Saturday, April 3, 2010

Gentle April: A Civil 5k Race Report

For the third year in a row, I ran the D&R Canal 5k Race, which takes place in New Jersey's Washington Crossing State Park between the Delaware River itself and the Delaware & Raritan Canal. The course is a straight line on a road along the river (which eventually becomes more of a path) for its first half; at the turn around, you cross over the canal and run back the way you came along the canal's towpath.

I had been Mr. Consistent on this course for the previous two runs: In 2008, I ran it in 26:45; last year, 26:46, one second slower.

I returned to run this race for the third time this year because it has one of the most scenic routes I have ever raced on; it was even more inspiring this year because this was by far the best race day weather in the three years I've run this race. When I felt myself breathing heavily on the first half of the course — yes, that soon! — I looked to my left and down the hill to the calming currents of the Delaware as its waters ran south. I was certain I could feel my heart beat steady itself and my breathing become noticeably more regular when I did this. I can't prove that was the case in actuality because I was not wearing a heart/breathing measuring device (a Garmin, e.g.), but it felt as though that was what happened.

The run back along the canal was equally breath-taking — in part, at least. The towpath is roughly ten feet higher up than the river path and if you looked to the right on the run back, you got a beautiful view of the river from this elevated coign of vantage. Of course, to the left and even higher up was the traffic of Route 29. I was listening to my iPod during the run, as I usually do, so I couldn't hear the traffic, so as long as I kept my head tilted to the right somewhat, I was, as far as I was concerned, running through a pastoral paradise.

The music also made it impossible for me to hear when someone was gaining on me from behind; I would estimate that I was passed by approximately a dozen women runners, maybe 10 more men and at least two boys — one of whom, aged no more than 10, won a gift certificate for a free massage in one of the raffles at the end of the race. Needless to say, there was laughter all around when he came up to collect his envelope. All of these runners were far more skilled than I and would have passed me anyway, so it was indeed preferable not to hear it coming when they caught up to and overtook me.

This illusion of running in paradise continued until the town of Titusville obtruded itself between us returning runners and the tranquil river view. Titusville is indeed a quaint little town; but I would have preferred keeping my view of the river. For roughly three-quarters-of-a-mile of the return run, the river was not visible; with about 3-tenths-of-a-mile to go, the town of Titusville gave way to Washington Crossing State Park itself (where the race had begun), but the land between the towpath and the river had widened to a point that the view of the river was obscured by the still-leafless trees,

I had, for roughly two miles, been chopping at the heels of a young man whose running ability was slightly superior to my own. I tried to use him to pace myself, but with approximately .6 miles to go, I experienced what I have read other running bloggers refer to as "having the wheels come off": I started to fall rapidly behind the young man I had been following and he probably ended up finishing at least 30 seconds ahead of me.

The last half mile of the race was a genuine slog. I just kept telling myself not to give in to the urge to walk. I felt as though I had made a tactical mistake by not "saving it for later" (see below); I had nothing left in the tank during that last half mile and my mind was screaming for one last good look at the running waters of the Delaware to soothe me. Finally, I was able to spot the red lights of the clock at the finishing line, and I just tried to key on intermediate markers between it and me to pull me through: Okay, run to that tree 10 yards ahead ... good! Now to that spectator 20 yard further up.

Eventually I made it to the finish line without having to stop and walk even though the desire to do so became next to overwhelming at various times during the last .5-mile slog.
As I stood around post-race, eating bagels and drinking OJ, waiting for the award ceremonies (fun fact: even if I had been in the 60+ males age group, I would not have come within 3 minutes of an AG award; my only chance of an AG award was if I were a 60+ year-old female; in that case, I may have come in third), I overheard one runner introducing a friend of his to yet a third friend (all of them had run the race). I generally don't eavesdrop on others' conversations because I consider it uncivil, but I accidentally overheard this introduction:

"Joe, do you my know my friend Jim?"

"O yeah, I remember you from the finish line: I was eating your dust."

I could not help but laugh out loud when I overheard that — it was a remarkably witty extemporized comment and, in my mind, it rivaled the 10 year-old boy's Free Massage Win for Most Humorous Event of The Day.

Last year: 68th place in a field of 214. This year, 73rd in a field of 288 (unofficial).
I spotted exactly one park ranger at WCSP before today's race. This reassured me, because even though I myself had not brought along a pik-a-nik basket, it was good to know that, had I done so, it would have been safe from marauding and famished bears and their tiny bear friends named Boo-Boo.
SteveQ hurt himself, perhaps seriously, in a 25k race the other day. Why not stop by his blog and wish him a speedy recovery?
A few weeks ago, my wife was listening to the iPod on her mini speakers while doing some paperwork in the dining room. I was in the living room, reading. This song (below) came on. Generally speaking, there is very little overlap in musical taste between me and Teh 'Bride. But when I heard this song I had to ask her, "Who does this song?" (I thought I already knew its title — "Sooner Or Later"; which, of course, is wrong.) "The Beat," she replied. "They used to be The English Beat ..." and from there she went off on a small disquisition on the History of The (English) Beat.

Normally, I am the one who does this. When Teh 'Bride asks me a simple question, I tend to give her more information than she requires or wants to hear.

But when Teh 'Bride imparts something to me that I didn't already know, she usually goes into her little improvised song-and-dance routine: "I taught Glavey something! I taught Glavey something!"

She has an honest-to-God little dance she does to this and she sings those words to a tune she made up.

She didn't actually do it when I asked her about "Save It For Later".

But she could have.

So this song is dedicated to her as well as to the fact that I didn't keep enough in the tank to finish my 5k strongly.
Added 8:10 p.m.: ZOMG! Thanks to Teh Peachy Escargot!

Time on today's 5K — 23:53.


  1. Way to mail it does appear that there is one glaring omission from your race recap....

  2. You had to blow my 5K PR out of the water, didn't you?

    Then I read that this morning you ran ~7 miles at a 9:05 pace the day after copious amounts of ale. Whatever.

    Damn fast people.

  3. I'm way behind on my reading... way to go! FYI, Belgian Tripels are the reward for running, not the cause.

    And now I know for certain the real name and location of GQH; good thing you're on a civility kick. Thanks for the wishes for a speedy recovery; if those high church intercessory prayers work, I just might have to convert.

  4. Geez - that's a HUGE shave in your time from previous years! Is it the kankle runs?

    Must be the kankle runs.

  5. i haven't seen that video since i was a wee lad. i completely missed the reading material when i was last watching it. i'm sure there's a great joke behind the titles on the books, but the video quality makes it too difficult to read them.

    nice work on the 5k time compared to previous years, even if your wheels did come off.

  6. CONGRATS!!!

    And OMG but I am absolutely beside myself with giddiness right now. True story - GIDDY, my friend. Can't even WAIT to cyber stalk you and learn your true name. w00t!!!