Aspen Adventures

Monthly Adventures: August Races Edition.

August just flew by!  I can’t believe it’s already September.  Harvest will soon be upon us and then the flurries will fly.  Today’s expected high is 92 degrees Fahrenheit, with a heat index over 100.  Did I really just mention snow?  Oi.

August was a busy month, and one of many firsts.  To start with, I ran four 5k races.  I originally had two races picked out for the month, and on the last Saturday of July I signed up for them, then got a brilliant idea!  Why not run a 5k a week?  I was already halfway there, and the area is flooded with races this time of the year.  Some quick searching on Google found me two more races that supported great causes.  I filled out the entry form, input my credit card information and was registered.  Piece of cake!

Week One – Freedom Run 5k

This race has been on my list since late last year.  Their description on their website had me hooked: “What started out as a dream and a desire to help the Quad Cities area’s Veteran and active duty Military and their families became a reality. Come out and give something back to your Military and their families – They’ve all given so much to us.”

The race was on a Thursday evening and a hot, hot, hot one.  I got off work a little early to ensure I had time to get home, change and get to the starting line without a rush.  I grabbed a bottle of water from a tank to carry with; I wasn’t going for time, just to complete in one piece.

Freedom Run 5k
Click through for photo credit.

During the opening ceremony we were advised to take care of ourselves, not push for a PR and to stay hydrated.  I had already planned to do just that.  It was hot.  The air was so full of humidity it could’ve been wrung out.  Perfect weather for 3.1 miles!

The race route was very nice.  It featured two small uphill portions in the beginning and a large downhill section near the end.  And talk about volunteers.  The streets were lined with people holding full size American flags, a lot were held by veterans, too.  I thanked nearly every person I came to, especially the seven or eight that had set up sprinklers for us.  The cold water was so appreciated.Freedom Run 5k

I crossed the finish line with a grin on my face, it’s hard not to when so many people are cheering you on, and collected my finisher dog tag medal from a soldier with a thank you.  Then it was to the beer tent!  As much Mississippi Blonde as I could drink?  Yes please!

I grabbed a cup and a fresh water bottle before heading to find a secluded curb to sit down and rest.  It didn’t take long for my water bottle to empty and I started on the beer.  It really hit the spot.  I stretched lightly and had another beer while I waited for the awards ceremony.  By then the sky had an ominous darkness to it and a cool breeze had picked up.  The weather held off for the awards and closing ceremony, which was an enjoyable and humbling affair.  Taps was played and the story was told of a soldier who had helped found the race but had recently died.  Before his passing he’d written a poem about why he races and it was read aloud and quite moving.

Overall, it was an amazing race.  It is one I will be doing annually if at all possible.

Week Two – Tug Fest 5k

Tug Fest is one of the area’s biggest events in August.  It’s a tug-of-war between Illinois and Iowa across the Might Miss, and the only tug-of-war across the Mississippi River.  My brother has been on a tug team for the past three years, but was on doctor’s orders not to tug this year due to his back.  The morning of had a 5k race, and it was more humid than I would’ve preferred.

Before the race started I saw a familiar face, the lady I spoke with before my half marathon in May!  It turns out she lives in Port Byron and had also done the Firecracker in July and Freedom Run.  Those two races had thousands of people, so it wasn’t surprising I never saw her.  We chatted a few minutes while we waited for the start.  She’ll be at the QC Marathon to do the half, but I’m certain I won’t see Tug Fest 2016 5kher; that race draws many thousands of racers.

Rain the night before had caused some unexpected obstacles, ones that are not Alley Cat friendly.  The course started on the river road, went up a slight hill and onto the bike path.  We reached a water
station at the lollipop and turned around to head to the finish line.  Along the bike path were two wooded foot bridges that were slimy from the rain.  I’m a very clumsy cat and wasn’t too excited about this or the railroad crossing.  I made it through everything fine though, for which I was happy.  How embarrassing would it have been to get banged up at a 5k due to my clumsiness?  I’m sure I’ll find out some day…

The post race ceremony was rather enjoyable, there was a large variety of food, a keg of beer and not many racers.  I was surprised by the small turnout, though I hoped it would be a good race for me next year to be competitive.  Y’know, once I take my training seriously and stop using Thirsty Thursday with $2 beer at the ballpark as my way carb loading.

Week three – Gabe’s Gift Memorial 5k

Week three’s race was a little tough.  Not just because it was a hilly route, but because it was for a child that had died of pediatric cancer.  Gabe’s Gift Memorial 5k was founded to help local families who had a child that had been diagnosed with cancer and to help the ones who had lost a part of their family to pediatric cancer.  The race started and ended at the elementary school Gabe had attended.

The race is in its second year and I felt that showed.  I didn’t receive an email in the days prior to the race with the important information as I had with my other races this year, and it would’ve been quite helpful.  We couldn’t park at the school, but instead were parking at a church down the street where a shuttle would bring us over.  I asked a volunteer where packet pick-up was and she said she thought it was still at the church.  It wasn’t.  But it was in the parking lot that I ran into someone who did know what was going on and let me know about parking and the shuttle.

