Friday, November 28, 2008

Boulevard Bolt!

Yes, it's 4 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving, and I'm blogging. Nice life, right?

Yesterday was terrific, everything Thanksgiving should be. Thanksgiving is and always will be my favorite holiday. Hearty food, crisp air and giving thanks add up to exciting times.

My morning began at the Boulevard Bolt, a five-mile race on Belle Meade Boulevard that attracts nearly 8,000 runners each year. Proceeds support agencies that help feed the hungry, something I encourage everyone to make a priority in these difficult times. I train on the Bolt route occasionally because it's so picturesque with gentle rolls. The suburb used to be a horse farm in the 1800s; today, mansions grace the four-lane road divided by a sizeable median of manicured grass and proud trees.

Before the race, I saw some favorite peeps, including Jessica, my running partner at the Nike Women's race in San Francisco, Cary, Dori's nurse practitioner at Vanderbilt, and Billy Ray, a former co-worker from the late 1990s. Yes, Billy Ray ... we're in the south ... but Billy Ray is no redneck. I told Cary I had said a prayer of thanks for her and all the staff at VU the night before. Without them, Dori would not be here this Thanksgiving.

Conditions at the start couldn't have been more perfect - 40 degrees, no wind, sunny and low dewpoint. Truth be told, I'd never run well at the Bolt because of injury or I wasn't in a training cycle. I also had some leftover frustration from the Nike, and wanted to prove I can race, not just run. I even made a spicy new iPod mix, determined to drop the hammer and run a respectable time. My goal was to best 43 minutes, maybe even get close to 42. An 8:30/mile pace would be good, but everything depended on how I felt.

The first mile at the Bolt is all about not turning an ankle. Walkers and slow runners who should be at the pack's back cause issues for the racing bunch. Because of that, I probably ran the first mile at an energy-expending nine-minute pace, dodging and weaving the entire way. Things started to open up near Leake Avenue, and I found a very good rhythm. Question answered ... I felt great. My fast, younger friend Kevin joined me for a half mile before going after his sub-40:00 minute goal.

At mile three, I began to feel I might have hit my stride too early. I was probably running 8:00/miles, maybe faster between miles one and three. I also had to pee. As the excuses to back down and find shrubbery by a mansion grew, I thought of my friends still battling blood cancer, and said fudge to that. I could pee and back down in 15 minutes. I settled into about an 8:15 pace. No Garmin, just guessing.

When I couldn't punch it in the last mile, I knew I'd raced too fast too early. But I did maintain my pace. The clock at the finish said 43:48, but I knew my time was better because I started a bit after the gun. I guessed I'd run a 42:30, maybe better, but I'd have to wait until the results were posted later in the day.

My time was better! 41:48, an 8:22 pace. My best five-miler the last three years is a 39:30 on a hilly course. I'll take the 41:48 because I did run too fast early and I'd run three of four days before the race, including the two days prior. The 17 miles I've run this week have been a lot of fun ... 5.8 at Percy Warner, two three-milers with Pepper in our neighborhood and at Radnor, and yesterday's race.

After the race, Jessica told me she ran a 39:55. She's running the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis next week, and was excited about her good training run. Kevin ran a 38 something, while friend Bert, who is running the Dallas Marathon in a few months, ran a 40:36. I finished 43 of 93 in my age group, 363 of all men and 484 overall. A good number of finishers don't have chip times, so my placement is definitely lower, but I bested my goals and that's all that matters.

Dori ran yesterday morning and then helped the kids and I bag leaves. I smoked a turkey stuffed with herbs, apple and onion, while Dori made great sides, including a herbilicious sausage stuffing, tasty roasted brussel sprouts and carrots, a snappy cranberry almond salad, rolls and a pumpkin pie. It was delish! As we ate, we went around the table and said what each of us is thankful for ... one blessing at a time for 10 minutes. We kept coming up with good things. Family and health were recurring themes. We are so blessed.

That's the same feeling I had as I read some letters I wrote to my Mom between 1989-1992 when I was in the Navy. Mom, who read them recently after putting on the shelf long ago, shared them yesterday. As the turkey smoked and Will shot baskets, I listened to mellow music, sipped on an ale and read my old, broken prose. Much of it was telling about where I was in life and how I was growing up (there was certainly upside at that age!). Other parts were embarrassing. I've read half the letters and will choke down the rest this weekend.

This was long, but that's what happens at 4 a.m. when the coffee's been on and you feel good about things.


PJ said...

You've inspired me to trot off some turkey this morning. It's about 35 degrees with no wind so it should be nice. Tomorrow, the whole family (including grandma) is heading to NY to watch son Mark run in the Nike XC Regionals. The course is quite challenging, and spectators also get an excellent workout running around to all the vantage points. Gotta trot ...

Jim said...

Run, PJ, run! And good luck, Mark. Make momma proud again.