Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Detroit Half Marathon 2012 Edition

Lots of people standing around in the cold and dark at 6:15 am: it must be a fall marathon
In 2007 I made the Detroit Half Marathon my first substantial distance race. I had never run 13 miles in a row in my life and I signed up on a whim to prove to myself I could run farther than a 5K. Well, as we all know, that race led to seven more half marathons, five marathons, a Boston Qualifying effort, and too many 5Ks and 10Ks for me to count (though I could look them up, I'm too lazy).

On Sunday, October 21, I was back in downtown Detroit, where it all began five years ago, to run my ninth half marathon. I had put in the weeks of training necessary and I felt physically ready, even if I knew I wasn't going to be running very fast. I anticipated finishing in 2:10, though I really wished I could finish faster than my time from the Dexter-Ann Arbor Half in June (2:04:22).

The race started at 7:00 which meant we had to be parked downtown by 6:00 in order to avoid street closures (which meant we were up at 4:15 and left just after 5:00...ugh). I use a parking lot in the Greektown area for events like this, because it's easy to get to and I sneak into downtown off I-375 to the east, thereby avoiding the traffic jams caused by everyone trying to take the only way they know into town (Woodward Avenue). We zoomed past a gigantic line of cars backed up on I-75 waiting to get off at Grand River (SUCKERS) and reached my parking lot (almost empty and $5.00 for the whole day) without ever having to wait behind another car.

I'd tell you where to find it but then I'd have to kill you. MY PARKING LOT. MINE.

We walked to the starting corral area and I hopped into a porta-potty that had NO LINE to take my third crap of the morning. The coffee I made was doing its job a little too well. Then it was time to...stand around for a while.

Trying to stay warm

I wore a crazy bright shirt so I was easy to see
At 7:00 the first wave of runners took off. My wave didn't cross the start line until ten minutes later. I settled into my normal cruising speed and looked forward to the miles ahead. The visual of a long line of runners, backlit by the rising sun and ascending the Ambassador Bridge at mile 3 was, as always, the visual highlight of the race. The view from the top of the bridge was beautiful. We descended into Windsor, Ontario and at mile 7 entered the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel for the "Underwater Mile." I HATE the Underwater Mile. It's hot, stuffy, loud, and smells funny. When the cool, fresh air hits your face upon exiting the tunnel at mile 8, it feels SO good. People all around me were audibly going "Ahhhhhh." Shortly after leaving the tunnel, I spotted the Engineer in the crowd. I veered over to the barricade to give him a high five; then it was back to business. Five miles to go!

Around mile 10 my knees started aching. This bothered me as my knees have never been a source of discomfort in the past. I felt great otherwise, knew I was almost done, and forged on toward the end. I kept my pace steady in the final quarter mile and finished strong, stopping Garmy at 2:09 and change. While I was slightly disappointed, I knew that stopping for a bathroom break at 8.5 miles hadn't helped my time.

I found the Engineer and we went back to my car where I changed into fresh clothes. We walked backwards along the marathon course to the Motown-Ann Arbor hash kennel's beer check at mile 24.5, where I got to enjoy a well-deserved Stone Ruination IPA. (We were handing out PBR to the runners; I raided the secret stash of good beer.)

Every job well done deserves a beer!
Watching the tide of humanity stream past for an hour and a half cemented my resolve: I am going to run another marathon before the end of 2013. I will turn 40 next year and this is the goal I have set for myself before I hit that milestone.

The same weekend of the race, I dog-sat for my friends' little dog. I brought her to my house that Friday afternoon and...well, various hijinks and scuffles and shenanigans ensued. Bouhaki hid (I barely saw him all weekend), Darwin couldn't have cared less, but Melvin was VERY PUT OUT at the presence of this INTERLOPER in his house. Annabelle was sitting on my lap Friday afternoon and Melvin was circling my chair like a shark. He paused to glare at her and I snapped a picture. The Engineer turned it into a LOLCAT.

Feel the rage!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Falling Slowly

What happened?

The last time I posted was July 31. On that day, the high was 86. The whole month had been one long miserable slog through insufferable heat and humidity, with the nadir coming on July 6 when the weather station at the Chrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea recorded a high of 103. Fortunately I was in Scotland at the time, luxuriating in clouds, drizzle, and 62 degrees. Everywhere I went, the locals moaned about the weather, and my response was invariably, "are you kidding? I'm loving this, considering what I left behind."

Now it is fall. The nights have been comforter-snuggling cold and the days have barely cracked 60 degrees. Saturday morning I was up ridiculously early for a long run at Hudson Mills Metropark in Dexter with the Engineer and the Redhead. It was about 37 degrees when we left, and I was in nearly-full winter gear: thick tights, gloves, and hat. I wore a single thick base layer, because I knew I would heat up quickly once we got moving. I had eleven miles to cover.

Fall in Michigan. Eat your heart out, New England.
I am in the final days of training for the Detroit Half Marathon on October 21. I have been feeling good about my runs of late. While I am not by any means speedy, I feel strong. The 11 miles I ran on Saturday went by fast (good company) and I pushed myself over the final mile to see how much I had left in the tank and managed to squeeze out an 8:59.

I ran 2:04 at Dexter-Ann Arbor in June. I'd like to better that in Detroit. I doubt sub-2:00 is within my capabilities if I want to run the race wisely and not crash and burn towards the end. I have been cranking out my shorter runs (five miles or fewer) at the pace needed to run a 2:00 half marathon, but I don't know if I could hold that pace for 13 miles. On race day, however, as we all know...strange things can happen.

I love running at this time of year. The weather is so very kind to us runners. After the horrible summer we endured this feels like a gift. The Redhead and I have resumed running during the workday now that we don't have to worry about heatstroke.

Last Friday I drove to Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan, for my long-awaited stock car driving experience. Last year, I purchased a deal for half-off a solo driving adventure at MIS, which is only 20 miles from my house. I have a quasi-secret love for NASCAR and for many summers in a row I was on the infield at MIS watching cars turn left for 4 hours and drinking lots of beer. This was my chance to see the track FROM THE TRACK.

I cannot describe how excited I was. I arrived at MIS too early for my class, so I stood around and watched the cars roar by on the track, getting more excited by the minute. Finally it was my turn and I was fitted for my Nomex suit and helmet. Then it was off to class, where I learned how I was expected to behave on the track and how to operate the car. About 45 minutes into the instructions, a woman came in the room and announced that MIS fire safety was shutting them down because of rain. There would be no more activity that day. When I heard that, I almost started to cry. I was SO CLOSE! SO CLOSE! to getting in that car and driving it at 150 MPH around the track.

Sadly, there was nothing else to do but head home. I have to reschedule for the spring. NEXT TIME, this is going to happen, dammit.

All suited up and nowhere to go...

Lastly, in honor of fall, here is Yo La Tengo's "Autumn Sweater."

Side note: in 2000, when I was on a University of Michigan geology department field trip out West, my friend Erik passed his Discman (remember those?!) back to me and simply said, "Listen to track 12." I did, and that was the beginning of a beautiful musical friendship.