Tuesday, September 29, 2009

09/19: Oktoberfest 5K

Turning north on Addison Circle Drive or whatever (okay, Addison Road, it looks like) from Arapaho Road, I must have looked like hell. I felt pretty good considering I had spent the last ten minutes or so running east into the sun on unshaded, baked concrete, but I was running Addison's Oktoberfest 5K and I knew going in what to expect - a mundane course, free postrace beer, and free admission to Oktoberfest (a five-dollar value!) that evening. Which, given that a cadre of friends were running the 5K as well as returning to Oktoberfest at night, was an acceptable trade-off. As I made the turn north, some kid - maybe fourteen years old - said to me, "Almost there, sir; you can make it!" In a very concerned voice. Good to know, although personally I had no doubts that I could make it. I was more than willing for the race to be over by that point but it wasn't yet a necessity. I said, "Or, I could hand my chip to you and you could finish for both of us." He laughed and introduced himself so I ran maybe a half-dozen steps while shaking hand with the unknown teenager. He should be the known teenager given that he introduced himself but to be honest, I wasn't paying attention.

I left my Garmin in an Albuquerque hotel room back in whatever month I ran the Albuquerque Zoo 10K and this is the first time since then that I genuinely missed not having it. The mile markers were at least modestly inaccurate; I thought I ran the first mile faster than 7:39, but then again, I'm still surprised every June when the Yankees pass on me in the MLB draft. I usually project myself to go in the first five rounds; since I've never been drafted in any round in any sport (professionally) ever, I'm guessing there must be some confusion over my college eligibility. But the point - remember the point? - is that while I have my doubts about that 7:39, it's at least within the realm of possibility. The 6:30 second mile and the 8:27 third mile, not so much although that discrepancy could be the result of just one misplaced marker. If the second mile had been 7:20 and the third 7:37, I'd be a little bummed but also a lot less skeptical. Make one glaring screw-up, though, and you cast doubt even on the stuff you may have done correctly.

Eventually the race - whatever distance it may have actually been - ended and eventually we got to the beer tent and eventually we got a beer. And a pretzel. Which is another upside to this event - if you want that traditional runner's grub, they've got it but they also have big, soft pretzels. And a guy dancing on a stage with a bunch of little kids to some weird polka/rap hybrid but we were far enough away to be mostly out of range of that spectacle. If it even existed - it could have been just the beer talking.

Monday, September 14, 2009

09/12: Suncrest Mountain Half Marathon

Late in the Suncrest Mountain Half Marathon, or whatever this chamber of horrors officially calls itself, I was running on pavement beside a woman I had been running near for maybe five miles when we turned a corner and saw yet another daunting climb in front of us. "I swear, if I see one more more freaking hill in this freaking race, I'm gonna freak," she said in a voice that suggested she might be overestimating her tolerance by one hill. Actually, although we still had a hill or two in front of us - not counting the one in front of us - she didn't freak. She picked up the pace, instead, leaving me and several others eating her dust.

Earlier I was afraid I was leading this same woman astray. I passed her, along with a few other people, on a wide trail section, just before we hit a questionable junction with one definite trail and one possible alternative. Being in the lead, except for the many people in front of us but out of sight, I got to make the decision so I went with the more obvious trail and people behind me followed, which I wasn't sure if they were following me or if they made their own decisions. At any rate, I ran for about fifteen minutes or so without a sign that I was actually on course; I was very concerned, and probably would have said something to the woman behind me if she hadn't been wearing headphones, when I finally came to a T intersection with orange arrows pointing to the left. Either we never left the course or the marshals anticipated this particular bit of foolishness and left helpful hints to guide errant runners back on track. In either case, I avoided the embarrassment of getting my ass kicked by a feisty Utahan wench moments before we were both devoured by bears.

Talking to a couple of guys after the race, they said they were surprised by how tough the course was. I looked at the profile beforehand so I had a good idea what to expect in general, but I was surprised by how much uphill there was in the predominantly downhill first half of the race, and the downhill in the mostly uphill second half. The course was a mixture of trail and pavement, with the first trail section - a foliage-lined single-track - coming a little less than a mile into the race. Since we hadn't sorted ourselves out by pace yet and still had a random mix of half-marathoners and 5k people to deal with, this wasn't optimal but I don't know the area so I don't know what other options they had. If they could reroute the course so we run the more open trail sections early, that would probably help - I might have run 2:17 rather than 2:18.

After the race they immediately printed up individual results on what are basically business cards, so I know I was officially the 26th finisher in the men's half marathon and 7th in my (40 - 49) age group, with a time of 2:18:38 (10:34 pace). I actually received two cards - the first one had my name as Michael X and the card dude insisted on correcting it. Still, I'm counting this as my first race run as a member of the Nation of Islam.

