Saturday, August 31, 2013

Kickoff Run For Sight 5K Race Report

Getting ready to head into this weekend's events, I haven't had a chance to blog a little about the Kickoff Run For Sight 5K that I ran in Mobile, Alabama last Saturday.

I made the trip over to the Mobile area to see a very good friend of mine, Rebecca Massie, get married to a good, down-to-earth guy in Keith Bell.

I guess you could say they've been together for a little while (I don't get into a lot of that ... i.e. keeping up with how long, etc. ... even with friends), but the one thing that has always impressed me about Rebecca is that she doesn't do friendships half-way.

If you're her friend, she goes all in.  A very risky, yet admirable trait.  So when I was invited to attend her wedding, I was fortunate enough to be able to make the trip.

And shortly after making the travel arrangements, of course, there was a race to be found!

I've run in Mobile before; therefore, it wasn't a new north American city - as I have over 100 outside of Texas to my credit, but it was on the campus of the University of South Alabama.

One of my better half marathons was the First Light Half Marathon a few years ago and then, two Januarys ago, Bill Dwyer and I traveled to Jackson, Mississippi so I could run the Mississippi Blues Marathon before venturing south to Mobile to watch Adrienne Langelier, Rebecca and a couple of her friends break the First Light Marathon women's relay record.

Actually, I think they shattered it.  Nonetheless, I historically digress.

The race benefited the sight programs of the University Lions Club and the one thing that was excellent - a rarity in the south - was that they had a "no shirt" registration option.  (You see this a lot in the Pacific Northwest, but rarely in Texas where I live.)

Start time was 7:30 a.m. and it was only about five minutes off of getting the race started on-time.  Not a major inconvenience, even though rains from the Gulf were threatening.  With the humidity, it wouldn't have been a bad thing.

The course (here) was a little out and back with a 1.5-mile elongated loop in the middle of it -- think of a lollipop, I guess.  Course map -

In that loop was the mile 15 marker of the First Light Marathon where there was a relay exchange.  If memory serves me correct, it is where Sam Gardner handed off to Rebecca.  (If I'm wrong, I'll be corrected!)

Coming off a good weekend the week before in West Virginia and Ohio, my fear was that the humidity would be a kick in the rear end again.

It was, but it really didn't seem to come in to play until the last mile.

A good bit of the first mile was slightly downhill as we ran toward the University of South Alabama Circle.  The left-hand turn onto Aubrey Green Drive brought the mile 1 marker at the top of a slight incline and I posted a 9:32.18 first mile.

Felt pretty good and even though I knew I was slowing down some - while just trying to run steady - I took a quick breather once or twice after making a right on to Health Services Road and then on to USA North Drive.

The mile 2 marker revealed a 9:56.85 time for a cumulative mark of 19:29.03.  Not too bad.  9:45 per mile.

But it was mile three, going slightly back up hill, especially even the last stretch that ran by the USA intramural soccer fields, that brought out a 10:39.01 butt-kicking on me.

Now, what's crazy is that all of my post didn't get "cut and pasted" in here.  And I didn't notice it until Adrienne made a comment Sunday morning on what was already here.

And I didn't save what I had entered into either Word Pad or when I cut and paste it to Note Pad before getting it in here.  Ugh!

Well, the bottom line is that I had a gun time that was a second off of the official timer, Little Red Hen Productions, but I had a 7-second offset for my "chip time" that put my overall time at 30:57.

The last tenth of a mile, of which the marker was set just past the last right hand turn to set up a straight shot to the finish, came in like 49 seconds.  I figured it to be "on" - or measured correctly - on the way out because I mentally remember it being 56 seconds (which is just under a 10-minute pace).

My summary was that this is a nice event.  The course isn't completely closed, but at 7:30 a.m. in the morning early in the semester there wasn't much traffic.  The University of South Alabama and the City of Mobile police monitored the course extremely well.

I think the official results had just 87 official timed finishers - and I think that I might have been 47th.  Ugh.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed myself.

Well, except for the one gentleman just outside of the finish chute.  Again, the official timer was really doing manual timing and using the tear tag at the bottom of the bib to keep people in order.

