MM#209 / JapanJoyful#803
note: the Lilac Bloomsday 12K in Spokane, Washington got its name from
a. all the blooming lilacs in May and
b. the annual Bloomsday Celebration named after the Leopold Bloom character of James Joyce's ULYSSES.
For those who understand them, skip the long, long, entirely too longnarrative to the good times at the end.
Lilac Bloomsday 12K with the butterflies - May 6, 2012
I. Lilac Bloomsday Dreamin’ - 1977/2007/2012
A. Bloomsday 1977
The first year I started running (1977) then-Olympic marathoner Don Kardong organized the first Lilac Bloomsday 12K. The somewhat rare 12K distance allowed a chance to get PR’s and set records in a different distance than the typical 10K. The officially-sanctioned course included a 0.72 mile descent for some very fast times. Though the field was less than 2,000 runners in 1977, it’s been more than 10,000 since 1979 and competes with Peachtree, Boulder/Boulder and Bay-to-Breakers for largest-run-in-the-country honors. Since 1986, women have constituted more than half of the field, more than 60% in the last several years.
0.72 mile descent in 1977
1977: Runners in the inaugural Bloomsday race make their way down what would later
become known as Doomsday Hill, which is now taken from the opposite direction.
With Boston Billy, Frank Shorter, Henry Rono, Arturo Barrios, Lisa Weidenbach and Don’s other elite running friends capturing headlines in the early editions, Bloomsday was one of the few PNW events regularly covered by the two national running rags at the time (Runner’s World and now-defunct The Runner). Don was honored in his own right. Many think his fourth place finish (by three seconds) in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Marathon would have been bronze, and Frank Shorter’d’ve had another gold, if there’d've been drug testing for the East German gold medalist.
Bloomsday became up-close-and-personal in 1977 when Don spoke at our local running club. At the time, I’d only run one marathon. Like many other runners in those days, it was had been on a last-minute whim without much, if any, concern about training except for being in shape enough from some other sport anyway. <<<(skiing/skiing)>>> . Not surprisingly, I didn’t know anything at all about pacing (as if I do now). I found out, though, when, in his narration of a 16mm film of the 1976 Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, Don matter-of-factly noted, “at mile 18, our paces (Shorter/Rodgers/Galloway/Burfoot/et al) “dropped precipitously from 4:54 to 5:10.” Them are the words he said. .With regard to the name “Bloomsday,” Don said he likes lilac blooms and James Joyce’s Leopold Bloom character from Ulysses too.http://teresa-knudsen.suite101.com/james-joyce-ulysses-leopold-bloom-and-the-lilac-bloomsday-run-a407032.Being in-and-out of Seattle a lot in those days, Spokane was within striking distance so Bloomsday became my lifetime famous running event goal. For the next 30 years, even when I had once inadvertently BQ’ed, Bloomsday remained my lifetime goal race. It was my Boston, if not more.
II. BLOOMSDAY for real
A. Bloomsday 2007
When I finally got the present of my Bloomsday dream coming true at the 31st running on May 6, 2007 (my 31st running year too), I found out Bloomsday was more than just a famous race. .I’m not a competitive runner by any means anymore, if ever. Nevertheless, for some reason, in recent years, I’ve acquired a strange fixation to run all the way up the daunting ascents in all of my favorite marathons. The steeper, tougher, longer and harder the better..The urge is especially powerful for ascents in the latter miles when most everyone else is hanging on to every step for dear life, grimacing upward and onward in the barest semblances of running, let alone walking, e.g. Seattle (miles 20.5 & 22), Portland (mile 17), and Yakima River Canyon (mile 23). .Doomsday Hill was invented in 1980 when the 0.72 mile downhill was turned around to be become a 6.5% grade and 146 foot climb instead.
Runner’s World has deemed Doomsday the fourth most daunting ascent in U.S. racing.
