Tag Archives: racing

Some Days, The Bull Gets You

That was part of one of the many sayings I can remember my father repeating when I was young:  Some days, you get the bull.  Some days, the bull gets you.

This weekend the bull got me.

I left for Olathe on Friday, feeling good, and expecting nothing but a good result at the Garmin Half Marathon.  And while I knew I wasn’t gonna set any land-speed records, I just ran two half in February, and got through them.  The weather was shaping up to my in my sweet spot — cool, and possibly some rain.

What could go wrong?

As I often do, I put a little gastrotourism on the docket for my travels, and Friday’s event was Taco John’s in Odessa.  I remember Taco John’s from my time in Nebraska, and when someone at work reminded me that there was one along my path, I knew I needed to stop.

I ordered a simple meal — a couple of tacos and refried beans — and once I had my tray at the table, I dug in.  I’d forgotten that TJ’s meat was a little more like a chili, with a mushy consistency.  It was really tasty, but the first TJ’s I’d had in at least twenty years reminded me why I prefer Taco Bell in the “fast food gut bomb taco” category.

While I sat and ate, “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry came over the speakers, and as it always does, I was taken back to when I was first diagnosed with cancer.  That song was big at the time, and it was so very meaningful to me.  At the time, we didn’t know the details of what I had, and what the future would hold.  Y’all already know that story, and how it ended, but this was an unusually poignant moment in what was supposed to be a big, positive weekend.

I eventually got checked into the hotel, picked up my packet from the expo, and played the part of a hermit in my room, relaxing, and getting things ready for Saturday.

Early in the morning, the alarm went off, and I began to get ready for the race.  Looking at the weather, we were gonna miss the rain, and temps were up just a bit to the high 40s, making this a “shorts” day, instead of running pants.  This was shaping up to be a nice morning.

Walking from the hotel to the start/finish line, I chatted with a bunch of folks, and discovered that the race start was delayed by at least fifteen minutes.  Apparently, there were a lot of folks still trying to get to the site, and the race committee wanted to let them get in for the race start.

After some nervous waiting, we grouped up, sang the Star Spangled Banner, and with a cannon’s blast, we were off!

I felt really good.  The opening of the race was slightly downhill, and I was keeping a nice pace as I started out from near the back of the pack.  I was trying to keep on a Galloway-like interval, and for the first mile or so, that went reasonably well.  The rolling hills began to get the better of me, and I slowed down, but to consistent, comfortable pace, and expected to be there for the rest of the race.

When I run, I play with the math of my run in my head.  Since I’m usually near the back, there’s not too many people with which to chat, so math is my running buddy.  At the first water stop (a little over two miles in), I took a look at my watch, and saw that my kilometer splits were off by quite a bit.

I didn’t panic, but I knew that this was shaping up to be another long day — like those in February’s halfs.  I trudged on, finding another another water stop around five miles in, and by now, I began to realize I was in trouble.  My splits were slowing, and I was feeling some wear and tear.

The aid station at mile five was at the top of a small hill.  After a quick break, and a chat with my police escort, I started down the hill, and I could feel something painful in my right knee.  I’ve been nursemaiding my left knee for months, but this was new.  I tried to keep putting one foot in front of the other, but it was now painfully obvious that this day was not going my way.

My first 5km was pretty average for me; by the time I got to the six mile point, that second 5k was shaping up to be nearly half-again  longer than the first.  I’d gone just shy of 10km, and was already thirty minutes slower than my worst 10k.

I cried uncle.

I’d been trying to actively compensate for my right knee since that stop at mile five, which was causing pain in my left knee and hips.  Given the way my times dropped off so badly after 5km, I was likely already developing a problem then.  I don’t know if I could’ve finished, but had I tried that, I’m highly convinced I would’ve injured myself even more, and it just wasn’t worth the risk.

I took a ride in a volunteer vehicle back to the hotel.  As it ends up, that was just what I needed.  I was really beaten, and the couple inside and I had a lot in common:  hams, berners and hockey.  It was a nice “keep my mind off it” ride…

Until I handed my bib over to the folks in my rescue ride, sealing my DNF.  That was tough.

I went straight to my room, thought over what had just happened, and showered, trying to put it all behind me.  As part of this trip, and another leg of my gastrotourism, I’d planned to go to Runza.  I wasn’t gonna let this struggle on-course take that away from me!

Runza is based in Nebraska, and the nearest ones are just across the border in western Kansas.  Whenever I’m out that direction, I try to stop in, and get one.  I had a cheese Runza, and an order of onion rings.  I was in heaven.  I probably could’ve eaten two, but that would’ve been pushing it, and I didn’t want to add gastronomical distress to my list of maladies on the day.

Back at the hotel, I dozed off and on, watching some TV, and finally went to bed, knowing I’d have an early start today.  After an early rise, I zipped across the state — it’s about four hours from Olathe to Da Lou — and am home, and happy to be here.

So were there lessons from the weekend?

