"It's a little self indulgent..." - My mom
"After I read a sentence, I get mad at myself for caring what you're doing." -Karl Dusen

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Seven years as a Spider alumnus

Monday afternoon I ran a Presidents' Loop, pretty exhausted from waking up at 5, and achy from the bus ride back from Pittsburgh. I averaged 6:45s.

Tuesday morning I did a Fairview Loop in the morning, having some trouble with dehydration around mile seven despite temperatures in the low 60s, and three miles in Kent Gardens Park in the afternoon.

Wednesday, I slept in and skipped my morning run to contritue to my recovery week by getting more rest and focused on the workout- 2x mile and 6x800. I once again felt faint during the warmup, extremely so when crossing East West Highway, but things got better. We ran 5:06 and 5:02- two seconds fast for each, but the 800s were not as easy. Someone, I am not sure who, paced the first (2:24) ridiculously poorly, and we came through the 400 in 70, then finishing in 2:27. The second was better- 2:25. I took the next two and ran 2:22s evenly, which pleased me, and I felt fantastic. The leaders took us out too hard for the 2:20s- our 200s at 33, and I stopped at the 400 with a 69. I took a break and ran the last one, way behind the group- they went out in 66 and I cautiously in 69, finishing in 2:21. Big City ran with me when I did another 400- 66. I was happy with how the workout went, aside from the pacing fiasco. With the humidity dropping lately, I've been able to keep myself together later in workouts and feel a lot better.

Thursday I wanted to explore the downstream portion of the Pimmit Run Trail, so I ran up Kirby to the Marie Butler Leven Preserve and sought to pick up the trail there. I found it, but lost the trail when I came to a neighborhood. I realize where I went wrong, and should be able to find it next time. In the meantime, I did a few laps of the grassy loop at the preserve, then headed into Dominion Hills and caught the upstream portion of the trail. Aside from one downed tree in the second segment, the trail was clear after Hurricane Irene.

Friday morning I did an easy 4.25 mile Idylwood loop.

Saturday brought the most meaningful race of the year--the Spider alumni cross country race. I still feel fortunate, nine years later, to be able to participate in the race. In 2002, I was reeling from two weeks of getting my ass kicked one way from the cruel Virginian summer and the other from my first Division I practices, after a year off following a Division III season that is better forgotten.

When I transferred to Richmond the previous semester, I wasn't eligible, nor was it reasonable for me to expect to join the track team without having run cross country the semester before. As I gradually met the Spiders, thanks to gracious introductions from Ruth, Emily and Angry, I joined them for afternoon runs when I could, but joining runners for their supplemental work served only to give me an abstract idea what the program had come to expect, I had no idea how hard they ran on a daily basis in real workouts. Though I had run cross country at Hampden-Sydney, from day one I was minutes ahead of the rest of the team for regular distance runs, let alone races, so for all intents and purposes, I hadn't run on a strong team since high school track 28 months earlier, and I was out of the sport, as far as real competition was concerned, for almost two years.

When I arrived on campus in August for cross country, a little bit of me died every day, as I finished farther back in every workout as the alumni race -- then just a 5k time trial because we had yet to build an alumni base -- approached. I figured I had a few days until I finished dead last and was subsequently booted from the team. Lauder said later he thought I'd be cut. Somehow I pulled out a fifth place finish and a four-second PR, striving to catch Rhue toward the end of the second mile before I dropped back. In doing so, I managed to finish ahead of five guys who were already on the team. I still remember the day the results went up on the website, my "open" affiliation evidence of my provisional status with the team, but proof that I could hang with them and serving as the best validation of my running career to that point. Four days later, Steve told me he wanted me running for the team at the UVA meet the next week, and I started on the road that would lead me to a lot more of these Spider Alumni 5k races. The relief that I felt that afternoon at the Athletic Director's picnic has been unmatchable, even with my best races since. It changed my whole identity as a runner and oriented me where I am today.

The race moved from Bandy Field (my favorite) to athletic fields owned by St. Catherine's and the Collegiate schools. These days, a new softball stadium at the St. Catherine's fields means we're pretty much never going back there for the alumni race, and I'm not terribly disappointed. The sprinklers seemed to always turn off five minutes before the start, which exacerbates the amount of fluid built up in my shoes. I hadn't run the course at Collegiate before. Our competitive ranks were thin on the Alumni side- Ciccarelli still hobbled from the Little Rock Marathon years before, Lauder now quite relaxed about his running, Watson holding together his hamstring with scotch tape, Molz and Benford in West Virginia for the Charleston Distance Run, Llano convalescing from a car accident a week before, Quinn teaching the leaders of the future in Colorado and Jonny somewhere on I-95 between Richmond and Maine. Seann is still getting after it, but an ankle sprain two weeks before left him severely hobbled. The whistle squeaked and I stuck back in the pack, just trying to get an idea where the course went, because it was all new to me. Most of it was on very short playing field grass that was not saturated with water, which alone made it faster than St. Catherine's. It also seemed to have fewer turns, though there were patches where the ground was uneven, a stark difference to the smooth trails and road on which I run, and it reminded me how soft I have gotten. Skipper and York and Connor and Adam had pulled away within the first mile, and I was dropping back. As we got to the mile mark, a fellow who shall remain unnamed called out 4:25! 4:26! 4:27! I freaked out until I looked at my watch- I came through the mile in 4:49, the bloke had just missed the start.

I spent the next mile struggling and lagging behind a William and Mary guy.As I neared the end of the second mile, Steve was waiting near a tree. "Get green" he whispered. The WM guy was about 30 yards ahead, and I figured, why not? I came through mile 2 in 5:08 high, then set to work reeling in my target. I had him less than halfway into the third mile, and I charged up the one significant hill on the loop to try to shake him, but I felt him on my tail. As I closed in on the last stretches to the finish, Barkhuff was waiting on the second-to-last field, screaming for me. I managed to hold off the WM dude, plus a pair of Richmond freshmen to finish my third mile in 5:10 and the race in 15:46. I cooled down with the other alumni and did a little extra to get me to 90 for the week. I did some mild uphill running that evening.

I woke up well before 7 Sunday morning for my long run. Seann, Lauder and Z were planning to start at 9 to do about 40 minutes, so I wanted to get at least 90 in before that. I ran to and through campus to Panorama Drive, over the Hugenot Road Bridge and onto Riverside Drive, left toward Hickory and Cherokee for some rolling hills. There isn't much of a shoulder on Cherokee, but traffic was light. I wore a shirt for this part of the run so I could grab a Gatorade at the 7-11 on Hathaway, then headed to Stratford Hills. I cut a few miles from the Riverside Drive portion to ensure I would be back in time to meet the other guys, but climbing and descending Rockfalls was great, as always, especially the portion down Menokin. I jumped back onto the bridge to head over the James River and onto Westham Station, once a favored stretch of quiet shady road, which has since been transformed to a staging zone to build a new bridge over the river. The trees are largely gone now. I barely remember climbing the hill to Westham Parkway. Then I headed back to campus for 14 miles in 90 minutes.
Seann decided on Roslyn, one of my favorite loops, though we only got to Higginbotham before we turned around. I ended with 20 miles in 2:10, and though the last two miles were pretty lagging compared to what I was running earlier, it was great to be with my old teammates.

Monday morning I ran out intending to do a reverse Scott's Run, but I made a last-minute turn onto the Pimmit Run Trail, ran out to the Potomac School and back for an easy 85 minutes.

Tuesday morning was a sedate out-and-back 10 miles to Vienna at 6:42 pace, then 4.25 miles at 6:30 pace on an Idylwood loop in the afternoon.

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