Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Track Adventures!!!

I know I said about a million times before that I don't really like track. And it's true, I don't. Don't get me wrong, I love the running part of it, just not the "on the track" part. But you know, sometimes you have to get over these things, kind of like your mom making you get over the fact that you didn't like eating your veggies but you have to because they're good for you. That sort of thing. It's springtime, so track happens. The big upside of track is that it provides ample opportunities to run PR's owing to its fast and (overly) flat surface, and for that reason alone I like it. The downsides of track include but aren't limited to: the TRACK part of track, the races being generally tactical; and the tactics are always the same: gun goes off, someone makes themselves the "sacrificial lamb" by setting the pace for the majority of the race before being rolled up, and in the meantime everyone else just follows in this big clump and flings elbows and spikes each other and you have to hug the rail so you don't end up running an extra 300 meters but you CAN'T hug the rail because everyone else is hugging the rail too, and you have to listen for splits, and if the splits are too slow or too fast then panic descends, and no one ever wants to lead, but someone HAS to lead...heavens, it's maddening. Far less preferable than the balls-out-from-point-A-to-point-B style of running roads and cross country, but that's just my humble opinion. And while track is fast, not just any track is fast. Us altitude peeps have to find a place to go that will enable us to be fast, that is to say, somewhere not 6000 feet in elevation. So that usually entails going down to sea level. And while finding a good meet, then getting yourself into said good meet, then working out the travel logistics and costs included in getting yourself across the country and everything that comes with that is sometimes a bit stressful (seriously, you never realize how great you have it in college), it almost always pays off. Actually though I wouldn't mind track as much if all tracks looked a little more like this:

So on to Mt. Sac. In spite of having competed there about a zillion times in the past, and in spite of working out travel plans based entirely upon the assumption that I'd be in that meet, I didn't get in this year. I was a bit salty about it and spent about two days spitefully referring to it as "Mt. Nut-Sac", and maybe I could have sent a few dozen more emails to the meet director and just badgered him till he couldn't take it anymore, but I didn't. Thankfully though, there are about half a dozen other good meets in the surrounding area for Mt. Sac rejects like myself, and I opted for Long Beach instead. It's still sea-level, it's still the track, it's still running, so whatever.

Okay before I go any further, I don't mean to toot my own horn or anything, but I just wanted everyone to know that my California driving skills are totally badass. I didn't know I had it in me to cut people off repeatedly, because that's how you've got to do it in California. There, unlike here, when changing lanes, you DO NOT signal and then wait for a space to open and then give a happy wave of thanks to the non-aggressive driver behind you who politely let you in, you just signal for like a millisecond, then cut over whether there's an opening or not, and don't wave. Seriously, this is L.A., waving would probably be interpreted as a gang sign and you would be shot. So yeah don't wave.

Anyway, I had this really great streak of good luck on getting there. I got to Mt. Sac that first night to watch Birdsong, Scott, and Bobby race the 10k. I had no cash on me and parking was $10, and I guess I come across as a total bumpkin or something because the guy let me park for free instead. Then I got down to the track and couldn't get in because I hadn't paid the entry fee. So the Gate Keepers (or whoever they were) sent me over to buy a wristband to get in. Waiting grumpily in line while Birdsong finished his entire race that I didn't get to see, apparently I met like the founding father of Mt. Sac or something. He was this tiny old man who let me cut everyone in line--I guess he too thought I looked like a bumpkin--then gave me a wristband for free, and told me that all he wanted in payment was for me to tell everyone how great Mt. Sac is. So the point of this little story is that Mt. Sac is freaking GREAT.

Now, without taking away from the fact that I just said Mt. Sac is great, I will say that one more reason why I don't particularly care for many of these big-name track meets is because of all the fudging that goes on when people (and coaches) submit times to get in. Seriously people, don't put down some mark that's (knowingly) far beyond what you're going to run just so you can get in. I am curious as to why athletes and coaches seem to think they're doing themselves this huge favor by doing so. I mean cool, you're at some famous race, you're in the Olympic Development heat, and you might get pulled along to a fast time, but more than likely you're going to be out the back and running solo after 2k and running slower than you would have at a more modest race. I saw more than a handful of 5k's well over the 17:30 range, if that's the time they submitted to get in, they wouldn't be there. It irked me a little bit.

But that's okay, Long Beach was a good time. Well, all except for the little incident involving the meet schedule that was posted online the morning of the race stating that the 5k would be held at 8:30 A.M. instead the initially projected 7 P.M.. I read this at about 10 A.M. and um...panicked, to put it mildly. Bobby and Mack bore witness to what was very nearly a full-blown panic attack of unprecedented proportions. I mean, missing a race is the stuff of nightmares. However, it turned out to in fact be a typo, soooo yeah...

It was the first time I've set foot on a track in a year, and while my time wasn't really anything to write home about it was only 4 seconds off of my PR, a little win, and which after a two month layoff, a couple months of training at pretty modest mileage, and running the majority of the race solo, it's good to know that even though there's a lot of work to do I wasn't too terribly rusty. And I can't even lie, I actually want to race another 5k on track as soon as the opportunity presents itself, yes I just said that.

So that was the week's adventures, good work to everyone who ran out there. Next up we have a good group going up to Boulder this Saturday for the Boulder Distance Classic.

Until then however, I would like to take this moment to present to everyone my newly adopted spiny child, Oliver:

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