Monday, September 1, 2008

20 Miles on the Blue Line and my Girls' First Race

I quote my wife: "As a reader of blogs, you really need to post at least once a week...preferably twice." My response: "Babe, there just wasn't much to talk about this week!" Well, now there's plenty. This was the first week back to school for our girls so open houses and the parents-only kindergarten meeting were Monday and Tuesday. The start to the new school year went well without any surprises. Before that, though, I actually was able to squeeze in a 14-miler on Sunday morning. I ran a hilly course, thus simulating the Buckeye Half-Marathon course this Sunday where I'm pacing the 1:45 goal-setters. (ie: 8min pace). I've been trying to get the leg turnover up in preps for this race and upcoming Akron Marathon. The Sunday run went well and I finished at a 7:54 average pace. Throughout the week, I got in a few 6-7 milers, a 5-miler on Friday, then the big VR group run on the Akron Marathon course. The forecast was for a cool and crisp morning but instead, we got a mid-60s morning with high humidity. 45 dedicated runners showed up for their run on the "Blue Line" of the marathon course. We covered the whole course with the exception of miles 4-10. This was a great training run, especially for those who haven't seen the course before. Akron is not easy and shouldn't be underestimated. As we exit the lonely Towpath section around mile 15, we turn into Sand Run park where we climb for 3 miles and without any crowd support...a tough section. Once we get past that, we enter the neighborhoods until our arrival at Stan Hywet Hall at mile 22 before turning towards downtown and the finish. Whether we've run many marathons or this is our first, seeing the course beforehand, especially in less-than-ideal conditions, is great physical but also mental training for race day.

Wednesday night was the day to get the entire shower door replaced since it's been leaking pretty bad. It was never really fixed correctly after I went crashing through it a few years ago after passing out in the middle of the night. Long story...but let's just say I am thankful to be alive and not being paralyzed. I have vasovagal syncopy and while getting up to use the bathroom, I fell backwards through the shower door and my neck landed on the threshhold that you step over to get in the shower. After being strapped to a hard wooden stretcher, being hauled out sideways through my maze of a bedroom, I spent the whole night with a neck brace on in the ER until they were sure no neck injury existed. Like I said, I'm thankful for every running step I take.

Sunday was very relaxing with sunny skies, low humidity, and temps in the low 80s. After church, we headed over to my brother's house for a birthday party where my girls got to ride their cousin's pony. Amazing that such a powerful animal can behave so well with little instruction except for a 5 or 7 year old on her back tugging at her reigns.

Now to Labor Day: ahhh, another reason I love my federal job...federal holidays! Today was the day my girls ran their first race. The Labor of Love Run, held at The Chapel in Akron is a competitive 5-miler and also a 1 mile fun run that benefits Akron Pregnancy Services. This past Thursday, I took the girls down our street and back up to teach a little bit around running, form, breathing, hands, and pace. They gotta start sometime, don't they?!?!? Kids naturally know how to run, but it's usually run all out or stop! I had to show them how to slow it down and run longer. That 6/10 of a mile in the 85F heat was the ticket to success today. We showed up early, picked up their bright yellow bibs, pinned them on, talked again about our plan, and were on the line ready at 8:30am. It was AWESOME! Around the 1/2 mile point, my 7 year old was itchin' to go so she took off and never stopped until the finish. I remained with my younger one, hand in hand, until we reached the finish...never walking a step! Definately a proud moment for us all! When asking if they'd return next year, an immediate "yes" was shouted out. Before the 1-mile start, though, I sat down with Mark Zimmerman from "Mark and the Morning Team" at WCRF 103.3FM. WCRF in conjunction with The Chapel Sports Ministry put on this race each for 24 years. Mark interviewed me live on the air and discussed the recent Shoes for Orphan Souls shoe drive for orphans in Latvia but quickly led into running.
I found out quickly that Mark heard about my drop-out at Burning River a month ago so we briefly talked about that. So nice for the listening audience to hear about that! But honestly, that was a blast to sit down with Mark and talk about it. (By the way, NO REGRETS from Burning River!)
My 5-mile PR is from last year's race at 34min, 43sec., a 6:57/mile pace. This year, I definately feel in worse shape and with the 20 miler only 48 hours previously, racing well today was not really in the mix. However, once that bib number gets attached, there's just no stopping the adrenaline. I really felt good so I went with it. I told myself that a 35min finish would be great but I should really be happy with 36min, too. Well, after cresting the infamous hill the 2nd time, I realized that the race went much better than planned. I gave it my all but still fell short of my PR by SIX seconds! 34min, 49sec. 6th of 23 in my age group, 32 of 397 finishers, and very happy. No PR was expected but neither was a sub-35. Congrats to many VR-ers who ran well and placed in their age groups...a great VR representation was out there today.

Next up: I realized on Saturday that although I didn't finish Burning River, I still ran 55 miles and recovery is longer than I'm allowing for. My ultimate goal is to finish the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile Trail Run on November 1st feeling strong and healthy. To do that, I must be smart, rest a lot, and take it easy through this Sunday's half-marathon and the Akron Marathon 3 weeks later. I really only want to have fun at Akron and get my free Brooks shoes! Then, it's 5 weeks to Mt. Masochist. Rest, run, rest some more.
“It’s the other sound that keeps me from falling asleep – the sound of mindless thoughts flitting through my head. I have heard a million people say that running is the most boring activity that they can possibly imagine. Since I’m sure I’m not any smarter or wittier than these people, I can only guess that they never learned to listen as they run. If they did, they would surely be entertained and informed by their own thoughts. How strange that running, which seems so outwardly physical, is actually the most thought-full of activities. If you slow down and pay attention, you will be amazed at what you hear. And you will find that the thoughts that surface during a workout run strong and true through all the parts of your life.”

(from Amby Burfoot’s “The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life.”)

Happy Trails, everyone!

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