There were three workers and the first gentleman - as there was also a female and a second man beyond him - was rude and not any help at all.  He was hollering for me to tear my tag off after I came running hard to the finish line.  My thought was, "Buddy, why don't you do something and tear it off for me."

It left me a little perturbed.  But since I really was looking to get back to the hotel so I could get showered and begin the drive back to New Orleans, I quickly got my keys, which were under the timer's tent, went to a Pavillion area, grabbed a banana and a bottle of water and went to my car.

Since there was a tropical wave in the Gulf of Mexico, I wanted to get to the Louis Armstrong Airport to get on an earlier flight to make it home with plenty of time before I needed to go back out and get my parents, who were flying in from Pittsburgh after visiting my grandparents.

Monday, August 26, 2013

NCAA College Football Pick 'Em - Week 1

Each week, I'll put together five top national games, five top Texas games and five top games from me.

Fair warning, though, that my five top games will more than likely always include Penn State (where I'm from) and Liberty (where my daughter goes to college).

With that disclaimer, here are this week's games and my picks:

(Sat.) - #5 Georgia at #8 Clemson - GEORGIA
(Sat.) - #12 LSU at #20 TCU - LSU
(Sat.) - #19 Boise State at Washington - BOISE STATE
(Mon.) - #11 Florida State at Pittsburgh - FLORIDA STATE
(Sat.) - Mississippi State at #13 Oklahoma State - OKLAHOMA STATE

(Fri.) - Texas Tech at SMU - TEXAS TECH
(Sat.) - Rice at #7 Texas A&M - TEXAS A&M
(Sat.) - Idaho at North Texas - NORTH TEXAS
(Sat.) - UTSA at New Mexico - UTSA
(Sat.) - New Mexico State at #15 Texas - TEXAS

(Thu.) - Liberty at Kent State - KENT STATE
(Sat.) - Penn State at Syracuse - PENN STATE
(Sat.) - Houston Baptist at Sam Houston State - SHSU
(Sat.) - Northern Illinois at Iowa - NORTHERN ILLINOIS
(Sat.) - BYU at Virginia - BYU

Please put your selections -- with your name! -- in the comment section of this post (and not necessarily the Facebook comment area) or send me a regular or Facebook e-mail.

Thanks!  And I hope here goes to having a little fun this college football season!

Friday, August 23, 2013

News and Sentinel Half and Inside The Park Home Run Race Reports

Instead of having two separate race reports, I'll include both the News and Sentinel Half Marathon in Parkersburg, West Virginia from Saturday and the Inside The Park Home Run Race at Cleveland's Progressive Field from Sunday.

As soon as planning started to commence for getting Waverly to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia to begin school and that her Mom would be driving her up (so that they could visit her family in Tennessee), it was an opportunity for me to prepare a week's vacation that turned out to include many things.

First and foremost, it was to be available for Waverly's transition at Liberty.  Mom provided Waverly with a lot of assistance with things that Moms are just stronger at and I was there to provide support, if needed.

Secondly, I would visit my grandparents in central Pennsylvania.  This was even before the Canada vacation three weeks ago allowed us a chance to slip in and see them.

Then, it was a combination of a couple of things.  I knew that a very good friend of mine, Cassie Mondragon, who is from Parkersburg, West Virginia, was going to be running the News and Sentinel Half Marathon as well as many of her family members.

I've run the race three times, from 2005-2007.  (I'll benchmark times later.)

I also had the chance to string together the opportunity to see six minor league ballparks in six states in seven (7) days.  I could have added a seventh, but Waverly wouldn't have been happy with me - at all.  This trip was really all about her!

Then, while planning on where and what I was going to do between Saturday's race and Sunday afternoon's flight out of Pittsburgh, I spied this brand-new event that included a finish on the field inside of Progressive Field in Cleveland.  "Awesome" was the only thought that I had.  The fact that it was just $20 - made it even better.

I really didn't have an idea of how the News and Sentinel Half Marathon was going to go.  I hadn't paid too close to the weather forecast and the three previous times I had run the race it was hot, humid and hilly.  And, of course, the hilly didn't change.

Before the vacation to Canada, I was getting in my fair share of workouts, but the trip derailed me a little even though Waverly and I covered a lot of ground on foot.  I logged 25 miles the following week and even less this past week.

