Thursday, March 13, 2014

03/01: Diploma Dash 5K

I saw Ronald McDonald milling about before the start of the Diploma Dash 5K at the University of Texas - San Antonio, and relief washed over me - at least I wouldn't be the only clown in this race. I don't think he ran, though, so maybe I was. I also saw a bag of groceries representing H.E.B. supermarkets and Rowdy the UTSA Roadrunner, but I don't think they ran either; I think they were just part of some sort of mascot convention. Too bad - I think I could have taken the groceries. Seeing all the mascots, I flashed back to the Sausage Run in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which I ran maybe ten years ago. I beat three out of four Sausages - I think the Italian Pepper smoked me rather than the other way around. This race, the one at UTSA, started in an alley by a loading dock, ran around more scenic parts of the campus before finishing next to a parking garage. It was also much larger than I expected - maybe a couple of thousand people - but I should have realized that any race that's been around for thirty years is probably attracting more than a handful of participants. It was also the San Antonio City Championship 5K which I'm not sure I'm eligible to win, seeing as I live much closer to Dallas, but given that I finished 20th out of 42 in my age group, it seems like a moot point anyway. Like Rocky, and Ray Kinsella, I guess, I just wanted to go the distance. Well, actually I would have liked to run the distance but I know how lackadaisical my training has been thus far this year and given that, I was happy I ran more than I walked, both in terms of distance and time.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

02/09: Dashing for the Beads 5K

Ten Notes on Dashing for the Beads 1. One of the hidden benefits to running races is that it takes me to neighborhoods I might not have visited before. This was truer in the old days, when there were so many neighborhoods I hadn’t visited and when races didn’t seem to be as clustered around White Rock Lake and the Katy Trail. At any rate, the Dash for the Beads runs through north Oak Cliff just west of the Bishop Arts district up to the Kessler Parkway, and is the first race I’ve run completely within the boundaries of north Oak Cliff. 2. This was the fourth running of this race, which I wanted to do last year and I think the year before, but things never quite worked out. For example, last year I’m pretty sure it was too damn cold for my delicate constitution. 3. I registered for the race at packet pick-up but the t-shirts weren’t available until race day, which they really weren’t worth the wait. They look great, but the image on the front is kind of plasticky and heavy; when you wear the shirt, it also feels like you’re wearing a bib. 4. Parking and race day logistics were chaotic but not irritating, although clearer signage would be helpful. I stood in a line to pick up my t-shirt that I wasn’t totally sure was the correct line, but I got a t-shirt so I guess it was. 5. Do not run this race, or at least this course, in search of a PR. It’s not that it’s constantly hilly, but the hills that you do run are daunting. 6. I read somewhere that this course was new for this year; if they stick with this general idea, they may want to consider reversing the direction in which they run it. There’s an out-and-back on the Coombs Creek Trail early in the second mile that was crowded. If they ran the course in the other direction that section would be late in the second mile and runners would be a little more spread out. It would alleviate the bottle neck although it wouldn’t eliminate it. 7. I didn’t know anything about this Coombs Creek Trail and still don’t, really, so I should probably check it out more closely sometime. According to the Dallas Parks page I found, it hasn’t been built yet. 8. They had beer after the race, good beer from Rahr and Sons in Ft. Worth. That would be the good news. 9. The bad news is that the beer wasn’t exactly free, at least so far as I could tell. You had to get in one line to buy a cup, and then get in another line to get the cup filled; I don’t know if you were allowed to bring your own drinking vessel. The problem with this set-up, for me at least, is that I don’t tend to carry my wallet, or any money, on me while running a race. And because this is a fairly popular race in a location with no parking lots, I was parked three or four blocks, which would only be a hassle on most days but was genuinely problematic on this particular day – I was on a sort of tight schedule partially because the race started at 10:00 am. 10. If I do this race again I’ll be easy to pick out. I’ll be the dude running with the Oktoberfest stein.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

