Friday, July 5, 2013

Cheaters Never Win. (A Volksläufe Story)

Have you ever had one of those situations where you see a hole in a system, and you think you can exploit it for some reward?  Whether the reward is monetary, a savings of time, or just getting a leg up on the competition, you've found a shortcut to promise.

The only problem with this is, sometimes it completely backfires, in your face...hard.  This is one of those stories.  A story of a man that desperately wanted to take an illegitimate shortcut to a prize.  A man forsaking his people and trying to mix in with "the others."  I may not be proud of it, or the outcome, but this is my story, and I can't guarantee that I won't do it again...

Volksläufe 2013

For the first time, possibly ever, I did everything right the night before.  I ate a slightly carby meal.  I had no alcohol or caffeine.  I hydrated the entire day.  I even went to bed early enough to get a good night's sleep.

At 2:30am I woke up, and I could barely walk.  My knee was all locked up, and felt bad enough that I figured when I woke up to get ready for the race, I would be a DNS for the day.  Then, when I woke up at 5:30am, it wasn't even 1/4th of the pain.  So I got ready to go, and I dumped my traditional Detroit Tigers stars and stripes cotton shirt for the wicking Volkläufe shirt of 2 years ago.  I didn't really care if I was being "that guy" or not, it was the only light-colored shirt of its kind that was clean, and this race is always a scorcher.

They have eggs now too?  Next year we're running on a  makeshift McGriddle!
J came by, and we left for the race.  We picked up packets, and after a bit of milling around, discussion of strategy (camelpack yes/no, alternate running speeds to give breaks yes/no, etc.) went to get our traditional pre-Volksläufe pancakes from the Lions club.  Basically, in our opinion, your race doesn't count if you don't eat the pancakes.  Automatic DQ (and not the good one).
Mmmmm, and you'll taste them again at mile 7!
We made our way down to the corral, listened to both the Canadian and American national anthems, and watched the 10Kers take off.  We met up with another one of our running dudes we went to school with, and started talking about what we had to do.  We figured, to pull of the scheme we were planning, we had to come in at 2 hours flat for the 20K.  Any more than that, and the plan falls apart.

Now, mind you, there was no real reason to believe we could even pull that off.  Our best time there was 2:07/2:08 and that was two years ago.  Last year, we were 2:13/2:12.  The idea that we could go out there and maintain a 9:39 average pace over 12.4 miles was a ridiculous notion.  We haven't put in the training, and even at half the distance we were putting up 10:00-10:30ish pace.  J believed, but I had no faith.  I didn't even know why we were doing this.

After the bugle call to post, the gun went off, and it was on.  I knew I was going faster than I could maintain right off the bat, but I couldn't see the time of first mile being over 10 minutes on my watch.  If I had to give up later, okay, but I couldn't start out right in a hole.  It would have been too demoralizing.  Garmin's mile 1 beep...9:22.

I hit a good stride on mile 2, but again, knew it was too fast.  Garmin beeped...9:09.  Now it was a race to bank against the tank.  I knew I couldn't help things going sour at some point, but I had to do what I could to make it close and push as hard as I could to get close to the 2 hour mark.  I was willing to try hard enough to fail.

Mile 3...9:33
Mile 4...9:49 (bank over?)
Mile 5...9:37 (bank reopens)
Mile 6...9:37 ("I can just maintain this. It'll be alright")
Mile 7...9:41 ("Uh-oh getting tired")
Mile 8...10:08 ("I'm losing it, Pauly...")
Mile 9...10:26 ("Is this as fast as my legs are moving now?  Really?")
Mile 10...10:40 ("Man, I might even have to walk...")
Mile 11...10:57 ("Hills...ugh...nobody told me there would be hills."  "You've done this race before, you know about these."  "Shut" "Hey!  There's Sparty.  Go high five him."  "Okay" "That guy yelled 'Go Green,' you know what to do" "Go White!")
Mile 12...10:45 ("Damnit, there are 5Kers coming at me.  I'm over 2:00 for sure")

So the 20K was over.  I knew J finished ahead of me.  I rushed up the hill to see if the plan was foiled yet, not knowing for certain.

So now we're to the big reveal...of our diabolical plan...

The successful criminal brain is always superior. It has to be!
After looking at race results from last year, J and I realized there was an opening for us to get an award at Volksläufe.  Our age groups, in the 5K walk category have very few participants.  This is because, if you're in your 30s, and not walking with your wife, you're probably not going to be there.  Last year, in my age group, there were only 3 men, meaning, if you showed up, you got an award.

Who wouldn't want this?

