Thursday, January 7, 2021

 

2020 Year in Review

 


Hello?

Come on, blog, wake up!  It’s been awhile.

Huh?

Hi!  You’ve been in a state of torpor.

You again?

Yeah, it is I!

OMG…what year is it?

It’s now January in the year of our Lord 2021, but a lot has happened in 2020.  And, just where should I begin?  Oh, yeah.

The Wuhan Virus, or “the plague” as I refer to it, has altered lives in both enormous and small ways: how we live, how we work, how we interact with one another and if we will ever enjoy the marathon experience the way we once did.  I feel as if we are treating, judging or ducking others as if they are ill or disease-ridden.  Sad.

Anyway, are you going to start blogging again?

Maybe, but it depends what’s on my race schedule.  I feel compelled to keep my race journal going, even if it means summing up a year of basically no running.  Many of us could not wait for this annus horribilis to end.  And for good reason: to put it bluntly, 2020 sucked.  We’ve all learned to prioritize the safety and well-being of our families and communities, but also, we need to look ahead as we carve out new paths to our lives.

I can see that.

I’m preaching to the choir here, but a lot has changed during this so-called pandemic, but there are certain things that have not: our core values, innovation, adaptation and reworking ways to keep running.  Putting those values into action during this time has been more important than ever and they continue to guide each decision we make.  Over the past several months, I’ve come to realize that phrases like “these are unprecedented times,” “we’re in this together,” “stay safe,” “social distancing” or “mask up” should be expelled from the English lexicon.

Agreed.  Are you asking me to be your psychotherapist?

Not exactly.  But while race cancellations may be warranted for the sake of public health, I’m sure many runners experienced some sort of K├╝bler-Ross moment coping with the concomitant disappointment, particularly those who put in hours of training and discipline to qualify for Boston, suddenly finding themselves postponing taking that victory lap.

So, how do you feel about race cancellations?

Runners are not immune to feelings of disappointment.  From personal experience, a subpar race can bring plenty of personal letdowns.  When I fall short of a time goal, I feel some sort of discontent, but I also feel gratitude – gratitude for my good health as a result of training.

I abhor today’s cancel culture.  When a race is canceled, it’s reasonable to assume that disappointment can be accompanied by anxiety from the loss of control, which is not something most runners are good about accepting.  We all want to be flexible when life throws us curveballs, but it’s hard to do after going through the regiments of training and focus.

So, we have no other alternative except to re-evaluate and innovate.  With our marathoning calendars thrown out the window, it’s time to shift the focus to maintaining fitness, preserving our excitement about running, and, for some, possibly signing up for some virtual half or full marathons.

Virtual races?

Yes.  Personally, virtual races don’t appeal to me, but for others, running the distance you trained for was still possible, but in a different way.  Sure, virtual races may not officially count towards one’s 50-state journey or club statistics, but you still receive a finisher’s medal, bib or even an event shirt.  But most importantly, it gives you some sense of accomplishment.  Choosing your own course in your hometown just isn’t the same as traveling to a chosen venue and experiencing the official course, cheering spectators and the incredible volunteers. 

True.  Without the volunteers, a race isn’t possible.  Let’s cut to the chase.  Did you run something in 2020?

When I completed my 50-state quest in June 2019, I was anxious to take a much-deserved rest break and shift my focus towards training with the hopes of running some quality marathons for 2020.  I had my attention directed to quality running and pacing half marathons to accompany the Chicago and Honolulu Marathons during the latter part of the year.

With a sense of renewed sanguinity, I started 2020 with my second running of Huntington Beach’s Surf City Half Marathon on 2 February. 

On 1 March, I managed to sneak in Visalia’s End of the Trail Half Marathon shortly before the global contagion triggered a cascading effect of race cancellations. 

Unless some soothsayer possessed a genuine crystal ball who could prophesize what 2020 had in store for racing, the unleashing of the plague didn’t come as a complete surprise.  But it certainly set in motion a year of calamity, thus marking the end of everyone’s race calendars.

Hold on, you only finished two running events?  Tell me about them.

