Tag Archives: rain

Dirty German 50: Ve Vill Run in Ze Rain, Und You Vill Like It

Last Sunday dawned bright and beautiful in Philadelphia. I went out for breakfast on a sunny, cool morning perfect for the trail race I’d come here for, the Dirty German 50-miler in nearby Pennypack Park.

Too bad the race had been the day before.

Steady rain had been forecast for all day Saturday, and for once Nature let the weathermen be right. While they were pounding Bloody Marys in celebration, several hundred trail runners were lining up for what promised to be a long, chilly, muddy slogfest.

It surpassed all expectations.

I’d been drawn to the Dirty German from previous year photos showing happy runners in lederhosen on a bright sunny day, being served by handsome St. Pauli Girls. After a wet, muddy Glacier Ridge 50 the year before, I was ready for something a bit flatter under more pleasant conditions. It was indeed flatter, but pleasant? Not so much.

But I’d paid the money and showed up, and the race was on. And right on time at 7:30 a.m., off we went. Our shoes soaked through in the first big puddle, so that was out of the way and we ran through them with abandon. Not that there was any choice; the course was already flooding and it got steadily worse throughout the day.

See the water gushing in from the river on the left! Thanks Kevin Minteer for this photo.

My main concern wasn’t a winning time, but just staying in the race. That meant keeping warm, primarily. My triathlon shorts were perfect, shedding water rather than soaking it up. Over a singlet and long-sleeved shirt I wore a plastic rain wrap, which retained sweat but kept the wind and rain off. My hands did get cold and numb, leaving me unable to retie a shoelace that had come loose. An aid station volunteer cheerfully helped me with that.

I also made to sure to keep well fueled. The aid stations had standard PB&J, potatoes, fruit, and candy, but the hot grilled cheese sandwiches really made my day! Adequate hydration wasn’t an issue, of course. Salt tablets every two hours kept my electrolytes in balance.

The wonderful folks at the aid stations made things as cheery as possible. But even they had to deal with conditions. The first one was at an underpass. On the second loop, the underpass had flooded, and they had to move uphill. On the third loop, we were diverted around the underpass and had to slide down a muddy slope to reach the station, then climb back up to get on the course again.

Flooded underpass at miles 4 & 12 of the loop. (Thanks to April Arnold for this photo.)

Unsurprisingly, many 50-milers called it a day before finishing; I saw a few hanging out at aid stations, waiting for a ride back to the start. The 50K (two loops) and the 25K (one loop) suffered less, but still had their share of drops. But I was feeling okay; there was no physical reason for me to quit. I just had to remain mentally focused and deal patiently with increasingly flooded paths and sticky, slippery trail.

Halfway through loop 2. Only 25 miles to go!

Knowing the course would get less runnable, I ran the first loop in 2:50, faster than plan, and started the third at the 6:05 mark, close to my original goal of a nine-hour finish. But it was not to be; the singletrack was like chocolate pudding (albeit much less tasty), and combined with normal race fatigue I had a 3:45 final loop and a finish time of 9:50, good for 17th out of 76 starters.

Turns out my age group (50-59) was the toughest out there, with 6 out of 7 finishing the race. I was third in my group and won this cool German weather house as a prize. It’s even made in Germany!

If the woman is out, it’s dry. Since it’s inside, looks accurate to me!

Only one small beef. The finish area was very light on food choices. Sausage and sauerkraut just didn’t appeal to me after ten hours of running. And there was only water to drink. No beer at a German-themed event? Seriously? So it wasn’t long before I hobbled out of there to a hot shower and dry clothes. Rather anticlimactic, but it just wasn’t the day for an extended post-race party.

What really encourages me about this race was that  I never felt the urge to quit, and stayed patient and on a mental even keel throughout. In that regard it was an excellent checkout run for the Lighthouse 100 next month. Hoping for better weather at that one, though!

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DXA2 and Me: Five Years and Still an Item!

Recently I celebrated a special anniversary. Five years ago I ran my first half marathon – the 2010 Dexter-Ann Arbor Run. I’ve run many more since then, on roads and trails, but that first one will always be memorable to me.

Dark, heavy clouds were overhead that day and a storm had knocked a tree down onto the road, delaying the start. But then we were off through downtown Dexter and a crowd of spectators, followed by ten scenic miles along the Huron River and onto Main Street in Ann Arbor, with a soul-sucking uphill climb to the finish line. And I found out what happens to nipples that don’t get taped. (It’s not pretty.)

I was hooked, and I’ve run it every year since. Who says men can’t commit?

