Thursday, March 29, 2007

First race

No, not my first race. My daughter's first race. On the weekend Kelly took part in the kids race, part of the Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders 4th Sunday run at Lake Merritt in Oakland.

She did great, perfectly focused, systematically moving through the field. It was a proud parenting moment. So here's a photo:

Kelly crossing the finish line

I, on the other hand, attempted the 10K race (a week after the Canyonlands Half) and was forced to admit that it was probably a mistake.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Canyonlands half

It's now been a week, but I wanted to write a little something about our latest running achievement. On March 17th Patty and I ran the Canyonlands Half Marathon together. For both of us it was and is the longest we'd ever run. 13.1 miles.

It was also one of the most beautiful places I could possibly imagine running. The first 10 miles are along side the Colorado River as it cuts through a deep canyon of red rock. The sound of the river and the sheer scale of the landscape sucked away even the sound of runner's footsteps and chit chat, leaving a surreal quiet and the scenery to enjoy as the miles ticked past. It was a privilege to be there.

View from the start of the race

The morning started with an early bus trip up the Canyon in a classically American yellow school bus. At the start line we sat for far too long in the freezing shaded canyon. A DJ played music. People tried to stay warm. The port-a-potty lines grew longer.

Almost an hour before the race they announced that we needed to sweat check our warm clothes. Yeah, right! But we did. We made a last trip to the potty, joining a line back onto the closed road. "If you are in line and are standing on the road, you're not going to make it. You need to make other arrangements." was the announcement. We stayed in line, and it was fine. That taken care of we made our way up the hill ahead of the starter with the red mega-phone and took a position near to the back. We shivered. Everyone else shivered. And then we were off.

The crowd started to walk forward and picked up into a jog about where the start line was. The timing mat beeped. I started my watch...

The miles cruised by easier than I'd imagined. I feel like in a race some kind of flight instinct kicks in that just isn't there in training. It was basically easy going except our heart rates were up from the altitude. We settled in at a 10:30 pace including 30 seconds walk breaks every mile and 1 minute every water station.

Patty running in the canyon

All was well until we left the canyon. The race course followed a bike path under the highway and then turned left up a painfully steep (but short) piece of path, then alongside the trucks towards town. This part was bad. The midday sun, a slow long up hill, the altitude and the truck exhaust. We passed a downed runner, lying head on the road, body on the sidewalk. We'd seen the after mouth of a deer which had been just hit by a car earlier in the morning as we drove to the start. It was trying to get up but couldn't. The running looked about the same. Fortunately EMS was on the scene for the runner.

By the time I got to the top of the hill my heart rate was up and I was ready to be done. Over a mile to go. I took two cups of water and poured most of them on my self. It felt good. Then it felt a little weird. And then I was back to being hot, dehydrated, having too high a heart rate and being ready to be done. But I kept running.

Along the way the towns people were out to see us. The kids lined the side of the road giving us "low fives" as we ran. It was very cute. One house sprayed us with mist from their garden hose.

Me at the finish

We turned the final bend towards the finish line. Patty pointed to the finish sign. I looked and when I saw it too my only thought was how far away it seemed. My heart rate was now approaching max as Patty picked up the pace. She decided we could better our goal of 2:20 if we ran faster. I followed her as best I could. As we got closer the route was packed on either side with people cheering. This was good because at this point I might have considered not running so hard. Perhaps sitting down. In the final seconds Patty and I held hands as we crossed the line. We did it!!

For me this was a big achievement. I'd hurt my foot a month earlier, had given it a few days, run on it, hurt it some more and basically couldn't even walk on it without pain. So I'd taken two weeks off running. Two critical weeks before this race. My longest runs had been stunted to a little over 9 miles and I'd put in just 11 miles total in the three weeks leading up to the race.

Now back home it seems like some kind of dream that I was out there in Utah, running down a canyon outside of Moab. That we ran all that way. That we sat on the grass in the park eating scones and cookies and bananas. That we sat in a coffee shop watching all the runners go by in their green race shirts. That that night we watched the sun set on a towering wall of glowing red rock from beside our motel hot tub. That we drove back to SLC the next day and flew home.

But it wasn't a dream. Moab, we'll be back.