Monday, July 21, 2008

7/19/08: Too Hot To Handle 15K

I blame myself. I believe that one of the keys to happiness is avoiding unnecessary frustrations and yet I ran Run On's Too Hot To Handle 15K this year anyway. It's the sixth time I've run this race (1997, 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2006 being the other years) so I guess I can't claim to have learned from experience and I guess I shouldn't count out doing it again next year. If I do, expect another bitchy post.

The main problem with this race is that it's huge (2500 runners, so I heard, although only 1700 or so show up in the results) and yet they still insist on holding it at Winfrey Point. I didn't even try to park at Winfrey Point; as I was approaching Garland Road coming south on Buckner Boulevard, it looked like traffic turning onto Garland Road was backed up to Poppy Lane. My prefered parking location already being full, I wound up parking at the Stone Tables.

Judging from various t-shirts and tank tops, many Team in Training initiates and running class newbies were running one of the races. They lined up much more appropriately than usual as I wasted much less time, and energy, dodging walkers in the early stages of the race than I'm accustomed to. In fact, they did better than a couple of experienced runners I noticed who didn't let the fact that they were walking alter where they lined up.

A personal note to the girl in the blue tank top - it's not a good idea to come to a complete stop ten seconds into the race because an iPod earbud has come unmoored, lest you inadvertently engage in inappropriate relations with the older gentleman running behind you.

Y'all still need to work on your water stop etiquette. Don't come to a complete stop as soon as someone hands you a cup of water - there's a better than even chance that someone's coming up behind you. Wait until you're clear of the station and move to the side and then you can walk or stop or lie under a tree and drink without impeding other runners.

By the time I got to the water stop near the four-mile mark, they had run out of cups and were encouraging people to reuse the cups that littered the ground. I passed but I was also irritated - it doesn't seem like it's too difficult to identify a cup-shortage problem before the race and to correct it by hauling ass to the nearest convenience store and buying more. Running stores get involved with races partially for the marketing opportunities but that strategy can backfire when people come away from the event thinking it was poorly run.

I eventually finished (1:40:ish, there was a good amount of walking after the first five miles), drank some liquids, and took off. As I cruised down Garland Road, I saw that departures from Winfrey Point were going much more smoothly than they had in the past. The Dallas Police were directing traffic from Emerald Isle to turn right onto Garland Road where they had two lanes blocked off. Of course you still had the random driver who insisted on getting left as quickly as possible so he could make a u-turn, but it was still a vast improvement over having a vast line of cars back up into Winfrey Point while one stylin' dude in a Chevy Behemoth waits for a break in traffic so he can turn left onto Garland Road.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

07/12/08: Moonlight Chase Four Mile

The Moonlight Chase is a four-mile race in Eldridge, Iowa, that starts at 9:00pm on the second Saturday in July. The nine o’clock start has its good points and its bad points: on this particular second Saturday in July, running conditions were downright reasonable by the time the starting gun was fired. On the other hand, if you’re casual about details – and some of us are! – and you show up at 6:45ish thinking the race starts at 8:00 because you don’t want to be rushed while registering, stretching, and otherwise checking out the scene, the extra hour of waiting can be excruciatingly painful. It’s a nice race and town and all, but it doesn’t warrant that much checking out.

A manic young dude started talking to me before the race. Eventually I realized that he was partially scoping out the competition - which meant that he was wasting his time on me, given that he’s fourteen years younger and maybe five minutes or so faster over four miles. I don’t know how he actually did (although I’m guessing 26:53); he said he was shooting for 25 minutes but I got the feeling he was more concerned with placing than time. He also expressed concern that there might be more cheating in a night race – people slipping off course and back on later so as to run a shorter distance – but I don’t think it’s too likely. For one thing, the course is lined with spectators so it would be difficult to avoid being seen.

I ran 30:06 which was good enough to be slightly disappointing in that I would have liked to be seven seconds faster. The course was lined with luminaries (except for one stretch where they had tiki torches instead) as well as spectators and the race organizers considered that a major selling point but as a runner I don’t think I’m in a position to fully appreciate them. When I’m running hard, or at least attempting to run hard, I’m not as aware of my surroundings as I might otherwise be. I did look up and see the moon at one point ; it was maybe three-quarters full. I wondered if they timed the race to match a fuller phase of the moon or if they held it the second Saturday in July even if the new moon fell on that day. I guess my mind wanders more than my gaze does.

Iowans being the chatty people they are, I talked to a couple of people after the race – the usual how did you do, isn’t this weather whatever type stuff. One common element, mention sometimes in passing and sometimes with laserlike focus, was the Bix. “I’m training for the Bix.” “I’ve got to be ready for the Bix.” The Bix may be the most prestigious non-marathon road race in the Midwest; I don’t think there’s anything comparable in Dallas. The Turkey Trot is large but I don’t think it’s a must-do for many of the more competitive area runners; the Dallas Half Marathon would like to be that race and is closer than the Trot to getting there but I don’t think it has nearly the same cachet. The Bix is run over a bitch of a course in the middle of the summer and people are beside themselves eager to run it. It’s a real measuring stick of a race.