On the line is an authentic German beer stein. So, given our love of beer, J and I signed up for the 5K walk, hoping to be ringers and drink ourselves silly with one these wonderful steins. It would be a poetic vengeance for all the minutes stolen from us by walkers over the years. However, it meant we would have to become one of them. First though, we had to make it to the start of the 5K, and that's why we needed to hit the 2 hour mark. We thought we started at 8am, and the 5K started at 10am. Even regarding that, we were wrong, as it was 8:10am and 10:02am (for walkers). So we really needed a 1:52.

Anyway, as I got back up to the road where the 5K started, they were starting to take up the mats.  Figuring J was already on the move, I asked if I would still be able to get in.  They punched in my # somehow and told me to get on my way.  By this point, the pack was so far ahead, they could not be seen.  It was time to release my inner Dewey Cox and "Walk Hard."

Speed-Walking: "You don't want no part of this sh*t!"
As soon as I got started, I realized, this walking sh*t sucks.  I didn't care that I just ran a 20K, I wanted to run.  Also, I was the only one out there and had to stop twice and ask the volunteer which way to go, while they wondered why the hell I was still even out there.  It was kind of embarrassing being dead last in a 5K walk, and having to explain myself.  At some point in the race, I must have missed a turn.  Suddenly, I was walking against the 5Kers that were left, but kept going thinking maybe  I was just on my way to a turn-around.  I got to one point in the road, and realized, "Nope, I'm just a dumbass."  I still have no idea where I got crossed up, but that will happen when they're taking the cones and arrows down on you.

Anyway, I turned and walked back to try to catch the rest of the pack, as the 2K children ran past me toward the finish.  The only people I caught were pushing old age, or were walking with braces or crutches.  It was at about this point, that I kind of felt like a jerk for being there and passing them.  I finished in just a little under 3 hours of total time (so 2:56ish...subtract the 20K time and the time to get to the start).  Then I stood around for 12 minutes, found J, got a beer, and forgot that I hadn't stopped my Garmin yet.

For the 5K, I probably went over 4 miles, and since I didn't take the right route, even if I somehow got a stein, unless I was dead last (in my age group) on chip time, I would not accept it, because if you divert from route, you lose (at least I still have some standards).  However, when I looked at results, I didn't show up at all.  I wasn't in the 20K where I should be, and I wasn't showing up for the 5K.  Even so, with the added time of stopping, being lost, and adding over a mile, I wasn't going to place and have to stay around and explain that it should go to the guy behind me.  So we left.  I guess J didn't even go for the 5K because he thought they had already went and were picking up the starting mats.  So he had been wondering what happened to me for an hour.

We climbed into the car and left, defeated, with two shirts for the race, and nothing else to show for it.   The only consolation for me was that I had my best time at this race, and despite a really slow season, being hurt, and not training much, we did get close to that 2 hour goal.  How close, I would (hopefully) find out later.  J was still in disbelief that he didn't get under the 2 hour mark and was actually disappointed (which I found ridiculous, since he beat me and it was a huge 20K PR for him as well).  He said that getting under 2 hours was his main goal of doing this whole thing.  I admitted that my reason still revolved around beer mugs.

The unworn, non-sweaty one on the right is for sale (for as low as $0)
Will I ever try some sort of shenanigans like this again?  Did I learn my lesson?  I don't really know.  I'm sure I'll be enticed by those steins again, and I really don't see me ever hitting age group in the 20K run (unless I can keep this up to old age, which would be an amazing blessing that I can't think to count on).  The only time I'd consider it otherwise is if I'm doing the 20K at an easy 1:40-1:45, and if I have someone to do the walk with me as a cover (who won't mess around and will go fast with me).

For now, I just know that the whole process was a pain in the keister.  I even had contact the race organizers to get my times adjusted, because my 20K time, when it finally showed, was listed as over 3 hours (the time where I crossed for the 5K) because the bibs got mixed up.  It would have been even more warning against trying to beat the system if my 2:04:32 course/20K PR was lost, and I had to live with a 3 hour 20K on my record.  The 5K walk time is still probably wrong, and has extra time on it, but who cares about that?  I'm not a walker.  Walking is stupid.


  1. Ah sorry your plan didn't work out, I probably would have skipped he 20k and just gone for the stein, but thats just me.

  2. Can't skip the 20 or I'd feel more like a fraud. Besides it's a wonderful baptism by fire into the summer running season and the kind of hurt runners just love. There is just something special about it.

  3. Oy Vey Foiled again...bummer bud...I love how your attitude is just so mischievous, funny and who care what others think...honestly you have a great attitude dude, rock on! I love reading your race re-caps...sorry I haven't been by lately, I have horrible sciatica and cannot sit for too long these days so blogging is sketchy at best.

    Shannon at I Survived and Now I Run


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