Category Archives: Running

Race #23 : Scenic City 5K

A Major Award!A few weeks before the Scenic City 5K, my mother taunted me, sending me info about the race and asking if I was gonna come to Chattanooga for it.

How could I turn that down?

So, yesterday, I ran my first race on the streets of the city in which I was raised.  And frankly, it was a great experience, aside from the weather.  It was a very, very cold 27 degrees at racetime.

The race was “out and back”, with Finley Stadium (home of the Mocs) serving as the home base.  The race both started and ended on the 50-yard line, which probably made this the first time I’ve ever been on a football field.

Frankly, the size of the field surprised me.  At one time, it both felt immense and tiny.  Football fields look so incredibly large on TV, but your brain says it’s just an optical illusion.  And your brain is right, but it’s still really, really large.

The course itself was pretty unremarkable, except that it was really flat, which is something that surprised me about a course in The ‘Noog.  With all the hills in Chattanooga, I fully expected the course should be hillier.  It wasn’t, and I was thankful.  I do wish it had been more picturesque.  Chattanooga has so much beauty to it, and having this race run through essentially an industrial area didn’t do it much justice.

However, every race should start and end on grass.  The feel of that field beneath my shoes was amazing, and so much easier on my feet and knees.  I could certainly get behind a full course run on close cropped grass!  Might be a good use for golf courses.

After the awards ceremony, I wandered around the site, and found someone handing out drinks.  I guzzled one while I walked, and heard someone say, “Hey, want a beer?”

The answer to that question is almost always “yes”.

I didn’t recognize (nor retain!) the name of the beer, but it was cold, dark and delicious.  I started to drink it, when another runner facetiously asked after getting his cup of beer, “Where’s the pizza?”

And that’s when the beer guy said, “It’s right over there.”

Yes, there was a table with about 40 Little Caesar’s pizzas!  Slices and beer.  Every race should end like that.

And that was really that.  It was a great race, I had a good finish, and I had pizza and beer.  What’s not to like?

 Race Course:
Scenic City 5K Course
Scenic City 5K Course

A Problem with Running

I think I have a problem.

This weekend, I’m running in the Scenic City 5K, held in the city in which I was raised, Chattanooga TN.  I’ve planned out the gastrotourism places I wanna visit (Krystal, Ankar’s, Sofa King Juicy Burger), along with some time with my family, and you’d think that’d be enough planning for a quick trip to The Noog.

But, I think I have a problem.

See, I started poking around, looking for another 5K (with a medal — a kid’s gotta get paid!) in SE Tennessee or north Georgia, thinking I could run another 5K as long as I’m in the neighborhood, and then drive 450 miles home.  (Bupkis, btw.  There was nothing.)

Inspired, I did the same investigation for my Pi Day 5K race weekend in Columbus OH in two weeks.  Again, thinking I could catch another 5K while there, and drive 450 miles home.  (Nothing, btw.)

Not wanting to pass up an opportunity, I did the same thing again for our vacation getaway weekend in New Orleans LA, from where we leave for a cruise in six weeks.  After all, we’d be there a day early.  Surely, I could find a 5K on the Saturday morning we’re supposed to board the ship.  (Nothing.)

I also checked each of the islands we’ll visit along the way, to see if there was some kind of race I could hook into.  (Nothing.)

Yes, I think I have a problem.  I’d look for a seven-step program to help manage this, but I think I’d turn it into a race, and expect to have a medal at the end of the route.  🙂

Race #22 : SpeRUNking Sandmine Challenge

SpeRUNking Sandmine Challenge
SpeRUNking Sandmine Challenge

I’ve never raced in a novelty race.  No paint.  No glowing.  And no obstacles.

Until yesterday.

Somewhere recently, I’d heard about this race.  An old mine with temperate conditions in the dead of winter.  I looked at some of the race coverage out there, and found the CNN had called it one of the ten ultimate US adventures, right up there with the Iditarod, climbing El Capitan, riding the “vomit comet”  or accomplishing the Triple Crown of Hiking.  That certainly had some appeal.

But… the obstacles!

I exchanged Facebook messages with someone close to race, trying to understand if it was friendly to walkers (it was), and what the time to complete the course would be for a walker (two hours or less).  I was sold, and signed up.

But… the obstacles!

I’d been both excited and apprehensive as the race approached.  We had awful weather the night before the race, and I thought that might keep me away from the site (about an hour away).  But, the weather held out, and I made the trek to Crystal City MO, and Crystal City Underground.

After a really icy approach to the mine, I walked into the maw of this enormous abandoned sand mine, and was struck by the size of the place.  The ceilings were dozens of feet tall, with a great room that is used for parties and events… when there’s not a race going on.

