Friday, October 29, 2004

October Running

Since I didn't blog much in October I thought I would use this post to reflect on this month’s running which included trails, boardwalk and beach. I celebrated wrapping up another Haverford Township Day with a long, leisurely run through the neighborhood. The next Friday (the 8th) I had a very pleasant trail run – woods still green in that getting ready for fall mode. Early Saturday I headed down the shore. Once in Ventnor and after letting my dog Max have a run on the beach I ran south on the beach from Ventnor to Longport. It was two quite different runs - wooded trail and beach sand. But they have in common that they connect me to nature in way my street runs can’t. Perhaps because they are changes from my normal routine, perhaps I just find them more relaxing, but these runs just seem to fly by. There are only a few people about and many of the homes are already boarded up for winter. The last mile I take off my shoes and run thru the surf. The water feels good and before leaving I venture out and let the waves crash over me – I’ll be chilled going back to the house but it will be worth it.

The next morning I am out for a long run (three hours). I trot to the end of the boardwalk turn and head north toward Atlantic City. I kinda like the boardwalk. Not too crowded on this October morning. You get to look out at the Ocean at least until Atlantic City. AC is as downtrodden and bedraggled as I found it last year with the added bonus that the striking casino workers are picketing. Not sure why since there seems to be almost no one on the boardwalk. The boardwalk continues past the casinos. A portion is closed too rickety even for foot traffic. There are dozens of people fishing and it seems a chummy community. They are the first people to greet me with hellos. The boardwalk ends and I venture only a little farther into the marina area before turning back. The advantage of the boardwalk is that there are some public restrooms and water fountains. The strikers are a little more organized on my way back and are chanting and drumming as I pass. One striker even calls out some encouragement to me. (Later I was to read a judge issued an injunction limiting the noise they make – who exactly were they bothering, the seagulls). I get back to Ventnor sooner than I expected so I make my way down to the beach. Although I am very tired the last miles are a delight and though it is cloudy and cool I can’t resist another dip – probably the last of the season.

Today I did my Friday Trail Run. Yesterday had been beautiful – the trees seem to be at their peak. I forgot that this close to the clock change how dark it would be early morning. Fortunately, I know the trail well enough that running in the dark woods is not a problem (but you Ultras that run trails at night – wow!). I’m a little nervous at the first creek crossing but I get over without falling in. The woods are extremely quiet. Instead of the chorus of birds you hear in spring there is only an occasional cry. Twice I hear deer but I only catch of glimpse of white tail. There is a stump on the trail. It’s about eight feet high, jagged and knurled – it broke in some storm years ago. I have passed it dozens of times. But in this morning’s gloom as I round the curve and encounter it, it seems like some wood troll out of time past and, momentarily, I hesitate to run toward him as a cold chill runs up my spine. Yo I was born in the 2oth and will die the 21st there are no trolls. No trolls. No trolls. I murmur my chant as I run past. I am almost 45 minutes into the run before this cloudy morning gives some color to the trees. But what color. I am surrounded by reds, oranges, yellows, golds of all shades and varieties. Perhaps some evolutionary psychologist could tell me why the colors are so pleasing. Don’t they harbinger death? Yet they are splendid. I look carefully for my turn – the trail I’ve chosen is narrow and hidden – easy to miss even in full light. But find it I do and carefully over another stream I make my way up to Ridley and then back down along the stream. The return trip will include a long uphill climb. From the ridge I look across a valley to a gorgeous tableau of trees in full color even in the cloudy light. The fresh leaf litter is pleasant to run thru and I get to see what I missed on my way in. Tall tulips trees their trunks almost black are headed with crowns of gold. I feel I should round up people and say take the day off go see the trees.

October has been cool and cloudy but I have had some great runs. Hope you have too.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Army Ten Miler

It's been a month without a posting. I did some nice runs in October but no racing, but Sunday, October 24th, I did the Army Ten Miler.

First my whines:

It is never fair to compare one race to another but I can’t help comparing this race with the Marine Corps Marathon.

I hate to admit it but the Marines simply do a better job. The Ten Miler is in its twentieth year - shouldn’t it be bettered organized?

For a race with 20,000 runners the Expo was disappointing. There were less vendors than at Broad Street a smaller race.

My biggest gripe? What was with the baggage check? It has to be the worst setup I have ever encountered. They don’t want to check regular bags – fair enough. I understand there are special security concerns in this race. But then why not give us the clear plastic bags at the number pick up – use that bag to give you the number, etc.

