Sunday, April 21, 2013

Taking Back the Finish Line

 "A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways as they're capable of understanding.”  - Steve Prefontaine

After a difficult week, this weekend was about taking back the finish line for runners and spectators everywhere.  We traveled to Roanoake, VA for the Blue Ridge Marathon this weekend.  I wasn't running, but JD and the kids were running.  The kids have been logging miles for the past several weeks to get up to 25 miles and earn the right to run the last 1.2 miles on the actual course and cross the official Blue Ridge finish line.  The Foot Levelers expo was awesome and so inspiring.  It was really small, but three of the legends in running were there signing books and posing for photos.

The Legends!
  It wasn't very crowded when we arrived so we walked right up to Bart Yasso.  He was so incredible.  He spent at least 10 minutes chatting with the boys and talking about running.  Then he put this awesome personalized inscription in his book for Zman.

Then we moved over to talk to Frank Shorter.  The boys were definitely impressed to be in the presence of an Olympic medalist.  He was wonderful as well and signed copies of the race map for the kids.

 Lastly, we talked to Bill Rodgers, 4 time Boston winner, who spent time giving running advice and signed his book for the boys.

The marathon had provided blue bracelets that said Running for Boston as well as great stickers for the bibs.

The mood was upbeat and the vibe was great.  We were really excited for the morning.  After finding a great little pasta place and scarfing some carbs, we headed back to the hotel to rest and stay up way too late watching the manhunt on TV.  It wasn't a great night of sleep for any of us since allergies were Nickel a hard time with breathing.  We woke up way too early, but everyone was really nervous and excited.  We headed down to the start and hung out in the City Market before the kids and I took off down to the YMCA to pick up their race bibs.  We didn't realize that it was about 3/4 of a mile to the Y so we ended up having to run back to make sure we were there for the marathon start.  The race start was so touching and exciting.  They had a Boston flag hung over the start line and many runners were jumping up to touch it.  I have to say that I felt completely safe and secure due to the police presence and careful security checks near the start and finishers' areas.  The kids and I then hustled back to the Y for the start of the Kids' Rainbow Mile.  As we neared the start, Zman noticed that a lot of the other kids were already lined up.  He ripped off his warm up pants and ran into the corral and started working his way right to the front.  I got Nickel settled in the corral, and then my friend and I started to walk the course back to the finish.  Since it was a point to point, they had the course lined with volunteers and police and parents were encouraged to go to the finish to pick their child up there (using a bracelet matching system).

Kids getting hit with color as they run their mile.
 The first kid runners came through pretty quickly (mostly older boys).  Then Zman came through around 10th place, and he was really sprinting hard.  I was figuring that we would have to wait awhile on Nickel, but he was less than a minute behind Zman.

 I collected them, and then we headed over to set up our viewing spots at miles 16 and 22.  We had a ton of fun watching the race and cheering on all of the runners.

  We finally made our way over to the finish line where I had a momentary urge to cry when I saw Nickel and Zman at the barrier waiting for JD to cross.

 My heart just broke thinking of poor little Martin and his family.  JD came through the finish area, and we snapped some photos of all of the guys with their medals before grabbing a bite to eat and heading back to DC.

This morning we headed out to the 4th race of the EX2 Spring Backyard Burn Series.  We were running at Laurel Hill Park site of the old Lorton prison so that added some excitement.

 I had never run at Laurel Hill before so I wasn't sure what to expect.  The course was a bit different than the usual set up.  Instead of two 5 mile loops, we had the following:  "The 10 milers will have about 1 mile of grassy field running.  To separate the field of runners, the race will start with .7 miles of running on a wide, newly paved section of the Cross County Trail (CCT) before crossing Lorton Road at the equestrian crossing.  All 5 and 10 mile racers will complete a 2.3 mile loop on the single-track trails south of Lorton Road.  After this loop, the 5 milers will cross Lorton Road and complete 2 miles on the trails north of Lorton Road.  After the initial 2.3 mile loop, the 10 milers will complete a second, expanded 4.1 mile loop before crossing Lorton Road and finishing with another 2.9 miles through trails and meadows.  Most of the single-track sections are fast, fun, and moderately technical.  "

