Sunshine 10K: sunshine optional

Anyone still wondering why Austin doesn’t hold many distance races in the spring? Today should clear up any confusion on that matter. It was 72 with 85% humidity as the Sunshine Run 10Kers lined up at 7am. Thank goodness it was overcast–actual sunshine during this race would have turned the whole thing into an oven. Or one of the circles of hell. Another benefit to the early start? The 5K wasn’t scheduled to start until 8:30, so the early birds didn’t have to scramble for parking spaces.

This was the inaugural Sunshine Run, formerly known as the Schlotzky’s Bun Run. Its out-and-back route started on Riverside just in front of the Long Center, then over the First Street bridge, west on First Street past Austin High to Lake Austin Boulevard via that little road that runs along the hike-and-bike trail, then left on Lake Austin Boulevard. The turnaround was about a quarter-mile past Exposition.

What’s the state bird of Texas? The construction crane.

The 10K was a pretty small affair, only about 550 entrants. So once we were underway, the crowd spaced itself out pretty well. The bridge had a small incline, but once we crossed it, the street flattened out. The first mile went by quickly.

The drawback to out-and-back courses? Somewhere along mile two, around the back side of Austin High, the eventual winner passed me on his way back.

I slowed a bit as I climbed the hill from the Mopac bridge to Lake Austin Boulevard–as West Austin hills go, it’s not at all daunting, but the humidity did not make anything easy today. I’m pretty sure that Gilbert from Gilbert’s Gazelles was the guy cheering along this stretch, which helped me power through the last of the incline.

As I ran along Lake Austin Boulevard, I played chase with this couple who was running intervals. They’d pass me, then when they stopped to walk, I’d pass them. I couldn’t get enough separation when they were walking, so lather rinse repeat for about two miles.

Just past Exposition, I made the turnaround to run the whole thing in reverse. There were more water stops on the way back, which helped. At the second one, I drank a cup of water and dumped another on my head, then made the last push to the finish. I tried not to think about how awful my stomach felt, but I’ve never been good at zoning out and ignoring discomfort. I knew I wasn’t going to PR today, and I was okay with that. I just wanted to finish strong.

Halfway across the bridge, I saw B on the sidewalk–his bright green Hulk shirt caught my eye immediately. He shouted, then started running down the sidewalk next to me. He caught up with his dad (who’s still injured) and continued running alongside me. Down the little hill, then the final turn. I could see the finish line. I felt a surge of energy and picked up my pace. The 5K runners were lined up on the other side of the road, their race still fifteen or so minutes away. The announcer called some finishers’ names, but I didn’t hear mine. As I crossed, though, he said something about being glad to see all the Rogue runners out today, and since I was wearing a Rogue shirt, I figured maybe I got a shout-out there.

Go Rogue!

Go Rogue!

As I stood on the sidewalk waiting for M and B, a group of women asked me to take their picture. After I finished that, another couple asked the same. Guess who? The interval people. Go figure!

I was such a sweaty, disgusting mess from the humidity, I had no intention of inflicting that upon some poor restaurant. We went home and got cleaned up, then met some family for–what else–Mexican food.

And then the sun came out.

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Bluebonnet 10K

Okay so that’s not a real race, or if it is I didn’t run it today. But my 6.2 miles along Brushy Creek Regional Trail included several expanses of bluebonnets. They’re beginning to fade now, so I’m glad I got to enjoy them one more day.

I started at the YMCA and ran 3.1 miles out to the dam at Brushy Creek Lake Park. I took it slowly–my only other runs this week were the Austin 10/20 and Thursday’s five-miler, so I didn’t want to overdo it. And I got a later start than usual, so it was warm and sunny by the time I hit the trail. Glad I brought water!

