Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Race Report: Foster City Ten Miler

My goals for this race were thus:
  • D Goal: Don't have any sudden horrible pains/injuries & have to quit.
  • C Goal: Finish around 1:20 (8:00 pace) with fairly even splits.
  • B Goal: Run 8:00 pace for at least half the race, then negative split.
  • A Goal: ?????

And I am totally going to make you read *at least* halfway through this post in order to learn which of these I actually achieved.

Because I am paranoid about getting lost & confused, I arrived in Foster City at 7am for the 8:30 start. This ended up being good because a lot of the streets that get you reasonably close to the start were blocked off, and I had to drive in ever larger circles for a while before I found available parking within a reasonable walking distance.

Staging area

I started warming up a little before eight, hoping to get in three easy miles before the race. As it happened, I spent too much time dawdling, being indecisive about when to check my bag, whether I needed to hit the restrooms again, etc., and only ended up getting about two miles done before they called everyone to the start. I was slightly concerned because, whether from race day excitement or albuterol or whatever, my heart rate was really high from the beginning of my warm-up, although it didn't feel like I was working any harder than usual.

Start/finish. Perfect race weather!

On the way to the start line I ran ran into Jen and Jess, and once at the start we found Margot as well. We wished each other luck and a few minutes later were off and running.

I had a very loose plan of starting out somewhere in the 8:00-8:10 range, but that plan was foiled because apparently my body thought I was running a half or 10K at actual race pace and about a quarter mile in I looked at my watch and saw I was running something like 7:20 pace. (Huzzah for being out of racing practice!) I forced myself to slow down to the right pace, but still ticked off the first mile 10-20 seconds faster than I'd intended.

For the first few miles, staying right around 8:00 most of the time felt pretty easy (which was the whole point). It helped that sometime in mile 2 I fell in with a woman who was running just about exactly my pace. I don't know whether I was pacing off her or she was pacing off me, but either way keeping a nice, steady 8:00 just felt easier because I was running right with someone. Then sometime in mile four, she fell back, which was too bad.

    Mile 1: 7:50
    Mile 2: 7:59
    Mile 3: 7:58

Not long after, I locked on to a dude in the same way. I ran with him for a couple of miles (and credit him for pushing me maybe just a few seconds faster per mile than I would have run otherwise), and then eventually he fell back as well. There was a woman in a green shirt who I'd been able to just see waaaaaay out in front of me for a while, and after a little ways of running mostly on my own, I started to catch up with her, and then paced right with her for a little while before she fell back as well. Mentally I'd intended to break the ten miles up into my usual six-mile GMP run plus four more, but the further along I got, the less meaningful that seemed, and my game ended up being more about steadily climbing a ladder of pace buddies running right around my pace until I lost them.

(Side note #1: I have occasionally heard/read that it's bad etiquette in a race to run right with someone for a long time without asking. But if you're actually racing hard, how are you even capable of asking anyone anything? Also, it is a competition, right? So as long as you're not interfering with them, why would you ask permission of a competitor to do something totally legal? I am curious where folks stand on this.)

    Mile 4: 8:02
    Mile 5: 8:04

Around 6.5ish I found myself running completely alone. Fortunately the course was pretty straight forward for the most part, but there was a point where I'd reeled in another woman enough to basically follow her, and then suddenly it occurred to me that I couldn't actually see her bib & for all I knew she might have been just a random person out running. Fortunately when we got to a fork, some nice moms playing with their kids at the nearby playground made giant hand gestures & called to us, "That way!"

It was around this time that I started to think about maybe trying to run a little faster. Eight-minute miles were certainly not effortless, but I was holding the pace just fine without feeling awful and I felt very confident that finishing under 1:20 would be no problem. I didn't want to go 100% all-out and collapse/vomit at the end, but I felt good and decided that from that point on I'd just run at a "comfortably hard" effort without worrying about the pace.

I ran with that same woman for a little while but by the time we hit mile marker 7 she'd fallen back as well. She wasn't falling fast, though, so I used that as my motivation in the last miles & decided that as long as I was having no problem running eight minute miles I'd make holding off any competitors and not getting passed by anyone my new goal. (Though to be honest, things did start to get more unpleasant around then because the respiratory problems I've been having for the last few weeks flared up & I started having asthma problems. So that sucked.)

