22 August 2008

Into the Woods!

Wednesday night witnessed the latest chapter of a New England tradition, the Lynn Woods Relays, not surprisingly held in the Lynn Woods Reservation, which is, also not surprisingly, in Lynn, Massachusetts. Now, I’ve only been at this game for three years in this, my Second Lap (I do promise and/or threaten to pepper in stories of my first lap as a spry teen), and as such I’m only learning about these classic events. So I can’t wax poetically or otherwise about this venerated tradition. All I know is that they’ve been doing this for a long time, and what I learned Wednesday night is that it’s a kickin’ fun event.

Diversion! I’ll get back to that in a minute. This brings up the topic of your local friendly running club. (They’re all friendly, I promise, because all runners are friendly. Every last one of them. Except when they’re not.) If you’re not a member of a local running club, fix that. Join one. If I wasn’t active in my local running club, I wouldn’t have known about this event. I wouldn’t have had the benefit of the club teaming up to register, organize teams, and plod through God-awful traffic together to get there, the ‘being together’ part making the ‘God-awful’ part not only bearable but even fun. I wouldn’t have had the kid-like glee of showing up for a team event in real live team uniforms. Admit it, win or lose, team stuff is fun.

And while you’re at it, don’t just join your local running club, help make it fly. Over the summer we’ve taken our club, the Highland City Striders, from a casual group to a real-live non-profit corporation, RRCA affiliated, insured, oh-fish-ee-all and ready to show our faces to the public. Life is a series of new adventures, and admittedly it was a slightly frightening one when I clicked the button on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts web site creating a corporation with myself listed as a corporate officer. Yikes! Maybe a scant bit more oh-fish-ee-all than comfortable, but like anything else, if you don’t push your comfort zone, well, you’re a runner, you get it. So now we’ve got this real live entity, we’re getting publicity, and we’re having fun!

Back to the Woods: And so we fielded three teams, one open, one women, and my Old Fart masters team (pictured below, that's Ace Old Farts Dom, Dan, and Ken) amongst the 75 teams who took to the gravel, ruts, rocks, water bars, and other obstacles of the 2.5 mile relay course. It defies logic to think that a start / finish / exchange zone in a park gate not much more than one car width wide would suffice for an event this big, but it not only works but provides a great little zone where competing runners meet, chat, and enjoy while awaiting their teammates’ arrival. The tight quarters actually added to the fun of the evening.

The course itself is mostly fire roads with a short trail section, and while there are only a couple of turns, at least two runners managed to get lost, which gave purpose to a nice warm-down jog doubling as a rescue mission. Our lost friend later reported passing through Gettysburg and chasing stray sheep, but came out unscathed. Funny thing about this, of course, is that just last week I ran and duly reported on another trail race where the leader lost his way. Ironically, before the race we asked about the course and monitors at the turns and were told, “You’re all adults, you’ll figure it out.” OK, most of us did. Did I mention jogging the course ahead of time last week?

In the end some ├╝ber-humans from Worcester’s Central Mass Striders whomped us for the masters’ crown by a mind-blowing margin of nearly ten minutes (remember, this was only a ten mile race!), setting a new masters record along the way. We of course believe they are really all 14-year-old Chinese girls with altered passports, but the IOC would hear nothing of it, so we shut up and happily took our second-place medals off to the pub for hydration and nutrition.

Random Entirely Unconnected Topic: For as horrible as Massachusetts drivers are supposed to be, I find them incredibly hospitable to runners. On this morning’s run (which, by the way, started out at a 6.1 on the Creaky & Crusty scale with the 48-hour burn kicking in from having used muscles long ignored while climbing those trails Wednesday, but I digress) I had one of those “cranking it, nearing the top of the hill and – crap! – the light is turning red!” moments. Being slightly obsessed, I really don’t like to stop, I’m big on inertial. But it wasn’t looking good, the cross traffic was already moving. Yet, I tell you, people are either genuinely good at heart or maybe it’s simply pity, look at that poor confused soul who doesn’t seem to understand the function of a car! Oh, so sad! But truly, if they see me, they really do all stop (except, oddly, school buses, which rarely do). I always offer the friendly wave in return. Then, of course, they go back to cutting each other off, offering each other the driving finger salute, and all the other tricks required to maintain their good standing as true Massachusetts drivers.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Gary, I hope you keep up with posting. You run because of a mid-life crisis? I thought it was to travel the world and see streets in exotic places like Buffalo and Charlottesville.



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