Folly

3 Nov 2006

Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun, it shines everywhere.
Twelfth Night, III, i

Some might argue that I was foolish to start intense training after only two months of running following knee surgery. But I checked with my PT and he thought I was ready (and as he was one of my coaches and would be keeping an eye on me).
Some might argue that I was foolish to join a marathon training group when I wanted to run a half-marathon. But that’s where all my friends were, and no one seemed to be doing training for a half-marathon.
Some might argue that I was foolish to join a marathon training group 5 weeks before the marathon (at the time when they were working their hardest). That didn’t occur to me until afterward.
Some might argue that I was foolish to ride a double century two weeks before my race. But back when I thought I couldn’t run again, I had promised Kathy I’d do it with her, and I could hardly back out now. In retrospect, even I will agree that this was foolish.
Then Rusty (my coach) reminded me that I had not intended to push hard for this race, not yet, not 6 months after my surgery. Oh yeah, I’d forgotten that — I had become fairly serious about it — at least in my mind. Time for a little bit of sanity, perhaps.

One day I’d just finished a training run over the half-marathon course and bumped into Dianna. She looked at me, and asked “Why?”.
Of course she had just finished an 11 mile run herself and was then going to starve herself for 3 days. So I felt the question was rather the pot calling the kettle black. She was training for a marathon, I was only trying for a half.

The SB half marathon course starts on the waterfront but almost immediately climbs up to a mesa, about 100ft in the first ¼mile, then up another 200ft in the next mile and a half. After that it bumps around on the mesa with small ups and downs for about 2½ miles before heading back down to the waterfront (down the same hill). It continues along beside the water for another three miles, makes a short loop up a hill, into Montecito and back, and returns for a final three miles beside the water finishing where we started. In other words a big figure 8.

A week and a half before the race I got a bad cold. Doubtless from being drained by a 200mile bike ride (Kathy got one too). Ha! It’s a good thing I wasn’t trying to take this race seriously.
I spent much of the two days before the race working packet pickup — making sure everyone gets their chip, their bib, their tee-shirt and all the other flotsam and jetsam associated with a race. And then making sure that a couple picking up their stuff together knew which went with whom (If a man runs with a woman’s chip the race director has conniptions as the man will probably get an unreasonably fast time for a woman).
I checked in one woman from Reykjavik, Iceland. Hadn’t realized we pulled people from so far afield.
We registered about 1700 half-marathon runners and we had 1446 finishers (I’m not sure how many missed the race and how many could not finish). Another 250 finished a concurrent 5K, and 250 walked the half-marathon course.
I checked to see what fast people were in my age group, and was delighted to find that none of the names I expected might beat me were registered. I neglected to note that Fred had had a birthday and had reentered my age-group.

