Road Racing Team, Race Report: Stow Lake Stampede 5K
A healthy flock of Pamakids turned out for the 3rd Annual Stow Lake Stampede 5K, hosted by the Impalas and the first road 5K on the PAUSATF circuit, on a comfortably overcast morning in Golden Gate Park on 4/14. People were milling about, most getting their warm-ups in. It was a bit breezy, westerly from the Pacific, with some gusts suggesting caution for those seeking to burn it up out in front for the first mile on wide-open JFK toward Stow Lake. 21 Pamakids were undeterred, however, and found good spots behind those toeing the line.
Once the gun went off, it was clear that the headwind was real and that the race would be tactical, not an all-out-from-the-gun affair. Men who can string out the field on the regular decided to hold back themselves, which formed a massive pack in which many runners could draft easily. I stuck myself right in the middle of it, and it was pretty amazing: the pace was fine (for me) and I felt no wind at all with about twenty bodies forming a wall in front of me.
Still, it amazes me how these “elite” racers haven’t figured out this course and completely miss the tangents on JFK. Nobody took them. I stayed protected in the pack until it started heading right toward the redwood grove north of the museums when a straight left was the most direct route. It was akin to running in lane 9. It was egregious, so I stepped out and ran left to the south curb. Some, their concentration on the pack broken, followed my move. The headwind picked up, but I was back in the pack for the next turn. Mike Axinn and Denis Glenn, a pack back, were similarly amazed at what they saw the front pack doing and keenly took the tangent, too.
Up after the seemingly never-ending hill into the loop around the lake, everything seemed ho-hum. People recovering from the first mile, just trying to maintain on the undulations of Stow Dr, some making surges that didn’t amount to too much. A little brezzy up there, too. I think I could perceive everyone come to understand that this race was going to be about the last mile back east on JFK with a significant tailwind. And for Pamakids there was the Kick of the Race award on the line. The last mile would be everything! The perfect stage upon which to test oneself to one’s limits, maybe push beyond them, which is one of the best reasons to race.
Several people asked me before the race what would qualify as the “best kick,” seeing as how kicks could come in many forms, from the speedy burst just before the finish by someone who saved maybe too much during the race to another edging out a competitor by just hanging on in the final strides after depleting himself or herself to exhaustion. I gave several evasive answers, and many answers could be true, but the truest answer, after considering all the factors and myriad ways the end of the race could play out for all different types of runners, is “You know it when you see it.”
I was not going to run the race myself, having planned to race the day before at the East Bay Invite in Hayward, one of the rare occasions that post-collegiate runners can race a 5K on the track. However, for whatever reason I under-performed there and decided, after assessing that I wasn’t too beat up, to join the Pamanation for the Stampede the next morning. I had planned to attend the race to cheer and observe the montrous efforts by teammates. Instead, I worked out my own frustrations by racing as hard as I could, keeping my wobbly legs in order for a kick to the same finishtime I had met the previous morning at the track. No time to chuckle at the irony, I tried to catch my breath as I jogged back to witness still what monstrous efforts other Pamakids were to give.
There were so many inspiring moments during that last 1/4 mile from the Pamakids. Brandon Heiken chased the clock to a sub-18:00 5K (chip time) in the midst of marathon training. Newly-minted Pamakid Pieter De Haan was clearly draining every last ounce of oomph he had for the finish while not letting his form fall apart. Dave Latner did the Heisman pose to shake up his legs before moving to pass those around him. Mike Axinn went to his arms in classic fashion to lunge himself toward the line when his legs could go no faster. And so many others embraced the pain and refused to give up that last stretch in front of the Conservatory. But it was clear who earned the Kick of the Race. All you had to do was see it to know.
Denis Glenn, after a cross country season in which he had to navigate training and racing cautiously due to some nagging injuries, gathered himself, healthy and in command, for a long, sustained charge of a kick. I was still trying to catch my breath as I saw him barrelling down that last tangent from Conservatory Dr and JFK toward the line. His runner aura was emanating, his stride strong and quick. Denis was passing people at the intersecting, an evidently not holding back, already going all out, and yet he seemed to keep getting faster as he approached. His breathing was like that of a locomotive and he stayed composed as if gliding on rails while powering forward. Arms, legs, lungs, and heart—Denis laid it all out there and won Kick of the Race. His prize, a secret racer’s mystery elixir, and this memorial here.
Thanks to collectively awesome performances and some wily scorecard gymnastics by Andy, we had great showings competitively across the board. Brandon debuted with the 40+ Men to lead them to victory. That’s right, 40+ Men 1st place, at the first PAUSATF short course race of the season! Pieter debuted with the Open Men to help fill out a team that finished 5th. With a man down due to injury, Tomas Palermo and Jerry Flanagan still stepped up to help the 50+ Men to a 3rd place showing. Full results below. Great job all, and stupendous start to the short course road race season. Can’t wait what we bring to the 4 Miler this weekend.