DHS Alumni Cross Country Race

The 2011 DHS alumni cross country race turned out to be nearly identical to the 2010 DHS alumni cross country race. The course is a little bit tougher than a typical XC course, thanks to the addition of a long technical single track trail. There was a small handful of DACC/DHS/SHS runners ahead of me. I finished in 11:47 for the two mile course, just a few seconds faster than last year. I was once again the first alumni finisher, once again finishing a few seconds ahead of Jared Anderson, with Todd Orvis once again a few seconds further back. The major difference was this year I wore a hat.

1 mile into DHS alumni race

2011 halfway

First lap

2010 halfway

Finishing the DHS alumni race

2011 finish

Finish line

2010 finish

The race was a lot of fun. The whole extended family (parents, grandparents, aunt, cousins) came out to watch. I saw plenty of familiar faces, including my (now retired) high school coach who I probably haven’t seen since I graduated. Once again I went to the Custard Cup after the race, where I once again ran into Jared. And my grandparents.

Forest Park XC

The first weekend I stayed in our new house in St. Louis I saw there was going to be a huge cross country race at nearby Forest Park. While the event was mostly aimed at high school runners, they had a 4K open race (2.5 miles). Having just whet my appetite for cross country at the DHS alumni race a few weeks prior I decided to run it. There aren’t a whole lot of open cross country races around, so I wasn’t really sure what type of people were going to show up. The answer is good runners. A lot of them.

It poured down rain all the previous day and night so the course was ankle deep water in many places. It only took a few steps of my pre-race warmup to give up all hope of keeping my feet dry. A sizable crowd lined up for the 7:30 AM open 4K and then we were off. The start was very fast and I was quite a ways back even after I started faster than I should have. The first mile was 5:32, and I slowed down from there. The second lap was a lot of back and forth, notably with a 13 year old boy and a 22 year old woman who went on to win the women’s race. Around two miles in I repeated to myself “I’m too old for this shit“, by which of course I meant races that short and that fast.

I finished in 14:50 (5:58 pace), 25th overall, and I somehow managed to get 3rd in the 30-39 age group. Despite the fact that I actually had a pretty solid race, I was a ways off the top 5-10% I would have expected for this sort of race… indicating the competition was really good.

Forest Park XC

I stuck around a short while to watch a couple of the early high school races before heading back home. It’s been over 10 years since I watched a high school XC meet. It was a good time.


Back in May I ran the Danville Memorial Day 5K. While there I had a chance to catch up a little with Todd Orvis, a former standout Danville High School cross country runner and the current DHS XC coach. A few weeks ago I heard back from him about plans to host a DHS XC alumni meet in August. I was really excited about this, as I hadn’t run a really short (2 mile) cross country or trail race since, well, since I was in high school.

The timing of the race didn’t work out so well, since it took place the evening before Melissa’s first day of work in St. Louis. Fortunately, Melissa was understanding and we worked out a way to make it happen (i.e. we left from the race and drove straight to St. Louis).

I recognized a handful of faces, mostly of a few runners a few years older than me. The current DHS, DACC, & Schlarman(?) teams were there as well as the alumni. The course was a bit more challenging (slow) than I was expecting. We would run two 1-mile loops. The first 1/3 mile was gradually uphill with a bit of a headwind to add insult to injury. The second 1/3 mile was fairly easy, though it did have a 180˚ turn. The final 1/3 mile of each loop was mostly downhill, but it was on a somewhat twisty trail through the woods where it wasn’t really possible to open up and run all out.

First lap

The race started fast, which means I started fast. I gradually moved past some of the fast-starting youngsters and settled into a good pack heading into the woods for the first time. The two guys immediately in front of me slowed down a lot and let a gap open up. I couldn’t get around them in the woods, so I had to wait until the meadow at the end of the lap.

First lap

End of first lap

Once around them I struggled back up the hill. I tried to catch a DACC runner just in front of me while trying to outrun the guy breathing down my neck. I managed to stay in the same position, finishing the race in 8th, with a time somewhere around 11:54. I was hoping to run under 11:00 for two miles, but as I mentioned the course was harder than I expected (also the temperature was 85˚F). I finished just ahead of Jared Anderson (who could absolutely destroy me in a marathon or half marathon). According to the very unofficial placekeeping of my dad at the finish line we may have been the first two DHS alumni to finish. Woo. Todd Orvis finished in 10th a short ways behind Jared. I’d like to see some official results posted Todd!

