09 May 2006

Shopping in San Antonio

I was delighted that Marek should have found this blog, expecially as (unless he has kept very quiet about it, and in conversation with me I can understand why anyone would keep it under their hat) he isn't a keen runner. He reminded me yesterday about an episode in San Antonio, and I put it to him that it had to be blogged. So here it is, Marek!

INTA was in San Antonio in 1997, I think. It was Marek's first, and we had found ourselves bumping into each other often and had become good friends, so we arranged to go to the airport together on the way home. We must have taken a taxi, because Hilary had ordered a huge consignment of rubber stamps which I had been obliged to pursue around the United States by phone until they showed up in San Antoinio. They were heavy!

It may be that we planned all along to take a trip to some shops after checking in our luggage, but when I offered up my suitcase - a difficult manoeuvre, given the weight of stamps - the airline demanded a substantial fee for taking it. Severl hundred dollars, I think. But they would take any number of items of luggage provided each was within the limit. So I put the case in a locker (not without difficulty!) and Marek and I found a cab and asked to be taken to the nearest stores where I could buy luggage and he could get his CD.

In the event, I remember that all he got was two Cokes, but one of them was very welcome to me. I got a bag, which in the end I took as hand luggage full of rubber stamps (this was before Hilary discovered unmounted ones, so there was a lot of wood in the case). At Heathrow, when I arrived, I had to lug it on my back. I have no recolleactiof of how I changed planes in Houston, as I am sure I must have done: perhaps my memory is protecting me by wiping it.

Marek found his CD later, back in Poland.

International Trademarks Association 5K

This is the biggest event in my annual calendar, for a variety of reasons not much to do with running. It's because of the occasion and the friends I run with. Still, I had planned a good time, though with hidnsight starting going to parties on Saturday and continuing until Monday is not the best preparation for a run on Tuesday. Too much food and drink, much of it of the wrong sort, and little sleep combined to put me in quite the wrong state to run 5K, or any distance come to that.

Several of my old INTA running friends weren't taking part anyway. No Villu, no Rudi (though he was there to watch and cheer us on). Paul was there but talking down his chances - sandbagging, and American runner called it, and clearly the complete opposite of sledging!). Matt, his son, claimed to be a mere jogger but Paul warned me that this was bluff. I was confident - too confident - and telling everyone who would listen to me that I had run 20 minutes a week before, and that in the first half of a 10K. It wouldn't happen today!

From the start, I kept up with the leading pack but fairly quickly dropped back. They were serious runners, and I knew I wasn't in their league, but no-one sounded as if they were about to pass me. Glancing round, I could se that there were people close behind but they were staying there.

A kilometre or more into the race, which had started on the boardwalk by Lake Ontario five miles or so west from the centre of the city - a fabulous location - we made a 180 degree turn, and although I took it wide to avoid losing speed I simply found my will and ability to kepep going had evaporated. The many items of cocktail food, last night's dinner, and more beers than I have been used to for many years (save at INTA meetings!) came together to create what seemed like a giant weight in my lower body. Three nights with little sleep, and that not good sleep, also weighed in. My legs aere like lead. I stopped.

Not for long, though, and I started to walk again. Paul and Matt had come past. Mario and Miguel passed me too. Guy Heath came past, then another couple of male runners: as the second pulled away, I set aside thoughts of retiring and broke into a run again. It was more like marathon pace than 10K, but I was running. At the 2K mark, my time was under 9 minutes, so perhaps (I thought) I can salvage something.

The feeling that had brought me to a halt seemed to be passing, so I built up my speed again. I caught one runner, then another, and as we reached the turn at the other end with under a kilometre to go to home I was within reach of Guy. As I caught him I slowed to run alongside him, though (odd, this) he seemed in no particular mood for conversation, inviting me to press on at my own speed. As the finish line neared, I found I had plenty left (why didn't I use it earlier?), but a dash for the line didn't save the race.

