12 June 2010


OK, so if I don't run a lot, it won't take much to get a "personal record"!

One year after running my first 5k race, I ran the same event again this morning.Last year, my time surprised many people, myself not the least, since I had never run an organized event before. Apparently 24:05 was noteworthy, and ... well, I guess I became committed to running as cross-training.

The return to Run for the STARS had a sense of competition for me. I've now run enough to have a log of distances and times, and most of my running is either 5k or 5 miles. So, I have some sense of what I could do at this race. I would not be on the podium - my age bracket is very competitive, and this race is growing. But could I shave my time? Cut it?

Adding to the fun of the event, daughter Kathryn and her roommates, Lauren and Sheila, signed up for the event. Lauren has been the runner in this apartment, but both Kathryn and Sheila have taken it up just this year. They drove out late last night, slept at the house, and got up eager and jittery to run.

Adding to the challenge of the event, it has been a tough week for my asthma. Complicated, perhaps, by a summer cold, and the humidity, and forgetfulness. Two mornings this week I got all dressed and was in the street before realizing that I had not used my inhaler before heading out. I'm supposed to "puff" 30 minutes before beginning this kind of exertion, and with the timing for work, once I was in the street it was too late to make that up. So ... they were not stellar training runs, and one at least was shorter than I would have liked.

Which raised the specter of not actually being able to complete today's 5, or at least to not manage the time I hoped.

I wanted to break 24 minutes, at least. And was pretty sure I could cut a minute from last year's time. My plan was to run a 7:30 pace, and bring the run in at about 23 minutes. At mile 1, the split clock read 6:57 - which would be off a few seconds from my tag time. OK, so that was faster than it maybe should have been, but I had worked out the math: If I run the first mile in 7 minutes, I can slow down to an 8 minute pace for mile 2, then pick it up to the end.

Split clock at mile 2, just under 14 minutes. Oops, this isn't going right! It should be closer to 15 to work my plan! I slowed a bit (at least, in my head I did), and was really feeling the asthma thing in the humidity. I slowed to a walk and gave myself a 30-second recovery, then returned to what I was sure must be about an 8-minute mile.

It's a funny thing. I have a pretty decent metronome in my head, when I am working on music. It isn't atomic clock accurate or anything like that. But it's always in the ballpark. But when I run? Without a chrono watch, and clear mile markers, I never have a good sense. And so it was today.

The Run for the STARS takes place on a beautiful residential course out from and back to College Church. When I got to Howard St., I pretty much gave up trying to sort out what my pace was. I could hold it steady, whatever it was. Based on my time at 2 miles, and even with my 30-second walk, I was reasonably certain that I would come in under last year's time.

All along the course, though not packed along the way, there are people encouraging and cheering the runners. But from College Avenue and Chase Street the route is packed, with people standing or walking back and forth from the finish line. Mile 3 is pretty much at the bottom of the last little rise in the course, and the finish line beckons from the front of the sanctuary building. One doesn't see the finish line clock really until Washington St. But I wasn't looking for that this year, for some reason. I guess with "D-tags" and my chrono watch, I knew I'd have my time more exactly.

Cross, click, 22:13! Almost 2 minutes off last year's run. (But probably less than that, since last year's race was only gun-to-finish, with a chip marking the finish.) It was the hardest exertion ever in my running. And I'm not sure I will try to better it next year. And even at that, it did not put me near the podium: 3rd place in Men 50-54 was just over 20 minutes!

Official time - 22:15 (there was some trouble with timing today, but I will accept this 2-second difference between the official time and my watch)
Pace - 7:11/mile
Placed 5th of 24 in Men 50-54
Placed 71 of 558 overall
Oh, and if I had this time in the 55-59 group, I would have been on the podium. So, maybe there is something to shoot for next year!

I enjoyed this again this year, and look forward to June 2011. I may not run another 5k between now and then, and I sure don't need to. But this one is on my calendar.

Century One, 2010

The plan is simple: one century per month, with daughter Kathryn, each month of summer. We have loosely defined summer to include May, and September/October are not out of the question - just more difficult to pull off.

So off we were on Saturday, May 30, 6:30am. Kathryn came out on the Metra, with her bike - maybe one of the last easy weekends to do that this summer. The train arrived just after sunset, and we rode the 3 miles home in the gloaming, headlights gleaming. Early to bed and early to rise: we hoped to be on the road no later than 7, and agreed 6:30 was a good goal to shoot for.

No one really sleeps in in this house, so we were up plenty early. Excitement and pre-ride jitters probably helped.A light breakfast, and checking our day bags, and loading up our fuel supplies ... because it's all about the food! The "monster cookies" Karen sent along secured her position as the world's greatest soigneur.

The plan and the route were very simple: 50 miles out, turn around; stay on path/trail and marked bike route. I've ridden this route quite a few times, maybe twice with someone else. It would take us, in fact, through the disaster section of last year's Bike Trip, Interrupted.

