Monday, August 18, 2008
Every summer in recent memory, I’ve hit a point where I’ve despaired of ever running fast, by my standards, again, and every year there’s been a race that reassures me I haven’t totally lost it. The Midnight Chase would have been that race except I hadn’t hit my nadir of confidence yet – that came a couple of weeks later when temperatures regularly went into the triple digits around here. Instead it was the Bat Cave 8K, a mostly trail race in the Lakewood Forest Preserve off Route 176 in Wauconda, Illinois, that restored my confidence in my mediocrity.
I ran 40:46 - which isn’t that great – but I was happy with it because the course was moderately difficult (rolling hills, soft surface) and because I was able to run faster for longer intervals than I’ve been managing during the recent Dallas heat wave. Which ended about a week ago, by the way, although I bet we see at least one encore before fall moves in. I finished 8th of 13 in my age group; 38-flat, which would be an accomplishment for me on this course but not totally out of the question, would have gotten me fourth but I would have had to beat 33:57 to medal. Given that my 8K PR is 34:10 and came in 1996 on a flat road course in cooler weather, I think it’s safe to say that 33:xx likely isn’t in my future. I haven’t given up hope of running a five-mile race at sub-7:00 pace, though.
Despite the name, we saw no bats and no caves during the running of this race. This came as no surprise as the race website said we wouldn’t; the race was named after a bat sanctuary located inside the park. The race information was a model of accuracy – in addition to predicting the absence of bats and cave, its description of the course as rolling and challenging was spot on. “Rolling and challenging” are usually considered code words for ‘supplemental oxygen may be required’ but these hills weren’t too bad except for one just before the turnaround that we got to run down (didn’t seem like such a big deal then) before having to make the ascent. Mostly it was just a constant up and down that made the course difficult but given that trail races aren’t the best choices for PRs and summer races aren’t the best choices for PRs, it wasn’t that big a deal, at least not to me.
When I’m running well, a race for me tends to be a game of leapfrog as I pace off one person for a while, then move up and pace off someone else and so on, for as long as I can. I was behind some dude at the halfway point and planned on pacing off him until the three-mile mark, but he got a drink at the aid station and slowed to a walk so I moved up to the next person, a cute twentyish girl. I was right behind here when her dad passed by running out towards the aid station; I was very self-conscious that he thought maybe I was leering lewdly (or maybe luridly or lasciviously – I’m not sure where the differences lie either) at his daughter. I passed her soon afterwards. She struggled mightily going up the big hill while I only struggled moderately.
Incidentally, according to the results I’m the same age as her dad but several minutes faster.