Tuesday, September 28, 2010

09/18: Oktoberfest 5K

I have friends – hold on, that wasn’t meant to be the news flash – I have friends who run Addison’s Oktoberfest 5K every year which is how I’ve come to run that race the past three years. Which is problematic when it comes to writing about the race, as it’s just sort of a generic 5K and there’s not that much I could say about this year’s race – except that I sucked, big time – that I haven’t said about it before so instead of running from the problem, I guess I’ll just embrace it and look at how this race compares to the previous editions. God only knows what gimmick I’m going to be reduced to for next year’s race – maybe it’ll rain. That would be different. Unpleasant, but different.

The course hasn’t changed in the three years I’ve been running the race; the main feature is still the Arapaho Road bridge, which provides the only hills on the course – one going out and one coming back. So it’s really the same hill only in different directions, but it seems like a longer hill running to the west and a steeper hill running to the east. So, really, it’s not quite the same hill; it’s more like they’re mirror images of each other.

On the one hand, the weather was at least slightly different from the previous two years but that was mostly a bad thing – the temperature at race time was near eighty, as opposed to the mid-sixties of the past two years. The humidity was over 80% all three years so while that sucks, it’s a fairly even suckage across the three races.

They still have free beer and soft pretzels after the race, so that’s a bonus. As I was trying to get a pretzel out of the bag, it got hung up on another pretzel and I said, “damn, they’re fornicating.” Then I looked at the volunteer to see if she was offended but she actually seemed mildly amused. So that was a bonus, too.

The race may or may not have grown over the past few years. In 2008 it looks like there were about 900 finishers, last year there were about 1300, and this year almost 1400. But those only include the timed participants and somewhere along the line – I’m guessing in 2009 – they switched from chips to disposable tags, which, since disposable tags come on your bib number while you have to make a special effort to pick up your chip, I’d think that more people actually use the tags.

Your bib number still gets you into Oktoberfest for free which is an even better value these days – the Oktoberfest cover charge is now ten bucks, up from five sometime in the recent past. However, and this is kind of an important point, should you lose your bib number sometime between leaving the race and showing up in the evening at Oktoberfest, looks like you (i.e., me) are forking over the ten bucks if you want to get inside and meet your friends.

Friday, September 17, 2010

09/11: James Page Blubber Run

The biggest mistake I made Saturday at the James Page Blubber Run was not turning in both my beverage coupons on my first pass through the beer line, which was only theoretically a line when I first visited since many of the eventual beer drinkers were still somewhere out on the course - perhaps at the beer stop just past the second mile marker. Or perhaps not; rumor had it that they ran out of beer there early. At any rate, early on the servers were more than able to keep up with the demand. By the time I finished my first beer, that wasn't so much the case any more: I got into the beer line a little before 11:30 and I got my beer a little after noon. Which isn't to complain so much as it is to illustrate that many people ran the James Page Blubber Run and many of those people drink beer.

Which isn’t to say I wasted a half hour waiting to get another James Page Burly Brown Ale - the Blubber Run is like the Opening Day of the Halloween season and the beer line is a promising vantage point for admiring the various costumes. I saw superheroes and crayons and cartoon characters and nuns and movie characters and Mr. Bill (extremely well done) and Oktoberfesters and Where’s Waldo (not so well done, I thought it was Mr. Bill’s lesser brother) and cowpeople and transvestite Oktoberfesters and Vikings (both pillagers and football players) and bees (one with her own personal beekeeper) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Hooters Girls (unless they really were Hooters girls – they were plausible – in which I case I guess that doesn’t count as a costume) and cavepeople (including two Fred Flintstones) and Larry Bird (albeit with a mustache that looked more like a Got Milk? Ad) and Velma from Scooby Doo, although I’m not sure that was a costume. Not to mention the cute, scantily-clad jungle girl slightly in front of me in the beer line although those damn Vikings kept wandering into my line of sight.

It may sound like running was an afterthought, which is accurate. The race is essentially untimed; they give awards to the top three men and women but outside of that I don’t see them having any official results since we weren’t wearing chips, our bibs had no pull tags; and we were given nothing at the finish line to turn in afterwards. Which is cool by me; I think it’s intended to be a fun, as opposed to competitive, event but – and this is the consumer advice portion of the post – if you’re more interested in a precisely-timed and accurately-measured, perhaps even certified, course, look elsewhere. If not, c’mon down! If the running seems to be more than you anticipated and three miles and change is a bit far to go without a beer break, don’t sweat it. They also have the previously-mentioned beer corral just past the second mile marker although, again, rumor has it they ran dry.

Monday, September 13, 2010

05/13: Katy Trail 5K

You'd think after nearly three months - maybe more than three months, depending on how long it takes me to actually post this - I'd have found something to say about the Katy Trail 5K, but when you throw in the caveat that I'd like whatever I blather to be at least passingly original, it don't come easy. Lord, it don't come easy. You gotta pay your dues..wait, where was I? Oh yeah, well, I've run this race nine or ten times now...wait a second...ten, according to the official runes, the last ten in a row. I guess they started it in 1999; I think this year's was the twelfth. It doesn't change much from year to year; it's usually warm, humid and crowded, and this year it was warm, humid, and crowded. It's kind of amazing, actually, that so far as I can remember it's never rained on the race or picnic despite May being an opportune month for thunderstorms.

I shot my wad early in this one - my first mile was 7:21 and after that there was jogging and some walking, mixed in with walking and jogging. The course was the same as in recent years - Turtle Creek Boulevard to Blackburn to Cole to Elizabeth to the Katy Trail to the finish - and I walked part of the hill at Blackburn. Which is earlier in the race than usual but I wasn't in peak condition; it's been kind of a lackluster running year thus far, and I've always hated that hill anyway. Well, I think maybe I've done a race or two where I got to run down it and I probably didn't hate it then.

The postrace picnic was massive, as usual, and crowded, also as usual. Finishing earlier to get to the food before the hordes descend should be motivation to train more seriously for this race, but to date this hasn't been the case. Partially because even running as mediocre as I did this year (26:19), I still get down to the grub while there's still elbow room. It's not until I'm making my second and third passes that the crowds are pressing up against my claustrophobic limits. Thank God for that V.I.P. thing - not only does it give me access to better beer than Michelob Ultra, I don't have to stand in line for it, either.

The other thing about this race that changes from year to year are the people I know that I run into. This year I saw one dude from Grapevine and four from Ultimate, although two of the Ultimate people were married -to each other - so they sort of count as one. Except they also had Murphy the dog with them, so he should probably count, too. Another Ultimate dude was Ed from my Winter League team a few years back, which at Ultimate he blames his lack of speed on being more of a long-distance runner than a sprinter but at races he just blames it on being slow, which he is. At least he doesn't try to blame it on Ultimate.