We hit the road at 6:30 exactly, on a pleasant morning in a day that was forecast to reach the low 80's. We would have sunshine, and not too much wind. We were on our way before the Illinois Prairie Path, Elgin spur, got too busy, though we would see quite a few runners before we reached the Fox River Trail in Elgin. North of Elgin, we came upon a run in support of World Relief, which was fun to see with so many people out for a good cause and enjoying themselves, everyone in groups.

Our first break was in East Dundee, just shy of 20 miles. Average speed, 13.7mph. (This would be our average speed of record for every stop throughout the day, except our last!) There used to be a really good bakery in East Dundee, which was closed under what seemed to me to be suspicious circumstances. So that gave me the chance to finally stop in at a path-side cafe, where we had some really good muffins. This is obviously a favorite with cyclists, as small groups came and went while we were there, and I'm pretty sure for some of them it had been their destination!

Next stop was to be, and was, the roadside park in Crystal Lake. This is a long, thin, winding garden, really, parallel IL rte 25 at the south end of Crystal Lake. Water, flush toilets, and a gazebo with picnic table make this a stop for me every time I ride this section of path. We re-filled our bottles with fresh cold water, broke open some snack or other, and soon got back on our way. Though this is only about 10 miles beyond East Dundee, it really is worth stopping here. Because just north of town is the most challenging - and the most fun - segment of the trip.

Stearns Woods Park is bowl-shaped with spectacular downhills to the center. Which means, of course, that whether traveling north or south, you will always go uphill to leave the park! On a ride like ours, we got to ride the bowl twice ... "uphill both ways!" Beyond the park, the path runs along railroad tracks still in use, though I don't think I have ever seen a train when I've ridden this stretch. Through McHenry and continuing on north, the beautiful black-top finally gives out at the little spot on the map, Ringwood, IL.

The next section is Dantean: "abandon hope, all ye who enter here." It is along this stretch that Tom and I had our spill last June. It was good to see that this trail has been repaired, though it has hardly been brought up to even basic standards. Where the IPP and other trails are crushed limestone, graded and packed on a regular basis, this segment is primarily gravel and (our nemesis) quite sandy. As in beach sand. But we found it much more navigable than I experienced 11 months earlier.

The odometer was now pushing above 45 miles, and it was time to decide how we were going to decide our point of return. Richmond, IL, is just shy of 50 miles, but has good lunch options, and shade, and we could make up (round out) the 100 miles by adding a loop closer to  home. Or we could ride to the WI border, and also again round out the difference. Kathryn wanted to go 50, then turn around. So we pressed on north of Richmond, as the path became less tended, and at the state line is more like a double-track trail. But it is clear, and is obviously ridden quite a bit. So we pressed on a very short distance until this dumped us out between back yards in Genoa City, WI. We continued to follow the streets and exactly at mile 50 found ourselves at a downtown intersection. Water bottle toasts all around, and we headed back to Richmond for some lunch. 

It was an early lunch, barely 11am. But I think Subway is always timely, on a bike. We got sandwiches, ate in the air conditioned room, used the washrooms, refilled our water bottles with ice cold fountain water, and headed home. It was already well above 80, and would reach 90+ before we got much farther. My bike computer has a thermometer, which I do not begin to imagine is very accurate. But on an asphalt, unshaded section of the return, it did register 104. Yikes! Even subtract 10, and it was plenty warm. But much of the path is canopied by beautiful trees, providing day-long shade, so we had plenty of real relief along the way.

Return trip stops mirrored our way out. Why change up a good thing? We re-hydrated again in Crystal Lake, and 10 miles later, in East Dundee, stopped again. This time for DQ Blizzards. Never was a treat so much anticipated, and yet so hard to finish. I was feeling the effects of the heat. Not to mention that prior to this ride my seasonal miles were a mere 412. I would be adding almost 25% to my seasonal totals. Or, to see it another way, by the end of the day, I would have ridden 20% of my seasonal total. This was way behind where I would normally be on Memorial Day weekend. I have hit 1,000 miles at this point, for several years. But no matter, I was having a great ride with Kathryn.

We checked in with Karen to let her know - we are 20 miles out, and probably 1.5 hours from home. The ride isn't hard, but these were not easy miles for me.We did get home at roughly the time we told Karen, 9 hours and 10 minutes after leaving, with 7 hours and 23 minutes of actual pedaling time. It was Kathryn's first century ever, and far and away my longest ride of the year. A milestone in our riding together, and a stake in the ground for each of us as we look to the summer for cycling.

Next up in our Century Series: a Friday trip, point-to-point, with Karen joining us and the three of us having dinner, then driving back. That will be fun to plan, and I hope fun to ride. We're thinking getting farther into Wisconsin with this one, probably through Lake Geneva. That ride would be much the same, in fact identical for 50 miles. But, we shall see. Onward!