Tag Archives: vacation runs

Just The Bad & The Ugly

Mostly here, you folks get to hear about the good runs. Or maybe the hard parts of the good runs. Or the good parts of the hard runs.

But every once in a while, you have a bad, ugly run. No good in it, but that you did it, and didn’t die.

I knew this, because other people tell me it, all the time. They tell me on their blogs, with their inspirational slogans, and with their helpful horror stories when I talk about a wet run, or a long run, or a tiring run.

However, as of last Thursday, I have my own story.

It all started innocently. Stephanie and I had been travelling all week, since driving from Michigan to Virginia on Saturday. We had slept in 4 beds over 5 nights, travelled by train, foot, and car all over the greater DC area. We had enjoyed two big parties, slept in or risen early, made up our schedule by responding to text messages and facebook posts. I had run a 5 mile run on Sunday, a race on Monday, and then coasted for two days. But by Thursday afternoon, feeling guilty about food, and feeling lost without a run scheduled, I announced I would go for a run before Steph’s father arrived home.

I’d run in the area before, and knew it was hilly. I had been outside in the area all week, and knew it was hot. I hadn’t planned much of a run, and didn’t feel like I had much energy for one. I resolved to get outside, exorcise those demons, and exercise my too-quick-to-adapt-to-vacation keister. If I did 2 or 3 miles I would be satisfied, and enjoy my dinner without guilt.

I got out the door, and everything felt fine, once my legs were under me and moving. I headed toward a route I had run before, a 3 mile loop, thinking I would run it backwards for some novelty. Then, in a fit of spontaneity, I decide to add a short loop to it, by staying out on the roads that I thought ringed the cluster of housing developments.

See, I had run my first mile through the developed land in the center, land that had been scoured clean by bulldozers and developed in lots, 10 and 20 at a time. The trees there, even the oldest ones, were in backyards, hiding behind the houses, shading the homes, and blocking cool breezes. The road was hot, exposed to the sun, sheltered from the breeze. When I hit  New Cut road, it was like an oasis. New Cut road was an old road, seemingly cut by hand and not razed by bulldozer. It ran by following the land, going around land people owned, trees the roadbuilders didn’t want to or couldn’t easily cut down, and traced along the path of a brook rather than bulling over it. Tall trees hovered along both sides of the road. The road itself disappeared around corner after corner as it wound its way down hill. Sure, I had to dodge cars with my heart in my throat, and more than once I hopped off the road onto the shoulder rather than risk getting run down, but it was cool, and lovely. And based on my previous runs on sections south and east of this spot, I should have only added a half mile to my 2-3 mile loop, depending on how much of the neighborhood I ran through afterwards.

Unfortunately:
You know what they say about assuming...
The two roads surrounding the developed area in between actually split in a Y, about 2 miles away.  By the time I met College Ave at the split, and started running south and east back toward home, I had already come 2.5 miles away. 2.5 miles downhill, basically. So I ran a hard 2+ miles back, with the sun glaring down on me for most of it. All the comfortable shade of the prior road was gone, and I hadn’t brought any water, so by 4 miles I was running out of energy.

I ended up walking and jogging the end of it, my heart pounding when I ran, my mouth dry. I was tired, muscles, body and soul, and I hobbled my way home. Still, for some reason I didn’t stop my watch, and call it a successful 4 mile run with a 0.5 mile walk home. I wanted to own my failure, to see what it looked like to be unable to push, but to keep trying.

I got back to the house, my whole body spent. I mumbled something about wanting gatorade at Stephanie, and laid down on the ground. Her father is a single man, and there was no Gatorade to be found, but some pouches of Capri Sun (no doubt the leftovers from his nephews visiting the prior weekend) were bouncing around the refrigerator. Stephanie leaned one on my cheek as I lay on the hard, thinly carpeted floor of the basement, and whined about my performance. I slurped the lemonade out of the foil container, and moaned for another. Once that was done I lay there, cursing the sun, and the roads, and my hubris to go out ‘exploring’ on a run with nothing but my clothes and garmin.

Still, I went for another run on Saturday, and Monday, and Wednesday. Each one a good run in their way. So I guess the bad ones come and go.

