I officially clocked 1:08:29 chip-timed (1:09:02 gun-timed) on my first (and maybe last; you never know) 10K.
There is a lot to talk about, so hopefully I can do it all justice. Without, further ado, let’s get this prose party started:
The Days Before
The first thing to note is that I really haven’t been feeling great the past week or so. This isn’t entirely new for me, especially leading up to a race. There’s been a lot going on, and my digestive system’s usually the first to throw a tantrum. This manifested itself in me just feeling drained the day before and the morning of (and being acutely aware of where the portapotties were). I’ve never had any issues during a race, and I try to remember this every time, but there are some races where my body’s being more obstinate than others. Luckily, no issues, but it’s not a fun thing to have on my mind going into a distance I’ve never run before.
The other main pre-race day thing was my night-before meal. I have a habit of eating PF Chang’s if it’s in the town I’m running in. Unfortunately, I’m wondering if I need to rethink my choices. They bread the things I tend to buy, and I’m not used to eating my breaded and fried food. The rice is fine, but the rest maybe not so much. The real problem yesterday, though, was the timing. I knew I was getting an even earlier start than normal race days (except for April’s god-awful 3 a.m. alarm).
I don’t like to eat too soon before I go to bed, and I ended up eating later than I normally do on a night I was going to sleep earlier than I normally do. It was partly because I had access to a bookstore, which I don’t have in my town. I can spend more than an hour in a bookstore if I’m not watching myself closely.
Pre-race: The Day of
For the most part, and I’ll say this later also, this was a well-organized event. They had a website with fairly clear directions for packet pick-up and such, including directing everyone to two specific areas to park in. Next to no one parked where they were supposed to. It was fine, but my inner rule follower wanted to yell at the people parking in the wrong place. Of course, not everyone reads the entire race website, so that’s probably why they weren’t where they were supposed to be. Or they were anarchists. Maybe they were the same anarchists I’ll talk about during the race description.
I mentioned my portapotty fixation, so I might as well mention them now. For a race as big as it was (more than a 1,000 people ran), there was a surprisingly small number of units. The Disney race had an obscene amount of portapotties, so it was reality check to be back to the one small group of portapotties. Luckily, the lines weren’t terrible, but it was less than ideal. And one of the johns ran out of toilet paper evidently, so my condolences for whoever learned that lesson the hard way.
The other less than ideal aspect was the music announcements. It was loud. No one can say they didn’t hear the announcements. Or the music. Not even the people who were staying in the hotel right next to the event. When I got there just before 6, the music was already blaring. I don’t envy anyone at that hotel who wasn’t expecting the early start to their Saturday. The choice of music wasn’t bad, though.
Now for the weather: The weather was basically perfect. It was high 50s at the start, with clear, dry(ish; it’s Mississippi after all) air. I can’t ask for better weather for me to be able to breathe comfortably.
And last for the race setup, we have the staggering of the races. There were three races happening at once: half marathon, 10K, and 5K. There was also a kid’s fun run after the bulk of 5K and 10K finishers were done. To accomplish, they staggered the starts, which is typical. What was less typical for me was that they had them split by 15 minutes. I’m used to 5-10 minute splits. It was fine and probably worked out best for the 10K and 5K speedsters who were going to be hitting the tail end of the first group no matter what. At least this way, they had 15 minutes to begin spreading out. But we’re going to come back to this staggered start at the end. For the beginning, it was great.
After the halfers were on their way, we milled around a bit before our 6:45 start time (have I mentioned I hate these early start times?). When we got the two-minute warning, everyone started to crowd to the front. Well, I didn’t. I knew I wasn’t running the whole thing, and I sure as hell wasn’t finishing at the front of the pack. I actually started pretty much near the back because I was going to stick to my 3-minute run/1-minute walk splits even at the beginning, and I didn’t want to be the jerk who started walking early in the race with people packed right behind me.
Others did not have that same thought.
I complain about this at every biggish race. Inevitably, there are the walkers who crowd their way to the front so they can speed walk. This of course creates unnecessary log jams, bogging down a start that is inherently going to be boggy to begin with.
Anarchists. Every last one. And not in a good way, like a punk band. They’re just being obnoxious so they can finish slightly earlier. Except it’s a chip-timed race, so they’re going to have the same time they would have, but now they got in everyone’s way. I’m still dealing with some anger on this issue.
Again, this isn’t atypical. All the bigger races I’ve done have the bogged-down start. Where this one threw a curveball was not long after the start, we went from being on a road to being on a walking path, severely narrowing the width available. I actually almost fell on my face once dodging people in the early going because the first part of the walking path wasn’t in great shape. The rest was pretty fantastic, but the beginning wasn’t. And then I had to be super mindful of looking around before I started each of my walk breaks in the early going. Luckily, there were no hecklers or dirty looks. Or at least I didn’t notice. I had headphones on and was jamming to my 5K mofo playlist.
Speaking of the route, like the weather, it was pretty close to ideal. I’d like to someday run a race on a packed-dirt path, but I’ll take an all-asphalt race. There was zero time spent on cement, which my feet and legs greatly appreciated. And being on the walking path a good part of the way, it’s usually a softer type of asphalt (or maybe just less packed in due to its intended use), which was better than the roadways, which were fine as they were.
