Sunday, July 19, 2009

Midnight Madness 2009

This year’s edition of Midnight Madness would not be the “World’s Colliding” affair of 2008. The worlds collided, bonded and stayed bonded. D’Wife and Beaker maintain a wonderfully sisterly friendship, that brings plenty of fun and laughs to both households.

After canning a vote on whether to do front a relay team, the Glo-Pokes reassembled – without Doe, though. The King registered as my wingman in his stead, to make sure I wasn’t the only XY on the team, just barely beating the deadline … yeah, due to the popularity of last year’s event, they capped the field for MM at 500; still 100 more than ran last year.

There would be no T-shirts this year, although we kept the Glo-Pokes moniker in correspondence; read: Trash-Talk. The King fell right in the groove, alternating between promising to run my ass off and vowing to escort the girls’ asses to the finish, following at a discrete and visually advantageous distance.

Training across the Late-Spring / Early-Summer gap following Broad Street and beginning my 9-week PDR schedule brought a full year of running to a close. May 31, 2008 to June 1, 2009 saw me with 1,018 miles in my log book. The first time I legitimately ran 1,000 miles in a year.

Coming into the last few weeks before The Madness however, trouble loomed. Nurse Kelly was having knee problems; Beaker, her hip. I was fine, except for trying to find time for both long training rides for MS150 and long runs to get ready for the 8.4 miles loop around Fairmount Park … in the dark, on possibly very hot and muggy night.

And then The King went silent.

Emails that should have prompted slanderous replies went unanswered. Opportunities to flirt online with Beaker, Nurse Kelly, Jen O or the Mighty Daisy were passed up.

“As I suspected, The King is out ... Looks like I'll be using my back-up strategy ... ‘Hang with my girls'"

Beaker had a more brilliant solution, to the wingless problem.

“You need to find some fast ponytail to chase then hop on your bike and come out and find us. Honestly, we will be too slow for your liking I am sure but you can ride along side us and keep us entertained for the last few miles.”

Hmmmm … I could put a light on Pinky.

“Randy DO IT! How stinking funny would that be? And you know it would make the 20in24 people out on the course smile! Who are you asking? Last year there were a bunch of bikes out on the road. Also I think the Mighty Daisy needs to not run it (foot injury) and is planning to bike along instead!!!”

Well maybe not Pinky [she's tough on the quads, as one can imagine] but I could bring one ... I got on the email and asked someone at BOMF if it would be cool.

It was.

“Hi Randy,

“Good luck in your race this weekend! Please check in at the volunteer tent in front of Lloyd Hall before you take your bike out on the course. How long do you think you will be riding around for?”

“I’ll run the race in about 1:20 or so and then I’ll find the rest of my group and bring them in. They finished pretty much last, last year, at about 2-2:15AM.”

“Ok great!

“If you could just keep an eye out for runners in help while you are out there that would be great!

“Good Luck tomorrow!”

On the way home from work Friday afternoon, I stopped at the Dollar Store and picked up a supply of glowy things; bracelets and necklaces. I figured that I could weave them among Merle’s spokes, or loop them around the axles. That would make for a nice light show.

‘I dunno dude. Do you really want to attract that much attention to yourself? You might be the only bike rider taking it to that extreme’

Um, when you’re riding your bike around Fairmount Park at 2AM, you ABSOLUTELY want to attract as MUCH attention as you can!!!


I tried to keep myself as calm and hydrated as possible Saturday afternoon. Much like my Midnight Bingo Days, I would take a nap after dinner, get up around 10:15 and leave around 10:30. I’d get to Philly in plenty of time to glow-up my bike and meet Beaker and the Glo-Pokes

That was the plan, anyway.

I couldn’t get to sleep; I pretty much just laid there in the dark for 2½ hours. At least my body was rested; my mind kinda shut off. too. I just never fell 100% asleep.

I had packed my gear up [helmet, lock, post-run sweatshirt (in case it got chilly)] into the well-travelled backpack and put Merle in the car earlier, so all I had to do was get out of bed, brush my teeth, put my racing clothes on and go. I did so pretty quickly and left at “my birthday o’clock” … 10:31.

