Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ah, woe is me! Race Recap: MCATF 5k

This week has been another busy one! Saturday was the McLean County AIDS Task Force 5k race at Tipton park. This is fun, conveniently located just a couple of miles from home, and for once the weather gave me a break and it was lovely weather for a run.

 I didn't get up all too early but as it turned out I was the first participant to show up and get checked in. I was surprised by this but didn't think much of it at the time. I've run it once or twice in years past and it's a small race but well supported by the community. Or at least it has been in the past. We'll get to that.

My first clue that this would be an Especially Small Race came when I told the volunteers that I was per-registered, and they said "oh, YOU'RE the one!" This is not a good sign. I was the only person in the entire community - a community of over 100,000 people and with a lively GLBTQIA community as well as several active and engaged running groups - the ONLY person to register ahead of race day. I was truly shocked to hear it. It got worse...

I have a dear old friend who volunteers for the MCATF and whom i really only see once or twice a year at events related to the Task Force. I hung out in the check-in area and we talked for a bit while the other racers arrived and checked in. I took a 10-minute walk around the park to warm up and headed to the starting line. The race started a little late; I think the organizers were hoping more people would show up. When we finally got going, there were exactly TEN runners. TEN!

I could hardly believe my eyes. Five men (well four men and ontoilette boy on his bike - oh so cute riding while his mom ran!) and five women. I felt just terrible for the organizers of the race - I imagine they must not have raised enough money in registratin fees to cover all the T-shirts they'd printed! We were joking at the start line about how everyone was likely to get a trophy or ribbon today, just out for showing up! 

So the proverbial gun went off and we headed out. It really was a beautiful morning for a run around the park. I was, of course, dead last (the dreaded DFL). In a group this small I had no illusions of beating anyone to the finish line. It's ALWAYS just me, competing against myself, in every race, but never quite so literally as today. I initially planned to run about a half-mile at a time, with short walking breaks, but in the first leg I felt so good - like it could just keep that pace up forever - that I decided to run the full first mile before taking any breaks.  I had my Garmin on and saw my pace for that first mile: 11:11 - good but not so good I was worried about going out too fast and bonking half-way through. Of course, a 5k isn't as much of a stretch as it once was! It's not unusual for Coty & me to head out on a 3-mile run on a Monday night.

So I'm feeling great, still in last place (I preferred to think of it as being in 10th!), but you know, I found there's a certain clarity of purpose that came with the knowledge that, yes, I'm going to be THE last person to cross the finish line today. This race really was All About Me. I decided to shoot for a PR. Time to beat today was 37:41, or a pace of 12:20, and it was looking totally do-able! I never lost sight of the older gentleman who was next ahead of me. He looked around periodically and I knew he was checking to make sure I was still hanging in with him. With so few racers and volunteers only placed at the mile markers, we runners we're looking out for each other. I was only about 20 seconds behind him at the first mile, but he was pulling away (slowly, but definitely pulling away).

 I ran all of Mile 2, as per my revised Plan for the race, and hit the water stop with a pace of just under 12 minutes for Mile 2. I walked a bit longer through the water stop and poured some on my head, as it was beginning to get quite warm. At this point there were runners passing me going the opposite direction, after the turn-around point which was around the 2.5-mi mark. Everyone was passing on a good word as we passed one another - "Keep it up!" "You're doing great!" I was keeping an eye on my Garmin, checking the average pace and starting to get excited - it looked like I was on track to beat my Personal Record, but it was going to be close.

 I did take another short walking break about a quarter of a mile from the finish line, gearing myself up to run hard the last leg. My last mile was at a pace close to 13 minutes, but the Garmin had my final pace at an average of 12:06!! Alas, the Garmin was giving me credit for time I wasn't moving, like when I picked up water at the stop, etc., and my total time was actually 38:11, so no PR for me today. Still, a good pace and I really enjoyed the race. Plus, I was still looking forward to my first (and likely ONLY) ribbon for placing in the top 3 for a race!

 The overall women's finisher was a young girl (woman I suppose), maybe 19, maybe in her early 20's. Aside from her, there were four of us women and I figured at least one of them was under 30, so it was reasonable to think I'd get 3rd place ribbon for my age group, and I had spent about 38 minutes of my 38:11 running time enjoying the prospect. But it was not to be. Go figure, 5 women compete, and ALL FOUR of us were in the same age group!!

The male competitors (including the little boy) were spread out a little better between age groups, so each of them won a ribbon of some level. I was the only participant in our little 10-participant race who went home empty-handed. Ah, woe is me. :-)

 After the race, I got home and realized there was no one else to walk the dog(!) so I decided to take her out while I was still enjoying the remnants of my runner's high. Believe it or not, we ran another 5k! Albeit much more slowly, as we needed lots of walk breaks and of course had to pee on everything as we went (that's Coty, not me - I swear). It was lovely.

 Next race will be about 2 weeks from now if I remember correctly: the Evergreen 5k, out at Lake Evergreen /Comlara Park. I think it's a Trail Race (as opposed to Road Race) and if so, it will be a first. The time since Saturday has been very busy; I've been traveling and got to see the family (some of the family, anyway) but I'll have to update on that another time, as this post is plenty long enough as it is. Suffice to say I'm writing from sunny southern California (or it was sunny when I started writing in any case; it's past dark now) and won't be home for a few days yet. Till then...

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