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I Was 64th In Line For Takeoff

Race Report: Flight 2 Fight Blood Cancer 10K, 2 APR 2011, Fort Wayne Metals / Fort Wayne International Airport

I wasn't originally planning on running this race, it being a week before the Mastodon Stomp which I planned to use to try to break my 5K PR. Then I heard they'd have beer. And that about 2/3 of the race was on FWA property. And about half of that was actually on one of the runways. So I figured I'd run it nice and easy as a LSR - add a mile to warm up and a mile to cool down, and that'd be the 8mi run my training plan called for that weekend anyway. Plus I'd get beer.

Which is how I found myself outside Fort Wayne Metals that 40-degree morning, in a strong westerly wind with occasional drizzle, contemplating not getting out of my car. So I offered myself a deal: cut the warmup short - it's just a training run, right? Jog out to the airport, futz around on the runways for a few miles revelling in the coolness of it all, jog back, jog a little more afterwards, drink beer. I held out until the 'drink beer' part, but I shook hands and got out of the car.

About the 'revelling in the coolness of it all' part - I love airports. I fly just often enough that the whole air travel experience hasn't lost its cool factor for me. Unless I'm in a real hurry to get where I'm going, or I'm trying to get home, I don't even mind being delayed; an airport of any real size offers world-class opportunities for people-watching, not to mention the logistical ballet of people, aircraft, ground vehicles, luggage, and cargo (and the phrase 'logistical ballet' obviously marks me as a transpo geek). So the opportunity to run halfway around an airport, with a couple of miles of that on the runway, appealed to me. And did I mention there was beer afterwards?

I planned to run-walk-run it, more or less Galloway-style: 11mm pace for 4min, then 50 yards or so of strides, then walk for 1min. Varying your speed that often is all well and good when you're by yourself on the Pufferbelly; it's a little more problematic when you're sharing one lane of Ardmore Road with 300 other people. I had to do some bob-and-weave the first couple cycles, then we hit the airport property at the 1mi mark, the 5K separated from the 10K, and we got both lanes of the access road to ourselves.

The access road ran parallel to the runway, curved around the end, then ran back along the other side. The curve, oddly enough for a road with a 25mph speed limit, was banked. And I could tell there were no NASCAR fans in the vicinity, because I said "Good thing this is banked, otherwise I'd have to get off the throttle and I wouldn't get a good run coming out of the corner" and nobody laughed.

As we came around the end of the runway, the headwind became a tailwind and the sun came out so it got a little warm. I took one of my two shirts off without blundering into the electrified fence or onto the runway, but I hit my stopwatch without realizing it for about :50. No biggie, since it's just a training run, right? We made the turn onto the actual runway for the first time, and I couldn't resist putting my arms out like wings and making airplane noises.

On and off for the next two miles. Irritated the hell out of everyone around me.

There were a lot of course marshals, as you might expect for a race at an (International!) airport. The last thing they wanted was for somebody to hide ten pounds of Semtex under their track suit and 'get lost' only to go all suicide bomber on a departing airliner later. All runners had to be off airport grounds (5mi mark) by 11AM; even with a 9:30 start I was pretty sure they wouldn't have to motivate me to pick up the pace via gunfire.

Then we turned back into that 25mph wind and I wasn't so sure anymore. That is just a shock and a half to turn from headwind to tailwind back to headwind, but no biggie, since it's just a training run, right? I eventually managed to clear the airport, and with one last remark to the deputy at the gate ("I always wanted to be able to do that without y'all chasing me" - His Officerness was NOT amused, btw) turned back onto Ardmore for the final mile. Then I realized I'd been playing tag with the same group of three people for the last two miles - I'd keep pace with them on the jogs, get close to them on the strides, fall back on the walks. No biggie, it's just a training run, right? Eff that. It's a RACE. I called down to the engine room for more power and began to chase.

Catching two of the three was anticlimactic - they slowed to a walk at the aid station and I didn't. I reeled the third one in about 1/4mi later; as far as I could tell he'd kept the same pace for the previous 3 miles. Maybe he really WAS on a training run. We turned dead into the wind for the final quarter-mile and I saw a couple about 50 yards ahead of me. I gave it my best shot, but I came up just short at the end. I found myself wishing the race had gone 50 yards more (and tell me THAT ain't weird); I think I would have had them.

The results? Well, it's a bit complicated:

  • Officially, my gun time was 1:07:59.90.
  • My net time (start line to finish line) was 1:07:40, give or take a second.
  • When I crossed the finish line, my watch read 1:06:49 and 6.22 miles covered, not counting the :50ish seconds my watch was shut off (or whatever ground I covered during that time).

Naturally, I took the result most favorable to me and called it a 1:06:49 10K PR. Or at least I would have if it weren't just a training run.

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