Yesterday, I ran my third Freedom Four Miler. And once again, I found myself in Forest Park, chugging through a hot course replete with hills.
The morning started cool — about 65°, way cool for July — with a foggy sunrise. I got to the park early, knowing that parking was gonna be at a premium, and that it was a long walk from the parking to the start/finish line.
Pre-race is always weird for me. There’s usually some activities going on — usually beginning about thirty minutes before racetime — but there’s normally not much to do other than hang out. I talked with other racers, stretched, and watched for good photo ops.
This race always features a little bit of military hardware — this year, a Humvee — but the coolest hardware was a crazy, giant, motorized shopping cart. I’ve seen this at the Bristol Speedway for some NASCAR races, but this is the first time I’ve been this close to one. It’s a pretty cool rig, with plenty of noise, and a cool “gee whiz” factor.
Shortly after it pulled up, we all lined up for the start — about a thousand of us. With the performance of the Star Spangled Banner, and a quick toot of an air horn, we were off.
The first third of a mile was a pretty quick flat, and slight downward hill, only to be followed by upward and downward portions of the course. I’m just not a hill guy! I broke into a quick walk, and watched as many folks passed me by. That’s something I’m kinda used to, being a back-of-the-pack guy!
Somewhere late in the first mile, I was joined by a another runner, Kate. This was her second race, and we stayed together, chatting through the remaining miles. Frankly, the miles just seemed to melt away, and in no time, we were crossing the finish line.
This is the first race in a well over a year that I’ve run with a partner — even one “discovered” on the course. I’d forgotten just how much a difference that can make. Chatting about life, the universe and everything really takes your mind off the footfalls and the miles, and makes the race so much easier to complete. Thanks Kate!
I was thrilled to cross the line, put another race in the books, and make a new friend along the way. All in all, a really great Fourth of July!
(This race benefitted the USO of Missouri. As a former military member, this is an outfit that I can’t help but support, and appreciate.)
Yeah, I know the medal has 2014 on it, instead of 2015. There’s a story behind that. (Isn’t there always?!)
I’d been signing up for a few races through the Virtual Nerd folks. They sponsor races that fundraise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and with my connection to that disease, I couldn’t resist hooking up with them. Of course, the races were cool … Star Wars themed, Back to the Future themed. (Both yet to come for me!)
A week or so ago, I got a note from them that some of the race medals from last year were still hanging around, they were selling them cheap. I was a Beavis and Butthead fan a long, long time ago, and the Cornholio medal tripped my trigger. It helped that the guys’ shirts have “Cancer Sucks” across them. My sentiment exactly.
Once I ordered, I made mention to the Virtual Nerd folks on Facebook that I’d ordered this up. I told them that I’d survived colon cancer, and that mom was fighting CML — and that both of us agreed that cancer sucked. They were impressed by mom’s fight, and said she must be a very tough lady. Who am I to argue with a stranger on the internet!
Fast forward a few days, and the envelope came with the medal. Scribbled on the outside was “Best of luck to your mom! (one 4 her too)”. I opened the padded mailer, and there were two medals in there, one for me and one for mom.
And once again, I was reminded just how wonderful the running community is. I’m so touched by the kindness of someone to just do a simple, kind thing for another runner. All I can say to Joe and Amanda (who operate Virtual Nerd Runs) is thank you from the bottom of my heart. The medal will be in the mail to mom this week.
Oh, and the miles today were hot, but pretty easy on a flat course. There — race report done.
I love that we have a place like Forest Park for events in St. Louis. It’s the second largest public park in the US (behind Central Park in NY), and it seems like it’s almost always got some kind of big event taking place on the weekends. And naturally, there are a lot of races that take place there, given that it can be blocked off and not foul up “regular” road traffic.
But there’s something about running in Forest Park that just brings out my average races. Today was no exception.
I hadn’t originally had this race on my calendar. I’ve supported this race financially in the past. A co-worker of mine, Sandy Butler, contracted brain cancer some years ago, and succumbed to it just a year ago. Sandy was a fun person, and happened to also be married to another co-worker of mine, Rick.
