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I meant to write more often – I really did…Since I wrote in April I have run a couple in person races and some virtual races. I did an in person 10k that I also counted as a virtual 10k (because to me, virtual races barely count, and it isn’t as though I don’t cover that distance regularly anyway…) The in person 10k was the “Jim Schoemehl Run” to fundraise for ALS research. I also counted this for my virtual Flying Pig 10k, mainly because it was that weekend. I did the 3-way challenge, so as soon as I finished that race I did my 5k. The Sunday of that weekend I ran my half, and got it done before church which is an accomplishment. That was the first weekend in May. The medals came in the mail mid-June, picture included. I’m running with no actual plan right now. 3-5 miles (usually 4 or 5) on weekdays. 8-12 on Saturday. 3-8 on Sundays. One or two days off from running but I cross train or walk on my off days. Overall mileage cycles up and down. It’s mostly hot and very humid so the motivation to do more isn’t there. So in general, my running has been consistent, but not exciting. I also ran another 10k in May. This was the Ferguson Twilight 10k. An evening race, but close to home. I always think about doing it, but I’m not a fan of evening races so I usually don’t. This time I decided I would. I knew a PR was probably out of the question. I ran hard, had fun, and did better than expected by visually latching on to runners a head of me. One lady in a white shirt was a particularly helpful pacer, and I let her know at the end of the race. I had helped her some too, and we exchanged the first post-pandemic (or not so much, thanks Missouri…) high fives we each had. My time was well off my PR, but I feel like the race was solid overall. There was one moment of big running excitement and that came last week. I had always in the past considered signing up for the big local summer mile race – The Macklind Mile. It’s advertised as the fastest (road) mile in St. Louis. So it always seemed like a good place to shoot for a mile PR. But I never felt like I was really in shape to try. Including this year. But after last year when everything was cancelled, I decided to try and do more of these things I’ve been saying “well, maybe next time”. Because, who knows? So I signed up. It was a warm, sticky June morning. Typical. They do this race in waves every year, so there were no changes for COVID (and local restrictions have now been lifted, and despite MO now surging again in cases it’s unlikely they will be reinstated.) The waves were Men’s Competitive, Women’s Competitive, Recreational, Dog Mile, Elite, and Kids ¼ mile dash. Competitive in this case just means eligible for age group and overall awards. You have to apply to be in the Elite wave and it’s limited to 5 or 10 each men and women. No women ran the elite wave this year. The dog mile is really fun to watch and the top 3 this year all broke the course record for dog/person pairs - they were all in the 4:30s. After the men’s wave took off it was 15 minutes until my wave (women’s competitive). I had warmed up, sort of haphazardly. About 2 miles of running with a few surges thrown in but nothing that serious. I lined up at the start and we were off. The race isn’t quite all downhill. The first quarter mile is, but then there is a slight uphill from ¼ to the halfway point. My goal was to PR if possible – time to beat for that was 8:04. Better yet, sub 8. I hadn’t run that fast for more than a ¼ mile in over a year. I wasn’t sure at all if I could, but I was going to try. I was ahead of pace that first ¼ but then as we temporarily went uphill (just a little, when I’m not trying to run gut bustingly fast it would have been no big deal…) I slowed way down and I was off PR pace at the ½ mile mark. But then we had the downhill again and I was able to pick up the pace. I knew I was doing better, but I didn’t know if I could hold on. Besides being downhill, the race is almost without turns, so you can see the finish for a long way before you get there. It seemed like it was never going to come, but as I got closer and stole quick glances at my watch, I could see I just might make it. If didn’t fall down or pass out first…closer, closer, and BEEP…I stopped my watch. I had done it! Not only did I beat my PR, but by about 9 seconds. 