I txt’d Beaker, who said she was still waiting for Nurse Kelly.

Windows down, warm summer air blowing around the cabin, Vicki VUE and I flew up to 295 and The Ben. However, as I approached Cooper Hospital, the traffic came to a standstill. I called Beaker immediately and left a voicemail telling her to take The Walt, if she hadn’t gotten here yet. It turned out, she was ahead of me.

Five minutes passed, then ten. Beaker got through the tolls about 11:20. I was still waiting. Twenty minutes. 11:40. I’m panicked. I called Beaker again to see if traffic ON the bridge was just as bad.

“Nope, once you’re through the tolls you’re fine”
“Maybe you should check me in just in case”
“Will do, buddy!”

I cruised over the bridge but my heart was still racing. Then, another bottleneck, this time exiting the Vine St. Expressway onto 22nd Street. I asked Beaker where she parked, but decided “Fuck it. I don’t have time to shop around.”

I used my best bike-messenger driving skills to put Vicki in the lot at Eakins Oval. There would be no time to “glow-up” Merle, however. Such is life.

I zipped around The Art Museum and to Lloyd Hall on Boathouse Row as fast as I could. Fortunately, no ultrmarathoners were injured in my haste. I found the first sturdy tree [which happened to be half-encircled by trashbags I could and locked up, just as the runners were starting into “The Start Spangled Banner”

Beaker, anticipating the appearance of a short, frazzled cyclist, quickly spotted me and came to my aid. We shared a very brief welcoming hug and, as the starting gun went off, she sent me on my way to find The Mighty Daisy, who had my swag bag with my number and stuff.

Well, sort of.

Swag bag she had, with my t-shirt, coupons, race entries and a new water bottle, but no number.

I tried to be as cool as I could and weighed my options:

1) I could bandit the race and run without a number, but without a number I couldn’t check my gear bag. Daisy offered to carry my backpack with her, but that would have been too much of a burden. I am, above all, a gentleman.
2) Bag the race altogether, and just ride with Beaker and Nurse Kelly. No way would Beaker let me do that, nor could I let myself do that.
3) Let’s find the check-in table and get a replacement number. I’m already starting late, what’s a few more minutes? It’s just math!!!

At the Check-In Table we discovered the cause of the error … I hadn’t actually been checked in. Lori told me later that she gave “The Dude Behind the Table” my name and he handed her a bag; that was it. The situation was rectified, as I legitimately checked-in, received my number, and another swag bag [and t-shirt]. We went inside and upstairs where my bag was tagged and checked. For whatever reason, I thought it was more important to carry my bike keys with me in the race than my car keys? We exited Lloyd Hall and I started on my way.

About ten minutes after everyone else.

I hadn’t gone very far down the bike path before a cute volunteer on a MTB came up beside me.

“You need to find some fast ponytail to chase …” came back to me.

“Could you do me a huge favor?” I asked her, “I started about ten minutes late. Could you pace me up to my friends?”
“Sure, no problem. How fast do you want to go?”

Without any idea how far ahead Beaker and Nurse Kelly were, nor what pace my adrenalized legs were moving, I simply said, “This is good” and held my position next to her.

‘What do you know?’ I said to myself, ‘Yet another race we arrived too late to stretch for’

The cyclist and I chitted & chatted for a few moments. We passed a pair of women moving in our direction; the very back of the pack.

I had successfully avoided two of a runner’s three Worst Case Scenarios.

DNS – Did Not Start
DFL – Dead Fucking Last

The third [DNF – Did Not Finish] had no chance of happening.

It wasn’t long before I saw Beaker’s goofy glasses blinking ahead of me at about a mile and a quarter. I had caught two of the three Glo-Pokes running the course ahead of me. I said “Aloha and Mahalo” to my Pace Mistress. I put on the brakes to walk a bit with my friends, walking themselves due to Kelly’s wonky knee.