01/26: Hypnotic Donut Dash

I’m not a big fan of Mellew Productions, which probably isn’t something they lose much sleep over, and the inaugural Hypnotic Donut Dash didn’t help me see the error of my ways. I walked into the Embarcadero Building in Fair Park 45 minutes before the 5K was scheduled to start, followed the sign to race day registration, and got into a line that was longer than my standards usually permit me to join. A few minutes later a dude came along and pulled people who still needed to register, like me, out of the megaline, which was just for packet quicker picker-uppers, minus the quicker part. He led us over to a laptop that I had walked past because it looked abandoned; that was where race day registrants were supposed to enter their information before moving over to another table to pay, and then a third to pick up their shirt. So I was registered and done inside of five minutes while those poor bastards stood in that line for I don’t know how long, but the 5K started 25 minutes late to give the line time to clear.

I think there were two main reasons why they had such a packet pick-up logjam. I’m pretty sure they only had limited pick-up prior to race day: Friday from ten in the morning until two in the afternoon at three locations, which were Hypnotic Donuts on Garland Road in Dallas, the Hyatt House Lincoln Park at Caruth Haven and Central Expressway in Dallas, and the Aloft Hotel in Frisco. If you happened to be west of I-35E during those hours, you know, like because of your job or whatever, you were hosed. Also, it looked like they were assigning bib numbers to people as they got to the table, an extra step that increased the transaction time. I’m not saying that they screwed all this to hell because I don’t know what resources they had available, but if they want to avoid similar delays at future races, these are the two areas I’d try to address.

Given the limitations of a Fair Park 5K – all you’re going to do is run around Fair Park – the race itself was fine, and given the limitations of my current capabilities, my performance – 28:05 – was acceptable. I ran two sub-nine-minute miles, walked for three minutes, and ran the rest of the way in. Which is encouraging in some respects but also sad-making: Sub-nines are now what sub-eights used to be, which probably means that sub-eights are now what sub-sevens used to be and sub-sevens are now a pipe dream. Getting old, being injured – I can’t say I’m a fan.

After the race and after going back to my car to find my way into a drier shirt, I returned to the Embarcadero Building in time to see the band breaking down the stage, which seemed early but maybe they were asked to leave for playing too loud or for playing “Ah-ah, Yawa Em Ekat Ot Gnimoc Er’yeht” or for committing some other major transgression. Whatever, the important thing was that the Deep Ellum Brewing Company people weren’t breaking down their kiosk so I joined their line and a few minutes later found myself holding a Dallas Blonde[1], proving once again that the best things in life are, if not free, at least included in the entry fee.

1. It’s a beer, people.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

09/18: Oktoberfest 5K

I have friends – hold on, that wasn’t meant to be the news flash – I have friends who run Addison’s Oktoberfest 5K every year which is how I’ve come to run that race the past three years. Which is problematic when it comes to writing about the race, as it’s just sort of a generic 5K and there’s not that much I could say about this year’s race – except that I sucked, big time – that I haven’t said about it before so instead of running from the problem, I guess I’ll just embrace it and look at how this race compares to the previous editions. God only knows what gimmick I’m going to be reduced to for next year’s race – maybe it’ll rain. That would be different. Unpleasant, but different.

The course hasn’t changed in the three years I’ve been running the race; the main feature is still the Arapaho Road bridge, which provides the only hills on the course – one going out and one coming back. So it’s really the same hill only in different directions, but it seems like a longer hill running to the west and a steeper hill running to the east. So, really, it’s not quite the same hill; it’s more like they’re mirror images of each other.

On the one hand, the weather was at least slightly different from the previous two years but that was mostly a bad thing – the temperature at race time was near eighty, as opposed to the mid-sixties of the past two years. The humidity was over 80% all three years so while that sucks, it’s a fairly even suckage across the three races.

They still have free beer and soft pretzels after the race, so that’s a bonus. As I was trying to get a pretzel out of the bag, it got hung up on another pretzel and I said, “damn, they’re fornicating.” Then I looked at the volunteer to see if she was offended but she actually seemed mildly amused. So that was a bonus, too.