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Let Freedom Run 5k Race Report

I haven’t mentioned the Let Freedom Run 5k on the blog, or put it in the upcoming races, not because I wasn’t excited about it but because I didn’t know just what I was going to be doing with it. Would I run a hot race, looking for a nice solid PR, or would I meander the hills of Fairfax, Virginia with my friends, chatting about birthday fun? Would the large crowd that a holiday race draws cramp my start? Or would those aforementioned hills cramp my quads?

So I didn’t know what I’d get, but here is what I got:

  • A kickass morning with my friends Emily and Fred.
  • Cheering squad x2, Steph + Styger!
  • A 29:37 PR, meeting my 30min goal, setting a new, respectable, PR by a landslide.

Steph and I arrived about 45 min before race start, and parked out in the corner of the lot. Runners were all around, and as you often see on holiday races so were a ton of supportive onlookers. Sadly, they were out of tee-shirts, so I had to walk away from the sign-in table with just assurances that it would be mailed. An explosion of patriotic costumes punctuated the crowd of stock-standard race folks wandering about.

My friends Emily and Fred were running the race, and Emily’s friend Janna. My friend Stiger and of course the ever-present supportive wife would be cheering from the sidelines. Thankfully, as a 5k, they wouldn’t be waiting long. Fred, Emily, Janna and I chatted in the starting chute. Janna and Emily are training together for the Marine Corp Marathon in September, so this little run was just a hop, skip and jump for them. I know they’ll both do great!

For Fred, this was the first road run in a while, so he was mostly there to stretch his legs and keep us all company, which was much appreciated and great fun. I hope he had half the fun I did, cheering him as he came across the finish!

At the starting horn, the crowd lurched across the starting line mile 1 was the typical gristmill of people who all start out in a big crowd, and the ‘exit’ from the shopping center had two turns off the bat. I hadn’t discussed whether I’d be running alongside any of my friends, and I took off running pretty early. I hope my burst of enthusiasm wasn’t misinterpreted or hurtful. I decided as I started that I could, and wanted to, get an official 30min 5k on the books!

We came around the corner and out of the shopping center, and broke into a long, downhill, straightaway. By the end of that straightaway, I had settled into my pace, passed just about all the people I was going to pass. I started to slow down, not dramatically, but noticeably, as we kept winding up hill after hill. The run was a big rectangle around the shopping center, but it felt like a mobius strip! All up, and no down. The course was, in it’s way, refreshingly challenging, but one bit I didn’t enjoy is that several of the roads weren’t actually closed; just one lane in the direction of traffic was closed, so occasionally a car would zip by from behind. A disconcerting feeling! Plus at a couple of points the intersections were open, so a car would be perched, not directed by a traffic officer, waiting to cross the road. I finished up and didn’t even look at my watch because I wanted to start by seeing my chip time.

Coming in to the finish. Eyes either on the prize, or rolled back in my head. Thanks, sunglasses!

I stayed by the finish in the crowd that had gathered there to cheer on the finishing runners, including my friends. It was a great feeling to cheer for random people and see them surge to hit the finish line.

Then, it was off to the well deserved post run noshing! As usual, the race had bagels, bananas, and water arrayed around a table, but it was suffering from poor organization. Or rather, too much voluntary organization, as mild mannered runners naturally lined up, and none of the old folks manning the food booth would venture out to tell those waiting that it was not set up for a line and people should just mob the table. When I walked around the far side of the table and saw two boxes of bananas and bagels untouched, I grabbed one of each, and then started shouting to the runners in line. Either they didn’t believe me or they didn’t want to be the guy jumping out of line, so even as I left, there was a massive line snaking away from the table.

So, for low points, worrisome traffic control, not enough shirts (c’mon, that’s like race organizing 101, isn’t it?) and a bit of a failure to communicate at the food table.  The highpoints were a good challenging rolling hilled course (as advertised) a fun run with friends, a 30 minute PR and a beautiful (overcast, not blistering hot) day for a run.

Big thanks to my friends for running with me.

Fred is grinning inexplicably, I am pouting inexplicably and Emily is counting the number of dorks appearing in this picture.