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The 2015 Boston Marathon Race Recap

That race sucked.

It’s my own fault.  I did everything that they say not to do.

I never should have raced the 20 mile trail run as hard as I did three weeks before Boston.  I probably left some of my hills ability out on the Naked Bavarian course.

They say don’t spend too much time on your feet at the expo.  I watched a guy run on a treadmill for about forty minutes.  Good for him, he broke the treadmill half marathon record.  Bad for my legs.

I did get to sit and watch two of the Runner’s World panels, which were fun.  Heroes of Running from the Pages of Runner’s World had scattered attendance, but interesting stories from the three men on stage (Bill Iffrig, the runner knocked down on Sport Illustrated’s cover, Ben Beach, the longest current Boston streak going, and David Clark, a man who was planning on running Boston 4 times – there and back and there and back).

After that, it was the treadmill record guy, where I caught up with Derek (and arranged post-race shower/gear situation), then the Legends of Boston panel, where I saw Amby (and five other Boston winners).  Amby was great – pulled me in for a big hug when I went to shake his hand, and said that he had seen me in the bathroom, but that I was “texting or skyping or vining something, and I didn’t want to interrupt”.  I was not shooting video in the bathroom.

After that, I went back to my hotel room, watched the Orioles defeat the Red Sox (happening live about a mile from the room), made some dinner and fell asleep early.

The early bedtime was key, as Marathon Monday was on 4/20 this year, and at 12:30 the fire alarm in the hotel went off.  Someone had celebrated 4/20 in their bathroom at about 12:01, and set off the alarm.  My heart was racing, and it took about fifteen minutes to calm down and go back to sleep – just as the all clear announcement was made, in triplicate.

Another fifteen minutes later, I managed to doze off, and stayed asleep until 4:55, when I woke, five minutes before my alarm.

I showered, shaved, made four cups of coffee, and considered my outfit.  I had brought all possible combinations for the run, but the weather was super tricky.  Mid 50s?  I know what to wear.  Mid 30s?  I know what to wear.  Mid 40s, with a 20 mile per hour headwind, possibility of rain?  I didn’t know what to wear.  I had laid out a tank, short shorts and socks and shoes with my throwaway gear, but that didn’t seem right.

Finally I decided on tank, long sleeve on top, and short shorts with long shorts on top.  I thought I could peel off layers if need be, but it would be hard to add layers during the race.

I met Bryan in the lobby at 6 AM – we had planned the night before to walk to the buses in Boston Common together – and we set off, me sipping my coffee and carrying the complimentary US Today, Bryan gamely listening to my caffeine and nerves-fueled monologue.

On the way to the buses, Bryan pointed out the finish line, which I tried to stop and take a mental picture of, knowing I wouldn’t see it again for another seven hours or so.

We boarded the bus, and Bryan was treated to an hour long monologue of mine as we drove to Hopkinton.  At the Athletes’ Village we were making our way to the coffee tent when we were waylaid by a man with a microphone.  “Do you want to be on TV?”

“Uh, I guess?”  I think that’s the only possible correct answer in that situation.

“Alright!  We’re gonna go live in three minutes or so!”  Bryan and I stood still and let the cameraman focus on us, and chatted with the reporter.  Suddenly his gaze snapped from us to a woman stretching behind us.  “Is that Megan?  Megan?!” he yelled.  Apparently it was Megan.  “Guys, sorry, I’m going to have to bump you!”  Megan apparently had a much better story than us.  Megan needs to learn a little bit about promptness for live TV reports, though.

I stretched out under one of the large tents in the Athletes’ Village (with another cup of coffee), and Bryan walked off to look around.  I wouldn’t see him again for another five hours.

In line for the porta-potties, I heard a surprised “Jim!” from behind me.  Mark was there, covering the Athletes’ Village for Runner’s World, so we chatted briefly – it was good to see him, I had meant to catch up with him at the expo, but hadn’t found him there.

Shortly after that, I had to step out of line for the porta-potty, as it was time for corrals one and two to walk to the starting line.  I chatted with some guys on the way, and was pleasantly surprised by the cluster of porta-potties in the supermarket parking lot on the way to the starting line.  Even though I had been told they were there several times.

Near the starting line, I ran into Warren, Budd and Chris, who I briefly talked to before realizing that the women’s professional start was about to go off.  “Bye guys!  I want to see this!  Don’t leave without me, Warren!”