09/07: FWRC Labor Day 15K

I got to the Ft. Worth Running Club's Labor Day 15K a little before seven in the morning, which worked out well given that the race started at 7:30 - a half hour earlier than I was expecting. I should have known something was up when parking was already backed up, although that was partially due to the Bedfordites stopping in the middle of the road to - well, I don't know what exactly, but I'm sure they had a reason. I'm equally sure that as soon as they tried to articulate that reason, they'd realize they were pretty much just babbling.

The FWRC Labor Day races (they have a 5K and a 1K in addition to the 15K) are a tradition but this year they were a tradition on the move, from the old Luke's location on University to the new Luke's location on 7th. Since the majority of the race is run on the Trinity Trails this is isn't as much of a departure as it might seem, the main differences being how you get on the trail, how far up the trail you run, and how you exit the trail to return to the staging area. And in one regard, the differences translate to a major win - by running further up the trail (towards Oklahoma, although when it veers northwest it's more like towards the Panhandles), you get to run a decent section of the trail that's actually shaded, which I never knew such a thing existed before.

Luke's new location is in the old Montgomery Ward building that's now home to a plethora of the chains that made America famous, as well as lofts, condo and other fine retailers of the local persuasion. Starbucks has a store there and the race's goody bag - which was really more of a goody coupon book - had a Starbuck's coupon for 10% off (race day only, Montgomery Plaza location only). The associate race director who processed my entry pointed out the coupon and said, "they'll be there, open, at 4:00am"; in my best (i.e., not very good) Claude Rains voice, I said, "I'll be there at seven." She just looked at me weird. I guess she's not much of a "Casablanca" fan.

Nothing against this race, but all I proved by running it is that I do have an addiction. I'm not really trained for the distance or thrilled by the course, and I'm still dragging from last weekend. The weather isn't conducive to fast times. The main reason I ran this race is because I had the desire to run some race today - assuming I woke up in time, of course - and I liked the idea of doing a 15K because it presented an opportunity to get in a half-assed long run. There was also a 15K out at White Rock, but this one cost less and had better amenities, i.e., hot dogs and beer. Besides, I run at White Rock way more often - see, for instance, Saturday - than I do on the Trinity Trails.

Monday, September 7, 2009

09/05: Breakfast Bash Five-Mile

I got to White Rock Lake at about 6:45 for the Breakfast Bash Five-Mile; parking at White Rock in general and Winfrey Point in particular has become a controversial topic in recent months and I wanted to make sure my super secret parking spot, personally endorsed by Dick Cheney, wasn’t taken. Which it wasn’t, although two of the three were and the less-than-competent parking job done by the early arrivals forced me nearer to a handicapped sign than I’d like to be. But I wasn’t actually in the handicapped spot and I didn’t get ticketed or prevent anyone from using the handicapped space so I guess it’s okay. It gave me something to obsess about while running at any rate.

The parking controversy concerns parking, or more accurately not parking, on the grass in the park. In general I support the ban; it seemed like Winfrey Point hosted at least one race every weekend last fall and all that driving and parking on the grass can’t be beneficial. Most of these races were charging $20 to $30 per runner; I don’t know the economics of road races but it seems to me that if you’re charging that much and drawing enough to exceed the parking limitations, you can afford to take your race out on the streets. I would like to see an exception made for the Dallas Running Club, though; they charge a nominal fee (free for members, $10 for non-members) and they only have one race a month, not all of which are at Winfrey Point.

The DRC is also getting better at certain things that always bothered me - most notably, they prevented people from lining up on the trail until just before they were ready to start the race. White Rock Lake gets a lot of use on weekend mornings, from bikers and bladers as well as hordes of runners, and it was always obnoxious to be clogging the trail for fifteen or twenty minutes waiting for the race to start. They left a little room for improvement - they staged us for the start, then they had a moment of silence, then they played “The Star-Spangled Banner,” then they started us on our way. We weren’t standing around on the trail that long but it seems to me we could have heard the moment of silence and the national anthem just as well from alongside the trail. They had a reasonably good sound system. That played “Fadeaway” by the Bo Deans while waiting for the race to start - now there’s a song I don’t hear every day. Or every year, for that matter.

We started to the north. It was a typical Winfrey Point race which means there’s not all that much to say about it - we ran out about 2.5 miles, then we turned around and ran back. Then we went back up the hill to the Mansion at Winfrey Point and ate breakfast burritos of various kinds: egg and potato, egg and bacon, egg and sausage. I had one of the bacon variety and one of sausage; the sausage was better. But given that I’m a DRC member it was all free - and no parking tickets! - so it’s all good.