Tuesday, October 27, 2009

10/24: D.O. Dash 5K

“I don’t think this girl should be starting this close to the front of the pack - yep, I’m passing her and we’re barely to the timing mat. I hope that kid doesn’t cut me off going around the corner. Screw it, I’ll just cut to the outside and HILL! Why do they always look so much steeper when you’re actually running them? Oh well, try to maintain effort, at least - maybe I should pace off these two girls? Nah, I’d look like Stalker Dude, besides they’re going to slow unless I’m going too fast too early. Okay, turn the corner and no more HILL, this is more manageable. Should I pace off THESE two girls? Guess not. Another corner, another hill. This one isn’t too steep but God, it looks like it goes on forever. I feel like I’m passing too many people but a lot of these guys sped past me in the first quarter-mile; I think they’re toast already. Suckers. Been there, done that, and I’ll probably do it again. I just hope I‘m not doing it right now.. I think I can catch that girl up there, maybe I should pace off her for the rest of this mile. Pace, pace, pass. Then again, maybe not. God, I hope I’m not using up three miles’ worth of energy before the first water stop. Which is right here - I think it’s also the mile marker. 7:24 - I guess that’s okay, what with all the uphill.

“I bet we get some downhill once we turn that corner. Oh yeah - this is living. I wonder if I’ve ever run through here before? I think maybe that Arlington Heights 5K I did a few years back, and probably when I ran the first leg of the Cowtown relay. I wonder what that golf course is. Oh, back to uphill. I think we’ll be going back down once we turn that corner. Yep, called that one. Don’t even think about walking, not yet - I felt worse than this running eight on Monday. I can slow down if I start hurting bad. Water stop already? 6:47 - maybe they set it up in the wrong spot.

“Okay, look at that guy up ahead. Pace off him. Pace, pace - if I’m pacing off him, should he be getting closer? Okay, this dude in the SUV is waiting for you to pass before he pulls out of his driveway. Do him a favor and pick it up some - good God that hurt - and he’s still sitting there. I guess the guy behind me is still pretty close. Or maybe SUV Guy is just spectating in which case he needs to get a life, or cable. I have no idea where I am right now. Damn, I think we come out on 7th downhill from where we started. This is Arch Adams? That’ll take me to 7th and - yep, uphill finish, pretty much. What a bitch. I wonder if I can catch that kid in front of me. My advantage is that my hair is more aerodynamic than his ‘fro. His advantages are that he’s accelerating and I’m decelerating. Probably not going to happen. Damn kid. Damn hill. Okay, turn the corner, back on level ground, push through the finish. 22:25 - best time this year, I think. Nope, forgot about Kentucky. I wonder who’s ass a guy has to kiss to get some Gatorade around here.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

10/03: Bird on the Run Trail Race

It was a dark and stormy night. Actually, it wasn’t night yet - it was a little past three in the afternoon - and it wasn’t that dark, just kind of gray and sporadically drizzling. Suddenly, a shot - or airhorn, more accurately - rang out. Once it did, and this I can say without qualification, we were off running in the inaugural Bird On The Run Approximately But Unfortunately On The Heavy Side Of Four-Mile Trail Race, starting from Bob Jones Park in Southlake and finishing in the Bob Jones Nature Center, which is on Bob Jones Road. I have no idea who Bob Jones is but if I lived in Southlake, I suppose I might. I don’t think it’s the same guy with the university in Greenville, South Carolina.

Not to spoil the suspense or beat my own drum or anything, but I took third in my age group, not that I can say with any certainty that there was a fourth in my age group. Which earned me a clear lucite Christmas ornament, with the race logo and date etched on it. Which was nice, and different. The ornament came in a small bubblewrap sleeve. Which was awesome. I mean, really awesome. I could stay while the rest of the awards were being handed out because hey, I had bubbles to pop. Every time I sat down to write this report, I’d pick up the award and pop some bubbles instead. Now I have no more bubbles to pop, so I guess I’ll finally write a report. Too bad I don’t actually remember anything about the race, except that it rained some but mostly before and after the race - my bubblewrap got wet - but not so much during. Or maybe I was running too hard to notice but that seems unlikely.

I do remember that we finished at the top of a hill. A kind of nasty hill, actually. A nasty hill that we could easily have avoided if the course designer had made it closer to a 5K race. I mentioned that to him and he said, “Where’s the fun in that?”

“Fun for who?”

“Me. I liked watching you idiots struggle up that hill.” Oh well, they say it builds character or something.

Starting and finishing at different locations was kind of a pain in the ass but they had parking at both locations and shuttle buses available. I parked at the start and walked back after the race; it was maybe a half-mile on the trail we had just raced over, and it was drizzling again. Which these days isn’t much of a rarity around here. An added bonus to this race was I learned a new access point to some of the Army Corps of Engineer trails on the south side of Lake Grapevine, since the city of Grapevine has started charging admission to the trails on the north side. Which I don’t mind paying five bucks unless I pay my five bucks and find the parking lot is full and the trails are crowded, which was frequently the case when I’ve run there in the past.

