A Screaming Redemption

Screaming Pumpkin Race 2014

Greetings all!  I bet the doubters out there were all a buzz about it being soooo late in the month and the post count was stuck at FIVE.  No worries although for the record the amount of pictures and text in those five easily exceeded a standard month’s output.  I even told you the theme of this offering during the last.  Of course, those long time followers assuredly know that the end of October typically brings with it the last official race of the year.  Once again, I was able to field a team to compete in the Screaming Pumpkin Half Marathon Relay (link here).

Screaming Pumpkin Race 2014

Hit the jump to see more pictures and reveal how this race went for us!

A quick recap for those not familiar with this race.  First off it is a prediction race which means the goal of the event is to come in closest to midnight without going over.  In years past, the teams would determine how long each of their runners would need to finish each of the four loops, subtract that number from midnight (with some pad) and simply start the race at that time.   As long as each runner basically hit their marks they should come in before midnight.  This year they changed this up a bit and introduced the stupid concept of starting waves.  Instead of a free start, they forced you to start on the quarter hours.  Let me reemphasize how STUPID this is.  Unless you are lucky enough to sum up close to a quarter mark you are forced to either add a huge pad to your overall run or force someone out of their comfort zone to make up time out on the course.  No one runner I know wants to add time to their race but picking up a large amount of time .. in the dark .. at night is not easily done.  Annoyed by this rule addition I sent an email to the race coordinator for an explanation.  This is the excuses that were returned.