Firstly, a big tip of the hat to the folks at Fleet Feet.  If you remember my halfs in February, I blistered on the bottom of my left foot quite badly.  I talked with them, and they suggested RunGuard, which is basically a beeswax-feeling substance that you smear all over the bottom of your feet.  I was skeptical, but it really worked.  I had no blistering at all, which is a huge improvement!

I also learned that it’s ok to listen to your body, and stop when it makes sense.  A medal is simply not worth doing longer term damage.

I also thought long and hard about the longer distance work I’ve been trying lately.  While I had two extraordinary days in February, it’s become pretty obvious that I’m not really quite ready to tackle 20+km with any expectation of success.  Not yet, anyway.  On any given day, I might make it, or I might not, and I’m not a fan of that.  Typically, when I run, I’m racing against me, not against finishing.

And frankly, that’s taking the fun out of it for me.  I’ve been so focused on finishing these long races, I’ve forgotten what made this sport so much fun.  It’s time to return to my roots, and focus on 5k and 10k distances for a while.  I’m hopeful this will help me work out my mechanics, perhaps get a little faster, and begin to enjoy this great sport again.

It’s also been suggested that I should take my bike out.  I think this is great advice, and something different for cross-training.  The bridge crossing from the Chesterfield Valley to the Katy Trail has been open for over a year, and I haven’t yet taken my Kona across it.  With the warmer weather being here, it’s time to return to the Katy, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than to ride there from the Valley.

Needless to say, this will put some big ol’ dents in my running plans for this year.  I have three half marathons (one in two weeks) and a triathlon scheduled for this year.  At this point, I’d put all that in the “maybe” category.

Normally, I’d guess someone could get pretty down about that change.  These were big race events, after all!  I prefer to look at it this way.  I did some monster things in 2016 and early 2017, and I will again, but it’s time to put the fun back in my running, focus on getting healthy, and work my way back to those kinds of races, with knowledge that I will finish those races when I’m ready to tackle them again, and not have the question of “finishing” in my head.



#158/#159 – Route 66 5K and Fun Run

Yesterday, I motored into Tulsa for a weekend of Route 66 races.  However, before racing, I had some work to do.

I got into town around lunchtime, got checked into the hotel (painless!), and walked to the Cox Business Center, where the expo was being held.

First stop, the volunteer checkin table.  This is the second year I’ve volunteered at the expo, and I really enjoy it.  The folks at Route 66 really make it attractive too — for volunteering, you get a medal that’s as big as the 5K medal.  That’s a huge incentive, and I’m sure that makes it easy for them to attract the almost 2000 volunteers that make the race happen.

After getting checked in, I went to pick up my bibs.  Last year, this was a real challenge.  I volunteered there last year, and I was a whirling dervish, running up and down the boxes of bibs, finding folks’ bibs.  This year, they had separate kiosks broken up by bib number.  In my case I had to stop three times to get my three bibs, but it really worked sooooo much better!

Next stop was my stint was at the Fan Zone table.  We helped folks make signs to cheer on their runners — or strangers!  In fairness, there weren’t very many people in the expo at that time, so it was pretty slow.  After six hours of driving and three hours of being on my feet, I was ready to be done.

But, I wasn’t done yet.

For the second year, I participated in the Blogger’s Forum.  This is always an odd thing for me.  I’m just a guy who writes what’s in his head, tries to write like I speak, and do my best to keep things positive.  Last year and this, there were big-traffic bloggers sharing the stage with me.  And they’re pros, knowing how to market themselves and their art — there’s nothing wrong with that! — and there I am talking about this crazy little blog that gets a small amount of traffic.  And just like that, something cool happens…

Man, that just makes it all worthwhile!  I met Jeremy after the panel, when he told me he was gonna run the half next year because of what I talked about.  Put that medals aside, that’s the real reward from this weekend’s events.  I’m still blown away!

(Guess I’ll have to come back next year, and cheer Jeremy on!)

I walked back to the hotel after the panel, having all my non-race obligations completed, and started to think about dinner.  This is when I discovered that the hotel doesn’t have room service.  🙁  However, I saw a place that deals in Coney dogs on my walk back.  I’m a sucker for a good dog, so I crossed the street, and walked in.

From what I’d read on Yelp, the right way to do this was to order three of ’em, so I did.  I got them back to the hotel, and they were crazy good.  Their version of chili is a little different than mine, but that’s ok with me!

Fast-forward to this morning, and it was oddly, all nerves again.  This is the third time I’ve run the 5k here, and I know it is a hilly mess, but for some reason, those hills had me nervous.  I pulled up my big-boy underpants, girded my loins, and headed out to the start line.

For a change, I didn’t get to the start line too terribly early (I’m only two blocks away), and didn’t have to wait in the cold too long.  It was 32°, and I was using today to figure out what I needed to wear tomorrow.  As it ends up, I was able to do shorts, and be very comfy, so that bodes well for tomorrow.

