Monday, December 5, 2011

Race Report: The Stow Gobbler 5K

Editor's Note: This post is a week overdue, but still worth posting.

This was the most dangerous run I've ever encountered.

Here I thought, What a fun way to spend Thanksgiving morning! and it became a Let's Just Not Get Hurt run.

I always wanted to do a turkey trot, I thought it was amazing people got up on their day off, and came out in the cold to run a road race before starting their holiday.

And crap, it was c-o-l-d. Thirty degrees at the start, a hat-and-gloves race for sure. I had running capris under my warm-up pants (which are now two sizes too big, attention, Santa...), but I was so cold I just decided to keep the pants on.

I got a healthy dose of foreshadowing when I pulled into the parking lot, shut off the car and immediately watched a woman take a header. Black ice. Oh, frack.

I am terrified of getting injured. Always have been and am even moreso once I did. Because hurt = no workouts.

I got my stuff out of the car and gingerly headed to bib pickup, keeping an eye out for black ice. It had rained the night before and was literally freezing that morning, so the parking lot was slick.

I soon spotted my domestic running life partner Sandy (pictured) who immediately said, "Did you see that woman fall?" We're on the same wavelength.

As we made our way to the registration tent, the ice seemed contained to the parking lot, not the road, thank goodness.

Feeling good coming off last week's race, I came into this one thinking perhaps I could PR it. I had no idea what the course was like, but when I hit 5K in last Sunday's 5-miler it was about 3 minutes faster than my previous 5K best. I figured it was a possibility.

When it was time to line up, Sandy and I went mid-pack. It was a decent-sized field, about 800 runners, and we were jammed up on this little residential side street. Too many runners and not enough road. Never good.

Then there was the makeup of the crowd: many families, which means lots of little kids. And that's great, don't get me wrong, but it's also dangerous because children run all over the place. Then we had strollers and walkers scattered intermittently through the crowd, too, also not awesome.

I've tried to figure out how to write the next bit without sounding like a douche, but I feel it's impossible, so here goes:

This race was full of people who don't race much, so their race etiquette was nonexistent. I'm not writing this because I'm a sip-your-tea-with-your-pinkie-up freak, but rather because it's dangerous. Race etiquette is really all about safety and knowing where the grown adults running quickly in front of and behind you are going to go/do so you don't trip, fall or injure them - or yourself - in any way.

Race etiquette is pretty simple, it's just like driving: Slow/consistent-paced runners on the right in the travel lane, fast runners on the left in the passing lane. Walkers, strollers, etc. in the back. And, as always, look over both shoulders before you spit.

So with a host of inexperienced racers, we had:

  • People in the wrong "lanes", running wherever. That's tough when you're used to being passed on the left and all of a sudden someone's jamming you up on the right. And, remember, most of us run with music, so we can't hear anyone coming up until they're right there. When you're not expecting someone on your right and all of a sudden, boom, here's an adult at your elbow, it's freaky and breaks your concentration, which was really at a premium in this race due to all the chaos.

  • Walkers where they didn't belong, namely front- and mid-pack. Walkers who quickly fell back and all of a sudden were strolling right in front of you, straddling both "lanes", like they were perusing the mall, forcing you to pull up and switch lanes quickly and hope there was a space to your left to get by.

  • Parents running with their children, getting several yards ahead of them and then just stopping dead in their tracks to look over their shoulder and find their kid. Here's my 2 cents: If you're going to run with your child (and it's something I hope to do someday) run with them. If you don't want to run that slow, don't race with them.

  • And, God bless them, kids darting here and there, running around wherever they felt like because, you know, they're kids.

    Between people running with no rhyme or reason, a course through narrow-streeted residential neighborhoods and a large crowd this race was freakin' scary.

    Then add in a patch or two of ice - which caused everyone to grind to a halt - and a random cut-through from one street to another via a wooded area, which featured wet leaves, exposed tree limbs and a decline and, shit, this thing was nuts.

    By the halfway point, I was transitioning from Let's PR this! to Let's cross the finish line uninjured.

    However, 2 miles in I knew I was still having a good race. The crowds had thinned out to different paces and the roads were a little wider, so I thought I could possibly still PR.

    By the time I hit Mile 3, I checked the Garmin and knew I would PR. Usually when I hit the Mile 3 marker I go into a sprint (or my version of it) for the last tenth to try and get over the line as quickly as I can.

    Even though I was relatively gassed and mentally taxed from all the thinking involved in not running into someone on this race, I decided to turn it up for the last tenth and see just how low I could make this new 5K time.

    I crossed the timing pad at the finish and hit Stop on my watch: 32:06. Not sub-30, but a big, fat 2 minutes faster than my previous 5K PR. Yay!

    And I didn't get injured. Double yay and something for which I should be thankful.
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