I’m in the office infrequently, and happened to see Rick on a recent visit. He follows my crazy racing, and knew that I was chasing medals. New for this year, he told me, was a finisher medal.
It’s a nice event, very reminiscent of the Undy, with teams supporting cancer victims, and keeping the memory alive of those folks no longer among us. In the case of Sandy’s team, we were the third largest team, and the second largest fundraiser. I was pretty proud to be a part of that.
The race course was familiar, using many segments I’d run on so many courses at Forest Park over the last three years, and as usual, I was sluggish in the park. My first kilometer was smoking (for me) at about 8:30, but I think I used up my tank of fuel, and wound up sorta just chugging through the rest of the race.
Like last weekend, I kicked it in at end, and ran like a crazy person to the finish line. I still love the response of the crowd when they see an old, fat guy kick it in turbo mode, and hustle across the finish line. That definitely takes the edge off how tired I am at the end of a race, and is thrilling for me.
(Beneficiary: Head for Cure Foundation. From their website: The Head for the Cure Foundation mission is to raise awareness and funding to inspire hope for the community of brain cancer patients, their families, friends, caregivers and other supporters, while celebrating their courage, spirit and energy.)
Today’s race was another of the Go! St. Louis race series, second of the three they’re holding this year. I’d been watching the weather, knowing that we’d had a tropical depression move over us, and that a cold front was to move through today. Last night, it looked like it would be 77° with sun at race time. As it ends up, it was cloudy, about 68°, and storms were moving across the northern parts of our area.
Siobhan had come up for Father’s Day, so all three of us piled into Darla’s Acadia, and headed toward Kirkwood. The ominous clouds continued to drop southward as we drove, and we could hear the thunder growing.
We found parking — which was pretty scarce! — at the start line. This race is a one-way, mostly downhill race, so Darla and Sio were gonna drop me off, and then drive to the finish line to meet me as I finished. Great plan.
George Sells from KTVI was there, and interviewing folks about the race, all the rain we’d gotten and whether we liked to run in the rain. He interviewed me and Sio, and that probably aired while we were at the site. There’s a piece up on their website, but it was after it was all over, and didn’t include our fifteen seconds of fame.
Sio and Darla decided to go back to the Acadia, and wait to see if the race was gonna go off. With the storm approaching, and lightning visible, it was a pretty good question.
Enter the rain.
And I’m not talking little sprinkles, I’m talking soak-you-to-the-bone-try-to-find-shelter-wherever kind of rain. It poured, and we lined up for the race. The horn sounded promptly at 7:30am, and we took off.
I was expecting this race to be kinda fast. It’s billed as the fastest 5K in St. Louis, and after looking at the elevation profile, I see why:
I took off at the gun, and began running. And, as I frequently do, I walked part of the course. However, I made it a point to run all the downhills. On two of those hills, I really kicked it up, and ran faster than I’ve ever run in a race. The cool thing was that one of them was as I was going to finish line. When a big ol’ overweight guy turns on the afterburners at the finish, the crowd absolutely starts cheering for you. That’s pretty doggone cool.
Typically, I shoot for less than 10min/km, although my races over the last year or two have been frustratingly shy of that.. That’s a 50-minute 5K, and a number generally just above all the time. In my splits today, they were ALL under ten minutes — significantly — except one segment. That’s amazing, and the first time I’ve pulled that off. And as you might expect with splits like that, I had a great finish time. In fact, it was the best race finish time I’ve ever had in a 5K, and the fastest 5K distance I’ve run in three years.
I get that I’m not all that fast, and my time isn’t exactly remarkable. But, to me, it was like I’d won the Olympics. And that’s the deal for me. I run “against” me, and sometimes have a great day doing it.
I’ve been using Apple networking gear for a long, long time. I started switching the house over to Applely things in 2005, and about five years ago, I succeeded in getting everything in house sporting a Cupertino logo.
And it’s largely been a great experience. But sometimes, bad things happen to good gear.
Over the last week, I’ve been having some weird things happening on the network inside the house. I’d set it up years ago with a 4th generation Airport Extreme downstairs, close to the U-verse gear, and a 2nd generation Airport Express upstairs to extend the wireless network through the house. Great plan, and it’s been solid as a rock.