After a short wait, the gun fired, and we were on our way.  This race has a few really big hills in it, and the first is less than a kilometer in.  I trotted up it like I owned it, enjoying the view of almost 2000 runners on the course.  About two kilometers in, my calves started barking pretty hard — the worst in quite a while.  (More on that later.)  Around 4km in, my legs were doing pretty well, and from there, it’s downhill and then flat.  I was in the home stretch, and pretty quickly had the finish line in site.

The Fun Run starts about an hour after the 5k starts, so I bypassed the treats and goodies at the end of the race, and found my way over to the starting line once again.  This crowd was much smaller — both in numbers and stature.  There are a ton of kids that run in this race, and it’s just a hoot to see them tackle this.  Some of them make it, some get carried by a parent, but it’s a great, positive experience, and with them all getting medals and high-fives from costumed mascots, it’s something they’ll never forget.

Two Medals, Two Beers
Two Medals, Two Beers

By the time the Fun Run is over, all the food lines for the 5k are really gone, so I ended up with just a couple of sacks of cashews.  However, the beer truck was still serving, and I had four coupons (two from each bib).  I turned in my first two, found a bench, and started drinking my Michelob Ultra’s.  I chatted with some other finisher’s, each of us slowly putting down our brews.

I’d asked one of the locals where they’d suggest to go for lunch.  They rapidly came up with Caz’s Chowhouse, telling me it was comfort food.  That sounded great, so I stood up… and found that my right calf was so tight that I could barely walk.  I hobbled along, roughly in the direction of the Caz’s, and found that it got loosened up the farther I walked, so that was a good thing.

I got to the restaurant, and asked the guy setting up the chairs for outside seating about when they opened.  When I found out it was just about twenty minutes away, I decided to wait it out.  I asked about the menu, and he told me about something called The Big Nasty.  The more he described it, the better it sounded… and then the phrase “chicken-fried bacon” fell out of his mouth.  I was sold!  The manager invited me in for a cup of coffee and to warm up, so I sat at the bar drinking my cuppa joe, and chit-chatted with her and her staff.  As it ends up, she was from Knoxville, and a big UT fan.  Perfect!

The Big Nasty
The Big Nasty

Once they officially opened, I found a table, sat down, and ordered a root beer, the Big Nasty and some fried okra.  That, my friends, is comfort food.  While I knew that this was described as being laid atop a “cat’s head” biscuit, I didn’t realize the cat they were talking about was a tiger!  That biscuit was easily 6″ in diameter, and served open-faced, it was the foundation to a load of cheese fries, a piece of chicken friend steak slathered in gravy, two eggs over medium, and couple of slices of chicken-friend bacon.  I’ve had a lot of really, really good things on my travels for these crazy races, but that by far is the best, most unique thing I’ve encountered.  And it kicked my butt.  I got through about half of it before feeling like I was gonna explode.  I was told that I did pretty well with getting that far.  🙂

And as I exited Caz’s, I thought I had a couple of blocks yet to walk to the hotel, but I quickly saw that the front door of Caz’s was cattycorner from the back entrance of the hotel.  Beauty.

So, in all a really good couple of days, but I’ve gotta admit, the tight calf is really worrying me for tomorrow.  I don’t know if it was the cold, or if I overdid something on the hills, but something different happened today, and that’s unusual for me nowadays on 5K’s.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s attempt at the half marathon!!!

Race Courses

#153 – Mo’ Cowbell 5k

5kmYesterday was my fourth running in the Mo’ Cowbell in St. Charles (last year’s race was EIGHTY-SEVEN races ago!!!).  This race is a favorite of mine for a lot of reasons.

It’s flat.  It’s fun.  It’s fast.  So there.  🙂

I got up super early, got my usual breakfast (half an English muffin, toasted, with peanut butter), stopped at Dunkin Donuts for a cuppa joe, and headed toward St. Charles.  There’s always a ton of traffic on I-70 dropping into St. Chuck for this race, but I’ve learned some back ways to scoot in, so I had little traffic to deal with.  Part of that is that I also elect to park at Ameristar, and walk a mile to the race site.  It’s a great warm up before the race, and cool down afterward.

This year, the weather was amazing, right at 60° at the start of the race.  The last three years, it’s been much cooler, prompting longer sleeves and legs.  This year, it was shorts and a running shirt, which is ideal for me!

Like previous years, the event kicked off with “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, and 5000 of us clanging our cowbells in rhythm (more or less!).  It’s a sight not to be missed!

The marathoners kicked off at 7:30am, and while I knew a couple of folks in the throng — one of whom ran his first-ever marathon this weekend! — I didn’t see any one I recognized.  I cheered ’em on, and waited for our 5K to start at 8:00am.

It came quick enough, and I got on course at my running pace.  The first hill (and really, the only hill of any significance) came about half a kilometer in, and I chugged right up it, slowing to a walk to catch my breath a bit at the top.  I remember thinking how quickly we’d gotten to the hill.  And that was the theme throughout the whole race.  I don’t know if it’s my comfort with this distance or this race, but either way, the race seemed to fly by.