Yep, last year was hot.

Yep, last year was hot.

Last year’s race was particularly nasty. It was hot, and the long hard winter meant many people hadn’t acclimated yet. I heard later that several runners passed out. The heat along with a poor hydration strategy caught up with me at mile 8 and ended my streak of faster finish times.

This year I vowed to be better prepared. I hydrated early and brought a handheld water bottle so I wouldn’t be dependent on the aid stations. And with my training runs in Costa Rica this spring, I felt acclimated. Bring on the 85 degrees and broiling sun. I wuz ready!

DXA2 2015 - Starting Line

Obviously, Nature had other plans.

Weather Underground had originally forecast rain on Saturday, with race day fairly clear and warmer. Then it changed its mind and moved the rain to Sunday, with temps around 50. I got an email from the race director – lightning might delay the start, but the race was on!

I wore my triathlon outfit, which is proving more and more versatile. As it’s designed to shed water and dry quickly, it was perfect for the rain. I was wringing water out of my shirt, but the singlet and shorts kept me reasonably dry and warm. For shoes I wore my Kinvara RunShields, which are designed for inclement weather. My feet got wet, of course, but there was no squishing or waterlogged feeling.

Another great boost - the PR Fitness aid station at mile 6. Thanks again!

Another great boost – the PR Fitness aid station at mile 6. Gatorade and friendly faces – what more could you ask for?

I left the handheld behind. With the rain and cool temps I would have no hydration issues. And I ditched the poncho at mile 4, deciding it was better to embrace the rain than fight it. As I’ve said before, one can only get so wet.

My strategy was to stick with the 1:35 pacer, my goal being any time better than that. All went well until mile 8 when despite a double knot, my right shoe came untied. With five miles to go at a strong pace, there was nothing for it but to stop and tie it, my target group disappearing down the road.

I tried but failed to channel my inner Denard.

I tried but failed to channel my inner Denard.

Not again, I thought. And I decided right then that it would not be “not again”. I stepped it up and ran through the next aid station instead of grabbing a drink. Thanks to the rain, I could afford it. Within a half mile I spotted the 1:35 sign again and in another half mile I’d caught up. Around mile 10 I went ahead of them, this time for good.

DXA2 2015 - Finish Area with PacerThe final climb on Main Street was still rough, and I came the closest I’ve ever come to tossing my cookies. But seeing “1:34” on the finish line clock gave me a boost, and I finished in 1:34:39. A new best time for me on that course. Hard to be annoyed at the rain when it does that for you!

Hard to believe it’s been five years since that first half marathon. And next year will be five years since my first full marathon! Like they say, you never forget that first one. And – oops, gotta go. My wife is walking toward me holding a rolling pin. She must want to make me cookies!

Peace Amid the Storm

Several years ago I was part of an advanced Aikido class in which we learned some Japanese history and a bit about the samurai culture, from which comes the sword techniques that form the basis of Aikido. One day Sensei spoke about the mindset of the samurai.

“Let’s say a samurai is out walking and it begins to rain,” he said. “Ordinary people would run for cover. But a samurai keeps walking. He does not let external events – those he cannot control – disturb his serenity.”

Perhaps serenity could also come from the idea that "I have a sword and you don't" but that's beside the point.

Perhaps serenity could also come from the idea that “I have a sword and you don’t” but that’s beside the point.

Since then I have had many opportunities to put this principle into practice. Walking outside on a recent cold windy day, I suddenly became aware of my body posture – stooping, hunched shoulders, and scrunched-up face. It was pure reflex – a natural reaction. But was it helping anything? Not a bit. So I stood straight, dropped my shoulders and relaxed my face. I wasn’t any warmer, but I was more comfortable.

Then there’s running. Living in a four-season state, I get to train and race in all sorts of conditions, not all of which are enjoyable. But to reap the benefits of running, I must run, and treadmills just don’t do it for me. And just as important as the physical benefits, running outdoors provides a way to re-establish my sense of serenity. By working the body and clearing the mind of everyday clutter, I can find a way to enjoy the moment regardless of the weather.

I had one such moment at last summer’s Road Runner Classic 8K trail race. Part way into a one-mile warmup run, it began to rain lightly. People fled for cover. I am a samurai, I told myself, and continued my warmup. The rain continued and became a downpour. Water flooded my shoes and streamed down my hair, but I completed my mile. After all, one can only get so wet.

I had a set of dry backup clothes in my car, but that's beside the point.

I had a set of dry backup clothes in my car, but that’s beside the point.

