Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I Won Something!

I started running on my own. I did it for me (well, I started a little bit for Megan, who talked me into my first 5k), but I made myself a promise that I wouldn't care about other runners. I'd always be slow - I would never concentrate on winning...if I finish an event, it means I "won". I wanted to enjoy running, not get caught up in my time, somebody else's time, or where I rank among my peers. I wanted to concentrate on my distance and how I felt at the end of the run. Sure, time would play into things (most marathons stop providing runner support after a certain time, so if you can't finish in 6, 7, 8 hours, they need you to register specially, and nobody would want to do that), but it's a curiosity. It's much like my weight - I have a time when I complete a run, and I have a weight as I go about during the day. If I find out either, fine, but I don't care. However, if you post it, I might just take a look.

My friend Michael drove in on Saturday night to run the "Fall Down on the Trail" 5k with me (as an aside, I've driven nearly 200 miles to run a 3 mile run . . . he just drive over 100 to do the same . . . clearly, there is something logically wrong with runners), and we got up early to run. We managed to get to the Newville trailhead of the Cumberland-Valley Rail Trail with a good 45 minutes to go before the run. After registering, we talked at length with a very excitable man about the Carlisle extension (the current trail runs 11 miles between Newville and Shippensburg - the extension will be another 11 miles and will put the trail basically to my front yard) and then it was time to run.

There were "only" 93 runners, and the congestion at the beginning of the event simply wasn't there, so my "asshole approach to running" wasn't called for. On a very chilly morning, I ran my pace. At about the first mile, I started to see some separation between myself and many of the other "non-serious" runners (it should be stated that the entire Shippensburg University cross-country team came out to this event, so there were some very fast runners). With no timing on the course, though, I never knew how I was doing - just that I was feeling pretty good.

Well, one of the runners that I passed around the mile mark passed me soon after the turnaround but then stayed directly in front of me (almost like he took it as an insult that I passed him). Well, when we hit the 2.75 mile marker (and things changed from packed gravel to pavement), I had a little left in my tank, so I picked up the pace. Soon after I started my kick, I was able to see the clock at the finish line. I thought I saw 28:00, and I was quite happy with that time. As I got closer, though, I saw it was 24:00 clicking through. Hmmm, maybe my eyesight isn't as good as I once thought it was (I'll blame the cold - it was less than 50°F at race time with a little bit of a breeze, so my eyes were watering). I picked up the pace as much as I could and finished with a time of 25:27.

I hung around the finish line for my friend, who came crossing just a little bit later. We both commented that it's really difficult to hold back your pace at the end of an event whenever people are cheering you on at the finish. In fact, it's easy to over-exert yourself.

Well, we hung around talking to people, and I answered a bunch of questions about my silly shoes when somebody mentioned that they listed the times.

I knew I had finished somewhere between 25:00 and 26:00, but a neighbor of mine ran and I could not remember his first name - so I looked through the list to see if I could determine it (his last name happens to match the name of his business, and he drives a van with that on it, so it was just a matter of hoping that there weren't too many people who shared that name . . . there weren't). Well, I found his name as Dennis and I asked him what he thought about his time - he mentioned that this was his personal record and that he finished first in his age group (40-49). Then, he asked how I did, so we looked up my name - and there was a red "2" next to it. Turns out that I finished second in my age group (30-39). This was quite unexpected.

Before anybody makes a big deal about me finishing where I did, I would have finished 7th in the 40-49 bracket and well into the teens of the 20-29 bracket (because of all of the Shippensburg runners, none of whom finished with a time more than 20:00), but it still felt really cool to be handed a medal.

As for my goals or approach, they haven't changed in the least. I'm going to continue running when I can, pushing myself to go further and further whenever possible. I'm going to continue to treat my time as a curiosity and nothing more. If future runs have me winning more stuff to take home, great. If I never get another medal for finishing, great. I'm going to run for the love of running.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Mud Run

As I get closer and closer to the marathon, each run gains a bit more importance. I need to remember my posture. I need to keep my breathing in check. I need to take closer inventory of my body. Now, I've learned to really love running, but there is a bit of an element of "work" - it's not pure fun.

At least, there wasn't until I ran the mud run.

