The theme that goes with this title isn’t really in anger but I will list a few little quirky things that kind of have gotten under my skin as of late. For the most part, the red theme is a good thing because I had a chance to take place in the Red Baron Half Marathon this past weekend. I will save that good stuff for last.
Act 1 – Red State, Blue State
It is election day and living a what they call a “blue state” has had my past couple of weeks filled with calls endorsing Republican candidates. There may have been a few Democrat candidate calls too but I hung up before I could hear all of that the automated political message was promoting/bashing. Those calls are a real irritant and I was glad that today would bring an end to them.
As a recovery run from the Red Baron Half, today I ran a total of 4 miles to my polling place and back. Yes, I voted and specifically wore my Wineglass Marathon shirt to be all up in this one woman’s face who works at the polls. Before you judge me for being harsh, hear my story.
About 3 years ago, Jim and I were avid bike to work people and had been for years. On a warm summer morning on my way to campus I cheerfully said, “Hello,” as I pedaled past this woman biking up the steep Orchard Road (same stretch as that last mile Jim just ran on his 10 mile training run). Come that November, I saw her working at the polls and upon exiting she says to me, “My bike tires were under-inflated that day you passed me. I’ll be ready for you next time.”
Good golly! I had no idea that it had been a competition but to her it was. I never saw her biking in our neighborhood again but did see her out for a run with a friend. It was that very winter or the next I started running and from that point on have always run a loop to go vote. Each time she says to me, “Are you still biking?” and for the past couple of years I have replied, “Actually much less, I enjoy running now.” I always know she is going to say something about my biking and I can remember proudly running there and wearing my first Dry Valley Half Marathon shirt 2 years ago. When she saw it, her chosen election day quip to me was, “I got too old for running.”
Her son and ours were on the same t-ball team when they were 4 or 5 years old and she doesn’t look to be more than 5 years older than me. I thought her statement to be another excuse for maybe not running a half marathon like I had that year. It was pretty clear she just wasn’t going to let the moment I passed her go so this year I wore my first full marathon shirt. I was tired of not wanting to ruffle her feathers and am still super proud of my accomplishment. So, I was not very compassionate and knew she would comment on my cold weather running gear, or shirt, or something. As it turned out, she was still stuck on the bike thing and asked, “Did you bike here today?” As she read my shirt I replied, “No, actually I ran.” I am wondering what I should wear next spring.
As a red themed entr’acte, enjoy a video of the red squirrel that just chewed down my clothesline.
Act 2 – Little Red flags
Back to my next little irritant. Jim and I have enjoyed running a few local 5k, 8k, and 10k races together. We have noticed a pattern of glitches when we pick up our racing bibs or pre-registration swag. The registration folks look right through me and fall over themselves to help Jim. Sometimes it is funny because it happens even when he isn’t registered and I am. A few years ago at our annual Arts Festival 5k / 10k race, they just couldn’t wrap their head around the fact that Jim was running less than I was. The guy handing out t-shirts started belittling him for only running the 5k after I got my 10k packet.
Now that he is running longer distances and we are racing more regularly together, we have really noticed the discrepancy. He was actually the one to notice the pattern and added up all of the little red flags when I got frustrated at the Clearfield Pumpkin Run 5k. We had gone in to get our t-shirts and racing bibs/chips and they were all excited by helping Jim. They were surprised I was running too and asked what size shirt I had signed up for. They then took it and my bib/chip and stuffed it into Jim’s swag bag. Initially I was cool with that because I have so many big old shopping-style bags but as we emptied out the swag in the car, there was some cool stuff that we only got one of. Too shy to go back and make a fuss, I started to cry and remembered the other times they had fallen over themselves to get Jim registered. Previously I had been thrilled because he was just starting to race but my understanding was now starting to wear a bit thin.