Number 1, you cannot see the start of the race from corral 2.  This I did not know.  Number 2, I was very concerned Warren, my purported ride home, would leave the hotel without me.  I wouldn’t have been concerned, but a week before the marathon I confirmed with Warren that he could take me home.  “You have space for me in your car, right Warren?”

“What do you mean, Jimmy?”

“…”

Despite talking about how I was going to ride home with him three times in the preceding couple of months, Warren had forgotten, with a week until the marathon, that he was meant to take me home.

We planned to meet in the hotel lobby at 3 PM, but I was VERY concerned that he would leave without me if I wasn’t there by about 2:45.

I spent the next thirty minutes in the corral, fretting about my clothing choices.  I was still wearing my throwaway long sleeve tshirt and corduroys (which I hadn’t worn in about three years, but, as I discovered on Monday, were still SUPER comfy, and I regretted having to ditch them – and only briefly considered running the marathon in them, making “zip zop” noises the whole 26.2 miles), but it was decently warm out, and not raining or particularly windy – so I wondered about my choice of pinning my bib to the long sleeve running shirt.

I moved the bib to the tank, and the tank to over the long sleeve shirt, ditched the throwaway clothes, tightened my shoe laces, listened to the national anthem, and suddenly we were running.

Boston starts straight downhill.  Everyone says save your legs for the first six miles, don’t take the downhills too hard, you will regret it.  If you’re feeling leaden legs by mile 6, you’re going to have a long day ahead of you.

Of course, I am awesome at downhill. Rules don’t apply to me.  I ran the downhills faster than I should have.

Adam passed me at mile 5, on the way to a 2:52.  “Hey Jim!  How’s it going?”

“Not my day today.”

At mile 6, I slowed, as my legs felt a little heavy already.  My goal went from “Possible PR!” to “Maybe sub 3?”

At mile 7, I slowed, as the heavy rain started and the wind picked up.  My goal went from “Sub 3?” to “Re-BQ at Boston (sub3:05).”

At mile 5, feeling hot, I had thrown my long sleeve shirt to a startled gentleman who looked about my size on the side of the road.

They say to not do that, to instead tie it around your waist.  I missed that shirt at the finish.

From 7 to 12 I rolled along, hitting about 7 flat.  Not bad, not my best, but a good pace for a medium hard effort long run.  The scream tunnel at Wellesley was unique – and apparently not half as huge or loud this year as many others.  Probably the cold rain had something to do with it.  I had to take a kiss on the cheek from two girls – as I probably will never have that opportunity again.  Although I AM qualified for Boston 2016…  I forget the reason for the first girl, but the second had an “I’m ready for Hillary” sign – so, in honor of my daughter, who asks if there are ANY woman presidents every time we read about one of the male presidents, I made her my second and last kiss on the cheek.  Also, a dude running behind me slammed into me at that stop, as he was high fiving the whole line up – which I also did, which was a blast.  Probably the most high fives I’ve ever given in a half mile.

I cannot remember a single thing from mile 13 – 17.

At 17, the Newton Hills begin.  On the day of the marathon, I would have ranked them (worst to least horrible);

1. The first hill.

2.  Heartbreak.

3.  The third hill.

4.  The second hill.

Looking at my pace, I slowed the more and more each hill, but I stand by my “first is the worst” comment – I was just not prepared for four miles of hills at mile 17.

Topping Heartbreak, I looked forward to five miles of downhills and flats – and most of all, to the finish.  After Heartbreak, there is a good downhill drop, the likes of which the runners haven’t seen since the first six miles – and rolling down it, my legs really began to protest.  For a downhill mile 22, I put up a 7:44.

Mile 23, another downhill mile, I put up an 8 flat.  The wheels were coming off.  Marathon math put the 3:05 long behind me.  3:10?  3:10:59 (my BQ time when I first started trying?).  Who cares.  Just finish the damn race, whatever time.  At 23 and a quarter, the mile 23 waterstop came up.  I slowed to a walk, downing three cups of gatorade.  I kept walking for a block or two after the stop.  If I walked in the last three, could I still get a ride with Warren at 3 PM?

