Catch up: Bits and Pieces
I've been even more of a flake than usual about posting here. My "retirement" this Thursday has been a distraction. I'll try and do a little catch-up.
Ultrarunning has made me want to seek out new challenges, and after 26 years of working for the same employer my work environment has started to feel stale and toxic. So when a general offer went out that some of us could choose early retirement and a substantial buyout I jumped at the offer. I've had no second thoughts since making the decision over two months ago.
At 47 I'm too young (and too poor) to truly retire, but starting June 1 I'll be taking a complete vacation for 4-6 weeks. Afterwards I'll have to decide what I want to be when I grow up, and find employment. I hear that there are positions open holding a cardboard "need money - God Bless" sign at the freeway offramp, and that the pay is pretty good.
On May 20th I ran the Capitol City Marathon in Olympia as the start of my "road marathon vacation." It was great to see all the familiar marathoner faces again, along with all the people who run every race be it marathon or ultra. A pleasant surprise was to see James Varner! This was his first road marathon in seven years, though he is one of the stronger ultrarunners in the Pacific Northwest. He turned in a very respectable 2:52 on the somewhat slow Cap City course.
I had plans to use this race to start working on my marathon speed, but it was not to be. I thought (and still do) that I probably had a 3:40 in me that day, and had planned to start a little slowly and then gradually accelerate through the finish.
The early miles saw me running with Linda B., always a joy to run with and talk to. But after mile 5 I should have probably picked up the pace a little more than I did, I was having so much fun chattering away. The constant rolling hills of the early-mid miles of this race took a little more energy, but the few times I shut up and concentrated on stride efficiency I found I could speed up by 30-45 seconds per mile without effort. So around mile 10 when Linda needed to stop for a minute, I apologized and let her know I was abandoning her to push some kind of speed record (I beat her to the finish by about 3 minutes - ::rolls eyes::)
So I'd cut loose and am starting to pass people and move up in the field, but within a mile or two I fell in with a new marathoner named Zeb and started to talk to him. He had an interesting story, having been a bit of a couch potato until February, when he decided to up and train for Tacoma City Marathon. He had run that race the week before, having gone much of the way with Kurt Lauer and Steve Supkoff who had paced him to a sub-4hr finish. He had decided he liked marathons so much that he was back to run his second marathon at Olympia a week later, and was a very engaging guy to run and talk to.
At first Zeb was running at about the 8-flat pace I wanted to maintain, but as the middle miles progressed he started to fade a little. Every time I shut up and ran at pace, he would come with me, but with all the chattering we were off (my) pace more than on. Finally at around mile 20 he fell off pace and surged ahead again. I'll roll my eyes again: Zeb finished in nearly the same time as Linda, not far behind me.
So now I started a 20 mile push. I knew my time was going to be off a bit, but at least I could see if I could pick off a bunch of people in the last miles. The only problem is that the first person I picked off was Mike Wakabayashi, who was having a bad day. I slowed for a minute to cheer him up, which made him feel better so he came with. The only problem was that now I was back to chattering away and not running so fast... and so it goes. I finished in 3:50 and clearly had a lot left at the end.
So the lesson I learned was that I really can't run and talk at the same time. So much of my motivation for running is the friends I make, but for road marathons I need to make a choice at the start and either run with friends or push the pace. I feel a bit abashed that on two occasions I blew somebody off to go fast and then didn't follow through and actually run faster.
I'll make a few remarks about volunteering at PCTR's Forest Park run on Sunday. This was the first time I'd volunteered at an ultra and since Wendell and Sarah (the PCTR guys) have fewer Oregon connections than they do with Californians I found myself alone in the "boonies" of Forest Park at the top of Salzmann road as the sole proprietor of an aid station. I was a little worried that I'd spend six hours standing by myself waiting for runners when who should show up but Tom R. and his giant zoom lens to get pictures of everyone. Any day I get to hang out with Tom for a while is a good day for me. He stayed around for several hours until he left to go pace Kiley M. in for the last six on her first run back after her horrific hamstring tear.
Despite the smallish field in the 50K I saw a huge number of familiar and welcome faces come through. Olga - all smiles as usual, Sean M and Bryce were in the lead, Local blogger/maniacs Sarah and Bret came through, as did Linda B. (who is everywhere) and Jessica M. There was the usual contingent of the Oregon ultra crowd but perhaps the biggest surprise in familiar faces was Georgia from Minnesota who I ran with at Lean Horse last year. I learned that PCTR has a very loyal following of devotees that follow them around the country.
I'll be running the Newport marathon on Saturday. Maybe I'll learn how to shut up there. Then I have nothing scheduled for June. Four weeks will be the longest I've gone without a race in 15 months. I'm a little worried that between that and being out of work I may go a bit crazy.