Chapter Four of the Four-Races-In-Twenty-One-Days Extravaganza came and went so quickly that a week has passed before I’ve finally sat down to document it for the ages, or perhaps the aged. It didn’t help that life turned from busy to insane right about the time of our Kentucky sojourn, finding myself setting foot in ten states over the course of an eight day span, with Kentucky adding a new state to the running list – been in forty-nine, been over the fiftieth, have now run in twenty. I’d like to say, “And now we rest,” but the coming week offers no such luxury. Ever onward!
I love ironies and coincidences since they are a constant reminder of how connected we all are in this world. And somehow they’re better when they jump out unexpectedly, having been there all along, silently unnoticed. Such it was that on the final leg of the Bluegrass Odyssey, having travelled for days with the team, that it was only upon driving one of my Greater Boston teammates home from the airport late Sunday night that I discovered he was none other than the winner of my local club’s race this past summer – the one I’ve served as race director and now provide scoring services for. I missed this connection because he ran in rival Boston Athletic Association colors that summer eve, and only came over from the proverbial Dark Side a few months later.
Closing the trip with a connection through our Running With the Wolves race seemed apt given we’d just spent the weekend Running With the Thoroughbreds, lining up with the nation’s best runners in the nation’s best horse country for this year’s USA Track & Field National Club Cross Country Championships in Lexington. Yes, the meet tech shirt indeed featured a steed. No, we didn’t see many of them. Mostly we saw rain and fog and rain and darkness and rain, though mercifully the rain abated for the main event on Saturday, leaving it’s calling card in the form of Kentucky mud that simply won’t come off my shoes.
The race was, in a word, a fatigue-fest. We scoped the course on Friday (in the rain) and knew it was non-stop hills, but I’m a hill runner, and expected it to be thoroughly manageable.
At least I remained vertical throughout. Having foolishly not brought my spikes, thinking they were heel-less track spikes which would shred my calves (and which, ironically, I had yet to actually use with spikes actually installed within), it was clear on our course reconnoiter that going spikeless would leave one feckless. A quick night-before pilgrimage to the local running emporium produced only another set of track spikes, but having come this far, I wasn’t about to let a little wardrobe duplication spoil the day. Armed with some serious foot-mounted daggers, I violated Rule Number One, never do anything in a race you haven’t tried before, and raced in shoes I’d first run in only twenty minutes prior to the gun. Not landing in the mud was worth the price of a blister and some delayed-action arch fatigue.
LevelRenner.com, and to my amusement, my commentary graced the last minute or so of his race coverage (note, the video on his site at this link seems to work better in Internet Explorer rather than Firefox). To even more amusement, he closed his video with a quick clip of EJ, ironic in that he can’t have known of our rivalry. (There’s that irony thing again.)
And just to put some punctuation on the big, exciting, and just plain cool aspect, the fact is that when you go to these events, you just never know who you’ll meet, chat with, or even end up on a run with. The morning after, seeking a few easy miles of recovery, I found myself bolting a ten-miler through Downtown Lexington and the University of Kentucky Arboretum (a lovely spot, really) with a world-class runner I’d met casually in the lobby of the hotel. You just never know, and the next thing you know, you’re running with another thoroughbred. Relish the experience.
Side note: A full thirty years later, this event brought on a pleasant reunion with a friend I ran with in my high school First Lap days. There’s a great story of a wild night at the races that’s the topic for another night…