Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tofurky Trot Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 9; 20th Edition 
269.2 miles run in 2014 races
Race: Tofurky Trot
Place: Portland, OR
Miles from home: 1 mile
Weather: 50s; Slight drizzle; overcast

I don't believe in jinxes but I should have probably kept my mouth shut.

Going into this 5k on the very hill Mt. Tabor (which I look at every day from my desk in Southeast Portland), I made mention this was the best my legs had felt basically in all of 2014. I said I did not remember the last time I went into any race where there was not something bothering me in some capacity.

My plan to run this race originally was because I was in town, I could sleep in my own bed before the race, get ready in my own house and then simply go one mile to the starting line. Fantastic. When I saw it was a "Tofurky" trot I knew I would have to wear my Team Beef singlet just to have some fun. They say they run FOR the Turkeys, so I figured since I was promoting beef, we would get along just fine.

A friend asked if I thought I might win the entire thing to which I said that one never knows. But the short distance races such a 5k do not favor people like me who:
1. Have no short twitch muscle fibers;
2. Are out of shape;
3. Are still wary of their legs working after a rough couple of years;
4. Basically don't warm up until mile six.

Yet I would give it my best.

At the packet pickup before the race, I looked at the map of the course and chuckled. There were no less than 800 million turns on this 5k course. OK, possibly a few less. But it was going to be a  twisty-turny course, half run on trail, half on road, with tons of descent and even more tons of climb, all in just 3.1 miles.  Oh, did I forget to mention no less than five flights of stairs, a variety of other pedestrians (with their dogs) seemingly oblivious to the few hundred of people trying to run around them, slick roads and oodles of other obstacles? To be honest, it sounded like a little bit of fun.

My bestie Shannon, herself recovering from injuries and surgery, who runs at Tabor more than I do, wanted to try out her lungs, legs and everything else on the course.We arrived with plenty of time to use the bathroom once last time before the race should have started. With about 8 minutes to go until said start time and ~40 more people in line to register, we knew there would be no on-time departure. The Chicago Bears game was starting at the ungoldy hour of 9:30 a.m. PST (weirdest thing about living on the West Coast which I don't think I will ever get used to are 10 a.m. NFL starting times) and with the race supposedly starting at 9 a.m., I was bummed I would miss the beginning. As it turns out, the beginning was the only good thing for the Bears on Turkey Day. Alas.

I expected the normal kooks of Portland to be out and about but even more so in full force of their liberalness because of the sponsor of the event. Some girl had a shirt on that said, if I recall correctly, "Pro-feminism, Pro-LGBT, Animal-Lover, Plant Eater." So, in other words, she was sort of a decent human being but wanted to make sure everyone else knew it, too.

 As I milled around waiting for anyone to comment on my shirt, one gentleman came over to me and said my shirt was a hoot. Rocking my Team Beef shirt, I was hoping to get a few more people chatting with me about my wardrobe choice but I had a feeling most of them weren't exactly vegan either. They looked too healthy. *rimshot*

When we were finally ready to go, I lined up close to the start. A guy and his two young sons sauntered up and positioned themselves right in front of me. It was quite apparent they didn't need to be RIGHT at the front and this might be potentially dangerous. Then a few seconds later three tiny little girls slid through the crowd and positioned themselves right in front of the guy and his sons. Ugh. No doubt when this race started there would need to be a clean-up on aisle four.  I moved over to my right some so that when I started I would not have to hurdle the little bodies falling down in front of me. I wasn't in the mood to be helpful and tell them they might want to move. Some days I just don't have the energy.

Mile 1:

We started, made a right hand turn, and immediately went up a hill.  I knew this was short-lived and we would get what was essentially the only downhill of the course until the last quarter of a mile, coming up soon. I shot out just to get around all the lil chitlins for what was inevitably going to be a trouncing from the other runners behind them. I was somewhere in a heap of about 10 runners as we hit the first staircase which we all eschewed in favor of the path next to it. Then down the slippery paved road we went. I had wisely worn my ICESPIKE for this race and it undoubtedly was a deciding factor from having me fall on my butt numerous times.

Almost immediately a kid rocking one fantastic white man afro was gone out in front. Well, any delusions of winning were now shot down. In a quarter of a mile he had a ten second lead on me and just about everyone else. Given the slippery, uneven footing of the course I had opted to wear my ICESPIKE, as I mentioned, which were serving me well. I could tell on the slippery road I would have lost footing a few times without them.

We evened out, and made a couple of quick turns to make a loop around the first reservoir of the day. This reservoir has always reminded me of the rock quarry in Breaking Away. Some days it is empty and others filled to the brim.  It was a filled to the brim sort of day here but I was more concerned about keeping my footing. As we circumvented it, we had to go up two cement stairs and then ten feet later go down two cement stairs. Looping around, we had to then go down two more stairs, make a super fast right hand turn, run in between two tress which were perilously close to each other  (one also had a tree limb hanging low enough to decapitate anyone over six feet tall) and then sprint across a mushy grass field. It was actually kinda fun in a "going to destroy all my ligaments" way.

