Friday, May 30, 2008

05/15/08 & 05/17/08: Katy Trail 5K & Warbird 10K

I ran the Katy Trail 5K on Thursday evening in Dallas and the Warbird 10K on Saturday morning at the Warbird Brewing Company in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. I’ll probably run the Katy Trail 5K next year while I’m not too likely to come back and do this one but that’s only because I’ll probably lose track of the date, or not be able to get a flight, or to to try a different race elsewhere. It will have nothing to do with preferring the Katy Trail 5K over the Warbird 10K; in fact, I like both races and prefer the Warbird race to the Katy Trail one.

While neither race is particularly small, the Katy Trail 5K dwarfs the Warbird races (which include a 5K in addition to the 10K; both races start together) by about 4,000 or so to slightly less than 1,000. I count this as a point in the Warbird’s favor – I prefer races in the 500 to 1,000 range. They’re large enough that they’re probably going to have good support and a reasonable postrace scene but not so large that you spend as much energy weaving through the crowd as you do running the damn race.

Everything else being equal, the Katy Trail course blows away the Warbird course as it’s scenic, shaded, urbane. The Warbird course runs along some rural-for-now land south of the city along open roads that don’t offer much protection if the day is bright and windy. Which today was, with the sun coming out from behind some early morning rain clouds just as the race started. What isn’t equal, of course, is the number of times I’ve run either of these courses, what with this being the first time I’ve been in Ft. Wayne (hometown of Charlton Heston’s character in “Planet of the Apes”) as opposed to having run along Turtle Creek Boulevard and up and down the Katy Trail about a jillion times each. I like running both those places but I like running new places more as long as they don’t suck, and the Warbird course wasn’t that bad.

The Katy Trail people promote the postrace picnic as much as they do the race – they have tons of sponsors, most of them local restaurants (many of them high-end), provide food. One of the advantages of being at least still moderately fast is that I can be done with the race and down to the food before the lines have had a chance to build up. This year Strong’s Everyday Tavern provided bitching bar-be-que ribs; I also had pizza from Campisi’s and Rocco’s, baked ziti from Terilli’s, and pasta salad from Holy Ravioli, I’m pretty sure. The beer, which I didn’t bother with because I was still slightly hung over from Lazy Bones the night before, was Michelob Ultra. They’ve been the title sponsors for the past few years; the first year I had it I thought it was horrible but every time I’ve had it since, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that it didn’t suck as badly as I remember it from that first time. I guess I have to grudgingly concede that it’s mediocre.

The Warbird food was neither as elaborate nor as varied but I liked it better; their beer was more varied and I liked that better, too. They had small Kobe beef burgers, chili, and pasta salad – the burgers were awesome, the pasta good, and the chili avoided because of bean content. The beer options were a red ale, a yellow ale, and a dark amber something-or-other. I had a red and a dark amber; I preferred the amber to the red but they both beat the crap out of Michelob Ultra.

Neither race was particularly successful for me; I ran the 5K in 23:53 sandwiching a crappy second mile (8:20ish) around pretty good first (~7:15) and third (~7:30) miles. I finished 29 out of 78 in my age group, 283 out of 952 men and 369 out of 1738 among all timed finishers. I ran the 10K in 50:47 (50:59 officially, and I don’t know what caused the discrepancy) and can’t say for sure what my exact placements were – they had some problems with the (non-Champion) chip timing system they used, which was compounded by people signing up for the 10K and then running the 5K. In the preliminary official results, as posted on the side of the brewery, the winning 10K time was 20:20ish – which would be a new world record by about six minutes if it was somehow allowed to stand! The results on line, which look to be much more accurate, show me finishing 16 out of 36 in my age group, 95 out of 209 men, and 113 out of 323 overall.

Two races in three days – it’s almost like the old days of, say, 1997 (58 races). Except I think I was running a little bit faster back then. Of course, I was a lot younger, too.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

05/03/08: White Rock'N'Roll Five Mile

I thought the White Rock’n’Roll Five-Mile race used to be a bigger deal but some cursory research indicated that this may not have been as true as I thought. There were 541 finishers this year as opposed to 828 last year and 636 in 2006, but I didn’t run the race in either of those years. The last time I ran it, in 2005, there were 403 finishers. However, I thought there used to be a five-mile and a 5K; in 2003 I have personal results for something I called the White Rock Road Race 5K which was held the first weekend in May and I’m pretty sure it was the same race only I opted for the 5K over the five-mile. At any rate, given the restrictions of Winfrey Point, where the race is staged, I'm totally in favor of them downsizing.

There were definitely some differences between this year and the last two years, at least: no packet pick-up and late registration at Luke’s and while entrants still received a technical t-shirt, it was now a generic Dallas Running Club shirt and not a race-specific t-shirt. One beneficial difference was the weather: where race day 2007 was 73 degrees and 88% humidity and 2006 was 66 degrees and 87%, this year it was 52 and 59%. Maybe not absolutely perfect running weather (there was also a pretty good wind), but about as good as you can hope for in Dallas on the first weekend of May. Hell, I don’t know that I’ve ever worn a long-sleeved t-shirt during a May race around here before, although had the wind been calmer I probably wouldn’t have bothered. It wound up soaked with sweat by the end although I never felt like I was overheating.

Oops, just found (and remembered) another difference: the course used to go north along the lake to the Bath House, then go up Northcliff and run around that neighborhood before returning to the lake. Apparently they did that through last year; this year we ran out and back on East Lawther Drive. I thought maybe that change was due to homeowner complaints but I guess it’s just another example of them scaling back the race.

I ran acceptably well until I found the results a few days later; my self-timed 38:32 turned into a 39:04 officially as the race wasn’t chip-timed (which is probably another difference from past years) and I started well back of the starting line, with some friends who weren’t going to be running that fast. Making matters worse, I finished fourth in my age group, eight seconds behind the third place guy. Although he could have started as far back as me; I have no idea about that. At any rate, I spent the early part of the race picking my way through the crowd and ran the first mile in about 8:00, then ran the second in about 7:30. I hit the strongest head wind in the first half of the third mile and that slowed me down, I think. But I finished with two more miles at about 7:30 pace, so even though I felt like I was struggling, I didn’t really slow down. On the other hand a couple of guys passed me with sprints at the end – speeding up was not a viable option for me at that moment.