ORN: 13.1 miles, 2:19:38, 10:40/mile, R/W 3/1
It’s fascinating how an ordinary running event can yield
significant moments. Such was the Fair on the Square Half Marathon.
I was very pleased with my race plus found other insights
along the way, most in a surprising fashion.
In early August, I had an awful race. On reflection, I modified
my autumn race plans significantly. I chose to reduce the
number of races I would run and focus instead on being ready
for the Monumental Marathon on Nov 5 and the HUFF 50K
on Dec 17, two of my favorite races of the year. I realized I
simply needed more training miles, uninterrupted by races,
to enjoy these two major events. I had registered to run the
full marathon at the Fair on the Square but decided to cut it
back to half marathon and use it as a “workout with friends.”
Most of August remained a running bust however, as a
long-lasting sinus infection made even modest mileage seem
out of reach. Only in the last week of the month was I able
to hit the daily/weekly mileage totals of Higdon’s Intermediate II
training program I’ve used for many years.
We went to Door County, Wisconsin starting the Labor Day
weekend for a marvelous nine-day vacation. The program
named 5 runs for the week: 4, 9, 4, 9 and 19 miles. Finally
feeling better, I clicked through the first four Monday thru
Thursday and drove home Friday. The plan was to drive
early to the race site, run 3 miles to warm up, run the
half-marathon and then another 3 to get in the 19 for the day.
Up at 4:45am, I was out the door early to work the plan.
There was an unexpected detour on the state road approaching
the race location, however. Shortly after getting back on
the main route, I got an alarm of low pressure on my left front
tire. Sure enough, I heard an odd sound from that tire, the
car was pulling to the left and I realized I needed a safe place
to pull over. I found an abandoned driveway in the middle of
the country, got out, and experienced the deflated feeling of
looking at a tire going down.
Nothing to do but to fix it, so I pulled out the jack, spare and
the one thing that made me smile a bit: a dedicated lug nut
wrench. Years ago, a friend suggested having a proper socket
wrench in the car rather than depending on the stamped-out
wrench supplied with cars. It worked.
And then an angel showed up. A random guy had just dropped
his daughter off at an early volleyball practice, saw my situation,
pulled in, positioned his headlights since it was still pre-dawn
and helped me out. We got the flat off, the spare secured, a warm
handshake to my new friend Brook, and off I drove on the final
12 miles to the race site.
I parked 18 minutes before the gun. Good thing it was a small event,
as I grabbed grab my bib, made a trip thru the porta pot line and
walked into the starting grid just as the National Anthem played. The
flat tire obviously wiped out my planned 3 mile warm up. I barely
stretched. And the race started at exactly 8:00am.
I got rolling in the back of the pack.
I was glad I had previously settled in my mind to use this as a training run
with friends and not as a race. So, I didn’t push things early, focusing on
just getting loose. Early on, long-time friend Jen spotted me and we
had a great chat, not having seen each other since the pre-Covid days.
That was a treat. We chatted a longer time post-race.
By mile one or so, I was moving comfortably using a 3/1 run/walk ratio
for the day. Around mile 3, I was in a decent groove. We got to the far
west end of the rectangular course at about mile 5 and I was feeling good.
People often ask me “What on earth do you think about when you run
for multiple hours?” It's a good question. On this day, the question “what
is my role in the world as a retired guy?” was big on my mind. This was
prompted by observing striking examples along the course of both rural
poverty and rural opulence. We were up close with both as the race
moved along. During my working career in manufacturing, I felt strongly
that a key contribution for me was creating jobs for which a person with
minimal education could succeed, make a very good wage with benefits
and have the opportunity to progress. Folks living in rural poverty could
get a job with us and move ahead. So, now that I’m retired, how do I
positively impact those who are regarded less-well by society? That was
much on my mind this day and often while I run.
Around mile six, I was surprised by a phenomenon I have seen many
times in the past but not much recently. I noticed I was gradually passing
people but not getting passed, even as I retained the run/walk cycles.
I laughed...years ago, I observed it was often about an hour into a half or
full marathon that I’d begin to one by one pass people with few passing me.
Such was the case again and it was kinda nice. By mile nine, I noticed
I needed to tell myself to slow down the pace during the run cycle...I was
feeling better and better. It’s been a while.
Around mile 11, we were back into town, with some zigs and zags through
neighborhoods to get the mileage right. I did some quick math at mile 12
and realized if I hustled, I could finish under 2:20. As I did the math, I laughed
out loud. What is it about us runners which drives us to try to get under
some arbitrary round number? I know I’m not alone. I don’t fully understand
it but the drive is real. I picked up the pace and with about a half mile to go,
ran continuously to the finish line. Chip timing is great...I finished in 2:19:38.
Across the line, I chatted with a few folks, with a particularly pleasant
conversation with local running pal Hacene who had also driven down
for this HM. He too had a hard time on the detour but his tires stayed
inflated. He’s a great guy and also very fast. I can only chat with
him pre and post-race!
They started the awards ceremony just after I finished. Amazingly, I came
2nd in the 65-69 Age Group and won another drinking glass. 2nd of 4,
mind you, but second nonetheless. And my wife likes the size and heft of the glass.
The Rest of the Miles
Work remained, however. Since I didn't get three miles in pre-race, I
needed to do six post-race. I refilled my water bottle, walked back to my
car to drop off my medal and new glassware and ran the course backwards
to the ten mile marker, then back to the finish. I saw a few of the fast
marathoners finishing their second lap but was mostly by myself. The last
mile or so got hot but I finished the six. I walked back to the finish area,
treated myself to a DQ ice cream bar, changed into some dry clothes
and got on to even more work.
I didn’t want to drive the 70 miles home on the spare tire, so I located a tire
repair place nearby which was open, sat in their waiting room for an hour
and got my tire back on for $15. Nice guys to help me out on a quiet
Saturday afternoon. Home around 4pm, making it a much longer day
than I had imagined. Still, it was a surprisingly successful day.
What do I take from all this? First off, training miles matter. I was finally
on a better weekly total and this helped.
Second, I gained some clarity on how I continue to approach retirement.
Reflection on this open course was helpful.
Third, I was thankful I had a lug nut socket wrench in my car. That
made the flat tire an annoyance, not a crisis.
Thanks for reading. Hope you can get your miles in and avoid
nails in the road.