I returned to the staging area, looking at everyone huddled under various shelters, and was struck by how miserable they looked, all hunched in their raincoats. How did I, the one soaked from head to toe, feel? Check the photo. A little thing like a rainstorm was not going to affect my serenity. Why should it? I understood the risk of rain that day, and since I could do nothing to change the weather, getting upset about it would not have helped. So I chose to embrace the rain, and man, was it fun.

At the finish line. Sticking it out has its benefits.

At the finish line. Sticking it out has its benefits.

Now I’m far from being able to apply this all the time. Today (Friday), after a hectic week at work, I was looking forward to Saturday’s Bigfoot Snowshoe race in Traverse City. But I had stuff to do before I could head up north, and for a good part of last night and this morning I was tense and anxious, wondering how I’d get everything done in time. Finally, the absurdity of the situation struck me.

You’re heading up north to have fun, I thought. Why are you wasting your day off stressing out? After that, despite snow and slippery roads in the TC area, I was able to maintain my serenity. So perhaps I’m learning.

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P.S. The title of this post comes from this quote: Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.

Roadrunners in the Rain

THANKS TO MOTHER NATURE AND A FELLOW RUNNER for two memorable experiences Saturday night at the Northville Road Runner Classic 8K road/trail race.

Normally I don’t race much in midsummer. But I like me a good 8K trail run, for the challenge of the off-road terrain and a distance short enough to run hard. So I took a break from my LSD and slept in on Saturday morning. My body ordered me not to feel guilty about it.

Rain was likely so I packed a backup set of clothes, including socks and shoes. I even brought a warmup jacket, as the temperature had also dropped from the mid-90s of the past few weeks into the 60s. I was looking forward to finishing a run without being soaked in sweat. At the park I put on my race bib and set out on my usual one-mile warmup run. It started to rain.

"This is running! Embrace the rain!"

“This is running! Embrace the rain!”

People headed for cover. I kept running; a little water doesn’t bother me. Then the Good Lord turned the shower full on. My jacket soaked through. The flooded paths soaked my socks and shoes. I completed my warmup – after all, I couldn’t get any wetter. As I headed back to the pavilion, still in the downpour, I invited the people huddled under the shelters to come out. “What are you doing under there?” I shouted. “This is running! Embrace the rain!” (Yes, I actually did say that.) No one joined me, but someone was nice enough to step into the rain for a moment and capture this photo.

So I was soaked after all, and the race hadn’t even started yet. I returned to my car to change – and discovered that I hadn’t packed a second short-sleeve shirt. So I resorted to an act of anathema, and put on the race shirt before I’d actually run the race. (*)  I didn’t get struck by lightning or break a leg tripping on a tree root, so I guess the running gods forgave me.

ALSO SEE: Active.com – The Dos and Don’ts of Race-Day Etiquette

The rain ended shortly afterward, and we lined up for the race. I got off to a quick start and established a position in one of the front-running packs. From there I held my own until near the end, when one guy who had been just behind me caught up and passed. I felt pretty gassed, so I let him go. But as we emerged from the woods and the finish line came into view, I heard someone behind me shouting, “Go! Catch up with him!” I glanced quickly behind me and saw a guy in a white shirt charging at me hard.

This was too much. Not gonna happen. I went into an all-out sprint – and something amazing happened. In other races, my final sprints have been painful, gasping efforts. This time it was smooth, even effortless, a “finishing kick” I’ve never felt before, and it carried me over the finish line just ahead of him. Incredibly satisfying. Something to remember and carry forward to my future races.

Now here's a guy I don't want chasing me.

Now here’s a guy I don’t want chasing me.

PR Fitness at Road Runner Classic 2013Fellow PR Fitness runners Aaron (left) and Erin (center) were also there, and our small contingent acquitted itself very well. Aaron finished first in the 55-59 age group, and Erin won the female Masters – that is, she was the top woman finisher age 40 and over. I had a good race too, finishing second in my age group (50-54) and the third overall male Masters finisher.

The race shirt is pretty nice. The back has a variation of the old proverb that usually involves a lion and an antelope. But of course the road runner has a famous nemesis too.

Race shirt - proverb==========================

(*) There’s nothing wrong with wearing the race shirt before the race, but it’s a negative superstition among experienced runners. Kind of like saying “Good luck” to an actor before a performance instead of, “Break a leg.” The idea is that you shouldn’t wear the shirt until you’ve “earned it” by crossing the finish line. Many people wore it anyway, and one of the race volunteers said, “Nice shirt,” as I passed his station. So there you go.