Though Bloomsday itself is only 7.46 miles long, the faster paces in shorter events seem make Doomsday just as intimidating and tiring, if not more so, as my beloved Galer/Madison (Seattle), St. John’s Bridge (Portland) and Roza Hill (Yakima)..Doomsday is such an important part of Bloomsday that it earned its own timing mats part of the way up this year. .Bloomies and Doomies try our best to ignore its looming presence. Bands and singers seek to distract us every half-mile or so. Announcers call out encouragement and trivia. Runners small talk and joke, pretending to be interested in how many times they have Bloomsdayed and other streaks and hard hills. Costumes bring forced smiles at Spidermans, several Batmans, Raggedy Ann and Andy, bananas, even some guy in a Japanese happi coat, straw samurai sandals and a strange straw coolie hat, . . . it’s all a facade trying to suppress the inevitability of Doomsday as long as possible. It doesn’t work.
. . .
.Then, all-of-a-sudden, it’s too late. Doomsday emerges around a corner through the trees over on the other side of the road. It’s in the distance almost a mile away at first. Nevertheless, Doomsday had already reduced the bulk of the faster runners from the early corrals to a crawling pace line of multi-colored figurines. They don’t even seem to be pretending to run anymore.
.With a sense of impending dread, you realize you are soon going to be them too. Breathing seems to get deeper, maybe thinking it will store up spare oxygen for the task ahead. Legs seem to start getting heavier as you start to hear dirge-like notes you thought to hear from the band up ahead at foot of the monster.
Just then, back in 2007, seeing another yellow Marathon Maniac singlet, I angled through the runners between us over to Marathon Maniac Jack Swanson (#70) of Spokane. Knowing what a marathon purist he was, Jack’s presence confirmed how special Bloomsday was. He was eyeing Doomsday too but, . . . , huh, . . . he was smiling, and cheerily called out, “hey jon: there she is!” .Huh? Who is? Saying he loved Doomsday Hill, Jack explained how much he was looking forward another challenge match with his old friend of more then 30 years. Trying to sort it all out, I stuck side-by-side with Jack all the way as we passed hundreds of wasted, walking runners trying to reach the big, notorious vulture statue awaiting slackers at the crest.. Jack’s gone now but his Doomsday Hill has become one of my best friends too. .
People posing with the Bloomsday vulture near the top of Doomsday Hill http://focusonphotography.blogspot.com
. B. Bloomsday 2012 .Dreams of a second Bloomsday starting stirring again this spring when an Idaho business trip seemed to be coinciding with the 36th Lilac Bloomsday. It was off-and-on for a while but, knowing the butterflies would be there too, I succeeded in making sure I was sound asleep on Saturday's midnight redeye Greyhound to Spokane. It was the same, favorite bus that had taken me to three Ironmans in Idaho as well as the Let’s-Run-a-Mountain 34-miler in 2008 where, after finishing her relay section, Mari continued to run a with me and my then other best running friend Ultra Paul Piplani (RIP too).
1. The Butterflies. .a. Madam Butterfly - everyone knows what a gem Mrs. Butterfly is so it is no surprise that the rest are too. When I found them at the anointed upside-down fountain Riverside Park near the Bloomsday commemorative runner statues, mariposai was already regaling the clan on how much fun Doomsday was going to be.
PHOTO - Joy of Running statues at Riverside Park commemorating the Lilac Bloomsday
b. Mr. Butterfly - the “Easy Pacer” seems to be in good enough shape anyway from hiking steep trails with heavy packs, etc. that, unless he gets the BQ bug from his better half someday, he only runs when he wants to, not because he has to.
c. DS-1 - after alerting me to a potential bear-tetsujin encounter in last summer’s Light-at-the-End-of-the-Tunnel Marathon, the same one mariposai was up ahead ahead of the bear in her memorable BQ run, DS-1 had joined me on a whim in September for his first triathlon. Not being able to find cycling shoes at the last minute he not only wore his beloved Chako sandals on the bike and run but swam in them too!
d. DS-2 - though fifty years apart, I also like chatting with 19yo DS-2 about those parts of our respective Japan exchange student experiences that are somewhat linguistically, if not socially and culturally, difficult to express in English. If he’s still running when I am, he’ll be in Bloomsday no 86 in 2062! Maybe no. 100 in 2077 too. This year’s oldest finisher was 91.
