Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Three Races, One Day - August 14, 2010

Running three races in one day really wasn't that big of a deal, especially when you've done multiple legs during the Texas Independence Relay. However, part of the fun was sharing with the experience with great friends -- and the looks from people when you told them what you were doing!

I'm very blessed to know a lot of people in our area athletic communities and it always seems that I get the opportunity, as a result of that, to meet many more. That, my friends, is why I do all of the things that I do.

I actually haven't been doing a lot of racing because I've been seriously training for the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday, November 21. It has been a goal of mine since the second weekend of April and I hope to do well there and at the Chevron Houston Marathon on Sunday, January 30, 2011.

When Bill Dwyer said that Adrienne Langelier and Juliee Sparks were planning on running the Friends Helping Friends 5K/10K in Clear Lake, I thought that I might go along and run the race as well.

As the time drew near, I had very easily seen the information on Run In Texas' Sand Crab 5K/10K in Galveston that evening. It was on The Woodlands Running Club website, but I stumbled on an "under the radar" 5K in Humble that started at - 6 p.m.! It was for a brand new middle school in the Humble Independent School District. I saw it on a community blog on the Houston Chronicle web site one day while I was at work.

The wheels were then set into motion: three races in one day!

I have run two races in a day many times. The first that I can remember was back in 2005. I drove to San Marcos early on a late September Saturday morning to run the Country Roads 10K, which is hosted by the San Marcos Runners Club, and then came back to run on a four-person relay at the HARRA Cross Country Relay. My three teammates are still very good friends of mine - Holden Choi, Jessica Alexander and Cassie Mondragon (she was Cowan then).

The difference of this experience, though, is that I am right on the cusp of being in the best running shape that I've ever been - and the first race of the day would prove that.

Adrienne, Bill, Waverly and I left from my place at about 4:45 a.m. As Adrienne mentioned in her blog, cross country and track dynamo Lauren Smith, who will be running for Stephen F. Austin next year, was there. And after deciding not to run the 10K and instead the 5K, it was evident that Adrienne would be running for second place. Bummer! But Lauren has been getting faster all summer and Adrienne has spent about 40% of it preparing for and running a marathon.

I was a little skeptical about how I would do, especially after doing a loop of the Fred Hartman Bridge with fellow BARCers on Friday morning. (Yes, I joined in late June or early July.)

The plan, though, was to run the first race of the day for time and the other two for fun.

There were more runners at this event than was anticipated -- good for the charity, but it throws havoc into pre-race planning if you truly didn't expect it. I sized up the crowd and figured that I needed to be towards the front. However, it was a good 24 seconds before I crossed the starting line.

The race started literally in front of On The Run's store and went east out of the parking lot. I spent that entire time passing people, most of it by hopping up on the strip center sidewalk curb and back down. As I made the left-hand turn out of the lot, the cones weren't situated at all properly - and there was nobody there to guide. Therefore, I did what any prudent runner would do: take the shortest tangent and I hugged the left-hand side of the road. I didn't look back to see if anybody followed.

We made a left and then a right on to the northbound lanes of Space Center Blvd., north of Bay Area Blvd. The course was a simple out and back.

I was moving right along, staying close to the orange cones in the center lane so as to run on the part of the street with the least amount of camber. I didn't see the mile 1 marker, but by that point some of the runners were heading back. I saw Lauren Smith and when I didn't have a visual on Adrienne, I knew that there was no sense in trying to count and see how far back she was. I finally saw her and hit the turnaround in 13:59. I didn't even compute that this might have been a sub-28 effort.

I took a quick 18-second walk break and took off. Aside from that, this might have been the first 5K that I can remember that I otherwise ran the entire way.

On the return trip, I really don't remember much other than 1.) one guy didn't do a great job of yielding in the single lane that we were given to run, 2.) I didn't see the mile 2 marker and 3.) I was looking for where to make the left hand turn off of Space Center.

I was still surprised how strong I was feeling as I made that left hand turn off Space Center. About halfway down the street, I saw a familiar individual as I started to run a tangent to the corner. It was Adrienne. At first I thought she was going out for a cooldown run, even though it was a little late after she finished! But she was coming out to run me in. I was pushing too hard to get emotional over it! We made the right hand turn and then about 200 yards to the next right hand turn into the parking lot.

As I made that right hand turn, I was just hoping that I wouldn't feel like I was falling apart at about the 250 meter mark of my most recent 400s.

But I didn't and I made it under 29 minutes in gun time. Take away the 24 seconds in "chip difference" and my time was 28:32.66 - just 15 seconds from my PR. (An adjustment to the race's clock and Bill's watch, but the time at 28:34.48.)

After trying to get fluids replaced, I found out that the winner Lauren Smith felt that the course was about 20 seconds long and Adrienne's Garmin said that the course was 3.18 miles long. That means that the turnaround might not have been put exactly in the right location.

28:34 for 3.18 is a pace of 8:58 a mile. Wow! For a 5K, that's 27:50. Well under my PR of 28:17 from Run The Woodlands 5K in December 2005!

I had commented after the race that I didn't recall anybody ever in the greater Houston area that had come out to run me in, which I really appreciated. It meant a lot to me. I did forget two instances - other than my daughter running in with me every year during the Marathon. They included Edwin Quarles running in the last three miles of the Surfside Marathon in 2006 and John Laskowski waiting for me to finish the Muddy Trails 10K - the first weekend that I really began to bust my butt to get into shape.

