Saturday was the Afton Trail Races (25K and 50K) and Helen's already done an excellent recap - apparently she can be timely when she's not running! There was a large crowd and some very fast runners, especially given the heat and humidity and more than a few "Team Steve" T-shirts to be seen with the back reading "Run. Race. [Retire.] Repeat." and almost having an address for this blog (sorry, Helen, no "www").
I volunteered this year and as I was one of the later additions, I think I was just plunked down where there was a space to fill. I started by parking duties; when I got down there, I got asked "So, how should we do this?" Apparently, I looked like I knew what I was doing. We got people parked as orderly as possible and then I had to run off to my other duty of marshaling the course at the newly changed part of the course with two-way traffic - and I mean "run" literally, so I didn't bring a chair or food for my 6 hour stint. It was fortunate that I was close to one of the aid stations, so I could dig into their provisions for bug spray, which kept my slap-happiness down to a slightly less than lunatic pace of mosquito squashing; there were baby frogs (toads?) all over the course nearby and they will have an unending food supply!
It was extremely humid and quite hot this year. Lundstrom, Russell and Brian Peterson blazed the course, being 10 minutes ahead of everyone else half-way through. Pat had some issues and dropped, but Chris and Brian made it look easy. I had to laugh when they went by and there was a chorus of "Hi, Steve." "Hi, Steve." "Hi, Steve." I may not be a contender any more, but I guess I'm still a presence out there. That's pretty much the way the day went for me; standing still, getting greeted by people who went by me (4 times in the 50K).
There was a little difficulty in being sure the 25K runners went one way as the 50K'ers went another for a few minutes, so when Alicia came by asking if I wanted an assistant, I said yes (really, it was mostly because that many hours of standing in the woods by myself was getting dull). Soon I was joined by Nichole, who's training for the 2012 Olympic marathon trials and who I finally get to mention here. She works for Red Wing Shoes, so noted I was wearing their Vasque Blurs (2008 model...) and we ended up talking about cross-over between cross-country skiers (she also works for Finn-Sisu sports) and runners and then went on to other typical runner conversation.
I have to quote myself. At one point, I said, "Some runners set reasonable goals, train adequately, avoid injury and run smart races. I don't believe in it. It's just not me. I say: Aim too high, train like a maniac, race like an idiot, get hurt and just keep going." Whether she was laughing because I was funny or she was just humoring the lunatic they left her with in the woods, I'm not sure.
Everyone kept asking why I wasn't racing and I felt like I couldn't say I'd retired (Thanks again, Helen), so I let it out - repeatedly - that I was going to race the next day.
Sunday the 4th.
It was 80 degrees with a dew point of 72 at 5 AM. I hoped that I'd get to the Excelsior Firecracker 10K before the storm and that it'd stop raining before the race. That almost worked - if I'd left 10 minutes earlier, I'd have beat the storm, but there'd be no one there to register me yet. I was the first race-day entrant and found myself telling the guy, "Write the chip number on the waiver, then take the money, then give me the chip and a t-shirt, size medium." After 600 races, I guess I know the routine better than the volunteers.
I was trying to be very low-key and not really race, just get in a fast 10K to see what kind of condition I'm in and see how the training's going. I used to do this race every year and always about 36 minutes, but it'd been 10 years since the last time. [Later, I looked it up and I'd done it in 2006 in a very slow 39:24. I had trouble remembering that. Then it hit me. To give you some idea of what the summer of 2006 was like: June 1st, I weighed 164 lbs. and August 1, I weighed 147. You can imagine how stressful things were if I lost 10% of my weight in 8 weeks!]
I wore the Garmin, feeling like a total "Fred," but wanting to keep the pace steady for once. I hit the mile in 6:20 and was feeling okay, but something was not right. The next mile was 6:17.
Then I quit.
Sure, my heel was hurting. Yes, I was breathing harder than I should have been. But I quit as soon as there was any effort involved because my head just wasn't right. I didn't feel like racing. I can't go into a race and not RACE. I could've gone on and even if I slowed, I would've been well under 40, but I just didn't care, so I jogged back to the start. All the way, I heard people greeting me (hey, Todd, good to see you again!)
I overheard one girl watching the race say, as she pointed me out, "Hey, I know that guy!"
Yeah, the one going the wrong way. The one who quit. The one who should stay retired.
Going up the country
6 days ago