Thursday, July 29, 2010

El Scorcho Quatro: 50k Race; July 24th, 2010

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El Scorcho was one of those races that I had been wanting to run for several years, but always had some sort of conflict in my schedule. Two years ago, I was in Africa and missed it, and last year, I had signed up for it and was training hard and injured my knee and missed it. So, this year, I was determined to do more than give my entry fee to charity. Although, my training was not without its conflicts. I spent time at the Navajo Reservation with students, but managed to hike some major mountain trails, as well as doing some running in the mountains and the altitude that was over 5,000 ft. Then, I went to China, and didn't know if I would be able to continue my training while there, either. However, I trained a lot while there, just not a lot of long distance runs. But, I more than made up for it with all the hiking through the mountains, all the walking, and twice-a-day training runs when I could. I also had the luxury of some of the students who wanted to run. So, I had some company on most mornings.

Otherwise, I trained hard for this event, knowing that a 50k (31.2 miles) race in the middle of Texas in July was not going to be a comfortable run. Most of my races are on trails in the middle of the woods, or on rocky trails and slopes. This race course was flat, but the obstacle was going to be the heat. At midday on raceday, the temperature had soared to over 95 degrees. I was hoping that by the midnight start, we would be looking at the low 80's but it was not to be. It was still hovering right around the 90 degree mark at racetime, but it soon began to cool into the 80's.

I also had my goals for this race. I wanted to set a new personal record. Having run a 6:14 in Fort Worth for my very first 50k, I was ready to dip under the 6 hour mark for the first time. My training was good, and I felt like I had the endurance to do it, but it was not to be. I had the endurance, but not enough to maintain my early pace.

I started out fine, but by the time I had completed the first two laps (roughly 3 miles each), I was hot, and sweating. I didn't know if I was going to make it or not, and those remaining 8 laps loomed large in my mind. At the end of the 6 mile mark, I began pouring cold water on my head, and it revived me, and my pace felt strong again. I kept doing that at each aid station and I continued running strong. Rather than concentrate on the mileage, it was more convenient mentally to concentrate on the number of laps, which was ten to complete the 50k distance.

Some parts of the trail were pretty dark, and I needed my headlamp, but in other places, it was lit fairly well. There was a full moon, so that helped. There were times when I just wanted to look up at that glorious moon. It was beautiful. I did see some wildlife...I saw the largest Raccoon I had ever seen. That thing was huge. Otherwise, it was lap after lap, after lap, after lap......!

I enjoyed this run more than most I have done. I was not too disappointed with my time, as I ran my second fastest time for a 50k in 6 hours and 42 minutes. The heat was just too much to run that hard...but I ran steady and with a nice rhythm. It was nice to run with so many Abilene runners. It's always nice to have such support.

One of the best races I have run. Oh, and I experimented with a new Gel, called Roctane. It was great. Although more expensive than others, I found it to be quite helpful in keeping me going.

I must say that after all this time, El Scorcho was worth the wait.

Jerry Hollingsworth

Monday, July 5, 2010

Running in China

Running in China was one of the most interesting experiences I have ever had. I might add, that I have run in Europe, South Korea, Mexico, Peru, Africa, and a host of other places. But, China afforded a unique environment that I haven't experienced before.

For one thing, it gets light at 4:30 in the morning, and my eyes popped open right along with the sunlight...although, there was not a lot of sunshine, as there was this perpetual gray, smog I figured, that blotted out the sun's rays.

Running in Beijing was interesting, as the sidewalks were broad and smooth; very well taken care of. At five in the morning, the streets are already "abuzz." People are out on their bicycles and scooters, electric bikes, and motorcycles, making their way to work. They are also out in droves, practicing Tai Chi, meditation, and clapping exercises. Street vendors are setting up their stands, cooking dumplings, and little pancake-looking items. A particular smell fills the air, a unique smell that I can't pinpoint. It is certainly different from my running routes in Abilene, where I can smell donuts, bacon, and biscuits cooking in people's homes and restauraunts.

Nanjing was our home while there, at least for a week. We stayed in a nice hotel there, although the airconditioning was out for most of the time we were there. It was also very humid. Again, as the light appears in the morning sky, around 4:15 to 4:30 a.m., I found myself out and about, running with some of our students...Matt, who was a football player and former track runner. I also ran with Amanda, who was on the cross country team, and Katie, who is going to coach on the cross country team. They added a nice touch to my morning runs.

Nanjing, around the area we were staying, was right in the heart of the city, but the many bike lanes, and sidewalks allowed for easy running. Again, people were already out, making food, riding their bikes to work, and walking along, exercising, doing Yoga, meditating, and doing early morning Tai Chi Quan. Along one street I ran on, it was lined with many bird cages. Each cage contained one bird...anything from Finches to birds I could not identify.

I ran twice a day there, most of the time, and the humidity was always high. By the time I got out of the shower, I was already sweating again. We marked our time during the day by long hikes and walks around the Ming City Wall, or hiking through the square where I saw an ancient Confucian Temple. During the evening, we were carousing around the alley, trying new foods and experimenting with different kinds of Chinese dishes.

Guillen was a different place, entirely. Located in Southern China, we were in the middle of the mountains. Running in the morning was beautiful, as we ran through the mountains alongside the main road. We were staying in a country club, golf course, and recreational area, and the grounds were gorgeous. We saw a demonstration of Tai Chi, and actually got to participate in a class, where they taught us the basic moves. It was beautiful.

While there, we had the opportunity to take a ride on a boat down a river, through some incredible limestone mountains. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. We capped that off with a hike up the side of a mountain, through rice paddies, up to a small mountain village school. We talked to children there, and then hiked back down. The views were incredible. After we finished the climb, we went White Water Rafting. It was a majestic ride down the Li River, on what must have been level four rapids in places. Adrenaline rush!!!

Then, it was back to Beijing, where I got my last run in before we headed out to the Great Wall. Hiking the Great Wall was magnificent, yet, very taxing. I had just ran 5 miles before we hiked the wall, so I was warmed up, but I can't imagine running a 26 mile marathon on that wall....that would be one tough run to say the least.

Running in China was one of the most interesting experiences of my life, as I saw so many things you wouldn't see if you were just touring around. Waking up early, going out to run, seeing the people start their day...was the way to see a country. Magnificent!