Saturday, July 29, 2017

Running in Arkansas: Downhill. Well, Sort Of.

Run 8 miles.  Drive 370 miles.  Race 3.1 miles.

That was my Saturday.  And I'm perfectly happy with it.

I already had plans to roam this weekend.  I just didn't know where.

I usually have a couple of different plans at any given time for just about every weekend.

And often, they're not set in stone.

Awhile back, I had discussed with Waverly about maybe making the weekend a mini-vacation since we didn't take one of regular week long annual summer vacations this year.

My father and I had also talked about making a baseball trip weekend.

Shortly after he and my Mom got back from visiting my grandmother in Pennsylvania, he let me know that he didn't think that he would be up making the trip to Alpine to see Kokernot Field.

The Alpine Cowboys of the independent Pecos Baseball League play there and this weekend was the last home series of the year.

We were also going to then drive up to Cleburne to see the new ballpark of the new American Association of Professional Baseball team called the Railroaders.

So on Friday I asked Waverly if there was anything that she wanted to do.

She asked me if I would run with her on Saturday morning as she had eight miles on the books.

Many of you have this storybook-like existence of me as a father to Waverly, but she'll tell you that I'm not perfect.  I mean I feel like I do well, but I don't a hit a home run every time.

My first reaction was that I honestly felt like I couldn't keep up with her.

She assured me that she had been running 11-minute miles.

After coming back from dinner early Friday evening, I assured her that I would get up and run with her, but that I would still probably make a road trip on Saturday and Sunday.

We ran eight this morning.  About 10:45 per mile on the way out, even though she in the 30-and-change mark at the 2.89-mile water stop.  And then right about 11 per on the way back.

It was humid as all get out, but it really didn't bother me too much because the majority, if not all, of my miles are typically in the very early evening right now when it is 90-plus.

We had breakfast together and by 10 a.m., I had been home, showered, packed, the car loaded and off I went.

Right at 370 miles later, including a stop at the Marriott Courtyard here in Texarkana, and I was at the Spillway Dam area at DeGray Lake a little bit northwest of Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

Or actually, the northwest part of Arkadelphia as the physical address of Skyline Drive, which we ran on, was Arkadelphia.

Therefore, I can't count the 29th running of the Dam Night Run 5K as a race in my 300th North American city, town or census-designated place.  I still had fun, however.

The race is advertised as "flat and downhill ... very fast".

Ah, I think the most appropriate course definition - like for the 3M Half Marathon in Austin - is "net downhill".

Maybe I might have gone faster if I hadn't run eight this morning or driven 370 to get there, but I was only about 12-13 seconds faster than the 5K I did in Zapata two weekends ago.

There were two modes of transportation to get to the starting area -- two small school buses were being used and a number of flat bed lumber trucks with lumber stacked in the middle that people could sit on both sides.

I opted for the full Arkansas experience -- open-air lumber riding!

Plenty of time to just walk and not really run to warmup.  I figured having run eight earlier that I would just go when the gun went off.

And literally the local law enforcement discharged a weapon from the driver's side of the lead vehicle!

They actually had a "25-30 minute" pace sign as well as 30 and greater.

I positioned myself between the two and was about 33 seconds to get across the line.

A woman who had a race staff singlet on that I talked to before the race said that there were about 700 runners or so signed up.  (633 runners and 58 walkers were timed.)

The course was not as downhill as it was prounounced to be, yet I tried to push things as much as I could to take advantage of it where it was.

Therefore, I was a little disappointed that mile one came through in 9:08.

The second mile, which ended right before the road goes over the dam, I covered in 9:11. 

At the almost near eight-minute mark I had actually stopped to catch my first breath, but I saw the teardrop off the road to the right as two where the second mile would be and I pushed as much as I could.

The bridge across the top of the dam is obviously flat, but there was an uphill coming off of it.

It got the better of me.

There was one semi-steep dip in the last three-tenths of mile three before a hard left and just over a tenth of a mile sprint to the finish.

