Monday, August 27, 2007

8-26-07 RACE REPORT!!!

The Devil is in the details. It is done. It is complete. I have run my race. I've been marching towards the start of this race since January (nearly 9 months).

I got up Saturday morning and ran a couple of miles with Steph to stretch my legs a little. Then we had several errands to run which culminated in dinner with my family in Columbus.

I'd packed a bag with my race gear and some extra clothes, and at about 9:30PM, I started to get ready for the race. I changed into my running shorts and a wicking shirt. I put tape on my toes to avoid another blood bath like I got on my last 10+ mile run - I wasn't expecting that to be a problem, but I wanted to eliminate any variables since this was THE race. I got a fresh stick of Body Glide, and lubed all the appropriate places. Steph and I told everyone else we'd see them at the race. Just before we left my mother's house, we saw a news report on the race. I had anticipated this to be a big race - I was estimating 500 to 600 runners for a 5K race - the racer director told the reporter they were 1500 runners pre-registered, and they were expecting a total of 2000 or more. HOLY CRAP?!?!!? .

I got to the race and it was raining (it had been raining off-and-on for most of the day). The venue was PACKED, but not by a lot of runners. It was more like a block party: there was a band playing (RAWK ON!!!!), car stereos booming from the car show, and numerous public service vehicles (police, ambulance, firetrucks). One of the fire department ladder trucks had it's boom up and was supplying a waterfall for the kids/adults to play in. I was expecting a line to get my race packet (which is why we showed up nearly 2 hours bef
ore start time), but when I got through the crowd and to the registration table, there was NO line - I was in and out in less than 20 secs. I had my number, I had my chip, and I had my warning that the FBI would hunt me down and make me an un-person if I didn't return my 35 cent timing chip. I returned to the Jeep where Steph was, and showed her the bounty from my excursion - then realized that I didn't get any pins for my number (#621, for the record). I waited a little while longer and went back out for some pins. While I was in the crowd again, I walked up to the starting area to scope out the goings-on. One of the local gyms had brought in stationary bikes and they were holding spin classes in the rain on a flatbed trailer. They already had the road blocked off from traffic and had crowd control fences up. I wandered around for about 10 minutes and stopped to listen to the band for a while, then returned to the Jeep with my pins.

Just before 11pm I started to get ready in the Jeep. I put my chip on shoes, then put on my running shoes. I got out of my track pants and started looking at where I was going to attach my number. I'd planned on wearing a shirt during the race, but with the humidity, I decided to race shirtless. So I took my nice, new, pristine race number, and mangled it like a dog familiarizing itself with a Michael Vick jersey. My lovely wife got the most interesting "what are you doing?" look on her face. Now my race number felt like a $5 bill that had been through the dryer in the hip pocket of a well worn pair of Levi's - now it wouldn't feel like I had a pizza box attached to my shorts while I was running. We wandered up to the starting area and ran into the rest of my family/cheering section. I wanted to run a little war
m up and stretch before the race, so we worked out where everyone would be, and Steph and I continued on to the starting area. I ran about a 1/2 mile warm-up to work down some anxious energy. I wasn't nervous, but I did want to get started. After I ran a little while and stretched, and posed for a few more pictures the crowd of runners had started to gather pretty thickly in the starting chute. I got myself positioned about where I thought I should be for my pace (trying to avoid getting run over by the faster runners).

We never heard any instructions, or lead up, but exactly at midnight - KABOOM!!! The canon fired, and the crowd of 2000+ lurched slowly forward like gigantic jelly mold that was just hit by a truck. I waited to start my watch until I crossed under the 'START' banner, and I didn't turn on my MP3 player for about a 1/4 mile.

The crowd was incredibly thick and I had a lot of trouble maneuvering through them - I should have started a little closer to the front. We had 3 lanes of roadway to run in and it was still shoulder-to-shoulder for a 1/2 mile or more. After I felt a little safer (both for me and those around me), I hit the button on my MP3 player and the footsteps faded. In my head, I heard a mixture of Guns 'n Roses and snippets from from postings I'd read on (train safely, and within reason, but on race day - "leave it all on the track"). If I heard that phrase once, I heard it every 20 steps.

