Tuesday, August 24, 2010

2010 Spring Mill Athletic Ivyland 5k (The Pancake Race)

I just looked at my running history and I had a 'I had no idea' moment.  You see, this past Saturday, on August 21, 2010, I ran the Spring Mill Athletic Ivyland 5k.  Every year, I try to run this race as it was the first one I ever did on my long list of races through the years (ok, I DID run in 3.5 mile Corporate Challenges in New York City in the late '80s/early '90s but my 'training' would be running for about a month before the event).  What I was looking up was, what was the year of that first race I did?  Guessing 2005?  No, that doesn't seem right.  I was close.  It was 2001.  Wow.  Almost 10 years of entering races.   That was two age groups ago.

Ivyland, Pennsylvania is the smallest borough in Bucks County with a land area of .3 square miles and a population of less than 500 (according to the 2000 census).  Even though it's tiny, it is steeped in history from signers of the Declaration of Independence from the area to NASA lunar astronauts training at the Johnsville Naval Station only a few miles from the course. 

Of course, the other reason to run this race are the pancakes after the race.  The race is associated with the local peach festival and it's origin was to promote that event.  But, the race has taken on a life of it's own as, locally, it's known as the pancake race.  The local firefighters will serve you a helping of pancakes along with coffee, orange juice and peaches.  (Winners of the age groups got spatulas for their own pancake races.)  When I ran the first time, some 9 years ago, I thought ALL races would be serving up pancakes.  I was disappointed in my next race when I got a few brouchures but nothing to eat!  With the T-shirt, you get all of this for a very reasonably priced entry fee of $15.  Seriously, I love this race.

My race report will be short.  I ran slow.  Slowest I've ever run this race.  But, in truth, I didn't want to push myself.  Officially, I ran the race in 27:59 (I question that official time as I know I was past the finish line and clock at 27:56.  Won't squabble over three seconds) .  First mile, is through the town of Ivyland and a small housing development which I ran in about 8:45.  The second mile, geez, that's the killer.  Seriously, it is all uphill except maybe 100 yards at the top. It's not a steep hill but it just doesn't quit.  Looking at my Garmin, I did that second mile around 9:15.  The third mile?  Well, you know the hill I was just talking about?  You go down it, through the housing development and a few blocks into 'downtown' Ivyland.  For some reason, I almost think that downhill is tougher than the uphill.  You want to shift into high gear there but, every year, I still thinking I'm recovering from that uphill and get stuck in neutral.  

My time was almost 2 minutes faster than my previous 5k I ran in early July.  Of course, that race was run on Wednesday night with temperatures reaching 97 degrees (F).  I felt good about this race.  I don't have my game face on this year.  Slowly but surely, I'm getting there.  It will all click together I'm sure.  And, when it does, watch out Eric and Chief.  I'll be gunnin' for ya!

Side note to this event---The race was on Saturday but you can go and register in person on Friday night, which I did.  As I handed in my registration, the event director looked at my name and said, 'You're Steve Runner's friend, aren't you?'  There is no use denying it so I said yes, I am.  Her son was with her and she said, 'we both listen to his show.  We enjoy it so much.  Especially, when he beat you in that race!!!!  That was so funny.'  That race, to this day, haunts me personally and will forever haunt me while the internet is still alive!  But, her son turned to me and said, 'his show has changed a lot recently.  He's more mellow now.  I liked it better when he was more self-absorbed.'  I had to laugh.  What a smart kid he is!!!!  :-)  Steve was invited to do a podcast report in a future race.  Luckily, Steve likes pancakes so it shouldn't be too hard to get him here.   

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thoughts from a Grumpy Old Man

This posting has nothing to do with running but, I have a place to rant, so why not? 

I have found a problem with social media.  It doesn't lend itself to debate.  The art of conversation and true discussion is lost.  And, the world and it's people can only tolerate 10 seconds sound bites or short quips to make their point.  For example, I have a friend who showed a clip of a movie whose subject is about the United States increasing national deficit on his Facebook page.  If you have ever seen a Michael Moore movie, well, let's just say it is an anti-Michael Moore film. 