I veered all the way to the right of the two-lane road, which was completely closed to traffic, so that I could not make such a hard left-hand turn.

By doing so, I actually - once the turn was made - had to step into the grass on the inside left to pass a couple of girls.

Mile three was 10:23.  Ugh.

So I booked it to the finish with a 46.62.  If accurate, that's like under an eight-minute mile sprint to the finish.  Wow.

Total time was 29:29.85 on my watch.

The official timer had 29:29.44.  Nice.  Pretty darn close.

I was 342nd out of 633 runners.  229 of 312 men.  And 14 of 22 in the 50-54 age group.  When they entered my zip code, their database put me in Conroe, TX for this race.

A guy three spots behind my in my age group and his son, who won his 20-24 age group, were there from Bixby, Pennsylvania.

Even though today was a long days of sorts, I feel completely rested after a solid sleep last night which was on the heels of late night Thursday evening travel home from Decatur.

Looking to get up and attend church at First Baptist Church of Texarkana, which turns out is less than a mile here from the Marriott Courtyard. 

They have an 8 a.m. service which I hope to be in.

Lots of changes coming for me as it relates to races in the weeks and months ahead.

I do now have a couple of marathons on the books - Nebraska State Fair Marathon in Grand Island, Nebraska in four weeks and the Bismarck Marathon in North Dakota three weeks after that.

If all goes well, they will be marathons in states numbers 34 and 35 and my first out-of-state marathon in nearly four years.  The first one will be hot.  The second could be could as lows in mid-September do get into the forties.

Ah, you won't hear me complaining.

Thanks for reading - and all of your support and friendship.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Running In Texas: Hico, Stephenville, Comanche, Brownwood, Goldthwaite

It is 1 a.m. and I'm up writing in a hotel room in Killeen.  Living the dream, right?  Ha!

So my plan for today was to run in two out-of-town five-kilometer races and also log a mile in another six counties because the races were 12 hours - and 30 miles - apart.

Knowing, though, that I needed to get some rest, especially after running in the first four counties was hot, I used the minimum amount of Marriott Rewards points to get a nice room at the Courtyard here.

I was going to get a couple of hours sleep, drive 75 minutes to the north to Clifton for a race that had been postponed, run the race and then come back here - and plot my moves to keep myself entertained for Sunday.

Like Friday evening, when I went to sleep early knowing that I was going to get up and drive four hours, I couldn't wind down.

I had received an e-mail from a competitive and talented runner in the greater Houston area that had a legitimate issue with a race and their prize money decisions. 

The event production company working with the race had already reached out to me seeking my input - because of the breadth of my work with so many races.

Being respected - not necessarily always well-liked - is something I appreciate, therefore, I felt it important to respond to the individual as soon as I could and share my thoughts.

The bottom line on that issue is that I thought it was the race organization's leader that made the call on what were unconventional and not-so-clearly spelled out prize money awards.

The athlete was slighted.  The race production company put in a rough spot.  And the individual that was being the face for the race organization - a charity - in even a more difficult spot.

Lots to learn from.  Hopefully they will.  Solid event.  Great organization that helps people, but these are issues that are easily sorted out. 

I've worked with another event production to do so in the past so I know it can be done.

Again, I appreciate the respect that I'm given and I value it highly.

So I cancelled going to the race in Clifton.  I needed to rest, which I have.

As I get older, I don't want my daughter to have to worry about Dad pushing himself unnecessarily in things that are while enjoyable to him also don't have to be done.

If you know me well or even see me from afar, you know that my involvement in our sports is to encourage others.

I do that either through promoting or recognizing the accomplishments of others - or both.

Yet I like to get out and do what I do.

I was at a birthday party in February and a fellow runner in the community asked my thoughts about them taking so many pictures on the race course.

While even though I'm not as fast as others and I think we should all race when one is put on, my response was is that as long as you don't unncessarily burden the event and do so within the course (time) and resource (aid stations) limits put down by the event producer - have fun as it is your discretionary income that you're spending.

