Legging It Out

I was pleased with my race this morning, even though it didn’t go quite as planned. I finished in 20:12 (just off my goal time of twenty minutes, but 1:56 faster than last year), good for fourteenth place in the 140-man field and first in my 14-man age group. Still, I could have run a smarter, better, and faster race if I had handled a couple errors better.

The first big error was the race organizers’ – they didn’t tell those of us at the 5k starting line (a couple blocks away from the starting line for the 15k race) when to expect the gun, so we were just milling around when there was a bang and a puff of smoke down the block. Here was the second error, mine: I went off way too fast, leading the race for the first 500 meters. The only good that came of this was being in front of all the tweens and teenagers who run like oxen, clogging up the road over the first mile. Anyhow, I led through the first corner, and then started giving up places as the real racers caught up to me and the front of the 5k field hit the back of the 15k field.

From there, I was pretty much in survival mode, with my heart rate averaging about 179 (something like 95% of my maximum – which I nearly reached in the last sprint) and my legs feeling increasingly cooked. One by one, other men passed me, with the last one – an old guy! with gray hair! and colossal thighs! – going by just before the two-mile mark. I tried to latch on to each one, but each time, my legs said, “WTF, dude! No way.” I just couldn’t overcome the lactate built up during my stupid all-out start.

Thankfully, the course rescued me. The last third is flat and then gradually downhill to the finish line, helping me hold my position to the finishing chute and even look sorta fast there at the end. (Shannon took this shot just about when I heard Julia cheering for me.)

Finishing the Defeat of Jesse James Days 5k
Finishing the Defeat of Jesse James Days 5k

Playing the Race Card

Just about twelve hours from now, I’m going to hit the pavement in the 5k road race that’s part of Northfield’s gigantic annual “Defeat of Jesse James Days Celebration.” I ran last year’s race in 22:08, finishing 16th among 122 men and first of five in my age group. The race was surprisingly fun – my first running race since 1995.

This year, I trained all spring and summer to run the sibling race, a 15k over a pretty hilly course, but my training regimen was blown up by illness last month, so I stepped down to the 5,000 meter race. This is not only hella shorter, but the course includes just one climb worth mentioning (300 meter run, 10 meter rise). Hoping that my distance-oriented training will translate to this shorter event, my race goal is to run under 20 minutes. Depending on the size and quality of the field, this time might get me into the top 10. In keeping with my goal for tomorrow morning, my goal for tonight is to avoid partaking of the chocolate ice cream in the freezer.

Cold and Snowy

Bring it!

The Farmers’ Almanac predicts below-average temperatures for most of the United States this winter. According to the publication, “numb’s the word.” The 192-year-old publication has an accuracy rate of 80 percent to 85 percent for its forecasts and is prepared two years in advance.

The almanac’s 2009 edition, which goes on sale Tuesday, says at least two-thirds of the country can expect colder-than-average temperatures this winter, with only the Far West and Southeast in line for near-normal readings. The almanac predicts above-normal snowfall for the Great Lakes and Midwest, especially during January and February.

From the Chicago Tribune.

Faceplant

I got my olde aull-terrayne velocipede fixed up at the shop today – those new brakes are great. This evening, I celebrated by watching the mountain-bike races from Beijing, which are archived on the NBC website. The races themselves are good, and the setting – a beautiful park smack in the middle of the city and riddled with narrow trails – is amazing. If you don’t have the stomach for four hours of viewing, settle for the montage of crashes in the women’s race, which is fun to watch too.

Straight Lines

I’ve snuck in a couple runs while here, mostly just to maintain some fitness before a more-intense couple of weeks that will end with a 15km road race in early September. For simplicity’s sake, my runs here in Moorhead have started at my in-laws’ house and consisted of tours of eastern Moorhead. About all I can say of the area as a place to run is that it’s flat and that you don’t have to worry about missing a turn.

Highway 52 Running Path
Highway 52 Running Path

Marathon Swimming

Among the other new events in the 2008 Olympics is the marathon swim – a 10,000 meter (6.2 mile) open-water swim event for women on August 19, for men on August 20. The races are so long that they can’t be held in the Water Cube, where a 10,000 meter swim would entail 200 laps lengths (thanks, Mr. Mayor!) of the pool. Instead, the marathons will be held in the basin where the rowing and canoeing races were earlier held; marathon swims are usually held in lakes, rivers, and oceans, so this is a bit of an odd place to race.

I haven’t swum in years, but this event intrigues me to no end. The technique for feeding racers is incredible (coaches use long sticks to hold food and drink out to the swimmers), a 16-year-old American is a medal possibility in the women’s event, referees can inflict yellow and red cards on swimmers who don’t race fairly, and of course swimming for two hours (in water that might be nearly 90 degrees!) is an enormous physical challenge – heightened by the fact that the swimmers are jostling constantly with one another. Oh, and the races often end in sprints. I’m sure NBC won’t cover more than a few minute of the races on TV, but I’m going to make a point to watch them online.

Olympians (Greatest Wikipedia Table Ever)

I am very impressed by this Wikipedia table, which lists almost every athlete who has won multiple Olympic medals. Obviously,  Michael Phelps is at the top of the list when its sorted for number of golds, but he’s only number three in the ranking by number of total medals, behind two Russian/Soviet gymnasts. My man Bjørn Dæhlie, the greatest cross-country skier ever, is tied for number 6, with 12 medals (8 golds, 4 silvers). Gymnastics and swimming are where it’s at for winning huge numbers of medals…

Summer Running

My eye ordeal knocked me off my running schedule, but back at it now, I’ve discovered that it’s high summer in the prairie. There are two main signs of this state.

First and best are fields full of yellow-and-black flowers. The black-eyed susans lean gently in one direction or the other, trying to find open space to soak up the sunlight. The sunflowers, on the other hand, just grow straight up on their thick, prickly stalks. They seem to get taller in the twenty minutes between my outbound northerly passage and my southbound return trip. I hardly noticed them two weeks ago, when they were poking their heads up over the other prairie grasses, but now they’re as tall as I am, and soon will tower over me.

The second, and much less appealing, emblems of high summer are the grasshoppers. Everywhere. Brown, green, black. Hopping, leaping, flying. Buzzing, clicking, making no sound. They look like rocks or twigs lining the path until I get too close and they launch themselves away from me, around me, toward me, into me. I haven’t had one actually fly into my ear or mouth or nose yet, but it’s probably only a matter of time. I can see why Yahweh used them to punish evildoers.

At Five, I’ll Use My Jetpack to Fly Home

Spurred by my scratched-cornea ordeal,  I just ordered some prescription sunglasses online through a sunglasses website. I used a Wikipedia entry to understand my prescription card, a ruler to measure my pupillary distance according to instructions on another store’s website, Paypal to handle the transaction, and our office copier to make and email a scan of my Rx to the vendor. All very casual; I hardly noticed even doing any of this until it was all done.