Tuesday, January 13, 2009

01/10/09: Bold in the Cold 15K

Some boldness was required to run the Lake Grapevine Runners and Walkers (LGRAW) Bold in the Cold races, whose flavors included 5K and 15K. I did the 15K because I needed to get the mileage in and because I’m still living in the (distant) past, when I could run nine miles in the morning and play Ultimate all afternoon with no ill effects. Besides, it’s not like I knew in advance we were only going to have three guy subs. Oh, well. They say pain is temporary but the medal is forever; of course, I’d actually had to have won a medal to know the truth of that cliché.

The hardest part of just running in the cold is actually stepping outside; the toughest part of racing in the cold is the standing around waiting for the stupid race to start. Once you get started and warmed up in either case it usually isn’t that bad although there was a stretch in this race – from about the second half of the third mile through maybe the first quarter of the fourth – where we were running north towards Lake Grapevine in the open and straight into the wind. The 25 mile-per-hour wind. That kind of sucked. Because as ‘it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity’ is to summer – a lasting cliché because it’s essentially true – so is ‘it’s not the cold, it’s the wind’ to winter. We were running in the epitome of that cliché with the 36 degree temperature not helping matters much, even if it did feel almost reasonable in the rare moments when the wind ceased its abuse for a second or two. To someone (i.e., me) wearing two long-sleeve shirts, at least.

I had to swallow a certain amount of pride to run this race because I’ve been a member of LGRAW for maybe three years now and it’s embarrassing to race in front of friends when you’re so far off your game – especially when the main reason for being so well-rounded is too much TV time and not enough training. This lack of training will likely make itself more apparent over nine miles rather than three but like I said, I needed the mileage – it’s not like I got much the last two weeks of 2008. And LGRAW is my club – in the sense that I’m a member, not that I own it or anything – and I want to support it and besides, it’s not like I’m going to get back into reasonable shape by hibernating for the winter, however few days it should choose to actually make an appearance in north Texas. I trust these guys to be too polite to comment on my turtle-like pace, which in this instance carried me to the finish line in 1:23:50 or so – a 9:01 pace which if I had known I was that close to a nine-minute pace, I’d have kicked from slightly further out to see if I could get it down to at least 8:59. It just sounds better. I finished 9th out of 18 in my age group, 65th out of 100 men, and 95th out of 212 overall, which just goes to show that I shouldn't expect to make any money from this sport.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

01/03/09: Frigid 10K

The Dallas Running Club held their Frigid 10K (and 5K, but I didn’t run that so it’s an afterthought) two days early; they ran it on Saturday when the tempature at 8:00am was a balmy (too balmy) 65 degrees (with 90% humidity – best decision I made? Not wearing my sunglasses – they would have been fogged the entire time.) while on Monday it was 33 degrees, with occasional precipitation, at about the same time. Not that I’m complaining. In fact, quite the opposite.

I planned on holding back early in this race; I thought I was holding back, at least some, with an 8:44 first mile. But after an 8:58 second mile, I knew it would be a struggle – a Titanic struggle – to maintain that pace for another four miles. Awareness was gradually dawning that running only three times for a total of 16 miles since the White Rock Half wasn’t such a good idea, especially when one of those runs, a nine-mile loop of White Rock Lake, was done just two days prior to my current race. Somehow I had managed to simultaneously undertrain and overtrain.

I ran a pair of 8:53s – one good thing about this race, because of repairs to the spillway, we couldn’t use the shaky bridge and had to run on Garland Road instead – and then in the fifth mile I learned how much rust accrued during my little running vacation: I ran, no walking, ran that mile in 9:22 and it’s not like I was holding back – that was all I had. On a positive note, when I needed a walking break at the end of that less-than-stellar mile, I knew it wasn’t like I was tanking a really good race. But on the downside, I got passed at the end by a guy who hadn’t beaten me in a race since 2006 – according to athlinks.com, I had beaten him nine straight times, including by nearly seven minutes in a five-mile race last year. Even the downside has an upside, though – if that doesn’t motivate me to get my ass in gear and start running more, nothing will.

I took advantage of the race to renew my membership in the Dallas Running Club, which cost me $25 this time around. Last year it cost me $20 which meant I had to run two of the free club races ($10 for nonmembers) to break even; I ran two (the Frigid 5K and the Bloomin’ Four Mile) and also saved $5 with a member’s discount for the White Rock’N’Roll Five-Mile which is a club race on steroids – it’s one of three that members have to pay an entry fee, the others being the Trinity River Levee Run and the Dallas Half Marathon, which they like to call The Half. At any rate, if I do the same races this year that I did last year, I will break even, at least.

For my rousing finish of 56:52 (57:04 according to them), I finished 164th out of 310 overall, 115 out of 177 among all men, and 15 out of 21 in my age group. In other words, I didn’t medal.

Monday, January 5, 2009

12/14/08: White Rock Half Marathon

Somewhere around and between all the traffic jams and mob scenes and pomp and circumstance at the White Rock Marathon and Half Marathon, they actually managed to run the races. The races seem like something between an afterthought and a necessary evil, overshadowed by the expo and the flyover and the dancing elephants and the talking giraffe which I probably sound like a grumpy old man right about now but that’s because I don’t want hassle; I just want to run. Unless I’m tired, in which case I just want to walk, or nap or whatever.

It’s always interesting to hear the different perspectives people have on the weather – spectators thought it was great, half marathoners mediocre, marathoners piss poor. Driving down to Victory Park sometime before seven in the morning, the weather bulletin board on 183 showed a temperature of 67 degrees and humidity of 67%, but it didn’t feel quite that bad mostly because it was overcast and windy. Running the half, the skies stayed cloudy and the wind helped keep me cool when I was running into it, most notably while running south on Skillman. Around 10:30, after I was finished, I was standing outside the American Airlines Center and I saw the sun come out from behind the clouds and I knew things were about to get a lot tougher for the marathoners and half marathoners still out on the course.

I started the half way too close to the front of the pack; my strategy was try to keep up with the crowd as best I could while working my way to the outside as quickly as possible. Then, once I felt like I was out of the speedsters’ way, I’d drop back to a pace I felt more comfortable with. For the first three miles my legs felt like lead mostly from playing too much ultimate frisbee the day before (league games – couldn’t be avoided) but once I got used to a certain level of discomfort it never really got any worse. I cruised through the first ten miles at about 8:30 pace before tiring and slowing; I took one walking break of about two-tenths of a mile around the 12-mile mark and finished in about 1:54:30. An unofficial 1:54:30; my stupid timing tag came off about halfway through the race. I was happy with my time mostly because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to run more than half the distance and wound up running it about as fast as I did the Madison Half.

I wasn’t nearly as happy with the postrace food as I was with my run; it was severely downgraded from what I remembered them having the last time I ran this race two years ago. Then they had the food on the floor at the AAC and it was take as much as you want and they had all sorts of cookies and fruit and chips and other stuff (maybe even pizza); this year they had a tent sent up between the finish lines and you could shuffle through there and pick up one granola-type item, one yogurt-type item and one fruit-type item. I think I wound up going to Denny’s where I ordered up one Gran Slam-type item.