“Hey there,” Beaker greeted me, “How far back did you start?”
“I dunno … eight, nine, ten minutes?”
“Um, dude, it’s only 12:19. You ran a mile and a quarter in 9:00? You need to get going. You need a PR on this course!!!”
“Babe,” I huffed, suddenly even more winded than before I knew my approximate pace, “I don’t need anything here. [laugh] Just let me rest a bit with y’all. I’ll be on my way soon.”

After Beaker told me how to recognize Jen O [“She’s taller than me” doesn’t sound like much to go on, but when that puts her in the 6-foot range … Well, you’re not gonna see many like her in a running race], I gave her a hug and moved on.

There wasn’t much of a gap between the girls I just left and the next pack of “ponytails” … or between those and the next. It seemed to me, for a moment, that this might have been a women’s only event. Nope, eventually I did pass a dude; a big hulking one at that, then a few more interspersed among larger groups of women.

I caught Jen O at about the 2-mile marker. She had been running a steady 12-minute mile. Doing the math hurt my head. Again, I slowed my pace to keep near my Glo-Poke teammate, for a few minutes anyway. We didn’t even talk about running, but about our bike ride in October for MS.

Again, I said farewell to my teammate and trotted away … The next I’d see them would be as I brought them into the finish. I was leading the Glo-Pokes, and I intended to make them proud of me and themselves.

Between the frustration of the traffic jam, the anxiety of being late, and the rush of racing, I was in total cotton-mouth mode when I pulled up to the first water stop. I downed one cup, then half of another. My lips were so dry, that I believe I may have split one a little bit, as I tasted the tell-tale copper flavor as I swallowed.

Racing in the darkness, I had no idea of how far I had gone. Even with the mile-marker signs [facing the wrong way, half a mile off and counting backwards], it seemed no time at all before I came upon the lights of Falls River and the Bridge thereof. Last year we got to this point in about an hour; this year, I made it there a little before 12:40. Far different strategy from ’08; the goal then was to finish as a team. This year, I was told to race it.

I crossed the bridge easily and bombed down the slope on the other side … The slope which, going the opposite direction when running the Distance Run, is a critical gut-check … If you can run up this rise and over the bridge, you’re doing great.

The BOMF people advertised that there would be more and better light on the course this year versus last year. That may have been true. Coming off the bridge the path looked a bit brighter than last year. There were a lot more volunteers on very well lit bikes around. All in all, though, miles 4, 5 and 6 were just as dark as last year, with part of the route near Strawberry Mansion as black as any ocean under a moonless sky.

I did my best back here to keep near larger, well-self-lit groups. That I had to slow my pace up a little, didn’t bother me at all; I’d rather be safe than speedy. It’s amazing how much people gossip when they’re on a run, too. I got some great over-listening done: tales of grown-up birthday parties gone awry; mismanaged investments; office romances and intrigue. It was a shame I couldn’t hang out with them and learn all the juicy bits.

I was on a mission though and the sooner I finished, the sooner I could be back out on the course with Merle and my teammates.

Passing under the Girard Avenue Bridge, the course brightened up again, considerably. The Schuylkill Expressway runs a lot closer to the river from that point on, and provides a lot more ambient light. More light, meant I could run faster again, and not worry about falling on uneven pavement [I saw a couple glowing figures hit the deck back there in the blackness]

I passed the dam and waterfall that cross the river from the WaterWorks, and caught up to a very chic bike volunteer, wearing black and tan houndstooth capris, a pale yellow short sleeved blouse, and an olive cycling cap [the actual colors may have been altered due to the yellow-orange cast of the mercury-vapor streetlights, but everything tied together quite well] I noticed that she had a computer on her handlebars, and I inquired about the pace of the group she was escorting.

“About a 10-minute mile” she informed me.
“That’s nice” I replied, “Well … good luck” I offered and continued on, at right about the spot where Doe and I inadvertently dropped Moe and Solar last year.

I picked up the pace, but had to back down suddenly, as I was roadblocked by a heavy-set dude huffing down the sidewalk across the Spring Garden Bridge back to the Art Museum. I could have gotten around him easily enough, but to do so, I would have had to run in the street facing traffic at nearly 1:30 in the morning.

