Saturday, July 25, 2015

Racing and Giving Honor: The Fab 40s 5K Race Report

This morning, I ran the Fab 40s 5K in Sacramento for the third year in a row. It's really a great race--incredibly well-organized, beautiful location, fast, flat course. I love a flat course after always running the hills here in Lincoln.

The race starts and ends in East Lawn Cemetery, which, the first time around, was a little odd to me. But the organizers and the cemetery itself keep the place pristine and I've never noticed any participants littering or otherwise desecrating the place. I suppose the people buried there don't mind our pounding feet one way or the other, as long as we stick to the roads.

Since I started half marathon training a year ago, my pace has slowed considerably, and my best-ever 5K time (set in the Santa Run in December 2013), holds steady at 30:43. I was so close to a sub-thirty time, I almost cried. Except that I was too busy making my stomach settle down. Ahh, running.

I haven't come anywhere near that time since. When I started going further and further on my runs, I had to slow my pace in order to survive. Building endurance means mile times of 11:30 to 12:00, not hovering near 10:00.

I've been working on this, and recently, I did a mile run using intervals of one minute and thirty seconds, where I run comfortably for one minute, then sprint like hell for thirty seconds. I got my mile time down to 10:30, and I was pleased with this. I even managed to get my first mile in today's race in about 10:25, so that was great.

What wasn't great was that after using up so much steam in the first mile, I had to slow a bit for the second...and even more for the third. The second mile was about 11:00, and the last mile something like just under 13:00. And it was difficult.

My legs felt great. On my friend Matt's advice, I spent two hours (measured in Game of Thrones episodes) foam-rolling and stretching last night. I did a bit more this morning, pre-hydrated, ate some almonds and a Gu, and I mostly felt great out there during the run. The problem, actually, was my shoulder. I've noticed that I can get shoulder cramping (usually just one side, and today it was the right) when I'm fatigued, so that whole third mile consisted of me taking walk intervals to stretch and try to make my stubborn deltoids and rotator cuff muscles listen to reason. (Spoiler: they wouldn't.)

The minute I stopped running, at the finish line, my shoulder said, "Okay! I'm good now!" and I've had no more pain.

So I finished in 35:47--by far not my best 5K time ever, but certainly nothing to be ashamed of. I'm never ashamed of finishing any race, and I do a really good job of not comparing my time to other people's, for the most part. There was a portion of the race, somewhere in the second mile, where you double back on part of the course. The first time I ran it, I was passing by the front-runners, the five- and six-minute milers, and thinking, "Wow, look at them go..." To put things in really great perspective, the second time I ran it, coming back, I was passing a huge group of walkers and slow runners.

Everyone is at their own level.

As I mentioned earlier, I love the course of this race. If you're not familiar with Sacramento, the Fab 40s are a neighborhood, between about 40th street and 46th street, of wonderful old homes, beautifully kept. The trees are old and huge, and they meet over the middle of each street, providing lots of shade. This is the kind of neighborhood where the homes are grand, but not so grand that anyone minds a tree swing in someone's front yard. For eight years now, this neighborhood has endured the race, with all of its street closures and traffic delays, and yet people sit on their porches to cheer the runners on.

The race benefits the Alzheimer's Association, a very worthy cause. Today I ran in honor of my friend Sarah in New York, and her father. He is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's, and Sarah's posts about his decline are heartbreaking. Watching this terrible disease ravage someone through the eyes of a loving daughter is not easy. Yesterday, she posted again, and I asked if she would mind me running today in honor of her and her dad. She said she would be honored, so I did.

On a personal level, I learned yesterday that my great-grandmother, Ruth Myrtle Merchant, is buried at East Lawn. Mom mentioned this, so after the race, I decided to inquire in the main building and find out just where she is buried. Within two minutes, I had a map in hand and the words "Section A, Row 4, Grave 10." Off I went to meet Grandma Merchant. She died in 1950, long before I was even a glimmer of a thought in my three-year-old mother's heart. I still think of her loosely as family--certainly an ancestor. She was born in Nebraska, like me--though I was born there simply because that's where Dad happened to be stationed when I came along. Her original family name was Marchand, as they were from France. The name was Americanized at Ellis Island.

It took me a few minutes to find her grave, but once I did, I realized that for three years now, I've been running right past her--about ten or fifteen yards away on a little road through the cemetery--for three years now. "Next year," I told her gravestone, "I'll wave as I pass. You're near the morning glories--that I can remember." It felt silly, at first, talking to her, because I didn't know her. But I did know her daughter, my own grandmother, and I know Grandma was pretty awesome.

Apparently my great uncle and his wife are interred there somewhere, so maybe next year I'll make a point of finding them. I never knew Uncle Al, but Mom has many fond stories and memories of him.

So, my time was "meh" and my shoulder was being a jerk, but I do love running this race and I'm sure I'll sign up again next year. By then, I'll have Half #3 (and maybe #4, if I do the Shamrock'n again) under my belt and I'll have given more time to improving my 5K time.

If you give a Meg a cookie...

Big Jim Hall is a local radio personality. I love hearing his
distinctive voice call out my name at the finish. He gets

Ruth Merchant's grave. A very peaceful place to rest.

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