It has been almost a month since Breakers To Bay – a 5 mile race from Houghton Breakers to Oskar Bay and about the same amount of time since the last run of any kind, not counting running around the bases and/or in the outfield in softball, and/or at work. Persistent and nagging dry cough due to allergies take much of the blame for keeping me tied down although an equal amount of, if not more, blame can be attributed to my own procrastination.
A little over two weeks ago, while hanging out at a famous watering hole in Houghton, a dear friend and native of Rhinelander mentioned about the YMCA Hodag Run For Your Life – a 5k, 10k run/walk/stroller event with its proceeds going towards the Y’s Strong Kids Scholarship Campaign, which ensures that no one is turned away from the Y(MCA) due to lack of ability to pay. With fond memories of the wedding festivities from little over a year ago still fresh in the mind, and with a chance to enjoy some (real) cheese curds and Spotted Cow, it didn’t take too much thinking and persuasion to sign up for this race. Owing to the watchful care and prescriptions of another dear friend [thank the Lord for (real) doctors, eh?], the persistent and nagging cough had been on the downward trend for a while while the medication itself – Nuclear Antibiotics in particular – had become a topic of amusement to many of my other friends. With the least amount of preparation for any race so far, we (Melissa, Joel and myself) headed towards America’s Dairyland. The drive in itself was quite pleasant and brought to realization yet another thing that hasn’t changed in years: when not behind the wheels, my innate ability to doze off into short yet frequent naps (ask Nils for a reference, if need be).
Learning from the mistakes of aforementioned previous race, the pre-race carb loading diet included awesomely delicious home cooked meal – salad, bread and lasagna, and gatorade for fluids as opposed to (several) lime dipped beverages. A full night of sleep (which had become quite a rarity in past several weeks) did help quite a bit as well. Completing the pre-race breakfast ritual, we (Melissa, Melissa’s mom, Joel and myself) headed towards starting point for the race in downtown Rhinelander. Weather couldn’t have been any more ideal for this event: overnight rains, cloud cover with near zero humidity, gentle breeze with a random sprinkle of sunshine and rain drops, and a cushiony pair of shoes (thanks to Nancy and Josh). This also turned out to be the first race to include presentation of colors and singing of the national anthem.
The race got off to a pleasantly surprising fast start although it didn’t take long for many of the 5k’ers (started about 3 minutes later) to catch up and start passing me. The course snaked through many of the scenic, lush green domestic neighborhoods of Rhinelander and included a few turn arounds and (anti)NASCAR-isque right turns — many of which patrolled by friendly volunteers. As a result, I always had some fellow racers in sight, although they were running in the opposite direction and about 10-12 minutes ahead of me.
And soon enough, as it has been in every one of the races so far, human beings of just about every age group, shape, size, health and physical & mental capacity had passed me and I was
almost the last guy left in the race. Although I finished the race a whopping 40 seconds/mile less than the anticipated 12 minutes/mile (thanks to Tortoise and Hare Race Management, LLC for timing measurements), the pace throughout the race was very erratic — as indicated the speed and elevation spectrum below (thanks again to RunKeeper app on my iPhone and WP GPX Maps plugin for WordPress). I not only finished last in my age group but last amongst all males too (yeah, DFL).
Post race activities included consuming plenty of food (first home made cup cakes, and then veggie pasties with wheat casing from Joe’s Pasty Shop), a round of golf where I shot an astonishing 80 (in 9 holes for a +43, not counting the countless trial and misdirected swings), consuming more food (cheese curds, Spotted Cows and quesadilla at Cross Country Bar & Grill), hanging out with a little kiddo and a full night of sleep. Sunday morning brought awesomely delicious crepes with home made maple syrup and, blueberries and strawberries. Weekend also involved some very insightful discussion related to GPS, (Arc)GIS, etc., with Melissa’s dad. Return journey was safe and uneventful and I did indulge in a handful of naps. All in all, it was a very very relaxing weekend — so much so that the persistent and nagging cough almost disappeared. It also re-taught an important lesson, that it takes practice to get things right and achieve perfection even if it is finishing (dead bleeping) last in a race.
Thanks be to
the rejections and opportunities life has brought my way, event folks (organizers, sponsors, volunteers, timers, law enforcement officials, photographers, fellow participants and spectators), and the family of good friends in and outside of my community for all the unexpected, undeserved and unrewarded acts of constant encouragement as well as offerings of constructive criticism to improve myself as an athlete and a person. I am eternally grateful to all those who let me train with them, who shared their invaluable tips with me, who helped keep my mind, body and soul in good health, who helped me stay the course during the training cycle, who continued to teach me the value of work-life balance, and who cheered me on from home or along the course.