I took plenty of gear to run all week, but I had absolutely nothing going into Saturday.  Plus the week had been intensive on Mountain Dew, Mallo cups (can only get these in Cracker Barrels in the south - think Reese's cups with marshmallow; they're made in Altoona) and ballpark food.

I left Lynchburg at about 7 a.m., took Mom to Charlottesville, Virginia for her to fly home and then I headed west to Charleston, West Virginia where I took in a West Virginia Power baseball game.  They are the Pittsburgh Pirates' affiliate in the South Atlantic League.

I was scheduled to stay Friday night in Marietta, Ohio, which would allow for me to run the race in Parkersburg and then shower after the race on the way to my activities in Akron on Saturday night.

However, once I arrived in Charleston, I was whipped.  I also noticed that there was a Fairfield Inn just blocks from the ballpark.

I reached out to Cassie to see if I could shower at her parents after the race and I cancelled my reservation in Marietta and booked a stay there.  I checked in and got parts of three hours of sleep before the game.  Very much needed.

My pre-race fuel came in the form of two hot dogs, a pretzel and a soft drink that evening, but I grabbed something on the drive that my stomach could handle.

After parking, stashing my keys in a flower bed (I hate carrying things on the run other than a water bottle) and picking up my packet, I set out to finish Cassie and her family.  (I also don't carry my phone during a race.)  I spent about 30 minutes meandering around the start and when I couldn't spot her, I figured that I would see her on the course.

And sure enough, within the first half mile, I noticed her gait from behind and kindly announced my presence.  We traded information on what our race plans were and they were pretty much the same:  take it easy and see what happens.

Best decision that I've made in a long while and the biggest surprise is that I ran pretty much the entire half marathon - much different than the start-and-stop fest four weeks earlier.

I think it had a little bit to do without oppressive heat and/or humidity, but a lot of it had to do that we were running a pace that we could easily carry on a conversation the bulk of the way.

Longtime readers of this blog (and its predecessor) will know that we had a group called the Houston Running Bloggers - about two dozen of us that had blogs like this one.

I met Cassie on a Thursday evening eight (8) years ago at the HYLA's Tie One On For Charity 5K in downtown Houston.  Three months later, as the Houston Striders - a club we both belonged to - learned that they would host the next year's RRCA National Convention, I decided to travel - with Waverly - and run the News and Sentinel Half.

Cassie didn't run that year, but Waverly stayed with her the entire time (as a 10-year-old).

We ran it together the next year, I believe, and then Cassie had a really good race the following year in 2007 when I ran it.

We caught up on many a subject and Cassie ran into former classmates that she had in high school while she ran.  It really turned out to be a pretty nice race and run for both of us.

If I had been completely time-focused, I would have been disappointed with the 2:27:07 effort, but it was all good - for a multitude of reasons.  Especially since some of my friendships from the Houston Running Bloggers (and the Houston Striders) are ones that are the best and that I've maintained - positively - the longest.

We maintained a pretty even pace the entire way, evidenced by the splits below:

Mile 1 -- 10:16.90
Mile 2 -- 11:11.58
Mile 3 -- 11:19.16
Mile 4 -- 11:17.30
Mile 5 -- 10:41.10
Mile 6 -- 11:21.72
Mile 7 -- 10:55.34
Mile 8 -- 11:03.86
Mile 9 -- 11:01.51
Mile 10 -- 11:03.13
Mile 11 -- 11:19.16
Mile 12 -- 11:29.06
Last 1.1 -- 14:07.33

Mile 11 we both faltered a little and Mile 12 includes the 12th Street hill, which is semi-steep, but it is short -- and you get it all back fairly quick.

We probably lost a minute and a half in the last 1.1 mile, but there were two perfectly good reasons:  1.) I cramped pretty bad in my right hamstring, which was surprising since I hit all but one water station and 2.) Cassie ran over and gave her son, Gabe, a kiss, who lit up with a big smile when he saw his Mom running.  Great stuff!

Looking back at my splits, I'm thinking:  "These are perfectly good marathon splits right now."

So to run 2:27:07 on nothing from the week leading into the race, it gives me hope to work towards a late October marathon perhaps.  (I have another half scheduled in Mansfield, Texas on Saturday, September 14.)