From behind me, I heard a loud “Jim!”  It was Bryan.  He had caught me from corral 5.  “Do you need something?  Want my jacket?  Can I get you help?”  He was literally offering the clothes from his back.  My emotions, which always get messy during the latter part of a marathon, were conflicted.  I was so grateful, but also so angry, and so sad, and so scared, and in so much pain.  Grateful, thankfully won out, but only after a burst of sad – “I’m fine!  I’m fine!  I just want to suffer this last three miles!  You go!”

Bryan wouldn’t leave me behind.  He sacrificed the end of his race to bring me in.  Despite my walking the 23, 24 AND 25 water stops, Bryan wouldn’t leave me.  He encouraged me with blatant lies every time I got back up to a jog (“Wow!  What a recovery!  You’re bouncing back!”).  He got me orange slices.  “This is the best orange I’ve ever had, Bryan!”  He told me he wouldn’t let Warren leave without me.

We saw the Citgo sign.  We passed Fenway.  We turned right on Hereford, left on Boylston.  We sprinted it in, as best we could.

I got emotional.  I hugged Bryan.  I tried to hug the medal lady.  I got a space blanket hoodie, and almost cried while trying to put it on.  Without running, my temperatures were plummeting.  I got a yogurt – blueberry greek Stonyfield – and lost Bryan.  I asked a cop how to get to the Sheraton.

In a movie-like Baaaahston accent, he glanced over me, and said “Normally you would just wahhhlk up this street, but what you wanna do is, you wanna go in this daaaahr heah, go up the two escalataaaaahs, and follow the signs.  It’s wahhhhmahhhh.”

At this point I was shivering, and couldn’t stop my teeth from chattering.  Walking through the mall to the Sheraton (with dozens of other marathon finishers near me), people kept asking me if I was alright.  Me in particular.  I met two women from Chile and Brazil, who were just in town to be tourists.  I asked them if they would ever come back to run the marathon.  They looked at my condition, laughed, and answered as if I was insane.  “No.  No.” they said.

I managed to stop shivering in a nice hot shower, got some food in my stomach and found Warren in the hotel lobby.  He did not leave without me.2015 Boston Finish 2 photo 1 photo 2

The Naked Bavarian 20 Mile Trail Race (3/29/2015) – Race Report

I entered the Naked Bavarian 20 Mile Trail Race as a chance to have one of my Boston Marathon training runs be outside, without having to bring my own Gatorade with me.  The Naked Bavarian fit perfectly in my training schedule, (and was like $30) so I said “Why not?” and signed up.

Unfortunately, the race had to be postponed three weeks due to snow – so instead of being my first 20 of the cycle, it now fell into what would have been a cutback week, and on a weekend where my first-grader had a birthday party to get to in the afternoon.

“Oh well,” I thought, “I’ll just slot it in as the third 20, and then have a fourth 20 the next weekend, and I’ll be EXTRA prepared for Boston.  And I’ll run it relatively quickly – if I can average sub-9s for the race, I’ll be able to get back in plenty of time for the birthday party.”

So, with that in mind, I lined up at the start of the 20 miler at 9 AM.  The 40-miler race had started at 8, and the marathon distance at 8:30, so I was feeling a bit like a slacker as I spent that hour in my car listening to podcasts and eating tootsie roll fruit candy.

The race director was very prompt, and we started at nine – on the button – cruising through about a quarter mile of parking lot to the sound of oompah music before we hit the quiet of the trails.

The Naked Bavarian was held in Blue Marsh Park, on a big lollipop course for the 40 and 20 milers (the 40 milers did the lollipop twice).  The first and last section was a seven mile stretch, with a seven-ish loop in the middle.

The seven out was mostly gently rolling and slightly mushy single track – with some of the single-track being about a half a foot wide and deeply rutted into the hills, offering a bit of technical challenge – but all-in-all it was very runnable – for a trail race.

After the first mile, I was in the lead, with a shadow pack of about three/four guys one or two seconds behind me.  Bombing through some nice trail hills, I didn’t manage to put any distance on any of them, but by the time I got to the first aid station and gulped a cup of Gatorade I had a more significant gap – five or ten seconds.  I pushed on, and at the second aid station, at mile seven, I had a decent fifteen second gap – which I gave away immediately by crossing the road and trying to go around the loop counter-clockwise, when we were supposed to go clockwise.  Called back by the aid station volunteers, two guys had passed me while I was on the wrong path.

I caught them on the road section, crossing a small bridge, and passed them to take the lead again, going up a trail into the hills again.  Mile 8 was up that hill, down the backside, then onto an extremely runnable old overgrown road/gravel path, where I put some real distance on the guys behind me.