Finish line

Just holding off Jared Anderson at the finish

It was fun to be back in Danville, with some familiar faces, running this type of race again. It’s my understanding Todd wants to make this race a yearly event, so hopefully I can work it into my schedule in the future.

The Memorial Day Weekend

This Memorial Day weekend flew by. We got a lot accomplished, but not as much as we had hoped. I can’t help but feel partly responsible.

I had Friday and Monday off work, which is pretty rare. I celebrated by sitting around in my underwear until noon or so on Friday. I followed that up with my first post-marathon run, five miles easy. It went well. I had some tight muscles with a few aches, but no major injuries. I spent most of the afternoon mowing the lawn and doing other miscellaneous yard work. In the evening we went to Target to look at baby items.

Kickapoo mountain bike trails

Kickapoo mountain bike trails

Saturday morning I mountain biked at Kickapoo with Gene and Greg. I haven’t been there in a few months, so I wasn’t quite at the top of my game. The trails were a little muddy, but not nearly as bad as they could have been. Gene and Greg took me onto the “new” section of trail, which was absolutely ridiculous. Most of the trail is challenging, but this new part was downright sadistic. The single track trail was very narrow (18″?), cut into the side of a very steep hill, slanted downward, with tight and steep switchbacks. I made it through okay. Actually, it was dangerous. There, I said it. The rest of the trail pales in comparison.


Many unplowed fields across Illinois and Indiana had bright yellow flowering plants (which I assume are weeds) this weekend.

Saturday afternoon we drove to Indianapolis. First we visited Babies-R-Us to look at cribs and other various items. Next we went to Aimee & Brett’s house to pick up a few baby items they wanted to give us. Then it was on to Aunt Jeanne’s house to meet up with the family. Finally, we went to Zionsville to my uncle Dennis and (new) aunt Sally’s wedding reception (the main event of the trip). The reception went well, and it was great to catch up with the cousins, aunts, & uncles. Sally is a wonderful woman and she and Dennis seem very happy together.

Dennis & Sally

newly married Dennis and Sally

Sunday morning I got a little cleaning done in the office, but not as much as I (or Melissa) hoped. It’s never as much as I hope. I also worked for a little while setting up one of my old computers for my grandparents in Bismarck. After lunch we went swimming (our first family swim). Then we went shopping for new stoves. We’ve been on the brink of getting a new stove since Christmas. I think it’s finally going to happen this week.


Danville National Cemetery at the VA on Memorial Day

Monday morning I drove over to Danville for the Memorial Day 5K race at the VA. It rained during the race, which kept the temperature somewhat cool, but also made the roads a little slick. Right from the start a large pack of high schoolers shot out to the front. I tagged onto the back of the pack, maybe 12-15th position for the first half mile. I was running way too fast and I knew it. What were all these jokers doing?

Entrance to the VA on Memorial Day

The 5K course followed the road around the VA, which was lined with flags for Memorial Day.

The second half mile I slowed down, but all the kids around me slowed down even more. I moved my way up through the pack. I reached the first mile in 5:36. I ran mile two in 5:50, by which time I had moved into 4th place. My heart rate was through the roof and it was starting to wear on me. The last guy I passed tagged along behind me and stayed with me for the third mile. He passed me back with around a quarter mile left. My last mile was 5:55 and I finished in 5th place (out of a record 398 participants), 1st in my 30-39 age group. I was worried I might still be feeling the effects of the marathon eight days prior, but my legs felt perfectly fine. It was a tough race, mostly because I started too fast (didn’t I just learn not to do that?). Well, racing a 5K is a world apart from racing a marathon. Incidentally, my heart rate hit 194 in the last tenth of a mile, which I believe is the highest I’ve ever recorded (my theoretical max heart rate is 195).

