Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rudolph running...

I love Christmas lights! They seem to add warmth to the chillier air of late fall. They make me want to smile. How could I possibly turn down the opportunity to enter a 5K that takes its participants through more than a mile of the sparkling beauties?

The annual Rudolph Run, put on by the Skyline After Prom Committee, is just such a race. It takes in the lights of Main Street and the amazing displays in Lemon Park and Sixth Street Park. It has a small town Christmasy feel to it and its a fun course to run.

I left the house on foot at 6:00 to put in a mile or two of warm up. I ran this way and that, turning each time on a whim. About a mile in, I started adding in block long sprints followed by two or three at a slightly slower pace. I did that three or four times and then did a full two block sprint. My intervals done, I made my way to the Municipal Building where the race was scheduled to start. (garmin data)

The start of the 2012 Rudolph Run
As I was about to step into the Municipal Building to pick up my race packet, a couple of middle schoolers saw me and yelled, "There's the winner of the race!" I laughed. "Maybe if it was 50 miles," I shot back. I knew there were teens there that were going to be way faster than me. I was aiming for first old guy and from the looks of some of the older looking gentlemen standing around, I'd have my work cut out for me getting that done. I walked up to the table, received my packet and began to drip all over everything as I pinned on my number - 18. My warm up had been pretty effective and I was sweating like crazy.

With my number in place, I headed for the restroom. After things were taken care of there, I went back outside and chatted with a few of the runners who were doing pre-race stretches. I met a guy who had driven all the way from Fowler to run.

Just before 7:00, the race director came out of the building and walked us to the starting line. She gave her last minute instructions and talked us through the course. I didn't pay a lot of attention since I designed the course, but I was awake enough to notice when she gave one small bit of misinformation. I corrected it so out-of-town runners wouldn't get lost. She ended her speech with a thank you to everyone who had come. The field was much larger than the year before.

On the first green light after 7:00, the commands came. "Ready. Set. Go!" The first few blocks of the race were insane. There were tons of kids running at a pace they couldn't possibly hold. I wove in and out of them, trying not to trip. I ran for a short time by a 20- or 30-something guy who said this was his third race of the day. He'd run in Wichita's Jingle Bell Run and in Kingman's race earlier. His plan was just to survive this final race of the day. I ran on without him when a break in the traffic opened up.

At El Dos de Oros, I ran out into the street. The sidewalk from there on down to Santa Fe is just took unpredictable. I preferred the relative smoothness of Main Street's bricks to the dips and cracks. It was about this time that the tall, thin, silvery-haired gentleman who I'd pegged as my chief competition in the "first old guy" contest caught up with me. He settled into to the same rhythm and pace as I was running and we began to chat. Bob was from Medicine Lodge and had come up to run with his foster daughter. She was somewhere behind us.

Bob and I ran most of the rest of the race together. We passed a couple of people much younger than us as we ran down Santa Fe and turned into Lemon Park. In the park as we ran through the light displays, we passed the time talking and weaving in and out of the runners we were overtaking. This was the most enjoyable time in the race. I felt good and had good company. We both enjoyed the light of my Knuckle Lights which helped us choose our footing in the spaces between light displays.

Finishing strong
Leaving the park, we passed two middle schoolers and ran on to Sixth Street Park. My daughters were at the entrance to the park, cheering people on and making sure they didn't miss the turn. They yelled wildly as Bob and I ran past them. The 12 days of Christmas were all lit up as we wound our way through the park.

Before we left the park, I warned Bob that the worst of the hills was just around the corner and then we took the corner. The hill on Haskell isn't a hill by most standards, but for Pratt, Kansas, its a descent climb. We relaxed our way up it, maintaining our rhythm and slowing just a little. As we crested, I felt pretty miserable. I'd come pretty close to my red line and needed a minute or two to recover.

Two turns after leaving Haskell and we were on the home stretch, running down Second Street. About a block into this section of the run, one of the middle schoolers we'd passed leaving Lemon Park caught us. I was tempted to go with him and see what I could do, but I thought better of it. It was a venture doomed to almost certain failure. The pace I was running was good enough for me. Bob and I ran on, taking the downhill at the Lutheran Church and then running back up and into the business district.

At Main, we turned onto the sidewalk. With less than a block to go and people yelling for me, I kicked in the afterburners and surged ahead of Bob. I crossed the line and stopped the clock at 24:03. Bob finished four seconds later. I was first old guy! (garmin data)

It took two or three minutes to catch my breath and get my heart back under control after my closing sprint. When I was sure I wouldn't collapse, I reset my Garmin and ran back along the course to find my wife. I'd said I'd come back for her and she'd made me promise to come more quickly than I did the year before.

Nearing the finish with my wife
As I ran easily back along the course, I did my best to encourage the runners nearing the end. I'd shout out the distance they had left and yell a loud Woohoo!

I ran all the way along Second Street and turned south on Rochester before I found my wife. I turned around and ran and walked back to the finish line with her. Her pace the whole way did my legs good and let my muscles cool nicely. She crossed the finish line just under 38 minutes after starting. (garmin data)

The running done, all that was left to do was to walk over the Municipal Building and grab something to drink and a snack. We waited around till the awards ceremony. Of the top six finishers - three male, three female - only one of them could accept their prize. The rest were high schoolers who couldn't take anything without being disqualified from participating in sports at school. The organizers ended up donating the prizes to the schools the kids were from.

The formalities out of the way, my family and I loaded into our van and drove home. Can't wait till next year's race!
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