Saturday, August 26, 2006

Stop the Music! Or, at least, turn the volume down a little...

OK, here it is: my first race report. First, I really enjoyed the drive out. Dressed to run in the cold, sipping my electolyte drink slowly on the way, I watched the sky lighten as I drove to the East. Somehow, it seemed fitting to be driving toward the rising sun as I head to my first run. It felt good. (Don't worry, this doesn't change.)

When I reached the location of the race, I was a bit surprised to see very few people milling around, even though packet pickup had started about fifteen minutes ago (45 minutes to the start of the race). So, I cruised around the neighborhood for a while before I parked and picked up my packet. Yes, very few people indeed.

Wearing my running tights, shorts, and a long-sleeved shirt over a no-sleeve shirt (all wicking, of course, and the forecast said 53 degrees at start time, climbing to 55 an hour later.), I temporarily topped it off with my school's sweatshirt and went in to pick up my packet (t-shirt, bib number and safety pins). Hmmm... is there supposed to be anything else? Probably not, but somehow it seems odd to call this a "packet".

After dropping off my t-shirt and sweatshirt in my car, and while walking around to warm-up, I pinned and repinned the number in what must have been six different places, including trying to be cool and pinning it to my shorts leg (no, didn't stay there).

During this time, I talked with one of the volunteers by the chute. They had 70 participants last year, and were hoping for more. 70 participants for three events: 2mi walk, 2mi run, and 10k run. Oh, it's hard to blend in with that! I hoped for many more participants. We ended up with 64 in the end. No, I'm not missing a zero or two. Sixty-four. For all three events.

I also noticed that it felt much warmer than I expected. The sun helps a lot, so I switched to my tight shorts layered with loose shorts and got rid of the shirt under my long-sleeved shirt. Good decision, I think.

It was actually really fun at the start. We all (all three events at the same time) lined up in front of the crosswalk which would be our finish line and listened to instructions. I joked with people by me about my fear of finishing 10 minutes behind the second-to-last runner, and shared Sam's story which - as well-intentioned as it was - was not necessarily reassuring when I heard it yesterday. She had finished last once... right in front of the ambulance!

It was a nice, relaxed atmosphere as we chatted and then applauded a late-comer who we held the "starting gun" for. In fact, there was no starting gun. I think she even said "On your mark, get set, go!" as our starting signal. In retrospect, the whole thing, from the 2 mile perspective, felt a lot like a bunch of grown-up kids who got together to race. Not that it's a bad thing, mind you.

We took off. I actually wove around a couple of people at the start, surprised that the take-off was so slow. They were just more patient than me, and I quickly ended up behind many of them again. Did I mention that the race started uphill? A shallow hill here, but a hill nonetheless. I ran for the most part, but set the rule for myself that I was more than welcome to walk up hills. So, I took a walking break and a pair of walkers passed us. That's OK.

The course started straight up the road, then the 10k and 2mile people split in opposite directions. Suddenly, I looked behind me and there was no one there! In fact, the police car monitoring the corner drove off! I was last already! Wow. I thought I was in the back-middle of the pack, but they must have all gone for the 10k! Last already, oh, this was too much to take!

Regardless, I kept pace with the two (older) walkers and two young kids who alternated between sprinting and walking. I have to be honest here, with the hills I resorted to the same poor strategy. My GPS data shows me that my run segments sometimes went up to 7mph! (OK, so much of my running was downhill, but still!) As a 12- to 13-minute-miler, this was much too fast. I probably would have run more if I hadn't tried to run so fast to make up for ground I lost walking the hills.

After a while, I passed the female walker (downhill, of course). She shouted, "You go, girl!" My brain didn't function well enough to think of intelligent answer, so I just grinned and laughed.

After a while, I caught up with the two children. At first, everytime I got close, they set off in a short run. Eventually, I guess, they realized that that wasn't going to work and I ended up passing them too. Woohoo! Take your victories where they come, I always say.

Here comes my only complaint: shortly after this, I sprinted down a steep hill, turned right, and was already at the chute! Oh, no! I typically sprint the last 400-500 feet, and I didn't get the chance! So, my time is probably a little shy of what it may have been. But, not bad. I aimed for sub-25 minutes. I was still sub-26 minutes. (I missed the official time, but my Garmin says 25:25.)

Considering the higher elevation and the hilly route, I'm really not disappointed at all in my time. I sat for a while, clapped as the two kids and the walker came in. I wasn't last, after all. Well, good for me. I waited a while for the 10k'ers to finish, but didn't see them come so I went inside, went to the restroom, and grabbed some refreshments.

When I went back out, I saw walkers still finishing! Oh, wow! I learned later that the male walker in front of me was the first place male walker and the woman behind me was the first place female walker. I had really misjuded my place!

OK, ready for this? I finished first in my age group! Now for the punch line: There were two people in my age group! So, there was at least one runner behind me. Wow. I didn't get the railroad tie they were giving away as awards. There's something for authenticity, I think, so I can't get accept award for only beating one other person. (Don't worry, none of the winners before me were there, so they didn't notice me not coming up to claim my award). Besides, I have what I needed: I wasn't last overall, and I wasn't even last for my age (and gender) group!

To the best of what I can figure, I came in 10th out of 11 registered runners, though I think some walkers ran for at least a little at the beginning. (I was told I'd be lynched if I tried that!) For what it's worth: the top walkers never ran.

Sure, I didn't run the whole way, but after seeing those extreme trail-runners walking, I don't have a problem with walking breaks on hills. So, I have a snazzy t-shirt and my first official race number. Most importantly: I have the experience and had a great time. Now, to get to that first 5k...


Heather said...

Take the award! You were first in your age group. If I'm ever tempted not to take, I simply consider all the people in my division still in bed asleep.

I have all kinds of awards for races where I was the only one, or only one of a few, from when I was in the 15-19 age group and choosing the 10K-15M distances that the rest of my division shunned. Hell, when I was 15 and ran my first 15 miler, I was DFL in the race (only about 30-40 runners in the race, and only runners; thankfully they all waited to cheer me in when they learned a 15 y/o was running) -- still took my division award.

The award-- hey, it's part of you now, and it's something great to look back on as part of the experience (trust me, I've been running 7 years, and the t-shirts don't last. The awards do)

Karen said...

Hmmm... NOW you tell me to take it! :D

But, you have an excellent point, and a great way to look at it. I guess it's too late to pick this one up, but I'll definately keep that in mind for the future. You're right - I certainly could have slept in that morning!

And wow - 15 miles when you were 15?!? I've heard about "running your age", but that is absolutely fantastic!

Kym said...

So inspiring! Congratulations on being first in your age group!

I need to find a 2 mile run. I feel too intimidated to sign up for a 5K yet.