So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Greeter of the Pack

Another weekend in the great out-of-doors has ended. While there's still a bit of a chill in the air, there's no doubt spring is just around the corner. While it's still difficult to get myself motivated and out the door some mornings, at least I don't feel so badly about it once I'm on the move. Suzanne managed to somehow talk me into a near-instant replay of last Saturday's run: Do three miles to a coffee joint, stop for a cup & a bite, then do three miles back to the house. Seemed like a lousy idea at first; Weather Channel had the conditions listed as in the low 40s with a wind chill in the high 30s. While I had my Garmin & my HR strap on to keep track of the important data it wasn't the be all, end all for the morning. Suzanne wanted to get out of the house for a run & she wanted to have coffee. So be it.
Fortunately, the sun was bright, the air was slowly warming up & the sidewalks even seemed like a welcoming environment. It wasn't Esplanade Avenue to Community Coffee or the 5:20 Club, but it was close enough. The very combination of ingredients, including the presence of my loving wife, was just enough to make the morning's first effort seem like just enough.
Once we got back to the house the trials of real life, such as they are in Chez' Bowen, reared their head once more: Walk the dog, get the last-minute business accomplished, fit the swim workout in & go work packet pick-up in Gulf Breeze for Sunday's Midway 8K.

Sunday was just as nice, but the solo 10-miler hurt like hell. Perhaps it was still too soon since the half-marathon to do that many miles as a long run, but I can never tell when I'm going to have a nice Sunday Home to walk the dog, then clean up & get some breakfast before heading over to the race to set up. Okay, so I forgot my laptop & had to go back home for it; I owe the company a round of brewskies for that transgression. I never forget my "coach hat", my "RRCA rep hat", and my soapbox. And I got to use them all yesterday at the event.
A young lady asked the inevitable question about headphone use at the registration table. Beverly was almost dead-on accurate with her response; I think she's heard my sermonizing as much as Steven has. We mentioned to her that as a RRCA event club, & because our event was covered by RRCA's event insurance, we were obliged to strongly discourage her from using the headphones. However, we were only going to strongly discourage her because of the inherent safety risks; she was going to run on a course which was not completely closed to traffic. While we did have volunteer workers at as many intersections as possible (another topic for future rumination - volunteers...) we could not completely guarantee her safety in the event an insane (or even sane!) motor vehicle operator decided to suddenly overtake her.

As a small event we want to develop a clientele. We also want to help educate runners & triathletes on safe practices. The first baby step we can do, & intend to do, is mention the hazards the headphones can cause...especially if the volume is jacked up so high the wearer cannot hear. (I still laugh at the comment of the masters' winner: He was doing a cool-down on the course with his phones on, & heard my car's stereo blaring about a quarter mile away from where he was. I thanked him for keeping the volume down low enough to hear his surroundings.) It's not like we have a means to enforce such a policy right now. But if we begin to tell participants it's hazardous to use those things, perhaps when we put a prohibition statement on a race flyer they'll abide by the request.
Okay, I'm off the soapbox for now. My wife has always told me I should participate in a race from the rear of the field in order to see (as Jacob Riis might have put it:) how the other pack lives. Since the local constabulary sent only one patrolman to cover the course, the race director & I were responsible for the lead & follow vehicles. George took the lead vehicle; I had the follow. There's a whole different dynamic when you're following walkers, compared to the elbows-&-a$$#@(@s pack you see at the front end of a race. I suspected I was going to spend the next 60-to-75 minutes following along with the walk division. Close, but not close enough, moose-breath. The last participant took a little over 90 minutes. That was the bad news. Was there good news? Kinda-sorta.
The weather was wonderful. We're talking roll-the-window-down,-lean-your-elbow-out-the-window-because-hanging-your-whole-head-out-would-look-silly wonderful. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a good radio station to play outside of the local NPR stations. Ah, one of those moments where I kick myself in the butt for leaving my favorite CDs at home...& not snagging up Suzanne's iPod to plug in the accessory jack, Jack. Oh, and this lady wanted so badly to give up at the first half-mile. She turned to look at me and wave me on forward, but I told her I was the follow vehicle, & while she was the last participant she was going to make it just fine. I didn't want to tell her how badly it would bite to not finish an eight-kilometer walk. So, I rolled along just behind her with the flashers flashing, plucking up course signs after she passed.
When she got to the last half mile to go, her husband came out to walk along with her. I continued to do my thing & she continued to do hers. At the last 100 yards before the finish, I rolled along side her & called out: "You know what that feeling is right now? What you're feeling is accomplishment!"
After that, I rolled into the parking lot & made a beeline for a beer & some italian bread. My day was pretty much complete. I can't say I picked up any observations from the @$$-end of the field, save for the fact that sometimes it's just something to finish...which was more than I could say for the two teenagers who turned off the course a block ahead of the woman an hour before her finish.

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