Back to road racing

Oh yeah, I remember road racing. It’s actually kind of fun, now and then.

I haven’t done much of it lately, but I had a good 10K race this morning. It was my first road race in nearly a year, and my first 10K in more than two years.

Just to be clear: trails are still God’s gift to the world. But roads have a place, too, especially for speedwork.

This race was something called the Crossroads of America 30K. It had three distance options: 30K, 10K and 5K. Most of the runners were doing the 30K, trying to get their last licks in before a fall marathon.

I would have signed up for the 30K too, but I just didn’t have time to spare. I had a busy morning.  So I had to settle for a 10K.

The course was nice: quiet roads on a Sunday morning in the heart of downtown and the university district.

It started at the IUPUI campus, then wound along the White River, past the zoo, through downtown, around Memorial Circle, a bit through Old Lockerbie, and back across downtown to the finish line at Carroll Track and Field Stadium.

So we got an eyeful of city landmarks. And I got a big ole heaping of endorphins that lasted me for hours.

My time was 46:48, for an average pace of 7:33 a mile. That’s not speedy, but faster than I was expecting, because I haven’t been doing much serious speedwork in recent months. In fact, I consider this race to be the start of my speed training for the fall and winter.

In the 10K division, I finished third out of eight in my age group (male, 50-54) and 16th out of 127 overall.

A few frriends of mine ran the 30K, which had a bigger field, 190 runners. One is training for a marathon in Ireland next month, and another is training for the Marine Corps Marathon.

I also ran into Steve, a greyhound and very friendly guy I’ve run with once or twice, but haven’t seen in a few years. I knew he would tear up the course and he did, finishing with a 6:36 pace in the 30K, finishing sixth overall.

The 5K race had a tiny field, 34 runners, and I didn’t recognize any of them. They started 20 minutes after the 30/10 K crowd, and presumably finished before us.

The only fly in the ointment was near the end. After the 30K and 10K split up at mile five, my field suddenly shrunk way down, and I was the only runner in sight. I guess others were way ahead and way behind. I didn’t know the course. Luckily, there were arrows and signs at many of the turns, but not all.which way

In the last quarter mile, I came to an intersection and had no clue which way to go. There was a traffic cop at the intersection, but she was talking to another cop, who was in his car.

“Which way?” I yelled. She stood up, looked at me like I had three heads. I shouted again, running straight through the intersection. “No, turn left for the 10K,” she called back. I stopped, and turned, wasting about five seconds. But I wasn’t that close to a PR (my PR for the 10K is 45:30) so it didn’t make much difference, I suppose.

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The whole weekend has had a running motif, so to speak. I started Saturday with a nice and easy trail run at Fort Ben, by myself. The weather was perfect, crisp and cool. I enjoyed about five miles of trails.

Then came home and cleaned up in a hurry, and the family headed up to Lafayette to watch Steven run in a cross-country meet on a very tough, hilly course. Steven ran well. Of course, it was gratifying to see him dig down near the finish line.

Then on the drive home, I was thinking about all my friends from Ohio who were running the Akron Marathon, and wishing I were there with them.  That got me thinking about new goals, including a big one for next year. I have it in mind, but I don’t want to say anything yet. I’ll sleep on it for a few days.

This morning, even though I had a busy day ahead, I bounced out of bed, determined to run this 10Krace, even though it required a lot of scrambling. I’m glad I did.

Then for the nightcap, I plan to watch episode one of Ken Burns’ documentary on national parks at 8 p.m. on PBS. How could Trail Boy miss a show like that? It just wouldn’t happen.

Hey, I might go soft now and then, and run a road race. But trails and parks are the major reason for getting up in the morning. Or for kicking back with a TV special at night.

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