That doesn't sound too bad.  What that description leaves out is that the 5 milers get off easy.  The 0.7 paved miles, and the 2.3 mile loop were fairly flat and pretty fast compared to the rest of the course.  The other 2 miles of trail that the 5 milers ran also left off the 0.9 miles of rolling hills through a meadow that the 10 milers got.  My strategy in these races is usually to figure out the trail on the first loop and then press on the second loop when I know the course and how best to run it.  That obviously wasn't going to work today.  I made the first mistake by getting caught in with a bunch of 5 mile runners from the start of the single track.  As it was very difficult to pass, the pressure was on to keep the gap between you and the runner in front of you pretty tight.  I was running around 8:30 miles for the first 3 miles just based on how my effort felt, entirely too fast for a 10 mile trail run. I think we were on Pasture and Apple Orchard Loops at this point. 

Once the 5 milers split off, I settled my pace down and was running more comfortably, but the trails got much harder.  We hit Workhouse Hills which were basically rolling hills through a meadow with the wind hitting us in the face.  I was glad to finally get into some woods until we hit our first lolipop loop which was called Slaughterhouse Trail (with a sign that said Most Difficult Mountain Bike Trail).  It is actually a really nice trail.  The loop was a series of ascending switchbacks and then back down on switchbacks, not terribly hard running, but enough to wear your quads down.  I was feeling pretty tough coming out of Slaughterhouse feeling strong and having run the entire section.  Then it was back into the Workhouse Hills to repeat the rolling meadow section.  At some point we hit on our original loop and got some easy flat running, but then it was back onto a Power Station Loop which also featured some mountain bike whoop di woos...not fun to run, but they would be awesome to bike.   

Back out onto Workhouse and we get about 0.25 miles of the Cross Country Trail until we are directed into Giles Meadow.  There was this amazing police officer directing traffic for us when we crossed a street who was cheering and clapping for every single racer that came through.  Giles Meadow was awful, rolling hills through a disc golf course with high grass that was just dragging at your shoes. 
Obviously, I was not running happy here.  I am pretty pissed about running through this grass.

When we finally got out of there, we were told we had 1.5 miles to go (good Lord, isn't this over yet).  We ran some more switchbacks and about 0.25 miles from the finish encountered our first caution signs (which is a surprise since we normally get a plethora of them at EX2...this should give an indication that the trail was not very technical...just rolling).  We had a stream crossing which we could negotiate on boulders and then burst out of the woods into a finish in the meadow. The boys were waiting for me and ran in alongside me to the finish. Overall, I thought I ran really well and really hard, but my time was only 1:49:30.  It's still my second fastest trail 10 miler, but I thought that I had run a lot better.  We'll see how I placed when the race results are posted. Results posted...yuck!  I managed a point for 20th place in my age group, but my gut reaction that I sucked compared to the rest of the field was correct.  I currently have a total of 8 points through 3 races which puts me in 8th place for the series among eligible series runners in my age group.  Top 5 in points get an award at the end of the series.  I think I would have to be pretty much the only woman who shows up at Fountainhead to crack the top 5.  :)

They had a short kids' sprint after the adult race.  Zman tore out in the lead and was in a foot race at the end with another girl.  Zman crossed before her, but they got tangled at the finish.  He fell and face planted into the grass.  I ran over to see if he was OK.  Instead of answering my question he said, "Did I win?"  Meanwhile Nickel had gotten tripped on the turnaround, but instead of crying or quitting he got back up and finished out the sprint.

After a long emotional week, I think this is the ultimate lesson...bad things happen, but we get back up, we find our strong, we keep running, and we never ever give up.  I feel proud and happy of what our family did this weekend and glad that we were able to stand with other runners and spectators to take back our finish lines.

1 comment:

  1. Nice job to both you and JD on your races. That trail 10-miler sounds hard core. It's also awesome that you get your kids involved in running!