Yes.  Here’s my docket.

Surf City Half Marathon, Huntington Beach, CA, 2:18:17


Reviews say this course is flat and fast.  Fast, that’s debatable, but flat?  I would say it’s flat for the most part, but there is a moderate hill around Mile 3.5.  In a nutshell, the racecourse for both the marathon and half marathon are basically an out-and-back on the PCH with another out-and-back up to Seapoint View for the course’s only real incline; thence, its north on the PCH with a turnaround at Bolsa Chica.  From there, the half continues in a straight line of roughly five miles to the finish.

As I prepared to kick off the year’s inaugural road race, I was excited.  It was a cool and balmy morning as thousands of runners competed in the full and half marathons.  During the first three miles, I quickly found I was not in the running shape I had hoped.  I kind of burned out during the final few miles as I scrambled across the finish line with a second-rate time.  Maybe I was out of shape.  Maybe it’s the boredom of the course.  Maybe it was the warm balmy temperatures.  In any event, I still made the most of running this popular race with thousands of others, nevertheless.

End of the Trail Half Marathon, Visalia, CA, 2:12:51


One month after Surf City, I set my sights on a renewed focus to my running by keeping up on my workouts with some cross-training and yoga.  Those activities I did.  With an upcoming 2:15 pacing job in Modesto, so instead of going all-out in a bid to run a decent time, I directed my attention to my pacing form.  I finished a little fast, perhaps it was the over exuberance at the start.

Being that this flat and fast course is one of the valley’s runner of the year series events, the race begins in downtown Visalia taking runners through residential streets and neighborhoods and onto the Santa Fe Trail continuing to the historic End of the Trail bronze statue in Mooney Grove Park before heading back to the finish line party.

Modesto Half Marathon, Modesto, CA, CANCELED


This flat and fast course begins in uptown Modesto on M Street, between 10th and 11th Streets.  The course winds through historic tree-lined neighborhoods, skirting around the “house in the middle of the road” and loops into the countryside of orchards and farmlands before returning to the point of beginning.  I was all set to pace this race, but it will just have to wait for another day.

 

 

Chicago Marathon, Chicago, IL, CANCELED


The year I managed to secure a bib number through the lottery system, this world major will have to wait for another day – perhaps never.  Instead of a 2021 race deferral, I opted for a full refund of my entry fees, testing my luck with another lottery in the future.  Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.

 

 

 

 

Two Cities Half Marathon, Fresno/Clovis, CA, CANCELED


From the event’s conception, Two Cities formed a great relationship with Woodward Park; however, 2020 was supposed to be the beginning of a new affiliation with Clovis Community College challenging runners with a new certified course linking the two cities.  I looked forward to pacing this great race on a new course, but it will have to wait until November 2021.

 

 

Bakersfield Half Marathon, Bakersfield, CA, CANCELED


Being a legacy runner of Bakersfield, I look forward to this annual November event walking the Streets of Bakersfield.  Perhaps, November 2021 will preserve my legacy status, but with an asterisk.

 

Honolulu Marathon, Honolulu, HI, CANCELED


I first ran this marathon, completing my thirteenth state, in December 2014, finishing in 4:57:33.  It was tropical (typical for Hawaii), windy and rained most of the time, but I wanted to improve upon my 2014 finish time. The sultry tropical December weather can make running the marathon distance a taxing challenge, but I was up for the test.  After being notified of the cancellation, race organizers gave runners the option to defer their entries to December 2021 or take a refund.  Unlike Chicago, I opted for the deferral, so I’ll just have to take a wait-and-see approach.

Remember some of these races from previous blogs?

Of course, I do.  What about your finishing times this year?

I’m not going to delve into that.  I may say I don’t care about my finishing times these days, but deep down, I really do.  I know that someone in their fifties isn’t as fast as they once were in their thirties.  But I know I can do better – it just takes work and discipline.

I don’t care about finish times, and neither does anyone else.

