Sunday, March 10, 2013

#419: Race Report - 2013 Inaugural Railrunner 10 Miler

Yesterday was my first race of the spring season, a 10 miler on the beautiful grounds of the RJ Corman compound in Nicholasville KY. Mr Corman is a railroad mogul and philanthropist;  a cancer fighter and a runner who generously makes his property available for races like this one. I arrived at 7:00 AM, two hours before the start, for reasons I just cannot explain. It was 36° and the sun was just teasing its way up over the hills when I pulled into the parking lot. I spent a few minutes wondering if I had packed enough layers in my race bag, then decided to take a hike down to the start/finish line for a little re-con. It was much colder than I expected. The forecast was for temps in the 50's, and those would arrive, but not until well after lunch. For now, the air was biting. I shoved my hands a little deeper into the pockets of my gray Y Staff fleece, hoping I had packed a jar of Carmex to protect my lips.

After checking out the site, I headed back for the car, passing a few friends on the way. We were all bundled and shivering; smiling at one another with the demented joy that only runners can understand or consider sane. At the car, I switched some clothes around, adding a long sleeved wind resistant layer to go under my gold Y singlet. I swapped the loosely knit black and yellow cap that had been a gift from one of my LIVESTRONG at the YMCA participants for the thick red toque that Coach Melissa had given me. I had tights on under my black shorts, but decided to leave the warm-up pants on until starting time. I still had an hour before the start, and my choices were to stand around freezing, sit in the car getting tight, or go for a jog before a 10 mile race. Jogging seemed like the least offensive option, so I trotted off toward the start again, figuring I'd check out the first quarter mile or so. It was definitely warmer once I got moving.

Dave Storing Up Heat for the Winter
I had just turned around and started back when I saw my friend Dave coming down the course. Dave and I are among the tribal elders in our running community --  you know, the ones who are so "inspiring" for running "at that age." I hung a U-turn and eased in beside him. Turns out, he was determined to get five miles in before the race. Fortunately for me, he already had three under his belt. We moved along at a much faster pace than I wanted to do, but the conversation and laughter lightened my stride and before I knew it, we had done 2.25 miles together, and gotten a really good preview of the start and finish of the course. This included a trip over the craziest steel bridge I've ever run across. When there are more than five people running on it, the thing flexes like a springboard. If Dave hadn't have warned me about it, I might have broken both ankles when I hit it during the race.

After a heart-stopping wait in line for a pre-race port-a-potty stop (I could have slipped off into the cedars, but I was wearing all those Y logos...) I joined a few friends at the start line in time for the Star Spangled Banner and the gun which was a blast from a train whistle.

The race itself was really lovely. There are plenty of gentle hills and lots of  hollows still full of last weekend's snow. There are a couple of unique features. A busy railroad line runs around the boundary of the property, and the engineers tooted their whistles joyfully as they passed the long line of brightly dressed runners in the morning air. I've already mentioned the bouncing bridge. There is also a tunnel that leads to the most distinctive part of the course. Part of Mr Corman's business is to respond to railroad accidents all over the country, and that means being ready to zoom off at a moment's notice. That's why he has his own jets and his own airstrip. The race included a two mile loop from one end of the runway to the other. The course then looped back through the tunnel, and around the grounds to a long downhill finish. Lots of support. Lots of music. Lots of (unnecessary) ice to keep the water bottles cool and refreshing. And the best part, lots of friends cheering one another on. A great way to get racing season moving.

Some of the Toughest People I Know...
And the Best Job in the World
Before I left the house yesterday, I decided that I would dedicate my run to my friends who are living with relapse. As I spend more time with cancer fighters, I meet more people who have had two or three different diagnoses in their lives. I wanted to honor them with my run. Strangely enough, I didn't give them much thought until the last, lung-burning, leg-aching half mile sprint to the finish line. That's when their names and faces started to appear in front of me. Becky. Jaspal. John. DeeDee. Art. James. There was no way any of them were going to be running any 10 mile races this day, so I would run it for them. I spoke their names quietly as I breathed smooth and deep, just like Carrie had coached me. I ran that last quarter mile in just over two minutes. I wish I could have carried them all on my back; instead I carried them in my heart.

Today (Sunday), I had a nice, easy recovery run. 5 slow miles on my beloved Legacy Trail. 62°. No timing. No pacing. No gasping for air or pushing to the top of the hill. Just a simple run for the love of running on what felt for all the world like the first day of spring. And then I came home to find that Living Strong at the Y 2013 had just raised our first $500.

My God... what a great weekend for a run! Or two. Or three...



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