Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Capon Valley 50K - May 19, 2012

On the way to Lynn's barn - the first and last aid station
Often running is just running.  Left foot, right foot, repeat until done.

But sometimes there are things to be learned.  Usually about running. But at Capon Vally this year not everything learned related to running. One lesson changed my outlook on the future and how to confront, view and handle the changes that come with getting older.

Colors Matter
Death in a row by the side of the trail
This was my fifth Capon Valley 50K, and since the course is unchanged, I know the course quite well.  Or so I thought.  Twice I led folks off-course, and a a third time I followed others who had gone astray.  In none of the cases did we go more than 30 or 40 yards wrong and it was a simple matter to realize that we did not see any ribbons marking the trail.

But this year the ribbons were striped white and light orange, and in the dappled sunlight of a forest, they were harder to see than the bright pink ribbons of years past.

Motivation is Where You Find It
The Sparkle Train, aka Team America
Headed down the long descent - about 800 feet in about 3.5 - 4.0 miles - from the Capon Springs Grade Aid Station (mile 18.7) I pass a pair of women standing by the trail.  "We're waiting for our friend," they inform me as I go by.

Shortly thereafter, the three companions pass me.  They are wearing matching glittery skirts over their running pants, one silver, one red and one blue.

"Too bad they didn't have white," I comment, "You could have been Team America."  "Silver was the closest they had," Silver replied.  "It's Blue's birthday," she adds, so we need to get done for beer and cake."

I decide to try to stick with them, or at least keep them in sight.  They pull away from me on the downhills, but I can walk uphill faster than they can, and we leapfrog a bit.  We do this for about seven miles, until we are cross under the powerlines less than a mile from the Golemon Barn, AS #6 at mile 27.5.  From then on the course is mostly downhill and they pull away and finish about four and a half minutes ahead of me.  But the effort to keep up with them upped my pace and helped me to a Capon Valley PR.

Glue Matters
Missing a heel
A few weeks before the race the tread of the right heel of my Nike trail shoes had started to separate from the shoe.  I had a tube of Shoe Goo that I had used successfully on other, non-running athletic shoes - baseball cleats - in the past, so I used it on the Nikes.

About 23 miles into the race I felt something under my right foot.  At first it feels like I keep stepping on a soft stone.  A stop to look reveals that the repaired heel is peeling off.  Coming into the Capon Springs Road Aid Station (mile 24.4) I ask if anyone has a knife, as I plan to cut off the flopping part.  No one does, but a volunteer offers duct tape.  Taking the shoe off I'm confused as I don't see anything wrong with the shoe.  There's nothing detached.  Then the mental fog lifts and I realize that the heel has peeled off entirely.  It's only about a quarter or three-eighths inch thick so it does not present any problems the rest of the way.

Good is Relative, or Why the Glass is Always Full
Somewhere in the middle of the course I run with a man who mentions that he is 65 years old.  "I hope that when I reach your age, I'll be in good enough shape to still be running," I say.

"You'll be in good shape," he says, "and you have lots of years ahead of you."

"I don't mind, the more years, just as long as they are good ones," I reply.

"Good means different things at different times. There may come a day when you will find it an accomplishment to be able to get from your chair and use a walker.  The day may come when laying in bed and being able to use an iPad will be the most you can do.  But if it is what you can do, then it will feel good to do it, if that is the best you can do," he explains.

It is an insight that had, until that moment, escaped me. But as he says it, I recall my mother's rehabilitation from her stroke, going from not being able to stand to being able to walk, even if she sometimes needed a walker. The lesson of the older runner to accept being able to finish rather than running faster applies to all aspects of living.  The scope of our reach may shrink, but there will always be something to reach for.  Accept that, reach for what you can, and you will age - no, you will live - happily and with purpose.

The Race Facts
I finish my fifth Capon Valley 50K in 6:40:56, a PR by 27 minutes.  I finish 124/196 overall, 86/122 males, and 7/15 in the male 60-69 age group.

Capon Valley swag - shirt and number
(not shown, devoured chicken dinner and homemade desserts)

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