At this point, my goal in the race morphed from “average 8-9s so I can get home in time for the classmate’s party”, to “Dammit.  Now I have to try to win this thing, don’t I?”

So I poured on the speed on the runnable sections, muscled up some hills, danced nimbly along a cliffside, then bombed down the back of a real good hill – and stepped on a patch of ice, had my legs go out completely from under me, spun around and busted my chin on a rock.  After yelling some choice words, and scaring the 40-miler (the first 40-miler I was to catch that day) ahead of me, I got up and continued on.  Soon I was forced to a walk up a monster of a hill (I think the locals call it ‘ski-slope hill’), and trudged past the 40 miler, who gasped at my appearance.  “You might need a band-aid,” she said.

I touched my chin.  A big splotch of blood came away on my hand.  I tried the other hand.  Yep, still free-flowing.  “Awesome!” I said, overcome with the runner’s high.

The aid-station workers at mile 10.5 or so stared at me as I came up.  “You need anything?” they asked, peering at my chin.  “Some gatorade?” I said.

Crossing another bridge-thingy, I was on the north side of the lake, and due for three and a half miles of flattish running.  This was good, because I needed some flattish running.  I started passing lots of 40 milers, and not just the hiking back-of-packers.  Those miles felt good, and clicked off in sub 7:30s – I think this is where I really built my lead.

I hit the bottom of the loop, and the second-to-last aid station – the one that had originally saved me from going the wrong way on the loop.  “That’s the 20 mile leader!” one of them said to the other.

Heading back into the stick of the lollipop, I felt pretty good.  I knew what was coming, roughly, having seen it ten miles before, in reverse.  I knew there were two or three good hills, but it was all pretty smooth sailing.  Plus, I was in countdown mode – “less than 10k to go – less than 5 miles to go – less than 4 miles to go”.

There were some pretty expansive sections where I could see a quarter mile or so behind me, and I couldn’t make out anyone within sight, so I was feeling alright about the win, too.  Running a little scared, still, but feeling like I probably had at least a minute lead at that point.

Before the race I was talking to one of the other guys lining up at the starting line, and I had said “Yeah, 80% of the way into a trail race I always lose focus and twist an ankle or something.”  At mile 16 I checked my split as my watch beeped (“7:30 – awesome!”) and then thought “Huh, this is 80% of the way through the race.”  And then in about a quarter of a mile I kicked a root and went down for the second time that day, straight into a mud puddle, cutting both knees.

Despite this, I continued on, but was forced to a power-hike by three successive hills, one each mile.  By the last one, I was almost crying and looking behind my shoulder the whole time, convinced I was going to lose the race within sight of the finish.  The last hill I remembered, as my watch clicked over to 20 miles while I was walking, barely moving, pulling myself up tree-trunk by tree-trunk.  I remembered barreling down it within the first mile of the race, two and a half hours before, laughing out loud to my fellow lead-packers, “This is going to SUCK on the way back!”

I had made a bargain with myself at this point.  Actually, I had made several bargains.  If I won, I would take a three week taper before Boston instead of doing a twenty the next week.  Bargain one.  Bargain two, when my watch hit “20”, I would sprint it in to the finish.

Halfway up the hill, my watch beeped twenty.  I walked slightly faster.  I looked back over my shoulder… no one was there.  I reached the top of the hill, and shambled into a jog.  I cleared the trail, and was back to the quarter mile of parking lot.  I glanced over my shoulder again.  No one.  I began to believe I would win.

I turned onto the grass, heading for the music.  I crossed the finish line, arms held as high as I could.  2:45:09.  8s on the nose.  Cruelly, the “20 mile race” was actually more like 20.7 – at least that’s what my GPS says, and I’m sticking with it.  It felt, of course, like 30 or 35.

A minute and a half later, one of the guys who had passed me at 7 came in, still looking strong.  Three minutes later, third place came in.  8 minutes later, the first woman came in, in fourth overall.  Most of the chase pack of four/five guys had fallen off more than 30 seconds per mile.

Salt encrusting my face, legs wobbly, first place trophy in my hands, I made my way to the car, stopping for a potato pancake (which I first  thought was a hamburger, in my stupor) and a Smore.  The Smore was incredible, and I’m super grateful for the ladies who thought to bring them along.  And I made it back home with like an hour to spare before the birthday party.

