Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Running with the Smelt

I can't believe I haven't used that title before. The clever title is the only reason I am allowing myself to write about the suckfest that was Saturday's 10K up in LaConner. (It was called the Smelt Run.) I don't even have any pictures from this run (which is highly unusual for a vain narcissist such as myself), since I haven't yet located my camera and it didn't seem worth the effort to set my mother up with my cell phone camera.

I am sensing this post is taking a negative tone. That really wasn't my intention. Doing a 10K right now was important to me, as I am about two weeks away from the Bath Half Marathon and the occasional race is the only speed work I am doing these days. That may explain why I wasn't able to accomplish any speed, to speak of, in the race itself!

So Saturday morning I picked up my mom and dad at their house and we headed northward to LaConner. LaConner is one of the few towns in Northwest Washington that can be labeled "charming" or "quaint."* One of their quaint, if not charming, traditions is an annual Smelt Derby, which includes a smelt fishing contest, pancake breakfast, and a 5K & 10K run. I'm not particularly interested in smelt fishing** and I don't need to eat pancakes,*** but for the last few years I've participated in the 10K Smelt Run.

The weather was okay, a little bit cold but not too cold, and dry, thankfully. When we got up to LaConner I stopped briefly at the school where the race began to pick up my number, then parked the car in town so we'd be closer to the Calico Cupboard for lunch after the run.

I did my warm-up by running through town, back to the middle school, into town again, etc. I stopped at the public restroom on First Street, then later at another conveniently located facility on Morris Street. (I also used a bathroom at the school just before the race, and I had no line in any of those locations!) My mother told me that my legs looked light as I jogged past her car, and, in fact, I did feel pretty good.

At 10 a.m. we all gathered around the start line (literally a line on the road), and even though this was not chipped, it didn't matter because I crossed the start line within a couple of seconds. We ran down Morris Street into town, then through town before going out onto the flats. I saw my dad watching from a corner on Morris, and I could tell from his searching expression that he didn't see me. So I yelled "hey Dad" as I passed him, and waved. My mother was still in the car parked on First Street, and I dropped my balled-up gloves**** on her windshield as I passed.

There are a few hills within the town of LaConner, and we ran up and back down a short, rather steep portion of one as we passed through town, but after that the whole course was flat as a pancake. Often when you get out onto the flats there is quite a wind, but this time it was very still—at least on the outgoing portion.

I was wearing my Garmin, but I did not allow myself to look at my pace or split times as I went, because I didn't want to discourage myself if the times were bad. But eventually, as I realized there were no mile markers, I allowed myself to peek occasionally at the corner of the watch that registered mileage, just so I could get an idea of where we were.

The course was partially out and back. At about four miles we turned around some cones and traced our steps back to the school where the run began.

Now, all this time I had no real idea how fast or slow I was running. I didn't feel glacially slow, but I knew I wasn't running as fast as my past "good" 10K's. At around 5K, I was mildly dismayed to be passed by an old man who I know as Boris, a fixture at the Skagit runs. I have always been faster than him. (I know this is not a huge thing, considering that he is over 70 years old, but it's something.)

Boris maintained a short distance ahead of me as we progressed. I realized, as we all plugged along, that my lack of speed work has created more than one problem for me. Obviously, I have become slower. But perhaps more troublesome (troublesomely?), I didn't seem to know how to pick up the pace. I could run, but I couldn't adjust how fast I was running.

Added to this, as we headed into the last couple miles, that wind that had been missing on the way out appeared with a vengeance on the way back. We spent most of the last two miles running directly into a stiff wind, or so it seemed, anyway.

As we were nearing the last portion of the run, I did manage to dredge up some kind of energy and pick up the pace a bit. I passed a man wearing a Fleet Feet shirt (passing is good). I passed a woman that had been persistently ahead of me for most of the race. (Of course it is possibly that these people slowed down as we neared the final miles.) I gained on, but never did quite pass, another woman who had stayed ahead of me.

And Boris. I managed to close the distance on him enough that I knew I could pass him in the final "sprint" to the finish line. Then, as the finish area grew closer, he suddenly stopped and walked off to the side of the course. WTF? Was he depriving me of my opportunity to legitimately "chick" a 70+ year old man? I had no time to worry over the reasons for his stopping. I put on some steam (such as it was), and stumbled over the finish line. The clock read just over 59 minutes.

That was, by the way, my worst-ever 10K time by several minutes. My only consolation was that my 9:30 average pace was still substantially faster than my current morning run pace. And (this is something) I felt fine, I didn't feel like I had killed myself or anything. Which is good, considering that I'm going to be running twice the distance in Bath.

So there you have it. My inexplicable downward spiral continues, but at least I can still muster a sub-10 minute pace. (Oh, that is sad.)

*Others that come to mind are Anacortes (a personal favorite) and Gig Harbor. I am sure there are others, they just don't come to mind. Oregon probably has a few, and the California coast as well. But compared to the east coast, particularly New England, where white churches and 200-year-old houses are a dime a dozen, the west coast just can't compare.

**Although when my grandmother was alive we used to drop nets and catch messes of smelt, which she cleaned, dredged in flour, and pan-fried.

***At least not in a hall with a bunch of strangers.

****One of several pairs of cheap chenille gloves which I bought at QFC for $2.49 each, with the idea that I could lose them without suffering too much. But I love these gloves, and hang onto them with my life! Except that I inadvertantly left a pair in the bathroom at the hospital on my early morning run today. I was running through Grand Avenue Park and thought to myself, hey, it's warm enough that I am running without gloves! Then I realized I left the house wearing gloves....

1 comment:

SeeDivaRun said...

Thanks for the report on the Smelt Run. I've been thinking of running it for years, but never quite made it. Knowing what the wind is like around here in February, I think the section on the flats could be quite a misery.

It sounds like you have a little bit of burn out going on at the moment. Don't let it spoil your trip, or your experience in Bath.