Noted.  I was happy to pace myself enough to work on my pace form for when it really does count.  I feel that discouraging voice inside me telling me that my best times are behind me and that my future marathon pursuits will be either for fun, or to flirt with aspirations, but never quite reach or surpass them. 

My yearly race stats aren’t that notable.  But, for the record…

Race Stats:

Half Marathons Run: 2

Surf City Half Marathon, Huntington Beach, CA – 2:18:17

End of the Trail Half Marathon, Visalia, CA – 2:12:51

Marathons Run: 0

Number of fellow runners: 10,180
Largest race: 9,458 (Surf City Half Marathon)
Smallest race: 722 (End of the Trail Half Marathon)

All-time marathon average to date (through 71 races):  4:51:32

Standard deviation: 0:28:58

Median finish time: 4:54:09

Mileage Stats:

Total miles run in 2020: 529.9
Race miles run in 2020: 26.2
Average half marathon pace: 10:20

You’re right – not that striking.  Typically, you include photos of your top three finisher medals in your blog reviews.

Well, I have only two half marathon medals to show for this year.

         End of the Trail                                       Surf City

 

Any final thoughts before we conclude?

Yes.  The plague has made us wonder what is worse – the actual virus or the devastation it has done to one’s state’s economic backbone or the mental health of millions of people.  It kills me to see restaurants and small businesses close their doors because of the useless lockdowns, mandates and protocols.

Sitting in isolation is challenging for many, especially for those who live alone or work from home.  But the outdoors is open, and runners can still get outside and breathe the fresh air and clear our minds – without that mask.

And so, I happily bid farewell to 2020 and I look to a better 2021 hopefully bringing an end to the plague virus and to have some sense of normal human behavior and interactions.  Though my plans aren’t completely monumented in stone, I hope that I can once again blaze another trail and set my sights on the starting line of another marathon and earn a fast time, for once.

Or not, and that would be OK.

I won’t hold my breath.

Happy 2021?

Yes.

As always, onward and upward.


 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

End of the Trail Half Marathon


End of the Trail Half Marathon
Visalia, CA
1 March 2020

“Some days it just flows and I feel like I’m born to do this, other days it feels like I’m trudging through hell. Every day I make the choice to show up and see what I’ve got, and to try and be better.  My advice: keep showing up.” – Desiree Linden

Huntington Beach’s Surf City Half Marathon taught me to set my sights on a renewed focus to my running.  I’ve kept up my workouts to some degree, throwing in some cardio cross-training and yoga sessions for added bonus points, so I have no excuse if I bonk at this half marathon.  If I do, I’ll retire to my hermitage, ending my days of spiritual rejuvenation.

Being a local runner-of-the-year event, the End of the Trail Half Marathon (EOTT) has been a staple of Visalia and the San Joaquin Valley for the past several years.  Since its inauguration, the course has undergone some changes and certifications, but one thing wasn’t altered, the course is still flat – there are no hills in Visalia.  Now, EOTT enjoys certification as an NYC Marathon qualifier.

A portion of the proceeds generated by EOTT go to benefit local high school running programs, athlete scholarships, community running events and to the restoration and upkeep of the notable End of the Trail statue in Mooney Grove Park, a park dedicated to preserving a remnant of the San Joaquin Valley’s ancient valley oak (Quercus lobata) forest.

The course is pretty simple.  Runners begin in the SE/4 of the SW/4 of Section 29, Township 18 South, Range 25 East, MDBM (for all you PLSSers out there) on Main Street in front of the Garden Street Plaza in uptown Visalia.  Runners then whisk through business and residence areas before connecting with the Santa Fe pedestrian trail leading runners to Mooney Grove Park to the End of the Trail statue in the SW/4 of the NW/4 of Section 18, Township 19 South, Range 25 East.  From there, it’s a trek back up the pedestrian trail to the point of beginning.

Two times of basically a looped out-and-back gives runners insight into knowing what is in store for them the second time around and for those with knowledge of the area, an opportunity to cheer in multiple locales.  