At the time, I’d gone to great lengths to logically separate Uverse’s physical/wireless from my internal network. I’d had some real trouble with AT&T’s DNS being really slow, and that drove me to separate the networks for a reason I coulda solved so much easier. That was years and years ago, and needless to say, I didn’t document what I did, how I did it, or what should be what on the network. That little lack of detail kinda hampers troubleshooting.
After working most of the week thinking there was a problem on the U-verse side (resetting their gear twice), I finally began to realize that something on my side was obviously wrong. As I worked through it last night, my trusty Airport Extreme would no longer take a configuration. That was a sign.
So, I started researching what Apple had out there, and found the Airport Extreme 802.11ac. This unit was two generations later than mine, and would talk more quickly with our recent devices by using 802.11ac. Nothing wrong with that. Repair and an upgrade? I’m good with that!
We have the good fortune living with fifteen miles of two Apple stores, and three Best Buy stores with Apple sections. If I need something Apple, I can usually get it locally. (Unless you’re looking for the new MacBook but that’s a story for another post.) I looked at the closest Best Buy, and they had exactly what I needed in stock … and I had a 4x Reward Zone points coupon. Perfect.
And it was on sale ($11 off). Even better.
I walked in, and the shelf sporting the Airport Extremes was empty. Ugh.
Have you tried to find a floor associate at Best Buy on a Friday night? Apparently, that’s either the point of lowest staffing, or the time during the week when the whole staff is pulled into a meeting. I waited, and waited, and waited, and finally found someone who could help me. He was quick to tell me that he thought they were out of ’em, because someone was looking for them earlier in the week and couldn’t find them. I told him that I had their website up on my iPhone, it said they had them, and I could order one online right now, and pick it up right there. He walked off to find one.
Despite the portents of inventory-related doom and despair, he was able to find that they had plenty in stock. He just didn’t know where they were. Five or ten minutes later, he turned a corner, Apple goodness in hand. Woot!
I got it home, prepared Becky for all the swearing she was gonna hear from the basement — me and networking don’t get along — and proceeded to start trying to bring the new device up. Now, when you can’t get into the current network device, it’s hard to capture its configuration to transfer to the new one.
Did I mention I had no documentation on what I’d done?
I plugged ‘er in, attached the WAN and LAN cables, and hoped for the best. I brought up the Airport Utility on my laptop, and it found the new device quickly. And then, the heavens smiled upon me.
The utility asked me if I was gonna replace the old Airport Extreme with the new one, and proceeded to move the configuration over. I was stunned. In fairness, I still had to do a little tweaking, as all that weird separation I did years ago didn’t entirely move over.
And frankly, I didn’t need all that separation. There was no reason to separate the networks just because of DNS. I changed the DHCP server on the new Extreme to propagate a different DNS than AT&T’s, and all was well with the world.
But, the upstairs Airport Express still wasn’t playing nicely. I tried resetting it several times, including taking it back to factory defaults, and never could get it connected to the network correctly. A little time with Uncle Google, and I found someone mentioning that you could take a newly refreshed (or purchased) Airport device, and configure it in the wi-fi settings of the iPad. That was new news to me.
So I tried it. The wi-fi settings saw the “blank” Airport Express, and asked me if I wanted to use it to extend the existing network. YES!
And sonofagun, it actually worked. The Apple networking magic was truly wonderful, and saved the backside of both me and my network. Color me very, very impressed.
I’d had a few question marks about putting this race on the schedule. I had no idea how my knees and stamina would be this weekend after the Hospital Hill duals last week. As it ends up, all the races this year have (apparently) made a difference, and my recovery seems quicker, even after abusing my feet and knees like I did last weekend.
Last night, I vowed I’d get up and run this morning. Yesterday, I awoke early (5:30 or so), thought about running, and then rolled over and slept for THREE MORE HOURS. Now, I believe that if your body sleeps, you probably needed it… but, gee whiz! I wasn’t gonna let today slip away from me, and suffer from a lack of miles.
