Save the soul of the New Haven 20K

Runner types- the New Haven Road Race folks sent me an email survey, the gist of which was asking if they should ‘add’ a half marathon option to the Labor Day 20k.

Please tell them ‘no’.

The 20k is a great race as is, period, full stop.

I was kind of upset when they trebeled the size of the crowd showing up Labor Day morning with the 5K; however, in hindsight, it works as an option to get the whole family running. Which is awesome, and adds to the great atmosphere.

However, adding a half marathon would be a huge mistake, because you wouldn’t really add runners, rather just shift folks from the 20K field. Any new runners who came to the event to the event would be the dumb ones who can’t think metric and realize that 20k is only a half mile shy of a half marathon. The folks who care deeply about labels, and are just looking to check a distance box instead of running for the sake of running and reveling in the last day of summer. The types who won’t do a triathlon unless it’s got an M-Dot.

From here on, we’re going to call the proposed half marathon the 21K. And I encourage you to drink beer.

Not every event needs to be the same. There’s value in having some odd distances, in that it captures the essence of racing, which is “Hey, I bet I can get THERE faster than you”.

Tarzan Brown should be to the top of River Road and back, construction dependent, and shouldn’t get truncated to a 5 mile race. Adding another 0.2502 miles would make the Manchester Road Race just another 5 miler instead of an almost 80 year Thanksgiving Tradition. Probably would start at 10 AM instead of “10:00 a.m. Sharp”.

These traditions are what unite us in our local “tribes”, what give us opportunities to actually talk instead of just nodding while we pound out miles day to day to day. New Haven on Labor Day should be a 20k followed with beer on the green, and then pizza and more beer in the park.

While I’m pretty convinced just based on tradition, being a stick in the mud, and getting into my mid-40s, I’m skeptical of the logistics of running a 21K alongside “The” 20K. I’ve run several marathons where there was a half marathon run on the same course, and where the races split has always been a giant bag of poop for mid-pack runners, regardless of which distance they’re running. Either the half runners miss the turn and get a slower half time, or the marathoners accidentally make the time and end up running 26.4 instead of 26.2. And that’s where there’s a HUGE difference between the race distances.

Part of the reason the 5K and the 20K work alongside each other is because they are “alongside” each other, not on top of each other. The start areas are together, which is cool, and the finish areas are together, which works because even if you’re walking a 5K, you probably are going to finish ahead of the elite runners running the 20K.

However, if they add a 21K, how are they going to break up the course? Is the 21K going to have a completely different course? Is the 20K finish line just going to be further up from the green and the 21K finish, robbing the 20K runners of the traditional finish? Imagine the confusion coming down Whitney to Temple where the diversion for the 21K happens. Logistically, it just doesn’t work without adding confusion to the runners and/or robbing either the 20K group or the 21K group

Anyway, the idea stinks. I’d still run it if the only race was a 21K, just because the weather and green are glorious on Labor Day, and at the end of the summer, a 20K-ish distance is just fun to run, and to revel in a summer’s good training. But the idea of running both a 20K and a 21K doesn’t work for me, though I’d keep running the 20K out of spite, and griping about the split or the finish or something, which then spoils a great summer day.

Homecoming

Back down in San Antonio for alumni weekend at my alma mater. It’s been way, way too long since I headed down here, and I really don’t think that the last time I was here I ran much.

I’m struck by how much I’ve changed since I was here – I’d always thought I was a pretty active guy, but looking back, I avoided a whole lot of quarter mile walks by jumping in the car. Didn’t really spend any time running at all until I got into the Navy, which is a shame, because the campus is an awesome place to run. Good choices for long, flat runs; adjacent to a city park with even more trails … Different time, different me, I suppose.

Got in yesterday noon-ish, had way too much chips and queso for lunch, napped, and then headed out for a run. Which may or may not have been a mistake – this was by far the hottest day I’d experienced all year, somewhere in the mid-90s, and dry. So, needless to say, the run sucked big suckage, even though the roads were great, traffic was light, there was a delightful half-mile gravel track to run in the middle of the out-n-back, etc.

Then this morning, I had a good lie-in (at least for someone coming to Central time zone from the east coast, accustomed to life with small childrens), then drove down to the campus to run. The run was delightful – through a park that borders the campus, up through a trail the campus maintains, and then back down past the dorms.

And the thought hit me – why had I never done this while I was here?

Glory, Glory

Hallelujah!

Not an epic, not a PR, not a transcendent run, but I’m happier than I’ve been in way, way, way, too long. Broke out of the office this afternoon for a late lunch run. Not the greatest of days – low 70s and humid, gentle breeze, no real sun.

The run on the schedule wasn’t huge – three miles. I’ve graduated in my rehab – Couch to 5K is finished, so I’m on an 8 week 10K program now. Beginner – lots of walking, a little bit of running. So, easy three at lunch along flat, flat, Pequot Ave along the Thames River in New London. Wasn’t dreading it, but wasn’t looking forward to it.