Before and after the race, I had a chance to visit with Toughest 10K in Houston and Seabrook Lucky Trails race director Robby Sabban and help him a little bit work the finisher's chute and talked to On The Run co-owner Jay Lee. Great guys to work with on the La Porte By The Bay Half Marathon coming up this December.

Adrienne's mom, Grayson, had come down to support Adrienne and all of us, including Waverly, made a post-race Starbucks visit before heading back to Spring.

On the drive back, Ms. Langelier made a decision to cross over to the dark side of road racing -- more than one race in a day (that didn't include a relay)!

Since I had to get Waverly to our church for a special band and choir practice close to 5 p.m., Bill and Adrienne drove over to Humble's Woodcreek Middle School together and I followed a little later.

The temperature in the truck read anywhere from 95 to 102 degrees as I made the drive east.

Bill had already done the course reconnaisance by the time I had gotten there and said that they had a pretty good out-and-back course setup.

The participating middle schoolers and their families were very spirited about their school and the P.T.A. had done a good job of getting everything ready.

This was a very low-key event and it didn't appear that there was any stud high school male or female runners showing up. Therefore, it looked as if Adrienne had a good shot of winning overall. I won't go into all of the detail of pre-race discussions, but I think it was some of the most spirited laughter that Bill, Adrienne and I had ever shared. Everyone was very relaxed and having a great time.

As for me, I didn't know what to expect. I had run sub 29-minutes in Washington, D.C. a few weeks earlier, and in effect, run sub 28 for the first time ever earlier that morning. I did know that once again, I needed to get towards the front of the pack with a bunch of youngsters participating.

I got out to a good start and felt pretty good despite the heat. I passed up all of the water stops because they were handing out full bottles of water. Too much hassle. I do 4 miles or so at the track on Tuesday nights without it; therefore, I figured that I would be fine. I don't think that I walked once.

And once again, Adrienne came a short ways out to run me in. I crossed the line with a time of 28:45. Yes, that merits another Wow! I even surprised myself. :)

While we were waiting to see when they were going to start the awards ceremony, I had a chance to meet and talk with Chevron Houston Marathon course coordinator David O'Conor. David also picked up the race management for many of the races that Howie Ryan directed after Howie passed away two years ago. A really nice guy who was having a nice time at a low-key road race. He said that this was the kind of event that was prevalent in the 1970s where people just came out and ran. And, you know, he's right.

It got to be 7:10 p.m. and Bill and I needed to jet. Literally. We didn't get a picture of Adrienne getting her award for the overall win. Taylor Cloy was the second place finisher and Taylor was like Taylor Swift. She was a young lady to give the women a 1-2 finishing punch.

Meanwhile, Mr. Dwyer and I were moving as quickly as possible to Galveston. I think we pulled into a Valero station on 61st Street for me to get something to drink and something quick in my stomach at 8:05 p.m. When nobody knew where Poretto Beach was (although we knew that it was off Seaside), we went to Seaside and took a left and kept driving until we saw the lights on the beach.

Once we got parked on a side street, I made a mad dash to the packet pickup line as it was about 8:35 p.m. - and the race started at 9 p.m.!

There were two long lines - one each for the 5K and the 10K. I was looking for the 10K line! The volunteers, one of whom I recognized to be Mark Coleman, were very, very patient in getting people their bib numbers and chips while others worked to get people a race packet.

While in line, we saw Najat Shayib, George Roffe and Trudy Regnier. Najat wasn't running, but a friend of hers was and she was there to support. I also saw BARC's Ben Harvie and Pam Smithwick before the race too.

Race director Bill Gardner made an announcement close to about 9 p.m. that the race would be delayed. I think that there was a complete underestimation of the number of runners and how things would play out. More volunteers would have been a huge help.

Runners, with headlamps and flashlights galore, began to line up at about 9:15 p.m. I just happened to be towards the front and there I talked to Karen and Tim Bowler as well as Santos Hernandez and Hillary Gerhart - all of whom are still Houston Striders.

We were off and the first two miles were OK, even though that I know that the miles were sub-11 minutes (10:47 and 10:51). But, hey, we were running in sand, right?

Mile three is when I started to feel the effects of the day, even though I got in a little bit of a nap in the early afternoon. However, the last 1.1 was 11:54; therefore, I guess it wasn't that bad as I hit the turnaround in 33:32. But I did a lot of walking in the next nine-tenths of a mile.

That is, until I saw Clear Lake Fitness Club's Susan Bell - a friend and veteran ultrarunner. She just goes and goes and goes. I started to run with her, but I told her at one point that I needed to let her go and that I needed to walk for a second. But to Susan's credit, she stayed with me.

Eventually, we both were running - and did so the rest of the way in. Sure, I slowed down to 37:57 on the return trip, but it was satisfying to get in the 20K the hard way!

After the race, I sat down and talked at length with Ben and Pam. Steve Brammer from Katy and of the Tornados had stopped by the table that we were sitting at, as well as Bay Area Running Club's Steven Milford - one of the best triathletes in the area.

I went and found Bill. He used the meal ticket from Evan Guy's unused bib and we both had some pretty good barbecue.

I think that we left the Island at close to midnight and I didn't get home until 1:30 a.m. We both laughed about how it seemed like the first night of the Texas Independence Relay.

So it was up at 4 a.m. In bed just after 1:30 a.m.

But all in all, a day spent with three of my best friends.