Rewinding a bit, it was great to be back in Dallas for a race. Way back in 2008 when I was a newlywed, my in-laws braved freezing 20-something temps to crew for me at that year's disastrous version of the Ultracentric. Looking back at the photos of that race makes me realize both that I was beyond lucky to have their support, and also that there's no way they would have allowed me to marry their daughter if the sub-freezing insanity of that race had come before our wedding earlier that year. "...Excuse me, Pastor, can we just skip to the 'Does anyone object' part to save us all a little time. Some of us are double-parked."
...but 2012 was a new year. I'm older, wiser, a father, and have Jupiter's number on my cell phone to call in any weather-related wishes I may have for a race. Ok, maybe that last part was a lie...I'm not actually Facebook friends with any Roman gods, but lucky for all of us running this year's race, no godly influence was needed - The weather was pretty darn sweet for running 24 hours. Sure there was a little cold and wind, but really, who's going to complain about that after suffering through months of swamp air and 100 degree temps all summer? Not me. Not Jeffy either. (....the 8 of you out there who are both fans of the Family Circus comic strip and also know that my brother in-law/crew master is named Jeff now think I'm the funniest person in the world.)
So, wrapping up the pre-24HR-amble here: I was so very happy to be running my first real race in over a year, happy to have great weather, and happy/lucky to have a huuuge crew of the aforementioned Jeff, my parents, and my uncle Rich. Awesome. Now let's get running!
Right from the start I linked up with Sabrina Little to say 'Hello' and trade pumpkin recipes. It took about 2 hours before I figured I should let her focus on actual running, so I pulled off for a quick stretch break at that point. She was quickly off doing her American-Record-Ability-Thing while I settled into my routine of alternately running relaxed and easy for 6-12 miles at a time and dealing with my cramping Mr. Roboto legs. No domo arigato, hamstrings, no domo.
|Chatting with Sabrina early on...future friends Mike P. and "Awesome" Dave also captured here. More on them later. Photo: Sabrina Little|
|Chasing down Sabrina in the first lap to start chatting her ear off. ...also appreciating that lady's sweet pink-patterned coat on the right there.|
|Still appreciating that lady's coat, but also telling my crew (who were off to the side) that they should cheer for Sabrina all day/night too...and not just because we apparently have the exact same push-off angle on our left foot.|
|...showing off her cool tablet stopwatch that recorded all my splits, my mom!|
As the miles added up and hours slipped on by, I realized the combination of my current level of fitness and the course itself were not going to yield a 150 mile finish for me. I think the best way to describe the course is to call it "rough". The whole thing is somewhat of a nice balance of rolling hills, which definitely require work on the ups but also give you the instant reward of the subsequent downs. The real challenge for me, however, was the actual condition of the pavement. Not unlike Pauly Shore, its moment has long passed...and unless hipsters find it ironically cool to start repaving ultra courses the same way their homemade t-shirts and spray-paint tags can resurrect the careers of those like Mr. Shore, this course saw its best days years ago. All kidding aside, if the course was resurfaced, I would definitely come back to run again. I actually enjoy 24 hour courses with a few small hills mixed in...working a different set of muscles every so often is a good thing in my mind.
|One of many rub-downs from my dad overnight|
Naturally, my plan to "take it easy" the rest of the way was complicated by some dude (Mike Petruso) positively flying around the track at that point. With the official timing/results people gone for 8 hours overnight, I had no clue how close he was to me, but he was moving fast enough that I knew I needed to get my butt in gear to keep pace with him. We linked up with 6 hours to go in the race, and as it turned out, I had the most fun I've ever had running a race over that time as we stuck together until the end. The beauty of those 6 hours of our working together is we picked up a bunch of other people along the way for various stretches. Since I had a 10 mile lead, our #1 goal was to make sure Mike won the 2nd place $$, but all sorts of other fun goals popped up along the way too as we helped more than a couple people reach their PRs (one of over 100 miles!) by pulling them into our group.
The third pilgrim in our Chaucer-like group of travelers was a man so cool no one name is good enough for him. Sure, his legal name is Dave, but we alternately called him "Awesome Dave" and "Big Mike" throughout the night. Of the many stories I could tell you about him, here's the one thing you need to know about Awesome Dave:
Shortly after I started running with Mike, he told me Dave was running great with him earlier in the day, but had been sleeping in his nice warm truck on the side of the course for the previous 3+ hours. Upon hearing that, I said, "Well let's get him back out here!", and proceeded to knock on his window and shine my headlamp in his face the next time we passed his truck. "Dave! Wake up! Get back out here and run with us!". Now, the normal human response to having a complete stranger wake you up in such a jolting manner at 3:00 a.m. would be to do anything other than what Awesome Dave did. Rather than yelling at us or rolling over and going back to sleep, in about 4 second's time Awesome Dave focused his sleepy eyes on us, processed what we were yelling at him, and happily said, "Ok!". Sure, he had one glove on, and maybe an untied shoe, but he jumped right out and joined us. It was possibly the highlight of my running career right there....and not just because he didn't punch me in the face for waking him from his happy slumber.
In the end, all went as planned for our Canterbury crew. I grabbed the big $$ for first, Mike did the same for 2nd, and we even got Awesome Dave to a 90 mile PR distance by the end.
|Oh, one more shot of the same scene, zoomed out just enough to show my sexy duct-taped legs. It's going to be all the rage on the Paris runways come Spring, trust me.|
Oh, and one last shout out to the good folks at Drymax for their continued support. Not only did I once again walk away from a 24HR race with blister-free feet, but their USA flag socks have now won me two races...I think that officially qualifies them a "Lucky Socks"!