Lamentations and the Frigid Eight
By the Alchemist
(reprinted from January, 1990 newsletter)
My goal was to beat Dan Held, that fast young guy who now lives in LaCrosse. I first ran the Fright Eight in 1977 so I figured it was time to make my move. It was time for my experience to pay off. Besides, I was tired of my reputation as the fat old guy. Steve Gosch and Eileen Kramer picked me up at home and gave me a ride to the Lowes Creek School. I was glad for the transportation since I figured that I might be too tired after the race to drive myself home.
When we reached the school gym, a friend asked about the blood on the shoulder of my Gore-Tex suit. Ugh, what a mess—and the stench was unreal! I had left the suit on a pile of running gear in our basement. The only thing to explain the blood was my guess that Chelsea, our killer cat, had caught a mouse and ate it while perched on my Gore-Tex jacket.
I quickly removed the jacket and threw it on the floor next to the wall while trying to appear nonchalant. After a few minutes a young girl appeared with a leashed dog. He headed straight for my jacket and tried to eat it. I was able to scare him off with some obscene, guttural sounds and the threat of a sulfuric acid bath.
Soon it was time for the race so we headed outside to the starting line. It was a bitter cold day with really strong winds. The winds kindly carried the odor of my dead mouse away.
We lined up on the ice on Lowes Creek Road, and there I spotted young Dan--with bare naked legs. I figured he'd freeze up quickly out on Double Eye (County II) and I could blow past him in a flash. I practiced my V for victory sign a few times.
After a few wise words from Big Mike, Race Co-director, the gun fired and we headed east. I quickly noted that the ice covered roads was not going to permit my maximum speed I slowed down a bit to protect my old and brittle bones. However, I had predicted this problem and hired Gosch to run a pace ahead of me and spread a specially prepared sand and calcium chloride mixture. Gosch was unable to lift the 100 pound sack so that plan failed. I estimate that the Gosch screw-up cost me six minutes.
We turned right and headed south. The cold weather caused another problem. I was wearing three layers to protect myself. That fact also cost me some time. The layer-to‑layer friction, especially the fat-topolypropylene friction, made progress painfully slow. While I did avoid frostbite, I figure this problem cost me four minutes over the eight mile course.
Then there was the howling wind which kept shifting direction so that I ran the entire circular course into the wind. Running up those hills on Double Eye into the wind was tough, even for me. I also discovered that my Gore-Tex suit tended to act like a sail. At one point it was so bad that only my exceptional mass kept me from blowing off the road and into a farmer's manure pit. I was glad to have eaten that 16 inch pizza for lunch. I could not have known about those tricky winds that cost me about five minutes. I would normally run the course several times during the week prior to the race. However, that slush storm followed by freezing weather really cut into my training runs. I was forced to train indoors. Some runners like to pump iron (Fe on the Periodic Table), but I prefer to pump beer, and not that Lite stuff either. This change in my training cost me at least four minutes.
Then there is the age factor. Dan is just a pup, fresh out of college. I must admit this gave him a slight edge. Age takes a toll since you have more time to get fat. Plus there are those inevitable joint (not the smoking kind) problems as your body lubricants start to drain out from between your toes. The age differential must have cost me five minutes.
Big Mike is also to blame for providing false race info. He had promised a hot cocoa stop at the four mile marker. I had counted on that and my body fluids were low at that point. Mike made a bad problem worse. This certainly put me into a two minute funk.
Then there was Mike's sin of omission. He did not have a six mile marker on the course. This really hurt me since I had planned to start my famous kick at six miles. I started to sprint at seven miles but figure I lost three valuable minutes between six and seven miles.
The bad news is that Dan did not freeze up, slip up or screw up over the entire course. He won in 40:11 and I salute him. My time was 69:02, good for first place in the 55 to 100 age division. However, I lost a full 29 minutes due to Gosch, Weiser and unpredictable events. Just wait until next year gang.
Postscript A: Winter running is indeed dangerous. The latest victim is Dave Weiss how fell on the ice and has a compound ankle fracture to prove it. This means a temporary pause in the running and skiing for which this local dentist has become famous. We wish him a speedy recovery to racing form. Meanwhile Dave, go easy on those Christmas goodies.
Postscript B: I was shocked recently to read of the farm accident in which runner Dick Beardsley was seriously injured. You may recall that Dick was our banquet speaker a few years ago. The other bad news was the report that Dick did not have health insurance. We may have a megacard for all to sign at the banquet and we may arrange to send donations for medical expenses.