The Expo/Packet Pick-up

In years past, EOTT did not sponsor an expo.  Instead, runners convened at a sponsoring local running store to pick up their bibs and receive minimal swag, if one could call it that.  New for 2020, the Visalia Convention Center hosts the Healthy Living Expo emphasizing fitness and healthy living.  

A handful of merchants and concessionaires occupied their niche on the floor of the convention center’s exhibit hall as my wife and I volunteered working the packet packet-up table, ensuring participants secured their bibs, long-sleeve tech shirts, fleece throws, beanie caps and various goodies.  Fitness demonstrations from gymnastic performances to powerlifting techniques drew the attention of visitors throughout the day.

Let’s do this

It was unusually warm for late February in the preceding days leading up to EOTT.  Daytime temperatures hovered around ten to fifteen degrees above the thirty-year average.  With a forecasted cool weekend and the prospects of precipitation dominating meteorological dialogue, there was growing concern about a wet showery event.  With forecasting models becoming more precise as the weekend approached, the statistical prospects for any kind of rainfall quickly diminished, but there was still that possibility.

Although it might appear like I’m prepping the reader for another disastrous race beset by heat, rain or some other external force, I was lucky to avoid that.  In fact, the day was near perfect for a long, meditative run crisscrossing paths and roads that are intimately familiar to me. 

Mostly (of course I’ve run into some exceptions), I feel as if I am able to control the weather.  If I want to ensure a dry morning for a platoon of runners, all I need to do is sign up for a race on some date.  Weather forecasts seem to be impotent against my talents.  Even hours before sunrise, charlatan clairvoyants augur the coming of tempests, and I dash them with a simple wave of my hand.  I am the Diviner of Dryness, the Denier of Drizzle, and Prohibitor of Precipitation. 

With a cold weather front fresh out of the Gulf of Alaska shepherding through the San Joaquin Valley during Saturday’s evening hours, a nearly ideal running environment ensued.  Cool air temperatures under a canopy of clouds safeguarded my uncertainties of overheating in the bright sunshine.  Coincidence?    

My wife and I arrived at the Garden Street Plaza around 0630.  A chilly breeze swirled in and around the nearby buildings, the plaza’s signature water feature sat dry, waiting for Visalia children to romp in the cool refreshing jets and sprays throughout the hot summer months and sponsoring vendors and beer garden personnel worked to set up their respective tables as spectators and runners alike waited anxiously in the plaza’s bastion for the race to begin.  

A number of runners eagerly lined up early in the curvilinear corral while others found themselves making one last visit to the porta-potty to empty out any accumulated bilge water.  

The diffuse morning sunlight softly permeated the mostly overcast sky faintly exposing the jagged peaks of the Sierra-Nevada Mountains.  The prevailing northwesterly breeze extricated the blossoms of the flowering deciduous trees flanking the city streets to rain down like snowflakes freely falling from the sky, clearly indicating spring has sprung to the forefront.  

Following the national anthem, both the 10K and half marathon races began sharply at 0730 in a characteristically quiet fashion.  

As with any race that’s an out-and-back or repeats certain sections, I’ve learned to break down each iteration with a completely different mindset.  

The first third of the course is meant as a warm-up, developing an impression of the course; the second third challenges me to stay strong; and the final few miles are meant to drag me home – pain or no pain. 

In a nutshell, runners charge down Main Street, turning right onto Ben Maddox Way, crossing Freeway 198 where they intersect the first mile marker along “Visalia’s Motor Mile.”

Thence, it’s east on Tulare Avenue, south on Pinkham Road, west on K Road, to Santa Fe Road (Road 128) where runners leave the urban surroundings, paralleling the AT&SF Railroad and begin their journey to the rural part of the course taking in the sights of stone fruit and nut tree orchards, alfalfa fields and even a dairy before entering Mooney Grove Park.  Thence, it’s back to whence everyone started.