The current ledger for Parkersburg, West Virginia looks like this:

2:41:53 - 8/20/05 - News and Sentinel Half Marathon (Hot and Hilly), Parkersburg, WV - 18
2:32:29 - 8/19/06 - News and Sentinel Half Marathon (Hot and Hilly), Parkersburg, WV - 29
2:24:05 - 8/18/07 - News and Sentinel Half Marathon, Parkersburg, WV - 40
2:27:07 - 8/17/13 - News and Sentinel Half Marathon, Parkersburg, WV - 92

So when I put together the type of trip that I did for this past week, I begin to look and see what can I "fill in" before I have to fly home.  Typically, the first thing that comes the mind is the opportunity to run some place different.

And when you can throw another ballpark in the mix, all the better.

I found - for a great price of $20 - the Inside The Park Home Run Race that started outside of Progressive Field, the home of the Cleveland Indians, and finished inside on the field.  It was put on the Hermes Racing group, a very reputable race production company in the greater Cleveland area.  And, for the most part, they didn't disappoint.

It was pretty easy to find the ballpark in the downtown area (plenty of signage) after driving north from Akron, where I spent the night.  Closest place to park was $3.50 - right next to a permanent "life" parking spot:  the Erie Street Cemetery.

Packet pickup was pretty painless.  A bib (B-tag in play), pins and nice T-shirt and I had plenty of time to walk around and inside the ballpark to capture a bunch of pictures for the stadium.

Runners had the choices of doing four different distances.  I chose the "Home Run" distance which included two loops of the ballpark on the streets and sidewalks interspersed with a pair of runs up the right-field ramps, around the upper deck and down the left-field ramps.

We lined up on Eagle Ave., which is beyond - and on the outside of - the left-center field wall and in between it and a parking garage.  The only thing that the event production company needed was my area of expertise:  an announcer for people to understand where and when they needed to be.  (There was a gentleman walking up and down between two queues of runners with a small, electrified megaphone, but better could have happened too.)

Temperatures were perfect:  upper 60's.  I was a little sore from the day before, but once I started to run and found a place where I could maintain my pace consistently I locked in on a target to follow.

And follow to the best of my ability I could.

We went from the streets for the first three-tenths of a mile to the sidewalks around the ballpark and surprisingly, they weren't that punishing on the legs.  When we got to the right-field corner, we entered the ball park and started up the ramps.

There were 10 of them and they were long and not that steep.  Fairly easy to run all of them.  Once we reached the top, we ran the upper deck semi-circle from right to left field and down the ramps in that corner of the ball park.

When I came around a corner, I would swing to the outside about halfway down the ramp, look over my left shoulder to see if there was somebody coming straight down the ramp and then aim for the U-turn and then repeat all the way down.

The acquired target and her friend were in close vicinty and the end result for the other lap around the ballpark, up and down the ramps and around the top was to stay close as we all helped each other.

Before the race, when I saw the timing mat set up in front of the third-base dugout, it led me to believe that once we entered the field - even though I had a map but didn't look at it - we would make a hard right to finish.

Ha!  When we hit the warning track, it was to the left and to run all the way around the field.  Cool running, but I sped up a little too soon before leaving the bowels of Progressive Field.

I outsprinted the two females, beating them to the finish line by three seconds.

My chip time was 36:27, which would have made it 9:07 per mile for a 4-miler.  I've got to think that the course was a little short.  I just can't believe that I made up that kind of time going down the ramps.

Regardless, it was a fun event.  Lots better than the Ramp Romp 5K at Kyle Field, where the ramps are much steeper.  (Hard headed Aggies!)

Great, fun weekend of racing!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

2013 Schedule

Races Announced
1/1 - 14th annual Texas Marathon, Kingwood
1/27 - 3rd annual Galveston Marathon and Half Marahon, Galveston
2/16 - NBA FIT Run, Walk and Dribble 5K, Houston
3/9 - Exygon and Baptist Hospitals Gusher Marathon, Beaumont
3/16 - Seabrook Lucky Trail Half Marathon, Seabrook
3/17 - Seabrook Lucky Trail Marathon, Seabrook
4/6 - Muddy Trails 5K and 10K, The Woodlands
4/7 - Texas10 Huntsville, Huntsville
5/4 - CB&I Sprint Triathlon, The Woodlands (All; returning after 2010-2011)
5/11 - El Chupacabra de Houston 5K/10K, New Caney
5/25 -- Angel Run Half Marathon and 10K, Montgomery
7/4 - Baytown Bud Heat Wave 5-Miler, Baytown

