Monday, November 18, 2013

New Richmond 5k Fun

Like many of you, I like to run.  While we do have our preferred distances, it doesn't matter if it is 100 miles or 1; we like to run.  Some of us are competitive in the longer stuff, while in the short/fast distances we'll strain a gluteus just to be a mid-packer.  But why then is it fun for long-distance runners to run fast? Until oxygen debt has us drooling and tripping over our own shoes?  5k's are grueling, but not for long.  I think short races are fun because they are short; we're barely warmed up and it's already time to have a Clif bar and a banana.  I had one of those races last weekend.

But this report is not about my 5k race, that would be boring.

Every year, the New Richmond Area Centre hosts a series of (7) 5k races throughout the winter, one a month from October to April.  The whole series costs $20.  It would be challenging to find a single race entry at that price, so I consider it the deal of the century; a no-brainer.  For that price you get a shirt, low-key race vibes, non-certified courses that tend to be a few k long, and more importantly, a reason to run throughout the winter.  Plus they start at 9:00 am.  I can still sleep in!

The November iteration was one I was not planning on attending.  It was too soon after my last 50-miler, and I was still in recovery mode.  And for $20, I can miss a few and still have a clean conscience.  I went though (what the heck), intending on a relaxing 5k tour of the New Richmond Industrial Park.

The start line for this race was in the Family Fresh parking lot, with the course an out-and-back on paved trail.  There were about 100 racers toeing the line that morning, with a great mix of moms and dads, kids, students, dogs, strollers, and a few runners.  Good weather too; at about 40°F, some of us were in shorts and tee's.

After a ready-set-go, we were off, high-tailing it up the trail.  After an initial sorting out, I found myself in the lead pack, consisting of a girl's high-school cross-county team, myself, and a 12 year-old boy in gym sneakers.  This report is about that boy.

He was TRUCKING, having a blast!  Prepubescent arms and legs flailing about just trying to stay with the 6:30 pace.  The contradiction between the smooth flowing stride of the girls with his discordant zombie sprint on Red Bull was joyously evident.  But what he lacked in style and efficiency, he more than made up with zeal.  He would inch into the lead, and then look around with a loopy grin that seemed to say, "I can run faster than these people.  Those are just girls and an old guy, and they're slow.  I'm going to win.  This is easy.  Mom said I was a good runner, and she was right!"  And, of course, the rest of us are cringing for the eventual blow-up.

But he kept this up for far longer that I expected.  After about a mile though, I could tell he was starting to flag.  The periodic forays into the lead had ended, and he was now working hard to maintain pace.  And his smile was unfortunately gone. Compared to the lead group's symphony of rhythmic footfalls and harmonious breathing, he was playing the roll of jazz trumpeter; off beat and blowing like a freight train.  It was a little sad to see, though not really unexpected. Talk about a school of hard knocks.

Eventually, his strain turned to panic.  He was now delving into some serious oxygen debt, and losing his battle with consciousness.  Each time he looked back to gauge the leaders' positions, I could see panic in his eyes.  They now seemed to say "What's happening? It wasn't supposed to be this way?  Why is this so hard?  I can't breathe!  Man these girls are fast!"

And then he was gone, like a parachutist into the slipstream, he just disappeared.  Bummer, I was rooting for him.  It was like the lead group just lost its mascot.  I think he learned some valuable lessons though, like "running is hard", and "racing is harder".  What heart!

I did see our 12 year-old runner at the finish line.  He eventually did cross the line, and he did not look too good.  But his smile was back.  Maybe he'll be back too.  I hope so.  I admire youth with an adventurous, "go for it" spirit.  He'll have the rest of his life to learn to strategize and moderate.

I crossed the line in second place.  I did drop the girls past the half-way point, though some high school boy loped past me just short of the finish line.  Inches from an old-guy win!

Maybe in Decemebrrr.  And I'll be looking for my 12-year-old friend; I've got to meet him, and maybe chat on him a bit.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Mary's 2013 Autumn Leaves 50k Race Report

Mary recently ran the Autumn Leaves 50k at Champoeg State Park in Oregon.
Here is her race report.