Then, about the time I turned around, I realized a couple of things:

  • My left ankle wasn’t starting to feel stiff
  • My right knee wasn’t hurting or twinging for the first time in two weeks
  • I didn’t feel like i was going to die
  • I was pretty blissfully happy
  • Somehow, things had gotten better.

    Anyway, when I got back to the office, I knocked on every bit of fiberboard I could find – didn’t want to jinx things. But, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d crossed a threshold from healing back to running, and can’t be happier.

    FWIW, Thom Yorke (Radiohead singer) has an exceptional new album out. Very much a headphone record, very much an acquired taste. Highly recommended if you’re even remotely inclined to – kind of low speed electronic music. Dunno. Guess that means I’m old. He’s also distributing via bittorrent, which was interesting. Still plan on stopping by the Telegraph to see if they’ve got vinyl.

    One Step Forward, stutter step back

    So, it’s time for my semi-annual mile and a half test. Still nursing the tendon pull in the left foot, and a twitchy right knee to boot. I did one more run last week – out ‘n’ back at Bluff Point. First two miles were great, then – well, not bad, but not good.

    Took the rest of the week off.

    Sunday afternoon – I’d decided just to kind of phone in the semi-annual test. Jog it, y’know, nice and easy. So, I did.

    Long story short, I’m not terribly upset. “Phoning in” 1.5 miles on the track ended up being 8 minute miles. Which isn’t bad. Plus, I didn’t wake up this morning feeling hurt. So, I’ve got that going for me.

    Anyway, it’s been a kind of tough summer, but in the whole first-world problem type of tough. I didn’t run or bike nearly so much as I wanted to, but I spent most of a week backpacking on the Long Trail, spent a week in Vermont on vacation with the family, spent a week at scout camp, and spent a month on a ship in the Arctic. Mileage is way, way down, but weight’s not up.

    Now I need to get focused; buckle down for the winter, and come out of the other side stronger and healthier than ever.

    Glorious Fall Week

    I’ve been rehabbing a pulled ligament somewhere on the inside of my left ankle/top of my foot since, say May, though it feels like I’ve been working on it since about 1999. It kind of feels like it’s been getting better, but still not good.

    A bunch of decent/good runs last week – I was in Albuquerque, and had a great run along the Rio Grande, a terrible run on the bike path behind the hotel, and then a transcendent run on Friday on my way home from Bradley International on the Salmon River Rail Trail – perfect weather, a solid sign of fall leaves in the trees. Everything I love about New England wrapped into one amazing half hour on a Friday Afternoon.

    The oldest kid is running high school XC this year, and he’s completely gotten faster than I am. Which is fine, and actually a great sign that he’s developing into the kid Missy and I hope he will, but it’s still kind of a kick in the teeth…

    Saturday, we head out to a Cub Scout hike at Devil’s Hopyard State Park. Hike was awesome. Kid’s got 5-6 easy on the training plan from his XC coach, so I say “Hey, why don’t we go for a lap of the park after the hike?” Absolutely, he says.

    Hindsight says that may have been a mistake.

    (“Dad, you’ve got talking hindsight?”)

    Profile was brutal – two miles up, and a mile straight down. Kid was nice and didn’t laugh out loud at me. I decided we’d still feed and house him for the night.

    The downside is that I may have tweaked my right knee. Ran again yesterday; 3 miles easy at Bluff Point, and something’s just not right. It’s not bad, but not quite right.

    Oh, well. I’m down 5 pounds from earlier this summer, and I’m actually itching to run and ride for the first time in a while.

    Posted in Run

    In the end, the blackberries will take over

    In the end, Tom Robbins may be right about blackberries.

    The woman who checked me into the hotel at SEA-TAC pointed me down the hill to the DesMoines Creek Park trail to get in my daily 5K. Lovely run, except for the almost 250′ of climbing over a quarter mile between the hotel and the trailhead.

    Nice paved bike path type trail; not a whole lot of people, but a ton of beautiful ripe blackberries sitting there waiting to be eaten. Made me happy.

    Ankle felt good. Slow and steady.

    Posted in Run

    Maybe it’s the altitude

    Wow – Four whole posts this year.

    There’s a little bit of reason for that, but first, some running.

    I’m away for work, previewing New Mexico for the troop trip to Philmont next year (and some real job stuff, too), and staying on east coast time means getting up at 4 AM local and getting on the treadmill. ‘Cept today I didn’t get on the treadmill, I headed outside.

    Great pre-traffic run. Little bit of gravel through a park, no twinges in my foot.

    Sometime back in February or March I sprung the crap out of the tendon on the inside of my left ankle. So, it’d hurt one day, feel good the next, and I’d go out and put, say 4 or 6 miles on it. Then it’d swell up and hurt like heck for a day, I’d rest for a day, and then run when it felt marginal. Eventually, one day of recovery stretched to two or three.

    Finally, in late May, I went and saw a doc. Nothing broken. Went to the podiatrist, and “Hey, the left foot’s way flatter than the right foot!” Great.

