Sunday, July 26, 2009

07/25: New Milford Eight-Mile Road Race

I screwed up the goddamn alarm again. (Digression: Bruce Springsteen used to say that his dad was always bitching about his goddamn guitar, his goddamn stereo, his goddamn records. He said that his dad apparently thought everything in his room came from the same company.) The sad thing is, it made no difference - I am now a person capable of waking up his ownself at 6:13 in the morning. I think they call those people adults.

The silver lining in this cloud of burgeoning maturity was that I did not oversleep the New Milford Eight-Mile Road Race, which the organizers claim is the third-oldest, or maybe it was the third longest-running, race in Connecticut. I'm guessing the Manchester Thanksgiving day race (good guess!) and the Tarzan Brown Road Race (bad guess!) are older. Since this race is 42 years old, so am I. Older, that is. Not 42.

New Milford is in far west Connecticut, maybe seven miles from New York, and maybe twenty miles north of Danbury and while I don't know much about the topography of Connecticut, I know enough to expect hills in this neighborhood. In that, I was correct. I also know that the southern border of the state is at sea level - "an almost entirely notional concept," according to Bill Bryson - but that's hardly relevant. Talking to some dudes before the race, they said the hills start halfway through the second mile with a killer, then give way to rolling hills until about halfway through mile seven, when we'd have to run up the meanest, ugliest, toughest, cussingest hill in the western hemisphere or turn around and go back the way we came. In which case we wouldn't be included in the results. The last mile was all downhill, maybe a little too downhill, to the finish. One guy said he ran the course earlier in the week and that's why he opted for to run the 5K. I found their course description more accurate the further into the race we got - they neglected to mention how much downhill there was in the first mile and a half and when the uphill did start, it was with a little half-mile roller coaster. The tough hill was basically mile three and it was disturbingly reminiscent of the tough early hill at Pictured Rocks, except I didn't feel totally spent at the top and I ran that mile in 8:33, so I guess it wasn't that bad. Or I was unusually pathetic in Michigan, either way. After that we got back on the roller coaster, at least until mile six.

Mile six started out nondescript, then we started going uphill just past the 10K marker, which incidentally I don't recall seeing a 5K marker. I thought if this is the Mongo hill they were talking about, they set a world record for exaggeration - a bit of hubris that caught up to me and bit me in the ass when, at about 6.5 miles, we turned a corner and shifted from running to mountain-climbing. I took one look at Little K2 and folded my hand. It was a nice day for a stroll by then, after all. I still had enough energy to run downhill the last mile, into the final results.

Immediately after the race, I sprinted - using the term loosely - back to my car. I was parked in a three-hour zone and what with climbing the Connecticut Himalayas, I was worried I wouldn't get back in time. No sweat - I made it with seconds to spare.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

07/04: Four on the Fourth

I pulled into the parking lot of Ada Hayden Park a little before seven in the morning on a rainy Independence Day, listening to "Achtung Baby" and thinking about failed relationships and fractured hearts. I was in Ames, Iowa, for the Four on the Fourth race and I was mired in melancholy, probably brought on by dreary skies, too little sleep, and geriatric drivers, all of whom looked like the American Gothic dude. They were European geriatrics, apparently - they seemed to think the speed limit signs were in kilometers.

When "Love Is Blindness" ended I got out of the car and went to register. which I guess meant I was actually going to do run this race. I had had my doubts; I'm not a huge fan of running in the rain but this wasn't much of a rain. It was more like a light drizzle or heavy mist and the temperature - low to mid-sixties - was better than anything I'd seen in Dallas in a couple of months. I blew off running the previous afternoon because of rain even though I found an awesome place to run (the Iowa St. cross-country course) so I needed to do this race if for no other reason than to get some miles in.

After registering I went back to my rented Suzuki SX4, which is a dumpy crossover and not the elite racing machine its name might suggest, to listen to some more tunes and check out the schwag. Which wasn't much - a t-shirt and the bag it came in - but was of above-average quality. The bag was a green, reusable cloth bag and the shirt was Gildan Ultra Cotton, which means 50% cotton, 50% polyester. It has a good feel and it's pinkish, but a deep, dark pink, not, um, emasculating. I also changed the shirt I was currently wearing, from a sleeveless black to a short-sleeve gray, to better match the weather. I was wearing gray shorts and I don't like my shirt and shorts to be similar colors - I'm not into that whole monochromatic thing - but I value comfort over aesthetics. I think I've proved that on multiple occasions in my life.

I ejected the U2 CD and popped in "The Neon Bible." I listened to seven songs: "Keep The Car Running," "The Neon Bible," "Intervention," "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations," "Antichrist Television Blues," "No Cars Go," and "Keep The Car Running" again. With the exception of the title track these are all propulsive tunes - they make me want to move and my preferred form of movement is running. I sat in the car with the rain falling gently on the windshield, watching more people show up for the race, listening to Arcade Fire (and U2) and getting excited about running. Not racing, necessarily, but running and trying to run fast. It was an unorthodox warm-up but it was effective - it got me to the starting line feeling good and ready to go. They started us off and I went. The rain had nearly stopped.