At the park–the same place the Tri Doc 5K started–the enormous bluebonnet field was peppered with parents taking pictures of kids in their Easter clothes.

bluebonnets

On the way back, I stopped to smell the roses bluebonnets, knowing they’ll be gone soon. I felt kind of like the flowers–a little tired, a little faded, but not dead yet. 😉

I said in my previous post that my spring racing season was winding down, but it’s not completely over. Today I decided to run the Sunshine 10K next Sunday, and then we have the end-of-an-era Chuy’s 5K the first weekend in May. So part of the reason I ran 6.2 miles today was to kind of perform a status check. After three PRs at three distances over three weeks, I wanted to make sure all systems were go for two more back-to-back (albeit shorter) races. I’m not anticipating PRs at either one–I just want to enjoy a couple more events before it gets too hot. Because like the bluebonnets, I’m not quite ready to hang it up.

Running in the rain

In many parts of the country, spring racing season is just getting started. But in Austin, our major distance races are held in January and February, and most others wrap up by April or early May. So last Sunday’s Austin 10/20 was my last double-digit race for the foreseeable future.

This year has been fulfilling but totally exhausting. I’ve run significant PRs at the 5K, 10K (twice), 10-mile, and half marathon, and the one race I didn’t PR (the Austin half) I still did what I set out to do and was pleased with my results. But training five or six days a week, working a full-time job, and holding down the fort while M traveled for work has taken its toll over the last three months.

Last night was the first time since last summer that I ran just for the hell of it. No weekly schedule, no mandated distance. Let’s be honest–I require those things during training. I follow instructions well, but without a plan, I default to lazy. I understand that about myself, which is one of the reasons I really love training with Rogue. They keep me honest and on-track to achieve these crazy goals I’ve set for myself. BUT. This is not a pace I can sustain forever. Downtime is good, at least for a little while.

So last night, I ran the path at the fields where B had lacrosse practice. How is this different from last week and the week before, you ask? I guess in that respect, not much. But I ran because I didn’t want to just sit there and watch other people’s activity. I ran because I had an unplayed “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” podcast calling my name. I ran because the temperature felt cool, and we all know THAT won’t last around here. I ran because I wanted to.

I ended up running just over five miles, most of them in the rain. Not quite enough to abandon my headphones but enough to soak my shirt and hair and socks. It felt good, running in the rain, shouting answers to Lightning Fill in the Blank (“Stephen Colbert! GM! Spiders! Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Farting cows!”), and loosening up all those muscles still slightly sore from Sunday’s race.

I know I can’t sustain this any more than I can sustain a demanding training schedule, so I have tentative plans to join another training group soon. I want to run the Army Ten-Miler again, and maybe another fall half marathon. But for now, I want to enjoy running in the rain.

Austin 10/20: 10 miles, 20 bands, 90% humidity

For those keeping score at home, today’s Austin 10/20 ten-mile race was my third of three races, three distances, in three weeks. I’d run PRs at the 5K and 10K, and I hoped to hit the trifecta today. But my left calf had been bothering me since Wednesday (didn’t I have this same injury last year for this race? What’s up with that?) and I didn’t know how it would feel over ten miles.

Earlier weather forecasts predicted rain and thunderstorms, but race-day updates pushed the rain to the afternoon. I was relieved at that, but really? The humid air was so thick and heavy, it might as well have been raining. It was overcast and in the high 60s (and yet, some runners wore long sleeves??) when I met up with a bunch of Rogues before the race. Several of us had been assigned the same corral, so we made our way over there a few minutes before 8am. As the corrals began to move, we picked up a few more Rogues, and just like that, it was time to run.

The corrals had not been laid out in a straight line this year (something to do with construction at The Domain), so we had to make a left turn, and people started running waaaaay before the official start. I didn’t want to cause a traffic jam, so this was the best picture I could get. But I managed to lose every single one of my friends, again.

M and B were waiting right at the start line, so I got high fives, then hit my Garmin and was off and running.

I think I said this last year too: I appreciate the bands along the way, but honestly I don’t spend a lot of time listening to them as I run by their stages. So I wear my headphones, then pause my music as I approach each new musician. But I have to say, the kid playing at the second stage was impressive. I could hear a Beatles song a block or so away, and I thought it sounded pretty good. Turns out, the entire “band” was this one 12-year old kid, singing and nailing a guitar solo.

I saw the woman recording this video, so I’m in that crowd somewhere!