7:55! It’s worth noting a similar effort level (though less willingly undertaken) in high school meant around a 10:30 mile…I was and still am pretty excited. Even so, I was 17th in my AG. (Which is too bad, because this race has really cool street signs for the AG awards…) Tomorrow, I’m running a 3k (yes, 3). Usually it’s on the 4th, but since the 4th is a Sunday, the race and parade that follows is on the 5th. I have a shot at an AG award here, but it’s not quite as cool. But it’s still motivating. I’m trying to pick a fall marathon (or even two) and I had wanted to make it a real vacation, but with my current circumstances as they are, I don’t feel like I can plan that. Eventually I will find that job I’m looking for and I’ll be less than 3 months into it by the time that race likely rolls around, so taking multiple days off is unlikely to be a good idea, or even possible. So I have to stay closer to home… On the on-going job search…yes, I am still looking. It’s been frustrating even finding the type of job I want, although as a look, I’m getting a clearer idea of what that is. I had one interview about 6 weeks ago, but it didn’t go well. I learned from it. But I’m disappointed in myself because I could have done better. Oh well, I’ll just take it that it wasn’t the job for me anyway. Flying Pig medals. Post Twilight 10k Men's start for the Macklind Mile. Just before the Women's start So happy with my PR. 7:54 is a lie. Even the watch says 7:54.9 when you actually look at it.
It’s tough doing anything on a weeknight, and I usually avoid plans outside the Friday-Sunday window. So naturally, last week I had a retirement party on Monday and my long awaited mile race at the Track Club’s All-Comers meet on Tuesday. And something every other night last week, but those aren’t relevant to the story, so we’ll just stick to Monday and Tuesday for brevity’s sake if that’s alright with you. The Director who had been retired was, by everyone’s account, a really great guy. He was gregarious, had led a rich life full of great stories, drank a lot and always picked up the tab, and was also a runner. We were all sad to see him go, so the event dragged on well beyond the advertised 8pm ending time. We talked about his plans for the future and about the part-time gigs he’d find consulting until his kids were out of college. We also talked running, and how he hoped to check off all the races he’d always wanted to do but never had the time. We talked about my mile the next day and how an evening of pisco sours and cigars on an empty stomach probably wasn’t the best race preparation, and I proceeded to tell him the story of the kimchi cheesesteak and sour beer school of race prep and he wished me luck from beneath an arched eyebrow. And every time I finished a drink and looked at my watch and thought “now’s my chance”, he’d talk about how much it meant to him that we all showed up, and how it took some of the sting out of the whole situation. So we’d order another round and discuss The Curse of Lono and Capote and Kerouac and how sneaking out for a run at lunch is a valuable sanity preservation tool and by the time the bar closed it was just the two of us being thrown out, planning to meet up someday soon for a race. I worked from home Tuesday, which meant I used the Outlook alerts for all my conference calls as alarms to wake me up from the micro-naps I was desperately using to supplement the 4 hours of sleep I’d gotten. We made it to the track on the Emory campus while the field events and sprints were taking place, which gave us plenty of time for a warm up jog and some spectating. We jogged around the infield and watched little kids run 100s, being chased and cheered on by their parents. We saw others try the pole vault and high jump. Some of the more stout folks tried their hand at the shot put. We chatted with runners and parents from all parts of the city and all walks of life. Some were on local high school or college teams looking for an extra workout. Others ran track in former lives and were dipping their toes back into the pool. Then there was the contingent who never had the chance to try track, and were taking advantage of the open meet to scratch old itches. Some were looking for a place to run free from the harassment and abuse suffered while running in their own neighborhoods. And of course there were a few just looking to escape emails and forced retirements. We had all come to the track looking for a safe space to spend a couple of hours, where nothing that existed beyond lane 8 mattered. We did our strides and stretches while watching the 200 heats, and from our vantage point the runners in the staggered starting blocks arching across the far curve looked like a perfect rainbow of humanity. The Wife ran her heat first, so I got to cheer her on while my heat staged on the infield which helped burn off some of the nervous energy and residual pisco fumes. I haven’t really been nervous for a race in a long time, but racing on the track was going to be a new experience. I’d read so many accounts of elbows and spikes and sweat all flying in close quarters and the importance of knowing when to draft and when to pass and which lap should be the fastest and all that but had no idea how it worked in practice, especially amongst 20 amateurs. All of this and some Cassidy quotes were racing through my head as we toed the line right up until the starter gave the “runners set” command. Then, all I could think about was how hard it was not to false start as I waited for him to fire his pistol. But I didn’t, and when he did, I took off and headed to the front of the pack. Why I immediately ran to the front I have