Numbers

Racing and baseball are my two favorite sports, and they are as different as any two sports can be.  Racing is nonstop, no TV time outs, no injury time outs, no rest after each inning.  Baseball is pastoral, the shortstop can wander in to the pitchers mound and strike up a conversation in the middle of an inning if he wants.  Racing is a celebration of the individual, one winner everyone else is an also ran.  Baseball is about team, 25 guys striving for the same goal, if you are lucky enough to play for the Yankees you don’t even get your name on the jersey.

Yankees

But both sports have one thing in common, an obsession with numbers.  And while 714, 755, 61, 56, 2,632 may resonate nationally more than 3:59, 2:03:23, 3:43, 26.2 the latter numbers are important to people who race or follow the sport.

bann1

Last night Albert Puloj became the 26th MLB player to hit 500 career home runs.  This used to mean something, it used to guarantee entry to the Baseball Hall of Fame, now it is a nice milestone that gets a 1 minute spot on Sports Center.  The reason behind the degradation of the number is obvious.  In 1929 Babe Ruth became the first player to hit 500 career home runs and over the next 70 years he was joined by 14 more players.  Then in a span of 15 years (1999-2014) 11 more players were added to the list.  You probably know some of the names.

Barry Bonds
Alex Rodriguez
Ken Griffey, Jr.
Jim Thome
Sammy Sosa
Mark McGwire
Rafael Palmeiro
Manny Ramirez
Frank Thomas
Gary Sheffield
Albert Pujols

7 of them have either tested positive for steroids or admitted using them.  What has MLB done about this?  Aside from suspending 2 of them for 1 season or less, nothing.  For a sport that clings so tightly to its history and records it has done nothing to preserve the meaning of those numbers.  And this may be the most glaring difference between the two sports I love.  In racing if you cheat, you are essentially erased from the history books.

07dope.2.650

Look at the 100m All Time List, no Justin Gatlin no Ben Johnson no Tim Montgomery.  And while I’m not naive enough to believe none of the current distance marks are tainted, at least when the IAAF busts someone they take action with up to a 2 year ban for a first offense and loss of any records or medals.  No one is taking Manny or Arod’s World Series rings from them even though they are both serving/served suspensions for multiple violations and Bonds is still listed as the all time single season and career home run leader.

628x471But I didn’t write this post because of Puloj’s milestone last night.  I actually began thinking about this after Meb’s win in Boston.  I started thinking about it terms of something baseball and distance racing have in common, something that baseball, distance racing and many other sports have in common actually.  The winners aren’t always the ones with the glaring stats, with the blazing fast times, with the highest paid stars.  Yogi Berra has 10 WS rings, Bill Russell has 11 NBA titles and neither are ever mentioned as the best player in their sport.  The NFL player with the most championships?  Charles Haley with 5.

And then you have Meb Keflezighi.  He’s won 4 NCAA titles, 3 National XC titles an Olympic silver medal, the New York City Marathon and the Boston Marathon.

Meb_Keflezighi_in_2014_Boston_Marathon

Meb has never been considered one of the best in the world despite these accomplishments.  He’s never had the jaw dropping times of many world class marathoners.  In fact his fastest time, 2:08:37 run this week at the Boston Marathon, ranks as the 843rd fastest marathon time ever run.

And that is why I love distance racing.  When you toe the line it doesn’t matter what you have done in the past or what the other guys have done.  It only matters what happens that day, in those fleeting moments from when the gun goes off until you cross the finish line.

10 Years 1 Week 6 Days

When you have been running and racing for as long as I have you don’t often get to celebrate a new personal record.  That goes double for the distance your race most often, in my case the 5k.  On October 26th 2003 I ran the Ghostly Gallop 5k in 16:06, here are a list of things I’ve done since that date.

  • Lived in Poughkeepsie
  • Lived in Austin
  • Lived in Pittsford
  • Lived in Fairport
  • Got engaged
  • Got married
  • Had a daughter
  • Had another daughter
  • Got my BA
  • Got my M.Ed
  • Worked at a summer camp
  • Worked at Dell
  • Worked at Best Buy
  • Worked at Pizza Hut
  • Worked at BOCES
  • Bought a house
  • Got a cat
  • lost a cat
  • Got another cat
  • Got another
  • Lost a cat
  • Got another cat
  • Ran 20,000 miles (give or take a few miles)
  • Ran 50+ 5k’s

In short, it has been awhile.  For years I’ve been telling myself I was on the verge of not only running a new 5k PR but of finally breaking 16 minutes.  So many times I was sure one or both of those things was going to happen.  In the last few years I’ve run under 16:30 a dozen times but I’ve never gotten under 16:15.  Staring 40 in the face, I was beginning to think 16:06 was as good as it would ever get for me.

