LET THEM EAT CAKE, or Irish Jig 5k, March 17, 2007.
That was one of the post-race goodies at the 5k today. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The general consensus was to go ahead and do the race, despite not feeling ready or up to it, and not worry about my time. Whew! Okay then, that's an excuse I can use.
This race is one of the largest 5ks in the state, and even though its considered an early season race, there is prize money given out, and it usually means a large contingent of east siders (meaning Ann Arbor or Detroit area) will be here to try to claim the overall and age group prizes. When I went to pick up packets (mine and Don's) after work last night, it should have been a forwarning of the numbers expected the next day. My number was 2474. That's more than 10 times the number of runners from my last 5k back in February. They had run out of shirts at 2000, so I got a refund on my race entry, and ended up only having to pay $15. No big deal. I have enough shirts, and this particular one, while a very nice long sleeved shirt, is always way too big and I have never worn any of my other ones.
Race morning dawned, and listening to the weather, I wasn't surprised. "Nineteen degrees, with winds out of the northwest." Winds out of the northwest means colder than normal. "But there will be abundant sunshine, making it seem warmer than it will be." Yeah, I know how that goes. The weather around here at this time of year is always a tease; while there may be abundant sunshine lots of days, there is also abundant cold and blustery weather, making me get really impatient for any weather over 45 degrees.
I still had to wear double layers for this type of weather, since I haven't been running outside enough to be wearing the shorts or short sleeved shirts like I was starting to see others wear. I got to the race site about 45 min. early, and already the streets surrounding the high school where the race was to start were lined from block to block with cars. The people in this area have to be quite tolerant of this stuff, since this is where 90% of the races in the Grand Rapids area take place. Generally, there is no parking anywhere within 6 blocks of the start.
This was going to be my "long" run for the month. With all the events happening in my life in recent weeks, my training had slid, and I had gotten no new mileage accomplishments. My game plan, then, was to run 15 min. before the race, run the race, and run 15 min. after. That would be at least an hour I figured, and only about an hour off where I should be for my long run at this time of the year! I was parked far enough from the start to use this for my warmup, although it wasn't quite 15 min. away. I circled around for a few extra minutes but then decided I should try to find a bathroom and get in line, figuring it would be a long one with all these people.
A long line wasn't even close to describing the mess I came upon. Here we were, at a brand new school, and you know there is more than one bathroom for each gender, but try to find another one and you were out of luck. The lines for both men's and women's were so long I'm not really sure where they started. Forget that. I headed back outside. Little did I know there were about 20 porta-johns on the other side of the school. Instead, I headed down the street to the local area grocery store where I knew there was a bathroom. I figured I was going to be so clever and not have to wait. Oh right! About 40 other people had the same clever thought, and with only 2 stalls in this bathroom, the wait got to be more than most of us could tolerate. After almost 15 min. of not getting any closer, the scene got ugly, and the few men who dared to use the men's bathroom were being told to go to the back of the line and wait like the rest of us. I finally got my chance and ducked inside the men's room just in time. The race was scheduled to start in 1 minute!
With a chip start, it wasn't that big of a deal, but with over 2400 people lined up on the street, the only place I was going to be able to start was way in the back. I'm not exactly sure when the race started, since you couldn't hear anything where I was, but as we were leisurely moving forward, I could see runners two blocks over and knew the race had already started--for them at least.
I could finally hear the timing mats chirping, so knew we were getting close. This was almost 5 minutes after the predicted start time. And then we were off. I hadn't done this course ever, since the race site had moved to the present location about 3 years before, and while I had signed up for that race, I had slipped and fallen on the ice just before the start, and ended up dropping out early because of a problem from the fall. I was hoping since it was a money race that it would be a flat and fast course. No such luck. Within the first 1/4 mile, we rounded a corner and headed up our first hill. Nothing much, but probably a 2% grade, and just a short block long. Just enough to make breathing in the cold air a chore. I had been successfully picking my way through the slowest people and walkers, but then got bogged down on this short hill block, and even more so when a woman in front of me tripped on her untied shoelaces and then, of all things, bends over right on the course to tie it! A group of us just about had a pile up right then and there.
Before I got to the first mile, the overall male winner was coming into the finish line, which we passed before the first mile. 13:20 was the unoffcial time. A new course record. I would guess!
So the first mile came up, and another small hill. I was really feeling the cold air and figured I would just continue trying to breathe easy and not stress out my lungs. There was still no thinning of the crowds, so it was still an obstacle course to move around slower people. Hard to believe there was anyone much slower than me, but as I've said before, my place seems to be pretty much middle of back of the pack. Before the second mile, another steep, short hill. So much for flat and fast. Somewhere between 2 and 3 miles, we passed a house with a young boy in a kilt playing bagpipes. Whoa, pretty amazing. By the time I could actually see the last turn in the race, the volunteers and those cooling down kept saying, just another half mile, just another 2 laps around the track. I looked at my watch and it was at 29 minutes already and I wasn't happy. I just wanted to be done and knew there would be no way I was going to be close to 30 minutes. I was still picking people off, but I hardly think it is much of a triumph to be passing walkers or 75 year old men. I actually put a little more lean into my run though and really did pass about 10 people in that last stretch before the finish.
As I approached the 3 mile mark, I saw Don standing there waiting for me. I could almost hear his thoughts! "Pick up the pace. Pass someone!" Now, it may seem like he is a cruel, heartless bastard, but the truth is he is such a disciplined athlete himself that he sets the bar for me, and I always try to achieve more because of this. His philosophy is to race to win. Always. No matter the circumstances. He never goes into a race as a training run, and scoffs at me when I use that as an excuse. So I did what he yelled, picked up the pace (as if it might actually do some good at this point), passed someone, and sprinted toward the finish line. I can't tell you how glad I was to be done with this!
A disappointing 34:09, 53rd out of 72. Where did I actually think I might get under 30 minutes for a 5k, when my longest run for more than a month was probably only 2.8 miles?? Oh well, it was what it was. I did put some effort into it, and did the best I could on this day. When Don found me, he said he was ready to leave, but I said I wanted to run at least another 10 minutes, and thought he should wait for the results to see how he did in his age group, considering he almost always places. So we headed back to the school, very slowly. By the time we had run only about 4 minutes, I was ready to stop, so we headed into the gym and the first thing we saw was cake! Lots of it, and it was very tasty. We had totally bypassed all the other goodies without knowing it, so this was it. When the results were put up, probably 1/2 hour later, Don learned he was 8th out of 25! Winning time in his age group was 18 something! He had 24 something, which is slow for him, but everyone had the same complaint: it was too cold yet!
So there it was, another race down, but no farther ahead on my training. It can only get better, right?