As we passed runners about to go around the reservoir, we ran down another hill, made an ankle-breaking 120 degree turn (Volunteer: "Be VERY careful! It is slippery here!") and then down a rocky embankment. Spitting out onto a road, we had to make an abrupt 90 degree turn on this road before rejoining a dirt trial about twenty yards up the road which meandered through some trees.

This is all the first mile.  I ran it in 5:50 and was quite pleased.

Mile 2:

This trail had us skirting past some lovely old trees for a bit as we surged up and down over the hills. We briefly came into view of the lowest reservoir on Mt Tabor which I love to do repeat sprints around. At .57 of a mile it is a good place to do mile repeats. But we only saw it for a minute as we began climbing back up from where we had just come. The downhill was done for the day and it was time to hurt. On the dirt for a while, we began running up the paved portion of the frontside trail on Tabor. (I don't know exactly how many miles of different trails there are on this mountain which does not have a ton of square mileage but there are a great deal.) As we climbed further, we saw runners behind use taking the aforementioned slippery 120 degree turn.  We turned left away from them and back onto another trail.

At this point I got passed by what would eventually be the female winner of the race. I simply didn't have the lungs to hold her off but hoped the later hills would be an equalizer. I had already shrunk the gap between me and the handful of runners in front of me who I figured were not aware how hilly the last two miles were. It appeared they might be within my grasp if I just held it easy for a minute here. My problem with 5Ks is I forget there really isn't supposed to be a time where you hold back.

We flattened out and began a semi-complete loop around the middle reservoir where earlier this year I had watched the Adult Soap Box Car Derby. As I ran in the girl in front of me's shadow, we saw a woman out for a leisurely run in front of us. She was coming down another path and she and her dog and its 6 foot leash decided that right now would be the perfect time to go directly in front of us on this narrow trail that cut through the trees around the reservoir.  As I watched the girl in front of me navigate her way around, I assumed the jogger would think maybe to look around and see if there was, you know, other people wearing bib numbers who might appreciate if she got out of the way. Right then, not paying attention to my footing but instead watching her, I twisted my ankle. Sweet Fancy Moses, did I twist my ankle.

I almost never twist my ankle. I roll them all the time, take one step, and it is as if nothing ever happened. But searing pain shot through my foot and ankle and then into my shin, causing me to come to a dead stop. I took a couple of very tentative steps. It didn't feel like I had done anything that would keep me from finishing so I gingerly put some weight on the foot. A few more steps and I think adrenaline took over. There was no pain worse than what I would expect so I took off again. I passed the woman with the dog, perhaps a tad closer than necessary to make her jump a touch, and began the big climb to the top.

Mile 3: 

As we all once again went from trail, to paved road, to gravelly road to trail again, I heard some breathing behind me and a second female runner passed me. She had some cute tail fathers and I think a pilgrim hat made out of cardboard on a headband.  I laughed.

Even though it was a touch cool on the mountain, I was generating some ferocious heat.  As I slowed to take on this beast of an uphill, my Julbo sunglasses fogged up. I guess running much faster had at least kept some cool air circulating over them. Here, not so much. I then realized I was thinking too much. This is another reason why I am not good at the shorter distances. There really isn't all that much time to think. If you want to do well, you have to run hard, think as little as possible and just make it hurt. So I decided to do that.

Finally and mercifully nearing the top of Mt. Tabor, there was another set of stairs I ignored and instead went up the grass next to them. I could see both ladies and three men all in front of me within striking distance. As we rounded the top, numerous pedestrians were enjoying their day, barely making way for us. As we began the descent of one staircase, a family of approximately 634 was coming up the stairs at the same time. Dodging, hurdling, and somersaulting this family had me right in the hip pocket of one of the runners. I passed her on the steps and taking them two at a time, started to reel in the other runners.

At the end of the third staircase, the adrenaline finally wore off and I could tell the ankle was hurting. Destroying myself for a 5k was not on my To Do list today so I eased off the throttle, slide down the remaining hill and came in under 22 minutes  in 21:52, good enough for 9th place overall. Three other runners had barely finished 10 seconds in front of me, and the speedster who probably ran 15:xx on a normal course, barely cracked 19 today.

As I found some ice to immediately try to stop the swelling I was quite hobbled. I sat down near the finish after speaking to the few people who had finished in front of me. We all agreed it was a darn tough course. I was hoping Shannon had not had the same problem I had. Somehow I missed seeing her come in but she walked over to me. Seeing the ice on my ankle, she said "Uh Oh."

I hobbled down to my car. Luckily, I had driven even though it is only a mile away (it had been raining and I am lazy- give me a break.) After continuing to ice it and using my SKINS compression socks for that day and the next few, I found out it was a third degree ankle sprain. It could have been much worse, but it nonetheless has put my running on hold for a few days at the very least. Fortunately, it doesn't hurt much but it sure is ugly. So I will be resting it a bit as I am in no hurry to rush back just so I can hit some arbitrary number of miles per week to make my spreadsheet look more full.

My goals are to treat 2015 like what 2014 was supposed to be before a string of ailments sidelined it. As such, I have no problem whatsoever hanging up the shoes for a bit and hitting the pool.  Not what I was expecting when I signed up for a trot a mile from my home but life is full of what we don't expect.

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