This is going to be a longish post; I probably could have split it into separate post about the race and the post-race festivities. I think this was the first race I registered for since moving with the intention of trying to run well. I didn’t do as well as I think I am capable of but I know what I need to work on to get better for next year.
We had discussed going up the night before and getting an AirBnB but in the interest of financial responsibility decided to drive up early race morning. My kids were not real excited about getting up at 4AM but we survived the trip and arrived at runner drop off just after 6. Tamra dropped me off about a half mile from the start line and I followed the crowd. I noticed that every 2 blocks on the route people took to the starting line there were blocks of porta-potties. This was a nice change to having one gigantic potty farm and there didn’t appear to be any waiting at any of them I saw. Once I found the start line and my corral I went out for a warm-up. I did an easy 2.5 mile warm-up and then got ready for the race to start.
A couple of things really stood out as I looked around my corral: this was a very young, male group and I was almost definitely the biggest person in “A”. I don’t think I’m fat but I was like a tub of lard compared to the kids lined up next to me. There were also about a dozen guys in costumes lined up; I am happy to report I beat the Banana, Bernie Sanders, and the guy with gigantic fairy wings. (Fairy wings look cool but they suck when you run. They flop about and usually impinge upon your arm swing unless you get tiny ones).
The race started and we were on our way. For the first mile it seemed like everyone in my group was blowing by me and I was really questioning my ability to meet my goal of sub-40. When I saw my mile split of 5:48 I thought “I guess I’m not doing that bad” and “I need to slow the hell down”. Slowing down was self correcting because the first 4 miles are generally uphill. The slope isn’t terrible but it is enough to sap the strength from your legs. To add insult to injury the temperatures were in the mid-60s and just kept going up. For the more adventurous sorts there was a slip-and-slide set up just after the mile mark.
Mile 2 went by in 6:12 and I was still feeling good. A little slower than I wanted but that little incline was already taking a toll. I didn’t catch my split for mile 3 but my overall pace was ~6:09 and I went through the half-way point a touch under 19 minutes. I knew I had to keep pushing because I was really working hard at that point and a negative split wasn’t going to happen. I thought we started dropping after the 5K mark but the course was gently rolling hills. Not enough to really hurt but you didn’t get a chance to really recover either.
Mile 5 is when you finally start getting some downhill. Once again it is not much but it was definitely a relief and gave me a chance to regather myself. Several runners who were running smarter than me passed at this point. I was really giving all I had to hold on. By the 5.5 mile mark I felt pretty good about getting my sub-40 but not much else. Just past the 6 mile mark you turn towards Folsom Field. As a final parting gift you have a sharp little 50’ climb in less than a tenth of a mile before you enter the stadium. Once in the stadium you do about 3/4s of a lap around the track to the finish. This is a pretty great finish, you have a lot of fans cheering in the stands, they are showing the runners on the jumbotron on either end of the stadium, the only downside is they put down this hard plastic to protect the track surface. The entire backstretch and the turn were in the shade and wet. I didn’t want to push to hard because I was afraid of falling down. A PR was out of the question and I had my sub-40 in the bag so I maintained a strong effort to the line and didn’t sprint.
After collecting my post-race meal and swag I went and located my family and we waited for the Elite race. There were about a half-dozen people from Team RWB who were running in corral M with a group of Marines who were running in formation so I made sure I went down and got pictures of them. I was really surprised/impressed by the number of little kids out there running. So many of them just crushed this 10K; I’m used to seeing kids do well at 5Ks but this was unreal. There were also a lot of runners in costumes, many of which looked incredibly uncomfortable, especially as temps headed into the mid-70s and without shade.
The women’s elite race was pretty tactical for the first couple of miles, then the Ethiopians decided to stop fooling around and started to splinter the pack. Around the 4 mile mark one of them pulled away from the rest of the group and just crushed it the rest of the way home. She was done before the 2nd place woman even got into the stadium The first American was in 5th or 6th place; not a great showing but a lot of our top athletes were in Eugene for the Pre Classic this weekend.
The men’s race started off with one of the men from Kenya just taking off from the start. He held a sizable lead for the first couple of miles but eventually a group of 5 runners caught up to him. We lost coverage on the men’s race at around the 3 mile mark because they were showing the women finishers, when they got back to the men’s race that same Kenyan was back in front with a decent lead. He held on to win but the first American was in 3rd place and the American team rallied over the last 2 miles to finish 2nd in the team competition.
After the elite races were done there was a very moving Memorial Day observation. It started with about 30 new recruits taking the oath of enlistment, then they introduced 2 locals who were retired Special Forces officers and discussed some of their career in the Army and Navy. After that skydivers came down, each carrying the flag for a branch of service, the POW/MIA flag, and the National flag. The post-race ceremony would have been worth the trip alone, never mind the race itself. After fighting through the cattle herd trying to leave we stopped and got a bit to eat and drove home.
Coach Tony used to tell me that you need to learn something from every race. Today I learned that I need to lose at least 5lbs and that I need to do more tempo work. Running at race pace really took it out of me more than it should have and I was struggling way too early in the race. This race is incredibly well organized, I will absolutely be here next year and every year in the foreseeable future.