Monday, May 25, 2009

05/24/09: Mississippi 10Miler

One thing sort of missing from the Mississippi 10Miler in St. Paul, Minnesota, is the Mississippi River, despite the race course running along a sidewalk on Mississippi River Boulevard. The river is there, off to the west somewhere, but only an occasional glimpse of the river far below the bluff can be seen through the constant foliage. It’s an attractive course, the Ford Motor Company manufacturing facility not withstanding, but the scenery was blandly attractive, mostly large, well-tended lawns of various houses and churches. Not that I was complaining -it wasn’t too long into the race before I was working too hard to give a damn what kind of landscape we were running through.

The race was put on by the Minnesota Distance Running Association and it’s a basic club run, I’m pretty sure. The course is basic - run five miles south from the intersection of Mississippi River Blvd. and Summit Avenue, turn around, and come back, and the below-average entry fee ($15 race day, $10 pre-registered) doesn’t include a t-shirt, which there are t-shirts available for $8 except there weren’t any extra-large or large available by the time I registered so I guess eight bucks for a race t-shirt is considered a good deal in Minnesota. I passed on the shirt and I would have passed even if they had my size; I don’t need to pay eight bucks for a shirt that I’ll probably wear twice before throwing into the clothing donation bins in the Target parking lot in Grapevine. Yes, I wash them before giving them away.

Driving to the race I listened to The Neon Bible by Arcade Fire which may be the most awesome CD I own that I never listen to. (Not to self: Move “Intervention” and “The Neon Bible” into my Choice Tracks play list at work.) “Keep The Car Running” and “No Cars Go” are excellent motivational tunes to listen to before a race, although they may be better suited for a 5K rather than ten miles. I kept my enthusiasm in check, though; I ran the first mile in about 8:50 and my final two miles were my two fastest, 7:53 and 8:07. Although I didn’t totally trust their splits and I did accidentally dump my data (not a euphemism; note to self: don’t try to store splits while staggering around immediately after the race) so who knows?

Driving back to the hotel postrace, I continued listening to The Neon Bible although in one respect it bummed me out. I’ve had the CD for maybe two years now and I’ve listened to it maybe a dozen times - this is mostly because I’m now more likely to listen to stuff I’m familiar with rather than something new. If this had come out while I was in high school, two things would be true: I’d have bought it on vinyl because CDs weren’t around yet and it would have taken me maybe a week to listen to it twelve times. Maybe less. Oh well, better late than never, I guess - it’s always worked for my running.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

05/14 & 05/16: Katy Trail 5K and Sean May Memorial Run

I spent a good part of this weekend committing at least one of the Seven Deadly Sins: I flew into Denver for a trail race in Brighton and did a training run the day before on a trail south of Boulder; I would kill to have trail options like this around Dallas. For the record, Envy, not murder, is the Deadly Sin I committed. Murder, per se, is not a Deadly Sin so if you do kill someone, do it for reasons other than Anger, Envy, Gluttony, Greed, Pride, or Lust.

Before coming to Denver I ran the Katy Trail 5K in Dallas Thursday evening and then pigged out in the VIP tent at the picnic on shrimp, salmon cakes, steakettes, and chicken quesadillas, washed down with Fire Rock Pale Ale. They had vegetarian options as well but I didn’t want to add Gluttony to my list of transgressions so I passed on them, hoping to exhibit some restraint. I think it worked until I went back for seconds on the shrimp and salmon. And the beer.

The VIP tent was new this year, the deal being that for a hundred bucks (as opposed to the regular race fee of $30 or whatever) you received, in addition to the normal entry, a Friend of the Katy Trail membership, a running cap, and a pass for the VIP tent. I wouldn’t pay the money expecting a material return of approximately equal value but I’ve been giving them $100 for the past few years anyway - I consider it my annual user fee. So if they want to throw some perks my way for the money, I’m cool with that.

I don’t know if the VIP tent will be back next year; it didn’t look like many people signed up for the deluxe package. Although I suppose many of them could have done what I did - load up on food and good beer, then head over to mingle in the main picnic area. Still, I think next year I may be back to swilling Michelob Ultra with the common folk.

I heart the Katy Trail, I really do. It runs 3.5 miles from Airline Drive down to the American Airlines Center and while the main trail is paved with concrete, there’s maybe 2.5 miles of adjacent soft-surface trail. Over 2.5 miles, from Knox Street to the AAC, is free of street crossings. By Dallas standards, it’s an incredibly great place to run, or walk, or roller-blade, which makes it a great place to people-watch (which could lead to another Deadly Sin) in spring and autumn. In Boulder, though, and northern Colorado in general, it would probably be just another pedestrian walkway.

I was driving down South Foothills Highway looking for the South Boulder Creek West trailhead. It came up sooner than I expected which meant that I went flying past it; I figured I’d turn around at the next traffic light and come back to it. The Marshall Mesa trailhead was at that particular light, though, so I ran there instead - four miles or so along the Marshall Mesa, Community Ditch, and Cowdrey Draw trails. I thought these were great but I’m guessing that, to locals, there just some random trails.

Saturday I ran in the Sean May Memorial Run, a nine-mile race around Barr Lake, on a packed-dirt trail that we could really use in north Texas. Sean May was an Adams County Deputy District Attorney who was shot and killed in August, 2008; this was the first annual run and proceeds will support Access to Justice programs. The organizers put together a helluva goodie bag; in addition to a blue technical running shirt it included a water bottle, a star-shaped squeeze ball, a small pad and pen in a cloth folder, another pen, a post-it pad, lip balm, sunscreen, and body lotion. Hauling all this stuff back to DFW, I may wind paying an overweight luggage fee.