2. ”Ｔｈｅｙ’ｒｅ ｏｆｆ！”.
Ａｆｔｅｒ Mariposai orchestrated us all getting together in the orange corral, we started the slow shuffle towards starting banner still about a half a mile away. In an annual ritual, runners were tossing shirts, jackets, wind pants, even gloves up over tree branches lining the downtown streets.
After the first annual posie family run last year, papa posie was aiming at a PR. So was DS-2, even though his first year at the UW, spring quarter exams, etc. had prevented much, if any, running at all since his Bloomsday 2011. DS-1, still feeling the mint juleps from a Kentucky Derby party, said he’d probably be walking in his Chako sandals. .
..We lost the DS’s right away but, even with so many walkers, who were supposed to be in corrals behind us, blocking most of the way up in front, Posie kept the Sandbagger (nee “easy-pacer”) in check long enough for me to keep up with them until the first of two downhills. With my hands outstretched in front of me to ease my way through the masses ahead of me, I tried to get a head start by running in-and-out down through the crowded roadway as fast as possible. It was so crowded, almost like trying to walk fast through the morning rush hour in Tokyo.
Available from Spokane SpokesmanReview http://www.spokesman.com/picture-stories/bloomsday-2012/
Unfortunately, neither of the posie’s were anywhere in sight when I climbed up on a guard rail at the bottom to look around for their matching orange caps and butterfly-yellow shirts coming down where I thought they would be behind me. I later found out the Sandbagger had wondered what the heck that guy in the funny hat was doing up on the guard rail.
Giving up on seeing them again, on the way up the first of two otherwise steep, preliminary hills that would have been anointed with their own names in any other race, mari was on the way back down looking for the sandbagger too. By then, he wouldn’t’ve been behind me anymore (if ever) so I offered to help by running up the other side of the crowded roadway while butterfly wings stayed on her side. . It didn’t work. Ascending as gracefully as a gazelle on the side shoulder, she quickly disappeared up ahead from view. One of the runners already reduced to walking said, “no fair, she has wings!”.On the upside, I was kind of enjoying the sorry pity in faces around me whenever I’d ask someone, “is this Doomsday Hill” even though I knew it wasn’t. . Also encountered two barefoot boys celebrating International Barefoot Running Day. http://barefootrunning.com/?p=2991 .And then it was all like a giddy dream but to make my story short, <<<(toolate/toolate)>>>, we conquered Doomsday, went to a sushi restaurant, and I got on the afternoon bus in time to spend the rest of an already happy day with my son and his family in Idaho, . . . I mean, I go on my business trip over there. .III. The Good Times
I forgot what my finish time was but, at 1:34:34, it was more than an hour behind winner Allan Kiprono, nearly 20 minutes slower than in 2007. and almost an hour behind the combined posies. However, it was just as much of a joyous success, if not more so, than the 1:15:01 from before my right knee got old enough to give me the real excuse for being so slow I’d been looking for for so long. .With me giving up by then but with Mr. and Mrs. Posie still looking for each other on Doomsday Hill, it seems my chip time might have been a little faster between the hill mats in the official results but, with all three of us between five and six minutes, DS-1 and DS-2 put us in our places by more than a minute. DS-1 was the champ with his 3:58 ascent!.Maybe I can treat myself to another 12K Bloomsday/Doomsday
present the next time May 6 is on Bloomsday Sunday too.
I hope so
butterfly wings and coolie hat jon, . . I mean samurai jon (...NOT)
Henry the Great: "I'm going to keep running as long as I can." Me too, I hope.
T. Igarashi (summiting Mt. Fuji at age 100): "Enjoy yourself. Your younger days never come again."