Monday, July 06, 2015

MP6: Split Personality -> The Runner and The Race Director

“The more I run, the more Chris Orwin laps me,” says the Runner, “I’d be way better off to just quit.” He had been closing in on 36 laps at the Mugrage Park 6-Hour Run (MP6), and was moving slower and slower, eventually getting down to ‘ultramarathon shuffle’ pace. Worse yet, Jeannine Nicholson and Ladd Clifford, talking and laughing the entire way, had begun to lap him as well.

36 laps, the equivalent of 50K, was a milestone for many of the MP6 contestants, and it was a major goal for the Runner as well. But he also thought he might even be able to go a little further. Debbie Scheel and Larry Orwin, who had both run brilliantly this day, were wise enough to quit at that point, and were now relaxing near the Mugrage Park shelter. They, along with a couple of the volunteers and other bystanders, were watching everyone else keep on trucking around the 0.876 mile loop.

Fairly early in the run with the Sharpes and Rob.        Photo by John McCarroll
The Race Director (RD) is pretty much out of it at this point. And this is a good thing, since the Runner needed to be in charge now. Oh, the RD did stop to talk to the wonderful volunteers (including Harold Dravenstott, Rob Lisy, Renee Harden and most especially Ron Ross) every couple laps as the Runner came by, but since said volunteers had everything well in hand, he could go back into seclusion. He managed to be able to spend most of the race there in that secret place. Both the Runner and the RD appreciated that.

Things hadn’t been so easy for the RD in the days leading up to MP6. He had originally planned this to be a low-key ‘just show up and run’ event. Debbie had reserved the Mugrage Park shelter all day for the MCRR picnic, and the RD had thought that since the picnic would be in the afternoon, it would be nice to hold a little run there in the morning. To emphasize the small, easy-going nature of his planned event, the RD even began using the tagline, ‘If you think the Buckeye Woods 50K is getting a little too big and well-organized, this is the event for you.’

The RD needed to figure out some way to time a six-hour run, however. Timing such a thing amounts to counting laps and multiplying the total by the lap distance. Will Bertemes offered to pay for the timer. But that would entail finding and hiring someone. Hugh Patton, who’d timed Outrun 24, offered to do it for free. Will then offered to donate the money toward race expenses anyway. The RD determined that hats would be valuable mementos for the participants, and began working with Brian Polen of Vertical Runner to acquire them.

All of this was good stuff. But it did make work for the RD, who found himself reluctantly getting further away from the desired ‘just show up and run’ mentality. Then some problems arose. First there was some trouble just getting the permit. This shouldn’t have been a problem, since MCRR already had the shelter, and the county parks folks had told him the permit was coming. But it took some prompting before it finally did arrive. Then there were the hats. Actually getting hold of Brian and picking them up turned out to be a bit messy, requiring re-arranged schedules and so forth.

The kicker came at 9:30 PM the night before the race when the RD received the notification from Hugh that he wouldn’t be able to make it. The panic lasted an hour or so until he went to sleep, and then resumed with a vengeance as he awoke at 3:00 AM. During the ensuing two hours, he actually came up with an Excel spreadsheet that he thought might be workable: a volunteer would type the bib numbers of the runners as they went by, the lap data points would be time-stamped and counted. Bib numbers? The timer had said he’d bring those as well, not now the RD had resort to bringing a pile of his old used ones from his various races over the years.

None of this was good for the Runner. All the Runner had wanted to do was to run his best for the six hours, hopefully achieving at least 50K. But now he had a multitude of trials and tribulations, all because of the RD’s distinct lack of contingency planning.

But somehow, things did manage to work themselves out. The hat and the permit issues got resolved. And as he arrived at Mugrage, laptop, old bibs and other equipment in hand, relating his woes to Ron, the other volunteers and early-bird runners, the RD realized that this timing issue, too, shall pass. Ron preferred to simply make tick marks on paper to the training required for the spreadsheet, but it wasn’t a problem and that was that.

And the RD found that he didn’t need to worry any longer. Now the Runner could remerge from oblivion and take charge.

About half way through in the nice wooded section. Photo by John McCarroll
Take charge he did… at least for a while. He found himself with the lead pack for about the first ten laps. Talking with Larry, Chris, Debbie, Rob and the rest was fun and entertaining. At one point Debbie and Chris were talking shop, including that they would both like to work in an Endoscopy unit. The Runner suggested that they start a website: Let the record show that the Runner has not tried to determine whether such a site already exists.

Being in charge didn’t really last all that long, but the Runner also enjoyed the company of the other runners as well. He took turns running with Caitlin Oblander, Bob Pokorny, Beth Bugner, Suzanne and Jack Sharpe, and of course Ladd and Jeannine, and probably a bunch more.

By the time he was nearing thirty laps – the marathon distance, the Runner was slowing down quite a bit. Larry was just about done with his 50K, and the Chris lapping thing had begun in earnest. She just never slowed down. And Ladd and Jeannine were remarking that they could walk faster than he could run. Those two were actually running faster as the race went on. Had he been even a little lucid, he couldn’t have agreed more. He slowed even more in the next few laps, hitting the 50K mark about five hours, eighteen minutes into the run. He took a much needed break.

The RD came out for a moment to worry about running out of water. The Runner told him to shut heck up (without using the word, heck), and then went back out to see how much further he could go.

Fairly far, it turns out. The Runner gets some kind of second wind, and runs four more laps at about the same pace as some of the ones in the middle of the race. Along the way he finds himself running at various moments with ebullient as always Angela Demchuck, Roy Heger, Suzanne (again) and Kenny Welch, all of whom are all enjoying their runs way too much.

The Runner realizes that he was enjoying himself too. Mugrage is a pretty little park, and it is a beautiful day. But then all too soon, the six hours are coming to an end. The Runner hoofs it in for the last half-mile to try to keep ahead of Ladd. He wanted to allow for the possibility that he and Ladd were at the same mileage, in which case the question of who crossed the line for their final lap might be relevant.

It isn’t. Ladd had 42 laps, whereas the Runner winds up as the second male with only 40 (which is 25 miles). But both Ladd and the Runner were ‘chicked’ twice: by Chris (49 laps!) and Jeannine (43). The RD, the Runner, and everyone else had a blast.
Here is everyone who was still around as the race ended.                  Photo by Felicia Fago

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