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The Wild Half 2014 – Race Recap

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The Wild Half Marathon in 2014 didn’t start off well.  I awoke to my alarm at 5:30, a comfortable two hours before the start time, made a coffee, used the restroom, ate a banana and peanut butter, and jogged the mile to the start.  Where I used the port-a-potty.  And then got back in line to use the port-a-potty.  And then, for variation, lay down for a few minutes, before getting up to use the port-a-potty.

 

Coffee and I have a delicate balance, and as little as one cup of coffee can (but not necessarily DOES) make me pee about three liters of liquid.

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On the starting line, during the national anthem, two minutes before the race, I considered rushing back to the port-a-potty.

 

Instead, I talked to a few of the likelier looking guys near the front of the corral.  I was looking for someone who wanted to go sub-1:20, so I could latch on to them.  I had run a PR of 1:21:02 a few weeks earlier at the (much hillier) Lehigh Valley Half, and thought the flat course of the Wild Half would be favorable to a 1:19:xx attempt.

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I talked to a guy who said he was going for a 1:20, and looked like he could do it, then I talked to a guy who said he didn’t know what he could do, this was his first half marathon ever.  He hoped to run 6s.  “What’s your 5k time like?” I asked him.  “14:30” was the answer.  “SIXES?” I laughed.  “Dude.  You’re going to run… maybe a 1:15.  SIXES.”

 

Sure enough, when we took off a few minutes later, under the watchful eye of the quadcopter drone, the kid took off, right behind the guy who would be his best pal on the course, the motorcycle cop.  He ended up running a 1:11, so what do I know about predicting times?

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I settled into a rhythm, quickly feeling my breathing hitting the every other left, every other right cadence.  The weather was fine, mid fifties with a little breeze, partly cloudy, but I wished that it could have been a little bit cloudier – the sun is brutal along the Wildwood course, without any source of shade other than the buildings lining the course, which were useless as the sun rose higher in the sky.

 

The first mile started south, to Wildwood Crest, and in front of the Fleur de Lis, where Liz and the girls were sleeping, last I had left them.  I thought I might see them out cheering, but nothing on the run south.  Then I looked again on the run north, about half a mile later, but they still weren’t out.  Little did I know that they wouldn’t wake up for another thirty minutes or so.

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Nevertheless, the miles ticked off as planned, just slightly faster than the 6:06 pace I needed.  Two guys, including the fast kid, took off, and I never saw them again (except at the turnaround at mile 7.5).  I was running alone, I felt, in third.  I continued to feel alone and untouchable in third, until a guy pulled up on my left shoulder after I almost ran directly onto the beach after the mile five waterstop, instead of turning left as I was supposed to.

 

“Don’t worry!  Don’t speed up!” he gasped.  “I’m not in the race!  I’m just on a training run!”  Nevertheless, he pushed me to maintain pace, after a mile where I had faltered a little (only partly due to almost running into the Atlantic).  “Dude, listen to your breathing, and listen to mine!” he said, about a mile later.  “You’re doing a lot better than me!”

 

“How far back is fourth?”  I asked him.  “About… ten seconds?”  I looked back.  Fourth and fifth were ten yards back.  “More like two.”

 

At mile six and a bit, fourth and fifth caught me, and collectively we became the chase pack.  The non-racer dropped off somewhere in there.  Just after mile six the mile marker for nine is visible, as the race does an extended out and back to some northern islands.  “Mile nine!” gasped one of the guys.  “No, man.  That’s for the way back,” said the other.

 

Well, if someone was hoping for mile nine at mile six, they must be hurting as much as I was, I thought, and that thought was helpful.  Also helpful was a sports story that had been scrolling on a billboard along the boardwalk, at mile three.  The Saints had signed a Tulane football player on a one day contract – Devon Walker, who had been paralyzed in a college game.  “So,” I thought, “Even when this run sucks – and it will suck – it’s amazing that I can be out here doing this.  I’m one of the lucky ones.”

 

At mile seven, the run started to suck.  Fourth and fifth pulled ahead of me, and I managed to tag onto them.  Shortly thereafter, we hit the turn around, and we dropped fifth.  Running back alongside the outward bound racers, I experienced for the first time in my life what it’s like to be one of the top women in local races I always am running near.  “You’re three and four!” shouted out about a dozen “helpful” people.