After the race I went to visit my grandparents. They’ve been having some health problems recently and I hadn’t seen them in a few months. They seemed to be doing fairly well, all things considered. My dad and I worked to get their computer problems straightened out. Then we had a pizza lunch before hitting the road. I drove my dad back to Danville in the new car, which he seemed to enjoy.

Finally we spent this evening at a cookout with Cara & John at our house. John got a nifty remote controlled speedboat for his pond. Good times.

The Victory

It’s been a long time coming. Yesterday, I ran a 5K race. And won. This was not the first race I’ve ever won, but it was the first race I’ve won in 12.5 years (1/8 of a century). My last victory was the 3200m run at the sectional track meet in 1996 (my senior year of high school).

I wanted to do another 5K this fall, but I had a hard time fitting one into my schedule. It took me a few weeks to fully recover from my 30 mile run. Then in two weeks I’ll be running the Tecumseh trail marathon in Indiana. I heard about this Run for the Library race in Mahomet and it seemed like it would work. As per usual, I decided at the last minute (late Friday evening) to do it.

I looked at the results from previous years and figured if I had a good race I could finish in the top 10, maybe even top 5. The highest placings in this race were dominated by high school runners who can typically run these shorter distances much faster than old farts like me.

It was 22˚ when I woke up Saturday morning. I drove out to Mahomet, registered for the race, and warmed up a little. By the time the race started it had warmed up to 24˚. This is probably the coldest temperature I’ve run in this winter. While warming up I noticed a number of high school aged runners. I also saw a guy my age, Chris, who I ran against in high school. We’ve competed at least three times since then and he just barely beat all three times.

Mahomet Run for the Library 5K

Photo courtesy of Mahomet Library. I’m on the far right wearing all black with a white hat.

The race started and immediately one of the high schoolers took off sprinting, much to the confusion of the rest of the runners. I started out near the front. I became concerned after 200-300 meters when only Chris and two high schoolers were in front of me. Was I going too fast? Was I going to fade away? After a half mile I passed both the high schoolers and it was just Chris & me. I was feeling really good. We ran together for .75 miles. We passed the mile mark at 5:37, exactly where I wanted to be. What a relief.

Shortly after the mile mark I started to pull away from Chris. I have never been able to run the second mile of a 5K as fast as the first, but I was feeling so good I just kept going and going. I passed the two mile mark and my split was also 5:37. Even splits for the first two miles of a 5K was unprecedented for me.

During the last half mile we turned into a strong headwind on a fairly open road, so I slowed down a bit. I managed to hang onto the lead and finished in 17:40. I’ve only run two 5Ks faster than that, and both were on courses that were short (less than 5K). A bunch of my friends from Second Wind running club were working the finish line and they all congratulated me on the great run. 13 seconds later Chris came in for second place.

We waited a good minute and a half before the next pack came in. It was mostly the high schoolers (including a couple who puked upon crossing the finish line). Amongst them was the winner of the women’s race, my new friend Ellen. She is an extraordinary ultra-marathon runner. She runs (and wins) races in the 30-50 mile range. Yesterday she set a new 5K personal record.

After the race I chatted a lot with Chris and we caught up a little bit while running a mile to cool down. Next, we went indoors for a pancake breakfast (which I skipped) and award ceremony.

Normally the story would end there, but I have this marathon coming up. I needed to do a long run this weekend, but I don’t let myself run two days in a row (due to my past knee problems). So after the awards I went with Ellen and Brian (another friend from Second Wind) a short ways to the Buffalo Trace trails at Lake of the Woods park and we ran. Once there, we caught up with more of our trail running friends. Ellen & I ran three loops on the five mile trail. I ended up with 20.5 miles in total. Unsurprisingly, I did a lot of eating and sleeping the rest of the day.

The Wrong Turn

Ralphie: Oooh fuuudge!
Ralphie as adult: Only I didn’t say “fudge.” I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the “F-dash-dash-dash” word.

On Saturday I competed in the Charleston Challenge Duathlon. The race wasn’t very big, less than 100 participants. The distances (2 mile run, 19.2 mile bike, 2 mile run) suited me fairly well, and I was still near peak fitness from the triathlon national championship race so I liked my chances for success. On the other hand, I heard mixed reviews about this race from friends who have done it in the past. There are half a zillion turns on the bike course and (from what I heard) they are not always marked very well. I know two different people who missed turns on the bike course. One lost a little bit of time, the other lost enough time that he simply abandoned the race.

