Seebo's Run

A running commentary on my training and whatever else emerges from that.

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Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Rock N Roll Half Marathon . . .

If the race doesn't kick your ass, a swim in the ocean will. ~KF

Actually it was more a weekend than a race, and more of a roadtrip than a weekend. Me, M and KF loaded the cd caddy with music and took off for my sister's (who lives in the DC area) on Friday afternoon, making it down there by the evening where we cooked out and hung out until we were at the far edge of what a prudent bedtime might be two days before the race. We continued our trip on Saturday afternoon on Route 17 through the heart of Virginia, passing by gas stations where prices fluctuated from $2.89 to $3.59. We pulled into the Expo by about 4 and made it onto the beach by about 5. Virginia Beach is at the same time one of Virginia's largest cities and a highly scrubbed beach town. In addition to the race, which would attract about 18,000 participants, there was a music festival going on with such faves as Hootie and the Blowfish, Leann Rimes, Journey and (my favorite) Ted Nugent. We took in Leann (that night's headliner), who performed on a stage on the beach, for about 15 minutes, took a walk down the boardwalk (which is actually made of concrete), and then headed up the road to Norfolk where we had our roach motel reservation.

We got up at 4:30 am, ostensibly to make it in plenty of time to the parking for the shuttle bus to the start. The brochure said there would be plenty of parking, what they didn't say is that the volunteers would be inexplicably slow and anal in directing the cars into the lot. To make a long story short, we sat in traffic to get in to the parking for a long enough time so that we had just enough time to take the shuttle bus and get to the starting area so that we could throw our stuff onto the gear trucks as they were closing up and get to our corral by mid national anthem. And we were by no means the last people to get to the start.

Having barely finished that race, the rest was an anticlimax. I conservatively set out to do 6 minute miles and passed mile 3 at exactly 18 minutes. From that point on I spent the race picking off people one by one who were ahead of me (I would not get passed by anyone after this point) while trying in vain to get a sub 6 minute mile split. Some were close, right at 6 minutes, others, such as mile 10, were into a strong headwind and slowed me down to 6:15. A side stitch at mile 11 put a damper on any hopes of a strong finish and I came in at 1:19:40, good enough for a top 100 finish but slower than I had hoped. KF came in less than a minute behind me.

The course was flat and fast, weather a bit on the warm and windy side but not bad, and the race organizers did their best to make the runners forget that they were actually running by lining the course with bands and cheerleaders and the like. Much of that gets lost on me, as I am one of the apparent few who focuses on the race. But I do remember giving the thumbs up to a whole cadre of really ugly overweight middle aged men dressed as cheerleaders that provided a welcome antidote to cheerleaders of the freshly scrubbed high school variety that lined much of the course and who for some reason kept shouting out how proud of us they were. There was an encampment of people in a camouflage tent, a la Cindy Sheehan, with pro war signs who probably didn't take too kindly to my shouting "bring em all home" as I ran by. But other than that the race was a dreary succession of 6 minute miles.

The race ends right by the beach, where we went through the usual post-race rituals and met up with M and then proceeded to jump in the ocean. The surf was rough enough for the lifeguards to post red flags and the waves pounding already wobbly legs was enough to wipe me out several times. The rest of the day was a succession of eating, trying to catch naps out of the sun, more swimming and then, in the evening, of listening to Journey and eating turkey legs. Journey was the headliner of my first big concert when I was 14, and its safe to say that much has changed since then, including my musical tastes. M and KF enjoyed it however, so we stayed for most of the concert and then drove halfway across Virginia again to get back to my sisters house at about 2am.

So I can say the day started with a race, ended with a marathon, with the R&R half sandwiched in the middle.

Reading this over again, I seem to hit more of a negative tone than I actually feel, for on road trips like this the highlights are in the little things that happen along the way, in the camraderie of fellow travellers, the little in-jokes and other intangibles that are difficult to describe. And the realization that, as I get older, the opportunity for such trips get fewer and farther between. In that I feel that I'm passing the torch on to M, who at 14 hopefully has a lifetime full of these kind of trips ahead of her. Bottom line was we all agreed to do it the right way next year, with a 2 night reservation for hotel on the beach within walking distance of the concerts and within warmup distance of the starting line where M can watch cable tv while we race and we don't have to worry about hotel security as we try to cop a few z's on their well manicured shady lawns. We'll bring the rest of the family and hopefully some other folks as well, and keep talking about how it was more fun the first time around.


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