by Ron Marinucci, Aug. 3, 2010
Over the past couple of months, I’ve run in some very different and distant places. For me, a homebody, that’s pretty unusual. Memorial Day weekend found me in Western Massachusetts. Three weeks later, I was in Las Vegas. Then, after only a pit stop home, it was off to Sault Ste. Marie in the Upper Peninsula.
When away from home, I enjoy running, sort of my own Gray Line tour. I scout out places, sometimes meet other runners, and get to run distinctly different workouts. At each place I visited, I ran anywhere from five to thirteen miles over the course of five days or so. Every stop was a pleasant change from my routine.
Somehow I forgot how hilly Western Massachusetts is, especially on the Amherst campus. There isn’t much flatness. I guess at a much younger age I didn’t notice. A day before I arrived, a particularly nasty thunderstorm left a tee shirt-drenching humidity that lingered the entire time I was there. But the sun rose each day and I was surprised at how much earlier dawn is there than back here in Michigan, although we are in the same time zone.
Visiting our son Matt in Las Vegas was quite a turn-around. There was no humidity, well practically none. Of course, setting the alarm to run before 6 AM was necessary to beat the heat, well, sort of beat the heat. Even that early, temperatures were in the 90s each morning. I finished a long run at 8 AM with the thermometer across the street from the Monte Carlo reading 98 degrees. Yes, that’s hot, but it wasn’t unbearable, not at all. I’ve never found running in Las Vegas to be unbearable, but I’ve never tried it in the middle of the day. And, I wasn’t alone. As usual, I found many runners on the Strip with me. There were also all-night gamblers, drunks, and, ahem, others out there, too. I didn’t count, but on my long run from the southern end of the Strip up to Fremont Street and back, there were dozens of runners, not including the many walkers out for exercise.
Running the next week near the Soo was much less comfortable. People find that hard to believe. No, it wasn’t the sporadic pockets of deer flies, but the heat and, especially, the humidity. Just walking the fifty yards or so from our cabin to the road found me pretty much covered in sweat each day. Although temperatures were in the mid-70s, a full 15 to 20 degrees cooler than Las Vegas, the near-100% humidity created much more difficult running conditions. In fact, each run culminated in a dip in the still rather frigid St. Mary’s River—but that dip felt pretty good. Where Las Vegas was as flat as a pancake, I was pleasantly surprised to find some nice hills here to help train for several upcoming races with hilly courses.
I brought these three very different running experiences home with me and thought about them as I returned to my daily routine. I think we also brought home the humidity that’s been so oppressive since late June. Karen said, “It’s like August in July!” Being the homebody I am, I looked forward to running my usual routes.
One of my favorites is the trails at Proud Lake State Recreation Area, a stone’s throw from home. I usually run there once or twice a week and bike there, too, often another one or two days. There are plenty of trails to keep it fresh. I often wonder, as nice as it is out there, why I don’t see more runners. There are very few others. Hmmm.
Having been gone so much in June and July, I was somewhat surprised to return home on July 7 and discover it was “Bug Day.” OK, it’s a bit weird, but each year I note in my running log the day when the deer flies become too bothersome to run the trails without some help. Usually, Bug Day arrives in mid- to late June, sometimes a bit earlier. It may have this year, too, but I wasn’t here to note it.
The deer flies can ruin a run. I often see runners on the roads surrounding the park swatting at their heads and shoulders—and they aren’t in the woods. In fact, years ago I often just stopped running there during the summer months, losing out on some pretty runs. But accumulated tips from other runners help me to use the trails all summer, despite the interminable deer flies.
Some of these may raise some eyebrows, but here are the steps I take. I wear a yellow shirt. Yellow, for whatever reason, seems to be less attractive to the pests. I also wear a yellow or white hat. To both my shirt and hat, I pin scented dryer sheets. The one I attach to my hat hangs over my hairline and neck. On my hat I also affix a Tred Not Deer Fly Strip. Running Fit, the closest running store, stocks them, but I’ve also seen them at other running and sporting stores and even some of the big boxes. The Tred Not is sticky, very sticky, on two sides—to attach to the hat and to catch the pesky deer flies, like fly paper. But with all of the sweat, I pin it to the hat to ensure it remains in place. If the deer flies are particularly bad, I’ll use a second strip. At the end of the run, upwards of 100 flies are often stuck. (OK, I have counted them, but you don’t need to.) Sometimes, if we get a cool spell, running just before dawn beats the flies, but they usually are up and at me on the run back. And, this summer, there haven’t been many mornings cool enough.
And, speaking of heat and humidity, a couple weeks ago was the Bastille Day Run, both a 5K and 15K. Each course is tough, very hilly, yet the 15Kis becoming one of my favorite races. It’s the most challenging race I’ve done in a long time, maybe ever. I counted about a dozen good-sized hills and those don’t include the Denton Hill. Denton is a very steep climb, almost a mile, beginning between miles seven and eight, toward the end of the race when runners are already beaten up. Talking to runners the past couple of years, it’s been generally agreed that the Bastille course is more difficult than the Crim, Brooksie, or Hell.
This year, as last, toss in temperatures that rose to near 80 at the 7:45 AM start, under a bright sunny sky, and humidity close to 100%. Scott Hubbard accompanied a few of us runners on his bike in the early going. At the first mile he remarked, “It’s going to get steamy out there.” Then, after a pause, he corrected that, “It already is.” I noticed veteran runners who normally seek to run a course’s tangents on this day opt to find shade rather than the shortest route. My time was almost a minute slower than 2009.
Pat Cassady was a repeat winner, finishing in 51:42, more than two minutes slower than 2009. I’d say the conditions also affected the times of the top runners, but then there was Suzanne Larsen. She was the first woman, her 59:11 setting a 15K course record. Larsen is also a repeat champion, having won the 5K or 15K each year since the inaugural Bastille in 2003. Peter Parker was the first 5K finisher (17:34), while 14-year old Addie May (20:53) nosed out Kelly Redmond, the masters champ, by just under two seconds for the female crown. Eighty-year old Bill Hayes was the oldest competitor.
Along with the 5K, 1033 runners and walkers and the Bastille’s first wheeler, Travis Peruski, took on the challenge. I was pleasantly surprised to run into a former co-worker, Cheryl Elmer. She was there to watch her 14-year old daughter, Sydney, complete the tough 5K in 21:08!
All this, the difficulty and the heat and humidity led me to ask myself, “Why did all these runners come to do the Bastille?” Surely there were other options, easier ones. They could have found other races, with a number of other quality events also held that day. They could have done a normal, every day run, even backing off a bit on the intensity. They could have taken a rest day. Yet, 1034 hardy souls (2068 soles?) didn’t.
Ultimately, the answer to my question was “Runners aren’t wimps!”