The weekend in racing and life went pretty much exactly as I had hoped.
I ran the first of a three race-series this past Saturday at the Parkinson’s Half Marathon in Cottage Grove, WI. While the upcoming race schedule is part of a financially questionable, borderline obsessive pattern, I’m looking forward to running these races for one exceedingly simple reason: I think they’re fun.
I understand that working till midnight Friday, then waking up at 6 a.m. and then running a hard 13 miles may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but for me, it’s part of a routine cycle of physical and mental massage that keeps my body tested, adrenaline engaged, and my head at least somewhat less chaotic than it’s otherwise wont to be. Also, absent any distance running career prior to 2008, I feel like I’m making up for lost time.
This is the first year of the Parkinson’s Half Marathon and 5k, a homegrown community event run entirely on the Drumlin State Trail’s soft gravel and wooden bridges. It was a good morning to race, with temperatures in the mid 40’s, no wind and enough sun to make for a nice burn. I’d signed up early in the week with a plan to run it as a long tempo– a hard but sub-maximal effort that would hopefully strengthen my fitness for the Door County Half without demanding a ton of recovery. I also realized that if there happened to be a fast guy in the race, that reasonable plan could easily be left whimpering softly on the side of the trail, a victim of my ego and damned competitive streak…
After a semi-cramped packet pick-up that I’d probably tinker with next year, the small field—212 ran the half—lined up in the downtown of Cottage Grove, ready for either 13.1 or 3.1 miles of running on the out and back course. I took off at a very controlled pace, made my way over the race’s one hill, and settled into an easy rhythm of flat, straight, beautiful country running. Mile one was an easy 5:45, a little faster than I’d planned, but still within the no-pain zone.
A nice young guy stuck on my hip for the first 1.5 miles, we talked about his HS track season, and seeing my pace was getting a little too easy, I picked it up slightly. The rest of the race would be spent alone, focusing on the lead biker in front of me, trying to think of songs to sing in my head (Apples in Stereo and Gordon Lightfoot were annoyingly stuck on repeat), and working out a honeymoon vacation plan for six months out. Solo running in a race is not particularly exciting, but it’s a hell of a lot easier—and more fun–than doing the same run alone somewhere on a trail in Madison or Neenah. There are still others running around you. They’re rooting you on, you’re rooting them on. There’s a self-congratulatory excitement about our mutual decision to do something “productive” on a Saturday morning. Yay us!
I tried not to press the pace, blissfully spaced out for the majority of the race as I ticked off consistent splits, but at mile 10 a bit of discomfort set in. A hair of nausea, a spot of heartburn. Eventually the inkling of a side ache at mile 12. It never escalated to disaster-mode at all, and I really think it could have been related to a pre-race meal, but I wouldn’t label the last mile as “pleasant”. Regardless, I finished feeling as fresh as I ever have in a half—accomplishing one of the day’s goals–and am happy with what I’m calling a great workout.
1:16:30 for 1st.
5;45, 5:45, 5;47, 5;51, 5;52, 5;53, 5;49, 5;48, 5;52, 5;54, 5;56, 5;58, 5;58, .1 (5:00 pace)
They had two kegs of Great Dane on draft–a Pilsner and IPA, homemade cookies, awesome Day One Pizza, pork sandwiches and chips. Despite the fact it was 9:20 a.m., my lady and I scarfed down more pizza than was necessary, washing it down with a few cold IPA’s and about 10 cookies. Huge kudos to the organizers for the spread.
And much to V’s chagrin, I also took home my biggest first prize trophy to date. It’s a huge gold cup that should definitely have been awarded for something more impressive than my accomplishment. I of course love it, and hoisted it on the mantle where it’s dominating the sight-line in the apartment. There it shall stay forever.