 

The never did tell us how close we were to second, though.  That would have been helpful.

 

The other guy I was running with and I swapped a few stories, between breaths.  They were short stories, but I told him about Jeff’s sit and kick on me during the last summer series 5k, and he told me how his goal was to beat his friend’s daughter, who was a NCAA athlete who had run a 1:25 (coming off an injury).

 

I looked at my watch.  “Dude, I think you’re going to get that 1:25.”  If he had slowed down by a minute per mile at that point, he still would have got it.

 

At mile nine or ten we were caught by a kid with headphones, who lumbered past after sticking to us for a quarter mile.  At ten and a half I almost missed getting on the beach path, instead trying to stick to the road, and had to vault a halfwall as a result.  Unnerved, the guy I was running with put a few seconds on me, approaching the boardwalk return.

 

Once we got onto the boardwalk, things went south – literally and figuratively.  An 8k had started twenty minutes after the half, so everyone that finished the 8k in an hour or more or so I had to pass, as their turnaround was the end of the boardwalk.

 

Like the OBX marathon, the people at the end of the 8k were wide, and novice racers, who didn’t know how to get out of the way, or were listening to their music too loud to hear oncoming runners.  The one good thing about their being novice racers was that they didn’t take tangents at all, so at some points of the run the best race line was free.

 

Nevertheless, they made the last two miles of the run… interesting.  And slower than they could have been.  But I saw the finish line clock as I made the turn onto the street in front of the boardwalk, and it read 1:19:something!  So I sprinted – even more than I already was (I had made a deal with myself to run as hard as I could starting at 1:17), and crossed the line at 1:19:35.  I accepted my medal, got a bag of food, and jogged/walked back to the Fleur de Lis, where Liz was just getting out of the shower.

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We hurried, did breakfast, checked out and rushed down to the finish line ceremony, where awards were supposed to start at 10:30.  Well, they didn’t – apparently they’re going to mail age group awards?  But, for record  purposes, I was fifth overall, first in my age group, with a 1:27 PR.  I’ll take it.

 

LVRR Summer Series 5K 2013 – #2

First, two quick race recaps for the Lehigh Valley Half and the LVRR SS 5K 2013 #1.

LVH – It was a warm day, too warm.  I started at the pace I wanted, but couldn’t keep up with the women in places 3-6.  I was surprised (in a bad way) to see the clock at 1:29 when I turned the corner in the stadium, but I shouldn’t have been.  The wheels just came off in the Parkway.

LVRR SS 5K #1 – The next week, I ran the first 5K of the Summer Series, with Liz and the family in attendance, and Court and Steve running.  Legs a little beat from the LVH, Brian from work put about twenty yards on me in the first half mile, then stayed 20 yards up for the rest of the time.  I ran a 19:30 or so, which was okay.  Then the rain started, and we had to have the potluck inside.

LVRR SS 5K #2 – June 5, 2013.

There’s basically one reason I’m writing this post – one memory I want to keep from the race.

This photo is from midway through the race.  About ten yards after this photo, coming down the other side of a small hill, the skinny shirtless dude sped up as I was trying to pass him.

Undaunted, I fell in behind him.  He slowed down.

I tried to swing wide and pass him.  He sped up.

I fell in behind him.  He slowed down.

I tried to pass him.  He sped up.

At this point, I was getting annoyed.  It’s one thing to be competitive and to try to run your best time at a race, or even to run to beat someone.  But trying to box out someone passing you at a local (SMALL TIME) 5K, with absolutely no prizes on the line?  I don’t know.  Maybe the kid was working on his racing strategy.

So I decided that I needed to work on my racing strategy as well.  At the base of the steepest hill on the course, I pulled wide of the kid, and leaned forward as if I was going to race past him.  He immediately took off, sprinting up the hill.  I immediately pulled back, as I will never be the best at passing anyone on an uphill.

He put ten yards on me on that hill, but I pulled even with him on the long descent.  We crossed the Robin Hood bridge together, me pushing the tempo a little bit, and by the time we dropped onto the footpath on the other side of the bridge, the kid was spent, and pulled to the side and let me pass.

I thought he might have been totally gassed, but he ended up sixth in the race overall, a decent recovery from his efforts on that hill.

I ended up fourth.

The West End St Patrick’s Day 5k

This race report is a story.  An allegory.  A what-if.

