Shamrock Run 2011

13 March 2011

I want to be a runner, but reality keeps getting in the way.

In 2008, I tried to go from couch potato to marathon runner, but I got injured along the way. In 2009, the same thing happened. I didn’t train for the marathon during 2010, but instead chose to focus on weight loss and general fitness. I lost forty pounds and built strength through Crossfit.

I didn’t run at all last year — I rode my bike instead — until the final day of our stay in Venice. That morning, I got up early so that I could run through cobblestone streets (and over the canals) in the dark. It was awesome — the best run of my life.

When we returned from Europe, I started running regularly. At first, I kept things easy. I just ran a few miles a few times a week. But you know how I am. I couldn’t keep things quiet. I had to ramp up the volume.

So, I started running intervals. And then I started doing hill runs. I boosted my weekly volume. I tried to be cautious about my running, but in retrospect, I again tried too much too quickly. November and December were great — but then I started to have a nagging problem with my left heel. My Achilles tendon was inflamed. It was painful.

After running a fast mile on January 1st (6:24), I hung up the running shoes for a couple of months. I decided to rest, to see if the injury would go away. (I’m still not sure what cause the injury. Was it the hill runs? Was it the five-finger shoes? Was it just over-training? It could have been all three!)

The injury didn’t really go away, though. The entire time we were in Africa, my heel bugged me. We had a free day in Cape Town, during which I had really hoped to hike to the top of Table Mountain, but I had to give up the dream. I woke that morning to a tight ankle. My Achilles was sore, and I was hobbling around. No Table Mountain for me.

When we returned, though, things improved. In fact, they improved so much that I decided to take part in Portland’s Shamrock Run. Instead of a longer distance, though, I opted to do a 5k (which is just over three miles).

The Race
On a cool (but not cold) Sunday morning, I got out of bed early and headed downtown. So did thousands of other Portlanders. My goal was to meet the team from Crossfit Excellence so that we could warm up together.

Fortunately, our team was wearing distinctive shirts. They were green — not such a good thing, it turns out, since everyone else was wearing green — and emblazoned with a lame double-entendre: Caution! Contents are HOT!

The team from Crossfit Excellence
Our team. Or most of it. Eddie and I never could find them.

Right away, I found Eddie, one of my compatriots from the 6:30am class. But, try as we might, we couldn’t find anyone else from our group. No matter. Eddie and I joined the throng for our run through the streets of Portland.

The first mile was frustrating. Because thousands of us were starting at once, there was no room to run. We basically had to plod along next to each other, waiting for the crowd to thin. Eddie and I tried running on the sidewalks and in the other lanes of traffic, but that presented hazards of its own.

The crowd thinned by about a mile into the race, but I was still dodging people even at the end of the run. Also at about a mile in, the course began to climb a gradual hill. We turned from Burnside onto Broadway and followed it up toward the south end of the city. Though the climb wasn’t steep, it was constant and taxing, especially while trying to weave in and out of traffic.

Rant: In theory, we were supposed to line up at the start based on how fast we thought we were going to complete the run. Obviously, people didn’t do that. I was passing walkers and joggers of all sorts. They sometimes got cranky at me for trying to cut through a crowd of them. Give me a break! If they had started with the slow people, they would have made life easier for everyone. This frustrated me.

In the end, I completed my first-ever official 5k race in 24:07. That’s not a stellar time, but it’s not bad either. In fact, I’m very happy with 24:07. For where I am at my age, it’s perfect. I finished 24th (out of 437) for men aged 40-44. I was 305th place out of more than 6400 runners overall.

I’m confident that I could do this run in 23 minutes or less given no obstructions. In fact, that very afternoon, I signed up for another 5k: the Race for the Roses on April 3rd.

Update: I didn’t do the Race for the Roses. For two weeks, my shins have been giving me all kinds of woe. I suspect it’s from doing too much jump rope at the gym. In any event, I took the first four days of April off from exercise completely — and that includes my scheduled 5k. I’m sad now, but recognize this is best for the long term…

The Flirt
After the race, Eddie and I made our way to the beer garden, where we tried to find anyone else in our group. We had no luck.

As we were standing there, drinking our beer (Eddie was actually the only one drinking beer — I gave him mine and drank a diet soda instead), I noticed three attractive women standing nearby. They were giggling and pointing at us. I wondered if I had snot on my chin or something.

But then one of the women walked over to us and smiled. “I have a question for you,” she said. She leaned toward us and said, “How hot are they?”

At first, I didn’t know what she meant, but then I remembered our shirts: Caution! Contents are HOT! Eddie took a sip of his beer. I think he was trying not to laugh. Me? I was shivering, so I said the first thing that came to mind: “They’re pretty cold right now.”

And as I said it, I realized I’d done the wrong thing. I’ve been married for twenty years now, and I’ve forgotten how these things work. When I was younger, I knew how to flirt, and I enjoyed it. But I’m woefully out of practice. So, I completely missed the cues here, and said, “They’re pretty cold right now.”

The woman’s face fell. Her smile vanished. I think she knew she was attractive, and wasn’t used to talking to men who didn’t play along. She furrowed her brow. “Never mind,” she said, and slipped back to her friends. She whispered something to them. They looked back at me and Eddie and they laughed.

When I got home, I told this story to Kris. She loves it. Nothing makes a woman feel more secure than a husband who is too clueless to flirt.

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