So I can now add something else to what I have experienced in my running: I was furious with myself. But Paul won his age group, though Matt beat him, Charles Stewart (who had told me how relieved he was to learn that Paul was in the 50-59 group) won the 60-69 group. Sylvie got a trophy for being second woman in her age group.

20 minutes would not have secured me first or second in my age group, though I suspect the two who took those places were at the botom end of the age range - unlike me. If I can run 20 next year, though, I will win the over 50s: but in fact I will be second at best, behind Rudi. I wouldn't wish him not to be able to run it!

02 May 2006

Racing at Silverstone

One of the first races I took part in - so, about 1994, I guess - was
the Silverstone 10K. Two laps of the grand prix circuit, which has to
be one of the smoothest running tracks in the world, which I completed
(I think!) in 42 minutes and 42 seconds. (I am having doubts about this
now, but I am sure that 42:42 was my best time for 10K and the only
question is whether I set it at Silverstone or elsewhere.)

There is a tremendous sense of occasion at this event, a feeling that
being allowed onto the hallowed asphalt is a very special privilege.
The low grey clouds and cool blustery wind do not dispel this feeling,
though they dilute it slightly. Hanger Straight is into the wind, and
the twists and turns that they have introduced since last I attended a
grand prix here mean that you're constantly experiencing differences in
wind direction. With the wind at my back, I sail down the slight
incline from Stowe towards Club. (Do either of those corners still
exist? The long grass on the infield at Stowe into which Jackie Stewart
disappeared on lap one in 1973 is no longer there. I shall forever rue
the day I sat next to Sir Jackie at lunch and, on account of an excess
of Irish hospitality the preceding evening/morning (this was the Society
of the Irish Motor Industry's conference), found myself unable to string
a couple of words together let alone to remind him of that episode,
which I had watched, with delight that I did not even try to conceal,
from the grandstand opposite. Peter Revson was the eventual winner, I
think, and James Hunt was fourth.)

I first went to Silverstone in 1971, with my father, to mark the end of
my O Levels. We took a two-man tent. I don't recall asthma attacks on
that occasion, but at the grand prix in 1973 and at the International
Trophy meeting (those being the days when there were three or four
opportunities to see grand prix cars, and stars, racing in England each
year) probably the same year - when we went en famille in a very
ill-considered VW Camper van - the asthma sticks in my mind much more
than the racing. If someone had told the teenage me that as I
approached my 50th birthday I would be running a couple of laps of the
circuit, I would have considered them the biggest liar that ever lived.

Times move on, though, and where we pitched our tent or parked the
camper van is now a business park. Silverstone is no longer
recognisably a World War II air base: it is all landscaped grass and
smooth tarmac. Woodcote, the greatest bend on any grand prix circuit,
has not just been emasculated: it has disappeared. So too (disappeared,
I mean) have the men (and occasional woman - a long time since a woman
raced in Formula One, probably Lella Lombardi was the last and she died
a couple of years ago from cancer. And who was that British Olympic
lady skier who had a brief Formula One career?) who raced there. I
remember (cue for a digression) in 1979, with my friend Jacques, whom I
had met (with Steve Fletcher) at Zandvoort the year before (the only
foreign grand prix I ever went to), plus his brother I think and a bunch
of his friends, elbowing our way to a good vantage point on the grass
bank at Woodcote, attracting the disapproval of everyone around us (so I
pretended for the day that the entire group of us was French!), and
Jacques asking me who I thought would win: I loyally nominated Clay
Regazzoni, to general Gallic amusement, and we were all equally
astonished when he came through to claim the first ever Grand Prix win
for a Williams car.

This evening was almost as historic. I passed the 5K mark just before
the clock tripped over to 20:00, which bodes well for the all-important
INTA 5K next week: and slowed a little on the second lap to finish in a
personal best, by some way, of 41:22. The sun broke through, too.