So 6am came around this morning, and after a slow wake up — and a couple of snuggles from Bailey — I got up, and started prepping. Remember a few weeks ago that I’d mentioned treating virtual race days just like regular race days? I’m still doing that, and it really puts the event ahead in perspective. I guess it’s akin to pro athletes getting their game face on, physically and mentally preparing themselves for what’s to come.
Girded up in all my running armor (there’s a contradiction, eh?!), I stepped out into the sunlight… and found a icky, humid airmass out in the sunshine. Shades of the Hospital Hill 5K. Blecch! I got going though, and while the air was tougher, I once again found the course to be moving beneath my feet, just like I was flying. One kilometer, then two, and suddenly I was at the turnaround point.
That’s been the beauty of doing these races every weekend or so. This was my sixteenth race of this year, and that frequent activity is making these races get easier and easier. I’ve been bemoaning not finding more speed so far this year, but I think what I’ve found is even more important: determination. And that’s been key for running so many races already in 2015.
I’ve been asked why I would do these virtual races. I know me, and setting a “collectible” goal out there hits my brain pretty well, and grabbing these finisher medals is kinda a Pokemon thing for me… gotta collect ’em all! That’s what gets me out there, and getting out there is what’s important. It’s healthier for me, and it gives me a tangible thing that I can chase after. And given that there’s not always races around here I can get to, this keeps my feet on the pavement in between racing events.
And I know there’s a population of real runners out there who believe that a “finisher” medal isn’t worth having, advocating that the only medals worth having are those you win for placement in 1st, 2nd or 3rd. That’s definitely an opinion. It’s not mine.
You see, I do earn my medals. I run the same miles, sometimes on the same courses, and my miles, although slower, are for the same distance as their medals. I’d even wager that those of us “back of the pack” folks are probably putting together a bigger effort than the elite runners at the front. They know they can do this, and quickly. A 5K is like a sprint for some of these folks, finishing in less than twenty minutes. For those of us who are moving a lot slower, and carrying many more years and pounds than the folks in the front, the determination to finish is higher, and beyond the sense of accomplishment in finishing, having that medal waiting at the end is a tangible result of our toil and sweat.
As one of the signs at Hospital Hill last weekend said, I’m not here to compete, I’m here to complete.
And that’s what’s kept me on the road this year. And next weekend is the All-American 5K on Father’s Day. I’ve never run this race before, but I’ve been led to believe that this is one of the fastest races in Da Lou, with a one-way, mostly downhill course. Can’t wait to give it a shot!
Hospital Hill is one of those legendary races. From folks out here in the midwest, you hear just how wonderful and awful this race is… the folks are wonderful, and the hills are awful.
A year ago, in a stroke of questionable sanity, I ran in the Hospital Hill 5K. I was slow, the hills were steep, and the heat was hot. I had no idea what I was in for, but I finished, and I was thrilled about that.
This year, in another stroke… of something… right after last year’s Hospital Hill 5K, I signed up for the Hospital Hill Re-Run. This is the combination of a 5K up The Hill on Friday night, and either a 10K (in my case) or half marathon less than twelve hours later on Saturday morning. Not only would these races be close together, but this would be my first 10K.
Darla and I drove across the state Friday morning, which is a pretty quick trip from our home — Kansas City is only 3½ hours away. We got checked into the hotel, and visited the health expo next door to pick up my race packets for both races.
These health expos are pretty cool, and are a great way to find new products associated with running, You can also meet folks representing other races in the region, and pick up any doodads for the race that you left at home. I picked up a bunch of brochures for other races around the midwest, thinking about my racing plans for the rest of the year.
I also talked with someone who makes custom medal displays. Displaying my medals has been a real challenge, as it seems like I’m adding finishing medals at an alarming rate. I’m halfway through the year, and I’ve already run as many races as I did all of last year. Wayne, from LifeSpeed Sports, showed me a display and shelf option that I think will look good in my office. Probably more to come on that in the future.
The weather dudes had been talking about rain in KC all weekend, but when Darla and I walked to the start line Friday night, it was bright, sunny, and hot — not what I was hoping for.
On the 5K race, you just barely get started before having to climb Hospital Hill. This is a crazy hill, rising about 120 feet across half-a-mile, and since it’s the first thing you see, it sucks the life out of you before you really get into the course. Blecch. The cool thing is that you close out the race coming down that same hill, and that definitely helps your finish time. I climbed the hill, slowly, and carried on.