The 10K runners follow the half runners until a U-turn on Santa Fe near Mile 4 forces runners to follow a northward bearing along the Santa Fe Trail to the finish line; whereas halfers honed their compasses southward along Road 128 for another 1.5 miles to Avenue 272.
Santa Fe Trail

I ran the first 4.5 miles comfortably, albeit a little fast for my planned pace as I merged on to the Santa Fe trail at Caldwell Avenue (Avenue 280).  Here, I made a conscious effort to ease off my current pace and to sustain a contented 10:15 mile pace, more or less.

Mr. Mooney greeting visitors
Over the course of the next five miles, I maintained my chosen pace leading into the gates and confines of Mooney Grove Park as gaggles of Canadian geese hailed runners with all their cackling and racket.  In the air above, skeins of geese on reconnaissance looked for safe places to land.

Concrete footpaths laden with goose poop, lead runners around the Museum of Farm Labor and Agriculture, through the park’s eucalyptus and oak forest, and along the Cameron Creek waterway to the county’s iconic feature, the End of the Trail statue.


The last time it snowed in Visalia - January 1999

Running past the statue
Shortly after whizzing past the equine effigy and back onto a paved service road, the 2:10 pace group caught up and swallowed me as I had expected them to do so.  

I joined the group for a few minutes before realizing I was running too fast.  I’m a regular at leading a 2:10 pace group and I found it hard to abandon a pace I’m so comfortable running.  But I was practicing and I made a conscious effort to ease up and stick to my intended pace.

Once out of Mooney Grove, a gentle refreshing headwind cooled my overheated body.  The refreshing air was a welcome addition to an already beautiful journey.  It turned an otherwise rural path into a whimsical peregrination through mystic lands.  I pretended just for a moment to allow the breeze to join me for a run in an act of peaceful communion.

An old barn along the route
Heading in an easterly direction on Avenue 272, the majestic snow-capped high Sierras came into view with Homer’s Nose and Sawtooth Peak being the prominent eye-catching features.  In the foreground, flowering fruit trees painted the landscape with colorful hues reminiscent of Fresno County’s popular Blossom Trail, symbolizing the turning of the seasons.

I was in a zone, ready to crank out the final few miles, until a large dump truck towing a backhoe pulled out of a driveway causing me, and other runners, to come to a grinding halt as we waited for the truck and trailer to clear the driveway.  My impetus spiraled out of control – I was no longer in my zone. 

As I ran alongside that truck, I gazed up at the driver with a “why did you do that” look, but he didn’t give me any sort of acknowledgment.  He must’ve been mindful of all the runners in his path.  For a brief moment, I had my own temporary personal pace vehicle until it turned off onto Road 124.  

With nearly four north-facing miles separating me from the finish, clouds momentarily broke allowing the sun to warm the air until another cloud eclipsed its rays.  Whether it was heat-related effects or not, I felt faint hints of leg fatigue beginning to accrue, which I hoped wouldn’t result in slower splits.  

I sometimes fear that it’s becoming a psychological thing, as if just the thought of reaching Mile 10 signals my brain to send out an instant infusion of fatigue into my muscles.  I’ve never been able to run a fast second half or a negative split.  If I’m not pacing, I usually start off the race too fast and burn out during the final few miles.  But, I kept pushing, trying to maintain my pace, as it slowly got harder to maintain with every step.

I advanced northward along the Santa Fe trail, whose many landmarks and recreational vistas have become almost sacred territory.  I suddenly realized these are the roads that made me a runner, that pulled me farther from my comfort zone and built the foundation for what I hope will be lifelong endurance.  It was almost transcendental when I learned that there, on the path that gave me my runner’s legs, the trail that has allowed me to blaze a path in every state, I was back where I started.

As I made a right turn onto Acequia Avenue, I could hear the cheers of spectators at the finish line just one block to the north.  I was still on pace to finish under my goal time.  The pain began to show on my face as I pushed further to Burke Street making the final left turn onto Main Street knowing that the final half-mile was the only impediment standing in the way before the finish line and calling it a day.  

Running the final half-mile seemed to drag on in perpetuity.  It was like running on a treadmill focusing on a distant object, but never getting there.  I reached down into my bag of tricks to find some superfluous dynamism needed to fuel my push.  I elected not employ my Operation let-no-one-pass strategy, but rather directing my attention to finish strong.  Besides, I didn’t want to suffer one of those painful calf cramps I usually experience as I go all out to the finish line.    

