Race Report: Groundhog Run 2010

I am in a virtual chigger-cloud of thoughts and emotions about racing and mid-life crises. I have started this post no fewer than 12 times trying to address the chiggers individually. If there can be such a thing as epic tedium, you were almost subjected to it.

For now, I'll leave it cryptically at this, then go on and tell you about Groundhog: Attitude adjustments are exactly like adjustments made during a run, or during a season of running, or during years of running (or cycling or alpine climbing or whatever your thing is). In fact, for a runner (or cyclist or alpine climber) all those adjustments may be part of a single, challenging, sometimes painful process.

Okay. Moving on. Groundhog Run: what to expect and what happened today.

If you do the Groundhog Run in the Hunt Subtropolis, Kansas City's underground storage facility, do as they suggest and get there an hour before the race. Expect to sit in slow-moving traffic on the way to the parking lot. Funneling 3500 runners through a narrow intersection takes some time.

Unless you are running with a corporate team, you will spend a significant part of that hour in line for the port-a-john. And you'll want to warm up, if only to check out the caves in a less frenetic manner than in the actual race.

Be prepared for:

(a) Pre-run claustrophobia. You are packed in tight and may become acutely aware of the enclosed area. I turned to the woman next to me and said, "If it's like this when we try to survive the nuclear holocaust, we'll probably all just kill each other in the first 45 minutes." She thought this was funny and not at all a creepy thing to have a complete stranger say to her. I also got to meet the woman directly behind me because after we sang along to the Star-Spangled Banner I turned in amazement and told her what a beautiful voice she had. She really did. Crowded with all the other runners in the underground industrial setting, she laughed and blushed and thanked me and her boyfriend/significant other looked fit to burst with pride and put his arm around her and we wished each other a good race and it was a very Frank Capra meets the-workers-of-Metropolis moment.

(b) Noise and smells. Again, enclosed area of hard surfaces and 3500 runners. It's loud. Smells: I'm told they've improved the general staleness of the air. I didn't notice anything pervasive. I did notice fat invisible plumes of rotten-egg smell at one point. No big deal. Just speed up to get through it before your stomach turns. It doesn't last more than three or four seconds.

(c) The need to Pay Attention. Unless you are at the front or the back of the pack, you will spend your whole race picking lines and weaving around other runners and watching the feet in front of you so if they slow down you don't tangle with them. It's a crowded race. Also be careful running across the trolley tracks. They're a trip hazard if your toe goes into the crevice by the rail. (Sorry that happened to you there, mister.)

(d) An incredible amount of positive energy. Not to belabor the point, but 3500 runners in an enclosed underground facility is a LOT of exercise-induced testosterone (yes, women have that too) and adrenaline bubbling away!

It's a not-quite-perfectly-flat course and a 50-degree run with no wind in January. If you are having what would on any other day be a good run, it will be a great run.

I had a good solid run with a new benchmark pace of 9:34, just outside my comfort zone and with everything I could lay out in the last quarter mile. (Whoever you were yelling "SEE IT THROUGH" as I hurtled toward the chute, even if you were yelling it for somebody else, thank you. What a great thing to yell.) ZL had a stellar fast run and PR'd — always a big balloon of a day when that happens for someone; others on the team looked satisfied and happy — the post-run glow was somehow more concentrated indoors, replete as it was with the thick aroma of maple-iced doughnuts.

Unfortunately for me, also concentrated was the crowd-claustrophobia, to which I did not adapt well today, instead relapsing to Asperger's symptoms, subdued and withdrawn and barely able to focus on the people directly around me. I hope I see some of these temporary teammates again; they all seem like happy, interesting people who'd swap good stories over beers.

Groundhog Run. Wait, I'm not weirdly inhibited now, I can let loose an un-subdued hoorah: Hell yeah! Groundhog Run! No better way to spend a January morning! If you didn't run it this year, put it on your calendar. It's worth the uniqueness, and it benefits Children's TLC, which does hard and important work.


Zoolander said...

Simply Outstanding. You had a GREAT run. More important, diggin' the vibe. STOKED!

Anonymous said...

Ann- Are you the same person who volunteers for Hospice? I thought I recognized your name and wanted to say hello--- Win's daughter Gayle

Ann Pai said...

Gayle! Wow, it's great to hear from you! I think of your mom and she still always makes me straighten up my posture and smile. Hope your family's well.

Anonymous said...

We are all doing well. I was not surprised to see that you were blogging, but I had no idea that you liked to run. It has been almost a year since we last spoke and in that time, I have started training for the Smithville Women's Sprint Triathlon. I have a warm up 5 K for the Special Olympics in April. This is all new to me but I am finding it is giving a focus to the daily routine of exercise to have such goals in sight.