Not Quite Flying
Not Quite Flying

I got out on the street, headed toward the turnaround, and saw a co-worker on the way back in from the turnaround.  A quick high-five, and I was left to my race again.  After making the turnaround, we headed for the Katy Trail, paralleling the river.  I enjoy this part of the race, as it’s crushed limestone, so a little easier on the knees, but it’s also beautiful, with loads of trees around.

Soon enough, I could see the finish line, and like I’ve done lately, I’ve tried to be photogenic, and kick in some hustle for the finish line photographers.  While I didn’t have a “flying” shot this race, I came pretty close.

And I did pretty well in the race.  Last year, I was a skosh over 45min (a PR for me at the time), and this year, I was a skosh under 50min.  That’s kinda my bar for a “good race” anymore, and I was pleased to just be under it.  Yeah, there were places I coulda run more, and added a little speed, but it was wonderful to just go out, and enjoy the surroundings, the nice weather, and commune with so many other runners!

This race benefitted the Boys and Girls Clubs of St. Charles County.

Race Course

#147 – District 10K Run

Full disclosure… This is a story in two parts!

Saturday morning, the weather was glorious.  Becky and Bailey got up about 4:15am to head toward Columbia for a barn hunt competition, so I was left to start my morning slowly, albeit very early.  They got on the road, and I got my breakfast on, watching the opening matches of the new Barclay’s Premiere League season.

After dallying about for far too long, I started to get gussied up for a run.  I noticed that my Garmin had an update waiting, so I let it apply, and headed out.

I’d decided to run on the Monarch Chesterfield Levee.  This is the levee that, in theory, protects much of the Chesterfield Valley from the flood waters that area is prone to.  It wasn’t lost on me that the Great Flood of 1993 would’ve had waters above my head as I stood atop that mound.

I pulled in, and the weather was perfect — cloudy and about 74°.  I rolled out of the Jeep, stretched, and walked up the access path to the top of the levee.  This was the first time I’d run atop the levee, and as expected, it was very flat as it wended along the banks of the water.  I saw loads of wildlife — egrets, blue heron and turkey vultures who circled as though awaiting me to keel over.

I’d intended to run intervals, and set my Garmin to :15/:30 run/walk timing, and took off.  As I motored along, I kept noticing my times were pretty awful.  Now, everyone I’ve seen talk about intervals has said their times are faster when they run intervals.  I sure wasn’t seeing it, so a little ways into my run, I turned that feature off, thinking it was slowing me down.

Well… remember the Garmin update?  As part of the update, it had changed the default units on my watch from kilometers to miles, so all my pace numbers were based on the wrong unit, making it look like I was 60% slower than I should’ve been.  When I saw the first kilometer alert pop up, indicating I’d travelled 0.62 “units”, it was obvious what had happened.  Good ol’ updates.  🙂

The farther I got into the trail, the farther I wanted to take it.  It was that whole “I’ll go to the next power pole” ideology, and eventually I found myself at Baxter Road.  I caught my breath for a minute, looked at my Garmin, and I saw that I was lining up a 4-point-something-mile journey for today.  Cool!

And then I noticed the heat.

I was looking at the area so much, I hadn’t noticed that the clouds were starting to clear, and temperature was rising.  As I’ve mentioned many times, I melt in the heat, and this outing was looking to end on a very toasty, melty note,  And as excited as I was to see what was around each new bend in the trail on the way out, I was hoping against hope that each bend on the way back would have my Jeep in sight!

I finally saw the Lil’ Red Rubicon, and made it back, melty, but successful — and saw that it was now 85°.  And with that foundational run, I intended to go out later in the day and finish up this 10k event.  Little did I know that my evening plans would be interrupted by something totally unexpected…

What interrupted our author’s evening running plans?  Did he get his extra miles in?  What would the beautiful state of Montana have to do with anything?  Return tomorrow to hear how our intrepid hero finished his race… 

This event benefitted Action Against Hunger.

Race Course

#137 – We Run for Flint 5k

5kmYesterday, I woke to the news from Orlando, and yet another apparent reminder that evil lives among us.  I needed to put some miles under my feet, and put this out of my mind for a while.

I’d had this event on my calendar for a while.  I love running topical events, especially when there’s a charitable leg to them.  There’s something about looking at my medal shelf, and seeing reminders of not just my successes, but also events in the public eye.  This race, of course, brings focus to the awful situation in Flint MI.

Once again, it was hot.  There was some promise of pop-up thunderstorms with the heat, so I waited as long as I could before finally heading out into the neighborhood around 7pm.  The rain never came, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  It was hot, and I was well on the path to becoming a puddle.

I took the same route as I used on Friday.  I’m growing to like it.  There’s just enough shade to make these sweltering days a little more bearable, and the distance is just about exactly what I need for a 5km distance.

Much like Friday night, there was nothing spectacular about my walk.  However, I did a lot of reflection on the day’s events, and tried to get my head around why something as senseless as a massacre could happen in the city of my birth.