Being as it was the inaugural running, there were some glitches. Runners in both the nine-mile (referred to at times as a 15K but I think it was probably nine miles) and 5K were directed to the start, where the 5K people found out that they were actually supposed to start back by the bridge we crossed walking to the start. They recovered quickly; they told the 5Kers to hang out behind the nine-milers until we had started, then they walked them back to the bridge and started them from the proper location. I guess - that was their plan but I was gone by then.

Gone on my way around Barr Lake, that is. We ran and ran and ran some more, except for a couple of walking bits I threw into the last couple of miles, but mostly we ran. In my case, for 1:17:43, give or take a walking break or two or three, which left me satisfied and in need of a nap. It’s amazing what an escape from warm temperatures and high humidity can do for your running. Or my running, at least.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

05/09: Run for Kids 5K

The announcement dude had one final note for us before he passed the microphone to the leather-lunged starter woman for whom it was probably superfluous – he warned us of a couple of speedbumps (one painted, one au natural) that we’d have to negotiate just after the start. I appreciated the information. Last week in Albuquerque, I kept on tripping over all these damn speedbumps that I had no clue about and that were spaced far enough apart to encourage amnesia; in addition those were stealth speedbumps, unpainted and wide and shallow, which is probable safer in that really I stumbled more than I tripped but were still a pain in my butt. Although not as much a pain as I might have felt if I really had tripped.

I had at least six local races to choose from except they were all 5Ks so really, I didn’t feel like I had much of a choice at all. I went with the Southlake (home of the Southlake Carroll Dragons – the race was staged from Carroll High School) KiwanisRun for Kids 5K because they were giving away a mesh bag as part of the goody bag, which also included a water bottle, a lethal weapon disguised as a letter opener, an issue of Health magazine, and authentic-looking ‘70s-style wrist sweatbands. Along with the usual t-shirt, all for a $20 registration fee. I love schwag.

The generosity of the race organizers extended to prize money. Both the male and female winners received a thousand bucks and there was also a team competition where the top five-person teams, both male and female, received $500. Double dipping was not allowed, though, which came as an unfortunate surprise to Kip Chemirmir, who won the race but was also a member of the winning men’s team – which meant he forfeited the individual cash prize to Clint Bell and received a much smaller check for his share of the team winnings. Well, the checks were the same size but the amounts were substantially different.

The course meandered through suburban streets south of the high school and featured stealth mile markers. I was looking for them throughout but it wasn’t until near the end – I’m guessing about a tenth of a mile from the finish – I saw a 3 painted on the ground. Which wasn’t where I was looking for them for the most part. Talking to a guy I knew after the race, he said he saw the first two but he thought the first one was way off. He ran about 6:30 pace –a fairly even 6:30 pace, he thought – but his splits for the first two miles were 7:12 and 5:58. So maybe it’s just as well I didn’t see the first marker; I would have been bummed beyond belief to find I had run like an 8:40 or slower opening mile.

The awards ceremony was in the football team’s indoor practice facility and featured a small health fair going on concurrently, which allowed me to score a couple of plastic cups and a small tube of sunscreen. More schwag, which made getting up at some unGodly hour on Saturday all worthwhile.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

05/03: Run for the Zoo 10K

If you have any desire to do Albuquerque’s Run for the Zoo – and really, if you’re a runner I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t – if possible, do the 10K. The downside is that it starts at seven in the morning but the upside is that the 5K (actually, the first 5K) doesn’t start until 8:30, which means that all the best parking spots are still open. It’s probably a sign of my advancing years that I now consider hassle-free parking worth waking up ninety minutes early.

With one exception, the course is not challenging; that exception being that the course is in Albuquerque and Albuquerque is approximately 5000 feet above sea level. Actually, in places Albuquerque is exactly 5000 feet above sea level but without the proper equipment, or a helpful sign, you never know if you’re in one of those spots. At any rate, running in an approximately mile-high city (even one that doesn’t make such a big deal out of it) takes a little bit extra out of you when you live at an altitude of about 500 feet. I think the course was described as pancake flat which wasn’t precisely true but which was true enough that to argue otherwise would seem argumentative or, even worse, whiny. There was one small psuedohill on the course that we ran up late in mile one and down about halfway through mile five, and some other sections probably had some slight slope to them but at altitude I tend to die going uphill and this course didn’t have anything long enough or steep enough to kill me. Which was nice.

The race starts on streets just east of the zoo and goes through a small , soft-surface, section of the zoo late in mile one, much to the interest of several camelids. Miles two through four, and a healthy chunk of mile five, are on what looks to be a park road (more like Angela Hunt’s idea of a park road than Tom Leppert’s) west of the zoo. The rest of the course is back on city side streets only now we were north of the staging area whereas originally we had run south from there. After finishing we stagger around for a while hacking up a lung and trying to relocate our breath; at least that’s what we do if we are me.

The race features a $10,000 altitude bonus – ten grand will be paid to a men’s time better than 27:52 or a women’s time faster than 32:13. I asked a volunteer what happens if, say, more than one guy came in under 27:52. She said that only the winner would collect the bonus; she sounded certain but then again, she is a volunteer and I hope we all remember what Bill Murray said about them. In any case, the question was purely hypothetical – the men’s winner ran 29:13 and the women’s 36:34. Which means the winner nipped me at the tape by 22 minutes and change. And probably wasn’t hacking up a lung afterwards, either.