I commented basically saying that, 'I understand people's concern over the deficit and how this will affect people's grandchildren but didn't Ronald Reagan increase our national deficit at an alarming rate as well and people thought the world was coming to an end then?   Politicians always seem to use the national debt as part of scare tactics.'  Strip all the politics aside, I was really interested in finding out if the two eras were similar or different.  But the answers to my comment was basically, 'well, Obama is a poopy-head'.  Sigh.  This is helpful?

The world of media, my first love growing up, has changed so drastically since I was young.  There is more concern about Lindsay Lohan's prison time than flooding in Pakistan.  News commentators are considered 'real' when they are nothing more than entertainers.  All of them.  And, to paraphrase Allen Iverson, 'Mosques?  We're talking about mosques?'  Really?  Does it truly show how patriotic you are if you take one side or another?   Where are we getting our information from and should we really trust it anymore?

Below are links to three articles I recently read voicing my frustration over the world we live in.  It is sad we cannot compromise and find solutions without looking like we are 'caving in' to the other side.  I hope people realize the way media (social, mainstream, seems to be all.) is set up now, we are all lemurs jumping off cliffs when they tell us so.  My suggestion is to find alternatives to Fox, msnbc, CNN because they will just scare you to death.  But only if it increases their ratings.

Who decides the News?  by Kara Miller

August:  The Media's Silly Season by Mark Leccese

Consideration seems a relic of the past by Joanna Malloy

Friday, August 13, 2010

Just Another Day on the Lake

It's been awhile since I ran around Lake Galena.  Not run AT Lake Galena, which I do most every week with my wife.  But, run AROUND Lake Galena, which is an approximately 6 mile run.  However, hints of autumn are in the air, which means it soon will be winter, which means getting out for a 6pm run on a weeknight in an area that doesn't have street lights will soon be a thing of the 2010 past.  It was time.  The Blue Dawgs needed to meet at the lake for a weeknight run even though the furthest I've been going is about 4 miles and the temps were in the 90's (F).  No matter.  I'll go as far as I can then walk/run the rest.  It will be a fun evening.

Of course, lots of the Blue Dawgs are vacationing now so Eric, Mark, and myself met up in the usual parking lot by the boat house where you can rent a boat and enjoy a relaxing time drifting, paddling, kayaking, fishing on the lake. 

We started off talking amongst ourselves for the first mile.  After the first mile, Eric (whom, we believe, discovered the Fountain of Youth as he is kicking Chief's and my butt all over the place this year) picked up the pace and started to pull ahead.  Mark and I ran together for the next mile until we got to the Nature Center and I had to run in and get a drink of water.  At the Nature Center is the beginning of the only real hill around the lake.  But, the real hill is over a half mile in length at a 8 percent grade.  On a hot, muggy night, I needed to take a short break before tackling it.  So, Mark continued on while I ducked in the Nature Center to the water fountain.

I knew I was not going to run the entire four miles left out there.  I knew that going into the run that night.  So, I ran when I felt like, walked when I felt like but only to take a break from the humidity. 

Along the way, I saw four teenage boys goofing around on a rowboat.  Three were sitting down, one was standing up rocking the boat.  The three sitting were calling the guy standing 'George Washington' in reference to the Emanuel Leutze's famous painting of 'Washington Crossing the Delaware'.  And, of course, none of them had lifejackets on.  This, I thought, was a recipe for disaster.

As I was finishing up the run, legs now heavy, probably more from my insistence of not bringing along water on a 6 mile run rather than being THAT out of shape, I looked to the lake and saw people swimming in the lake.  'That's strange', I thought.  'I don't remember ever seeing anyone swimming in the lake before.  Must be for an open swim class.  But, at 7 o'clock at night?'  That's when I heard the first cries of help.

Now, I'm a male and, at one time, was a teenage boy (long, long time ago) so I am guilty as of anyone horsing around.  So, when the first cries of help went out, I was a bit skeptical.  But, the cries of help following sounded more sincere.  And, more panicky.  And, there was a flipped over boat in the middle of them.  Oh, boy.

A group of girls, whom we first saw running ahead of us when we started out and I assumed were from a local high school cross country team, went towards the boys in the lake.  Their coach, ran up towards me saying, 'I'm calling 911.'  I thought about jumping in the lake but was afraid my legs would cramp up before I could get out to them.  They didn't seem to be in immediate danger as they were treading water and no one seemed to be struggling only scared.  So, I jumped in my car and headed for the park ranger station.  Along the way, Mark and Eric, who were sitting at a bench unaware of the situation before I told them ,went down to the lake to see if they could help.  The ranger station is about a mile away, and, unfortunately, no one was there.  So, back to the spot to see if there was anything I could do. 