Maybe I should check this Bix thing out some time. I missed it by a week this year.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

07/05/08: Independence Day 5K

The Dallas Running Club’s Independence Day 5K does not start at Winfrey Point. It starts at Sunset Bay which is just north of Winfrey Point and which I had read in the Dallas Morning News on Friday, only it didn’t register. I parked at Winfrey Point, I strolled up to the building at Winfrey Point, and despite the obvious lack of activity, I tried the handle of the door(to the building at Winfrey Point). It was locked.

I decided to check the parks building at Sunset Bay because, while there weren’t a lot of people around, there were a lot of cars parked at the bottom of the Winfrey Point hill and I did see a guy wearing a bib number jog by. As soon as I started off in that direction, I remembered that the paper said the race was at Sunset Bay so everything was cool. An added bonus about starting here was that an out-and-back 5K course wouldn’t reach to the shaky bridge.

After a mostly sleepless night, and after running and lifting vigorously the day before, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to approach this race. Before the start I saw a guy I recognized who I knew was slower than me, so I decided to pace off him for the first mile and then see if I could pick it up. The first mile felt too easy, which was how it was supposed to feel, and we ran it in 9:29, but the strategy paid off as I ran the next two miles in 7:49 and 7:43 before finishing with 45 seconds for the last tenth, giving me an overall time of 25:48, 8:19 pace. Which was tons better than last week’s 27:36 dedicated to keeping Austin weird, especially if you don’t factor in that it was closer to eighty at the start than it was to one hundred.

After the race I hung out for a while watching all the people I beat finish (the guy I paced off ran a 27:36 or so which means he picked it up also) while trying to figure out where to breakfast, and I checked out the posted results (which were messed up in places – they had no time for me and one age group where the second place finisher ran faster than the first place dude but slower than the guy in third place) while wondering where to breakfast, and finally I took off and got in my car, hoping it had some Insight on where I should breakfast. Turns out, it did. It beelined for Eatzi’s on Oak Lawn which isn’t very crowded at nine o’clock in the morning, and I got migas, which the only problem with their migas is that they overload you and I was only able to finish half of them, and breakfast sausage, which the only problem with their breakfast sausage is that it’s highly addictive and I know several people who have had to go into sausage rehab. Which if you have to have problems, those are okay problems to have.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

06/28/08: Keep Austin Weird 5K

Three young women, barely old enough to legally suck down their Zeigenbocks, were robbed in broad twilight at the Keep Austin Weird 5K when their clever convict costumes, based on the chain-gang escapees from “O Brother, Where Art Thou”, went unrewarded and unrecognized despite the fact that they ran the race handcuffed together. It is a deep, dark disappointment that I didn’t get to see how they negotiated the water stops.

The costumes were all about keeping the weird in the Keep Austin Weird 5K; costumes that were recognized included a magician and his bunny, two girls sharing one canoe, beer keg guy, baa baa sheeple, and the All American Girls, whose main attractions were the pinwheels attached to their bosoms. Oh, and the guy whose costume made it look like he was riding on the back of an old lady; that one was pretty good actually but it was also distracting as I couldn’t help but try to deconstruct the illusion.

The race itself was the most forgettable part of the evening; the temperature was in the high nineties when I started and it was still in the high nineties when I finished. Starting the race at 6:00 on an early summer evening, they must be as intent on keeping Austin sweaty as they are in keeping Austin weird. I tried to start slow and I sort of succeeded – my time for the first mile wasn’t very fast but I expended a lot of energy working for a mediocre time. The race continued in that vein; I wound up finishing in 27:36 and was just glad to be done.

I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the food in the runner’s area after the race but that may have been due to the heat. I ate half a slice of pizza and picked at a small bowl of salad but I didn’t feel like eating. I also drank a bottle of warm fruit punch and one of cold water; liquids, particularly cold liquids, were much more appealing. I also picked up my race t-shirt; it was cool and came in an ecofriendly shopping bag.

After going off to change into dry clothes, I wandered into the main festival area where various food and drink, including beer, were available for purchase. The beer options were Bud and Bud Light in cans, Zeigenbock on tap, and Independence, a local brew, available in an unknown format because I never saw any. I went for Zeigenbock, which is Anheuser Busch’s attempt to compete with Shiner, and it was tasty and cold. I spilled a little, though, when the Checker Cab guy tossed me one of his promo discs and I had to sky to make the grab. Later I had two more beers and a couple of mini-cheeseburgers while rocking out to What Made Milwaukee Famous, watching the costume contest awards presentation, and folk-rocking out to Alejandro Escovedo.

The race and festival go a mostly thumbs up with one caveat: it’s pricey. I paid forty bucks at late registration; had I signed up in advance (before June 26th) it would have been $35. On an individual basis it may not seem like you’re getting your money’s worth but considering the venue (Auditorium Shores along Town Lake) and the entertainment, it doesn’t seem like they’re just pocketing the money, either. A free beer or two would be nice, though.