1.  Accurate Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging sent out along the splits of the course
2.  No clocks, watches, ipods, etc are allowed during the relay and marathon, so teams and individuals had no idea what time it was when they wanted to start.  By putting waves in place, we took away the guessing game.
3.  It lends itself to cleaner starts and check in for relay and teams.  The first person of a relay and a full marathoner needs to check in before they start.  This is for safety and security reasons.  No one is allowed in the cemetery if they aren’t a participant and our bike patrol then has a head count as to the number of people that should be on the course.
Thanks for your cooperation and understanding in this matter.
First off, the race rules state no timing devices on the race course and that supposedly includes your friends on the sidelines.  Take a guess what the typical person is going to use to get that Facebook, Twitter or text message with .. ding ding ding if you said a phone – what is the number one feature on the front screen of a phone… ding ding ding if you said the time.  Strike the first excuse and on to the second.  If a participant doesn’t know what time it is when they ARRIVE at the race and think they aren’t going to just stay in their car or stand in the parking lot across the street if they have to figure out their exact time, then maybe they shouldn’t be entering this type of race (they’ll be outwitted from the start).  But it gets better.  The responder indicated that it took AWAY the guessing game.  I thought this was odd until I learned they were going to make an announcement 5 minutes before each wave so runners know when to make their way to the starting line and then announce when they are suppose to go.  Think about that a minute and see if you can think of anything a smart person might be able to do with that bit of timing knowledge.  I’ll refrain from revealing the answer (don’t want to reveal all the tips and tricks) but let’s just say the second excuse wasn’t worth the time to write it.   That leaves us with excuse number 3.  A safer check in time .. in the two races we competed in previously, not once have we ever been in danger while checking in.  It’s a foot race and the rate of people even coming through that area is probably 1 person every 5 minutes or less.  Lastly the whole headcount concept.  I passed a bike patrol (yes, I PASSED a bike patrol) once while I was on my run and I bet he wasn’t counting the number of individuals in the park.
So in summary.. you are welcome for my cooperation but you don’t get my understanding on that matter.
Screaming Pumpkin Race 2014
We opted for a 3 minute pad for our start since we calculated our actual start time to be 7:43.  This year we didn’t have Rhonda on the starting leg due to other commitments.  We changed our team name this year from Zombies After Rhonda to Zombies Can’t Find Rhonda in her honor.
Zombies Can't Find Rhonda
Luckily a friend of mine, Sung, had taken up running this year (maybe a bit of nudging from me).  If you recall, he ran the Bix 7 with us this year (link here).  He happens to be motivated by the concept of getting a medal at the completion of a race.  Like the Bix this year, the Screaming Pumpkin has a very nice race medal.  I simply had to show him the one from last year and he was in.  The best aspect of this race is it doesn’t matter how fast you are, but whether you can come in at (preferably) or ahead of your predicated loop time.  Sung and I had taken a practice run a couple of weeks before to introduce him to the hilly course and to get an idea of what time he might complete his leg in.   He even ran the course on his own the following week to make sure he was familiar with the course (he was concerned about getting lost in the dark).  He opted for a 73 minute loop which was a few minute pad over his test runs.  Turns out he didn’t need any of that pad and actually came in 2 minutes faster than his training runs – a very nice run for Sung’s first outing in the dark cemetery.
Screaming Pumpkin Race 2014
The tally at this point was +8 minutes.  Next up was Ryan who was taking on the monumental task of running two loops for us this year thanks to Linda putting the hammer down on my long runs – one itty bitty insignificant infinitesimal event this year and I get my running wings clipped.  Thankfully Ryan was up to the challenge – keep in mind he has entered and completed a marathon with relatively little training in the past.   His first loop prediction was 60 minutes.  He was able to come out of the cemetery and cross the line with a very respectable 62.  At that point we had plenty to spare and I was actually glad at that point that some of the slack was being consumed.  Current tally through loop two put is at a +6.  Ryan predicated the second loop was going to be rough and guesstimated a 65 to complete the half marathon.  Before we go any further, let me state for the record that running the half in Springdale Cemetery is tough!  It took its toll on me the last two times (link here and here) and I felt bad about putting that burden on Ryan this year.  If we are lucky we can get Rhonda back next year or I’ll have convinced Linda that there’s nothing wrong with me by then and I’ll take the two loop burden back.  Ryan ended up really feeling that last loop – thinking part of that was do to not taking water the entire first loop and skipping at least the first stop on the second loop – crazy.  He powered his way in with a 74 which put us at a -3 for the tally.  I had given myself a little bit of pad with a prediction of 59 figuring I could squeeze out 1 to 1.5 of minutes if I had to.  Finding three minutes along that course was going to required a constant push from me to even have a chance.  Nothing like a challenge to end the season on.
I had to stop for a few seconds to dump off my mask since it was nearly impossible to see while running – it is a miracle I didn’t take a tumble just getting away from the start line  and out of view of the spectators.
Screaming Pumpkin Race 2014
Sung handed me my headlamp and glasses and off I went at a full out sprint.  To make it anywhere close I’d have to keep that pace up the entire 6.5+ miles – eesh.  The second mile had a large hill on it.  From the base I spotted a light halfway up the hill and assumed it was another runner.  Way I figured it I’d have to pass everyone I could find so leaned forward and attacked the slope with renewed determination.  3/4ths of the way up there I caught up with the runner…er.. turned out to be a bike patrol (the one I mentioned earlier).  That took some energy so opted to take a quick drink at the self serve water station at the top of the hill – had to grab a cup and fill it yourself.  Back on the course I was able to maintain the fast pace through the flatter areas.  The course is lined with glow sticks in an attempt to keep you on course – feels like you are running on an airport runway (granted a very hilly one).   This doesn’t help much when it comes to trying to avoid the ruts, potholes and loose gravel that makes up most of the surface in the cemetery – adding in the speed I was attempting to carry and it’s a miracle I didn’t break an ankle.  With 3 minutes to make up, it was imperative that all waste was eliminated from the path.  Fortunately, the lines of glowsticks allowed me to choose the fastest path through every curve (yes, I stayed on and completed the entire course before you get any bad ideas).  Not wanting to risk the time loss the second self serve water station was skipped – just kept on running as fast I could.  Never felt more relieved to see the first downhill on the course since it gave a chance to rest a bit while maintaining the aggressive pace.  The true test was up ahead since the next mile contained two nasty hills back to back.  This required a fluid fill and although it was poured for us this time I still had to stop and grab it off a table.  Previous seconds but worth it.  My lungs were starting to burn and the legs were putting up some stress warnings.  The next hill is a curving triple stager and in my opinion is the hardest since you burn all your energy to get to a point only to be faced by a higher grade extension.  This hill had to be taken down fast and told myself it was gut check time for the team.  I did learn that repeating “Pain is temporary” over an over does help you to keep pushing.  This is the point where my lungs and heart were working at their max … and not appreciating it one bit.  I recall specifically  my lungs starting to burn and immediately thought of my Father who suffers from a lung disease that must be equally discomforting.  I dedicated the rest of that hill and the next to him and powered my way up.  Once at the top of the final hill I realized just how hot my body was.  I had opted for a running outfit to match the planned 9 minute miles and NOT the lighter set of clothes fitting of the current pace.    No zippers to use (mental note for next year) to get some cool air in the now soaked set of clothes.  Eventually figured out I could take my hat of – yes, muuuuuch better except for the fact my head lamp was now too loose and kept bouncing all of the place nearly making me dizzy – figured that was better than overheating again (link here) so made my way to the 5.5 mile marker where I took water again for the big final push.  By then I’d passed probably 8 people and couldn’t see anyone else around me.  The attendants at the water station looked at their watches and forced out a “keeeeeep going 1 mile to go”  Didn’t seem too convincing to me but they didn’t give me the impression it was past midnight yet – maybe there was a chance!  I exited the cemetery and started up the hill to the final stretch.  There were actually two individuals just walking at that point and one provided words of encouragement on finishing strong.  Hope started to come in at this point.  Past another two volunteers responsible for making sure people don’t cheat at the end and purposely start slurping off time – they also gave up encouragements which gave me even more confidence.  Last year we went over midnight by 12 seconds and lost – I could see the winner ahead as he crossed the finish line and wasn’t about to live that disappointment another year.  My training runs always end with a final sprint to help prep for race day.  As the saying goes, “Pain is momentary but 12 seconds late last an eternity”.  Okay, maybe that last part is my embellishment although Linda will confirm I bitched about that a lot.
Surprised that I didn’t hear the race called yet and I thinking I heard a couple people telling me to go, I put it into high gear and rode it too the very end with absolutely no idea of the time.  By the time I hit the mats there was zero left in the tank and I mean ZERO.  Pretty sure I collapsed into Linda’s arms who was waiting for me at the finish line with the rest of my team.  That is when she gave me the wonderful news .. WE HAD WON!  I couldn’t believe it and based on the look on Sung’s face he didn’t either.  The team managed to come in at .. wait for it.. wait for it … 23:59:58.  TWO SECONDS before midnight and that means a mere two seconds from being eliminated.    Apparently the second place team had come in about 2.5 minutes ahead of us and there was noooobody after us for multiple minutes.  Linda said she was getting worried at the minute to go mark and pretty sure Sung had written us off by that point.  My body was spent but I felt a mile high – far different than the low from missing it last year by such a small margin.  We all had a laugh for Sung who now participated in just two official races and received two medals and a trophy – we had to reset expectations and let him know it only goes downhill from here hehehehe.
A big thanks to Sung and Ryan –
Screaming Pumpkin Race 2014
it was a total team effort with Sung giving us extra pad and Ryan iron manning it through two loops.  Ryan did mention that next year he’ll opt out of the two loop role – completely understand.  It was a lesson learned that putting the double loop in the middle allows you the flexibility to make up time on the single loop – it is nearly impossible to make up time on a double loop since burning through the first loop will leave you in a empty shell for the second – thank god I didn’t have to go again.
The best part of coming in first… you get one of these!!