The day of the race dawned bright and sunny. Chilly at my house, but warm by the time I got to the race start. The sun flirted with some cloudy wisps off to the east, and my hopes rose for a cool race, but the clouds dissolved before the race start.
We were all lined up at 8, and ready to go — when they announced that the registration lines were so long we were going to be delayed by 10 minutes or so (It was a chip race… surely the late runners could just start late? But I guess there is a boost in running with everyone else).
Jeff DeVine and I had planned to run together — last time each of us did this race we got within seconds of each other with 1:28:??, and we were both hoping for around 1:25 this time, aiming for a 6:30 /mile pace. But I couldn’t see Jeff. Oh well, I’d do what I could without him. I lined up in the second rank of runners. Last time I’d done this race I’d come in 30th and I figured that was about right for 30th. I was right behind Garret, whom I knew would be faster than I.
There was a elder gentleman beside Garret who didn’t look as though he could even hold my pace. It is courteous to line up approximately in expected finishing order, since it’s a chip race you won’t lose the time it takes you to reach the start, but if you are stuck behind someone moving slowly it can eat into your running time too. But you can’t force someone to reestimate their abilities. Garret certainly belonged in the front row, he wouldn’t slow anyone down. I felt pretty confident that I belonged near the front, and by being behind Garret I knew I wouldn’t be slowed down by anyone.
Bang!
And we were off. Over the chip mat and up the hill. The field thinned pretty quickly. I dropped back from Garret instantly of course, but there still weren’t many people around. I felt good going out, a welcome change from the way I’d been feeling since the bike ride. After a bit I noticed that Annie wasn’t ahead of me. Worrying, as she’s 15~20seconds/mile faster than I. Am I going too fast? But she passed me near the top of the steep bit. I kept hoping Jeff would catch up too. But he didn’t and when we got to the first mile mark I saw why — I was going far too fast. I’d run a 6:11 mile, and that uphill — more folly. I slowed down immediately.
On a clear day (which this was) there are great views of the SB Channel Islands from here. But I wasn’t noticing anything except the race. Perhaps I had pushed too hard on that mile to notice anything. Perhaps, as this is a route I take every day, its novelty has worn off. So I did not look at any views during this race. My loss.
We are running west, and our shadows stretch out in front of us. I am being overtaken by a shadow with a very peculiar hair-do. I can’t quite make it out. Eventually he passes me and I see he has something like a mohawk. As he passes me, someone else passes him.
At the second mile mark with a 6:39 time, I see I’ve slowed a little too much. I pick up the pace a little to stay with the two who have just passed me. I run a little behind them until just before mile 3 where there is a little hill, and I manage to pass mohawk again. I see that my third mile was again too fast (6:17) so I slow again, rendering my passing triumph short-lived as he passes me just before mile 4. After that no one passes me for the rest of the race.
We are now in the middle of a bunch of walkers. The walkers got a half hour head start on everyone else. Some of them are actually joggers and we haven’t caught up with them yet, but here we have walkers. I worry about walkers. Some of them don’t pay attention. They tend to walk in large clumps, chatting to each other, sometimes blocking the entire lane. Last time I did this race I ran past a walker who chose that moment to gesticulate to her companion, spreading her arms and whacking me firmly in the chest as I went by. There aren’t many runners ahead of me (about 20 was my guess), and the walkers aren’t used to people coming up behind, and many aren’t paying attention. We have reached a spot now where the course has doubled back on itself. On one side are the slow runners, on the other side and taking up all of the lane, are the walkers. I have to run out onto the wrong side of the street into the oncoming runners to get around these walkers. Grumble. But this is the worst of it, and after this I won’t have to deal with them again.
I reach mile 4 with a 6:29 time. Perfect! A fairly level mile with the right pace. I hope I can keep it up now.
I can’t, of course. We now head downhill and I get to mile 5 in 6:12. So I slow a bit.
I’ve returned to the start, and there’s another chip mat here. Hmm. Do they clock us in here too?
At mile 6 my time is 6:33. Pretty good for me. But we’re done with the downhill now, so I put a bit more effort into running now, and am going too fast for the next mile (6:23).
Now my legs are starting to feel tired. It’s flat here, it should be easy, but that first mile, going too fast up hill burned me up, I guess. I get to mile 8 with a 6:42 time. I try to speed up a bit, but mile 9 is 6:41. The lead runners have doubled back and a few have trickled by. Garret is about fifth. Mile 10 is our final hill, and it’s even slower 6:47.
Now I’ve doubled back too, and I’m seeing some friends, trying to cheer them on, but I don’t always have the breath. We are supposed to run on the left side of the lane (which comes unnaturally to most of us), but the great mass of runners heading towards me is incorrectly on the right. I try yelling at them, but it doesn’t work — there are too many of them, they are tired too, they probably don’t understand what I’m trying to say. I give up and run on the right.
We have one lane of a busy boulevard to run on, and the oncoming runners are taking up almost all of it. I’m forced out into traffic several times. I’ve managed to catch up with my mohawked friend, and pass him. The last person I manage to pass — I think — though I may later pass the guy ahead of both of us when he didn’t take the bike path and I lost track of him.
I see at mile 11 that I’m back on pace! 6:30! Yay!
A little beyond mile 11 is the reason we are supposed to be running on the left: We return on the bike path which runs parallel to the boulevard and about 30 feet closer to the sea. I’m on the wrong side of a river of runners as I approach this. The guy ahead of me missed the turn. The volunteer at the corner gestures me left — and at just the right moment there is a 6 foot gap in the river, I zip across. The guy in front of whom I’ve just crossed wakes up from his running reverie and says “what? hunh?” indicative of confusion and annoyance, but I’m safely on the bike path now.
There’s no one in sight on the bike path.
This was what I was supposed to do — wasn’t it?
I miss having someone 100 yards in front of me. I can see the guy who used to be in front on the road. I seem to have gained on him a bit (odd, since I have run a little further). It’s hard to run. I’m quite tired now. The empty bike path stretches in front of me. I don’t have any way of estimating how fast I should be running. My legs are tired.
I keep on.
Eventually I see the 12 mile mark. That’s a relief. I am on the right route. And I even managed a 6:26. No wonder my legs are tired.
Now they’ve pulled us off the bike path onto the sidewalk. Which is lined with spectators, who have no inkling that they are smack in the middle of the race route and no intention of moving out of my way. Grumble. Back into the street.
Why do I have to face all these obstacles when I’m tired?
Off the side-walk and onto the bike path again. Only about half a mile more to go. I think I must be slowing. It’s really hard to force myself to keep going. What does it matter after all? Who cares if I’m a minute slower. I could slow a little.
I don’t (my last 1.1 miles was run at a 6:31 pace)
I start to speculate. Now it’s possible I might win my age group. I know there aren’t many people in front of me. I don’t know their ages, of course, but it’s possible. I can hope.
I can see the finish line now, but it’s so far away. It’s also about 100yards beyond the point where we normally stop our Sunday runs. It’s going to be hard to do that last 100 yards — I’m used to stopping earlier.
There are a fair number of spectators here… and then there’s an incredulous shout “It’s George!” (from Dianna, I think — thank you whoever it was) and the rest of the crowd roars in sympathy.
It becomes a tiny bit easier to keep going.
And I’m in the finish shoot. There are two clocks in front of me. One reads 1:18:?? that can’t be right. The other reads 25:??. That can’t be right either. I’ve been pretty close to 6:30 all along, I know I haven’t picked up 7 minutes on 1:25. I could believe 1:24, I could believe 1:26 but both these clocks are wrong.
As I’m puzzling over this I cross the mat, and …
Good heavens, here’s Nirmal, what’s he doing here? He said he couldn’t run because it was his anniversary, but here he is taking my finishing tag off, and then they take my chip off.
And then I remember I should have stopped my own watch. Oops.
So I have no idea how long it took me to finish. My watch reads 1:25:24. How much of that time was spent seeing Nirmal, and getting my chip off?
But …
It doesn’t matter. It’s going to be right close to 1:25! A PR of more than 3 minutes. Just what I wanted!