My cousin Amy, who some of you met (the woman with the green cast, who had breakfast with us at the Oasis ) has been wanting me to do a race in the Pacific NW for at least 4 years. When she lived in Seattle I looked at some races there, but they looked a bit too challenging for me and the timing never seemed right.

Then she moved to Portland. She joined the Oregon Road Runners Club and this summer she suggested the Autumn Leaves Run, which is put on by the club. She had volunteered last year and thought it was a race I would like. The website made it look appealing, so I registered. The race takes place in the Willamette Valley at a State Park which is the location where Oregon became a territory of the US. It is located about 30 miles south of Portland on the way to Salem, the capital.

I flew to Portland on Thursday to get "acclimated" to the rainy humid weather! It's been so dry here in Tucson that it actually felt good. I intended to watch Amy's son in a district cross country meet, but just missed his heat. Was fun to be part of the event though. It was supposed to be sunny all weekend so I didn't even consider an umbrella or other rain gear when I packed. On Friday it started getting overcast and the weather forecast for Sat. which had been sunny and low 70's now turned into 42 degrees at the start and a high of low 50's. Fortunately I had taken an assortment of clothes.

The Race Start Pavilion at Champoeg State Park in Oregon
There were two distances for the event, a 50 miler which started at 6:00 AM and the 50k which started at 7:00 AM. When we got to the park it was pitch dark and I then understood why they said headlamps were essential.(It's light in Tucson by 6:15 so I sort of thought I could get by without.) There was a festive atmosphere at the start since the 50 milers had started already. Some runners were coming in from doing their first loop before we started. The race director reviewed the course briefly and we were off. I hadn't thought about strategy (I'm not like Dave) for this event and was already about two miles into the race when I realized that this was a very runnable course and not your usual trail ultra where the hills automatically allow some walk breaks. So I reverted back to my marathon strategy of walking about 30 sec. every 10 minutes.

The race consisted of 5 loops. Each loop was a 10k and there was a 1.2 mile section which was single track trail. There was basically one aid station which you passed by on the way out and  back. It was fairly strategically placed, but I could have carried a water bottle. The bike path started on a very flat path which passed through a meadow area for about a mile. The trail then entered a more forested area along the Willamette river and became just slightly rolling with a small hill as you came to the 3.1-mile turn around point. The out and back course allowed for seeing all the participants many times. It was interesting to watch how the look on their faces or their gait changed as they became more fatigued. I was lapped by the lead woman several times. She was doing the 50 miler and ran a blistering pace. Her name is Pam Smith and she was the woman winner of Western States this year.

The cool weather made for excellent running conditions, but it was hard to figure out what to wear. I started with two layers and capris. After the first loop I took off the long sleeved shirt and grabbed my arm sleeves. After the second loop I was chilled and grabbed my wind breaker jacket. Amazingly I wore the jacket for the next 3 laps and was never too warm.

Since this course was relatively easy to run it was more of a psychological challenge to complete the same 5 loops. I was quite relieved after the 1st loop when I suddenly realized I only had 4 loops left instead of 5. It just took me one loop to wake up!  By the third loop I decided I needed to be distracted and put on my I-pod. This worked amazingly well and the 4th loop flew by. When I finished this loop I thought for sure that I would be able to run under 6 hours and 30 minutes. ( I was really planning to slow down this last lap since I had already run almost a marathon ). Well, my cousin Amy had asked if she could run the last lap since she needed to do a 10k that day for her training program. So she joined me with her heart rate monitor on and we got going. I was amazed that I could still run with minimal breaks. She really pushed me and in the end I ran the 5th loop at the same pace as the second loop. My time was 5:52. I was very surprised to see that I had run under 6 hours.

Mary and Amy at the Start/Finish Area
Since it was a very low key event, we gathered my gear, ate the post race meal, thanked the race director and his wife and went home. A couple days later I checked the results and was pleasantly surprised to see that out of 68 finishers I was 34th and I was the second oldest runner in the race. There was one man who was 68 and he finished behind me. This would not be an event for those who like bands at every aid station and lots of fancy swag, but there was chipped timing, a certified course and friendly people helping at the race and running it. What more could a person want?