Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Dr Pepper Bandits

Oh man, where do I start? I guess at 3am when our alarm went off, but the story really gets going at 4:15am as we arrive downtown to join a group of runners waiting for the charter bus to take us to Dublin to run the Dr Pepper 10k. Just one problem, there's no bus. Several phone calls determine that (a) the driver is none too bright, and (b) none too concerned. After very many excuses and predictions of swift arrival, he finally shows up at nearly 6am. We all realize there is very little chance of getting to the race in time, so my buddy Shawn calls up Jeff Kloster (who works with us, is heavily involved in putting on the race and is the co-owner of the Dr Pepper factory in Dublin). He says not to worry and that they'll delay the race by 15 minutes, so we hang up the phone to hear the driver inquiring if anyone knows how to get to Dublin. Not a good sign. Luckily most people see the funny side, especially when somebody points out that the bus was booked through "prompt charters".

Getting closer to Dublin (with just a few wrong turns) we realize we're still not going to make the race in time. My father-in-law drove up from Brownwood to watch Gavin run his first race, and he calls Nancy to find out where we are. We hear the anthem playing in the background. Another call to Jeff and we come up with plan b. Unless you really want an official time (I didn't care, it was just a fun run), the bus will drive straight up to the start line and we will jump out and start running.

So that's what we did. As we jump out of the bus, we see the race clock already at 6 minutes. No time to pick up packets or race numbers, Evil lines us up, Jeff tells me which way to go and we all set off. Shawn and myself take off in the lead and begin to pull away. We make the first left turn, avoid a few cars and see the rearguard police outriders a few hundred yards ahead. So my competitive streak kicks in and I up the pace.

Look up the definition of stupidity in a dictionary and it will say "sit in a bus for 2.5 hours, do not stretch or warm up, jump out and immediately run a 6:30 first mile". Alongside this description will be a picture of me. With a goofy grin. The kind of grin that says I know I shouldn't, I know I'm doing it, I know I should stop, but I just can't help myself. When I hit the first mile, I check the time (6:20 and change), sanity kicks in, and I force myself to slow down. Shawn is about 30 yards behind. By now we've caught and passed quite a few runners and I'm getting some strange looks and a few good natured "you must be the Austin runners" comments. The course winds in and out of streets and parks, and is really quite nice, but I don't have any kind of rhythm (gee, I wonder why), and I've gotten lulled into a far more conservative (or maybe just lazy) pace than I'd wanted. Shawn catches and passes me around mile 2 and soon pulls ahead. The next few miles are a blur of passing people, until I happen on Shawn again around mile 4. He's walking with some friends from the 5k. I feel very tempted to join him and chat away the last few miles, but I'm starting to get into my stride so I keep going. I see quite a few runners having a hard time, and a few off stretching at the side of the road. I make sure to give them all a few words of encouragement as I go by. As I pass an intersection I look over to my right and see some runners a block away going in the opposite direction to me, and other runners another block further going in the same direction. I try to figure out if they are runners I've already passed, but I soon turn the corner and realize it's the last mile and a bit. By now I'm finally starting to get some rhythm so I pick runners ahead of me and start to reel them in. Turn the last corner, speed up, head down toward the cobblestones, pass a few more runners and cross the finish line. I wander around, finally remember to stop my watch and it shows 48:50. Roughly a 7:50 pace - not a bad little run and a nice bit of variation.

I grab some Gatorade, look for the family and finally track them down. Gavin already has his race number and the kids 2k is about to start. He wants his dad to run with him so we head off for the start line. He is by far the youngest kid here and I make sure to position myself so he doesn't get trampled. The horn sounds and off we go again. He runs for the first 50 yards or so and then decides to walk. We carry on walking and yakking together and everything is going well until he spots someone mowing their lawn. Then the race is forgotten. He wants to go back and see the lawnmower (Gavin loves lawnmowers). By the time I convince him he's in a race and we need to keep going, most of the other runners are out of sight. Undeterred we carry on. We are so far behind that even the police outriders have left us. We don't care. We carry on our pleasant stroll, loop the loop and head back. When I spot the finish line getting close I point it out to Gavin and tell him to run through it. We get a good cheer as we get close, Nancy runs over to join us and Gavin grabs our hands and we run through the finish line together with a very well-earned DFL. I get a special "well done dad" and a thumbs-up from Evil.

Jeff has VIP passes for us and our other work colleagues, and takes us on a special tour of the bottling plant. He tells us the history of the place, and shows us original items that his grandparents used in the 1800s. It's really interesting. We get free meal tickets for fajitas, get ourselves some root beer and Dr Pepper floats, and sit on the pavement outside enjoying them. The fajitas are pretty good too.

We lurk around the fair for a while, listening to jazz and playing with Gavin until it's time for the bus to leave. Gavin has turned into Mr Chatterbox and wants to talk to anyone and everyone on the bus until he finally falls asleep and is out most of the way home.

We had a really nice day and had a lot of fun. By my next post I will have fixed my mental glitch and sent my blog hurtling back into the past tense.

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