    Mile 6: 8:01
    Mile 7: 7:54

(Side note #2: Because these days I'm nearly always running for time goals rather than place/beating people goals, I don't have much knowledge or experience re: "strategic" racing in the sense of outrunning competitors using savvy/cleverness. In this race, though, I ended up running side-by-side with so many different people for fairly long periods of time that I actually found myself thinking about it some. For example, if you're pacing right with someone but you're breathing slowly and comfortably and their breathing is on the quick side, you may be able to drop them by gradually speeding up, because either they'll try to match you and realize they can't/don't want to, or they stay with you for as long as they can but eventually reach a point where they have to slow down. That was kind of what happened with that last woman. It seemed a little mean, but I didn't feel that bad about it since it is in fact a competition.)

I felt in miles eight & nine that I was speeding up & running harder & was a little surprised to see that my pace was still hovering right in that 7:50-8:00 range. (This was probably a mix of asthma & not having run more than six miles at this pace in a long time.) I kept thinking, "Oh, I'm not working that hard, at this point I should speed up," but then I would try to & it seemed like the higher gears just kind of weren't there. (For that, I blame/credit lots of base training and no speed work.)

    Mile 8: 7:51
    Mile 9: 7:55

Clearly, though, some fragment of the higher gears was in there somewhere, because as soon as I passed mile marker nine I found myself speeding up with no problem, and then even more as soon as the finish line came into view. Over the course of that mile I went from 7:50 pace to around 5:30 when I crossed the mat. (Side note #3: I cannot even remember the last time I saw the numbers "5:30" appear in the "pace" field of my watch. I can't even run a mile that fast.)

    Mile 10: 7:33
    Last .05: 00:17 (5:40 pace)

Having run the last bit that fast and having done absolutely no speed work since July, I was kind of stunned that I didn't feel bad at all after I crossed the mat. Certainly not as bad as when I've run hard half marathons in the past (stumbling/puking/seeing spots/generally wanting to die/etc.). I mean I was maybe breathing semi-hard for 20 seconds or so, but after that I really felt pretty much normal.

    Garmin: 10.05 miles / 1:19:23 / 7:54 pace
    Official: 10 miles / 1:19:21 / 7:56 pace

    Overall: 38/183
    Women: 6/78
    A/G: 4/27

So.....yeah. I guess you'd call pretty much all my goals met, right?

Catching up with Jen, Jess, and Margot after the race. We all agreed that it was a great day
weather-wise and a speedy (if not particularly entertaining) course, & I think everyone
had a good race & met most of their goals.

Bottom Line: I think this race went as well as I could have reasonably expected, given my plan. I ran ten miles at my goal marathon pace with no problem and even finished fast and strong. I proved to myself that I can do that without stopping for traffic lights and water, even on un-tapered legs.

While I wouldn't say it was easy and I still have a long way to go before I can expect to do it for 26 miles, it was a manageable type of hard that never really felt all that terrible. (In fact, I think there's a certain amount of the hardness that was purely mental uncertainty, the thinking I could probably do it, hopefully do it, but still having a part of my brain that was worried I couldn't and wanted me to slow down a little just in case. For me this race was as much about working on the mental aspects of harder extended efforts as it was about the physical. Ie, "Yes, it's harder than 'easy' pace. Yes, you can do it for a long time.")

Still, it was the hardest workout I've done since July, and I felt pretty beaten up the next day in the shin splints/feet. I definitely needed a couple of extra rest days after to let my legs and feet heal. (Look, ma, I have learned something!)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*LOGISTICAL STUFF~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Location: Foster City, CA

Date: Mid January (January 18, 2015 this year)

Prices: 2015 prices from the web site:

Deadlines/sellout factor: At this point, it doesn't seem like it's in any danger of selling out. Spots in both the 10 miler & 5K were still available as of race morning.

Field Size: Pretty small - 183 starters in the 10 miler & 124 in the 5K (though many more people were listed in the results who apparently just didn't start).