The race may or may not have grown over the past few years. In 2008 it looks like there were about 900 finishers, last year there were about 1300, and this year almost 1400. But those only include the timed participants and somewhere along the line – I’m guessing in 2009 – they switched from chips to disposable tags, which, since disposable tags come on your bib number while you have to make a special effort to pick up your chip, I’d think that more people actually use the tags.

Your bib number still gets you into Oktoberfest for free which is an even better value these days – the Oktoberfest cover charge is now ten bucks, up from five sometime in the recent past. However, and this is kind of an important point, should you lose your bib number sometime between leaving the race and showing up in the evening at Oktoberfest, looks like you (i.e., me) are forking over the ten bucks if you want to get inside and meet your friends.

Friday, September 17, 2010

09/11: James Page Blubber Run

The biggest mistake I made Saturday at the James Page Blubber Run was not turning in both my beverage coupons on my first pass through the beer line, which was only theoretically a line when I first visited since many of the eventual beer drinkers were still somewhere out on the course - perhaps at the beer stop just past the second mile marker. Or perhaps not; rumor had it that they ran out of beer there early. At any rate, early on the servers were more than able to keep up with the demand. By the time I finished my first beer, that wasn't so much the case any more: I got into the beer line a little before 11:30 and I got my beer a little after noon. Which isn't to complain so much as it is to illustrate that many people ran the James Page Blubber Run and many of those people drink beer.

Which isn’t to say I wasted a half hour waiting to get another James Page Burly Brown Ale - the Blubber Run is like the Opening Day of the Halloween season and the beer line is a promising vantage point for admiring the various costumes. I saw superheroes and crayons and cartoon characters and nuns and movie characters and Mr. Bill (extremely well done) and Oktoberfesters and Where’s Waldo (not so well done, I thought it was Mr. Bill’s lesser brother) and cowpeople and transvestite Oktoberfesters and Vikings (both pillagers and football players) and bees (one with her own personal beekeeper) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Hooters Girls (unless they really were Hooters girls – they were plausible – in which I case I guess that doesn’t count as a costume) and cavepeople (including two Fred Flintstones) and Larry Bird (albeit with a mustache that looked more like a Got Milk? Ad) and Velma from Scooby Doo, although I’m not sure that was a costume. Not to mention the cute, scantily-clad jungle girl slightly in front of me in the beer line although those damn Vikings kept wandering into my line of sight.

It may sound like running was an afterthought, which is accurate. The race is essentially untimed; they give awards to the top three men and women but outside of that I don’t see them having any official results since we weren’t wearing chips, our bibs had no pull tags; and we were given nothing at the finish line to turn in afterwards. Which is cool by me; I think it’s intended to be a fun, as opposed to competitive, event but – and this is the consumer advice portion of the post – if you’re more interested in a precisely-timed and accurately-measured, perhaps even certified, course, look elsewhere. If not, c’mon down! If the running seems to be more than you anticipated and three miles and change is a bit far to go without a beer break, don’t sweat it. They also have the previously-mentioned beer corral just past the second mile marker although, again, rumor has it they ran dry.

Monday, September 13, 2010

05/13: Katy Trail 5K

You'd think after nearly three months - maybe more than three months, depending on how long it takes me to actually post this - I'd have found something to say about the Katy Trail 5K, but when you throw in the caveat that I'd like whatever I blather to be at least passingly original, it don't come easy. Lord, it don't come easy. You gotta pay your dues..wait, where was I? Oh yeah, well, I've run this race nine or ten times now...wait a second...ten, according to the official runes, the last ten in a row. I guess they started it in 1999; I think this year's was the twelfth. It doesn't change much from year to year; it's usually warm, humid and crowded, and this year it was warm, humid, and crowded. It's kind of amazing, actually, that so far as I can remember it's never rained on the race or picnic despite May being an opportune month for thunderstorms.