no idea, but I tucked tight into lane 1 for the first turn and tried to settle down into a sustainable pace while others jockeyed for position around me. By the middle of the back straight I had locked into what had felt like a strong pace and was behind 4 or 5 other runners. A group of 3 of us were pretty tightly bunched up and on the far turn began reeling in a guy who looked as though he based his early pace on what he had run at his small DIII college a decade and 25 pounds ago, and his pace was receding faster than his hairline. We passed him on the front straight, and I saw the clock tick 1:19, 1:20, 1:21 as I entered my second lap. That was faster than I thought I could maintain, so I backed off a touch and decided to stay tucked in behind the small pack I was with for the second lap. I still felt strong at this point, legs mechanically pumping away and lungs still able to deliver plenty of that sweet sweet oxygen. At least, that’s how the back straight felt. By the time the clock came back into view again I could feel my chest stretching with each gasping breath like a carry-on you’re hell bent on getting two weeks worth of clothing into because the airline can kiss my ass with the damn baggage fees. I don’t recall the time on the clock and I didn’t remember to use the lap button, but I knew it was a few seconds slower than the first lap and I decided to try to start pushing on the third. The rest of my little pack began to falter so I swung out to pass, and was quickly joined by several chasers who followed my move. There were now only 2 runners ahead of me, but a tight phalanx breathing down my neck. Focusing on passing and picking up the pace had momentarily distracted me from the heat building in my legs, and as I passed the ringing bell I tried to keep the focus on the pace, not the pain. I passed the second place runner as we entered the first turn and again hugged the railing. As we entered the back stretch the pack behind me broke and swung to pass me, and I went from visions of winning my heat to desperately trying to hang on. I had to fight the acid coursing through my aching muscles to keep the legs turning over and with each wheezing breath tasted blood in the back of my throat. I managed to repass 2 runners before the end of the straightaway and settled into what I guessed was the fourth or fifth spot, everything ahead of me was a hazy blur and I couldn’t be sure. As we entered the home stretch I thought I saw movement off my right shoulder and remembering John Landy, instead of turning to look I threw everything I had left into the furnace. The last 100 meters I could barely muster the strength to breathe, every bodily resource was thrown at the anaerobic fire. I held off my pursuer and crossed the line in an unofficial 5:48.40. Which since I don’t plan on logging any protests, should be official soon enough. We all stumbled awkwardly onto the infield, exchanging fist bumps and nods and a few of the handshake / one-armed-side-hug combos, but no one had yet regained the capacity for verbal communication. The Wife and I soon left the stadium to do a short cool down through the neighborhood and flush out the legs as the mile heats continued. But the post race high was quickly dulled by the world outside. Cars ran stop signs and honked their horns as they angrily tore through crosswalks. Instead of waves and nods, the people we passed generally seemed annoyed they couldn’t walk 4 wide and had to share the sidewalk with us. A guy at the bus stop blew a cloud of cigarette smoke in our faces as we ran past. We got a couple of “run Forrest”s and The Wife got a few catcalls from the construction site on the corner. We even had to stop at red lights. I made sure our cool down included one final lap of the stadium to remind myself there are still oases in this desert of civility. But the races had mostly concluded and the crowd had thinned. The stadium was now just another park, with people not picking up after their dogs and bikes being ridden on the track. I was distressed with how quickly the sanctuary had been overrun, and it wasn’t until I wasted the entire next day perusing photos and stories and shared history of the Loop that I again had hope. I found it again at the river with the Sunday long run crew. And I remembered that there’s nothing special about those places per se, the magic isn’t something inherent to the track or the river or a website. It’s something we bring to those places. No matter where we come from or how we got there or what we look like or which pronouns we prefer, we all share the same aches and pains, all do the same workouts, chafe in the same places, have a pile of neon laundry with an inhuman permafunk, and we all just want to run and be and turn down the volume on everything else for a bit. And maybe talk about shoes. You never know when that’s the last string helping someone keep the faith. So keep going to your track or your trail or your brewery runs. The rest of us need you. Also FUCK YEAH 5:48 bitches...