By the time I got back, there was a motorboat out on the water with the boys in the boat.  Then the police arrived.  Then, the EMT.  Then, the fire truck.  All because they were goofing around.

Now, I am glad no one got hurt.  Really, I am.  And, there were some scary moments.  But....

How stupid of them to do it in the first place?  Maybe it's because it's been so many years since I was a teenage boy but I don't ever remember goofing around so much and taking that type of risk.  I'm not saying I never went out on a boat without a life jacket but I knew I was capable of swimming to shore in an emergency.   To bring out the police, emergency squads and fire trucks.  Never, ever did I do something THAT stupid.  I don't know if they broke any laws but stupidity should be against the law and they should have had the book thrown at them.   Not only did they put themselves at risk, but those trying to help alogn with the emergency teams to help save them.  UGH!!!!!  I didn't stick around to find out what happened to them but the police were still there and they hadn't left yet so I'm guessing they were none to happy about it either.

I'm hoping my next run around the lake won't be so eventful.

Notes:  Good luck to the Falmouth Road Race runners on Sunday.  I was lucky to have run this race so many times in the past and it was always a great time hanging out with SteveRunner for the weekend.  It was part of the summer I looked forward to.  The day will come when we can renew our rivalry once again.  In the meantime, I've been wanting to see Paul McCartney in concert forever.  This weekend, I will get my chance. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Cost of Running

For the past few years, I have run around 14 races a year.  And, like most years, I didn't realize I raced that many times until after the year was up and I entered them in my Excel spreadsheet.  And, I wondered, how much did that cost me to run those races?

In truth, I budgeted for those races so it didn't hurt me economically.  And, for some of the local big races (Broad Street Run, Philadelphia Distance Run, for example), I was part of a corporate team so my company paid my entry fee.  But, in these times, the corporation has decided to not to field a team for those events.  And, my situation has changed a bit, so that most races are becoming a luxury item for me. 

But, even if it hadn't, is a 5k really worth $25-35 entry fee?  Is a half marathon or marathon worth over a hundred dollars?   I guess, it depends.

I would say I would be in the distinct majority saying that races have become too expensive.  But, most people will complain, hold their nose and pay the entry fee anyway.  I have yet come across a race that participation is lower than the year before.  And, like any good business, the race charges as much as the people are willing to pay.  And, still they come.  To paraphrase my favorite Yogi Berra quote, people stopped going because it gets too crowded. 

What would be worth giving up?  A tech shirt?  A medal?  Less water stops?  A free meal after the race?  Those things, as you might guess, cost money.  And, people want that cool tech shirt and that cool medal and that meal after the race.  Don't they?

Races aren't just run on their own, so to speak.  They have to compete with other races for your attention.  In some instances, they have become a tourist destination.  In more local terms (much more local), they are a social gathering. 

But, this year, I had to step back and ask myself is what I'm getting out of the race really worth the entry fee?  Afterall, you can run a 5k, 10k, half marathon, heck, even a marathon for free.  And, in truth, there was one particular race last year that was a light bulb moment for me.

I happened to be in San Francisco in December on business last year.  And, the local running club held a 4 mile race in the shadows of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Near Fisherman's Wharf.  With no official numbers.  Just tags identifying the runners.  And no T-shirts.  Unless you wanted to purchase them separately.  And we ran on the sidewalk. No local cops blocking the streets.   Early enough that it wasn't too crowded.  And, you ran two miles until you saw the chalk mark on the sidewalk telling you to turn around.  And, I got a ribbon for finishing the race.  I was timed by an official looking clock.  And, it cost me $5 for the whole experience. 

Granted, the race was in San Francisco and if it was any place else, I'm not too sure I wouldn't be complaining rather than praising.  But, I started to wonder, did I have any less fun in this race than one with all the bling?

So, this year, intentionally or unintentionally, I began to look for inexpensive races or no races at all.  I will tell you that I do miss running races every few weeks.  It helps in motivating me getting out the door to train.  And, in the future, I do intend to make a fall or spring race a tourist destination either for myself or with friends.  But, for now, my wardrobe will suffer as I won't be able to update to too many of this year's fashions.