Monday, June 5, 2023

Fontana Days Run Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 17; 7th Editions
104.8 miles raced in 2023 races
Race: Fontana Days Run
Place: Fontana, CA
Miles from home: 1882 miles
Weather: 50-60s; slight wind and dry with bright sun

Every time I have travel problems going to a race I think back to my 52 marathons in 52 weekends and still can’t believe that it happened. Yes, running a marathon for 52 marathons in a row is what most people find impressive, but to me it is two other things.

1. Averaging a 3:21 for every marathon while working a full-time job with some seriously difficult marathons in there (e.g., Leadville); and

2. the fact that I made it to every race when the race started on race day. 

That’s why I always cringe a little bit when I hear someone say they are doing so many "marathons" in so many days when they’re actually just running 26.2 miles and not actually going to a race. Getting there on race day is almost half of the accomplishment. As I have said for a long time, you can't get to the finish line if you don't make it to the starting line. Which almost didn’t happen for me this race this weekend.

Can anyone explain this logo to me?

Two days before the Fontana Days Run I was looking at my schedule and realized that the race I thought was on Sunday was actually on Saturday. Therefore, my flight that got me in at midnight to LA, then me needing to get a rental car and drive to Fontana would probably get me in around 2 a.m.  That means I would likely get three hours of sleep, max, and that was even if I could find a way to get my packet and bib number. Egads. Fortunately, I was able to change my flight to Friday morning but that still didn’t leave me much leeway. The leeway then got even less (smaller? What is the measuring amount for leeway?) After landing, I had the absolute worst rental car experience I’ve ever had when it took over two hours just to get through the line at the Thrifty car rental place. Then I was booked for an electric vehicle. I am all for the EVs but I had no idea where to charge one so I had to "upgrade" (in cost) to a gas guzzler.  Doing all this finally got me on the road...right into the thick of Los Angeles Friday afternoon traffic

Nearly three hours later I finished the 67 mile trip to Fontana. Hell, I can RUN 50 miles in ~6.5 hours. This left me just enough time to go pick up my packet, check into my hotel, grab some food, and climb into bed. Suffice it to say, I didn’t have many good feelings about how this race would go.

Race Morning:


After what was actually a good night's sleep I got up, drove to where the buses would take runners to the start of this downhill Half Marathon, and parked my car. I quickly used the bathroom and got on the last bus. My stomach was grumbling from the WAY too much food I had eaten the previous evening as I was starving but I tried to ignore it. An uneventful ride the the start popped us out not much more than 10 minutes before the race would start. That was a pretty darn seamless transition, especially when compared to the previous day.


Lining up, I didn’t have any of the normal jitters because I had more or less decided that this wasn’t going to go well. As such I just kind of stood there looking at everybody else feeling nervous or excited and waited for the starting pistol. The pistol was actually an airhorn which I think many races need to learn has to be fired once or twice before its first use. Even then it can't be a timid use. You have to push that button down nice and hard. Otherwise, you get the the "dying duck" signal we got to go.  


But away we went!


First 5k:

I immediately had to make my way through three or four lines of people who shouldn't have been at the start line. I will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever understand why people do that. Ever.


As we made our way down this winding canyon, I felt extraordinarily out of breath. The stomach gurgling

continued. I had a feeling this was not gonna be a good day at all. I decided I would use the opening downhill miles the best I could and just see what happened after that. When I hit the 1st mile in 5:55 I realized part of the reason this felt labored was because I was about 25 seconds faster than I thought that I was! I instantly throttled back to conserve because I knew after the first 5 miles was over, while the race continued downhill, it would not be the same amount per mile and would feel flat. The next 2 miles presented me with a 6:24 and a 6:27, which was closer to the average I wanted to run but definitely were slower than I was expecting.


The canyon was providing us shade from the sun, the air was dry and the temps were cool(ish).  I vividly recall thinking that if I was in decent shape this would be easily be a day where I ran 1:22. But you can only run in the shape you currently are so I left right continued.

To the 10K: 


As we continue down the winding canyon road, I again marveled at how bad people are at running the tangents.  If you read my recaps, this is a constant refrain but it remains true.  Why run further than you have to?! After the first mile I had watched the first overall female slide past me and right around the third mile the second female had done the same. I kept expecting more to pass me any second now but none did even as a runner here and there did just that. I also thought I might begin to reel in a few runners here and there who went out faster than they should have and that did indeed begin to happen.  I also began some see-saw battles with some runners who would surge in front of me, and then I would pass them and we would continue this dance as the miles went on. I love playing these little games in the middle of races.  Who is in better shape? Who is running the course better? Who will eventually have the best kick? People who say the ones in the back of the pack have the most fun have no idea what they are talking about.  This is serious fun at 6 minutes per mile.