The start/finish area was set up in Leo J. Ryan Memorial Park on Shell Boulevard in Foster City, in the parking lot of what looked like a community center. (Google Maps didn't seem to know the name of the building.) The bib tables were obvious & easily accessible; as with every other race I've ever run that has encouraged me to pick up my bib in the days before the race in order to "avoid the race day rush," I walked right up when I arrived and had my bib in all of thirty seconds. At its worst the line looked maybe 3 people deep.

There was a bag check, although for a while I was confused about how to use it since, as of 30 minutes before the gun, it looked like this:

I was parked close but not so close that it was convenient to leave everything in my car, so I kept going back and forth about whether to just leave it sitting somewhere among the timing tent's gear (which I've done in the past at small races and no one seems to bother it) or deal with throwing everything in my car. When I finished warming up, though, someone was there taking bags, so I ended up checking it, which was easy and straightforward.

Two sets of bathrooms were open in the community center (woohoo flush toilets!). There was no line when I used them around 7:30; by 8:15 one of the women's had quite a long line, but the other (which was maybe less obvious) had only a few people waiting.

The Course:

I thought this was a pretty nice course. Some of it runs through local neighborhoods but a lot of it is along paved trails by the Bay, so it was fairly pleasant and there weren't too many turns to negotiate. It's also completely flat except for a short overpass that you cross at the very beginning and again at the very end.

The trail that makes up a good chunk of the course. I used to run this trail all the time
when I lived on the Peninsula in the mid-'00s, so that part was nostalgic for me. :)

The down side is that there is NO crowd support (except for the occasional cops who are managing car traffic, almost every single one of whom cheered or said something encouraging when I passed them. They rocked!) and because of the small field size you can get REALLY spread out and there were plenty of times when I was running either completely by myself or with one other person in sight. For the most part it was obvious where to go, or there were cops at the intersections to tell us. The only time I wasn't sure was when I was running behind the one woman & then realized I hadn't actually seen her bib, & the mom in the park pointed us in the direction that the runners ahead of us had gone.

The ten mile course had four aid stations with water and honest-to-gods Gatorade, which was plenty for me. They were spaced well and easy to access, which is all I really cared about.


I couldn't find any directions about parking on the website, but Corrigan sent out an email a few days before the race with the following info:

    "You can park at Leo Ryan Park (must come North on Shell), City Hall and/or Library/Community Center lots. There may be some parking at the PJCC but due to construction you'd have to walk a long way around to get the start line."

It turned out that there really was plenty of parking in nearby business/civic parking lots (they were pretty empty that early on a Sunday), but it took me a while to find it because I don't really know the area well and many of the roads were blocked off for the course.


A reasonably nice tech T (I think the colors look cool), plus snacks at the finish.

The website said everyone would get a beer, but I did not see any at the finish.

No medal for this race specifically, but the website says that runners who finish both this 10-Miler and the Sunnyvale 10-Miler (it says June in one place & August 10 in the other, so not sure about the date) will receive a medal for running both.

One thing that was conspicuously absent was some sort of photographer situation. I don't think that necessarily means they need to pay a fancy schmancy service like MarathonFoto or anything, but I think runners would appreciate even just having volunteers taking pictures out on the course in a few spots & then, say, uploading them to a public Picasa album that runners could look from. (This is what Brazen does and I think everybody loves it. There tend to be more photos than at big races who hire race photo companies, they're free for runners, and it keeps costs down.)

Overall Assessment:

Whether or not you will enjoy this race probably depends a lot on what you want out of it and what things about races are important to you. I basically wanted a longer, timed, supported GMP run on a flat, fast course, and that's what I got. If you want medals and bands and big crowds and whatnot, you will probably be disappointed.

For my money, $70 does seem a bit steep for a 10-miler when you know there aren't medals, photographers, a huge post-race spread, etc. to pay for. In comparison, most of the small, no-frills half marathons I've run in the past have run between $40 and $60 (and you still get pictures). For me the scheduling was right, so I sucked it up (after all, I'd been planning to run a half instead, which would have been close to that or maybe more), but I wish I'd been able to get the early bird pricing.