With the weather, I’d left the site really early, but with the decent roads, I arrived about two hours ahead of my starting wave.  So I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  And soon enough, it was time to swallow my fear, turn on my headlamp, and head into the mine.

I’m glad I had the headlamp (which was highly recommended by the organizers).  Almost as soon as we left the start line, the lighting was gone, and the only illumination was what I was carrying with me.

And after the darkness, came the water.

I hit the water, taking big, careful steps, and little by little, the water was deeper and deeper, eventually gaining about three feet of depth.  And even with my headlamp, I couldn’t see the end of it.  I waded and waded, and eventually started climbing up and out of the underground lake.  Little did I know that I’d just begun to climb.

The next obstacle was a dark hill of solid sand.  This hill was almost six feet tall, nearly vertical, and with no steps or hand holds.  You had to run … fast … and let your momentum carry you up the hill.  My first attempt had me landing right on my knees.  My second attempt had me almost get up the hill.  After that, I heard someone behind me tell me that they’d cup my feet in their hands to help me up.

And that was really the way the race went.  At every obstacle, and all throughout the course, the course stewards and participants were encouraging everyone, cheering them on.  And occasionally, someone would lend a hand to help you through something.

Two more significant water crossings, an ascent and descent on an A-frame about ten feet tall built from 2×4’s, balance beams, a tire course, another six foot leap atop a stage platform and a floor made entirely of loose sand… that’s what this race entailed.  If I’d heard about all that, I likely wouldn’t have signed up.

But I did, and I finished.

In fact, I finished with a time right in line with a “regular” 5K.  Given the delays on the obstacles, and the challenging landscape, I fully expected to finish somewhere between ninety minutes and two hours.  To finish under an hour was truly stunning.

So I’ve added another race completion, another medal, and the first of six back-to-back races taking me to the end of March, with travels to both Chattanooga TN and Columbus OH to come.  It’s a good start to this year’s races, and a real boost to my running confidence.

More Racing

Pi Day 5K Medal
Pi Day 5K Medal

It’s been said that I can be a little obsessive.  I think there’s a body of evidence to support that view, and I’d be pretty silly to try to refute it.  🙂

I’ve spent some time over the last few months looking for medal-bearing 5k races to fill out my running calendar for this year.  I’d already registered for a few races here and there, generally some of the ones I ran last year.  However, I wanted to find some other races this year, maybe even in different places.

So over the weekend, I signed up for two fun-sounding races.

The first is the Pi Day 5K in Columbus OH.  This one takes place on March 14th, and the race begins at 9:26:53 AM … 3.141592653.  Get it?  Add to that a pretty cool medal, and I’m in!  I’ve never been to Columbus, so it’ll be interesting to see what’s there.

The other race is in December, and I simply had to sign up for this one.  For the third year, Cleveland OH is hosting the Christmas Story Run 5K.  The cool thing about this one is the leg lamp themed medal.  And, of course, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is there, so I’ll definitely be spending some extra time wandering around there.

The last race I’m watching for is on/around October 21.  You see, Marty McFly visited the future on October 21, 2015, and I’ve gotta figure someone will have a race to commemorate that!

Return to the Streets

Today, I returned to the streets.  I took a long walk for the first time since my injury around New Year’s Day.  The good news is that I had no issues with pain in my foot.  The downside… a little bit of swelling in my foot, and some shin splints on the right side.  Not a biggie, and nothing that hasn’t happened before.  On balance, I’d say this was successful!

I also used my Under Armour “sport” underwear for the first time. I’ve had some real problems with chafing and heat rashes in a “cheeky” location during longer walks/runs. Supposedly, these things could help that with some wicking technology to pull the moisture away from my backside. My walk today bore that out. I was way overdressed for the 50 degree day, so I was sweating like crazy. If that’s not gonna set off a bunch of pain in the backside, I don’t know what will.

So, hooray! It looks like I’m back on the road/trail again. We’ll see where it leads me!

2014 Races — By the Numbers

2014 was the first year that I was serious about running races.  Frankly, if I’d been more serious about training, my races would’ve been dynamite!  As it was, my fastest time for the 5K was in April, with a few other races approaching that time.