This event benefitted the Catholic Charities of Flint.

Race Course

#127 – MoDOT Work Zone 5K

5kmSaturday, I ran the MoDOT Work Zone 5K in Chesterfield.  I ran this race for the first time last year, and enjoyed it.  Like last year, this was a small race, with decent medals, really cheap entry fee, and a course that isn’t used on any other race I run… All good things!

Ready for the Start!
Ready for the Start!

We started with a cool morning — about 50° or so — and just milled about until time for the race to start.  I saw a co-worker of mine, and chit-chatted about how slow we were gonna be… and then he passed me on the first turn!  🙂

Since I’d run this course last year, I knew there were pretty decent hills on the course.  I vowed to chug up the first one, and was able to do that much easier than I remembered from last year.  I got my water at the halfway point, ran down the hill I’d just climbed, and then climbed the last hill heading toward the finish.


Me and My Buddy
Me and My Buddy

And as I got pretty close to the finish, I spied Darla, cheering me on with Roxy in tow.  I was stunned by this, and ran over to get a puppy-snuggle on my way to the finish line.  I finished the race, and found them again.  Roxy was an absolute doll, and was friendly with everyone she met.  Lotsa puppy kisses given out!

I did two things different — something you’re never supposed to do on race day!  I fueled a little differently.  When I was at Fleet Feet Friday, picking up my packet, it was time to re-stock my cache of Sport Beans, and I decided to shake things up a bit.  I’ve been wanting to get some honey into my races, and while I didn’t find honey, I didn’t find some Honey Stinger Waffles.  These are little flat wafers, with a moist consistency to them.  I talked with the salesperson, and found that she uses those right before the race starts.  I figured this was an out-and-back shortish race, so I’d give it a try.

The other new thing I tried was Gu Chews.  Now, I’ve gotta tell ya, I had good results using Gu packets last year, but the stickiness and consistency kinda caught up with me, and I stopped using them.  These were packets of four chews — about the size of a hotel in Monopoly — and were easy to deal with, and quick to down.  Did they do me any good?  Well, I don’t know, but my time sure was good!

Me and Barrel Bob
Me and Barrel Bob

And how good, you might ask?  Well, last year’s race was 55 weeks ago (a little later start this year), and 101 races ago.  Using the time from my Garmin (this race uses clock time for official time, so that’s a little inconsistent for me), I knocked almost five minutes off my time. FIVE MINUTES!  That’s a huge improvement across a year’s span!

So how’d I decrease so much?  Well, the story’s in the splits.  My first kilometer was almost the same between the two races — 8:36.8 vs 8:35.6, a negligible difference.  The last kilometer was pretty similar too — 8:41.6 last year, and 8:21.5 this year.  The real tale is in the middle.

Last year, kilometer 2, 3, and 4 were 10:27, 11:23, and 12:00.  This is were all the hills are on this course, and while they’re not particular steep, they are long.  This year, those same three km were 9:02, 9:36 and 10:40, which were vast improvements.

I was really pleased with my performance on this race.  What’s goofy is that I didn’t really feel like I did all that well, but some reflection has definitely spun my opinion.  Glad I was out there!

Race Course

#121 – Undy Run/Walk 5k

5kmIt’s that time of year.  It’s time for the undies to fly.

Yesterday was my fifth Undy race.  I’ve been running these every since I was diagnosed with colon cancer in December 2011.  Only three months after successful surgery to cure me, I ran my first Undy, still sporting bandages from my surgeries.  And I’ve run and fundraised every year since.

This year, the event felt a little smaller to me.  The MC announced that there were 1500 runners and walkers, 250 of which were fundraisers.  Our event in Da Lou has historically been one of the largest in the country, and this year, it raised over $130,000 for the Colon Cancer Alliance.  I’m always thrilled to be a part of those numbers, and I couldn’t do it without the generosity of family and friends that support my Undy races.  This year, y’all helped me raise $750 for the cause, which put me just outside the top ten individual fundraisers in Da Lou.  THANKS!

The other thing I noticed this year was a much larger number of kids, strollers and dogs.  Pre-race, I petted every dog I could (that’s one of my race rules!), and tried not to get tripped up by kids underfoot, or run over by strollers.  Once we got on course, this wasn’t too bad, but in the expo area, this was a bit challenging.

We all took a moment of silence for those that’ve been taken by this disease, and I said a quick prayer of thanksgiving for my situation, and the fact that I could be out there, helping others.  We were quickly routed to the staging area, and after a little crush just before the starting gun, we were off.

Anyone who’s read my rambling about my rambling knows my feelings about running in Forest Park.  It’s just not my cup of tea.  The park is beautiful, and early on a Saturday morning, it’s quiet and peaceful, even with 1500 runners traipsing through it.  However, it’s a tough surface, with lots of breaks in the pavement, places where the crosswalks are made pretty by use of uneven bricks (which I *hate* to run atop), and the occasional pothole where the surface material changes.  It’s just hard for me to enjoy the run when I’m having to watch my footing so closely.  However, the new shoes did really well, so that’s a plus!

