Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Burn Run

What a beautiful morning to run. Today's run was at 10:15AM. Thank goodness I left extra early. It took me 30 minutes to find the staging area. The map said it was off Kinnie Rd in East Syracuse, but it was actually off Chrysler Dr. I ended up asking one of those serious runners who pre run the course as a warm up where I needed to go; embarrassing to say the least.

My sense of direction is so bad that it cost me some time since I slowed down at the first turn thinking I was going the wrong way. I followed the arrow for the 5K and hoped it was the same course until later although I did stop before making that executive decision. I wonder if that is how George Bush felt when he stopped to think before making the call to move left on economic matters. I doubt it. Politicians aren't sincere as we runners who tend to think a little too much sometimes, hence the running. Gotta clear the head.

Alright then. This small item could be an account of the Burn Run, and it will be eventually, but I wanted to share with everyone a further development on my "new" run/race philosophy that I came up with on my drive around east Syracuse, lost in thought.

If you can recall a few posts back, I decided not to call races "races", but "runs". Running a race means pushing yourself to win. I am not going to win the race, but I win by finishing the race, hopefully feeling good and prepared to RUN another day. I will hold true to that first part of my developing philosophy; keep in mind that although enjoyment is a must, occasional personal best pursuits are necessary. That race will always be a fine character builder.

The latest development concerns talking with others post RUN or when meeting people; and asking them about their RUN. My first reaction after a race is to find a friend and ask, "What was your time?" Not good. Such a question pushes us back into the race mentality. Its places running value on time rather than participation. Let's rephrase the question, "great run don't you think, Joe. How did you feel as you approached and crossed the finish line?" That would be a more appropriate RUN question for those of us who RUN to stay motivated for running three or four times a week to stay in shape while age creeps in among us.

However, if Joe says he felt great during the RUN and that he hoped it was a new PR for him, then its ok to ask, "What was your time?" Time questions reinforce our self esteem for personal accomplishments or make us feel unworthy of running with others. While the "participatory" questions reinforce the accomplishment to RUN again.

I know, Boyd has gone commi-lib and is singing Coombya. No I haven't. I just want people to run. Its not about the fast gal or guy. Its about having fun, staying fit, and running another day. The biggest attraction of the Lake Effect Run Club is its "inclusive" orientation. No man, or woman, left behind. Run fast or slow; it doesn't matter. Just keep running. I met two ladies this morning who were doing just that. Today's 5K was their second. They had finished the Arc 5K and have goals to keep running. They made excuses about walking some, but who cares. I am so happy to see them run. I am even more excited about them having a good experience to want to run again.

That is what inspires me. Seeing someone's will defy the body by pushing themselves to where their mind makes the body stronger. Soon, these ladies' bodies will be pushing their brain to persevere to complete new distances unheard of. That is running. There is no longer racing. Racing is about winning an event. Running is about achievement. And its the achievement that brings us back to the road.

Ok, back to the Burn Run, a fitting name. The run was nice. the staging grounds around the fire station was a perfect setting. The refreshments, including cold Coors Light, bagels, oranges, bananas, and water were scattered at stations inside and outside the firehouse. The finish line was smothered by people cheering in the runners, 5Kers and 5milers.

The course started out from the corporate park passing two large fire trucks with an archway of balloons that acted as the passage way to Kinne Rd. A quick right followed by another quick right took us up a virgin road, newly paved and smooth. It lasted almost a mile when we made another right onto Kirkville Rd back toward Kinne Rd. At the intersection was the only water stop, about 1.5 miles into the RUN. My first mistake was passing this water stop thinking there would be another. There was no other.

Kinne Rd had some homeowners outside cheering, but not many. Most spectators, as usual, stayed at the finish line. I always hope for local homeowners to participate, but like most people they do not get involved.

We all ran up Kinne Rd to Chrysler Dr and ran up toward new Venture Gear. The 5K turned right onto Sanders Pkwy while the 5milers continued to the Fly Rd turn around. This was the hardest part of the RUN. We were in direct sunlight, it was hot, and there were no water stops. I wanted to pack it in. My plan was shot. I planned on having a GU and a water chaser somewhere near 2.5 and 3 miles. Oh well. To keep my mind off the pain of dehydration, I started clapping and cheering on the runners who had already reached the turn around and those I passed after reaching the turn around. it was nice to root them on. All responded with a smile, except the leader. The leader never smiles. The leader typically stays in a zone. I don't believe the leader has any fun. he may even have no memories of the race other than he won. Big deal.

