Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Do You Still Run? - Part 4: Ho, Ho, Ho-ly Crap.

Sunday's runners and walkers.
Running at 40 would be much easier if you weren't constantly reminded that you are on the back end of the running spectrum.

December marks the fifth month of my effort to not look completely foolish at The Buck Fifty 150 mile relay in April. Wrangled into it by some longtime friends, I've been slowly retraining, reprogramming and reminding my body of what it once was from top to bottom. Along with running nearly everyday, I have been (and hope to continue) to run races each month to break up the monotony and give myself short term goals to achieve.

At this point in time I'm forcing myself into longer casual runs, gradually increasing my capacity for pain and suffering. Now that I have some base to work with, those hills are licking their chops eagerly awaiting to bring me back down to Earth. My longest run yet, about a week ago, of 6.2 miles felt reasonably good and had its fair share of slight inclines and "sort of" hills. Though my calf muscles paid the price for a few days thereafter, I couldn't stretch them enough to keep them from tensing up like abdominal muscles fighting a roller coaster down hill.

Finishing loop #1
The current goal on my list is to break the 20 minute 5K barrier, I've fallen just short in my previous two attempts. Having had a good week of pace training, I was hoping last Sunday's Run Santa Run 5K at Easton Town Center in Columbus would be a big step forward. Of course, it had to be stupid cold and windy - December 4th wouldn't have had it any other way. Warming up isn't - and hasn't - been an issue, its getting myself fluid quicker. It takes a few minutes, once the race starts, to work out the bugs or kinks to find a rhythm. The quicker you find it - the faster you can focus on the run. And when it's cold, it gets that much more difficult. Think like the cold starting of an engine on a frigid day...like that.

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Knowing there were a few rabbits, I was hoping to use them to help pull me along. At the gun, I felt good and it did take a few moments to get my breathing in sync with the neck down. I could definitely feel the piercing cold air as well as the rustiness in my knees and as luck would have it, the rabbits came to play.

The Suzy Favor Hamilton clone near 
the finish, I'm nowhere 
in sight....of course.
The first time through the two loop course, I had a few folks ahead of me and was able to keep within 50 to 60 meters of the leaders, using them as the benchmark for how I was doing. The flat course was easy to navigate and you could see the course turns from a distance away. It made me smile noticing the younger runners near me were staying in the middle of the course or staying on the opposite side of where the upcoming turns were, instead of drifting towards the turn side. Not only did this mean that they were running a slightly longer path than I, but they had to slow down and let me ahead of them or adjust and go around me when we hit the curves. They may have been faster in the long run, but they had some work to do in regards to running smarter.

About a quarter of the way through lap number two - when I was relatively by myself and feeling great - this severe punch in the gut and confidence destroyer in the form of an 11-year-old girl with this ridiculous stride blows by me. The 4-foot nothing leg turning machine didn't just slowly pass me, it was like she was one of those marathon hijackers who inconspicuously jump into the middle of the race and act like they have been there the entire time. And she was moving like she was being summoned back to her other worldly homeland after years of banishment and had been longing to return.Within seconds she had a comfortable lead on me and within a minute all I could see was the tiny purple blur of her shirt.

Luckily I was able to hold steady, but still quite quite bewildered.

My age group winning photo op 
with the man from up north. 
And casually promoting 
Now there were 552 people who showed up for the run/walk and it seemed about half of them were of the walking sort. I only know this because the last mile was littered with walking obstacles. So running a mostly straight line was near impossible and, at times, the groups of about-to-be-lapped walkers would congregate along the full width of the course. Being short on additional breath to make ourselves known, we were forced to play a game of Tetris - searching for the quickest and fastest opening without running over or through anyone. Needless to say it was like descending a hill via switchback trails to the finish line.

Still with the rabbits within my crappy eyesight (fuzzy moving objects with similar colored running gear) and focusing on pace and stride, I finally race through the candy cane colored finishing arch. I was winded, but the body felt good - it was finally starting to cope with the fact that this wasn't going to stop anytime soon.

Shotgunning a bottle of water, I plug my race bib number into the digital results monitor and discover that I have placed 7th overall, first in my age group (it is so weird to me to be now associated with the 40 to 44-year-old age group) and used a 6:20 mile pace to post a finished time of 19:40. I was beaten by two adult males, four high school dudes and a preteen Suzy Favor-Hamilton clone. I reached my goal of a sub 20 minute 5K and beat my previous return-to-running PR by more than a minute.
Post race Columbus Brewing IPA 
at Bar Louie and race stats.

My personal glory was gifted with an age group winning Christmas ornament, a souvenir t-shirt and pint glass, as well as a free beer from nearby Bar Louie (Yes, It had to be a domestic beer - but it was a FREE beer. I followed it with a Columbus Brewing IPA on my own dime).

My foreseeable running future will consist of increased mileage and monthly races that are longer than my 3.1 mile standard - that is until The Buck Fifty rears its ugly head in April. And yes, that sounds just as daunting today as it did five months ago...

"A body in a culvert pipe on a construction site in the middle of an alfalfa field" - Gil Grissom
 (Sorry, binge watching CSI on Netflix has been getting the best of me)

Step 1 - Do You Still Run? Part 1 Getting Started: COMPLETED

Step 2 - Do You Still Run? Part 2 Being Consistent, Make Progress: COMPLETED

Step 3 - Do You Still Run? Part 3 Increasing Mileage: COMPLETED

The Buck Fifty on Facebook

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