On Saturday I achieved something that I have only ever achieved once before in my life. And the previous time was in 1992. Some of my readers weren't even born then.
I had been planning to do the Laser regatta at Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire, but I wasn't able to get my boat trailer ready in time to feel comfortable doing such a relatively long journey. (More on the trials and tribulations of trailer maintenance in a future post perhaps.)
So I looked around at what else I could do on Saturday and I noticed that my running club, the Road Island Road Runners, had one of their Grand Prix events on Saturday, the Northmen/Navigant 5k road race in North Smithfield, Rhode Island.
The RIRR Grand Prix is one of those ridiculous artificial challenges that, for some weird reason, appeal to me. (Like sailing a Laser 100 times in a year.) There are 15 races around the area, spread through the year, that are part of the Grand Prix. You have to finish 9 of them to qualify. Your score is calculated on some mysterious formula based on finishing positions relative to other club runners with some even more mysterious adjustment for age. I have no hope of winning it but I would like to complete 9 of the races, and what with sailing commitments and travel plans and general laziness and wimpiness it will be touch and go whether I achieve even that modest objective. So the chance to bag another race was appealing.
So I headed over to the far distant reaches of north-western Rhode Island on Saturday morning, somehow stumbled across North Smithfield, and signed up for the 5k.
It was the hottest day of the year so far. Well in the 80s by race time at 10am.
It seemed like a very friendly, very local event. It looked like about 90% of the runners were from North Smithfield itself. The run is in aid of the association that supports athletics at the Middle School and High School, so it wasn't surprising to see that many of the participants were kids from those schools - and their parents and teachers.
We started off running downhill and I deliberately kept to a very steady pace in the heat, about a minute a mile slower than my last 5k when it was about 30 degrees cooler. A lot of the younger runners went off way too fast and by the end of the first mile they were walking, and I overtook a bunch of them. Old geezers can be so cruel.
I kept to my target pace and pulled ahead of a couple of guys about my age who faded in the heat. As we approached the turn-around point and I saw the faster runners approaching me, it struck me that I couldn't see any runners anywhere near my age. That's strange. I usually see a number of incredibly fit old geezers who run these races at speeds that I can only dream of. But some of the runners who claim to be over 60 don't look a day over 40 so I didn't think too much of it.
I speeded up a bit in the last mile and gave it my all on the final quarter mile which was around the high school track. My finish time was slow, even for me, but that was expected in the heat.
I staggered over to the refreshments and grabbed a banana and a bottle of water and found a spot in the shade to sit down and sweat profusely. A few minutes later another old geezer runner came and sat by me and sweated profusely too, and we commiserated with each other about the heat and getting slower as we got older and blah, blah, blah.
I was about ready to go home when I noticed that the results were posted. So I ambled across to check the results and pushed all the young folks aside so I could see the results with my myopic old eyes. I found my name and confirmed that the time in the results matched what I had recorded on my watch, so that was OK. Then, just for kicks, I started scanning the ages of all the runners ahead of me.
Wait. There was only one other runner in the 60-69 age group ahead of me. Some kid of 62. I double-checked. Yes, it was true. Apparently I was the second finisher in my age group. Oh shit. Now I would have to wait around to receive my trophy.
But really I was tremendously excited. You see, I have been entering running races for about 30 years and I never, ever, ever won a trophy. Well, that is not exactly true. There was one race back in 1992 when I won third place in my age group (40-49 back then) at some obscure small town 5k race in New Jersey. I never imagined I would ever win another.
So I waited for the award ceremony and when they called my name out I went forward and collected my trophy, my little chest puffed out with pride, and I shook hands with the lady handing out the trophies, and thanked her for my award.
She seemed very pleased to see me. Maybe I looked so wasted that she was surprised I was actually standing up? Maybe she was so amazed that someone had actually come to their small town run from way, way across on the whole other side of the state? Not many Rhode Islanders ever even think of attempting such a journey.
Then I went home and lay around in the AC and napped a bit and groaned a lot.
On Sunday morning I took a picture of part of my trophy and posted it as a quiz on my blog, What is this?
Guesses at what my trophy was ranged from a roll of carpet to a wedding band, from a pogo stick to a mincing machine, from a Blogulator 5000 to an armadillo.
After 5 extra clues and about 50 wild guesses, someone called Lance A. guessed the photo was of part of a trophy, and then R. correctly worked out that it was for a 5k running race. Thanks to everyone who participated in the quiz.
Here is a picture of the whole trophy...
I think I'll go for a run now.