From the Archives: Remember Run 8K, November 8th, 2014

Gun Time: 37:06
Chip Time: 36:55
Placing Overall: 40th out of 253
Placing in Age Group: 6th out of 15 (M40-44)
Theme Song: The Beatles, “Getting Better

All year long, my colleague Rachael had been gunning for me.

I know this because she told me so. We had both been in the Cambridge Mill race earlier in the year (bloody great hill at KM 6.5 and all, though this time I was a bit more judicious about how I started) and I had managed to run under 40 minutes, finishing at 39:55, a couple of minutes ahead of her. Apparently she was none too pleased about losing to Fat Dad and had used it as fodder for training all summer. Although to make it out as some kind of epic showdown was overstating the case a bit, we were both registered to run the Remember Run 8K, and I’m pretty sure one of her goals was to ensure that she vanquished the stink of the defeat by my corpulent self.

Thing was, Fat Dad was no longer really Fat Dad anymore. I was up to about 20 miles a week (legitimately, this time) and considerably less chunky. I was actually pretty optimistic about my chances in this one. The weather forecast initially was a bit terrifying, with the prospect of running 8K in freezing rain looming, but as it turned out the precipitation held off and the temps were around the 5 Celsius mark as we approached the start time, and winds were calm (pretty good running weather in my estimation). Dressed up in my new cold weather gear, including black Columbia beanie hat and gloves, I thought I looked pretty smart.

“You look like a burglar, Daddy,” my three year old daughter opined.

Sigh.

Any race that starts with a pipe band is pretty much OK by me. I figure it’s a vestige of my Scottish heritage asserting itself that I get all goosepimply when I hear that beautiful skirling sound. The race proceeds were going to the local Legion, and I thought of my grandfather and his effort in the war. Silently I dedicated the race to his memory.

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So then the gun, and off I went. This was the first race where I actually felt good after the first couple of KM, like I was pacing myself properly. I even managed to smile at a camera a time or two, silly looking beanie and all. (The damn thing kept coming off and I ended up ditching it).

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I got to the 5K mark and still had plenty of spring left in my step. This was rather new ground for me and I wasn’t sure quite what to do. Should I pick up the pace a little and try for negative splits? Was it too early to do this? I didn’t have a timing device on me so I wasn’t quite sure what my splits even were. I decided to stay the course for awhile and try to pick things up in the last couple of kilometers.

Soon it transpired that the woman who was running directly in front of me for most of the second half of the race was none other than my colleague Rachael. She did not look best pleased to see me pull up beside her, but nonetheless we exchanged slightly out of breath pleasantries. We passed the 7K mark and it was at this point that I decided to hell with it, time to charge to the finish. As I kicked it into a higher gear, a snarl came from behind me.

“Oh, no you don’t, buddy.”

I looked over in time to see Rachael power past me like a freight train. As I watched, amazed, she sprinted past me and around the corner to the last straightaway. I gave it my best shot at catching her, but it was not to be. Behold the vanquishing of Not Quite As Fat Dad:

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I couldn’t begrudge her for this one. After all, she’d put a ton of work in just to beat me. And, she finished first in her age category. Also, I was really happy with my time, having shaved a full 3 minutes off my PR, which took some of the sting out of losing to her.

Just know this Rachael: next time that 8K comes around, Fat Dad’s gonna be waiting.

From the Archives: Cambridge Mill Race 8K, April 14, 2013

Gun Time: 41:55
Chip Time: 41:55
Placing Overall: 70th out of 267 entrants
Placing in Age Group: 15th out of 27 (M 35-39)
Theme Song: Sloan, “Everything You’ve Done Wrong

It all began with one of our volunteers at work asking me if I was a runner.

At the time, I hadn’t done anything competitive sports wise since my teens, other than the family softball tournament every summer which barely counts as exertion (and yet still managed to render me flabbily exhausted year after year). But, since I would from time to time haul my 20-pounds-overweight self onto a treadmill and churn out a couple of miles (mostly in a vain attempt to counter the caloric content of all the alcohol I was drinking), I of course puffed out my chest and replied that I was.

Good, she said, because the Cambridge Mill Race is next month and the proceeds are going to the hospital. You should sign up.

Cornered thusly, I agreed to do so, figuring my fitness level wasn’t that bad.

Of course, the fact that I capitulated didn’t inspire me to do anything different, at least not really. I might have done a couple of extra 15 minute sessions on the hamster wheel, but I think I felt at the time that my ancient history as a runner and my natural athleticism (snort) would pull me through the event. The fact that the Cambridge Mill, a rather swank local restaurant, was catering the post-race meal admittedly played a large part in my decision to enter. That should give you a pretty good idea of where my head was.

The day dawned cool and overcast, and after watching the kids burn through the 1K fun run, Fat Dad trotted to the starting corral to give it his best shot. I began the race lined up right at the start line with, you know, those guys who could actually run. And dammit, at the gun I shot forward like a paunchy cheetah after an overdose of amphetamines. I held my own against those guys.

For two blocks. You can likely guess what happened next.

I remember getting to the 2K marker and thinking “Holy shit. I may have made a slight miscalculation here.” The gasping for breath was what clued me in, along with the rapidly slowing pace and wanting to puke.

Thankfully for me, this part of the course was fairly flat, so aside from the ignominy of being passed repeatedly by, like, everyone, I was able to gut out the next 3K or so. Eventually, I looked around and realized a former student of mine had come up beside me. He was a very respectful young guy I had always enjoyed teaching, as well as an ex-military man. Our conversation went something like this:

Him: “Hey, Dr. M, how’s it going?”
Me: (Unintelligible gasping reply)
Him: “Good day for a run, huh? Not too hot. Lori and the kids here?”
Me: (More gasping)
Him: “Well, have a good race!”
Me (thinking): Please don’t throw up in front of him. Oh god, please don’t throw up.

Off he headed, and I was alone once again with my hubris.

Then, at 6.5K, another horror. Someone put a huge hill in the middle of the course. It really wasn’t that huge, but it seemed like fucking K2 was between me and the finish line at the time. All I could think of was “Who the fuck put THAT fucking thing there?” I may have cursed their descendants to be visited with the fleas of a thousand camels as well, I don’t really remember.

On the heels of that was the thought, “I am NOT walking.”

Anyhow, somehow I dug deep and slowly made my way to the top, and eventually hauled myself across the finish line. The kids, unconcerned, piled on me, little realizing how close Daddy was to a crippling coronary. Here’s a great shot of Fat Dad in the throes of agony:

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The funny thing is, once I recovered, and realized all the mistakes I made, I realized how much I missed the competition. My time wasn’t all that bad (though the race itself nearly killed me). It was the start of something, although I do remember thinking at some point during the race that anything beyond 10K was going to be impossible for me. It was only later that I would learn the value of preparation and would realize that , indeed, more was not only possible, but inevitable.