Monday, February 16, 2009

02/14/09: Haltom Stampede 5K

7:09. Hopefully there will be a time later this year when running a 7:09 mile at the start of a 5K won't feel like a tragic mistake; it'll feel like either I'm right on schedule or perhaps dawdling a bit. Right now, however, a 7:09 opening mile means I've started too fast and there's a terrible price to be paid in the near future. In the case of this year's Haltom Stampede, that bill came due late in the second mile when we turned a corner and headed up an inauspicious hill that shouldn't cause me any trouble but in this instance humbled me and slowed me to a walk. My mile splits for this 5K were 7:09, 8:34, and 7:34 , and it's not like I was running according to some shrewd plan I had devised. I should have known better; I spent most of the first mile on the heels of one of DFW's better female masters runners, who normally finishes a 5K a couple of minutes before I do. Today? She bettered my 24:04 by about two minutes.

I seriously considered blowing this race off, even though I had registered the day before. Had the race started at 8:00 rather than 9:30 or if it had been windier, I probably would have written it off as too cold and raw. Unfortunately weather would be the only justification for bagging but conditions weren't unpleasant enough; it was just mediocre crappy - cold but not frigid, breezy but not blustery. So I ran, except for when I walked.

All things being equal, I like the idea of the 9:30 start at this time of year, but all things aren't equal - I have ultimate at noon in Las Colinas and the late start brings my less-than-stellar time management skills into play. I went straight from the finish line to my car which was in one respect unfortunate; according to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, my mediocre performance got me third place in my age group, entitling me to one of the unique and prestigious Haltom Stampede ceramic buffaloes. I'd like to thank the Academy, of course, but even more I'd like to thank all the better runners who found something better to do this particular morning.

I would have liked to have had more time to hang out afterwards, and not just to pick up my buffalo. The people running this event do one thing that's very important for a potentially cold-weather race: they have, in the Haltom City Recreation Center, a comfortable indoor staging area. They also seemed to have a good amount of postrace food, including animal crackers which I think I could probably eat my weight in animal crackers. So maybe there's an upside to me having to leave immediately after finishing - more animal crackers for everyone else. Anyway, I had to get to Irving in time to help my team lose both our games Saturday afternoon. I don't know if they could have done it without me.

Friday, February 6, 2009

01/31/09: Tal Morrison 15K

By seven o’clock Saturday morning, I was parking up on the softball field at Winfrey Point because all the primo parking had been scarfed up; at eight o’clock I was standing in the largest crowd I’ve ever seen at a Dallas Running Club race, at least among their races that are free to club members. Which I am, having paid $25 for the privilege at the beginning of the year and now, having done for free two races that would have otherwise cost me $10 each, I’m closing in on making that look like a sound financial decision.

The Dallas Running Club has made a major push to increase membership over the past few years and now claim to be the third largest running club in the nation (my guess would be that the New York Road Runners Club and the Atlanta Track Club are bigger) with over 3000 members and I’m pretty sure their club races have grown along with the membership rolls. When I ran the Bloomin’ Four-Mile in 2006 there were 164 finishers; when I ran it last year they had 378. The Tal Morrison scholarship races went from 170 finishers in the 15K in 2006 to 235 between the 5K and 15K in 2007 to 572 between the two races in 2008 to 750 in both this year. Maybe it’s the increased membership, maybe it’s the appeal of less expensive races in dark economic times but yeah, I think these races may be growing some.

I was at Winfrey Point to run this year’s edition of the Tal Morrison (founder of the Cross Country Club of Dallas, precursor to the Dallas Running Club) 15K; three mornings after a Category 2, maybe even Category 3, ice storm, Dallas was headed to a high around seventy. At 8:00, though, it was a brisk 37 degrees so I went with shorts and a long-sleeve shirt; one benefit to a large crowd at the start is that there’s more body heat to keep you comfortable when you’re underdressed for the weather.

The course started to the north and looped the lake, crossing over from east to west on Mockingbird. They’re still working on the spillway and probably will be for months, so once again we got to avoid the shaky bridge and instead ran along Garland Road instead. I started back in the crowd and ran conservatively, hitting the first mile at 9:06 which is right about where I passed the dude who passed me at the end of the Frigid 10K. I never saw him again during the race today; except for one small hiccup, I ran every mile progressively faster (8:48, 8:31, 8:33 (hic), 8:24, 8:21, 8:15, 8:13, and 7:59), finishing in 1:18:31 (watch time), about six minutes ahead of him and feeling like I’ve restored some small sense of order to the universe.

Club races, especially club races in off-season months when the racing options on a particular day tend to be limited, tend not to be tremendous ego boosters as serious runners tend to show up and casual runners tend to stay home, present company excluded. I finished 20th of 31 in my age group, 139th out of 249 men, and 179th out of 417 overall, in a race where I was actually happy with my time – for now. If I run a 15K in decent fall weather, I’ll be shooting to break 1:15.