One nice thing the race organizers have done is starting and finishing the race at the lower Muny lot, rather than the upper lot.  Using the upper lot means the last half kilometer of the race is a big, big uphill climb.  Construction in the upper lot last year drove the race to the lower lot, and I was glad to see that course used again this year.  It’s a huge difference, and keeps the last part of the race from being so draining.

While watching my footing, I ran a reasonable race, tackling the rolling hills when needed, and enjoying the folks around me.  That’s probably the nicest thing about this race.  Most of us are out there for the same cause.  Everyone you bump into is either a survivor, patient, family memory, or care provider, and they’ve each got their story to tell.

I finished up, and hung around for the survivors’ ceremony.  There were 71 of us running in the race, and after a medal ceremony for each of us, we gathered for a group photo.  I’m always so uncomfortable with this part of day.  I know my story is inspiring, and may help someone someday, but having so many people focus, photographing and cheering… well, it’s a little overwhelming.  Good thing I was wearing sunglasses.  🙂

This race benefitted the Colon Cancer Alliance.

Race Course

#117 – Classic 150 5K

5kmLast weekend, I returned to Chattanooga, planning to run the inaugural edition of the Classic 150 5k and the Chattanooga Half Marathon.  Little did I know that my weekend was gonna have a sudden left turn.
Unfortunately, I’d been sick for the two weeks since Gasparilla.  I think the snow-surf-snow escapades just before and just after the trip did me.  It was head cold city, and no running before heading home to Choo Choo town.

Biscuit and Fried Green 'Maters
Biscuit and Fried Green ‘Maters

I rolled into town on Friday, staying in the brand new Holiday Inn downtown.  While this wasn’t adjacent t0 the race site — my usual M.O. — it was wonderful, and so very nice.  I relaxed, and set about looking for some dinner.  I looked at the map, and found a place called Maple Street Biscuits that was within walking distance.  I strolled down for dinner, and had a scrumptious biscuit, filled with fried chicken breast meat, bacon, and slathered in maple syrup.  On the side, I had fried green tomatoes, with housemade pepper jelly.  Wow, was that ever great!!!  I had a chat with one of the owners, talking about their coffee.  They have a deal with Red Leaf Roasters, brining them several kinds of custom roasted coffee.  I had the maple infused coffee, and fell in love, grabbing a sack to bring back to Da Lou.

Strolling around downtown, I was struck by just how much Da Noog has grown since I left it in the mid-90s.  In those days, when the workday was over, the sidewalks rolled up, and the city was largely vacant until Monday morning.  Now, it’s vibrant, with theaters, a huge cycling community, and the fastest internet to the house on the face of the earth.  (Ok, maybe just North America.)

I got up early on Saturday, and drove down to Finley Stadium.  Finley was also the site of the race in Chattanooga in February 2014, although in that race, we started and finished on the football field.  Not so, this go around!  Parking was at premium, but I was early enough to have no real issue.


I found some coffee, slurped it down, and got into the starting corral.  Time always seems to inch forward in the corrals, but soon enough, the start came, and I started chugging down the road.  The course was astonishingly flat given that this race was in Chattanooga, and with that flatness came some speed.  I ran through the south side neighborhoods and business district, and pretty quickly found myself back at the finish.  It was the fastest time I’d had since October, and I was thrilled.

There was a kids race shortly after the finish, and I hung around for a bit, waiting for that to start so I could head towards The Mountain on re-opened roads after the close of the day’s events.  Mom ordered a pizza from Crust Pizza, and I played pizza delivery boy.  It was the first time I’d had their pie, and it was uber-tasty.  After a far-too-short visit on The Mountain, I headed back toward the hotel.

This was the first time I’d had my shoes off since the race, and I discovered that my blister area from Tampa was awfully aggravated, and I had a good-sized blood blister formed around the relatively new toenail that had sprouted from the black toenail event at Tulsa.  Once again, my feet were failing me, and I began to wonder if I had a shoe problem with my new Hoka’s.  And Sunday would be the half.  Ugh.

Dinner was at Maple Street Biscuits again, where I had the Squawking Goat — a biscuit, with fried chicken breast meat, a fried goat cheese medallion, all slathered in pepper jelly.  I wasn’t sure the jelly and cheese combination would work, but it was spectacular!

And the more I looked at my feet after I got back to my room, the more I questioned whether I should go out on the course Sunday for the half.

As it ends up, I elected not to risk it.  Both feet were in some discomfort before even starting, and I was pretty sure if I did the half, I’d be off the trails for a while, nursing what would surely be further aggravated injuries.  I called the front desk, made arrangements to check out, and hit the road.  And to add insult to injury, I got to watch the start of the marathon races from my hotel window, and subsequently saw runners on-course as I drove out of town.

