Trippin’ At The Green – 7K Downtown Denver

17 03 2008

Well … it’s the annual St. Patrick’s Day race in Denver and I’m thinking this is my last year. 

Last year, I signed up for this race because it was a judged racewalk.  When I got back from Disney, I noticed that the on-line (and less expensive) registration didn’t have a mention of the judged racewalk.  I e-mailed BKBLTD, but never heard back.  When I read my Front Range Racewalker newsletter and got the physical application at Runner’s Roost, I saw the box … ok …

It’s been a really lousy training year to this point.  A lot of personal stuff that I’ve just had to push my way through … and I’ll admit that I’ve done it with no grace whatsoever!  I’ve also been sick and depressed to the point where I actually sought help. The problem was it drove me completely nuts – and also more depressed … and worse, took a toll on my training in a VERY big way.  I found myself in a really pretty negative place, and fairly self destructive.  My tub started to drop through the floor with me taking a shower … and I knocked my nose and left knee into the fixtures … a little sense was knocked in to me.  It took a bit of a note from my Coach asking “um … what’s going on???” for me to realize that what works for others, just depresses the hell out of me!  Idiot here had more or less stopped eating again for the last few weeks … The Moral: Eat and Walk … and Tell Drek of Life to go SOMEPLACE ELSE!!! Oh yeah – realize that your friends really do care.

Sunday was the Running of the Green here in Denver.  I did it last year and it was actually judged.  I’d done pretty well actually.  I *really* wanted to go to a properly judged event in Huntington Beach, but finances, health, training and brain-space kept me home.  So – okey dokey – last year I’d been not training well and used Running of the Green as my Start Over point … so why not this go around?

I really laughed at myself going in to this.  With my apartment torn apart, I couldn’t find what I was looking for.  Potts’ group were doing T-Shirts, and she noticed I wasn’t wearing my funky green Life Is Good shorts.  I was sporting mainly black: Black short sleeved tech shirt, black winter weight skinnies held up by a black and purple golf skirt (of all things) and, of course, my white hat and battered Brooks Racer ST’s.  The best part about running in to Potts is she is a wonderful bundle of energy … and she’d squared it with a spa right next door for clean potties! YEAH!

I ran in to a pal of mine, and Rocky Mountain Road Runner Speedy Sneaker, Q.  This was his first go on this event, and I knew he’d be under 30 minutes, flying along at his hippety-hoppety pace.  I was right!  Another RMRR Speedy Sneaker, David, was there too.  It was nice that they let their over-sized beginner to play with them. Time to warm up and get comfortable – so we parted company.  I said I’d look for them lapping me and David said he’d come back to get me …. hahahhaha!

This is a huge event really.  I remembered that from last year.  I didn’t start with the Walker wave because they announced that the line was: Runners –> Racewalkers –> Strollers … then they were starting the Walkers a bit after.  This go around it was Runners followed by 7K Walkers followed by 2 Mile walkers.  This is my year to register always as a walker as long as I’m timed, so I cued up after long lines of strollers, dogs, people in costumes. 

As I got closer to the front, I recognized Jan Hill from the RMRR.  She’s a jackrabbit racewalker and it was great to see her.  She stopped me and said “You’re with us …” and I couldn’t hear exactly what she said next.  I thought she said “That’s Betsy, she starts out (obscured word) so (obscured word) keep up with her.”  Ok – I spotted her and started off ENTIRELY too fast.  What Jan had said was: “That’s Betsy.  She starts out fast so don’t keep up with her.”

Live and Learn.

I did start out insanely fast.  I’d never started on the front row where there was absolutely no traffic in front of us.  This is good and bad.  I got a kick out of watching the television people and photographers try to figure out what was happening with this group of about 20 male/female ducks coming flying at them.  I heard one guy say “I thought this was the walk wave.”  I said “Um … it is.”  I was passed by Terry and Robin (my saviors from Disney) and when Robin said “That guy ain’t no walker!” I looked up.  Some guy that started with us as a walker was running.  One of those races, I guess. I heeded the note from my stronger and faster friends, and slowed up a bit. I had 4 miles of hills ahead of me and I’d not eaten well.

We caught up to the back of the runners easily as they were waddling about and walking.  My goal was to keep in the mid to high 12 minute miles.  I’m being realistic.  I also knew that I would dump down the time a bit going up the hills.  I was having fun, but something felt ominous.  I was concentrating on everything – using this as a shake down training walk.  I wasn’t really happy with my feet, but was being polite as I was going around people.  What I didn’t see was the damn extender dog leash that took me down someplace around the 3/4 mile mark.

I went almost straight down.  I’m still protecting my left side a bit, and this took me down on my right.  I bounced off my right knee and would have skinned the hell out of it and my hands if I’d not been wearing those little $1 fit-all gloves and a funky pair of running skinnies and skirt.  I was able to roll out of it, but my brain space was affected for the rest of the race. 

WTF?!  I don’t know if anyone else reads the blasted race brochures, but I believe all of them say NO DOGS or some cute little remark about leaving your dog at home.  I knew I was bleeding when I got to the near top of the first hill at Mile 1.  I saw all these skinny runners coming down the other side and Q had told me he was in his singlet … he’s hard to spot because he’s maybe 5’4″ (he’ll correct me) and a whopping 110.  But I’ve gotten good at spotting the intense runner … “GO Q!!!!” and a wave … a bright spot and then let’s wrap up this thing!