Races Covered (Media)
1/13 -- Chevron Houston Marathon, Houston
3/2 -- Fidelity Investments The Woodlands Marathon, The Woodlands
5/18 -- Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas, The Woodlands

Races Volunteered
4/7 - TWRC Sunday Night 5K, The Woodlands
4/14 - Houston Kids Triathlon, Houston
5/5 - TWRC Sunday Night 5K, The Woodlands

Races Run
1/5 -- New Year's Resolution 5K, Diboll (28:45.34) - 77th Texas city or town!
1/6 -- TWRC Sunday Night 5K, The Woodlands (30:05.97) - with Willie Fowlkes
1/12 -- ABB 5K, Houston (39:16.80) - with Waverly Walk
1/13 -- Chevron Houston Marathon (4:57:56)
1/20 -- Run For The Governor's 5K, Point Blank (28:46.46) - 78th Texas city or town!
2/2 -- Rocky Raccoon 100, Huntsville State Park (DNF; Mile 32; Blisters)
3/24 -- Ocean Drive Marathon, Cape May to Sea Isle City, NJ (5:36:23) -- 31st state - marathon!
3/30 -- Chisholm Trail Half Marathon, Crawford, TX -- 79th Texas city or town!
4/6 -- Fairview Half Marathon, Fairview, TX -- 80th Texas city or town!
4/20 -- Bud Shuster Run For Your Life 5K, Holidaysburg, PA (~29:30)
4/21 -- 4th annual Beaver Stadium Run 5K, State College, PA (31:27)
4/26 -- Presence Covenant Medical Center Illinois 5K, Champaign, IL (30:58)
5/27 -- Memorial Day 5K, Huntsville, TX (31:09)
6/7 -- Dusk Dash at Duessen 5K, Houston, TX (32:17)
6/8 -- Greyhound 5K, Kosse, TX (36:25; ran with Ken Johnson) -- 81st Texas city or town!
6/22 -- Polish Pickle Run 5K, Bremond, TX (30:38)
6/29 -- Race to Read 5K, Harker Heights, TX (31:35; Course long) -- 82nd Texas city or town!
7/6 -- Freedom 5K, Nacogdoches, TX (30:17) -- 83rd Texas city or town!
7/7 -- TWRC Sunday Night 5K, The Woodlands, TX (38:33; ran with Waverly Walk)
7/12 -- 2nd annual Sealy FD 5 Alarm 5K, Sealy, TX (30:46)
7/13 -- Vern's No-Frills 5K #51, Georgetown, TX (32:08) -- 84th Texas city or town!
7/20 -- 35th annual Lunar Rendezvous Run 5K, Clear Lake, TX (31:03)
7/21 -- Presque Isle Half Marathon, Erie, PA (2:24:19)
8/3 -- Midnight Madness Down Main 5K, Salado, TX (30:37) -- 85th Texas city or town!
8/3 -- Be Healthy Lake Travis Day 5K, Lakeway, TX (32:49) -- 86th Texas city or town!
8/4 -- TWRC Sunday Night 5K, The Woodlands, TX (31:06)
8/10 -- Blues Capital of Texas 5K, Navasota, TX
8/17 -- News and Sentinel Half Marathon, Parkersburg, WV (2:27:07)
8/18 -- Inside The Park Home Run, Cleveland, OH

Races Registered
8/24 - Kickoff Run For Sight 5K, Mobile, AL
9/2 - Alaina Dixon 5-Miler, Houston, TX
9/14 -- Methodist Mansfield Run With Heart Half Marathon, Mansfield, TX

Races Scheduled - Did Not Start
4/27 - Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon - Champaign, IL (50th marathon)

Potential Races
8/25 - Run For Wellness 5K, Houston, TX
8/31 - Dove Fest 10K, Hamilton, TX
9/1 - TWRC Sunday Night 5K, The Woodlands, TX
10/12 - Poplar Forest 5K, Lynchburg, VA (with Waverly Walk)
10/27 - Cape Cod Marathon, Falmouth, MA
12/8 - B-CS Marathon, College Station, TX