No, I could go slow for a few hundred yards, no problem.

As the sidewalk widened at the bottom of the rise approaching Eakins Oval, I dropped the hammer and my obstacle. I chugged up the only real tough uphill on the course, past the Rocky Steps [no, I didn’t even consider running up; that’s for tourists] and around the bend heading back down behind the Museum and back to Boathouse Row.

I caught the last two “ponytails” of the night with somewhere between a half and a quarter mile to go. I didn’t know how many people I’d passed [I figured maybe eighty to hundred] but I didn’t have the heart to pick these two girls off with just a little bit to go. They were moving at a pretty good clip, so I tucked in behind them and followed their lead to the finish.

The race clock said 1:29; my watch said 1:27AM. Discounting my handicap, I had come in pretty close to the 1:20 I had predicted. Not bad.

I took the medal I was offered [yeah, only ONE this time], a bottle of water and hurried up to the baggage check. I just happened to see that The Mighty Daisy was walking her bike around the area in front of the hall. I said hello, gave a very brief report [“One thirty or so, but I started about ten minutes late”] and hurried up the steps to Baggage Claim. I easily spotted my blue backpack and directed the volunteer to it.

I rushed back to the trashbag guarded tree. I pulled my cargo shorts out of the bag and threw them on. I slapped my helmet on my head and buckled up. I unlocked Merle, tossed the lock in the bag and hopped on. I nearly splattered another rider as I turned my headlight on and moved onto the course to find my friends.

Almost as soon I accelerated to “Search” mode, I spied Jen O making the turn just past the Rocky Steps. I said hello and curled around behind her.

“Jen, this is Merle” I introduced her as I took position to her right.
“Hi Merle,” she giggled, “Merle’s old school. Very nice.”
“Merle’s ‘$20 at the Berlin Mart’ school” I informed her, kinda proud of my partner’s lack of pedigree.

We chatted for a few minutes as she approached the bright lights of the finish. Once Jen crossed the line, I redirected her to Daisy and handed her off to her care. I said “Aloha” and pedaled back out to bring the two remaining Glo-Pokes home.

I zipped past the police cruiser monitoring the road to the Museum Parking lot and rode out MLK Drive. I will, admit it brought back fond memories.

Beaker and Nurse Kelly were walking at about the 6½ mile mark when I found them. They also remarked how the 2nd half of the course seemed darker than last year, but that we were so fortunate that the weather was 100% better than ’08.

We chatted about nothing and everything that came to mind for the next half hour or so, with me riding the brakes or circling back if we got too far apart. Beaker feared that the two women behind them had gotten a ride to the finish and that they, would in fact, be DFL. I told them not to worry, as I hadn’t seen anyone brought past me to the finish, in neither a van nor an ambulance.

Even with her wonky knee bothering her, Nurse Kelly stepped up the pace to a quick jog for the final few hundred yards to the finish.

“Sell it girl” I told her, “Make it look good”

2009 Midnight Madness Results

247 1:29:38 Rudy Martinez
350 1:47:14 Jen O
384 2:20:13 Beaker
385 2:20:34 Nurse Kelly

And NO … you WEREN’T DFL girls!!! There were 388 runners!!! That meant I passed 141 of them. If I’d started on time, and run that same pace, I might have finished 140 from the top, instead of 140 from the bottom.

Oh well … better luck next year … If I’m not in China.

We hung out together for pictures and story-telling until about 3AM.

Midnight Madness 01

Midnight Madness 02

Hugs were passed around and we all departed. I packed Merle back into Vicki, changed into a long-sleeve T-shirt and headed back to Jersey. I did NOT stop for spring rolls like I did last year.

Crossing the Ben, I noticed a pale orange slice of the rising moon. I txt’d Beaker to bring it to her attention.

I was so jazzed that I didn’t get to bed until 4:30AM. I still managed to wake up at 9:30 for church

Good night and good day.

No comments: