Sunday, March 2, 2014

Boston Training Week 11, The Umstead Conclave

This past summer there was some banter amongst the Carolina Godiva ranks about the need for fresh blood on the Umstead "Conclave" to fill the void from some departures.  What happened to these individuals, I did not know.  Perhaps it was too many all night seances deep within the woods at Camp Lapihio, waiting for the vision of the animal to emerge in the haze of an incense filled lodge - the chosen symbol for the annual shirt and pint glass awarded to all finishers of the Umstead Marathon.

I had volunteered the last 3 years, but knew little of the inner workings at this mysterious group.  Was I up this challenge?  Was I not training for my own spring marathon - did I really need another running related activity this winter?

Given the gravity of this decision, I decided to seek counsel from a wise individual, whose advice I seldom fail to ignore - and only do so at my own peril.  My wife, Megan.

"You'll get to find out the animal before the race!  You should do it!"  

I knew that secretly she wanted to be part of this Conclave, despite having never run a mile at Umstead Park.  Such is its allure and mystique.

Lest I violate a decades old commandment, "what happens in the Conclave stays in the Conclave" I cannot provide the exact details of how the animal is chosen.  After we were outed on an outrageously popular local running blog, we needed a change in the event an intruder should infiltrate the ranks.  Perhaps we broke into a few Durham County Public libraries in the after-hours searching ancient Sanskrit texts for the answer.  Perhaps we had several mescal infused binges at the Triangle's finest Mexican establishments, bankrupting one in the process with our bacchanalia.  We share not our secrets.

Either way, after months of careful deliberation, we had decided on the Hickory Horned Devil (Citheronia regalis).

Let it be known that the Horned Devil is an absolute badass amongst the kingdom of caterpillars.  Its body is covered in spikes and it waves its fiery antennae menacingly at potential attackers.  When it grows into its adult self, it loses its mouth because it no longer has time to eat - and so it can single focus on its most important activity - procreation (it cannot be bothered with trivial matters such as food).  The males can fly for miles over treacherous terrain (i.e. the entire extent of Turkey Creek) in search of a mate.  As it turns out, the Horned Devil is the baby version of the Regal Moth, or Royal Walnut Moth.  Clearly this was a robust animal befitting of the royal stature of the Umstead Marathon race, based on its elegance, endurance, and lasciviousness.

(ok, between you and me, it is actually quite harmless)

the grown up version

In all seriousness, helping coordinate the Umstead Marathon was an obvious choice - a way to give back something more to a club and park that have helped me run better each year since I moved back to the Triangle in 2010.

I have enjoyed the Carolina Godiva organized races, the Winter Series and Summer Track (and this past year Fall Cross Country was a great addition), even going back to my days in college in the area well before I was officially part of the club.  They are all low-key affairs with minimal entry fees.  In the age of rapid commercialization of the running world - where every 5K race is $30 and has a pre-race/post-race DJ, and every half or full marathon is over $100 with major corporate sponsors that change by the year - it is comforting to see something local and organic, organized at a grassroots level by people doing this in their spare time.  Comforting to see a race with quirky traditions like choosing a different animal each year and giving handmade wooden plaques as prizes to top finishes.  The race is not bent on expansion or contingent on any sort of massive advertising presence.  I have nothing against the larger road races but I also enjoy variety in the races I choose - the Godiva events offer that variety to keep me motivated throughout all the seasons.

A large majority of the "gross profits" go back to the park itself, the same park I have benefited from training in for each of my own recent marathons.  The same park that affords mile upon mile of uninterrupted bridle path, where on a clear late winter afternoon, the sun shines through the barren trees, reflecting off the footpath in streaks of silver.  The Tobacco Trail is practically in my backyard, but no place in the area compares to Umstead.  We are fortunate to have such a refuge in the middle of the Raleigh-Durham-Cary area that is free for all to use - but that would not be the case without events like this to help raise money for the Coalition.  

I would like to thank all the fellow committee members who helped organize the race and devoted much time to working out every detail that goes on behind the scenes.  I have done many many races myself but will never take for granted what needs to happen to make a race go off without a serious hitch.  And of course, thanks to all the volunteers who came out to help carry out each of those details.

Thanks to all the spectators who came out to cheer and spend what turned out to be a great (albeit cold) day for running with us - and most of all, thanks to the runners since without you these events would not exist at all.  We see many of the same faces come out year after year, despite that this is not a "PR course" or a Boston qualifier.  We hope to help put on a great race for you all for many years to come.

One step at a time,

Week 11 Training Log

Monday:  6 miles at Brixx at 6 (the running group that "pulled me in" to the Conclave)

Tuesday:  rest

Wednesday:  ~ 8.6 mile interval workout in the early AM with some really fast women from the BCTC (seems to be the theme of the week - a woman was leading most of the marathon yesterday!  And there were at least 3 among the top 10 overall yesterday)

Thursday:  7.4 miles easy across the bridge on the ATT and back

Friday:  2.5 miles easy

Saturday:  7.5 miles total between aid stations and the lodge... plus many more on bike.  Slept really well that night...

Sunday:  13.2 miles great tempo workout on the ATT with Bart and Colin

Total:  45 miles

February Total:  216 miles (2nd all time month)

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