So, it was a disappointing weekend in some ways.  I loved having the nice 5k finish, but I hated not even starting the half.  I really wanna embrace the half marathon distance, and run those with some regularity.  Until I get my shoe/foot situation squared away, that seems a long ways off.

Oh, and if you live in Cadiz KY, or were a worker or customer at the Marathon Gas Station on Sunday, I apologize.  If you were there, you know why.  Let’s just say there was a sack of Krystal’s involved.  🙂

Race Course

Race #81 – Rocky Run 5K

What a whirlwind weekend!

This weekend was the Rocky Run 5K in Philadelphia.  When I heard about this race, I couldn’t resist signing up for it, and putting on my best “Yo, Adrian!”

I’ve said before that I love road trips, and this was one of the sillier ones I’ve ever done.  Think of it as an 1850 mile out and back driving course, punctuated in the middle with a 5k out and back running course.  In fact, I only spent about seventeen hours in Philadelphia, while I spent about twenty-eight hours on the drive itself.

Leaving Thursday after work, I got to Philly late on Friday, and arrived at Lloyd Hall to pick up my packet with an hour or two to spare.  Frankly, I was surprised at the packet pickup.  It seems like many, many races I run have some kind of health expo at the packet pickup site.  It’s a chance to pick up things you forgot (like gloves, for me on this trip), as well as supplies like Gu and Sports Beans.  Here, it was packet pickup, and that was pretty much it.  It made things quick, though!

I got to the hotel after a little exercise in one way streets, was checked in, and landed squarely on the couch to rest a bit.  I flipped on the TV to find something silly to relax with.

And that’s when I heard about Paris.

I’ve bled myself off the news.  There’s so much awfulness in the world reported a 24×7 basis, and this incessant blast of bad news has had an awful impact on me.  So, I elected months ago not to watch the news (aside from CNBC — that’s just playing with numbers all day, and is entertaining to my inner math geek).  I don’t need to recount the atrocities that unfolded on Friday night, but needless to say, Paris was on my mind all night.

I got up early, and started my race morning routine, knowing that I had about a mile to walk to the race site.  I got dressed, and headed toward the Philadelphia Art Museum.

As usual, I arrived at the race site early, and got to watch the crowd filter in.  There were all kinds of Rocky’s, Hulk Hogan’s and other costumed characters showing up, all ready to take on the courses.  Folks milled around, while the DJ worked on getting everyone up for the race.


I knew I had to go over to the Museum, and take my picture with the big statue of Rocky.  It’s a pretty cool process.  You stand in line — about twenty folks deep when I showed up — and hand your camera to the person behind you in line, and they take your photo.  And this goes on and on until everyone’s done.  Pretty cool.

No Corral for Turtles?
No Corral for Turtles?

We started lining up for the 5k, by corrals.  And as we all stood there in our running gear, it was hard not to think of Paris, standing in one of America icon cities at a large event that could be thought of as a “soft target”.  That’s probably the first time I’ve ever felt a little nervous like that at a race.

We stood, and the singer began belting out the National Anthem.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard it sung so boldly.  And man, did he have some sustain!!!

After a couple of four minutes “waits” for waves to get off the line, my wave — the final one — finally got going.  And what a throng of folks!  There’ve been plenty of races I’ve done around here where the entire group of race participants didn’t equal the number of folks in my wave.  I couldn’t believe the mass of humanity in front of me as we took off.  In fact, starting eight minutes behind the leaders, we starting passing them on their way back just a few minutes into our run.  Normally, that’d be a little disheartening, but I was having a great race.

And in this race, I ran about 90% of course, which is big for me.  Something just clicked, and I found a great pace to hold through most of the course.  I hope that happens at Tulsa next weekend!

Some Surprise Encouragement
Some Surprise Encouragement

Just before the finish, I saw someone holding a sign saying “Way to Go Colin!”  I told her my name was Colin also, and I took a quick selfie.  The other Colin finished about 15 seconds ahead of me.

Post race, I was interviewed by a guy and his cameraman.  I have no idea where that video was gonna wind up, but they asked about the popularity of 5k’s in America, and whether the funds raised for the race beneficiary was a driver for me.  They were also quite amazed that I’d driven from Da Lou for the race.  If you see video that sounds like that, let me know!  🙂

And with 1850 miles of driving, I encountered some weird driving stuff.

In Ohio, I encountered a line of what we call out here “gang plows”.  This is when the snow plows stagger, lane by lane, pushing the snow from lane to lane at high speed.  I have no idea why these plows were out, but their blades were painted.  One had The Hulk, and others had other characters and scenes.

Also in Ohio, there was a highway information board touting the number of fatalities on the road this year.  The next screen on it said “Focus on driving”.  Kinda ironic, eh?

I’ve also figured out that the folks in Philly don’t know how to merge.  Every traffic delay I encountered either entering or leaving Philly had to do with the fine art of merging.  That was pretty ugly.

And lastly, I realized pretty quickly the the posted speed limit in work zones on the Pennsylvania Turnpike is really just a suggestion.  🙂

That's Heavy!
That’s Heavy!

