Friday, September 30, 2016

Quad Cities Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 11; 14th Edition 
167.7 miles runs in 2016 races
Race: Quad Cities Half Marathon
Place:Moline, IL
Miles from home: 1100
Weather: 70s; humid, sunny


That's about all I can say about my race performance here at the Quad Cities Half Marathon, if you can even call it a performance.

A friend once posted something about how when you toe the line of a race, you should give your all. For the most part I agree. That is what differentiates a race from a run.  I also know that there are certain caveats. In long distance racing, if you know it is simply not your day, there is nothing wrong with mailing it in. The thing about this sport is, unlike other sports like football, or baseball, or other ball sports, there is no downtime. You can't take a play off. You can't milk the timeout. You can't draw a foul and take free throws. If your day sucks, well, guess what pal, it is going to suck nonstop until you cross the finish line. The only question is how you mitigate the suck.

For myself, given that I have Gilbert's Syndrome, (a relatively benign but potentially bad disorder that inhibits recovery from hard exercise - to generalize) I know that if I redline too much, I'm gonna have Trouble. And that starts with "T" and that rhymes with "P" and that stands for "physician, gonna need one soon." So I pick and choose my battles.

I was in town to run this race for the 4th time in 10 years because it is a must-do race.  The course is not particularly beautiful, although it has its moments. The crowds aren't ten deep but they have their spots. The weather is a little volatile but can be fine. But the organizers put on one of the best races in America and for those who are stuck on bling or mountain visages and do not realize what really makes a race tick are all the things you haven't the foggiest CLUE go on behind the scenes, you go with the people that make those things work. That is the Quad Cities Marathon for you.

The last time I ran this race it was part of my Dane to Davenport- a 165 mile stage run over 3 days that tacked on the Quad Cities Marathon after for nearly 200 miles of running. I was happy to be back and just running 13.1 this time. Doing a book signing at he expo, meeting some really salt of the earth people and talking about how ASEA helps me recover was all just icing on the cake.

Posting an APB for a Diet Mountain Dew and having not one but two separate people from the Quad Cities bringing me one at my booth just goes to show you what sort of awesome people live here. (Also, seriously, Mountain Dew, I do more for you than X Games. Hook a brother up.)

I met a slew, a litany, a plethora of fantastic people at this race and knew I would be seeing many of them after the race. As my hotel was so close to the finish, I knew I could quickly shower after my race and head back out to hand out medals. People often praise elites for doing this sort of thing but if I ever have an opportunity, it is something I jump at doing.  It simply warms the heart.

Race Morning:

I got an excellent night of sleep both before the expo and before the race. I was hoteled mere yards from the start courtesy of the awesome RD, Joe Moreno.  Having just moved to Austin, TX, I was still living amongst boxes a week ago. Being a tad more rested than I had been when I ran a 1:22 half in Utah two weeks ago, I was hoping to have a solid performance here on a less forgiving course.

The weather forecast called for some potential thunderstorms. I didn't like that but that at least meant it wouldn't be sunny and hot.  Humid, sure, but the other two would be gone. I woke up, threw open my curtains...and a mostly cloudless sky and warm sunshine penetrated my window.

Eat me, weather.

Honestly, if climate change doesn't bother you for the myriad of reasons it should bother you, at least be selfish and realize how it is ruining so many good racing days. I would move to Barrow Alaska but I just checked and their high the other day was like 49. Even that is too hot.

So I begrudgingly made my way to the start wondering that perhaps I could suck it up, be a man and power through this race.  I got close to the start, saw Will Leer (wait, wow. I thought I recognized him ushering his girlfriend Aisha Praught past my booth the day before when she stopped and looked interested in talking) and readied myself for the howlitzer to start the race.

Away we went.

First Three Miles: 6:45; 6:42; 7:24

The race runs straight down the street, underneath an American flag (that would make Howdy Honda in Texas jealous of its size) and then curls up on a ramp onto the I-74 Bridge. This first mile didn't feel particularly fast so when I ran a 6:45 I wasn't surprised. However, as we ran across the bridge, and a drip of sweat or 17 had already dropped from my short race haircut onto my Julbo sunglasses, I was hoping the downhill would give me a boost. It did. All of three seconds. Consarnit.

I have impeccable memory when it comes to race courses and what happens during them at random spots along the way. Why in the sam hell I always forget about this bugger of a hill before mile three of this course is beyond me. However, the 1:30 pace group leader passed me with a gaggle of runners behind him as we just about crested this hill. I thought that perhaps with the hill behind me I might finally wake up and salvage the day.

To the 10k: 6:50; 7:08; 7:23

After this hill, there is a slight downhill and then another much smaller uphill before a nice screamer of a downhill on 18th street. When it only yielded a 6:50 mile for me, I knew my day was done.  Well, my racing day anyway.  Now what to do with the finally 9.1 miles.

A nice grouping of people had shown up in the neighborhoods we had passed through and as we crossed over an overpass next to The Isle of Capri riverboat casino for a short but cruel hill, there were even a few more people from Iowa out to cheer us on.  By now, any cloud cover we had experienced at all was gone. While I do not do well in heat and humidity, at this point it wasn't so hot or so humid as to explain my lethargy. I just couldn't get my motor running.