I traveled to Hico, Texas for the Old Settlers' Race To Remember 5K, which is part of the town's 131st annual Old Settlers Reunion.

Started a year before the town's incorporation in 1883 (and not held during four years of World War II), organizers and the town claim that it is the oldest event of its kind in Texas.

The course was a little old too.

I would say that it must have been the Stagecoach Route of 1886.

It was different is what I would best say.

It might have been a little long.  A runner with an electronic device had it at 3.16 miles, which makes my 33:21 time a bit more palatable.

We left the historic downtown area and went south and did a loop in the Bosque River RV Park, where it looked like some of the Reunion's activities were held.

We came out of the park heading north and then we were running cross country, through the grass under "the 281 bridge" (which literally had about seven or eight feet of cleareance).

We ended up on some city streets and did a turn around on Railroad St. (looking at Google Maps now while running).  This was my major complaint with this course.

Had I known this is where it went and if Waverly was with me, I would have stayed with her or not let her run.  This was an area - and you have to plan for the worst of anything - somebody could have been pulled off the course and nobody might have known with as few as runners as there were.

If somebody was running without a chip (this race was timed), nobody would have known that a runner who had come into town that wasn't known to locals was attacked and possibly sexually assaulted.

I've gotten blamed - even recently - of thinking too much, but Jay and Joy Hilscher changed part of their original route before the first TIR in March of 2008 when we did a dry run in October 2007 because a part ran at night - away from vans - along the railroad line.

Again, Rafael Resendiz-Ramirez, the serial killer, had been known for traveling around the United States by freight train and commiting his murders near railroad lines.

When we ran that stretch, I asked Jay if the vans were going to be allowed back there (which was pitch black without a head lamp) and he had said that they weren't.

Inevitably, Jay and Joy had runners stay along the highway, which passed the place in Borden (I think it is) that supposedly has really good hamburgers.

Long story short, I finished the race in 33:20, according to the official timer, Pro-Fit Event Services, which does a really good job (except entering my name as John versus Jon on the form I filled out!)

And I was first in the 50-54 age group.

I hope they gave my award to somebody, perhaps a youngster.

I got a bite to eat at the Koffee Kup Family Restaraunt a couple of blocks away from historic downtown and got the pancake stack, which was a mistake.

Three of the largest pancakes I've ever seen.  I hate wasting food, especially with so many that go without, but I only got through about one and a half in total.

So that was a race in Texas city, town or census-designated place #137 and north American city of town #299.

Tonight's race in Clifton would have been in a new county, Bosque, for #74, but staying safe on the roads from being rested is more important than hitting some arbitrary goal that might not be made with Texas having 254 counties.

So the secondary goal came about and that is to run at least a mile in all 254 Texas counties.

I go to the county courthouse, get a picture and then take off and run for about six-plus minutes in a given direction - as long as a dog or something doesn't alter that - and then return.

I post the picture on Instagram.  I'm "walksports" there, if you wish to follow.

And then if I have data in the locale that I'm running, I'll post the mile-plus to MapMyRun.

If I don't, I manually note the streets that I turned on and then add them to MapMyRun later.

Today, I added Stephenville (Erath), Comanche (Comanche), Brownwood (Brown) and Goldthwaite (Mills). 

I had as potential targets San Saba, Brady and Gatesville, but after I got done in Brownwood I determined that I could get this hotel room for the minimum number of points and decided to aim my car towards Killeen.

Driving by Goldthwaite, a Texas high school football power of the past, was along the way.

I almost passed by it, but instead got out of the car, took the proverbial picture and set off for 13 minutes of running in 99 degrees temperatures.

I like my "me" time.

In this sense, even though I socialize fairly well, when I choose to, I'm enjoying this process of seeing different parts of Texas that I might not get to.  And there's certainly lots to go.

So the tally is that I've run a race in 73 Texas counties and I've added a mile in another 25 for a total of a mile or more in 98 of Texas' 254 counties.

And a mile or more in 169 Texas cities, towns or census-designated places.

More fun to come.  Stay tuned.