I reached the finish and was met by my buds, all of them finished the 5K strong and are looking forward to running again. We shared a beer, laughs, and discussed our experiences of the run. I met up with a guy who passed me at the turn around, and he thanked me for cheering him on. He even visited the Lake Effect web site and plans on running with us soon. So, in all it was a fine RUN. Hooked up with 5 friends, met 6 new people who I hope to call friends, and ran a PR for a 5 mile RUN, 38:37 or 7:44/mile. I am satisfied and can't wait to run again.

See you on the road.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The ARC Half Marathon

Since I ran with TNT on Saturday morning, I missed the start of the ARC Half Marathon and was able to catch the lead 6 or 7 runners on their return to 370 back to the park and then I raced home, showered, and made it back for the finish.

Mark was the first person I recognized near the finish line. He looked tired, but his pace was fast, and he was in “the zone’. I actually jumped out and yelled, ‘Mark. Way to go.’ He didn’t even notice. He ran awesome- under 2 hours.

Then came Kristen, followed closely by Pam and Margie. They too were hauling. Kristen used the ARC as a TNT training run since she will be running the Nike Women’s Half in San Francisco. I think she ought to do the full. She is very near being ready. She looked good. Great stride and nice pace. I shouted out to Pam to catch Kristen who was less than 30 seconds ahead. Funny thing, Pam started the race late and still finished strong and below the 2 hour mark. Unreal. I ran with she and Margie one morning at the park. I stayed with them for about 2 miles until i had to slow down. Those ladies are fast and run like they have never heard of “resistance”.

Michelle was next. She came in right about 2 hours. She looked strong and her pace was good. A few months back she did think she could finish the Boilermaker, but she did. Now she can’t stop running. I love talking about her runs and what she plans on running next. Good run.

Erin and Bob came through next, I think. If I screwed up the order don’t kill me. I’m doing my best. These 2 looked like they were having the time of their life. Neither looked tired; both were smiling and barely sweating. This was Bob’s first half. his knee held up and he finished just over 2 hours. Erin,finished much better than last year and looks ready for the Marine Corps in October. She also finished just over 2 hours.

I saw Debbie and Bill finish too. Debbie and Bill looked good. I had forgotten that they were running the ARC. Seeing them surprised me.

Well, congratulations to all of you. I love watching the runners. All of them, especially you guys that I know, inspire me to keep running. We all share the aches and pains of running, yet we all realise there a good days and “bad” days. (Not really, Any day you can run is a good day.) I look forward to running with y’all again soon. Next Sunday is the Burn Run in East Syracuse: a 5K and a 5 Miler. I’m gonna do the 5 miler.

See you on the road.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Monster Marathon & Half Marathon

