18 August 2008

Just Get Out There, This Week’s Edition

How often do we procrastinate over getting out the door? But how often do we regret it once we finally do get out the door? I can guess your answers, because they’re they same as mine. Often, and almost never.

This past Thursday was one of those days. There was a small 5K slated in the evening a couple towns over, the Officer Chuck Martin Memorial in Clinton. Unfortunately, none of my local running club buddies were up for it. Those wackos wanted to do hills instead. The twisted priorities of runners’ minds… I vacillated till the last moment. A dozen more peeks at the online weather map monitoring the thousands of thunderstorms we’ve had this summer (Live by it!). Oh, what the heck. I’ll go it solo.

The race is put on by the Central Mass Striders, who in my experience put on a good race for a reasonable price, and it helps that as a group of people, I just plain like them (which is pretty easy to say about most runners). About three quarters of the Chuck Martin is run on trails along or near the Wachusett Reservoir. Very nice course, but like any trail course, even one this simple, you’d better know where you’re going.

Which brings up a pet peeve. I’m not real fast, but I am a little faster than the average mid-packer. In a big race, I’m in the pack. But in a small local race, I know there’s a decent chance I’ll land in the top few. Not much chance of winning, but up there enough that there is sometimes no pack to follow. The best marked course can be confusing when you’re breathing hard enough to bend gravity with your air intake and your contact lenses are jostled well out of focus. All I want in life is a course map that I can study beforehand. How many races don’t provide these? CMS, I love ya’, but post a map (for that matter, same goes for my own club!). But wisdom trumps brute. Lacking that map, I jog the course beforehand.

Out the start there’s a half-dozen of us cruising Route 110 for the first quarter mile till a youngster turns on the up burners and makes it a race. I settle into 5th till we’re climbing up the Wachusett levees, where I pick one off. The first mile is quick for me, I’m feeling good, and PR is in my head. At one and a quarter I pick off #4 on a short hill, putting on a burst while passing to make my point, “I don’t want to hear from you again, you got it?” Now in 3rd, I accept my fate. The youngster is in the next county, #2 is also in another league, and I know he’s a master. So much for the master’s crown, I’ll push for the PR. All this strategizing and we haven’t hit the halfway of a 5K yet!

Why is it that a marathon passes so quickly but a 5K takes forever? I’m not really cut out for speed. Maintaining that pace joggles the head. Dodging the walkers, who were given a 20-minute head start, adds color to the adventure. Even having jogged the course beforehand, I’m still a little confused. Maybe it’s me. Maybe not.

Finally back on the paved road, four tenths to the finish, an onlooker shouts, “Solid second, nobody behind you!”. Huh? Was I that confused that I couldn’t count places? Drive to the finish, grab the ticket, sure enough, second. How’d that happen? Wisdom over brute. The youngster in first didn’t jog the course and missed a turn. He rambles in 5th or 6th or so. Too bad for him.

Wisdom rules, masters sweep 1-2-3. It’s a day for us old farts (I love this sport!). My time is a few seconds off my PR, but my good friend Google Earth hints that the course was a bit long, which makes me think of it as a PR. More importantly, CMS and the Martin family threw a pizza party that couldn’t be beat. Especially because it was indoors. Because yes, it rained again. All in all, a fine fun evening.

And to think, I vacillated.

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