Friday, August 12, 2011

When Will Races Recognize Street Lights?

I was standing at a street corner yesterday with sweat droplets pouring down my neck, to my arms, hands, and fingertips before leaping to their death on the pavement below when I had a sort of epiphany (ed: that's not the giant drums, right?) . Well, I actually had two epiphanies (ed: that's not TWO giant drums, right?). The first was Damn, I sweat A LOT from my neck. That can’t be normal. But, the second, and more relevant to this post, was the concept of a mid-race break. A sorta “time-out” – a street light, if you will – strategically placed in a few spots during a race that allows the runners a chance to take a deep breather, a sip of water, and maybe a bite of melba toast, just to cool off, without any time penalty.

Crazy? Or crazy genius?!

I’m about a month out from another half marathon so it seemed like a good time for another one of my race time trials. I like to do these as a race approaches just to see where I’m at with training. It serves its purpose as it either (a) confirms that I am right on track or (b) scares me shitless because I’m so under prepared and provides enough lead time to invent an injury or excuse to withdraw without anyone being the wiser. One of my most common responses to someone that asks “are you running in the race this weekend?” is “I’d like to but (enter completely plausible excuse here)….”

I usually go about 2/3 of the distance of the race at the time trial. I feel like that gives me a pretty good idea of where I’m at while bypassing the ego destroying late race collapse amidst a flood of tears and uncontrollable sobbing and abject feelings of failure. I like to save that for the race itself. For a half marathon, I’ll go anywhere from 8-10 miles at my planned race pace.

The nice thing about a time trial is that there are no registration fees or timing mats or cowbells or rapidly browning bananas on the food table. It’s just you, local traffic, jeering shouts from passing carloads of teens (who all need haircuts, btw), and street lights. Yes, street lights! It would seem counter intuitive to want a street light in the middle of your time trial. But that would make you a Time Nazi. I, on the other hand, press ‘Stop’ on my Garmin whenever I hit a street light. Time literally stands still. I’m in a chronistic void in which I may suck wind, drip fluids from my neck, and, generally, rest without any time penalty whatsoever.

And I pray for the long 60 second light. Or the intersections that have a separate light for every left turn lane and you just missed (by slowing your approaching pace) your light and now have to wait a FULL ROTATION of the lights. Ohhh shooooot, I miiiisssssed it.

And then eventually the little pedestrian light turns to the image of the walking person, I push ‘Start’ and off I go again feeling absolutely refreshed and rejuvenated. My pace is quicker. There is more room at the base of my neck for sweat to pool until the next intersection.

I normally get stopped at two major intersections during my time trials. Each time, I take a moment to gulp some air, sweat band off my forehead and neck, pinch my nipples (I’m shirtless or “minimalist shirted”, of course) and self-consciously make my pecs dance for the passing cars. I’m an entertainer at heart. When my light comes, I’m off again and, damn, do I feel refreshed. Why don’t they have street lights – or little time free beaks – at races? In fact, they go OUT OF THEIR WAY to bypass the lights with those annoying police officers and volunteers stopping traffic and waving you through the intersections.

BUT I DON’T WANT TO TAKE CUTS. How ‘bout we stop the race and let regular traffic flow, eh? We are living in a society here and a society has rules and I, for one, am willing to follow them. It’s the pesky race directors that are playing God with time and the natural order of things.

I finished my time trial pretty much on schedule – thanks to a few well-placed street lights - and headed in to find my neck squeegee. I don’t think I’ll need an excuse for this race. So far, right on schedule with one more time trial to go.

But it sure would be nice to count on those street lights during the half marathon. Race directors, take note!

8.5 miles
non-street light time
6:31 pace (planned: anything below 6:35 pace)

Happy trails.


Jamoosh said...

A brilliant idea. Of course, I assume you will be the street light commissioner overseeing ALL races that adopt your policy since street lights are of varying lengths which would really screw up PRs (IE one race you get a 30 second break, in another you get a two minute break).

Ironman By Thirty said...

“minimalist shirted”?? I'd rather see Viper without shoes than you without a shirt.

PS: Traffic lights/signals, not street lights. You totally had me confused with the street lights that you know, just light up the street at night.

Anonymous said...

The Time Police will forgive your "street-light" time-trial for the simple fact that the adrenaline of racing with 500 of your closest friends is equivalent to two 60 second breaks during a time-trial.

Party on. And nice training.

Lauren said...

That would be pretty awesome... taking time to eat some gels, sip water, breathe, and then go :) I mean i take those breaks anyway but they are a penalty for me :D

The Sean said...

great idea- not sure what the trail running equivalent would be... mountain lions, bears or red necks with guns???


Katie @ cooklaughmove said...

I've been guilty of pressing "stop" and waiting for a car very far in the distance to pass before crossing the road. Or purposefully decided to cross the street when I'm feeling a little winded to get a quick rest in.

elizaeth said...

8.5 miles in 55:23? wow I can't believe how slow you run.

Running Through Phoenix said...

I believe you were thInking of the term, 'timpani', which are harmonically tuned drums used in orchestral arrangements. Timpani are usually in sets of two drums tuned at intervals of 4ths or 5ths, and provide .......... oooops, looky there! Just missed my morning run start time. Well, nothing to do now but start the coffee.

Jill said...

While we're at making a few changes, can we alter the marathon to 22 miles? That'd be awesome!

Very nice run, good to see you're on track ... though I'd really like to hear some of the excuses to see if they mimic mine!

Reluctant Runner said...

I'm totally in. Where do I sign?

Will you sign my petition for mirrors at water stations? I'm tired of race pictures where my hair looks stupid. I'm willing to sacrifice a few seconds for better pictures. It's all about priorities.

Jess said...

I also think we should get to stop our watches for bathroom breaks.

Beth said...

I think there are runners who are "stoppers" and "non-stoppers". I run with some friends that will stop for any reason- at turn around points, to get a drink out of their water belt... I hate stopping! I get really stiff and it's hard to get going again. I like to act superior- we non-stoppers think stoppers are lazy. Really we just are too old to stop and get started again.

Adam said...

That is why I run out and backs along sidewalks. On the way out, it is early enough that I can jaywalk across while feeling good. On the way back? Lots of traffic that I must yeild to. No sense breaking any traffic laws.