Charleston, IL is only about an hour away so I didn’t have to wake up unbearably early. I arrived at the race venue (an elementary school) with plenty of time to prepare. First they had a children’s race (actually three separate races based on age). They ran a lap around the circle drive, the bicycled around the school. It was entertaining. A number of the children still had training wheels on their bikes.

Next was the grownups race. I warmed up a little on the bike, trying to keep my eyes peeled for the orangish markings on the road that denoted the turns. I think I can handle this. I re-racked my bike and went for a short run. I needed to get used to running fast because I wasn’t going to have any time to warm up during a race this short.

The race began. I started at the front and went out with the leaders for the first half mile or so. At that point two guys started to pull away. I was in third place. I decided to let them go and keep my pace under control. The course was not marked and I wasn’t wearing my GPS, so I had no idea how fast I was going. Sometimes the adrenaline rush at the beginning of the race can mask the sensations you normally use to feel your pace.

My senior year in high school at the conference track meet I ran the first 400 m of the 3200 m run in 62 seconds. I had a 10 second lead on the rest of the pack at the end of that first lap. The rest of the race didn’t go so well. I somehow hung on to finish second place, but I really should have won. I learned a valuable lesson that day about starting too fast.

Anyway, I maintained my position the rest of the first run leg. By the end I let the two leaders gain 15-20 seconds on me. The next runners were another 10-15 seconds behind me. I entered the transition area and glanced at my watch, astonished to read 11:08. If the course was accurate I had just run my fastest two miles in 10 years.

I had a quick transition and began the bike a little winded, but feeling good. The road curved through a neighborhood before approaching a stop sign. I lost sight of the leaders through these curves. I race volunteer was standing at the intersection pointing to my left. Hmm. I didn’t see any markings on the road indicating this was a turn… I wonder why he is pointing. I looked to my left and saw a pickup truck (who had the legal right of way) coming to a stop. Oh, good. The volunteer was just alerting me to the presence of the truck. Now that the truck is stopped I can continue through the stop sign. The volunteer stared at me as I passed, though he didn’t say a word.

As I rode the next couple blocks I began to second guess myself. The road got narrow. I still couldn’t see the leaders. Did I just make a wrong turn? I looked back behind me and saw a steady stream of cyclists turning left at that intersection.

Oooh fuuudge!

I slammed on the brakes and turned around as fast as I could. As I reentered the course the same volunteer again stared at me, and again didn’t say a word. I was mad. Furious. On the plus side I unleashed that anger on my pedals and rode the next few miles like a man possessed. I quickly passed a slew of riders, nearly everyone who had passed me while I was off the course. I saw one more rider off in the distance and I chased him for miles, over half of the course. We were going almost the exact same speed and I wasn’t gaining much. The course turned. We went uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill.

About halfway through the bike I could tell he started to slow down and I regained a little motivation as I slowly reeled him in. I made the pass convincingly, but then slowed down a bit. He passed me back on the next downhill. I passed him back on the next uphill. He stayed just a few seconds behind me the rest of the ride. I couldn’t see anyone else in front of me and I was beginning to wonder whether I was leading the race. Could it be so?

I finished the bike leg in 53:48, averaging 21.4 mph. I should have ridden faster, even with all the hills, but the numerous turns made it really difficult to maintain a high speed. I reached the second transition with the other guy hot on my heels. I overheard a friend of his tell him he was in 4th place. Crap. I never caught back up with the two leaders. Oh well.

I pulled away from the guy on the run and finished a couple minutes ahead. My second run split was 12:22. My finishing time was 1:18:25, good enough for third place overall.

From studying the results I estimate I lost about 45 seconds from the wrong turn. A shame indeed, but the second place finisher was far enough ahead that it wouldn’t have made any difference. So I let it be. I was also second place in my age group, for which I won a major award (er, a large trophy). Frankly, I’m kind of glad I didn’t pick up the 1st place trophy… it was way too big.