The mile markers were a little askew here and there, so it was hard to really get a feel for where I was, but I simply kept pushing what felt good without pushing too hard. Right after the 5th mile we more or less flattened out and came into the sunshine at the same time. I could see fairly far in front of me and began to memorize the shirt colors of the runners in front of me.  It always feels good to think "Ah yes, bright orange shirt.  I have been tracking you for three miles. Oh don't worry, purple tights, I haven't forgotten about you either." The miles here all hovered right around the 6:30 mark which again made me bummed.  Maintaining that pace when the hills flattened was going to be hard.

To Mile 10:

This next section really frustrated me greatly as No matter how hard I continue to push I kept coming up with less than mediocre miles. 6:49, 6:50, and 6:52 is what I netted even as I tried to pick up the pace. I had a few people passing me here and there. They would pull me along for a little bit, but then I would fall back, unable to maintain their pace. At one point there was a cyclist coming at me on my side of the road. This raod is completely closed to traffic (excellent stuff by the race organizers, for real) and he seem to be filming something with his phone. The entire road was open for him but for some reason he felt he needed to continue right at me. I finally had a few choice words to him, and he finally moved. What ended up being the third place female, who was happening right beside me at the time, let out a little bit of a laugh. I think she saw what was going on and agreed with my assessment.


We soon passed under the freeway after an unscenic but also uneventful past two miles.  Doing so meant that the remaining 4.5 miles would be one single straight shot to the finish.  Two young fellas passed me, including one who I had been playing cat and mouse with a few miles before. The other, I think named "Maverick Chamberlain" (now that's a name) looked quite fresh and was listening to music on his iPhone in his hand. I was in no mood to race kids who could easily be my children, so I let them go. But about a minute later I heard some footsteps behind me and I said to myself that I was not gonna let whoever that was past me until the 9th mile. I did just that, and in the process passed both youngsters again, and never saw them the rest of the way. That little spurt felt so good giving me a 6:33 mile.  It didn't even feel that hard and I felt if I could keep it up for the last four miles I might still eke out a 1:25. When the footsteps did pass me, I threw myself in behind the guy and decided to use his energy. We passed more than a few runners and I felt wonderful.  Then I saw my split for the next mile was 6:45.  Damn it.   I still had a 5k left to make up the distance.  Let's go, Dane!


To the Finish: 


Not so fast, Dane! In spite of staying with my pace car human, I ran an even slower 6:49 for the 11th mile. This was confounding to me on this straightaway. And when I say "straightaway" mean, one long street straight through Fontana. It was so enjoyable to just simply turn off the brain, and do left right, repeat for mile after mile without having to worry about one turn, or one curve, or any traffic at all. This race is part of the Fontana Days festival and they shut down this long stretch of multiple lane highway to all traffic, which is pretty impressive. 


Yet even while I was passing a runner here and there (and oodles of 5k walkers, grrrrr, stop walking many many abreast) My next mile was AGAIN slower at 6:50.  Not only had I lost any chance of 1:25:xx but now I was in danger of not running a 1:26.


With a mile to go, I passed the third overall female. She didn't look like she was slowing so maybe, just maybe, I was finally speeding up. I could see the finish line way in the distance with about five minutes of running left and tried to dig deep. Weaving in and out of the 5k walkers, trying to run the shortest possible distance, I knew it was going to be close. With about two blocks ago, I looked at my watch, and I couldn’t tell if I was going to break 1:27 or not. I got a little deflated for a few seconds and actually laid off the throttle. What's the difference, I thought. Then a fire lit under me again, and I answered myself:  the difference is you WANT it. So I gritted my teeth and pushed one final time. But just a few yards short of the finish I could see the clock tick over to 1:27. I gave too little too late. Crapola. 


I finished in 1:27:04.

This was good enough for my 25th fastest half marathon and five seconds faster than the Ventura marathon back in April which also pissed me off for being over 1:26. What can you do? Just a few days after my 47th birthday, I finished 46th overall.

This was my fourth half marathon and marathon in the past five weeks. Mixed results overall but I will take what I have and learn from it. A summer of training awaits me as I attempt to do something I haven't done in 12 years and hopefully faster than I did even then!

Overall this was a very well-run event. Just big enough to make you feel like you have some people around you but not so big that you get overwhelmed by all the business going on around you. There's a reason this is the 68th running of this race and it is clear that the city gets behind it, which I always love for an event. When it is clear it inconveniences some people with a road being closed for a few hours on a Saturday morning and there is still a good turnout, you know the city takes pride in what they have. I don't know if these temps are normal for this time of year in this part of the country but for a June race, this is one I would recommend.

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