Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Riley's Rumble Half Marathon 'Fun Run' - July 25, 2010

"That's odd," I think, as I view the goosebumps on my arm, "I don't feel cold." There isn't any reason I should feel cold. It's just about 9 a.m. and I've run more than eleven miles on the hot (86 degrees), humid (62 percent relative humidity) and hilly Riley's Rumble Half Marathon. Due to the weather, the event has been changed from a race in the MCRRC's Championship Series to a 'fun run' which will not be timed and no results recorded. Whether that actually encourages runners to go more slowly or be willing to quit if they feel distressed will be the subject of debate in the coming days on the Club's discussion list.

And I've been on the verge of lightheadedness the last couple of minutes. I've been walking up one of the hills on the Y-shaped out and back course, and have just walked past Craig R., who says that he has been forced to give in to the hill. I say that it is not giving in but becoming one with the hill. I haven't the faintest idea of what I mean. Perhaps I mean that by walking one is yielding to the nature of the hill, and that is more in harmony with it than running up it, which is to struggle against the nature of the hill. but that Zen-like explanation only occurs to me well after the statement to Craig.

But the good news is that I can now see the final aid station at mile 11.5, and hear the crew there shouting encouragement to approaching runners (and walkers) that there is only a mile and a half to go. And a bit of a quandry - what does goosebumps and mild lightheadedness indicate? Time to call it a day? Or something transient that can be addressed at the aid station?

The day started off with me finishing my repo man role. A few days before the race I spotted a traffic cone stenciled with 'MCRRC' in front of a house in the next block. Figuring (correctly) that the cone did not belong there I grabbed it in the evening and put it in the trunk of my car to return to its rightful owner. I returned it at the start/finish area and then assumed my pre-race volunteer duties, which were not particularly difficult; repeating over and over again to arriving pre-registered runners: "A-L to the right, M-Z to the left."

I met Alyssa S. and her friend Kerry and we set off together. Her GPS was set to beep if she exceeded a 10 minute per mile pace, and it helped keep us from going out too fast. I had brought Succeed! salt tablets to carry with me for the race, but I forgot them and left them in the car. The sodium helps one retain water to keep from getting dehydrated, but I resolved to drink Gatorade at each aid stations, and not to go out too fast. Alyssa's GPS was pretty helpful in that regard, as we went through the first two miles in 20:11 and then the turnaround on the first branch of the Y-shaped course at mile 6 in one hour flat. I took a roll of Smarties at the aid station for future use. Mile seven passed in 10:06, so the pacing was looking pretty good despite the lack of Succeeds and the 3Hs of Riley's.

Just after mile seven the course turns to the second branch of the Y, and the course gets out of the shade of the wooded road onto a road that passes through fields and pastures and offers no shade. I see physicist and faster runner Mark Z. already headed back and joke the he is so fast that I'm experiencing a 'red shift' from his shorts. He goes on to finish in 1:57:30.

The turnaround at the top of the branch of the Y is at mile 8.42 (marked, 'yes it is exact') and the aid station there dispenses freeze pops in your choice of colors. I take a green one and for the first time decide that I need to walk an uphill. I encourage the still-outbound runners by telling them how far to the popsicles.

On the way back I spot Charli L. taking photos. Last year we teamed up in traveling to the JFK 50 miler. "Picture this," I shout, and give her a small effort to, umm, well, partially show the moon - but display less than a plumber shows while working under a sink. This, not the gooseflesh two miles later may have been the first sign that the heat was getting to me.

Now, reaching the final aid station, it's decision time. The first aid worker is offering ice water. I pour a cup over my head. It is shockingly cold, and I gasp as it runs down my neck and back. "Have another," he offers, and I take it and repeat the exercise. It feels deeply refreshing. I drink a Gatorade, as as I do, a car pulls up to take a runner who has been sitting in a chair with an ice pack on her head to the finish.

The gooseflesh and the lightheadedness is gone and I head up the road toward the finish. The lst portion of the course is mostly uphill and I walk long segments of it. Finally it turns off the road and into the soccer complex where the race began for the last quarter mile. Even though this section is mostly flat, I walk portions of it to finish in 2:17:20. The last two miles in particular were difficult, and it took me 25:29 to navigate the last 2.1 miles.

But I finished and was in good enough shape and humor to tell the finish line announcer that I didn't see how this could be called a 'fun run.'