Before I get into the race report, I first want to thank all the awesome people that follow my blog and came up to introduce themselves to me this weekend. I met so many great runners that had such inspiring stories to share with me. By nature, I'm a very introverted person, so I never really know how to react when readers come up to meet me. But please know that all of you are an inspiration to me and I'm extremely grateful for your support. It means more to me than you'll ever know.
It's important to note that I am NOT much of a road runner. I run road races like I run trail races. This means I stare at my feet the entire time, maneuvering around potholes, manholes, and all kinds of...other ...holes. I probably look out of place and I know I feel out of place. However, it's nice to switch things up on occasion and remind myself why I prefer to run in the woods versus the streets. Running fast, however you define it, is a painful pursuit.
The Runner's World Half & Festival happened to fall on a weekend between two 100 mile trail races, so Jo and I decided to go hang out for the weekend and run a few road races with the great folks from Runner's World. The schedule included a 5K and 10K on Saturday and a Half Marathon on Sunday. This is really ideal for me because it allowed me to loosen up my legs from the Oil Creek 100 before heading to Arizona for the Javelina Jundred.
The race venue for the weekend was the refurbished Bethlehem Steel Company site. It's a perfect blend of modern comfort and Gothic art. The steel plant is mostly in its original form and it dominates the landscape in a beautiful and powerful way. It's a relic of an industrial age that is long gone from this region, but its remains a focal point and source of pride for this community.
Bethlehem Steel Stacks at Dawn
I would be lying if I said I know how to run a 5K. I honestly don't know how to do it. I don't train for it and I avoid speed work at all costs. Yet here I am, getting ready to run one. I would rather line up for a 50 miler than a 5K. Seriously. These races intimidate me.
Me on my way to the race start. I definitely look like an ultra runner. I'm carrying too much crap!
Jo and I lined up for the race. I plugged in some music and we were off! At first I ran too fast, then settled into a pace that felt too slow, then after a bit of running, I found a fit looking runner and fell in behind him, but eventually lost him while I was staring at my feet. I eventually decided to run at a pace that seemed to be slightly below my vomiting threshold and I stuck with that.
In an uncharacteristic move I was wearing my Garmin 905, but made a conscious decision to totally ignore it. I wanted to run by feel, which at this point meant that I wanted to run hard, but not hard enough to barf. I spent $450 on this watch and I'm regulating my pace by noting when I might puke. Money well spent, Kelly!
Another view of the stacks
Things settled down around mile 2 and I was beginning to enjoy the run when a runner came over my right shoulder and passed me. This was an unusually fit looking runner and it took me a minute to realize it was Dean Karanzes. As Dean passed me, I slid in behind him and locked onto his pace, matching him step for step. He was running hard, but I knew I could keep up with him and maybe sneak past him. As we approached a right turn in the road, Dean suddenly veered OFF the course, cut across the sidewalk, through the grass and bolted past a small group of runners in front of us.
Dean Karnazes CUT THE COURSE!
Please understand, this was only a 3 or 4 second detour, but in a 5K, that's a lifetime. I was a little shocked to say the least. Dean is an ambassador of the sport and he just snaked a bunch of recreational runners out of their well earned finish place.
I'll carry that memory for the rest of my life. Well done Dean! You beat us!
I finished my 5K in 22:50ish and was happy to be done. Like I always say...I'm not fast and this is merely more evidence of that.
I waited around for Jo to finish her 5K, then we rested with friends for a while before heading back out on the course for the 10K.
This may sound odd, but this was my first ever 10K. And I was a little nervous.
When I'm running, but don't really feel like I want to run, I have an uncanny ability of turning my music on while I turn my brain off. This trick has got me through a lot of races in the past and was a big part of my strategy for this weekend. But as I walked to the start line of the 10K, I realized I left my music in my pack at the bag check. I was totally screwed. This meant I would have to focus on the run while trying to tune out the noise of the runners around me. Bad news for me.
I paced the 10k slightly slower than the 5k and settled into what seemed like a reasonable pace. All the while, keeping a sharp eye out for Karnazes and his course cutting ways! I was so focused on my feet and Dean, that the race flew by and I was done before I knew it. I finished in 47:00ish minutes, which is obviously my new 10k PR!!!