It wasn’t a flat course, but there weren’t too many steep climbs (one near the beginning, though). What wasn’t nice, though, was the climb that happens right in the middle of the race. It was a net 70-foot gain over the span of 1.4 miles. This stretch did wonders for spreading out the pack.
As I mentioned, there were three races going at once. Of course, there was a split eventually. It was a funny little split. Halfers went left. 10Kers went straight. 5Kers went right back toward the start. While the split was funny, it’s consequences were less so. Of course, the half needs to get priority over the other routes because the half runners are putting in more effort, so water and such are more important for them. At miles 1 and 2, there were water stations. I might not be as awesome as I pretend to be, but I know better than to get water that soon for the level of effort I was putting in. I was waiting for that mile-3 station as my halfway point. Mile 3 came and went. No water. Ugh. Luckily, mile 4 offered a reprieve. They were also handing out Gu at that point, which was weird. It was clearly more intended for the halfers than the 10K group, but the 10K group was going hit that station first. Even with a 15-minute head-start, they had to cover almost an extra 7 miles.
These water stations bring up my second true race gripe: The people serving were actively in the way. Water stations are always tricky. People are slowing down to get water, and you’ve got to dodge them if you aren’t stopping. But I get that. I don’t get mad. The volunteers (and bless them for volunteering) at two of the stations got in the way. At one station, they go on both sides of the half of the road available to the runners. You couldn’t go around them, and they squeezed together enough that it forced runners to funnel through single file. At the next station, there was a volunteer coming out of the portapotty (as a racer was waiting to get in, sadly). As he walked back to the station, he just randomly stopped in the middle of the path instead of going all the way to the water station, and I had to run around him.
But all these complaints included, it really was a good race overall, especially once the walkers and the logjam were left behind. We crossed a lot of roadways, and there were cops at each crossing. Traffic was backing up an obscene amount because I was in the middle of the whole group, so there weren’t breaks in runners often. I kind of wanted to make a one-finger wave to the long lines of cars at each intersection to make their morning a little worse, but I’m an adult. Also, the cops probably wouldn’t have been amused. And those guys were great. Especially near the end, they did great working with the cars and the runners to allow the cars to move if they could, moving them slowly point to point to avoid inhibiting any runners.
And the other runners were pretty great. There weren’t too many obnoxious ones out and about. There were a couple of duos who ran side by side, which was a bit hazardous on the narrower paths when they would stay dead center, so getting around was tricky at times. But they were the minority. The majority were great about staying off to one side.
As for the actual running, I stuck to the 3:1 ratio as much as I could, and it worked out alright. My heart rate averaged high but not as high as the 5K. I averaged 170.
I spent the time yo-yoing with same group of runners most of the way, but I was generally faster. Most of who I ran with I would end up ahead of at the end. The screwy part was how consistent my splits were.
I don’t mind the consistency abstractly. That’s a good goal. The problem stems from what was going on in those later splits. I started dragging later on (the 1.4-mile climb in the middle didn’t help). Walking had to happen longer than a minute a lot of the last half, but my splits didn’t show much of a difference. The outliers on the front end are when I was running too fast. Of course, this means I was running faster than I should have been near the end. That said, I didn’t hit the wall or get tackled by the Blerch at the end. I felt better this time than I did after last month’s 5K.
And as I got to the end, I was still feeling OKish. As I’m coming up on the last .2 miles, something strange was happening. As I was trying to finish strong, I was running into walkers. And they were dense (as in many people, not dense people). I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was going on until I realized it was the 5K runners crossing the line at close to an hour. I’ve never stuck around to see the final finishers, so I wasn’t used to people walking across the finish line. Now we come back around to those staggered starts. The 5K and the 10K stayed mostly separate from the split until the very end. So I wasn’t seeing them until now. And because of that staggered start, I only saw two people I knew were running the half (they finished 2nd and 3rd; 1st must have passed me when I didn’t even realize it somehow). Up until the end, I only had to deal with 10K traffic. But now we’re at the end, and there’s a lot of people finished and finishing.
The After Party
After trudging for 6.2 miles (not to mention the speedsters finishing a half marathon), you get through the finish line and deal with people who’ve decided to stop right in front of the medals and the water. If I wasn’t exhausted, I might have yelled. Of course, if I wasn’t exhausted, I wouldn’t be wanting my medal and water.
After getting my medal and dunking my hand into a bucket of ice (this is the one time volunteers were not actively handing out drinks) for a bottle of water, I worked my way toward the food. Fatty likes his food. And I enjoy bragging about overeating just a bit too much. Today’s binge: bottle of water, 2 bottles of gatorade, 2 orange wedges, 3 slices of pizza, and two cookies for the road (I can’t leave free cookies on the table).
They also had a band going at the finish. They were pretty good, especially considering they were a bunch of white guys playing classic R&B, like The Temptations and Otis Redding. Takes balls to play Otis Redding.
As for swag, the only thing I got was a shirt. There were some stations set up where I might have been able to grab something (including post-race massages, but I’m not comfortable with randos touching me when I’m clean, much less in a post-10K stink of sweat), but I just wanted to get showered. Of course, I wore my shirt home. And then I realized it had a hole. I was either given a shirt with a hole or I did it almost immediately after getting it. Either way, bad. It’s a really comfy shirt, perfect for yoga. But because it was only for being comfy, I decided to do my DIY thing:
But that’s all there is to say about that. I’m exhausted, and I just want to sleep for a week.