Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Houska Houska 2013: How to Chick and Motivate an Old Man

This morning was the best annual Memorial Day running event in Colorado and fundraiser for the Bone Marrow Donor program and Poudre Valley Cancer Center, the Houska Houska 5K.

There are no starting waves or qualifying times for this one. No computer chips strapped to your ankle, or mats to step on. You are more likely to fit in to the crowd here if you are wearing a costume, running with a dog on a long leash, or pushing a baby stroller with at least two kids in it.

No one knows if the course is accurate, it's pretty close, but nobody cares. There is no timing, there are no bib numbers, age groups, awards or anything found at typical running events, except for a cotton t-shirt with an original, creative design for the year's theme.

The course starts off in the grass on an overgrown two-track parallel to the railroad tracks, then makes a couple of sharp turns at 1/4 mile in, to the Poudre Trail bike path, and runs a loop through a short hill on another overgrown dirt path and re-connects with the Poudre Trail in a partial out and back course with a twist.

You finish where you started, in the lumpy, tall grass and gravel next to the railroad tracks, across from Houska Automotive, under a billboard along Riverside Avenue.

Having slept in until 5:47 am, which is about an hour and a half later than I've slept the past two days of work, I got up in the daylight, made coffee, and let Dennis sleep. I really felt like crap. I don't race this race, it's not even what you can call a race, I just run it as hard as I can and get a good workout, because you usually spend half the time weaving in and out of people, strollers, dogs, and bikes.

I was hoping I would be able to run a respectable time despite my weeks of decadence, but it's not a race at all, it's an event. There is no comparison with road 5K times. Besides, the Casper Marathon is just 6 days away to challenge me.

Dennis has been running occasionally, just a few miles with the dogs on the weekends. His foot has improved with the plantar fascitis he's had since his fracture healed last summer. He's been hinting that he feels fat, which he's not. But he is not as fit as he was a year ago, and he often talks about getting motivated to run regularly, but hasn't managed to do it.

This was his first race since he broke his foot last June. And I decided a little motivation was in order.

Once Dennis woke up, he was moving slowly. I told him I was taking Iris for a run, and that I wanted to leave by 8 so there's time to warm up. He lifted his face up from staring at the paper and gave me that blank look. He wasn't awake yet.

I said, "You know, I have a feeling about this year."

"What's that?" He looked at me over his reading glasses.

"I think this is the year I'm gonna chick you."

"You think so?" He rolled his eyes.

"Not today, because I have a work hangover and feel like crap, but today in this race, I am going to get closer to you than I ever have before in a 5K. And sometime, over this coming year, I'll beat you in a 5K. You'll get chicked by your old lady."

"No way."

"Way. I'm gonna see the whites of your eyes when you look over your shoulder."

I took Iris out for a short run and when we got back, Dennis was ready. We drove down to Houska, parked, and signed up for the run.

At the start, I lined up on the starting line, in front, next to Dennis and our friend Forrest, who is not Forrest Gump but is a fast runner. Usually I get in behind a whole bunch of kids and strollers but this time I wanted to see what happened if I got up there.

I knew I couldn't beat Dennis, not today, the way I was feeling, but I was going to give myself a challenge by seeing how close I could stay to him.

When the gun went off, I took off and basically did what is an all-out sprint for me, for the first 0.2 miles down the overgrown two-track until you make a sharp left onto Lemay Avenue before the bike path. Running down the first little hill, I was right behind Dennnis. My lungs were burning! I was in anaerobic hell. Running down the first little asphalt hill under the bridge until the bike path levels out, I was already paying for it. I laughed to myself, thinking it would be interesting to see how this run turns out.

I ran pretty fast the first mile, but no one knows where the mile mark actually is, and I didn't have GPS. I could still see Dennis's back, he was less than 100 meters ahead of me, but I was having trouble keeping a fast pace. When we were close to the turnaround point, slightly more than halfway through, Dennis was not far ahead. I forget what I said to him to taunt him when we passed each other. He was far behind the lead runners. Forrest was way ahead of him.

It took me the first mile to recover from the sprint, and by this point, all I could do was hang on. I could feel my pace slipping, and I had no idea how fast I was going. I thought of looking at my watch when I rounded the last turn at Riverside and Lemay.

I decided against it because I had to hang in there for another 0.2 miles and I didn't want to be disappointed. I shut my watch off at the finish line. Ugly. 24:51. I saw Dennis walking around in the grass, down the road, but I was hurting too much to go tease him.

