Monday, April 28, 2008

04/26/08: Blue Key 8K

I was about fifteen miles north of Phoenix when I saw the sign ELEVATION 2000 FT; it was the first clue I picked up that maybe I should have gone to Madison, Wisconsin, for the Crazy Eights 8K if I was looking for the opportunity to run fast. My mind flashed back to the map I checked Thursday, specifically the small symbol just north of Flagstaff. Highest point in Arizona, it said. 12,643 feet, it said. Mount Flatlanderyou’rescrewed, it said (I’m pretty sure).

By the time I got to Flagstaff the elevation was at 7000 ft., although I really didn’t notice much difference until I went out for a late afternoon run. Then I noticed a lot of difference as I basically staggered through 3.5 miles, getting a little lost in the process although I eventually found my way back. Still, I was shaken by the experience and it took three beers (Vienna Lager, Railhead Red, India Pale Ale) at the Beaver Street Brewery to restore my equilibrium. I had some spicy chicken penne pasta to go with the beer; it had a nice alfredoish sauce, reasonable pasta, and substandard chicken that I’m pretty sure came to the restaurant pre-diced. The meal didn’t suck, it just could have been better.

The Blue Key 8K or whatever the hell this race is called is a small, low-key, slapdash affair and thank God for that. If I’m going to have a crappy race, there’s no better place to do it than in obscurity – in this case Northen Arizona University – home of the Lumberjacks! – in Flagstaff, Arizona. There was a 5K in addition to the 8K and the races had a combined start; there were probably about forty runners between the two races. I ran my ‘8K’ in 41:30, which, given the altitude, would have been pretty good except that my Garmin reported my actual distance as 4.6 miles and my pace as an even 9:00. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m bitching about the course being short – short is fine, especially under circumstances (like not being in great shape, like running over a mile above sea level, ect.) that make setting a PR highly improbable. If the course was long, then I’d be bitching.

Besides, the course may not have been short; it’s possible that we didn’t actually run the official course. We could have inadvertently missed an out-and-back or side loop section as the course was confusing at times and they didn’t have volunteers at every turn. Less likely, I suppose it’s possible that being at altitude threw off my Garmin. I think the distance it reported was approximately accurate, though; I’d be surprised if my overall pace was under 9:00.

I have no idea how I finished in the race – I can barely comprehend how I finished the race – and I doubt I’ll ever find out. The race had a minimal web presence for informational purposes, although it was listed on, and I’d be surprised to see results show up online. Which won’t stop me from looking, of course, as poking around the internets is second nature by now.

Much as I’d like to see how I did, I’d also be interested in seeing what the split in finishers between the 5k and the 8K was. The crowd was small but included some good runners; the last time I remember being in such a strung-out chain of runners was a 5K in Arlington, Texas, in 1997 or a 10K in Idaho Falls in 1996. It’s different to be in a race that small and I’ll look back on it fondly next time I’m in a Dallas megarace.

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