Thursday, September 16, 2010

Race Traditions

With the Bear 100 approaching, I was pondering some of my silly race traditions. I wouldn't call these superstitions, really, since I don't worry or get upset if I forget one of them before a race. Simply traditions. Some of you may have noticed these traditions but not know the history, while some may never have noticed. I'm sitting alone in South Carolina and I'm bored, so it's story telling time. I have 3 big race traditions, in order of importance:

1) My green shorts- In high school, I worked for Green for $Green$ lawn care one summer. G for G happened to be owned by my cross country coach, who would buy some green shorts for his lawn crew each year. Most years, they were the knee-length, football-type mesh shorts. My year, though, he bought the shortest, bright green running shorts you have ever seen. We occasionally wore them on the job, along with wifebeater shirts, to the abject horror of the general public. At the end of the summer, I set them in a drawer and forgot about them for years.

Fast forward to college graduation. While cleaning my drawers (the furniture kind, not the other kind) in preparation for my move to Utah, I found the shorts and figured they would be useful. If nothing else, they definitely don't blend into the "black, 7-inch inseam shorts" crowd. Shortly thereafter, I donned them for a race. I must have done well, and wearing those ugly things became a tradition.

I must acknowledge that they are somewhat of a pain to wear. They are size 38 waist, so it wouldn't take much effort to depants me during a race. They have no pockets, a challenge for a packrat like me who always carries essentials such as toilet paper. They are terribly, **painfully** cold on certain extremities when worn alone during Strider's Winter Series races. I look like a Christmas ornament now that the SGRC singlets are red. And they embarrass my wife. (Ok, so that last one is definitely a plus.) And they only get used a few times a year, owing to my reluctance to wear them during regular workouts. But, during most of my races, you will proudly see me sporting these short, hideous greeny-greens with pride. And I love them. (Enough to name my blog after them and intentionally buy matching gaiters- what can I say?)

If we combine the greeny-green shorts with my dad's St. Patrick's Day shirt, would the Earth immediately implode?!? Pray we never find out...

2) My second race tradition can also be traced to high school. Growing up in Littleton, Colorado, my dad and I would often run the Bolder Boulder 10k together. As I was finishing my warm up just before my wave started at the 1995 race, I noticed a trash can on the side of the road that had a large pile of discarded warm-up clothes in it. [Note: in my 16 years of running, I have gone to great lengths and filled many drop bags to make sure I got back every article of running clothing I warmed up in before a race. The people of Boulder sure must be wealthy to casually toss aside nice gear in such a callous manner. Either that, or they thought the trash can looked cold.] Being a curious teenager, I sifted through the pile. While not wanting to carry shirts or tights for the whole race, I was excited to find a brown, Carhartt beanie. I dutifully tucked it in the back of my shorts and hauled it all 6.2 miles to the finish line.

Ever since then, this brown hat has been my pre and post-race beanie of choice, whether the temperature is below freezing or above 90 F. Like the shorts, it is worn only on race day. My friends and family have learned that, once the hat is donned pre-race, I'm in my racing mode. I don't talk, and I'm focused (I apologize if this is perceived as anger). Post-race, it's just silly and ugly. Best of all, my brown race-day beanie clashes with the shorts! And yes, if it's ever cold enough to justify during a race, this beanie will grace my noggin in all the mid-race photos.

Ah, the ugly brown beanie. Actually useful on this cold, wintery day.

3) My final race tradition has only emerged over the past 7 years or so and involves hair migration. Specifically, less hair on my head and more on my face. Once my college racing career was over, my race schedule slowed down (thanks in part to now having to pay race entry fees). It seemed my key races were usually 6 to 8 weeks apart, which nicely coincided with how often I needed for a haircut. As part of my pre-race preparations, I would usually get my hair buzzed the week before the race, thinking there might be some minuscule benefit from the reduced weight and air resistance. But mainly, I just needed a haircut.

Also about the same time as my college graduation, I finally had more than 3 whiskers growing on my face. Deciding that I should conserve all my energy leading up to the race, I would usually not shave for 3-4 days prior (Now I know what you're thinking, but don't worry-- the increase in facial wind resistance due to my 5 whiskers was very minimal compared to the decrease from my haircut). Nowadays, I'll usually not shave for a full week before the race, or, for the big races, might stretch it out to 2-4 weeks (aka El Vaquero Loco 2010). I'm not sure what it is- maybe having a bit of scruff makes me feel more manly and increases testosterone production, but my best races have all come unshaven. If I can ever grow a Paul Petersen beard, maybe I'll even qualify for the Olympic Trials!!!

El Vaquero Loco 2010 scruff

And so, dear readers, those are my race traditions. Silly and amusing, yes. But part of who I am as a runner. What are some of your traditions? I would love to hear. That way, next time we meet at the starting line, I will recognize and understand your traditions a little better, while you will surely still question the sanity of the scruffy, buzz-cut, brown-beanie, green-short wearing guy standing next to you. And rightly so.


  1. Cool post. I cannot even think of 1 tradition that I have. But I also haven't been running as a tradition very long so I suppose that may come with time.

  2. Hahaha, great article. Those are classic race traditions. Like Aaron, I'm not sure if I have been running long enough to have any real good ones. Maybe the one and only one I really have is using Beaudreaux's Butt Paste as an anti-chafe cream.

  3. My calling cards during races are now my skull gaiters and my green light. Even this morning on Timp several people called out my name once they saw the green light.

  4. I guess the coonskin hat used to be a race tradition when I was a back-of-the-packer. But now it is just too blasted hot to wear. Maybe I should wear it for the first stretch of the Bear.

  5. Davy- yeah, your green light is definitely distinctive.

    Maybe just wear your coonskin hat before and after the race, like I usually do with my beanie.

  6. Pretty unique "traditions" for sure.

    I have two that I can think of: 1. new socks for every race. 2. walk in solitude for a few minutes race morning. Fairly innocuous but they settle my mind.

  7. wow i didn't know any of these traditions...Now i know! now i can't bug you. :)

  8. Love your post! I always wear a dorag but for races it is always the black with white skull & crossbones. It tends to intimidate people for the first 1/2 mile then they realize I'm no threat and cruise on by. :-) ~ BNS