I find water, and more water, and gatorade, and more water, and a banana, and a bunch of oranges quarters.
And here comes Leif a minute or so after me, and then Jeff 30 seconds after him. I go over to talk to them. More friends come in. I have some more water and fruit and a bran muffin. I don’t want to eat that muffin, but I know I should, I need the calories.
I go to the FRS tent and get a bottle of their elixir — this time the full calorie version.
It is interesting how differently tired I feel after a 200mile bike ride and a 13.1mile footrace. On the bike I think my primary problem was a simple lack of calories, I just couldn’t digest enough. Here food wasn’t an issue, I had a good breakfast, had some gel before the race, never felt hungry. But my legs… I could really tell my muscles had been working.
They haven’t posted the results yet.
A fog has started to roll in. It was a little too warm in the sun on the course, now it is a little too cool in the fog when stopped.
I decide to go off to the farmers’ market and come back and look for the results later.
I return in about 45 minutes. The results are up. There’s a large crowd in front of them, of course, and at first I can’t see. Ah. I finished 17th over all, with a time of 1:25:07, I was third in my division (rats, oh I see, Fred Mellon is older now, and there was someone from out of town). I averaged 6:30 exactly.
And then, off in the distance, I hear: “Men 40-44, third place”… oops, I have an award to pick up! So I move in that direction and get there just as they say “Men 45-49, third place: George Williams.”

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