Monday, June 13, 2011

Double Time!

I haven't been to my old high school in at least 10 years.  Unlike the majority of schools I've been to for runs lately, it's one of the few places that's actually degraded since I've seen it last.  It looks like the track hasn't had new asphalt put down since it was redone when I was still in school.  So it made sense that the proceeds were going toward repairing the track.  Apparently they haven't even hosted a meet in 6 years.  Funny, because that was one of the few things we used to be really good at.  
It's not like I went out of remainder school pride or anything, trying to help them reach their track repair goals, though.  It was just a run.  I don't get a warm fuzzy being back there and reminiscing in any way.  When it comes to my high school years, I'm just kind of indifferent, I guess, because I never felt like the place or the people were all that great to me.  That being said, I still planned on trying to kick the hell out of this race.  I even sported my new Blue Lantern Flash shirt for the race.  Blue lanterns represent hope on the emotional spectrum, but their rings are most powerful when paired with a Green Lantern (will), because hope is not powerful in and of itself without the will to make those hopes a reality.  That goes for anything, not just Geoff Johns written comic heroes.

On this specific day I was hoping to maybe come close to or even win my age bracket.  There were a few people that looked to be about my age, but who knows how fast they are by looking at them.  I could tell there wasn't much chance of me winning the overall, but that was about it.  There weren't any old friends or alumni I knew well there.  I recognized one guy as the older brother of someone in my grade, but I never knew him personally, so I didn't say hello.  So, after registering, I just kind of kept to myself until race time, and stretched out a bit.

On the start, a good chunk of the field bolted out really quick, and that was a bad idea for about half of them.  I started out really casual and was breathing real easy.  A man came up on my side and passed me saying "Don't worry about keeping up with me, I'm going to walk here in a bit."  I didn't bother saying that I wasn't worried.  With the way he was breathing, I pretty much knew I would get him back eventually.

With the first mile in, it was time to run it up a bit.  There was a nice uphill slope, which is always my favorite part, because that's where I catch everyone.  I blew by everyone in the back and middle leading up to the turn-around.  I didn't see anybody that looked to be in my age group, so I kicked it up another gear to make sure nobody would catch me from behind.  I caught up to some more people and passed them until there was one man to catch before it was just the front pack ahead of me.  I got close, but he started hearing footsteps and I pushed him along from there.  He pulled away about 20 seconds ahead and stuck there with me in tow.

I pulled in with a 27:14 (yeah, another best...I know, I know, it's getting old right?), and thanked the guy ahead of me for pushing me along.  He admitted hearing me behind him, and thanked me for the push.  I love that part of running.  Even when you're trying to catch someone or they're trying to catch you, you're just happy they made you go faster, because in the end you're just trying to beat yourself.

After the race I stood around eating my banana and drinking a water wondering if there were any awards or anything at all.  I was starting to think that it really didn't matter if I won my age group or not.  Meanwhile me and another man had been cornered by one of those braggy runner types that just wouldn't stop talking.  You know the kind.  They've done this race and that race with such-and-such a time.  I'm pretty sure it was all B.S., though, because I torched him horribly, and those alleged times were way out of his league as far as I was concerned.  I guess it's possible, but at least lead with an excuse for why you didn't run worth a crap today first, otherwise it all seems like hot air.

Finally I heard there were going to be some awards, so I stuck around to see where I finished.  When they announced our age group, as soon as I heard the 2nd place person, I knew I had it.  Sure I'm still not an elite runner, but it's nice to get one after all the hard work anyway.  I've taken over 8 minutes off my 5K time at this point, and I wouldn't have won my age group without taking a lot of that time off.  Anyway, here it is, my first medal for actually winning one.

Apparently that wasn't enough for me, because at 4:00 I headed down the Lansing for the River Run Riot (R³) in my Captain Hammer shirt (apparently it was superhero day for me).  I thought I needed a little bit of prep for the Warrior Dash, and I heard this one had some moderate obstacles, so I couldn't pass it up.
I guess it was the first year it was held here, and you could tell.  There was an odd staggered start for males 16-39, there were huge bottle-necks at the obstacles where you'd wait in line, and there was a false start where the entire field headed toward the final obstacle first.  It was pretty funny, especially for all of us that were told to wait and watched as the starting pack went through a water obstacle and got wet for nothing.

Finally we got to start 10 minutes later.  We ran a mile, then climbed an angled pegged wall about 8 feet high or so and jumped down on a large mat.  Another mile and we went through the National Guard obstacle course, which is basically climbing through tight spaces of something resembling a bounce house, climbing another pegged wall (only the pegs are just full of air) and sliding down a slide.  I waited maybe ten minutes or more in line with my shoes off waiting for my turn.  Had I known there were breaks, I would have sprinted every running part, because anybody you did catch, even if they were right in front of you in line, had at least 30 seconds on you after the obstacle.  It really gave the early leaders a huge (and arguably unfair) advantage.

After putting my shoes back on after the National Guard obstacle, I tried to catch whoever was even in sight before we got to the next obstacle, which was some string and bungee chord webs.  My trail shoes (which I didn't need because the trail by the river was completely paved) were not the best choice for this obstacle.  All the treads on the bottom got stuck on the strings and I had a pretty rough time getting through.  From the looks of things, though, I was doing pretty well in comparison to the other people around me.

Only two more to go now.  The first was a spinning obstacle with foam arms that went up and down that you had to go over and under, and that was a cinch.  The final one was this thing.
What you were dealing with here was 3 balance beams: one going out, one going right, and one coming back.  These beams were floating on rubber plaforms and only held near the shore by two 20' bungee ropes.  What you're also dealing with is a lot of movement from you and the others on this thing.  On the way out the beam is rocked me back and forth (if you take it going sideways).  On the back side the second I stepped on the cross beam it felt like I was floating back and away the entire time.  The one coming back I took so fast I don't know what it was doing.  I have no idea how I stayed up on this thing.  It was not easy.  I attribute all the success to Wii Fit balance games.

The course was just short of 4 miles long, and including all the waiting, took about 52 minutes.  After finishing, I changed my clothes at the car, and went to the after party where you got 2 free beer tickets.  I used mine wisely on a Saugatuck Singapore IPA and a Bell's Two-Hearted, which are always solid choices.  Then I paid for a Founders Pale Ale, and hung out for another hour or so before heading home to meet some friends.  It was a long day, but a good one, and a very satisfying drive home.

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