July 11, 1993, in Schenley Park, Pittsburgh
A six-hour race on a one kilometer dirt loop. Why am I doing a six-hour race on a one kilometer loop in the middle of a heat wave? There's a couple of reasons:
Saturday night I packed up the cooler (eight 20oz bike bottles with Conquest, a two-quart bottle with Conquest, a two-quart bottle with water, 20 pounds of ice), plus some other supplies (a few Powerbars, ibuprofen, sunscreen, sunglasses, towel, hat, pretzels.
Sunday morning I get in the car and head over to the park. I arrive at 5:40AM. The newspaper listing announced at 6AM start...but there are folks running already. Are they warming up? I find Joe the Race Director and learn no, the race really started 5:30AM---but since the park doesn't officially open until 6AM, the published time was 6AM. Grumble. (Lesson: in the future, double-check the published information.) Another runner also shows up for the 6AM start. Since I'm all set up for a run, I guess I'll run... I sign in, bring the cooler up, start my watch and head off.
In a loop race, you encounter the other runners fairly often. I catch up with Joe and tell him that, what the heck, I'm going to run a full six hours, but I'll let him know what my lap count is at the official end. (Mike, the other late arrival, also decides to run a full six hours.) Joe says that he's not going to stop me...but that I'll be trading 22 minutes of predawn cool for 22 minutes of blistering heat. That's OK, I reply, it builds character. Joe observes that I'm already a bit of a character...
There are a dozen runners in all: me, Joe M, Mike, Rick Freeman, Jill Julen (sp?), plus a handful I didn't know, including Ed Hall, Bob Gracie, and a Mr. Helvig. Oh, and the two ringers: Chris Gibson and Keith Hileman. Julen, Gracie, and the ringers pass me regularly. The ringers are running together---I mention to Keith that I didn't bring any homebrew this time; he chuckles (and keeps chuckling all morning, every time he passes me). (Sharing homemade beer and stories with Keith and Jerry Agin is a fond memory from the '92 Wild Oak.)
Since you don't pass or get passed quickly, there period of time in which you come within sight/earshot of another runners is very long. At first this really bothered me---especially the earshot part. Come on, pass me and get it over with! After a while, though, it becomes sort of comfortable. You recognize the gait and know who it is before you see them.
Heat: I know why they call it the ``Dog Days'' run. Joe says it was the second worst weather they ever had. Keith says, yup, the last time he came it was bad. He stayed away for a year or two, and came back this year to find out it's just as bad as he remembered it. (The track was a bit muddy in the morning. Don't worry, says Joe, it will be baked concrete-hard in an hour or two.)
The sun didn't break over the trees until 8AM---when I stopped to put on sunscreen, sunglasses, and hat. (Lesson: don't keep your sunglassses in the cooler.) It turned into a race against fluid loss: as the morning progressed, the number of laps between picking up new bottles got smaller and smaller... A glimpse of paradise: soaking a towel in ice-water and wrapping it around your head... I ran out of fluids completely by 5:20; I got by the last forty minutes on warm water from the fountains.
Laps: it was nice being able to have aid right there. But racing against time just doesn't give the satisfaction of running a trail from one place to another... Watching the day progress (and the tennis and softball players arrive) was entertaining. (Having to limit urination stops to one place on the loop (the restroom) once people started arriving was a big constraint---out on the trail, you can check your hydration any time you feel like it.)
Mike (who decided to stop at the official end, and who also used to a member of the Hash House Harriers) hassled me about running the full six hours. ``You can tell he's a hasher!'' I replied that I merely wanted to get my two dollars' worth. My pace (initially just over five minutes a lap) decayed to about eight minutes a lap. But with the race nearly over, I speed up: finish lap 54 at around 5:40, do lap 55, start lap 56 and meet my wife Nancy. She runs the lap with me; I tell her it's probably my last. But I finish that one with seven minutes left, so I head out again...and, what the heck, sprint: a blistering six-minute kilometer Maybe even sub-six-minute. Finished that lap with 90 seconds to spare! Joe decides to make my six-hour lap count the official count.
Nancy and Jill talk about bicycles. Chris eats his pie. Keith eats cold pizza. Mike talks about Vermont. I tell Keith that I'll drink a beer for him; he says thanks, but he'd rather I drink several for him.
After the Old Dominion experience---only making 75 miles, plus developing serious blisters which promptly got infected and required medical attention---I had some bugaboos to confront... I'm glad I ran the whole six hours; and (despite some anxious moments Sunday evening), it looks like the couple of new blisters are healing nicely (thank the Lord!). Yes, I can finish races, and yes it is possible to have blisters heal...
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