The first half of the course runs down Burnet Road, then loops back up to The Domain. We made the turn south on Burnet Road, and about the time I hit mile two, the leaders were approaching from the other direction, almost to mile five. Yowza.

This part of the course isn’t terribly scenic, but one section of fenced-in field was full of bluebonnets and other wildflowers. The road here deteriorated quite a bit–more construction–and I ran in the center turn lane for a while.

At the water stop near mile three, I saw one of my current students, and at the next one I passed two former students who are seniors in high school this year. At a couple of other points, I encountered the cheerleaders and mascot for the high school my students eventually attend–a couple of those were kids I’d taught too. I saw one of my coaches twice and my family three times the first half of the race.

I like the second half of this race more than the first. Yeah, I’m tired, but the strong crowd support–and knowing I’m nearer to the finish–pushes me along. Mile seven wound through the heart of The Domain, and then we ran for a while along the MoPac access road. This stretch was longer than I remembered from last year, but it’s a bit downhill most of the way so I got through it okay, made the turnaround, and headed back up the access road on the other side. Which of course goes back up that incline. My Garmin data shows a much slower pace for this segment, not surprisingly. But I knew I was still on pace to meet my goal and didn’t worry too much. The mile nine marker waited under the bridge, and then it was just one. mile. to. go.

I saw M and B one more time as I wound through the parking lot–more high fives to power me through the last half-mile. Lots of folks wearing finishers’ medals wandered the sidewalks, and a huge cheering crowd waited at the corner of the last turn toward the finish. There’s a bit of a hill here–cruel, race organizers, cruel–and while I didn’t exactly charge up it, I kept putting one foot in front of the other. The road flattened out and spectators lined the route. One woman saw my shirt and yelled “JFR!” I got free high fives from kids holding a sign that said “Free High Fives!” and then I spotted B in the crowd. I couldn’t get to him, but I waved and he knew I’d seen him.

I crossed the timing mats having knocked seven minutes off my previous ten-mile PR. Got my medal, a bottle of water, and a cold washcloth, then found some of my Rogue friends and my family at about the same time. The humidity had added a degree of difficulty today–my ponytail was completely wet and I hoped I looked better than I smelled. But my calf had held up surprisingly well, and overall I was pleased with my performance and my finishing time.

The bling is pretty nice too!

Things that drive me crazy on race day

I love race day, as a general rule. The buzz of excitement reverberates alongside the announcer’s voice. Or maybe that’s the buzz of Garmins looking for satellites, I don’t know. Anyway, there’s just so much potential at the start of a race. Dozens, hundreds, even thousands of personal stories, waiting to be written.

M is visible in this picture from last year!

But in any large group there are the outliers–the people who catch my attention because they’re doing something weird or annoying. For example at this year’s Cap 10K, I had to move to a different starting point just to get away from the women who were popping their gum in my ear.

What else bothers me during a race? Here are five things that drive me crazy.

  1. Drivers who wait in ridiculous traffic so they can park as close as possible to the starting line of a 5K or a 10K. Do they not see the irony? Especially at large races we tend to park a half-mile or more away, with easy escape afterward. I’d much rather walk a mile (which can serve as a warmup) than sit through that light sixteen times, inch through traffic, and pay $7 for the privilege of parking in a garage that will trap me later.
  2. People who pin their race bibs to the backs of their shirts. Seriously, what is with that? The race guide said–in no fewer than four places–to pin it to the front of your shirt. Eighty or ninety percent of participants wear theirs on the front. The elite runners everyone sees in pictures and on TV have their numbers pinned to the front. Yet some people either ignore that (and probably wonder why Marathon Foto can never find pictures of them) or are oblivious to the fact that almost no one else milling around before the race has positioned their numbers similarly. Not to mention the extra effort it takes to have another person pin one’s bib on one’s back. Why do people come to the conclusion–and persist with it even after arriving at the race and seeing other runners–that the race number goes on the back? Doesn’t the term “bib” in and of itself suggest the front? I don’t understand.

    Mario wears his bib on his bib.