I had arrived with plenty of time, but several things ate up my precious minutes.  For one, the volunteer who I asked about packet pick-up said to take a left to go to the church, when I needed to take a right.  Between driving around in the wrong direction and going up to the three different doors on the church, which made me hope I didn’t look like a creep, I was getting a bit frustrated.  I just wanted to get my bib and run the damn race.

With five minutes until the scheduled start time I made it to the registration table.  I asked the volunteer if I could pick my t-shirt up after since I was close in time and thankfully she let me.  It was a humid morning and I did not want to carry a shirt or wear two.  Unthankfully, my bad luck hadn’t yet run out.  While lifting my knees to my chest in a quick stretch when my knee ached.  Weird, I’d never had knee issues before.  Ankle, shin and hip, sure!  But not my knees.  The right Gabe's Gift Memorial 5kone was the worse of the two, with what seemed like the tendon on the inside of my knee acting up.  Walking didn’t hurt and it had been too much of an ordeal to get to the start line, I wasn’t about to back out.

Thankfully, I had some luck left because my knees didn’t hurt while running.  The course was hilly and went though Black Hawk College’s campus, which I really enjoyed.  It’s a pretty campus and the roads are nice.  Along the route were signs that had photos of local children along with their names and ages, the ages they were when they lost their fight to cancer.

The finish line had a huge crowd of people cheering, I hadn’t been expecting so many, that’s for sure!  The last stretch was, of course, uphill.  I was careful to pick the spot where I resumed running because once I start my last stretch I will not walk until I cross the timing mat.  Even with the sizable hill I kept with tradition.  I think part of it was the energy the cheering crowd gave me.

Volunteers were waiting to cut off my timing chip and hand me a bottle of ice cold water.  I found the snack table and they had massive cookies that were individually wrapped.  “Can I take two?” I politely asked the volunteer, having seen the number of runners and knowing they had enough food to feed twice as many.  “Go ahead!”  I smiled and thanked her before grabbing a chocolate chip M&M cookie and a snicker-doodle.  I tucked them under my arm before grabbing a banana to peel back and eat.  The banana was delicious and really hit the spot.  I kept the cookies to give to my dad once I showered and got to the farm.

I headed to the registration table to pick up my shirt and get a wristband Gabe’s Gift wristband.  I promptly put the band on and haven’t taken it off except when my all of my other jewelry comes off.  After that I waited for the shuttle to leave so I could walk to my car and give my legs a stretch.

Week four – Jordan Rahn Forever Young Run 5k

The last week of August had arrived and it brought an obnoxious amount of rain.  Between three rains we ended up with over five inches in the gauge.  That’s plenty for an entire month, but not needed in less than a week.  Race day was a little humid, as is the trend.  The Jordan Rahn 5k race was a memorial for a nineteen year old boy that had died unexpectedly due to cardiomyopathy.  His family had been a foster home for children and the proceeds went to two organizations that help kids in the foster system and those who had been subject to abuse, neglect and abandonment.

Jordan Rahn Forever Young 5k RunThe route had plenty of volunteers to direct racers, which I appreciated.  There were many turns to get the mileage to add up and Atkinson is not a big village.  My favorite part of the race were the numerous motivational signs.  They had the typical ones such as “Even if you finish last you still beat the person sitting on their couch” to some funny ones like “Run as if a hot guy is in front of you and a creepy one is behind!”.  My favorite was easily the sign that read “Run like a Kenyan, drink like you’re Irish”.  I even stopped to pull my phone from my arm band and take a photo.

The one thing I wish had been differently were the water stations.  I felt the first one was too far into the race.  They had a trash bin less than twenty feet from the water table and I’m not a person who can guzzle water down.  Seeing as how no one else had thrown their cup on the ground, I wasn’t going to be the first one to do so.  The second water station came up quickly after that and I was able to toss my water cup.

It wasn’t much longer and I was crossing the finish line to the commentary of two brilliant MC’s.  A volunteer offered me a cold water bottle and I took it with a word of thanks.  I walked around a little bit sipping my water before heading to the beer tent.  With beer and water in hand I wandered over to stand next to a table to pull off arm band and headphones.

I had well over half of my water gone before I cracked open my beer.  The water on the course had a very strange taste and hadn’t quenched my thirst, so the bottled water was extra amazing.  I listened to the MC’s while I enjoyed my beer and found myself wish I could’ve heard them the entire time I was running, they were hilarious.  After my second beer was gone I pitched it in the recycling before heading back to my car.  I was in bad need of a shower.

Having races every week might have helped the month disappear without my noticing.  Maybe it was working with Aspen and kayaking 39 miles during the month (entry on that coming soon), who knows.  All I know is August is over and I need to get my butt in gear with Aspen if I want to ride her before the ground freezes.

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