Saturday, September 28, 2013

5K Finally


That's all I can say.

Finally I had a decent 5K experience.

This morning I ran the Rahr Oktoberfest 5K.  It's an interesting race to be sure.  It's put on by a craft brewery that's become a fixture in Fort Worth, and there's a whole sub-culture that has developed around it.  It's an interesting crowd that shows up on race mornings--beer culture meets running culture meets local Fort Worth culture.  It's a lot of culture packed into one pretty small place.

The start line from half pack.
With a 9 am start time (the crack of dawn for the beer people and nearly lunchtime for the running culture) the unpredictable Texas weather had the potential to turn this into an ugly venture.  In fact the morning dawned overcast and muggy.  Temperature was in upper 70s with humidity in the 80-85% range, and a wall of thunderstorms out to the west were steadily on the march towards Fort Worth.

In a word, the weather was sticky. 

But what I was truly worried about was the sun coming out and really steaming things up.  And I forgot my sunglasses at home.  So I was hoping it would stay overcast, and it did.

My own little starting pothole.
Rahr & Sons Brewery is set just south of downtown Fort Worth in an older part of town.  It's a little dilapidated, a little overgrown, and a little rough around the edges.  But there are also scores of thriving small businesses firmly entrenched in old business districts of yesteryear, with older neighborhoods surrounding.  It's an odd juxtaposition of living, breathing community in such run down surroundings--especially here in Texas where society seems to worship the almighty new construction.

After the gun, (and about 1:30 getting up to the line,) the course left out of the brewery, headed south down the block, and turned west onto old Magnolia Blvd.  It was fun to run along the wide, divided boulevard under the old growth pecan trees.  The Fort Worth PD was out en force, with officers and cars at every single intersection--big and small--making sure we were safe.  We ran several city blocks along Magnolia entering into the hospital district.

Pretty cool bib.
Save a few brief uphills, almost the entire time from the moment we left the brewery we were headed downhill.  I concentrated hard on keeping a handle on my pace, trying to balance keeping my cadence up but not going out too fast.  Scores of people blasted past me, lured in by the downhill course--and I got seriously cut off several times to the point where I was worried I was going to get tangled up in them and trip.  But I just smiled to myself thinking, "We'll see y'all again in a little while."  There was the usual dodging of people that never had any intention of running the course, but insisted on starting at the front of the start line.  I'll never understand it, but I'm hoping they just don't know any better.  The worst is when there's 5 or 6 of them spread out abreast of each other, like a slowly moving roadblock.  I'm hoping as the length of my races increase, the number of joy-walkers decreases.

We turned the corner and headed back north on 8th Avenue, and it was time to pay the piper.  The uphill was mercifully shorter, but diabolically steeper.  And that's when I began to catch up to and pass the jackrabbits.  I concentrated on not tripping over the walkers, keeping my cadence up, and also on attacking the hill.  With such a large crowd, and a well protected course, I pumped up the volume on Pandora and let the music drive me up, up and away.  The trip up 8th took us past Cook Children's Medical Center where my wife has been a PICU nurse for more than 11 years.

Thistle Hill
As the hill topped out, we turned the corner and headed east on Pennsylvania Avenue.  This took us past Thistle Hill mansion, (where my wife and I got married), and past more hospitals.  The course was mostly gentle rolling hills at this point, and I began to catch the faster runners that were casualties of the hills and the humidity.  As I went by I tried encouraging those that had dropped to a walk, reminding them we didn't have but a mile left in the course.  I started seeing some of the much speedier runners running back on the course to find friends and family members to help cheer them in--easy to identify since they were holding the commemorative pint glass, ha!

As we turned back south to head to the entrance to the brewery I hopped up on the sidewalk to miss a sudden walker, and nearly ran into the traffic light pole, hidden just around the corner.  At the same moment I realized that the entrance to the brewery was much closer than I had anticipated, and I belatedly picked up the pace for my final push to the line--much later than I could have.  Dang.

One final turn into the back alley of the brewery, and up the short, uneven, pothole-y chute to the finish line.

Into one hand the volunteers thrust a bottle of water, into the other my commemorative pint glass--which I promptly dropped while juggling my phone, my headphones, and a slippery bottle of water.  Miracle of all miracles it didn't break even though it was dropped from waist level onto asphalt.  Weird.

Beer line!!
Storm Cloud IPA.
I strolled around a bit to cool down, and then headed over to get my beer glass filled.  The lines were long, but the beer was good.  I picked the Storm Cloud IPA.  It seemed fitting with the weather, and a good crisp IPA was just the perfect thirst quencher (after my bottle of water that is!).

As far as the race goes, my official chip time was 31:33, for what they're calling a 10:07 pace.  RunKeeper said I ran 3.17 miles in 31:43 for a 10:00 pace on the nose!  If only I'd realized how little of the race was left and started my final kick just a fraction sooner, would I have broken into the 9s?!?  That would have been so epic for me.  But a 10:00 pace in humidity and unknown hills?  I'll take it!!

According to RunKeeper, my splits broke down like this:

Mile 1:  10:12
Mile 2:  10:01
Mile 3:  9:52
Mile 4:  9:22

I'm pretty proud of the fact that my splits got progressively faster, despite the humidity and terrain.  Obviously work yet to be done, but it's certainly gratifying for the moment.

Now that I have a solid race under my belt I feel a little more prepared to start pushing the distances and paces in the future.

After the race I skipped out on the belly-busting German/Czech food and headed home to shower for soccer games and birthday parties.  The race was a great way to start a busy day though!