Unfortunately, the end of year brought a foot injury that hobbled me after a race in Shawnee KS, and left my skipping my last race of the year (and first of 2015).  That’s a subject I’ll address when I work on my resolutions for 2015.  🙂

So, this year’s numbers:

  • 13 Races
  • 11 races @ 5K, 1 race @ 4K, 1 race @ 4M
  • Slightly more than 40 miles of racing this year
  • 3 destination races (Kansas City MO, Tulsa OK, Shawnee KS)
  • 1 “delayed” race run in the Caribbean
  • Shortest time between races:  24 hours (Rock and Roll 5K Remix)
  • Lowest bib number:  9 (Tap ‘n’ Run 4K)
  • Highest bib number:  31212 (Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K)
  • Closet parking to start/finish line:  Operation Jack KC 5K (about 50 feet)
  • Farthest parking from start/finish line:  Mo’ Cowbell 5K (about one mile)
  • Kudos for Becky for winning “Best Costume” at the Undy 5000
  • Only one weather-impact race:  Route 66 5K (Tulsa OK), with some rain
  • LOTS of new attire:  new shoes, jacket, running pants, toque, neck gather, running socks
  • Met Fredbird
  • Three races in Forest Park, two in St. Charles, one in Soulard, only two in downtown St. Louis

Race #21 : Operation Jack KC Run/Walk in the Snow 5K

Now that title’s a mouthful!

A few weeks ago, I was looking for races to close out the year, and found this one.  It was a close race — Shawnee KS (a Kansas City ‘burb) is only about 3½ hours from here — and benefitted the local KC Autism Society.  How could I go wrong?

I also had a secret, hidden reason for going to this race:  Shawnee KS is home to the closest Runza I know of!

Friday, I cruised into town, got checked into the hotel, and set about finding the Autism Society office.  When I got to the building and walked downstairs to the race pickup area, I noticed someone had been eating Runza for lunch.  I chit-chatted with the folks doing race registration, and as it ends up, one of them had also been in Nebraska for a while, fell in love with Runza’s, and understood my mania.  After handing me my race materials, she directed me to the nearby Runza.

I haven’t eaten in a Runza since our half-cross-country road trip in 2008, so this was a treat — a regular Runza, onion rings and a root beer.  That was an awesome, awesome way to start race weekend!

Questionable Linens
Questionable Linens

I got back to the hotel, relaxed for the afternoon, and eventually wandered outside my room to find a pile of laundry appearing to contain every piece of linen from the room next to me.  I don’t know if there was some kind of plague in that room, or a crazy game of Wesson Oil Twister — either way, I stepped gingerly around the pile, and sequestered myself until the morning!

I figured out that the race site was about five minutes’ drive from the hotel, so I headed toward the park around 8:15am for a 9:15am race start.  And when I got there… there was almost no one there.  I parked within fifty feet of the start/finish line, which is as close as I’ve ever been to the line of any race I’ve attended.  Through the next forty-five minutes, runners filtered in, with maybe about 150 runners lining up for the half marathon, and about half that for the 5K.

When I walked to the registration table to make sure I had what I needed for the run, one of the folks from the office recognized me, and said, “You’re the Runza guy, aren’t you?”  I guess it’s good to leave a positive impression on folks!

Start/Finish Line
Start/Finish Line

There was no electronic timing, no banners, no post race activities… just a simple run that maximized the proceeds for the Autism Society.  That was nice to see, but I didn’t realize how much I missed having the post race hubbub, and the bigger cheering crowd.  And I missed having chocolate milk at the end of the race!

My time was really slow in this race, and I’m sure part of that was the crazy cold weather.  It couldn’t have *anything* to do with my lack of training this winter!!!

Cold Weather Running Duds
Cold Weather Running Duds

The temperature wasn’t really any colder than any other event I’ve run in, but there was a ton of wind and moist air to make things really cold.  For this run, I added a Buff reflective neck gather, and a new Saucony DryLete Skull Cap.  These kept my head, face and neck really warm.

I also had a new Nike Element Shield jacket, partly in preparation to stay warm in the upcoming Lincoln races.  I had a long sleeve jersey on as a base, and a short sleeve atop that, and then the jacket.  I was waaaaaay hot with all that, so I think they’ll do later this week for Lincoln.

However, my new Brooks running pants proved to be warm, but not warm enough.  Same with my gloves.  I have some Saucony gloves, but they’re proving not to be very useful once you hit 30 degrees or so.  I’ll need to resolve both of these pieces of human real estate before Wednesday.

In all, it was a good trip, and another medal for this year!

Race #20 : Santa’s North Pole Dash 5K

Race #20 is in the books!

In fairness, I haven’t exactly been keeping close track, but recently decided to chronicle my races since I started down this crazy path nearly three years ago.

You see, almost three years ago, I was diagnosed with colon cancer.  And while I put on a brave face to everyone around me, to my ears, it was like a death sentence when my gastroenterologist told me there was a two-inch tumor inside me.  I was petrified until a few days later when Becky described what the doc had actually said, and it began to hit me just how lucky I was … I had a completely curable Stage I intruder, with great prospects for my future survivability.