We slipped down onto the riverfront and joined a nice bicycle path that I have run virtually every time I have been to the Quad Cities. Fortunately, here the morning sun was on our back. Unfortunately, I ran way way too slow to even be remotely pleased with how this day would go. I just had to run hard enough not to embarrass myself.

Right at the 10k mark I looked over and saw the statue of Bill Rodgers and Joan Samuelson celebrating how they helped put the Bix 7 mile race on the map.  This made me a smile for a bit as Bill is a friend and Joan was kind enough to sign this awesome poster I found of the 1984 Olympics at the World Famous Golf & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas (made famous by the show Pawn Stars on History Channel.) But soon that memory faded and I knew I had 7 more miles to go.

To Mile 10: 7:21; 7:24; 7:28; 7:15

I knew the next four miles were all flat and I just had to keep progressing at this pace and nothing would go wrong. I knew for whatever reason pushing it was not going to happen. But I most assuredly did not wish to go slower.

As we crossed under the bridge which lead to Arsenal Island around mile 8, I could see the race leaders were crossing overhead on their way to mile 10. That was a touch disconcerting for me as I should not already be that far behind. Nevertheless, even if I had been on my "A" game I would have been extremely far behind them. Just not that far! But it was a nice reminder that there is normal, there is faster (me) there is really fast and then there is "Are you human?"

A plethora of signs told runners that those running the half were supposed to stay to the right and I knew the Modern Woodman Stadium was approaching. This was where I ended my Dane to
Davenport and I so wished I was ending my run today here. I had next to nothing left in the tank and it took all I had not to run a 7:30 mile.

We passed this beautiful stadium and headed onto 2nd street where we were shaded from the sun. For the first time all day I felt good. My speed did not increase but it didn't take everything in me to get going. I began to rev my engines a little bit as we approached the bridge I mentioned above. I raced a gentleman to the top, told the guys holding warning signs that "Mats on Bridge are Loose" that they shouldn't make judgment calls on the morals of the mats (ha!) and began to try and build some steam.

The reason for the signs were that a red carpet of mats had been laid down over the metal lattice work of this bridge to keep runners safe.  But they were not completely nailed down or anything and could possibly budge. Picking up my feet and racing for the first time all day (I was making it hard for the guy behind me to pass by picking up the pace) I saw the sign for the tenth mile at the end of the bridge. Thank goodness.  Double digits.

Bringing it home: 7:26; 7:18; 7:13

The last time I was on this island was right before the last six miles of the marathon in 2013.  As I passed by the cemetery on that day I saw a man go down in the distance.  Running the half-marathon this man had a heart attack. Before I could even get to him members of the military post stationed nearby were administering aid. I was extremely happy to learn later that he fully recovered. AS those memories flooded back, I knew when I left the island today I would be almost done. Now all I had to do was get through it.

Arsenal Island is the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the United States.  And we get to run on it.  It is always eerily quiet as spectators are not allowed on the island (I don't think) but the quiet is serene and wonderful.  It also often provides a great deal of shade which was undoubtedly needed today.

After holding off the runner on the bridge, he passed me on the flats here. But when we hit a small incline I passed him back and this time I made it stick.  If you are going to pass someone, do it definitely. Someday I am going to find out why I am not a very good runner on flat courses but it always happens to me in race. Give me miles of flat and watch people pass me. Give me small hills, and I win it all back and then some.

Now, feeling decent for the first time in the whole race, I began to pick up the pace. A few runners came into focus and I knew I had just enough real estate left in the race to get a one or two of them and put them behind me.

Over the last bridge and into a throng of people cheering on both sides I went. Down the last bit of street toward the finishline I was so happy to see I ran. I mercifully crossed in 1:35:01, good enough for 48th place and 4th in my age group.  My friend and announcer Creigh Kelley called me over and we chatted for a bit.  Other than being mildly out of breath, I felt fine. Not sore, not tired, just completely realizing how bad of a day I had just finished. Sometimes there simply is no explanation.

I sauntered over to my hotel and thought about showering and taking a nap. It was still only 9 a.m.  But I knew I would much rather go back outside and cheer on as many people as I could. I could not have been happier that I made that decision.

Back out at the finish, I saw numerous people I had met the previous day and many seemed surprised to see me, let alone the fact I recalled some of the minutia of their life stories. When I am asked what inspires me and I say all people, some people think that is pablum. But truly, seeing people meet their own goals, apropos of their speed, is what really makes me smile. If I am able to share in a small part of that, it is even better.

As I celebrated with some, consoled a few others, and on occasion acting like a wall for some to
simply hang onto lest they fall down in weather which had become warmer and more humid, the disappointment of my own day faded.  I knew it would. Part of the reason I came back out was to salve my wounds with the victory of others.  That is one of the reasons why after running that half marathon two weeks ago in Utah I went to the end of the Wasatch 100.  I wanted to witness the triumph and emotion of people pushing themselves to their limits.  It truly is a feeling I don't think any other sport can generate. You can be happy your football team won the SuperBowl but you have never been there.  Same with the Masters in golf or the World Series.  But anyone can run a 5k and cross the finish, giving all they can.

Then you get up, sign up for another race, and experience it all again.

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