Thursday, April 23, 2015

Again to Carthage and the Race to Robie Creek

I've considered whether or not to resurrect this blog over the last six months.  Updating a running blog when one is not running is obviously pointless.  I also have always struggled with how I perceive things of this nature.  Everyone and their mothers has a blog, and the truth is, I don't spend time perusing other blogs out there.  There is something very self-indulgent in this practice that has always bothered me.  To put my thoughts and training out there...there is a significant degree of narcissism involved.  I am not doing anything special, I can assure you.  I'm just another over-educated, white-collar, white American male with some spare time and disposable income who chooses to spend that time and money running around in small shorts like a dork.

The thing that truly bothers me with social media is how people choose to portray themselves online.  As one delves into Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, one finds a smorgasbord of running selfies, before-and-after pictures of fitness progress achieved through crash diets (juice cleanses are hogwash, folks.  Eat real food), insane cross-fit workouts, and of course pictures of the strange and inventive (to say the least) things people eat as part of their "healthy" diets (as an anthropologist, nothing drives me more crazy than the "paleo-diet".  Also bullshit).  The issue I have with this culture is that it is 100% wrapped up in vanity.  I myself am certainly not innocent.  Of course you want to take a picture of the cool place you ran so Grandma and Uncle Carl can like it on Facebook (and your crazy ex-whatever can stew when they cyber-stalk you about how good you look and how much fun you are having without them).  But it goes beyond that.  I get the impression that a lot of people out there run because they feel they have to in order to look good, or to look how society et al. has determined we should all look.  It is nothing more than a means to an end.  And while there is certainly nothing wrong with people improving in whatever form or fashion they deem fit, especially if it makes them feel better about themselves, that type of running is often fueled by negativity.  Be happy with how and what you are.  If you hate running and are only doing it to meet some bullshit societal standard, then don't run.  Do something else you may enjoy more.  

Running is not something to ever be taken for granted.  After 17 years of running being part of my lifestyle (and at certain points, my life period), I have come to a place where it's something I do for me.  For my sanity.  Because I love it.  I appreciate the health benefits it provides, and I'm sure I will only appreciate them more as I get older.  But it has never been about looking good or pursuing health.  I started running as a teenager because I enjoyed the sensation I received from it.  I fell in love with the pain one encounters when pushing to the edge; the ragged breath, the cramping muscles, the stinging sweat, the tunnel vision.  And it's fucking fun to win races (there, I said it).  I still to this day get a kick out of that sensation: running to the top of a hill and looking back over the view, tooling around the Greenbelt next to the river, dropping the hammer at the end of a race and feeling that speed.  It's not as fast as it used to be, but it still sure is damn fun.  In essence, running is the thing that, now that I am an adult in an adult world with adult responsibilities, keeps me connected to my youth.  In some ways maybe to my childhood.  There is a freedom and innocence and simplicity to it that I absolutely cherish.

All told, this blog was never about sharing my experiences with others.  I am much too introverted for that to be the case (though a public blog, which lacks actual face-to-face interaction and confrontation, is a good way for introverts to express themselves).  I started this blog over four years ago as a way for me to track my training and experiences for myself.  Part training log, part journal. In a post-collegiate world, with no coach and no teammates, it became my source of accountability.  If I slacked off, it would show up on these pages.  And I would have no one to answer to but myself.  

Training gets harder every year.  To gear up for workouts, races, is tedious.  To pencil training into a schedule of full-time career, fieldwork, a marriage, kids (ahaha! I don't have kids), is difficult to say the least.  But I do still truly enjoy it.  It's that sensation that keeps me coming back.

I spent the latter half of last year healing my achilles, doing fieldwork, and indulging in all that the holiday season has to offer (mostly pie and beer).  I have been in the office more lately which has allowed the opportunity to focus more on getting in some training in preparation for a little racing.  The big one I was interested in is the Race to Robie Creek.  Now in its 38th year, this race is billed as the toughest half-marathon in the northwest.  Leaving Military Reserve on the edge of the foothills, it climbs its way up Shaw Mountain Road, topping off 8.5 miles and 2000 feet later before rapidly descending down into Robie Creek Park.  Every year there is a different theme and participants are encouraged to dress up and party while they run.  The race sells out in a matter of minutes, with 2300 people toeing the line on race day.  The fanfare and spectacle involved reminded me of a smaller version of the Bolder Boulder.

First race in a long time.  Again to Carthage.
This year's theme was "The Running of the Toads," celebrating all things Basque.  Boise has a strong Basque population, including our mayor, and the theme made for a fun starting line and course with people lining the road out of town and at the finish.  Basque music and dancing and "bulls" saw us off from the start at high noon (not sure why so late).  The first couple of miles are paved but do climb up and over the first ridge outside of town before dropping down to cross Cottonwood Creek, marking the beginning of the real ascent.  

By Cottonwood Creek, I had moved into sixth or seventh overall and was content to find the groove and simply get to the top as efficiently as possible.  That's essentially the extent of the climb.  Nothing exciting happened.  I got passed by a couple of other runners.  It started to get very warm in the canyon, so I ran through the aid stations content to douse myself with the water they provided.  The last mile to the summit is far and away the steepest.  I went from running 6:05/mile out of town to a 9:25 leading to the summit.  The climb reminded me of Pilot Hill.  They are similar in distance and elevation gain, with the last mile being the hardest.  Hell, I crested the top in 1:03, which I believe is right around how fast I summited Pilot Hill last year.

Once over the summit, I was looking forward to letting gravity take charge and get back to my strengths, namely running downhill fast.  I bombed down after a couple runners I could see in front of me, clipping off mile 9 in 5:22.  I settled down to 5:38 for mile 10 while I reeled in two guys in front of me.  I was not the only one feeling good at that point, and another guy came up on me.  We jockeyed back and forth for over mile 11 before the steepness, speed, and heat hit my legs like a ton of bricks.  I slowed over the last mile, managing a 6:13, and got passed by a couple guys at the end.  I was eyeing my watch, wondering if I was going to break 1:30 or not.  Going in, I figured 1:30 would be a good goal time.  I mustered a half-hearted kick to finish 12th in 1:30:16.  

Gora! Gora!
For my first Robie, and on six weeks training, I'm happy with the result.  I spent a lot of time training for the uphill, and while I felt strong on that, I could tell I am lacking some speed and could stand to work on my downhills.  Elizabeth and I signed up for the River of No Return 50K in June, so I will work on some tempo, extending my long runs, and maybe a little more downhill work to go with the climbing.  The great thing about Boise is the proximity to a fantastic network of trails in the foothills.  Lots of vert and hot summer temps will hopefully help me work on my two biggest weaknesses.  Heat and climbing.