    June was spent in an ankle brace, July’s been spent walking in orthotics and doing short jogs. August will be spent underway, so by September I should be somewhat back. And singing Bad-a-yah.

    Two days in, I think I did get a light case of altitude sickness – woke up with a headache, nausea, and drymouth this morning that couldn’t be explained by too much beer last night. Wish I were staying here – coffee, exercise, and exposure to altitude would cure that in the long run.

    It’s good to be back running.

    Advent Day 10 – Travel

    My lovely bride and I are currently up in North Adams, Mass, while our kids are at YMCA Winter Camp (Yep, we’re those parents who drop our kids off in the woods in the dead of winter then sneak off for a weekend at a fancy hotel and good meals. Terrible, terrible people.)

    And, I know I hit on it before, but there’s something grand about being able to explore on foot. Sneakers and a single outfit are all you need to pack, and roads with sidewalks and decent shoulders are all a place needs to support the run.

    Missy and I were up here (1) ’cause we didn’t have kids for the weekend, but if we just stayed at the house we’d end up finding stuff to do and not connecting with each other; (2) Because, despite being an engineer and absolutely artless, I’m actually very intrigued and fond of those who are creative; and (3) Wilco. Worth the trip for the day – the leisurely drive plus the museum got us to the hotel for a couple hours of R&R, then a quality supper walking distance from the hotel. Burned “The Philadelphia Story” from the hotel’s movie library, and then slept for 9 solid hours. Wow – must be vacation.

    This morning, Missy managed to sneak off to the elliptical trainer in the hotel gym without waking me. I sat bolt upright in bed about 8, completely confused about when and where I was. Figured it out, and went to explore the town. A couple minutes with Google Maps, and I figured out I could do between 3 and 4 without getting lost and see most of the town, so I was off.

    If only it were easier to travel with a bike…

    Posted in Run

    Forgiveness – Advent Day 9

    The body’s both unforgiving and forgiving at the same time. Unforgiving, because a minor error in form can lead to injury just before a big race, and (in my case), a tendency to go just a couple calories over (just ONE cookie) every day leads to being consistently 20 pounds (10 kilos) overweight.

    But, the body’s remarkably forgiving. I spent the first 25 years of my life not really caring about staying in shape. Then I did. Then I’ve been pretty streaky ever since. Despite severe personal failings, I’ve done several marathons, a half-Ironman, and more small races than I can count, plus wore out many, many more bike tires than car tires. No huge palmares, but I’m happy.

    Today? Great example of that. I’ve been slacking on the run (last run was 10 days ago). Been to spin a bunch, but no running.

    Got out the door this morning, and had an awesome run. Just down to the sheep pasture and back, ~6K, but the sun shone, the breeze blew, and the miles passed underfoot.

    And my body said thanks.

    Posted in Run

    RoadRunner, I’m in Love With Massachusetts – Advent Day 6

    Until about 6 months ago, I’d never heard of Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. Then, Wilco does a night of covers at Solid Sound 2013, and once I’d gotten over the brilliance of “Get Lucky”, I picked a new favorite song. Roadrunner, with its name check of Stop and Shop (Groceries) and cold weather, and driving past neon lights full of angst.

    Obsession again, would’ve worn out a cassette tape of the concert if we were still living back in 1987. Then, my internet man-crush on the cataloger of complete world knowledge doubles back on itself, with John Hodgman getting involved with the Bay State’s legislative process to make Roadrunner the official state song of Massachusetts.

    Oh, yeah – running.

    One of the joys of my work is that I get to go talk to folks who are like wicked smart on a pretty frequent basis. Friday, I got to head up to MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory for a day of getting my mind blown. On my way out, a colleague who knows I like to go strange places and run says “Hey, are you running this afternoon?”

    “Sure”, I say.

    So, we trundle off to the base gym, change, and he points me over to the MinuteMan Trail.

    And for the next 40 minutes, I, like Jonathan Richman and John Hodgman, was in love with Massachusetts.

    New England late fall is gloriously gloomy – dark early, grey skies, biting cold – and yesterday was about as textbook as it gets. Whisps of fog blew across the ancient track, past the spot where Paul Revere was captured by the British, past stone walls older than the country, and past anything other than the sheer joy of oxygen, gravel crunching underfoot, and feeling coming back into my cold fingers. The ghosts of the Regulars and Minutemen came into mind from the fog, and the hoofbeats of horses carrying news of a single lantern were echoed in my sneakers.

    Running in a new place is a joy. No better way to get a feeling for a location. I’ve had the pleasure of traveling all over the world, and my finest memories tend to revolve around sneakers and exploring. Even places I know take on a new look when the ground’s passing underfoot at 80 steps/minute.

    Finished up the run as the last light faded and the fog turned into rain. And spent a quality drive out of the state with rock ‘n’ roll cranking out of the speakers.

    (At the risk of too much Masshole-ism, don’t forget to listen to “Case Your State“, which is NSFKids, but is comedic genius.)