So, it wasn’t a PR — although it was close — but it was a very successful trip and race.  I was really pleased with my run, and how close I came to running the whole distance.  What an amazing improvement over this season!

This race benefitted Special Olympics Philadelphia.

Race Course

Race #71 – Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K

In the second of my back-to-back downtown weekend runs, today I completed the Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K here in Da Lou.

This race started out with some crunky packet pickup woes.  For some reason, the folks that run the race only had the expo open on Friday from 1pm to 6pm, with no same-day packet pickup… for a race that started at 8am on Saturday.  To say the least, this was pretty inconvenient, given that I work for a living, and live about 30 miles away from America’s Center, where the expo was held.  However, knowing I wanted to get this one done, I took off from work a little early, drove to the train stop, and rode Metrolink into town.  The only nice thing about having to deal with this on Friday was that it allowed me the opportunity to pick up train tickets for this morning, and to fill up the Jeep in preparation for the race.

The clock went off this morning at 5:20, and I started my normal race day routine — big glass of water, and an English muffin with peanut butter and honey.  I’d gathered everything up last night that I’d need, and got on the road at 6am, knowing that I had two hours to get to the race site.

I arrived at the Brentwood Metro station, and waited for the train.  And waited.  And waited.  Eventually the train came, but only after I learned that there was track maintenance going on downtown, and that I would have to change trains in order to get there.  This made for some long delays, causing the other runners on the train to wonder if some runners conspired against us by sabotaging the train system so there’d be less competition!  🙂

I got in place in my corral just about 7:30, which was cutting it a little closer than I’d care for, and I awaited the start of the race.  I’d re-aggravated a minor foot injury this week, and with that in mind, I knew I was gonna take it easy today, so I went over my game plan for the day.  I was gonna walk a lot of the course to lower the potential for really tweaking my foot, and be happy with anything just above fifty minutes.

Sunrise on the Start Line
Sunrise on the Start Line

Quickly, the race start time approached, and just as the National Anthem began to play, folks began to move up in the corrals.  I stood still, hat over heart, and facing the flags around us.  I know this is the grumpy old man in me rearing his ugly head, but it really bothered me that folks weren’t respectful of the anthem and flag, and were walking around, chatting among themselves, and carrying on.  It wasn’t exactly like the recording was being played softly!

Once I got past my little grumpy event, the corrals started being released.  I was in the third (and slowest) corral, and got to watch the expanse of folks in the other two corrals ahead of me.  By the time we were released, people stretched for almost a kilometer, in a head-bobbing mass of running humanity.  Pretty dang cool to see.

I crossed the start line, and jogged as I started.  And with no pain in my foot, I kept jogging.  Quickly, the first kilometer was behind me, at just under nine-and-a-half minutes.  Not wanting to press my luck, I slowed to a walk for the second and third kilometers, each of which were around 10:30.  However, the landscape changed, and began to be mostly downhill as I headed to toward the river and finish line.  And with that slight downward incline, I kicked into a jog again, with my last two kilometers coming in at just a wiggle over nine minutes each.


I’d expected a slow race, and had prepared myself for something just over fifty minutes.  As it ends up, I cruised into a finish just under 49 minutes, which I was thrilled with.  I grabbed my medal, and started making my way through the “secure” runners area.

There were a couple of disappointments on the course.  First, the one and only water table was just before 4km into the race, which is far too late to be worth much.  The second was the availability of snacks at the finish line.  I had a bottle of water, a bag of pretzels and a banana by the time I’d walked through the line.  Frankly, that was a little disappointing, as I was really expecting chocolate milk at the finish.  The chocolate milk folks had a huge display at the expo, which led me to expect chocolate milk would be lying in wait at every corner.  Ah well.

A Year Ago - Race #17
A Year Ago – Race #17

What’s kinda interesting is that Facebook reminded me that a year ago, I was running the first of two back-to-back Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K’s.  It’s kinda nice to reflect on that race weekend, and contrast it against this one.  That was the first time I’d run two 5K’s back-to-back, and it was tough.  I suffered through that first race, finishing just barely under 51 minutes, and feeling lucky for that time.  The second 5K on Sunday was nearly ten minutes slower.

This year, I cruised through the course, finishing easily under 49 minutes.  And that coulda been much faster, had I not been taking it easy.  I’ve talked about this before, but I think plenty of practice this year has bred some real self-confidence.  By the time of the RnR last year, I’d only run nine races all year.  This year, the RnR was my 50th race of the year.  I’ve learned to be comfortable in my running skin, and know that I can do this.  I’ve figured out a nice pace that works well for me, and I’ve really gotten focused on making a race plan, and running that, regardless of the folks who pass me.  Shedding all that mental baggage has helped me enjoy running, and look forward to every run.  And yeah, it’s nice to see some improvement in my times, although that’s not really the goal!

This race benefitted Our Little Haven, TASK, and Unlimited Play.

Race Course