As much in my life does, this started on Twitter. I've become friends with a group of people in & around West Chester, PA. It just so happens that running happens to be one of the things that this group is into. A few months ago, I drove out & ran a 5k with them - and when Kim sent out a note asking who might be interested in running a mud run with her, well, I jumped at the opportunity without really thinking about what a mud run might involve.

After agreeing to run, I looked things up. The mud run was basically a 5k race on a dirt trail that would include muddy obstacles. It was going to rock.

I woke up at 4AM on the day of the run to drive out to Wende's house because it was easy to park (it's now 6AM). We drove out to and picked up Kim before driving down to Delaware to pick up T before driving out to a Wawa where we boarded Kim's sisters' (Tina & Gina) minivan and drove into the event.

Early on, we noticed that the "costume contest" wasn't taken lightly. The four of us were dressed comfortably, but without coordination. We quickly discovered that many of the teams, however, made their own shirts for the event. And not a small fraction of teams came in full costume - for awhile, it seemed that each costumed team was more creative than the last. There were professional wrestlers, angels, princesses, superheroes. "The Smurfs" won the costume contest, hands-down.

After people watching for awhile, preparing for the race, and checking out the hardcore tailgaters, it was time to start. Normally, in any running event, I maintain my "asshole technique" and hang out at the start line until the crowd is all gone. Then, I run - the elite runners, well, I never stand a chance of running with them anyway. But, starting a minute late allows me to get the feeling of passing a bunch of people while never getting passed myself. Hey - I'm an asshole, it's about time you learned to deal with it :-)

However, since we were a team here, the asshole technique wasn't going to work - we ran. The event was supposed to have three heats - since we signed up early, we were part of the first heat. Well, I say "supposed to" because a shitload of runners with numbers outside of that first heat ran with us. That, in itself, is fine, because really, at the end of the day, a mud run is about having a good time and raising money for a charity (because cancer fucking sucks). But, it means that the start is super congested, and considering this was a trail run, it made for some very, very slow going.

Still, though, we made it out of the weeds and it wasn't too long before we hit the first obstacle - simply the trail was cut away and the hole was then flooded. In other words, we ran through a big muddle puddle. There were two of these, and then a little more running, and then a third. Somehow, during this third mud puddle, I took the absolute slipperiest route getting out of the muck. Poor Kim, who weighs like 1/3 of what I do, had to help me up.

Throughout the rest of the run, we encountered several obstacles. Some were as easy as hay bales that we had to hurdle over. The longest span of straight running was probably right around a single mile with a pretty significant hill, and the guys ran to keep an eye on each of the female runners (there was a LOT of drinking on the course, and some of the teams wanted to get a bit handsy . . . I may not be a specimen of fitness, but I'm 6'3" with a good amount of heft behind me -- if it looks like I'm looking out for somebody, you might think twice about copping an unwelcome feel). The obstacles ranged from simple (hay bale hurdles) to truly complex (tripwire that you had to cross underwater). All said, there were two walls that we had to scale, a set of log balance beams, a rope climb (where you had to pull yourself up a rope in order to get to a higher point), a two-rope bridge (where you walked on one rope using another rope to keep your balance . . . here, I felt really bad for Kimmie because I'm quite tall and she's quite short - I ended up having to be near parallel to the ground in order to cross this obstacle where she could have just kept her hands at eye level and gone across vertically), a tripwire grid (where you had to step through the holes in the wire), a barbed-wire dirt pit (where you had to "army crawl" under the obstacle in loose dirt), and two sets of sewer drains (each were about twenty feet long, with water coming up about 1/3 of the way - you had to propel yourself through them).

Finally, the last set of obstacles were a large hill followed by a large mud pit with a barbed-wire mud pit (meaning you had to fully submerse yourself in water to get across).

We finished the run, the four of us hand-in-hand, at about 40:00 . . . finishing in the top 10% of all teams.

This, easily, was the most fun I've ever had working out.

As we got cleaned up and stuff, we realized a few things. First, we need to make sure that we come in costume next year - we're thinking nude body stockings. Teams are set as teams of four, but there's nothing preventing us from coming with multiple teams all geared together. And, while we had a few beers for a post-race cocktail, we need bloody marys for a pre-event high. As we pulled away, I saw that my "asshole running technique" would absolutely have failed, as there was a long line for many of the obstacles.

This is certainly something I plan to do again, and I highly recommend any mudrun to anyone who enjoys running.