I decided to carry my water.  I used my marathon pack (2 bottle Nathan Belt) because I really didn’t feel like getting tangled up in the water stops.  My speedy sneaker friends have been learning what it’s like for those of us further back … people stopping for cup after cup and just sauntering.  Personally, I just wanted to feel self sufficient.  I think I’ll continue doing this for every local open entry race just because … why bother getting caught up? 

Mile 2 & 3 still found me cursing people with dogs and headphones.  Trying to be polite and pass when someone is cranking whatever – from Opera to Rock to Bluegrass – is frustrating.  There are reasons why they’re banned … For the most part, however, people were pretty nice.  “How fast are you running?” I was asked a couple of times … I smiled and said “I don’t run.  I’m walking a 12.5 minute mile right now, however.” and *pouf* I waddled away.  There were some nasty to me hills — not as long as the ones in San Francisco, but I want to say steeper.  I actually felt for the folks pushing strollers with these hills.

The thing I was noticing was as the bulk of the runners passed going the other direction, they were really slammed together … with strollers … with dogs … and it just didn’t look very safe.

Coming down a back hill I was still kvetching internally.  I knew my shoulders were tight and my feet were keeping closer to the ground than I would have liked.  I was being protective.  As I was passing people with dogs I would call out “Please control your dog.” and I got some pretty snotty looks … but then some other folks were very understanding.  I just wanted to be done, go home, and get the gravel out of my knee when it happened.

My ankles got clotheslined by another  dog on an extender leash. I didn’t spot it because it was on the other side of the road! Ker PLUNK goes the Lizzy … this time I was stopped trying to get untangled.  I was so insanely pissed off.  “You shouldn’t have been that close to my dog.” yelled the slovenly pigette with bright white headphones and something resembling music blaring out.  “You could have hurt him.”  That was it.  I was wearing absolutely NO logos and I blasted “DOGS DON’T BELONG IN RACES!!” Her last retort: “What do you think you are? An athlete?”  Mine: “YES!”

Knowing I was now bleeding potentially from my re-opened right knee, left knee and left shoulder … I was composing the open letter to race directors in earnest.  I wasn’t even at mile 4.  I rounded 4 and knew we were almost done.  I lapped some friends of mine who started in the middle of the running pack and cheered them on.  The last bit would take me down by Union Station (the train station), around where the Tattered Cover was and one more left turn … straight away to the finish.

Um … I’ve done just one too many races where the final shot to the finish is not cluttered with strollers, people who were finishing the 2 mile walk and dogs.  Ok – when I came around the corner it looked like a SF Street Party!  I saw no straight shot to the end. All I saw were people – in all sorts of directions … stopped in the middle, talking with friends, taking their kids out of the strollers and letting them run around where it was ‘safe’.  It’s not exactly safe when a pissed off 5’10” 166 pound racewalking ballistic missile is plowing through at an average of 11:14 (my watch was SCREAMING “slow down”) for that last .29 miles.  Ok – line up with the double yellow line and go … until a little girl around the age of my niece starts cutting across and I’m literally going through a crowd of tourists … “Could someone control their child?!”  I side stepped and felt my ankle slide down something I’d stepped on …

I *never* want to see the photos from this race because I crossed that line and was spitting nails.  I thought I was a great deal slower than last year, and with my computer completely crashed hard, it was going to take until I could access my Athlinks (http://www.athlinks.com/racer.aspx?rid=16920152) to know that with everything, I was a couple of minutes faster.  I know I should have been faster than that, but I really learned about not having my head in the right place and what it does!

The really positive was that I ran in to Terry and Robin.  I wasn’t as far behind as I thought – only a couple of minutes.  Robin Personal Bested and was ecstatic … he also said “Well, Lis, you took off like a bat out of hell there ….” I looked pretty sheepish and said “Well – I certainly paid for it!”  He mentioned the guy in the red who obviously wasn’t racewalking and talked me back into my least favorite race, the Cherry Creek Sneak … where I’d first met him.  “You’re starting with the walkers, Lis …”

So – Here’s the upshot:

  1. ME: I did reasonably well with all the crapola I was dealing with internally.  I learned deeply how having your head in the right space is paramount.  I’ve been pretty good with it in distance things, but not terrific with shorter events.  I’ve got a lot of work to do – on the track and on the road.  Simple as that. 
  2. Health: Other than coming home battered and bruised, I didn’t have any real health issues.  No yakking, coughing up science experiments etc.  I did have the dry coughs about 4 hours later.
  3. Dogs do NOT belong in any race! If they ARE in said race, extender leashes should be wrapped around the legs of the owner! (I’m not a fan of extender leashes anyway).
  4. The Stroller Brigade was actually well behaved in this event! Broke my record of being clocked by strollers by getting creamed 2x by dogs.
  5. Headphones are great and music is wonderful, but cramming the things in your ears so you can completely obliterate the world around you – during a race or otherwise – is stupid.

I won’t be back … but I wonder just how much this will bother anyone.  It’s kind of sad because I like doing things locally.  This is a bit of a challange with all the hills.  I’ll post the motion based link when everything comes together! 

Race directors probably see walkers as just income.  We’re ‘too slow’ to be taken seriously.  Bite me!  I’ve needed some fire under my ever expanding tush … this might be it.

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