The next week we had both pre-registered for the Flat ‘N Fast 4-Miler. Jim was recovering from being sick and chose not to run it. I reminded him that he at least got a t-shirt out of the registration and he said, “How about I wait in the car so not to confuse registration? That way if there is swag, we will both get our share when I pick mine up later.” I said, “Yes! Maybe hide below the dashboard as I get mine so they don’t see you!” We laughed and I got both of our shirts since there wasn’t anything else at the registration table. Do remember, Jim DID win the goodie basket though. hmmmmm
We quickly forgot the strategy though because just a week later I decided to, spur of the moment, run the Dry Valley Half Marathon this year. The organizer and his wife were both teachers at our high school, the sweet woman was our 8th grade math teacher and we knew her before they married. We are always glad to see them and were pleased to have volunteered the year before (Happy Samhain… with Snow!?) when I was coming back from an injury. Jim and I approached the registration table and we were all grins and greetings. I then got down to business, pulling out my money to register and they slapped down 2 registration forms. I didn’t pick up on that little red flag because I was pleased to show them that I had already filled one out that I had printed at home.
I think the woman handing out the t-shirts assumed I was registering Jim because she was all over him, “What size do you want? Oh, her too? Well, what about you? Only her!?” Gosh, he wasn’t even in running clothes but I guess it was plenty early for him to change. *sigh*
Act 3 – Red Baron Half Marathon
As I said in the beginning, I wanted to save to good stuff for last. No race rant here, the organizers did a great job and I had a blast getting together with a Daily Mile buddy, Rosalie!
I paid enough attention to all of those little red flags in Act 2 that I chose to ride to the start line and register by myself by taking the provided bus. That was after Jim eased my mind by driving the course from finish to start then start to finish. What a dear, dear friend he is, I should have let him come along on the bus and they would probably have given him something just for being there.
Some folks might be asking what I was doing there. If you have been counting, this would make the 4th race I ran since the Wineglass Marathon. That is one every weekend with only the week after the marathon off. Yes, it is pretty crazy but this race has been on my radar since last year. I noticed that, when paired with the Wineglass Marathon, the Red Baron Half Marathon offers an extra incentive to do both; you become a member of the Wine Baron Club. Last year they got a really cool Red Shirt to prove they ran both races in the same year.
After I registered, I had quite a while before the race started. I found a big cushy chair in the one lounge and decided to chill out since I was a little nervous. I was glad to have driven the course because there were so many less unknowns and that helped me plan a bit for the BIG HULKING HILL AFTER MILE 5!
It is quite intimidating, especially when you crest a hill just after mile 4 and can see it looming in the distance with a smaller hiccup or 2 over the next mile and a half in the foreground. I was glad to have seen it before running it but that was mostly what was on my mind as I sat there on my own. I was in a thoughtful frame of mind, planning my attack as the room filled over the next 45 minutes. I saw another woman across the room who looked as quiet as I did and I thought about maybe talking to her but then thought that we both seemed to be in a good place, just mentally preparing for the run.
It was getting quite full and chairs were being snatched up as runners organized their stuff around me. It was actually getting a little warm with all the bodies and I took off my warm-up pants to reveal that I was one of the very few that wasn’t wearing full length tights or capri length cold weather gear. My Brooks PR Mesh Skort II didn’t even come down to mid-thigh and I looked around wondering if I had made the right choice. I stopped second guessing and told myself that I knew my body – I liked bare legs even in the mid 20s. Even with a breeze and snow, I would be fine in the 30s.
Eventually a family of 3 plopped their stuff down in the chair next to mine. The mom didn’t look like she was going to run but the dad and 20-something daughter started gearing up. Mother and daughter were very animated and chatty. They were talkative in that kind of loud way that seemed to beg other people to join in their conversation. “You have gotten so skinny, Alicia!” the mom gushed to her tall and very solidly built daughter. “Braid my hair, Mom,” bossed the daughter, “Oh my God Dad, what were you thinking wearing shorts today!?”