That is until Sunday when Lisa and I ran the Fairport Foundation 5k, a small first year 5k in the village less than a mile from our house.

1a

 Going into this race I hadn’t done a speed workout in almost a month, and my most recent race was 3 weeks earlier at the Finish Strong 5k where I ran a very average 16:27.  Like all the 5k’s I’ve run in the last few years I crashed and burned in the last mile of the Finish Strong after feeling great the first 8 or 9 minutes.  No matter how well my training has been going I can’t seem to find that finishing gear when it counts.  I decided a few weeks ago to stop wearing a watch during my training runs, and I carried that over into this race.  Knowing my pace doesn’t really seem to do me any good, I just spend my mental energy during the latter half a race thinking about time instead of thinking about running.  My goal for the Fairport 5k was to stay relaxed the whole way and not obsess over my time.  I figured with my lack of workouts I would either be very rested or very flat.

2a

 My plan to not obsess about time was thrown off a bit by someone giving out mile splits.  5:05, which is what I usually run the first mile of a 5k and normally I feel pretty good running that pace, this race was no exception.  I tried my best not to dwell on my split and just focused on keeping a quick cadence and tried to think light and fast thoughts during the long out and back stretch along the canal.  The way the course setup the 1 mile and 2 mile markers were only 30 meters apart, so not only did I get my 1 mile split but I heard the 2 mile split as well- 10:20.  My normal reaction to hearing my 2 mile split is “shit now I’ve got to run a 5:xx to break 16:00 minutes” but on this occasion I thought “wow, that is the easiest 10:20 I’ve ever run.”

The last mile, a minute in the lead and closing in on a PR.  This is when not having a watch really paid off.  For some stupid reason during the last mile of a race I’ll start looking at my watch.  I say stupid, because I never race with a GPS watch so what do I expect my watch to tell me?  If I look down and the watch says 14:26, who cares, it isn’t like I know exactly how much distance I have left to the finish, but for some reason I can’t stop looking and worrying about the time.  On Sunday I had no such issues, I just hammered home as hard as I could.

3

As I turned into the park and ran the final dash across the grass to the finish I could see the clock and knew I was going to run a PR, and I thought just maybe I would break 16 minutes as well.  As I hit the line the clock showed 16:01 but the official time had me at 16:03.  I know what some of you may be thinking… I must be so pissed that I didn’t break 16 minutes.  Well, the truth is I’m really not.  After 10 years 1 week and 6 days I was thrilled to have broken through with a new 5k PR.  Sub 16 might come someday, but for today I am happy to know that I still have some gas left in the tank and on the right day can still run as fast as ever.

As I mentioned earlier Lisa also ran this race.  Trying to squeeze in training with her busy work/life schedule isn’t easy but she has been getting a few runs in a week fairly consistently since early summer and ran a great time on Sunday.  You can see her hammering past the 3rd place woman to seal her top 3 finish.

4

Full Results Here.

All Photos taken by Mary White

Putting a bow on it

It is that time of year when we look back on the past year and look forward to the new one.  2011 was a wonderful year for me and for Roadkill Racing.

On the home front a delicate balance was struck between work and play, between family, jobs and running.  Hazel moved out of what I like to refer to as the larva stage and into the nymph stage, I am not so much looking forward to her reaching the dragon fly stage but we have another 12 or so years before that happens.  I now find myself in the constant company of 2 lovely ladies who for some reason, beyond my ability to fathom, not only tolerate but seem to actually love me for all my many quirks and idiosyncrasies.

Three years of uninterupted training led to many new Personal Records this year in distances both long and short.

  • 1 mile 4:29 at the McMullen Mile
  • 5 mile 27:00 Ed Ericson Memerial Run
  • 10k 35:25 Freezeroo # 6
  • 1/2 Marathon 1:15:53
  • 25K 1:32:56 Turkey Trot
I am more proud of the many achievements of Roadkill Racing, than I am of my own person triumphs.  Defying all reason, RKR has become a force to be reckoned with on the Rochester running scene.  We have built a solid base of runners, and continue to add new runners.  Despite having nothing to offer in the way of shoes, clothing, or facilities we have competed against and beat area teams much larger and better funded than ourselves.  Perhaps it is our simple refrain “For Beer and Glory,” perhaps it is our distinctive racing singlet (which every RKR member must dole out $40 for),  or perhaps it is something a little bit more.  In this holiday season I am reminded of the Grinch, standing on the precipice having stolen all the Who’s Christmas goodies.  And did those Who’s down in Whoville cry boo hoo?  No they were singing.
And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of *ten* Grinches, plus two! 
Yes, I think all the proud members of RKR have hearts 3 sizes larger and they have the strength of ten runners, plus two!