The baggage check was impossible to find. I know it wasn’t just me because I encountered other frustrated runners. A little signage would have gone a long way.
Telling me to go to E street was useless. Why the baggage check wasn’t in the secure area where runners finish the race was a complete mystery. Instead you have skip the food/water or stand around wet, shivering. I grabbed a water and went to the baggage area where there was complete chaos. Instead of an orderly line, people were standing around like the floor of the stock exchange holding up their number and yelling. Then bags were tossed out. One problem is that the numbers are based on approximate finished times. So all the runners in a particular number range hit their section at the same time. So everyone is at the green section and no one is at the blue.

And someone told me it was worst last year!

Metro: The trains were on a Sunday Schedule. (They delayed the start because don’t cha know the trains are running late – dud). The Pentagon stop was closed. Again security. Unfortunately, no one told our operator. Everyone got off at the Pentagon. Then realized it was closed. The operator did wait until everyone reloaded but another unnecessary annoyance. Post race, coming back – there is one turnstile open. Hundreds streaming down into the station. How difficult would it have been to say this isn’t like other Sundays and open additional turnstiles?

Waited almost twenty minutes for a train (had just missed one because of the crush getting in). Of course it was packed (which did lead to a funny moment – some one said make like it’s Tokyo – only in a military crowd and priceless for someone like myself who lived in Tokyo.)

And as long as I’m being picky and whining. They gave a medal – fine I didn’t expect anything for a ten miler (although it was a twentieth anniversary) but if your going to do a medal put it on a ribbon for crying out loud – and why the heck was it made in China. No one in America makes medals?

OK - finish whining now a race report:

Seems I have run an awful lot of races in the rain this year. I got up at 5:30 and the ground was dry, but when I left the hotel at six a steady drizzle was falling. It would rain off and on all morning.

Your bib color seeds you at the start. Green put me near the front about two minutes from the start line. I was afraid I was too far forward and stood at the tail end of the greed section. I probably should have started a little further forward since in a big race my pace tends to be set by those around me. As it turned out the crowd made it hard to get a smooth pace especially since there seemed to be a lot of slow runners in front of me. A cannon shot started the race and several vollies followed. One of my images is a dog handler trying to calm her large German Shephard spooked by the cannon shots. The first mile took about 8:15 which turned out close to my net average (8:14). Disappointing because I had planned on eight minute miles. I felt comfortable (in hindsight probably too comfortable). Didn’t seem to be passed a lot and passed a lot of people in the first couple of miles so I think I thought I was going faster then I was. The course goes over Memorial Bridge, and in back of the Lincoln Memorial. There is construction work here that appears related to preventing vehicles from getting near the Memorial. This section of Washington is Foggy Bottom and the couse passes theWatergate complex where you circle back, running along side the Potomac. I chose the inner path which took me underneath the overhang of Kennedy Center.

I had a very slow mile four – no reason that I can think of (it is a hill but not particular steep) but I think that 9 minute mile just ripped any chance for an 80 minute run.

The course then wines toward Independence Avenue. The Washington Monument is prominent - at first it seems to be on your right but you actually pass on the left. Mostly park here. On Indepence you past the backs of the various Smithsonian Buildings.

You really don’t get to see much – circling the Watergate complex is blah and the river views behind the Kennedy center while nice are nothing special. On Independence Avenue you are really seeing the backs of the Smithsonian Buildings. And the boring fa├žade of Dept. of Agriculture (how darn big is that agency and what do all those bureaucrats do?).

You see the runners ahead of you coming up Independence and well on their way to the finish. Later, you get to see the thousands of runners still well behind you as you enter those last two miles.

I remembered the 14th Street Bridge well from Marine Corps. It’s a point in the marathon where runners are really struggling; many are walking and trying to stretch out. I passed a road marking that noted "35K Marine Corps". In the marathon you still have more than four miles to go. But today less than a mile left. Almost everyone is ratcheting it up a notch. I have a great last half mile. I didn’t expect the finish line to be so close when you make that final turn but enjoyed the final sprint.

It’s been on my to do list for awhile but now that it’s crossed off I don’t think I would do it again.

Stats: Place 3258 Males 2697 Age Group 52 of 338 Clock 1:24:45 Chip: 1:22:21