As it turned out, I was right. When we met each other in a spot in the shade, we compared notes. I was exactly 2 minutes and 4 seconds behind Dennis, the closest we've ever been in a 5K. By far. He ran 22:47. I think that's a personal worst for him. But I could tell he didn't feel defeated. He was smug, I had not beat him. Not even close.

The special thing about this morning was, it's the first day of training for me. I've been a slacker for the past 5 weeks since Cleveland, and last week I ran a grand total of 18 miles. I also consumed some rather decadent things. Like ice cream. Brownies. Chocolate chip cookies. Take out Chinese food. Beer.

And these Pellegrino Passion coolers. Actually those were pretty weird.

I've been trying not to worry about it but by the end of the week I felt HEAVY. And when I thought back to my pattern of consumption over the past week, it was pretty disgusting. I decided to scare myself and got on the scale this morning for the first time since my taper. 132!!!!??? It scared me. Nine pounds up since Cleveland? In 5 weeks? Really? It was definitely sodium and fluid-related, but still.

It amazes me how my weight can fluctuate. That's why it's not a good idea to weigh yourself frequently. But it is a good idea to weigh yourself when you need a reminder of why you can not indulge in those things on a regular basis. Especially when you're running 18 miles a week. Weighing myself before running this morning's event was a wake-up call.

The first order of business is, run my ass off, drop the extra weight, and get my butt in gear.

This morning I did not allow myself to indulge in the root beer floats they always serve at Houska Houska. Dennis had a couple of Bloody Marys. We walked around and talked, enjoying the sunshine and watching people. It was a nice morning, a little warm but not too bad.

This year's theme was the Roaring Twenties, so there were lots of flappers running around.

Of course the purpose of the run is to raise money for community cancer-related services, like Bone Marrow Donation.

And Houska Houska is big for the kids- there is always cotton candy, and this year, ziplining.

Dennis and I got a picture together, at a race. Something that rarely happens.

After hanging out and socializing, we didn't get our cool down run in so I suggested we go home and do our cooldown together. I only needed to do about 4 more miles. Dennis said he would do that with me if I'd take it easy on him. Uh-huh. It was warm outside, already 80 degrees. We took off for the Power Trail and after a mile he was whining.

Yes! Whining.

Dennis never whines. I started to tell him it was because of the Bloody Marys and not eating anything. WAAAAH.

I said we could make the first mile in under 11 minutes if he picked it up. He stopped and stretched and then we kept going. We got to our two mile turnaround and started heading back. At three miles he said he'd had enough and started walking. I ran home and he showed up a few minutes later. He said, "I'm dead."

So, maybe I didn't chick him in the race but I definitely kicked his butt on the cooldown. It's that endurance thing.

My plan worked. After 23 years, I know him well enough that I know he will need to avenge this.

Back in the old days when he was running for Reebok and I was running at my fastest, we used to run together and do pickups at the end of our runs, and I'd try to outsprint him at the end. I never could beat him for anything back then, he was running regular sub-15 minute 5Ks compared to my rare sub-19 minutes. As we've both gotten slower, we were always about 4 minutes apart in the 5K. Until now.

Looks like we'll be running some 5Ks this summer.

I can't wait.

The other news is that I planted a honeycrisp apple tree the other day. It was either that or I was going to have to buy stock in Whole Foods to earn dividends off my habit. I don't think we'll get fruit this year, but in two or three years it should pay for itself.

I also planted some tomatoes, peas, spaghetti squash, jalapeno and habanero peppers, cilantro, basil, thyme, yellow squash and zucchini, and beets. And then we have the oregano and parsley and chives that come up every year. I've never had any luck with beets here, the ground is too hard, but we're going to do one raised bed this year and see how that goes. Maybe we can finally grow beets. I love them.

The raspberries started to really take off last year. I miss our yard in Arizona. If I could get grapes to grow I'd want a trellis with grapevines on it. We had amazing grapes in Arizona, everyone in the neighborhood would walk by our house and marvel at the grapes. We had a bottlebrush tree, lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges, and grew plenty of basil, tomatoes, cilantro, and tons of serrano peppers. We grew serrano peppers like they were on steroids. I think we might still have some dried serranos floating around somewhere in our kitchen cabinets that came from Arizona.

And the front yard flower garden is bursting out now. Every day there's something new.

This is it. I'm back to training again. Tomorrow the plan is hills at Horsetooth. Oh, it will hurt, but I need to do hills, I've become such a wimp on the flats. It will pay off.

Now I'm off to take a nap, sleep off this work hangover, and maybe later I'll soothe Dennis's ego...

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