As I always do, I found some other turtles to stay close to. Every now and then, you chat, and then you either pass or get passed, only to catch up again. It’s nice, because those folks are hoofing through the course the same way you are.
I finally got to the finish, and I was just spent. Darla was waiting for me, and it was nice to see a familiar face as I crossed the line. I got my medal, chocolate milk and an ice cream sandwich (which absolutely rocked!), finding a place to sit down. There was just no fuel left in my tank. The sun had beaten the fight out of me, and I hobbled back to the hotel after successfully completing the 5K.
When I got back to the room, everything hurt. I was a little wobbly, and so discouraged about Saturday morning’s race. If the 5K had taken that much out of me, what would the 10K do to me? Could I really finish it?
The news Friday night said that we would have sunny skies again Saturday morning, and I wasn’t too excited to hear that. Imagine how thrilled I was to awaken to the news that storms were due in sometime during the 10K race!
Last year, I was driving away from KC in very strong storms at the time the 10K began. That event was delayed due to those massive electrical storms, and while there was rain due in, it appeared I would complete my race before things got ugly. But with the rain coming, it was under 70, cloudy, and just enough breeze to keep things nice.
The 10K and half marathon shared the same course for the first five kilometers or so, so we all started together, and began the race. This time, however, Hospital Hill came about two kilometers into the race. For some reason, this approach to The Hill was much easier for me. I dunno if it was the nicer conditions, or being able to warm up for a couple of kilometers before getting to it — regardless, it wasn’t nearly as tough on Saturday morning as it was on Friday night.
The course wound on, rolling a bit up and down the ridges, until the 10K and half marathon runners split, and I was facing another hill, the 39th Street Hill — rising about 85 feet across a kilometer or so. This hill led to Broadway, where the half marathoners joined us again at their eleventh mile.
Suddenly, flash, boom! The storm had rolled in, and the rain began. With only two kilometers to go, I was really hoping we would be allowed to finish. With lightning in the area — and close — I wasn’t gonna be surprised if the race was paused for safety reasons, but the skies quietened, and we continued, albeit in a bunch of rain.
From there, the course was good, until we reached Trinity Hill. This crazy hill looked like it went straight up into the sky, rising about 75 feet across a city block or two. It was brutal, but was the last hill on the course.
With the 10K and half marathon runners finishing side by side, there were plenty of folks cheering us all on as we approached the finish line. In fact, that’s one of the nice things I noticed about the 10K. There were supporters all throughout the course, even for those runners turtling along at my speed.
And just like that, it was done. I crossed the finish line, grabbed my two medals (you get an extra medal for running the 5K and one of the races on Saturday), and found Darla on the side. And I felt pretty good. In fact, I felt real good. Maybe it was just adrenaline, but I was in so much better shape after the 10K than I’d been after the 5K. Success!
I was really pleased with how my 10K race went. It seemed to go quickly, and I was no worse for wear after it was done. All that was left was a little BBQ celebration dinner, something we both enjoyed!
OK, so I really believe that an awful lot of virtual runs are designed to celebrate holidays and celebration days that don’t really exist. Frankly, though, if you dangle a medal in front of me, I’m ok with both us pretending that there’s an Opossum Freedom Day, and I’ll run that 5K. If you’d asked me about National Running Day prior to this year, I woulda put it in that category.
However, there’s a website. And, an easy search through Uncle Google shows scads of events on/around the first Wednesday in June that celebrate this crazy obsessive sport I’ve fallen into.
And of course, the Moon Joggers folks (through their sister-site, Virtual Run Events) had a virtual race to celebrate the runner. They had me at medal.
The mantra for this race became “I chose wisely.”
I planned to run this on Sunday (yesterday), not knowing that for the last weekend in May, Da Lou would be enjoying morning temperatures in the 50s, highs in the 60s and loads of cloud cover. I stepped out, and couldn’t believe my luck with the weather.
Unfortunately, I had some bad luck with my Garmin. For whatever reason, it had a tough time finding the birds to track my position, speed, etc. I waited ten minutes, and finally gave up on it, and started my run.
