes, indeed.)

Like many races that cater to women, it is first-timer friendly, the atmosphere is more party than competition and the porta-potties don’t smell nearly as bad as those at co-ed races (sorry dudes, it’s true). You are given a tiara and feather boa to wear as you approach the finish line, a rose and champagne post-finish and the medal is huge and positively blingy (will show you later). And most importantly, it is all very, very, VERY PINK.

I signed up for this one kind of on a whim (and paid through the nose for it, don’t do like I did and sign up for races in advance when the reg fees are so much lower!). No race-specific training either, just parked the bike and swim goggles and focused on running for a week.

Race morning

Race morning was fun! Met up with my MRTT mamas for a few photos:Checked my bag (short lines, no wait!):And, of course, stopped by the porta-potty. Actually, that’s the first thing I did upon arrival (ritual).

The Run

Headed to the race start with about 10 minutes to spare and slowly weaved my way through the crowd (nearly 4000 participants in the half marathon alone!) until I got as near the actual start line as I thought appropriate:Behind me, everything was very pink!The views along the start area are gorgeous, by the way. If you ever do this race, don’t head for the start at the last minute — give yourself time to enjoy them:We started on time and after a very brief period of zig-zagging, I got some clear asphalt in front of me to open up my stride and get going.

Lack of training aside, I had a goal for this race, as shared with no one but my Tri-club coach: I wanted to run 1:50. That would be four minutes faster than my current PR of 1:54:38 at the Turkey Trot half marathon I ran last year.

But secretly, I was hoping for at least a five-minute improvement and a final time of under 1:50.

That meant an 8:22 minute mile average for the entire race: a pace I knew I could hold for 10 miles or so, but 13? Let’s try!

The first there miles felt super easy, even though my pace was in the low 8′s. I figured why once I got home and uploaded my data to Strava: flat as the course may be, miles 2 and 3 had a slight fain (three and four feet, respectively: FYI this basically nothing). But I guess even that makes a difference:The entire course of this race is flat as a pancake, and much of it has gorgeous views of the water. Focused on my pace, though, I didn’t have much time for race-day photography. Here are a couple of photos I managed to snap while running:I believe this was somewhere around Mile 4, as the course took us through a few silent, sleepy neighborhood streets. The sky was overcast and perfect for running! On our way back, we ran by the water for quite a while. It was a tiny bit windy, but the view was nice and I managed to stay on pace all through the end:By then, those 8:20-something miles felt challenging, but nothing too horrible. I’ve suffered way worse, way earlier in a race, so I occupied my brain with counting down the miles and listening to my favorite “Run FAST” playlist:

Shortly before crossing the finish line, race volunteers handed me a tiara and a pink boa. I grabbed them as I nearly sprinted to grab that sub 1:50 (but hopefully they heard my Thanks, if they didn’t… that GRMpfffgrrr was supposed to be it!).

Finish time on the clock: 1:49:50.

Chip time: 1:49:35 — a five-minute four-second PR! Clearly, I was beyond thrilled:…and the male model medal givers were entertained. [You're welcome.]

By now, the sun had come out and the weather was just flat out gorgeous, so as soon as I changed (in one of the porta-potties which, by the way, was still clean and odor-free!), I slathered on the sunscreen and parked myself on the grass to bask in the endorphin-enduced joy of a race well done:Until next time, Divas!