Screaming Pumpkin Race 2014

My first official running trophy ever.

Screaming Pumpkin Race 2014

I’ll close with a couple of random observations
  • I was voted scariest costume at the event by and independent source – okay, maybe not that independent since it was Sung’s wife.  I know her kid was definitely disturbed by it and hope he didn’t have nightmares.

Screaming Pumpkin Race 2014

  • I managed to scare an adult lady – I was standing by the starting line getting my picture taken when the lady came walking by, glanced my way and goes “Oh my… I wasn’t ready for that at all” hehehehehe
  • While standing at the starting line waiting for Ryan to come through on his second lap a woman on the curb says out loud to her friend “Can you believe everyone who hasn’t started yet has to complete in under an hour!?!”  Yes, yes, I can .. and thanks for the timing update.
  • On Ryan’s second loop he actually came upon cops with two individuals down on their knees with their hands behind their back.  No idea what they did but likely locals that were up to no good – the cemetery is not in the best of neighborhoods.  Ryan mentioned if he had hit his first loop mark (he was off by 2 minutes) he probably would have been right there in the middle of it.
  • A big thanks to the individual I ran past at mile 5 for yelling out “Go get ’em tiger” as I flew past him on the downhill – always gives a mental boost when someone acknowledges the fact you are really pushing it.  As a rule I always encourage anyone I pass – runners are one big family
  • Not using the bags this year on the glowsticks helped a bunch – they were actually still lit for the most part on my final lap which hasn’t been the case in the past.
  • Taking the RV this year was an excellent idea – although the weather was perfect for a late October run, the chance to change clothes and relax made the night
  • Ryan once again shamed us with his homemade costume.  Like me he ended up not running in it due to being too restrictive, but job well done!

Screaming Pumpkin Race 2014
it blinked!
Screaming Pumpkin Race 2014

Sung’s costume fit in well with Ryan’s villain theme – even the ring matched!

  • Unlike last year, there wasn’t a near full moon to help light the course – definitely results in a lot more spooky conditions especially with the bats flying around and the occasional raccoon and/or squirrel rustling the leaves off the edge of the course.
  • Once again I have Linda to thank for the pictures! I felt bad for the lady at the end of the race that got up on the podium to get a picture by the race photographer which after a few awkward moments we realized she actually thought was Linda.

Can’t wait until next year – until then I’ll enjoy being the king!!!

Screaming Pumpking Race 2014


5 thoughts on “A Screaming Redemption”

  1. Congratulations to the three of you!! What a run. You might be interested in an article in the WSJ last week describing in a similar way (the inner thoughts and strategic thinking) the win of the Boston Marathon this year by Meb Keflezighi:


    Did I ever tell you how I got a golf trophy once? A near identical story to yours of overcoming personal pain and walking around a cemetery at dusk looking for my ball, except I benefited from a large handicap and a partner who was actually good at the game. So, hey, I know where you’re coming from.



  2. I’ve seen your golf game and I’m pretty sure the pairing with a good partner was real reason for the trophy – oh the memories of speculating just where your ball was going to go off the tee – nobody was safe on that course hehehe.

    I have to admire all marathon runners and basically at awe over the elites ability to hold those paces for that long. I can’t imagine having to block out that pain and think about the dude trying to catch me – sounds like those runners don’t always get along – his elevator conversation was with an ASS. I ran with Meb at the Bix this year – he was hurt but really didn’t admit it. He said his training was off having to do all the media work for winning Boston. He stuck with them to about the halfway point and then let them go.

    Thanks for the article .. and the comment .. all this reading up on runners.. something we should know? (hehehe)


  3. “all this reading up on runners.. something we should know? (hehehe)”

    Only that I find any person’s fascination with running to be fascinating in itself.



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