Races Committed to Announce
9/7 AM - 9/11 Heroes Run 5K, Ellington Field, Houston, TX
9/7 PM - Galveston Sand Crab 5K and 10K, Galveston, TX
9/21 - Toughest 10K Kemah, Kemah, TX
9/28 - Patriot Run 5K, Houston, TX
9/29 - Texas10 Katy, Katy, TX
10/5 - Nike South Cross Country, The Woodlands, TX
10/19 - Toughest 10K Galveston, Galveston, TX
11/3 - Texas10 Waco, Waco, TX
11/9 - Pleasure Island Bridge Half Marathon, Port Arthur, TX
11/17 - La Porte By The Bay Half Marathon, La Porte, TX
11/23 - Nike Cross South Regionals, The Woodlands, TX
12/7 - Texas10 Conroe, Conroe, TX

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Blues Capital of 5K (Navasota) Race Report

My summer running tour of Texas - I guess you could call it - continued this morning in the county seat of Grimes County, Navasota, for the Blues Capital of Texas 5K.

For the second consecutive year, my good friend Leanne Rosser and I made the short drive west across Highway 105 to participate in what is really a nice, simple and well-run community race.

It is produced by the Navasota Kiwanis in conjunction with the Blues Festival that is hosted each year by the city.  It is the third year for the race and it is a shame that they don't get more people to turn out than they do.

There's both a 5K and a 1-mile Fitness Challenge for some of the kids, although there seemed to be a lot of youngsters who were doing the longer race this morning.

The course is pretty flat and it is just west of downtown out 105 in August Horst Recreation Park.  It starts on the north side of 105 in a yet-to-be-developed residential and/or business park (not sure which it is completely expected to be).

Therefore, you have wide open streets to run on for the first 2.5 miles before you cross back across 105 - with law enforcement support to slow traffic as it is coming in to and leaving from town.  Once across the road, you run the top part of the letter "P" in reverse to the finish line.

Just one thing you need to know, though, about the course:  both years that we've run it it hasn't been accurate.  (Last year, it seemed a bit short.)

This year even had an upgrade:  half-mile mile markers that seemed to be accurately placed.

However, there was just one thing wrong:  whoever gave the instruction to setup the water stop on the out-and-back stretch of the course went too far, causing everyone to run approximately 3.5 miles.

Two runners' Garmins measured 3.49 and 3.52 miles.  While there weren't a lot of turns or trees to misestimate the measurement that much, the wide streets could on a winding first three quarters of a mile could have caused people to not run the tangent properly.

First .5 mile -- 4:34.08
Second .5 mile -- 4:49.31 (9:23.39)
Third .5 mile -- 8:26.66 (this is where the course was "long")
Fourth .5 mile -- 5:23.61 (23:13.66)
Fifth .5 mile -- 5:13.26 (28:26.92)
Last .6 mile -- 6:28.80 (34:55.72)

Even though it was still in the 10-minute per mile (or just under range), I actually ran more consistent than I have most all summer long, despite not running at the track on Wednesday nights like I had last summer.

One thing that is also guaranteed with this race:  it is either hot, humid or both.  Humid was a given and it got hot towards the end with the 8 a.m. on-time start.  Additionally, you receive a nice technical shirt (although Leanne was quick to point out that the ladies didn't have a women's cut top) as well as a nice drawstring bag.  Plenty of water, Gatorade, bananas and it is chip-timed by the good guys at Run Houston Timing.

We saw a friend that we both made last year in Becky Nesbit, who lives nearby and runs with - and is coached by - Finish Line Sports' Andy Stewart in Sugar Land.  She finished second overall this year after winning it all last year.

I also got the opportunity to visit with a woman from Montgomery County, Tanci Foster, who is a frequent participant of Robby Sabban's Running Alliance Sport races.  Her teenage son will be running his first half marathon in mid-November at the La Porte By The Bay Half Marathon.  I told her online on Facebook to remind me on race morning and that I would look out for him and proudly announce that great accomplishment.

Even bigger RAS supporters, Monica Montoya and Keith Cotropia, also made the long drive from the League City area.  They had just got back from running the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon in Washington state.

The running funny from last year is that this is where Leanne borrowed $100 from me to buy a pair of shoes that she saw that she liked from the Brazos Running Company.  I think I had just come off of vacation and still had the money on me (as I usually don't carry that much on me at any one given time.)

So, of course, we stayed to make sure that neither one of our names weren't called during the drawing for door prizes.  One number got close to Leanne's #43, but no winners - or chicken dinners.

Leanne and her husband, Jim, have turned out over the last few years to be some of my very best friends.  Jim's not a runner, but he supports Leanne's pastime rather well - even signing her up for a marathon (Napa Valley next March) without even asking.

She had done her long run the day before - in her buildup for the Chicago Marathon - and decided to run easy back in my part of the race and still came away with a third-place age group finish.  I really appreciated that.  Not too many people have - over the years - sacrificed their race to run with me.

We had talked that it was the third race that we had run together - the other two were Angie's Half Crazy Half Marathon and the Panhandle Half Marathon in Lubbock last September when she went out to visit her son who was (and is) a student at Texas Tech University.  I was also partly responible for getting her interested in the Philadelphia Marathon where last November she ran her personal best at that distance.

A great morning all-in-all as I made the drive home to Spring where I had bags that were primarily packed to head out on vacation that included a six-state tour of minor league ballparks, including the most important part of the visit - seeing my daughter, Waverly, off at college in Lynchburg, Virginia at Liberty University.

And for those who follow along, no, it was not a new Texas city or town for me.  It was a year ago, however, as it was #74 on the road to 100!

Hope to run a bit this week in a couple of different states before next weekend's fun racing events.  Stay tuned and, as always, thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Be Healthy Lake Travis Day 5K Race Report

I've said many times before that when I chase states in marathons and half marathons, I take what the calendar gives me.  I don't worry too much about the course - mainly just the temperature at the time of year.

The same applies when chasing my other goal -- a race in 100 Texas cities and towns.

Of course, earlier today, at midnight, I ran the Midnight Madness Down Main 5K in Salado.

There was another 5K close - in a new city; therefore, I doubled up.

I've heard - since moving to Texas - of many people who come to the area west of Round Rock and vacation at and on Lake Travis.

Until this morning, I've never seen it before, and once I got out on Rt. 620 West, I was impressed with the natural beauty that Texas has in this area.  Wow.

And, well, yes, the hills too.

In this area, don't trust the time projection on Google Maps.  It took me longer to get to the race site with all of the stoplights on Rt. 620.

When I registered for today's Be Healthy Lake Travis Day 5K, I actually checked to make sure that Lakeway was a distinct city even though the race's venue had an Austin mailing address.

Lakeway does exist - and not too many long stretches of flat road either.

So make this Texas city or town #86 to run a race in.

After getting to the race site within 30 minutes of the start (not how I like to do things), I grabbed my camera, took a couple of pictures with my camera and talked with a Lakeway police officer who saw and commented - positively, I might add - about my Penn State running shirt.

Seems he was from Lancaster - down towards Philadelphia - and I shared about how I had been home last weekend to see my grandparents.  (Then, of course, somebody on my return trip of the out-and-back course made a comment about West Virginia, which used to play Penn State for a long, long time in many sports.)

I also saw that Lone Star Timing and Brad Davidson - who is partners in the Texas 10 Series with Nathan Beedle, Angie Henderson and Willie Fowlkes - was going to be there and we talked for a couple of minutes before the start.

Ah, this is one place - while beautiful - that Willie will scare off runners if he does a Texas10 race -- not unless he makes it double points!

This was kind of opposite of the race that I did in April in Holidaysburg, Pennsylvania near my hometown of Tyrone in that there was two declines and one big inclines going out instead of the opposite.

Therefore, the splits - as there were no mile markers (which might have been depressing anyway) -- were as follows:

Out -- 15:22.34
Back -- 17:27.18

And even though it was only 81 degrees, according to the weather through my iPhone, it felt warmer - close to 9 a.m. - as we were coming up the last major hill and incline or two that immediately followed.

I would say that this was the hardest 5K course that I've done since they held the King of Jester 5K in Austin back in 2005.  History would reveal that even though it was cool - held on February 27 - that it was actually 3.25 miles and I covered it in 35:29.