Monday, October 5, 2009

10/03: The Loop 15K

Run for enough years and you'll probably become a weather connoisseur, especially if you race on a regular (i.e., every weekend, at least during the spring and fall) basis. So when a dude whose running career stretches back to when my only running was from the law because of youthful shenanigans told me today was a perfect day for running, I could count on him to know what he was talking about. Because here's the thing - when the announcer dude's wearing shorts and a t-shirt and saying it's a great day to run, he's probably tragically mistaken. It's probably a great day to spectate and the runners are most likely screwed.

The DRC took a step back in terms of crowd control; we were all over the trail a good ten to fifteen minutes before the race began. I feel kind of bad about it now but to be honest, I didn’t even think about it until a day and a half after the race. When we finally did start, we ran north on East Lawther Drive and crossed on Mockingbird over to West Lawther where we ran down the trail. I think we run mostly on the road on the east side partially because it’s flatter and partially because the road has enough sections closed to cars that it’s not like it’s a through street anyway. West Lawther has no closed sections and the trail is probably flatter than the road, and we’re pretty well spread out by that point, so running on the trail is probably better for everyone.

A concrete wall between the spillway and Garland road collapsed in the Great Flood of 2007, so they currently have an extended area around there closed off while they do repairs and enhancements. Because of this, I think, they sent us down the newer trail they built a few years ago rather than sending us up the ramp by the Pump House and across the dam, the way they used to. The construction also altered the tough hill on Garland Road; the sidewalk is closed so we ran in the street there and it seemed easier. It didn’t seem to rise as steeply at the top. I’d like to think that when they redo the sidewalk there, they’ll be able to have it more closely match the rise along the street but I’m not holding my breath.

After that last hill I’m usually gassed and reduced to walking at some point between there and the finish, which from the top of the hill I still have maybe a mile and a half to go. I did feel gassed but I never walked, probably due to the favorable weather, and didn’t even slow down very much. I finished in 1:11:11, a 15K PR by 1:34, which was surprising on the one hand but maybe shouldn’t have been on the other. My longer distance PRs, except for the half, are soft, mostly because when I was almost fast, I’d always jump in the 5K any time the weather was conducive to running fast. This is probably the best weather I’ve ever had for running a 15K.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

09/27: State to State Half Marathon

I really need to stop trusting these motel clock-radios; I woke up at 6:40, 40 minutes away from the parking lot for the State to State Half Marathon, said parking lot being itself maybe a ten-minute walk to the staging area / starting line. I had to forgo my traditional prerace shower but I made it to the race with time to spare for picking up my timing chip. Barely.

The race starts in the middle of Oxford, Ohio, (home of the Miami University RedHawks) and runs into Indiana, although not really to, or even through, any specific town so far as I could tell, then returns to Ohio and Oxford. A banner was stretched across the state line; it said "Welcome To Indiana" and "Welcome To Ohio" on the appropriate sides but I don't actually remember seeing any permanent welcome signs in either direction. Which doesn't mean they weren't there; coming back, at least, they could have had an elephant on the side of the road and I might not have seen it.

The course is fairly simple - we followed High Street west out of town because Indiana is west of Ohio and although the name of the road changed, we pretty much stayed on it the entire time, except for two detours into subdivisions on the west side of Oxford while we were running towards Indiana. The course could be accurately described as rolling; going out I thought we were running mostly gentle uphills for a few miles. When I looked for a corresponding stretch of gentle downhills on the way back in, though, I was tragically disappointed because I really could have used them. Especially since I had already burned through my I-just-want-to-be-done sprint - at mile eight, which is a little early for a half marathon.

Storms came through overnight and we started under dark gray skies that, for whatever reason, turned noticeably darker once we crossed into Indiana, I mean, immediately, like the moment I passed under the banner. It reminded me of "The Stand," the way the weather turned sour on one of the good guys when he entered the Walkin Dude's domain. Not that I'm suggesting Indiana is under Randall Flagg's sway. I'm just saying - the sky was darker and more threatening there. Draw your own conclusions.

Eventually I got back to Ohio, Oxford, and the staging area, in that order. Chugging down High Street, I got passed by some guy who was finishing with too much energy. The announcer got excited and said, "We've got a real race to the finish here," but in fact we didn't - he blew my doors off. Which is fine since I've been meaning to have those doors replaced for years anyway. After finishing I checked out the postrace chow and was pleasantly surprised - not only was it well-stocked with traditional foodstuffs (bagels, bananas, granola bars) but it was also resplendent with one-offs - Tootsie Rolls and donuts. People were scarfing up snacks like they were provisioning for a trip to the North Pole - a carton of granola bars here, fistfuls of Tootsie Rolls there - but my mom raised me to be not quite so greedy; I just grabbed two donuts, three Tootsie Rolls, and a bottle of Gatorade. Then I took off to bankrupt a breakfast buffet.