Monday, April 4, 2011

Only Fools Run: Mercury and Me

The Only Fools Run at Midnight is a run held on the weekend of April Fools Day.  It's a 3.5 mile run through the town going up one road and down the next, working our way over 6 streets like this before crossing the main road in town and heading to a finish line that's just a right turn and less than a quarter of a mile to the start line.  That same start line is about 400m from my house and the home stretch goes right past my house.

That makes it a must-do race.  On the other hand, with a 4-day 24-hour exercise at the base, my shifts and hours, along with my insomnia left me without any more than a nap where I was able to sleep for an hour over three days.  We'll just say I was really tired and skipping this race would not have bothered me at all.  Amanda and her sister were going to run it, with this being her sister's first fun run.  Her sister has a little boy that's just 3 months younger than Mercury who will be 1 year old on May 10th.  I was going to run with Mercury in the jogger if he was awake, but my tired state left me hoping he would stay asleep and I did everything I could to keep it that way.

Unfortunately or fortunately, still can't decide, he woke up 40 minutes before the race start and was wired.  Waking up isn't atypical, but wanting to do more than get something to eat is.  So, we fed him and got him dressed up in his snow suit.  I finished getting him ready as Amanda and Kristi (her sister) jogged to the start.  I didn't care if I was late as I can't imagine being a minute late would make a difference when trying to navigate through a crowd with a jogger and certainly didn't think I'd be able to get on the start line.  

Long story short, I was running up toward the start line thinking I was about a minute late, but it was the wheel chair that I missed.  I was only able to tell because a police car leads the race with it's lights on, which is pretty cool at night.  I won the race once and got to see it's coolness for the whole race ... even if it was short as the cop accidentally lead us all on a course that was about 3/4 mile short.  Anyway, because it was dark, I couldn't see that the entire crowd was still standing in the road until I was about a half block away.  I don't know if it was habit/routine or wishful thinking, but I ran on the side walk all the way to the front and jumped on the start line.  

My last minute arrival made for a seamless warm-up to race start as we got going just a few seconds after I arrived and too quickly for anyone to complain about a stroller being at the front of the crowd.  Normally I try to pace myself perfectly, but this is more fun run than it is race, so the kids and less experienced crowd make this one of the fastest starting races in Eastern Washington.  I blasted out of there in hopes of not being swallowed up in the crowd of eager runners preparing themselves for an early blow-up.  Hanging on the right side of the road and calling out "stroller on your right" rather often kept me out of trouble, even though I was very close to clipping a couple runners darting back and forth.

After about a quarter mile, the crowd thinned out and I was able to navigate well enough.  Passing people while pushing a stroller is fun for me, but not for them.  Soon I was settled into my race pace of 6:00/mile.  Not great, but it was better considering it was with a jogger and being as tired as I was, it was as fast as I was willing to go.  Soon that lack of sleep caught up to me and my gut felt awful, but I was closing in on the lead group of four.  After I caught up to them, they picked it up so I wouldn't pass, but they weren't pulling away either.  My whole body felt heavy and uncomfortable, but I knew that if I could stomach the discomfort that I'd be able to close this thing out at a much faster pace over the final half mile ... no matter how unpleasant it was.

Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men ... so they say ... are laid to waste when you hear a familiar sound closing in on you in the middle of the night.  About 1.5 miles in, I hear the distinct stride of Evan Sims, whom is nice enough to train with me from time to time, despite being significantly faster.  So I turn my head a little so my voice is heard better, even though I don't look back, "Is that you Evan?"  Not a word, but with relative ease, the runner moves up along side me and it is indeed Evan.  He apparently started over a minute late, worked his way through the crowd and then ran the lead pack down like an uncaged beast!  He tried to chat with me, but even if I felt better (had some sleep) I didn't have the breath.  So I did my best to chat for a bit while trying to encourage him to run them down in hopes I could chat at the finish line.  Soon enough, he moved ahead, quickly caught the lead four, blew them up and drug one to the three mile mark before dropping a wicked half mile on the dude to leave him wondering what just happened.  He was Evanated!  That's what happened!

As for me, I backed off to a still very uncomfortable 6:20-something pace.  I got passed by one guy, but passed one of the original leaders.  I had to close with a hard charge to get my pace back down to 6:15 at the end.  I haven't been running with the little guy because of the cold weather.  That made racing with him for the first time pretty tough.  Still, I think I enjoyed it and would like to make this a tradition of sorts.  It would have been fun to win, but we still had a great time.  He was ready to go back to bed though.  So was I.  It was a bit foolish to sacrifice sleep when I had the opportunity in the middle of the night.  I've been running at night for years though.  I suppose that's why they say only fools run at midnight.

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