  3. People who intend to walk the race and choose to line up at the front, ahead of people who self-seed appropriately. I am not fast, so I always try to line up according to the pace I plan to run so that I don’t slow others down. Yet in many races, especially large ones, I cross the starting line and immediately have to dodge people who have already stopped to walk, or who never planned to run at all. Sometimes I get a half-mile into a race and catch a group of walkers who must have started practically with the elites to be that far ahead of me. Look, you want to walk a race? GREAT. That’s awesome. But lining up at the front? NOT AWESOME.
  4. Intervals. Now wait, hear me out. I have no issue with intervals as a concept–I have run many intervals in training, and I think there’s nothing wrong with a run-walk race plan. BUT. If you choose this method, please be aware of people around you when you suddenly stop because your watch told you to walk. And holy mother of God, if you are doing the run-walk thing with a group, QUIT WALKING FOUR OR FIVE ABREAST. Not only have you stopped in front of me, there are so many of you I can’t pass you either. I ran a small race that followed a relatively narrow path, and these four teenaged girls ran past me, then stopped to walk. Four wide, blocking the whole path not only for people (like me) going the same direction, but also for people coming the other way. I couldn’t pass them at first, then finally got around them only to have them run by me again and do the same damned thing. It’s infuriating.
  5. People who blast music from their phones or iPods, sans headphones. I don’t care if it’s a song I like or if it’s Justin Freaking Bieber. You’re never going to be as cool as Lloyd Dobler and his boom box. You’re just annoying everyone around you.

Please tell me I’m not alone here. What are some of your race day pet peeves?

 

Austin Cap 10K

Late last week, weather forecasters predicted an 80% chance of rain for the 37th annual Capitol 10K. By mid-Saturday, it had dropped to about 40%. But when I woke up this morning for the race, I heard the telltale sound of raindrops on the roof. Awesome.

As we drove downtown the rain picked up, but by the time we parked the car it had become just a drizzle. Because it’s April in Texas, I’d worn a short-sleeved shirt, but with temps in the 50s and concern about more rain, I threw on my water-resistant Columbia jacket for the walk to the starting line. I figured if it started raining again, I’d be glad to have it, and if I changed my mind I could leave it with M (who’s still injured) at the last minute. Which I ended up doing–once again, it was helpful to have a Sherpa!

Despite the rain, turnout was good. We walked to the Congress Avenue bridge, singing to P!nk’s “So What” blasting through the sound system as we made our way to the starting area. There weren’t really corrals, just self-seeding areas based on finishing time. We started out in what I thought was an appropriate location, but soon noticed that we were surrounded by a woman with a stroller, a guy with a dog, (both of whom could still be running the pace we wanted) and a small group discussing their strategy for walking the entire race. So we moved up a bit, if for no other reason than to get away from the women snapping their gum.

And then it was time to run.

IMG_7821

Annnnnd….go!

We crossed the bridge (dodging people who were walking–how the hell were they in front of us??) and headed north toward the Capitol. This is truly my favorite view of any race I’ve ever done–the mile-long expanse from the lake to the Capitol is pretty spectacular, even moreso with thousands of runners filling the street. Plus this race is known for its costumed runners and assorted weirdness, so we never knew if we’d see, say, a banana running past us.

Photo by Mike

Photo by Mike

Rather than give you a play-by-play of each mile, I’ll just describe some of the things we encountered as we ran 6.2 miles.

  • People wearing race numbers on their backs
  • Walkers who lined up at the very front
  • The marquee at the Paramount wishing us luck on the race
  • A guy wearing an inflatable Bevo head, pushing a stroller, and blasting “The Eyes of Texas.”
  • A guy running with a large Austin High flag
  • A guy who overheard B talking about aircraft and slowed to talk to him
  • A woman blasting “Don’t Stop Believin'” from her phone
  • As we approached the mile three marker, a woman who’d been running just ahead of us asked if B had three more miles of stories, because listening to him was a great distraction.
  • People running intervals who passed us, then stopped in front of us and walked five abreast, lather rinse repeat
  • Awesome water stop volunteers!
  • A guy running in jeans, a barefoot guy, and a woman carrying a purse
  • Several people saw my Rogue shirt and shouted “Go Rogue!”
  • A guy in a banana costume, and a guy in a gorilla costume
  • People who had seriously overdressed–one woman had TWO long sleeved shirts tied around her waist; others wore fleece tops and/or winter tights. It was 55 degrees–B and I wore short sleeves.
  • Two separate people chatting on their phones
  • A hairy shirtless guy who kept passing us, stopping, and passing us again
  • Fog descending over the skyline as we neared the finish

The last mile, B started fading a bit. He’d run out of Minecraft and aircraft stories to tell, and his legs were tired from the hills earlier in the race. But the crowd support picked up and several people cheered for him, and that helped.