I shot my wad early in this one - my first mile was 7:21 and after that there was jogging and some walking, mixed in with walking and jogging. The course was the same as in recent years - Turtle Creek Boulevard to Blackburn to Cole to Elizabeth to the Katy Trail to the finish - and I walked part of the hill at Blackburn. Which is earlier in the race than usual but I wasn't in peak condition; it's been kind of a lackluster running year thus far, and I've always hated that hill anyway. Well, I think maybe I've done a race or two where I got to run down it and I probably didn't hate it then.

The postrace picnic was massive, as usual, and crowded, also as usual. Finishing earlier to get to the food before the hordes descend should be motivation to train more seriously for this race, but to date this hasn't been the case. Partially because even running as mediocre as I did this year (26:19), I still get down to the grub while there's still elbow room. It's not until I'm making my second and third passes that the crowds are pressing up against my claustrophobic limits. Thank God for that V.I.P. thing - not only does it give me access to better beer than Michelob Ultra, I don't have to stand in line for it, either.

The other thing about this race that changes from year to year are the people I know that I run into. This year I saw one dude from Grapevine and four from Ultimate, although two of the Ultimate people were married -to each other - so they sort of count as one. Except they also had Murphy the dog with them, so he should probably count, too. Another Ultimate dude was Ed from my Winter League team a few years back, which at Ultimate he blames his lack of speed on being more of a long-distance runner than a sprinter but at races he just blames it on being slow, which he is. At least he doesn't try to blame it on Ultimate.

Monday, July 19, 2010

05/08: Lake Run 12K

I'm still catching up on race reports that I've let slide the past few months so once again, in lieu of a standard report, are ten things you may, or may not, find enlightening about Portland, Oregon, or the Lake Run 12K.

1. The Lake Run 12K is actually in Lake Oswego and does, in fact, circle Lake Oswego - only for the most part not exactly in an up-close-and-personal style. The lake is rarely in sight while you're running along the course.

2. When you can't find a direct route to the race and all the roads seem to meander all over the place, it's probably due to the terrain. Expect hills.

3. If you hate hills, stay away from this race. Even if you're seeking out hills to get accustomed to them, stay away from this race because this is like aversion therapy; these aren't the sorts of hills to leave you with warm, fuzzy memories. Especially early in the race; it might just be my traumatized memory but it seems like the first 2.5 miles were pretty much all uphill. Although only the last two miles of that stretch was really bad.

4. After the initial hill ordeal, there are still major climbs lurking on the course. And you finish uphill - after a pleasant downhill (technically I'm pretty sure the course has a net elevation loss) - and while it's an insignificant uphill, it's still adding insult to injury even if the only thing injured is my ego.

5. I was afraid to say anything about the hills to the locals. I didn't want to find out that they all ran this race because it was the easiest course around.

6. The McMenamin brothers are building a brewpub empire in the great northwest, with at least some of their locations doubling as hotels and with many of their locations being in historic buildings. I've been to their Kennedy School place three times and never been disappointed. It's in an old elementary school in northeast Portland, somewhere between the Rose Garden and the airport. On the other hand I also went to their Cedar Hill location and I was slightly disappointed - it's just another bar. But with good beer, though.

7. Preserve your sanity - try not to drive too much in Portland, especially around downtown.

8. The night before the race, the Reno Aces beat the Portland Beavers, 3 - 1, in Pacific Coast League action at PGE Park. Which was odd, because Portland was dominating the game with scoring chances throughout (they had a runner thrown out at the plate, another picked off second, and they hit into two double plays) but not totally unexpected because frequently when a team wastes so many opportunities, it comes back to bite them in the ass.

9. If you're going to a Beavers game, take the train. PGE Park is on the west side of downtown and there's a light-rail station right next to the park, making it easy to avoid the hassle of driving and parking in downtown. I think it's expected - the stadium 'lot' seemed like it cold hold maybe fifty cars.

10. I've been to Mount St. Helen's twice now; once all I could do was tour the visitor's center because it was too rainy to do anything else, and this time I couldn't even do that because I got there too late. After getting in stuck in traffic coming out of Portland, of course.