At the end of the day, I stopped the race clock at 2:12:23, and glad to be one of the hundreds of runners who, once again, “slayed the trail.” 

RACE STATS:

Distance: Half marathon (13.1 mi).  My Garmin measured 13.18 miles.
Date: 1 March 2020
Bib No.: 107
Weather at start: 50°F, cool, mostly overcast, light breeze out of the northwest
Gun time: 2:12:51
Chip time: 2:12:23
Average pace: 10:09 per mile
Average cadence: 162 steps per minute
Overall rank: 331 of 722
Gender rank: 202 of 321
Division rank: 10 of 18
Elevation: 30 ft gain / 30 ft loss
Age graded score: 51.45%
Age graded time: 1:53:28
Garmin splits: 9:30, 9:31, 9:57, 10:05, 9:44, 10:05, 10:15, 10:14, 9:57, 10:18, 10:34, 10:21, 10:13, 8:46 (remaining 0.18)

LIKES / WHAT WORKED:
·         Very well-organized event from packet pick-up, immediate online results, the well-stocked aid stations along the course to bag drop and pick up.
·         Great expo.
·         Flat and fast course.
·         Free race photos.
·         Unique “Slay the Trail” finisher’s medal with spinning End of the Trail statue silhouette.
·         Free beer samples at the beer garden, live post-race entertainment, long-sleeve event tech shirts.
·         Super friendly and enthusiastic volunteer support at aid stations.
·         Great spectator support.
·         Beanie caps and fleece throws to participants.
·         Great traffic control and course monitors.
·         Breakfast burritos and cold chocolate milk (the best part) at the finish line.
·         Super easy FREE parking race morning.
·         Fully stocked aid stations with water and electrolytes.

DISLIKES / WHAT DIDN’T WORK:
·         Some nice parts; however, the rural portion can become pretty monotonous. 
·         The weather can be hot.  Make sure to wear a hat, sunscreen and stay hydrated.  
·         Perhaps allowing an early start for the half marathon walkers.
·         Clean up all the goose poop on the park’s walking paths.
·         Need to add a 5K race.  A slight course deviation is all it would take.



Final thoughts:

Allow me to digress for a moment as I offer a brief history of the End of the Trail statue at Mooney Grove Park.  I paraphrase from a 28 September 2019 article in the Visalia Times-Delta newspaper:

A weary Indian appears to be hanging on to his horse with an almost lifeless grip.  The horse has reached the edge of the Earth.

Facing the Pacific Ocean, figuratively, the statement piece was James Earle Fraser’s prize-winning sculpture unveiled in 1915 at the San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exposition.  It won a gold medal for sculptures. 
Four years later, the plaster End of the Trail statue found a new home.  The “larger than life” piece made its way to Mooney Grove Park in September 1919 and stood at the edge of the park for 52 years. 
By 1968, Mother Nature had taken her toll.  The massive bronze statue needed restoration and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum stepped up.  In turn, the museum assured the city they would replace the Visalia statue with an Italian-made bronze replica. 
In 1971, the city of Visalia erected the sculpture seen by thousands of people each year and has come to be an iconic symbol of Tulare County.  Encircling the statue, a moat represents the grand ocean.  With a portion of the EOTT proceeds going to preserve the statue, it is hoped that the statue will forever stand at the edge of the park.
A few weeks going into EOTT, I planned to go all out to see what I had in the tank.  Because of my uninspiring training, I decided to run as an unofficial pacer (2:15) instead, honing my skills for an upcoming pacing job.  Without any added pressure, I sought to develop the muscle memory needed to run a consistent pace.  Without question, I wanted to race against my former half marathon times, but as I recollect my latest Surf City experience, I knew it wasn’t in the cards this particular day.  I hate bonking, and I felt I was not in any kind of marathon shape to give it my all on this particular day.
By pacing in an unofficial capacity, I felt the obligation to consistent running to be lifted from my shoulders.  Even though I finished ahead of my 2:15 goal time, I wasn’t disappointed.  However, the desire to go all out to see for myself what I could’ve done was in the back of my mind.  At least EOTT wasn’t the kind of race that could get me to reconsider running altogether, and I wasn’t in any kind of particular mood to read about silver linings or to exhume the bright side of anything.  It all boils down to a simple fact, I need to once again get back into marathon shape. 
I didn’t view EOTT as a sucker punch to the ego or my self-worth, but rather a practice race for future pacing.  It’s one thing to push yourself to your limits and earn a deserved finish, but this was not that kind of race.  There wasn’t a sudden implosion or an inexplicable and precipitous failure of all systems.  I resigned to the fact that pacing practice is more central to my half marathon runs than to run hard enough to earn that merited finish we all enjoy.
If we run hard enough, it’s a fact that there will come a time in any race of any distance, where runners will be in pain.  Our bodies scream at us to stop but determination keeps us going, pushing through the anguish, as we edge closer to the finish.  Sometimes walking feels like a slow march to the grave as every ounce of energy has escaped our pores only to be absorbed by our immediate environment.  For many of us, suffering is a crucial component of the sport.  It’s the measurement of effort, improvement, and in less tangible ways, an indication that we’re living life on the fringes of our abilities.  