While waiting for Jo to finish her race, I ran into fellow trail/ultra runner, Sara Brunazzi. I know Sara from her race reports and other online commentary and I was excited to meet her in person. She's a great runner and an awesome young lady. Keep up the good work Sara!
Me with Jo and Sara at the finish of the 10k
Another cool pick of the stacks
After a full morning of running road races, it was time to soak my legs, and the rest of my body in some ice...cold BEER!
Jo and I enjoying the beer garden. Late morning beers are the best!!!
This is a point that I think road runners and trail runners differ on. A lot of road runners I know will avoid drinking alcohol leading up to a race, and most trail runners I know will practically soak themselves in it. Given a choice, I'll soak myself in it, which is what I did right after the Saturday races.
After a liberal beer soaking and eating binge, Jo and I were well rested and ready to run the half marathon on Sunday. The rumors suggested the course would be very hilly for the first 7 or 8 miles, then mostly downhill to the finish. I silently wondered what "HILLY" meant. Was it Hardrock 100 hilly? Or Boston Marathon hilly? Hilly is definitely a matter of perspective.
I was sure to bring my music for the half marathon. When the race started, I turned the music on and turned the brain off. I set out at an even, easy pace and ran a 8:24 for the first mile. This would be my slowest mile of the race. I locked onto a very comfortable stride and stayed with it for the entire 13 miles with my fastest mile split coming at mile 10. I ran the same pace up hill and on the down hill. I never felt winded or uncomfortable and I just rode it all the way to the finish. It was ALMOST enjoyable. I finished in 1:47, which is about 15 minutes slower than my PR, but I was happy with the solid, easy feel of the race.
I went to the finish and waited on Jo while cheering on other runners. It's fun watching the excitement of the finish. For a lot of these runner's this is the culmination of months of training and preparation. They've lived for this moment and it's a very big deal to them. I love being a part of it and seeing the excitement unfold at the finish.
My buddy Bart Yasso working the finish line
I was excited to see my beautiful bride finish another great race. I'm always proud to see her come across the finish line and she always has a smile on her face.
Jo rocking a solid finish at the Half Marathon!
This is a picture of Janet Oberholtzer finishing the half marathon. Janet is a local runner that was seriously injured in an accident and almost lost her left leg. She wrote a great book about her experience called "Because I Can" and she's an inspiration to many people. I'm always moved by her determination.
Good job Janet!
After the third and final race of the weekend, it was time to start my taper for the JJ100, which requires copious quantities of beer. Jo and I met up with the DURT crew at a local bar for post race fueling. These are some of the greatest friends we've ever had and we're blessed to have them in our lives.
An unusual amount of the post race discussion revolved around the scenery from the race course. As I said earlier, all I ever really see during a race is my feet, so I couldn't really contribute to the discussion. But there was a lot of giggling and whispering about the cemetery that we passed (which I never saw) and some specific headstone that the ladies paid particular attention to.
I'll just let your imagination run wild and leave it at that.
(Insert dick joke here)
Post race with the D.U.R.T. crew (Dumbass Ultra Running Team).
As an ultra runner, whenever I run short distance races people always say the same thing..."This must be like a warm up for you" (or some variation). In reality, these races are just as hard as any other race I run. Any distance, if run properly and at your potential, is a hard race. 5k's hurt when you run them hard and 100 mile races hurt. Obviously, the pain is short lived with a shorter race, but it's still hard and I'll never say a 5k or a half marathon is easy. If it's easy, then I'm not doing it right and I'm not giving it my best shot. Sure, running 13 miles isn't hard for me, but racing 13 miles is brutal.
Given the circumstances, running on tired legs and being cautious of my upcoming 100 miler, I did run as fast as I was comfortable with. I could have run much faster, but only at the expense of my next race. So all things considered, this is all I had to give.
Jo and I are excited to get back to Arizona for another amazing and entertaining run at the Javelina Jundred. I want to thank Bart and Laura Yasso, and all the people that made this race weekend so memorable. It was a really well run event that will definitely become a popular race for years to come.
Now time to get off the asphalt and back to where I belong!