I never looked at my watch. I was going to look at it when I
came to the first water station. The first station should have been at one mile, but it never came - no water stations on the entire 5K route. No volunteers calling out splits, not even a signpost up at mile intervals. Once I realized this, I knew that I had NO WAY of knowing if I was on pace. I had picked up behind a couple of soldiers and decided to run in their tracks - I figured they'd be running a 25 minute race or better. There were times that they pulled away from me, but at about 2 miles, they fell back and I never saw them again. I picked up a behind a pair of young girls (couldn't have been more than 12) running together, and I could NOT pass them. Luckily I had driven the route a few weeks ago, so I knew where I was on the route even without someone marking the miles. The last leg of the race had a pretty good down hill towards the finish line. I started my end of the race kick just before that hill, and started stretching my stride - I was going to sprint to the end and get that last few seconds of my time.

As I approached the finish line, I was passing people with every 2 steps, but I couldn't find the clock, I had NO idea where I was on time. I sprinted across the line, and the timing pads, and once I got a bottle of water from one of the volunteers, I walked off to the side and doubled over trying to breath again - it was over.

I spent a couple of minutes taking water, and breathing - then I wandered over to the 'gimme' tables. I had to take off my chip and drop it in a bucket before I coul
d get my shirt. Then I met the guy handing out BBQ sandwiches - you wouldn't think that a BBQ sandwich would be the best thing at the end of a 5K - but you'd be wrong. The sandwich was phenomenal. I put my race shirt on (surprisingly nice shirts) and started trying to find my group. I'd seen Steph and my family right after I crossed the line, but I couldn't find them after the race. I walked around for about 5 minutes before I found them (this was probably a good thing because it gave me opportunity to cool down some more, and stretch).

I still hadn't looked at my watch - I still had no idea how I'd done.

When I decided to do this race in January, my goal was to run it in 27 minutes (approx 9 minute mile). Around March, I questioned that goal - I labored over it and the number 27 haunted me. I remember running 1 mile one afternoon and it took 11 minutes - and I was baked when I got done - dead, exhausted, nothing left. 27 minutes seemed about as likely as learning how to fly sans an airplane. In July, when I ran the Beulah Bobcat 5K, I did it in 25:23 - this changed my 27 minute goal for the Midnight Express. I'd decided that I wanted to shave the 23 seconds off my time. I wanted to finish in 25 minutes. I didn't quite make it.

25:06 - missed it by 6 seconds. They say running is a mental activity as much as a physical one - I believe it. That 6 seconds is bothering my. Everyone in my family, from my mother to my 14yr old daughter has told me that it's only 6 seconds, and that I should be proud of it - and I am, I really am, but I would love to have 6 seconds. I replay the race and I see that 6 seconds at every turn, and in every step.
  • The crowd was horrendous at the start, and I spent a lot of time jumping ankles and waiting for polite holes to open in the crowd.
  • I hesitated passing the two soldiers because I thought I might be over-running my abilities
  • I went off the paved area, and had to adjust my footing at several points to pass people
  • I could have started my final sprint a little sooner
  • I would have known to push a little harder if I'd known mile splits
  • I feel like I could have sprinted harder at the end
  • If I'd seen the clock, maybe I'd have had some end-of-race intel to run harder

It's only 6 seconds, it's not the end of the world, or the end of my running - but I HATE falling short. Taken in perspective, 25:06 is great, because I beat the original (January) goal by almost 2 full minutes (that's 8:05 per mile). Also, I ran this race without the benefit of any speed workouts. My training has been comprised of consistent mileage and increasing mileage. I'm still not quite to my 30 mpw goal, but I'm getting there. I'll start speed workouts once it cools down a little. I'd already set 2 goals for next year, and it looks like I just added another short term goal:

  1. Run Victory Junction 1/2 marathon in Dec. '08
  2. Run Ft. Benning Reverse Sprint Triathlon in summer '08
  3. Run a 5K in <>
It was a good race, I did enjoy it (despite the last paragraph), and I'll look forward to it again next year. It's inspired me to push harder, and maybe in a little time, I'll quit hearing "six seconds" echo in my head.

I went home and slept very well that night - exhausted. My wife and mother had made me homemade chocolate chip cookies for my post race party (I'd requested this months ago when I started watching my food - I LOVE my wife's homemade cookies). And I'll be enjoying them until they're gone. I took Sunday off, and will be taking Monday off as well (partly for recover, partly because of a busy Monday night schedule) and Tuesday, I'll probably do a long slow run - the schedule says 4 miles, but I'm feeling more like 6 or more.

The Event - slide show of pics at the event.

And a big thanks to my family for coming out at midnight and supporting me on this!!!

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