When our bodies begin to fail us, many of us runners can’t just stop.  It’s an addiction.  It’s not an option we’ve agreed to.  So, we continue bludgeoning our feet and knees, squeezing the air out of our lungs, until we reach the finish line’s sweet, merciful release.

What makes “racing” so much different than “running” is the fact that there is an official clock tied to the event.  I have long advocated that anyone of any talent level can get out and run.  I have also advocated the same for racing.  But the difference between the two is the effort given and the desire to go for it.  
I admit, on occasions, I’ve pinned on a bib number and toed the line ready to give it the best I had on race day.  Granted, most days won’t be anywhere close to what you would like, but finishing is what it’s all about.  A runner usually knows if a day will turn out horrible.  If it does, so be it.  Just have fun!
I’ve run across those who say running a race just “to have fun” is a code for “to take pictures, give less than your best, and mess around” and goes against what a “race” is about.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth. 
I’m out on the roads to race against myself trying to improve upon my finish times.  Some days I have it, others, I don’t.  Some days the weather cooperates, and other days, it can be hell.  Your views may differ, especially those elitist folks that have to give it their all, or drop out because they can’t.  Who says that the back-of-the-packers cannot have fun and still race?  I’ve seen those back-of-the-pack runners finish their “race” with a huge smile, celebrating, and are grateful they completed the distance.  It gives them an added incentive to do better the next time. 
I consider myself a middle-of-the-pack runner.  I’ve conceded that no matter how much effort I give on a specific day, I will never win.  That doesn’t bother me; but, as long as I do my best on that particular day, I’m happy.  That’s all I can ask of myself.

Because there are so many variables that can make a run good or bad, hoping that a good run falls on a race day, is what makes each race such a wild card.  It’s what makes it extremely special to race well on the day of the event and not just during training.  To show up, ready and prepared and then also have the fates play into your hands and give you what you need Not simply collecting medals and accolades but doing the whole left, right, left thing as best as possible.
Now I just need to sit back and ready myself for my next half marathon pacing experience and adventure, wherever or whenever that may be.  Yes, you know what I mean – COVID-19 and the mass hysteria, knee-jerk reactions, anxiety and needless panic, triggering the cancelation of numerous marathon events.  For one thing, I’m thankful I completed my 50-state marathon journey when I did, but feel bad for those who are closing in on their finish.
And that kids, is how I fared at EOTT, thus concluding my review.  Remember, there’s no such thing as spare change, a free lunch or too much horsepower.  As always, it’s forever onward and upward, even during the frenzy and the madness of some stupid virus.

"Be strong when you are weak.  Be brave when you are scared.  Be humble when you are victorious." ― Michelle Moschetti, author