I looked at the Dad then back to them then down to my bare legs and back to them. They were on to the next subject, “My last run I was hitting 8 minute miles! Dad, where are you going!?” “Oh my lord Ben, like you couldn’t have remembered your sandwich before you came in from the parking lot?” The dad left to get his sandwich and I picked up all of my stuff and moved 3 seats away. I might still be able to hear them but with any luck, the daughter’s 8 minute miles would keep her and her dad well out in front of me for the entire race. (ok – that was a snarky little rant but I swear I had a blast this day)
Rosalie arrived in her red 2011 Wine Baron shirt. She is a spitfire, at 62 she nabs Age Group awards left and right because she is unstoppable. Her enthusiasm quelled my nerves and we talked running as we got ready for the start. The wind was picking up a bit and we got our baggage packed into the support vehicle that transported the bags back to the start line. She and I both like to run our own race, have our own music and strategies so it was really nice to not worry about staying together yet we knew we would be close since our pace is so similar.
At the starting line, an announcement was made that over 400 runners were participating, up about 50 from the year before. The gun sounded and we were off as I started a little farther back than 1/2 way in the pack. We looped around a little neighborhood for the first couple of miles then back for one last look at the Corning Community College on the top of the hill.
Mile 3 ticked by soon after we passed the Spencer Crest Nature Center which is the beneficiary of the entrance fees from this race. Jim and I had enjoyed letterboxing there a few years ago and were really glad such a cool place was having funds directed to it from this race.
This course had water stations at miles 3, 5, 9 and 12 and all also offered Gatorade. It was after the first water station and at mile 4 where we topped one of the rolling hills to see the big ol’ hill in the distance. I whooped with glee because it was so massive and runners were spread out as far as I could see over the next mile and a half. It was just awesome.
I ended up tackling that hill with no problem at all and ate up the crazy downhill over next 4 miles. Downhills are my sweet spot so this course suited me. The only thing I didn’t like about the course was that you had to be super aware for the last few miles because it was clearly open to traffic. With just a couple of miles to go, the course turns in to the park that I was familiar with from the Glassfest 8k.
As we had driven past the park earlier, I had mentioned to Jim that I would miss giving him a kiss as we ran through the one tunnel. Leave it to my man to have trotted out to the park to leave me a bunch of chalk messages for my final couple of miles. When I got to the underpass/tunnel I read, “Think a Kiss!” It was the very best.
Other chalk drawings reminded me to “Stay Loose (Footloose)” and Rosalie mentioned that Footloose was one of her playlist songs too! I also read one that reminded me to “Finish Like Freddie” and had a drawing of Freddie Mercury’s Rage Pose. I vowed to do it again at the end.
The end was at the Corning YMCA and before that was breezy Tioga Street along the Chemung River. I was getting cold and had even taken my fingers out of my gloves to double back onto my clammy palms to try to get warm. All of the chalk messages made me smile and kept me motivated to keep moving.
About 1/2 mile from the finish, I saw a chalk message that Jim had written, “Reel in Your Shark.” This makes reference to how sometimes when you are driving on the highway or running in a race you sometimes feel like a shark with a remora stuck to your back (or vice versa). I looked ahead. Who was my shark? There was a guy I had been playing leap-frog with since about mile 7 but he was about 1/2 block ahead. I doubted that I could reel him in but dug in a little bit to try. Amazingly, he slowly started to get closer and there was only a couple of other runners between me and him. So maybe I could focus on reeling the lady with the french braids and the guy in the shorts first…
Oh. My. G… It was that young woman and her father that I was all snarky about in the lobby of the Commons before the start! I was SO going to pass Ms. 8 Minute Mile and dug in so deep that I blasted past them AND my shark even before we turned onto the bridge that crossed the river. I imagined them hot on my heals and didn’t let up even as I spiralled around cutting under the bridge and could see I had left them well behind.
I gave my victorious rage pose fist in the air at the finish to an all new personal record, 2:03:33. Jim caught me on film with my finish time and was so happy to hear people enthusiastically cheer for my final kick and pose at the end.
Rosalie, whom I had passed at one point, came in soon after. She took first place in her age group and I got second in mine. A very satisfying finish to this half marathon in Corning and most likely my last for the year as I focus on Jim’s final weeks of training for his. I will ride this high for a while and enjoy what ever else comes my way.