My intent was to take this run pretty easy, and do a fair amount of walking. I knew the Hospital Hill twins loomed ahead in just six days, and I didn’t want to burn through my fuel ahead of that monumental pair of races. I wanted a good, successful day, and to further stack the deck, I took the course I found last weekend that was so wonderful.
I got on my horse, and moved along at a pretty good clip. In fact, it seemed like I reached the halfway point really, really quickly. With the Garmin only figuring out my position about 20 minutes in, I had no idea what kind of pace I was keeping, but it seemed fast. Once the Garmin woke up, I saw that I was doing 10min/km, even through the slight hills. This was way faster than I’d expected.
It seemed like no time, and I turned into the subdivision, running most of the last bit (including where Darla shot my photo, above). I looked at my watch, and I saw that I was just a touch above fifty minutes. I had knocked over SIX MINUTES off my time on that course from last weekend. I was stunned.
So, I set myself up with a great mental “win” in preparation for next weekend. All my gear — including my goofy body — worked as expected, and I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
Next weekend is Hospital Hill in Kansas City, and I’m really hoping for results every bit as good as yesterday’s Runner’s Day 5K. Last year, I did the 5K in 52:22, and my intention is to bust that time this year!
For frequent and returning readers, you’ll remember that I ran a virtual race, the Dark Helmut 5K, back on May 17th. To say I struggled is an understatement. It was a frustrating virtual race that I just slogged through.
I also made mention that course selection was key. I believe I have proof of that today.
Today is Geek Pride Day, commemorating the release of Star Wars on this date in 1977. The fine folks over at Moon Joggers had a virtual race to commemorate the day, and with my geeky tendencies, I couldn’t exactly pass it up.
The medal came in a week or so ago (typical for a virtual race — so you can “finish” with your medal), and I was filled with both excitement and dread. I was thrilled to add another race to the “done” list (along with another medal!), but the results from my last virtual race were pretty crushing.
Last night, as I thought about the run this morning, I decided I would treat this like a regular race. That’d take a couple of things.
1. Prepare like a real race.
Last night, I laid out my clothes. That sounds like a little thing, but it got my brain in the game, and forced me to look at the weather for this morning, find the right clothes and have ’em laid out for this morning. This included my compression socks (which really do help!), running underwear, shoes, knee braces, Spi-Belt (for my iPhone), and proper shirt selection. I’ve gotten kinda lazy on the virtual runs, probably because they’re just around the neighborhood, and without the tools that make/keep me comfortable on my travels, it’s no wonder I’ve struggled lately.
2. Find a course that will lead to a successful outcome.
Also last night, I thought about my course. I had no idea where I was gonna go, but I knew I didn’t wanna try to conquer that same hill that killed me a little over a week ago. It was brutal, both physically and mentally, and I just didn’t want to have that kind of outcome again. I thought about the area, and realized that I could simply take a “right” instead of a “left”, and avoid that hill altogether, keeping me on flatter roads.
As it ends up, that was a brilliant decision. I ran more on this journey than I have in a while — although my time doesn’t really reflect that very well! I was comfortable getting to my turnaround point, and it seemed like it was no time until I was at the four kilometer point, and entering the home stretch.
I got home, with Becky awaiting me on the front porch. She was planning to cheer as I came in, photographing me, and giving me the full race experience. However, she forgot the direction I was headed, and I ended up sneaking up on her. She did end up snapping a few photos before I got back in the house to relax.
The thing I noticed was that I wasn’t nearly as exhausted as I was after trying to conquer the hill last week. In fact, I felt pretty good. If I feel that good after the Friday night 5k in Kansas City in a couple of weeks, I’ll be good to go for the 10k the next morning!
So, put another race in the books, and a little bit of learning, too. I think this was the best solo run I’ve had this season, and I hope I’m focused in on why that was!
And yes, that’s me in the image above. My parents gave me my first computer, a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model III, as a present for graduation from high school in 1981. My inner geek runs deep!
(BTW, the course maps look a little different now, and will link back to slightly different looking data. It’s still the same stuff, just formatted differently.)