Sunday, August 19, 2012

42 Laps of Irony - Too Hot To Trot Indoor Half Marathon

In honor of national trail running day, I ran a half marathon. On a track. Indoors. Yeah, irony - it's what's for breakfast. 42 laps of delicious irony.

I signed up for this race because I was intrigued by the possible mental torture of running a long distance both on a track and indoors. Also, I like the idea of running in 72F climate controlled air while everyone else slogs through the sweltering 90F air of mid August. I'll take mental torture over physical torture any day.

Also, I had a vague notion that perhaps I might be able to break my previous personal record for the half marathon distance (1:56). However, in general, I've given up on setting real race goals for myself. The disappointment makes my post race beer a bit too bitter (and I love bitter beer). I'll gladly give anyone else an arbitrary, unrealistic race goal though. I'm a giver.

The Course
Heading into the race, the only course info I had was the brief description from the race information flier, which claimed a U-shaped route on the track. I guessed that the u-turns required to run the track in a U shape would be tricky. However, I was totally wrong about all of this. Turns out the course laid out by the folks at JDL Fast Track wasn't anything like a U shape. The best description I can give you is one stolen from Iris, queen of Stet That Run. The course was like a "formula one race track" - some straight sections for speed and a bunch or tight corners to navigate. There was even a sweeping S turn in the middle. All of this combined for a crazy, curvy, hip-flexor destroying race track. I loved it!

Unfortunately, I don't have a true diagram of the course layout, so this Picasso inspired drawing will have to suffice.

This is similar to an upside down version of the
drawing my doctor made before my last prostate exam.
Signed copies available for 1 ZILLION dollars each.

The Race
The race directors were dead serious about starting on time. Before most people could make it all the way to the starting line, they sounded the whistle and we were off. I tried not to panic. We were bunched up so there was nowhere to go anyway. By the time the first lap was finished, the field had spread out enough to run your own pace without having to constantly dodge people. I settled into what felt like a moderately comfortable pace (2:30min for the 500m lap, whatever that equates to in American) and just tried to enjoy the run.

And it was really fun and enjoyable! The organizers had some good tunes pumping through the loud speakers around the track and the air conditioners were cranking out the 72F air. The looping course meant you got to see your friends multiple times each lap and cheer them on or give them Hell (your choice). After a few laps, I really started to enjoy the twisty-turny sections of the course. I made a game of leaning into all the corners and trying to clip the apex of each at exactly the right angle to minimize the distance. This kept me entertained and distracted for over half the race.

Bad Gas
And then I got a little thirsty. I felt so good about the way I was running, I actually drank a cup of gatorade. It just wouldn't be a normal race if I didn't do something stupid. That gatorade nearly destroyed me for the next 20 laps. I should have known better. Gatorade is my intestinal kryptonite.

Suspension Problems
Burping and belching my way around the track on lap 27, I felt the first slight twinges in my hip flexors. Turns out (Ha! A pun!), all the twisting and leaning around the corners was hammering my hips to hamburger. Over the course of the next 15 laps, my hips slowly disintegrated.

Skidding Across the Line
I kept the hammer down, as much as was possible with my dislocating hips and constant belching. With one lap to go, I went "all in" with a heel-striking, floundering, near drunken stumble around the track. My feet felt so heavy that I was tripping over every 2 millimeter imperfection on the course. I flopped across the finish line with a time of 1:48. A new PR and nearly worth the price of the invisible knives still lodged in my hips as of this writing.

Being a trail runner, I honestly didn't think I would enjoy an indoor half marathon, but it was truly fun. Of course I hear rumor of a planned FULL marathon on that same track next year. But I'm not sure if I can survive that much fun.