In conclusion: Racing FREAKING RULES, and it felt so great to do it again, even if I wasn't going all-out. My next decision re: racing is whether or not to register for the Santa Cruz Half in April. I'll be over a month post-marathon so it could be that I'm reasonably well recovered and also could potentially be in good enough shape to have a not-terrible race.


  1. Maybe you can run faster...


  2. Congrats on an awesome race! This seems to bode well for NVM :) Love that tech shirt! It's something I'd actually wear, which I can't say for most of the finisher shirts I've received.

    1. Right??? I have so many ugly race shirts so it's always nice to get one I might actually not mind being seen in in public.

  3. A most excellent race and a sweet shirt too. Congratulations indeed.

    Holy carp - they really penalize you for signing up at the last minute!

    1. Yeah, it strikes me as a bit much. I mean at that point it's not all that far off from like a Rock N Roll half or something, which is sort of ridiculous.

  4. Oh, good for you. I knew you had at least that much speed. And yeah, that is a nice shirt. The contrast collar is an attractive tough (said the least fashionable person ever).
    When I end up by someone in a small race - like just the two of us - I usually say something, but I don't ask permission. Just something noncommittal and friendly. Obviously not at the end of a race, though - then I'm too busy gasping for breath.

    1. Thanks! (I never say anything. I'm always worried I'll break their concentration or something & then they'll be mad at me. :P )

  5. Congrats on such a great day!

  6. Congratulations - nice work! Good on you for sticking to plan (although, those are great splits, but do they count as negative?) I need some of your higher gears; I don't think I've ever been able to successfully kick into a higher gear midway for a >10mi race. I do agree that the early bird prices seem a lot more reasonable for the race setup you describe.

    I'm not really bothered by someone running right alongside me, but I don't think I've done that for more than a mile or two - someone usually drops back or pulls away naturally. Though I did once race a woman into the finish of a half marathon and at the end we laughed, thanked each other and said 'good race'! I was under-fuelled and struggling mentally as well, so she actually pulled me to the end.

    1. Heh, true enough. I suppose I negative split in the most literal sense (ran the second half faster than the first), but you're right, I didn't really speed up much until that last mile.

  7. All that base work has really paid off. You're running strong. Congratulations on a really well managed race.

  8. Congrats on a well-run race! I feel like we had almost identical races, except my pace was (almost exactly) 1 minute/mile slower. :) We even had identical distance readings (10.05 miles). You pointed out one thing that I really like about this race -- it's just the right size to play catch-up with the runners ahead of you. When races are too big, it's hard to pick out who is running at what pace, but with this race, it was easy to spot the 3-5 people ahead of you for miles. I'm also not a great race strategist, but I like the feeling of passing and then NOT getting passed back, which Jess and I successfully did for the last 6 miles. Sounds like you were able to do that too. Race execution, FTW!

    As for pricing, I agree it's expensive if you miss the early bird window. My impression is that if they were able to attract more runners, the cost would go down... but they'd probably be able to get more runners if they price was lower! I forwarded (and seconded) your suggestion re: race photos/volunteer photographers to the RD.

  9. Your "In conclusion" says it all... racing DOES freaking rule. Congrats on a successful return to the roads, and way to ride that albuterol high to a strong performance! I had a similar experience trying to decide who to pass at CIM... there are so many relay runners in that race that you have to be very careful when deciding who to chase, lest you end up burning all your carbs on someone who's running 7-minute miles and looking to bail at mile 13.

    The course looks like a good one, at least it's a loop and not a (lazy RD's) out-and-back. And that t-shirt is eye-catching, very nice color scheme. Definitely a steep registration fee for a local 10-miler in its 2nd year, but hopefully as the race grows in popularity with the help of ambassadors like Jen, they'll be able to lock in more runners earlier in the process and lower the price.

    All in all, things are looking good for NVM... keep it up!

    1. Oh, and an unfulfilled promise of beer at the finish line? Bad karma, Corrigan...

  10. Congratulations on a great race! You really rocket it. You're right though - $70 is a LOT of money for a race, especially if there's no medal. More than I can justify for running my own streets - you were SO close to my house :)