Fun stuff.  That's what it is all about, isn't it?

The heat and the hills reminded me of what I'm going to encounter in two weeks in Parkersburg, West Virginia at the News and Sentinel Half Marathon, which I will be running for the fourth time.

Not sure why other than that my friend Cassie Mondragon will be there, which is where she is from.

Time to head back to the Spring area.  Hope your Saturday - and weekend - is off to a great start!

Midnight Madness Down Main 5K (Salado) Race Report

The alarm goes off.  It is ... 10 p.m.!  What is this?

The last time I remembered being rustled out of my sleep in the dark to get up and run, I was in a van somewhere between Columbus and Katy at leg 23 during the Texas Independence Relay.

(No, Bill, not THAT year!  The next one!)

This time was consensual, I guess, as I got out the door from the Spring Hill Suites here in Round Rock to head to Salado to run a race in my 85th Texas city or town.

It would be the third annual Midnight Madness Down Main 5K that would start at midnight from the Brookshire Brothers parking lot, just off of Interstate 35.

I got there by 11 p.m. and this was a race in need of an announcer - just to get people moving in the right direction - and a little bit more of an experienced volunteer team.  (That didn't say that they weren't willing and helpful.  It is just that there were long lines for most folks who had pre-registered.)

There probably weren't more than four to five hundred, which was a great crowd actually.  Especially for a community the size of Salado.

And speaking of community, it very much appeared to be a community event, which was sponsored by the local Anytime Fitness franchise.

From my race director's point of view, the timing company, Race Day Event Services, out of Gustine, could have provided a bit more help simply in dividing their chips into three (3) groupings and employing two more volunteers with easier lists.

THAT was the major drawback in the flow of people.

The course went out of the Brookshire Brothers parking lot, out to Main Street where you took a left (heading south towards Austin) until you got to Royal where runners took another left and then retraced your steps - with the exception of a shortened dog-leg through the grocery store parking lot.

The crowd seemed to be more of a "color run" or "electric run" crowd as opposed to a group of racers.  Code word:  Move up in the queue of people.

I got around a handful of walkers and as I got on to Main street, my headlamp allowed me to keep an eye on the road that was semi-dark (with some lamplights from local business along the route).

I was feeling really good, especially on the downhill, as we crossed a creek that runs through town and on to the left-hand turn before we ran into a slight incline.  Felt like I ran pretty strong to the turn-around and then the start-and-stop seemed to return, but I didn't feel as "destroyed" as I have been recently.

I think the situation has been that I had four solid workouts since Sunday; therefore, it is still just trying to find a comfortable long-distance pace.

There was a gentleman that I noticed in the parking lot who had been at the Race to Read 5K in Harker Heights earlier this summer.

At that race, he was a couple of minutes ahead of me, but tonight we were kind of trading back and forth on the return to the finish line.  He was wheezing pretty heavily.  At one point I asked if he was OK and he said that he was recovering from pneumonia!  Yikes!

Mine - not pneumonia - was, ah, a little weight-induced perhaps.

As we turned off Main on to a side road and before we entered the parking lot, I got ahead of him and finish strong.  With the 17-second offset at the start, my watch would reveal a 29:34.15 finish.  Wow!

However, in talking with him and another woman who both had Garmins, the course might have been a little short.  He had 2.98.  She had 3.02.  Let's just call it a tenth of a mile short and if you do the conversion back to a 5K, it is a 9:51 per minute pace which figures to be 30:37.

I'll take that for midnight and 84 degrees!

There was a 3K marker that I passed in 16:53.31, which would have been a 9:03 pace.

The remaining 2K was in 12:40.84, which would be 10:12 per mile pace (if it was accurate).

My guess is that the 3K distance might have been off.  Who knows for sure.

With races in my smaller towns, you just don't know what you're going to get.  Although, it really shouldn't make any difference.  There are enough of the "right" people in running communities all over the state that can make sure a course is not only measured properly, but is put out according to those measurements.

Since I needed to get back, grab a late night bite to eat and get a little sleep for Saturday morning's 5K in Texas city or town #86, I didn't stick around for the awards.

If you're not concerned about time and want to enjoy a race with a good small-town vibe and feel with great people, put this midnight Saturday morning run on your calendar next year!