In no way does it purport to represent reality, or does it relate a tale of breaking race regulations and rules in pursuit of glory and earthly rewards.

What happened in REALITY is that Robert R competed in the West End St. Patrick’s Day 5k, racing as HIMSELF, and had a relatively off-day for his skills, running a time that is middling at best for him.

Any indication (such as pictures, eye-witness accounts or Robert R’s airline tickets) that says that Robert R COULD NOT have run the West End 5k, and indeed was in Miami at the time are SLANDEROUS ALLEGATIONS, and false, and not true, and LIES that probably originate with the Prince of Darkness himself, the King of Liars, Satan.

So, unless you want to be known as one of Satan’s cohorts and right-handmen, I suggest that you DISBELIEVE the following race report as FICTION.

But here’s what COULD have happened, on Saint Patrick’s Day 2013, in the Western End of Allentown.

Jeff, Mark and I gathered with our wives and children in Mark’s house, which was situated about a half mile away from the start line of the race.  The race morning temps were hovering right about the freezing point, and opinions differed on the proper race attire.

Mark and Jeff both went with singlets, shorts and gloves, with Mark adding arm warmers.  I went with two pairs of shorts, a shirt and a quarter-zip long sleeve shirt and gloves, which is unusual because on lunch runs with Jeff he’ll wear six layers in temperatures I’m going shirtless in.  But he told me that there is a point of pride in wearing a singlet during a race.

We warmed up with the jog to the starting line, where we checked in.  Katie D. was working the check-in table, and said “Alright, Jim Wa-” and I had to cut her off.  “NO.”  I said, non-suspiciously.  “I’m ROBERT.  Your good friend, ROBERT R.”

Pinning on the race bibs, I found that I was actually Robert O’R., as everyone is Irish on St Paddy’s day.  I kinda wish Robert had registered, as he sometimes does, as Robert The Beast, so I could have been Robert O’The Beast.

Finding that we had ten minutes before the race started, Mark and Jeff stripped down, and we did another warm-up half mile, as the previous warm-up had already left our chilled muscles.  Standing on the starting line, looking around at the 500+ participants, I realized that Mark, Jeff and I were probably the only ones not wearing some form of green.  Indeed, we were all wearing some form of orange, the opposite of green.  Protestant Ireland forever!  Probably it would be a terrible faux-pas, if the West End of Allentown wasn’t 90% German and Italians.

Big Wayne from Pretzel City Sports started the race, and the pack leaped away.  Well, the front of the pack did.  I assume that the mid and back of the pack leaped, but they could have stepped, shuffled, or strolled, I guess.  The very front of the race quickly dwindled to a tight-knit pack of four runners bunched around Jeff, a few stragglers in between (including a guy in shorts past his knee, beat up old basketball sneakers and a cotton tshirt), then myself.  Just behind me, mainly to my left, was Mark, applying pressure to keep pace.

On the long-ish (about .3 mile) downhill that started the race, I picked off the stragglers in front of me, but the lead pack smoothly pulled away.  Rounding the first turn, Mark was two paces behind my left shoulder.  We ran a block, then made another left turn to start a long-ish (about half a mile) climb.  On this street there were residents setting up their chairs for the St Paddy’s parade that would follow the race, and a few groups that had started the party early, including one rowdy set of frat boys.  “Hey Michael Jackson!  Nice gloves!”  They yelled at me as I passed.

After about half a mile up, we made another left, keeping to the left of a series of cones, ran a block, then made the last left in the square to turn back to the start/finish line.  The first mile marker was on the short block, and the man at it called out “6:03” as I passed.

“Huh,” I thought, “That felt harder than a 6:03.  Oh well, no PR today – but let’s not embarrass Robert’s good name by letting Mark pass.”

Back down the south side of the course I ran, letting my legs roll beneath me on the long downhill, knowing that I would see another long uphill on the north side.  At this point of the race the lead pack started to shed one of their members, as the fourth runner started to lose contact with Jeff and the other two.

Turning left on the eastern short block, I hit the second mile marker.  “11:50!” yelled the man gazing intently at a watch.

“11:50?” I thought to myself, doing a little bit of race-addled math (you know the math where the numbers SHOULD be easy to add and divide, but your brain is too busy screaming at you to worry about arithmetic and your lungs are burning and all the blood in your body is busy pumping your legs, too busy to divide by two anyway).  “11:50 would be… 5:55s?  Is that right?  And then… 3.1 of those is… something?  I think I might PR?”

