Saturday, August 15, 2009

poster boy: 2009 Second Empire Grand Prix Series

Sorting through the mail today, I found the brochure for the "7th Annual Second Empire Grand Prix Series". I put it with the rest of the junk mail to throw away, but then I noticed something odd.

First, let me back up. Last year Shannon and I did the Second Empire Series. Which is a series of 9 races, mostly 5Ks, over the course of a few months. For some reason, we thought that placing in the series would be some amazing achievement for which we would attain honor, glory and huge cash prizes. We felt that we had an edge on the competition, because most other people have something better to do than run a 5K every other weekend; but not us! We have lots of free time, and are willing to blow all our extra income on race fees. We are not fast, be we are persistent.

It turned out as we hoped, though it was less than glorious:
  • We placed in our age groups because most of the faster people did not do all the races.
  • Shannon barely missed the cash with 6th place overall for women.
  • We got an OK lunch at Second Empire restaurant
  • The prize was a somewhat odd gift of a computer bag.

But it was not easy. In order to complete 7 of the 9 races here are some of the dumb things we did:
  • Shannon had to leave a conference early and book an extra flight just to make Anna's angels 10 miler.
  • We missed the Run at the Rock, a great trail race, to do the Jingle Bell 5K
  • Shannon ran the Turkey Trot 8K, drove straight to the airport to catch a flight, getting on the plane still wearing her race bib.
  • We had to run a 5K the day before we ran the Chicago Marathon
So anyway, after all that, we are not doing the series this year. As I was tossing out the brochure though, I noticed the runner on the cover, his face twisted in agony. I thought, "Wow, thats not worth it". Taking a closer look:

Holy Crap. That's me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

2009 Purple Elephant 5K

It took a few weeks, but I have finally returned from my horrible death by flies. It was a miraculous recovery, possible due to my all Kashi diet.

Shannon couldn’t wait for race season to start, and when we saw this 5K advertised she got really excited and wanted to do it. I tried to lower her expectations, because this was billed as a “fun run”, which I guess means it is not to be taken too seriously. This turned out to be hard for us.

When we showed up at Bond Park in Cary to register, I plopped down $50 and we got 2 cotton T-shirts. And that's it. No chips, no bibs. There would be no clock, no official time and no results to analyze. Shannon asked if we should try to get our money back, but trying to get a refund from a charity seemed wrong somehow.

This was the first time this organization has put on a race, so it was not surprising that it started 20 minutes late. As we stood around sweating in the 90% humidity, I sized up the competition. There were quite a few fast looking teenagers, and one guy with orange shoes. Orange shoes basically guarantee that you will win a 5K. I really need to get some.

A woman came out to give instructions, and let us know that second mile of the course went around the lake on a rooted and rocky trail. "Single track! Yeah!", I thought.

The race started, and we immediately funneled down a narrow dirt path. A gaggle of single-digit-aged children sprinted out in front, but quickly tired. After a few turns, they filtered out and I was behind 3 guys who seemed to be running rather slow. I just wanted to get some room to run at my own pace, so I charged ahead.

But this tall skinny kid next to me sped up too. So I slowed back to a reasonable pace to let him go ahead, but then he slowed down too, staying right next to me. This was irritating, so I charged ahead again and he was right with me, literally elbow to elbow. I realized he was doing this on purpose. It must be some tactic they teach on the cross country team to piss off your competition, and boy was it working. At first I tried to share the trail with him, which was was hard because it was barely wide enough for two people and I had to keep ducking tree branches.

After a mile, with the two of us in the lead, we turned up onto a grassy berm. Still, he insisted on being right next me, stride for stride. I just couldn't take it anymore, so I deliberately ran down the middle of the narrow dirt trail and forced him to run in the tall grass. I kind of felt like a jerk for doing this, but hey why did he have to be right next to me?

I entered into the thick woods around the lake on the single track trail, happy to be in front. I love running trails like this, bobbing and weaving around trees and over thick roots and rocks, it's just so much more fun than plodding on pavement. I heard the tall skinny kid right behind me, so I pushed as hard as I could but I just could not lose him. After 2 miles I was spent, huffing and puffing, and slowed down considerably.

Turned out it wasn't the skinny kid behind me, but Mr. Orange Shoes. "Come on, lets lose them", he said, running past me. "You go ahead", I wheezed. The last mile was long and painful, though I found it somewhat amusing that I was bonking in a 5K. Half mile to go I was passed by one of the young women, but I managed to finish in 3rd place. A guy at the end called out our times as we finished, mine a disappointing 19:54.

I was pleasantly surprised by this race. There seemed to be 100 little purple elephant signs along the way, so there was no way to get lost or make a wrong turn. The course was great, basically just one big loop, unlike the Frozen 5K puzzle that was also in Bond Park. At the end they had a DJ and tons of food.

If they have it again next year, I'll be there, wearing orange shoes.

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