Well, I made it down and back from the Monster Marathon and Half Marathon in the Virgil Forest: A Runners Story.
Where do I begin. That I am not very bright and need to think more before I act. This Labor Day weekend has a several nice races: the Skaneatles 4 miler, the Marcellus Parade 5k, and the RnR Half Marathon in VA Beach. I have friends running in all of those. However, unlike my friends who think logically and sanely, I found a run on the Lake Effect Run Club web site; it was the correct distance that I wanted to do as my weekend long run, it is considered "the most difficult on the east coast" so it posed a challenge. I had to do it; besides, how often are the warnings as bad as reality?
A side story of such a time. It was 1997, I was in Lancaster, PA at the Lancaster Brewing Company. I ordered wings and beer. What wings did I order? You got it, Euphoric Rush. The waitress advised against it. Yet I got them anyway because waitresses always believe wings are too hot. Why should I accept the warning? I can eat anything, I love hot wings. Long story short, I ate two wings, my entire mouth, tongue, lips, and throat were on fire, My face went numb. The beer didn't cool the burning and the water was just as ineffective. I was in pain. I don't think I could feel my face for 3 hours. I don't order wings with special names anymore. I stick to either the mild, medium, or hot. Euphoric Rush is not in my dictionary.
So, now you can appreciate why I did not heed the warning on the Finger Lakes Run Club registration form. I told myself it cannot be that bad. I figured I was gonna be running on roads, maybe a nice clean trail for a short while to enjoy nature while trudging up a a few nasty hills that I could run up slow and speed down; I love going down hill. Boy was I in for a shock.
Runners went out in groups of three by age. The older runners went earlier while the younger runners went later. I think the marathoners went first followed by the halfers. I was a halfer, and my start time was at 8:57AM. Mind you, I was there at 7AM. I had a while to wait. My phone had no signal, my XM wasn't working properly, and I ended up just sitting in my car bored out of my skull.
8:57AM arrived, and guess what? I didn't notice. I started a minute late. I took off down Rt 392 and turned left on a gravely road passing a ski lift. Soon the arrow told me to turn into the woods. Yeah, into the woods. I stood there blankly talking to myself. I said a few choice words and entered. I immediately crossed a small creek and started my 1000 foot ascent. I started out running. Then I jogged slowly. Then I walked up the hill climbing over fallen trees, stepping on rocks, trudging through mud, and tripping over rocks and roots. Did you know that the body moves forward faster when tripping and falling face first than running. Yeah, its true. I stumbled my way up this steep incline that was more like a hike or a mountain climb than a run. The first half of the 13 miles I fell twice. The first time was a beautiful head first slide. If I were running the bases at Citi Field the fans would have stood and roared for a successful steal of home. But instead, I fell amidst the silence of the trees and a cool summer breeze. The second fall I don't remember. I must have recovered quickly.
At the 3.5 mile mark there was a water station. The 1000 foot ascent was over. I reached into my shorts and pulled out my first GU (I have a pocket in there. Get your head out of the gutter.). I choked down the Lime flavored GU and chased it with water. I took a few fresh berries the little girls picked while their mom gave us water, Gatorade, and cookies... The berries were delicious. The GU hit the spot. The next 3 miles through the forest were challenging although I started to get a handle on when to run, when to walk, and when to duck and move.
There was mud the entire way. My shoes were covered. I smiled and laughed a bit when I thought about how clean and dry my shoes had been before crossing the initial creek. I even had to give up listening to music on my Zune because it distracted me from paying attention to my footing. I stopped once Rush had finished belting out Tom Sawyer. What was ahead of me? Well, there were two bee hives to be passed. There was a narrow muddy path with crags along a 30-50 foot abyss of rocks and water. that was a nice feeling. I didn't really think about falling into the abyss until a reached it again on my return run after the turn around.
Oh, the turn around. That was nice. I arrived at the turn around after entering an area of forest that was DARK. It reminded me of Fangorn Forest from The Lord of the Rings, and it was just as treacherous. More mud and flowing water that was ankle deep. My feet were wet and my legs covered in mud. But the turn around was nice. I hung out for at least five minutes talking to the family that provided refreshments and, always my favorite, Twizzlers. It took me a long time to reach the turn around. I would pick up twenty minutes on my return run. I must have gotten better at making decisions and conserving my energy for the obstacles I met again and again. It sounds better in Latin, etiam atque etiam. Don't you think so?
Although I picked up twenty minutes on the return run, I fell three more times. These falls were beauties. The third fall was a nice header. I fell gracefully, rolling over to my side, landing on my right shoulder and hopping back onto my feet quickly. The fourth fall occurred after I gathered too much confidence and started running to catch a guy in front of me. I tripped on a root and fell. My right knee, the ligament below the knee cap, hit a rock. That hurt. At first I thought I may have sliced it. But no blood flowed. I injured that part of my knee before. It bleeds like a sieve. I raised myself up, brushed off my knee and carried on. The fifth fall angered me. I made it down the big hill. I get to the bottom of the 1000 foot hill, I start down a small dip to cross that little creek I crossed to enter the forest, and I fell down the dip to the waters edge. I could see the gravelly road; light at the end of the tunnel. I hit the road and made a nice pace to the finish. Ending time 3:01:10. If I would have started on time and not hung out at the turn around, I could have gotten under three hours. Oh well, the time doesn't matter. I survived without injury.
What did I learn from the Monster Half Marathon? I learned that I love running on the road. Nothing beats the streets. I'll take dodging an occasional car over dodging trees, rocks, creeks, and bees any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I learned that running in the forest is a run of patience and respect. The runner must be patient and accept that he may have to loose time to prevent injury and to be aware of his footing while at the same time respecting the nature he has the privilege of running within. It was cool. I felt like an Indian boy running down his pray for supper or a soldier making a dash toward his platoon warning them of an oncoming Vietnamese ambush. And while in the dark of Fangorn, I could imagine running beside Legolas and Aragorn when searching for Merry and Pippen.
All in all, it was fun even though I didn't even get a T-Shirt. I don't think I would do it again, definitely not run the full marathon. I can't wait to run Marine Corps and Philadelphia. Pavement, God bless America for cities and grocery stores.
See you on the road.