With the thought of a possible PR, but one incredibly difficult to calculate, in my head, I attacked the long(er) uphill of the north side of the race.  The race was two loops, but the first loop was shorter than the second by a few blocks – so it was a terrible dejavu to start the back half of the second loop staring at an uphill that had grown by a quarter mile.

My second time by the frat boys I had warmed up considerably – after racing 2.5 miles, the sun had come out and the wind had stopped.  So I peeled off my gloves and lobbed them to the frat guys, provoking a loud, confused cheer from the group.

Shortly after the frat I reeled in the fourth place runner, passing him strongly and cleanly – I didn’t want him to get too close, as I don’t have much of a finishing kick.  The first three runners were well out of sight, but I wanted to lock in fourth place.

Making the final two left turns (staying to the right of the cones this time), I started down the final straight-away to the finish line.  Coming in view of the finish line clock, I saw it tick over from 17:59 to 18:00.  Knowing my PR was 18:23, I thought it was well within reach – I just had to sprint the final tenth of a mile.  And sprint I did – to both hold off the fifth place runner and to beat the clock.

I crossed the line while the clock read 18:20, and raised my fist and yelled “PR!”  This provoked a scattered, half-hearted and mostly confused smattering of applause.  But I guess the people who are dragged to a neighborhood 5k to act as finish line cheer squad don’t really know about PRs?  Or they just don’t care about the PRs of strangers.

Because I yelled out “PR!” at the finish, however, when they called awards and called out for “Robert R”, the announcer made a big deal to mention to the crowd that 18:20 was Robert R’s PR.  So… sorry Robert.  Sorry to have shamed your name with a mediocre PR announcement.

I’m also sorry for the amount of times I yelled “I’m Robert R, and I hate the Irish!”  (This did not happen.  I mean, the whole experience OFFICIALLY did not happen, as it is a TERRIBLE thing to run under someone else’s bib, but the racism against the Irish ACTUALLY did not happen.)

The Test Is Now READY Walkthrough

This walkthrough will get you through the game the quickest way possible, but not necessarily the best way:

  1. Wait through the opening scene, until you are in the Walk-In Freezer.
  2. Push the plate three times.
  3. In the next room, go west three times.
  4. Wait 21 times.
  5. Pull the IV three times.
  6. Push the button.
  7. Wait twice.
  8. Eat the cracker.
  9. Drink the milk.
  10. Enter the door.
  11. Examine the parchment, and you’re done!

Easy peasy.  But definitely not the BEST way to complete the game.  Unless you’re into the whole brevity thing.

 

Micro Reviews: The Amazing Spider-Man, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

The Amazing Spider-Man:

Liz and I went to see The Amazing Spider-Man in 3d at the Movie Tavern.  The chicken wings and pitas were also in 3d.  So were all the people talking during the movie like they were at home.  I think the chicken wings may have confused them.

Despite the crowd, The Amazing Spider-Man was fantastic.  It was light, fun and had some really interesting performances from Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield.  This is good, because the best performances in the Raimi Spider-Mans (Spider-Men?) were from the villains – and Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire were just okay (actually, I thought Kirsten was terrible, but I’ve been biased against her since she was on Celebrity Teen Jeopardy and was completely stupid about everything, including all the questions that were already too easy because they were Teen questions, but made even easier by about two standard deviations because they were not only Teen questions, but Celebrity Teen questions).  So, I look forward to seeing them again in 2014, and then again in 2016, when Gwen Stacy will be killed off.  And then will come the MJ trilogy?

Sure, the plot was the basic waiting for a spider-bite, and then the basic OHNO GIANT MUTANT.  So… oh well.  Call me simple, but the simple plot didn’t bother me.  It was just fun seeing Spider-Man swinging around in 3d.

Rating: 5 out of 5 chicken wangs.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol:

So, I watched MI:GP at home, which eliminated the distractions of the boorish crowd at a movie theater, but added the distractions of home, namely a cell phone with which to check Twitter and Facebook.

The first half of MI:GP was great.  The bit at the end I hardly saw, because I started checking Twitter when the movie began to bore me.

If I could split the rating into halves, it would be five stars for the first half, and 1 star for the second.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 awesomely impractical giant digital screens with which to hide oneself from Russians