Monday, March 23, 2009

Lt. J.C. Stone 50K - 3/21/09

This was my first time running the Lt. J.C. Stone 50K near Pittsburgh, PA. It was a small race, with only 45 finishers. I was #44, finishing in 6:55:56. I thought I was the last person, but near the last turn, I passed another lady, whom I thought was just out enjoying the day. When I heard someone right at my heels as I approached the finish line, I turned to see the lady with a number on her front. I was embarrassed. I told her I did not realize she was in the race (i.e., I couldn't see her number as I passed her), and if I'd known, I would not have done so. She said that was okay, but I still felt kind of bad about it.

The course winds around a lake through North Park on roads. Since the park is so close to the city, there were more community people than racers out on the bike lane, walking, running, cycling, and roller blading with family, friends, and dogs. They probably were wondering who we were with our numbers on our fronts and fluid bottles in hand or in a pack on our waists. It was down right cold at the start, below freezing, but it warmed up to about 50. It was overcast all day, so it felt cooler than it probably was. I never got rid of my gloves, headband, or jacket, and I was comfortable.

We did a 1 mile loop at the beginning of the race, followed by six relatively flat 5-mile loops around the lake. It's a pretty park, but it did get boring by the last 2 loops. There's a section of the loop that goes along the highway, where the bike lane narrows. As the day went on, that highway got pretty busy, but the locals seemed to be accustomed to giving everyone in the bike lane the right of way. The neat thing about this course is that every half mile of the 5-mile loop is permanently marked on the pavement, so you knew exactly where you were every 5 minutes or so. It made pacing simple.

The cut-off for this race was 7 hours, and when I started the last loop, I really thought I'd finish over the cut-off. Lou, the race director, assured me that someone would be at the finish line when I came back and that I'd get an official finish time even if I arrived 5 or 10 minutes over the cut-off. Lou, btw, ran his own race and finished 8th overall in {gulp} 3:54:55! Knowing that I would get an official finish must have eased the pressure on that last loop, because I cruised in about 4 minutes under cut-off. I'm glad his nice volunteers didn't have to wait a minute longer. Thanks, Lou!

The finisher's medal is pretty neat, and I love the black technical shirt in the goody bag. I passed up the pizza at the finish and headed for the airport. I was tired. I worked most of the day on Friday, and when I arrived at the airport, my flight was delayed. When I realized that I would not make my connecting flight to Pittsburgh, Northwest switched me to Delta, where I waited another hour, before taking off. I made it to Pittsburgh about 11:30 pm, picked up the rental car, and was planning on sleeping in the car in the park at the start/finish area. However, a cop followed me into the park. When I pulled up to the boathouse, which was the start/finish area, he pulled in behind me. I already knew I shouldn't be there when he asked if I was lost. I explained to him that I had just gotten into town, was participating in the race on Saturday morning, and wanted to locate the race site before morning. It wasn't necessarily a lie, right? He said that he had to run kids out of the park, so he was just checking.

Well . . . it was obvious that I couldn't stay there. I headed back out of the park and found a little strip mall and slept in the parking lot. With it being so cold, I woke up every 30 minutes or so to turn the heat on. When I got warm, I turned the car off and went back to sleep until it got cold again. When morning came, I changed all of my layers and put on my running gear and headed back to the park. I think I've mastered the art of changing clothes in the car, without scaring anybody that passes by, lol.

Even though I didn't know anybody at the race and ran all day by myself, it was a good day. As usual, I was grateful to be out there again, doing what I can do, and enjoying it.

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