Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April's Fool

On Sunday afternoon I ran my first race of the year, my first in almost a year, a 5K on the W&OD Trail in slanting sleet, in the winter that won't end.  The late-bulletin notice from the race director said the rain (it had rained all morning) was predicted to end an hour before the race began, which it did.

That's when the the snow started.  If I hadn't already paid $35, I wouldn't have run it.

But this race is a mere half mile from my house so I've run it three straight years, ever since I returned to running from my two-year injury layoff.  In 2011 it was my first race back, and I barely squeaked in under thirty minutes, which was my goal, at 29:30.

I got progressively better the next two years, at 27:53 then 27:23 and second in my AG.  I was beat out by another former president of the DCRRC who is also discontented with that club's direction, my friend Bob Platt.

With ten minutes to spare, I jogged down the trail to the start and got my racing bib.  It was cold, in the upper 30s, and the blacktop trail had a layer of slush on it the consistency of wallpaper paste.

The race is held each year in memory of Walter Mess, the driving force behind the creation of the W&OD Trail, who was an OSS agent during WW2.  Kicking off this year's race was Roger Neighborgall, a Ranger who stormed Fortress Europa with his comrades on D-Day (on the left presenting a memorial to the Mess family pre-race, on the right is race director Jay Wind).
And then we were off, running into a slanting sleet the wind was carrying into our eyes.  Half a mile out we went over the very slippery wooden bicycle bridge over Leesburg Pike.

By then the position of all other racers relative to me was pretty much set.  Only one person passed me the rest of the way, a woman in colorfully striped knee socks, while I subsequently passed two men.
After the first doubling back on the trail a mile out, the wind abated because it was behind us.  Going over the Bicycle Bridge a second time was worse than the first time.
Tantalizingly, we passed the start (and finish) line at the two-mile mark and went a further half-mile.   The race winner, local legend Ted Poulos, passed me in his stretch run going the opposite direction.
He was being chased futilely by a 22-year old boxer, merely cross-training, who came in 2d less than a minute behind.  Shortly after the viewing pleasure of the unfolding front end of the race, I reached the far turnaround point and headed back into the wind for my stretch run, dipping my ball cap so that the bill would keep the stinging sleet out of my eyes.

I pushed it across in 28:30, my 4th worse 5K time ever but a delight to me because I have returned to running after a layoff in 2009-2011 and the conditions were so chaotic that they were fun.  To cap it off I took 3d in my age group--out of 3--, being presented with a certificate for $25 off a pair of shoes at a running store in Baltimore, for my award winning finish at the Potomac River Run Marathon, expires 12/31/13.  LOL.  (The lonely boxer in his runner-up run.)

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