Shortly thereafter, I heard about the Undy 5000, which was a fundraiser for the Colon Cancer Alliance.  The folks in CCA are awesome, and I knew I had to help support them.  So, three months after being diagnosed and subsequently cured through surgery, I ran my first 5K.  Having never really run before, this was new territory for me, and I kinda got hooked.  This would be part of trying to get me to a healthier place in my life.

And I kept running… and yesterday was #20 since that first race in March of 2012.

This was the first time I’d actually run the course for this race.  Last year, there were nine inches of snow on the ground, and I didn’t make it to the site.  Instead, I opted to run my North Pole Dash aboard ship while docked in Dominica on my 50th birthday.  Not a bad way to run a race, or spend a birthday.

Thar be turtles here!
Thar be turtles here!

As the race participants lined up, I took my place at the slowest pace sign they had (14 minutes — my pace ended up being about 17:57, which is pretty dang slow, even for me).  Conveniently, that was near the only speaker system they had.  In fact, the announcer said that he hoped the folks at the front of the race would know when to start, because he was sure they couldn’t hear him all the way up there.

I’d run in St. Charles a couple of times previous (both in the Mo’ Cowbell), but never on the uneven brick/cobblestone roads of Main Street.  That was not the most pleasant thing in the world, and by the time I got to the end of Main Street, my shins were barking bad.  In fact, if you look my pace through the race, it is substantially different on the bricks than it was on the paved roads.

Aside from that, the course was nice enough, winding past the businesses on Main Street, and then past the homes in Frenchtown.  The folks in the neighborhoods were gracious, cheering us on (even the slow turtles like me!) as we clogged the tight roads of their neighborhoods.  I know that had to be a pain for the folks that live there!

The one complaint I’d have about the course was that there was no water!  I always carry water — I’m usually drinking before the first kilometer is down — so it wasn’t a thing for me.  It was surprising though.

Jenny, Jenny, who can I turn to?
Jenny, Jenny, who can I turn to?

And despite having something like 4000 people there, there was very little in the way of fanfare or post race festivities.  At most of the races I run, there’s either chocolate milk or beer, and while they had hot chocolate and a pub crawl later, those two niceties were missing.  And, aside from a few booths on the Katy Trail, and several more in a parking lot, there just wasn’t much to do after the race.  I hoofed my way back to the Jeep, and headed home.  But not before pulling the Jenny Craig flyer from under my windshield.  Someone must be trying to tell me something.

Santa's Donkey
Santa’s Donkey

This was a race I really wanted to do, and I’m glad I did, but I sure was expecting more of that “big race” experience.  I’ve seen that with the Mo’ Cowbell, and given the holiday-theme, I expected more.  I did get my photo taken with a miniature donkey, though, so that should count for something!

Obsessive? Nah, Not Me!

Operation Jack, Last Run and First Run
Medals for Operation Jack, Last Run and First Run

As the year comes to a close, I find myself planning to take off the last two weeks of the year.  And of course, I don’t want to just spend the time sitting around.  So, why not run?

So, like the nut that I am, I signed myself up for the Operation Jack KC Run/Walk 5K in Shawnee KS on December 27th.  Yep, I’m gonna drive across the state, spend the night, run three miles, and then come home.  Nuts, eh?

Well, you might wanna hold off on rushing to any judgement…

I also decided I’d like to run on New Year’s.  Enter the Last Run / First Run in Lincoln NE.  New Year’s Eve at 10pm, there’s a 5k run.  New Year’s Day, it’s run again just 12½ hours later at 10:30am.  So, I’m gonna drive 6½ hours each way, to run six miles.

You may now proceed with judging me!

It Never Rains, But It Pours


Yesterday, we lost my brother-in-law, Rob.  As my mother told me yesterday, it’s been a tough month.

Rob was a very cool guy, married to Becky’s older sister.  He and Carolyn were simply made for each other.  They struck me as relics from the 60s, still carrying the values of the youth of that era.  Anyone who knows me well, knows that for a long time I felt like I was temporally misplaced, and should’ve been a contributing member of the latter part of that decade.  As it was, I was just turning six at the dawn of the 70s, and so only read about that era.  To me, Rob and Carolyn brought that decade alive for me every time we saw them.

Rob was a hyper-distance runner, and man do I wish I’d talked with him about that!  As I continue to struggle through learning how to run and how to enjoy it, I’d love to have picked his brain around his running regimen, and how he kept motivated to do it.  If you search the internet, you’ll find records of him running from 50km to almost 200km in events through the midwest.  That’s amazing, especially to a big ol’ guy that looks at 5km as a big deal.

He was a gentle man, and a very unique guy in a world that needs more unique in it.

Run, Gutdayzke, run.