We turned onto the First Street bridge and tried to speed up. We had to dodge the aforementioned interval runners who kept stopping in front of us, and we made one last push to stay ahead of the hairy shirtless guy. Final turn, homestretch. A gorilla passed us. I ran as hard as I could, B matching my stride. I knew a large crowd gathered along the left side fence, but my vision focused solely on the finish line.

By Garmin time, I beat my 10K PR by four-ish minutes, and B beat his by about fifteen. Chip time was off by about 20 seconds–in my favor–so I’ll take that. And afterwards? Coffee and tacos.

Austin Power(s)

Last May, I returned to the city of my birth, meeting up with K and J to run the Cleveland half marathon. We had a blast (my injury notwithstanding) and I hoped someday to show her my city. Well, eleven months later, K and her family came to Austin. Or as she put it, the mountain came to Mohammed.

See, leading up to Cleveland, we were virtual training partners, texting each other every day. I remember when she ran her first double-digit run; then there were the “Did you run today?” texts, and lots of encouragement. When the race day weather forecast showed rain, we both panicked and sped out–separately–to buy water-resistant jackets just in case. And when race day came, we lined up together for her first half marathon and my third. Due to my aforementioned injury, I sent her ahead at mile eight, and I could not have been prouder of her for finishing strong.

So today, I got to return the favor. Sort of. We didn’t have a race (although I tried to get her to stick around for the Austin Capitol 10K this Sunday) but I convinced her to come to my Wednesday night Rogue training run. After three days of Mexican food–Powered by Enchiladas–we were ready for a speed workout.

On the drive over, I pointed out not tourist sights, but locations I’ve mentioned in my texts and blog posts. The long stretch of Brushy Creek Road. The street at the bottom of Heely Sonova. The path for the Rogue Running Mad half marathon last summer. The cactus in the snow. The crashed fence. The middle school track. That fucking tree.

The last two days, the weather has been cloudy and breezy, but warm. This afternoon, under an overcast sky, we took obligatory Texas bluebonnet pictures, and it drizzled a couple of times when we took the kids to the park. Yet as we arrived at Rogue, the clouds broke and the sun came out. Considering Cleveland got snow the other day, this sunny-and-warm thing was kind of alien to her.

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Tonight’s run was a track workout. K was concerned because she hasn’t run in two weeks due to the plague a respiratory thing, but I assured her she could go at her own pace and rest if she needed to. So we headed out for the 1.25-mile warmup to the middle school track.

She was underwhelmed by that fucking tree, saying by my description she expected it to be a monstrous Whomping Willow kind of thing. “It’s barely six feet tall!” she exclaimed, and shook her head. Even when I made her run on the right side of the sidewalk and duck underneath it, she remained unimpressed.

At the track, we ran 2.5 laps at half-marathon pace, a half-lap walking, repeat four times. The Team Rogue Prep middle school kids were out there too–nothing like having a pack of pre-teens fly past you on the track, huh? We just kept reminding ourselves we were running a half-marathon pace, not a sprint.

Usually I run with headphones and either a podcast or a power playlist. Tonight, we chatted. A couple of times, when I slowed for the walking section, K asked, “Don’t we have one more lap before we rest?” Nope. Clearly we did a good job blocking out the demoralizing kid-sprinters and sticking to our own thing, because the laps went by pretty quickly. And Texas didn’t kill her–she ran strong, didn’t cough up a lung, and ended up finishing close to six miles by the time we dodged that fucking tree and got back to Rogue.

Powered by Enchiladas, indeed. Yeah baby, yeah!