Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Every mile a memory: Run Santa Run 5K 12.11.16

The Run Santa Run 5K was race #20 this year and my final one for 2016. I was my second slowest 5K chip time ever but given the road conditions of the course after the Lake Erie snow machine dumped close to two feet of snow on us, I am still pleased with my performance and I still met my goal. It was probably also one of the hardest races I've run as well because not only did we have snow and unplowed roads to run on, there was also the wind making it difficult to even see at times. Plus there were a ton of participants, many of them walkers and it was just a cluster all around.

This was the third time running this race. It's very festive and fun and there is beer at the finish. What's not to love about that?! The race is staged at a local restaurant and the event benefits Toys for Tots. It's a very heavily attended event and all the super speedy ladies in my AG run it. Not really sure why. Perhaps because it's the last race of the year for this particular running series locally or that it's local or that it's a flat course or it's a fun and festive event? I'm not sure but what I do know is that going into it, I never expect to get an AG award so I stick with my goal for every race of at least placing in the top 10 of my AG. I usually have the goal of PR-ing the course of a repeat race but given the fact it was 68 degrees last year (my time was 25:49) and we were covered in snow this year, I knew a PR of the course would not happen again like it did last year (in 2014 my time was 26:34) and I would just run and see where I ended up, hopefully not flat on my back from falling or worse…on crutches!

On my running club's Facebook page, the RD who is also is part owner of the timing and race management company who was putting on this race, posted on Saturday that the race was still going on and they would make the call by 7 am Sunday if they were going to cancel. Now I'll mention my son's XC coach also owns the company and everyone knows he is a die hard and so I knew canceling the event probably wasn't going to happen. Sure enough, no email at 7 am so I decided it was time to get moving. I posted on in the Facebook group when I realized the race was still happening to see if anyone knew what the roads were like so I could decide if I should wear my shoes with the screws or not. Someone did chime in and say while the main road where the start and finish was fine, the rest of the course was snow covered so shoes with screws it was. I would later thank my lucky stars I chose to wear them because they saved me more than once during the race. This was also my most disorganized race to date. I usually have my outfit ready to go the night before and am usually at the race at least a half hour before it starts. Not this time. I couldn't decide how many layers I should wear, what socks to wear, etc. I was all dressed and ready to go and decided I was going to be too hot so I scurried around trying to find a lighter shirt to wear as a base layer. Couldn't find it so I grabbed one of Rick's shirts, changed, and headed out the door.

The race started at 9:30 and I dilly dallied around so much at home that I got there with only about 10 minutes to spare. I knew this was not going to be a fast race so I only did about a 0.1 mile warm up. Paul was there video taping so I found him real quick and then headed to the starting line. It was a major cluster. Most of the crowd had no idea which direction the race was going to go and you couldn't hear Santa on the loud speaker instructing and because there was so much snow, there was only one way to go to line up. Two problems: for whatever reason, there was no timing mat at the start which is odd because they always have one for this race so you have all the fast runners trying to get as close to the start as possible lined up facing the direction they think the course is going to go. Also, you've got 600 people trying get to the starting line and all of us who want to try and be as close as possible to the start not wanting to move because that would push us back father and there was literally no where to go so we were completely packed in. I think next year they should start the walkers after the runners, even if only by 10 minutes to eliminate the major cluster it was. The gun went off and it took me 12 seconds to cross the starting line which doesn't seem like much but there were so many walkers and people there for the "festivity" of the event and not necessarily "serious" that even after we got moving, it was so slow going there were just so many people you pretty much just had to stay where you were at. Surely didn’t have to worry about starting to fast for this race!!! I finally got some "elbow room" right before the first mile marker but unfortunately, that's when the roads when from clear to completely snow covered and they looked like they hadn't been plowed since the day before. I knew this was not going to be good… and it wasn't. The snow that had fallen was so heavy so it wasn't like you were running pristinely fallen light fluffy stuff. Not to mention it had warmed up somewhat so things were starting to melt making it downright treacherous in spots and there were several times I almost bit it. I swear having those screws in my shoes saved me many times. Another thing I was dealing was with the wind. Sometimes the wind would blow so hard my eyes would start to water and then I couldn’t see to check my footing or it would blow so hard it would take my breath away. So now do you not only have several inches of snow to deal with, but you have these wind gusts hitting you and making you even more unstable on your feet. Yet another problem is everyone was trying to find the "best" spot to run in (there weren't any) so even if you only had a couple people around you, you had to very conscientious about how you moved because sudden move on your part could be disastrous for them.

Pretty much from mile 1 to mile 2.75, you were running in this crap. There were several times I swore out loud because it was just insane and there were several times I thought about just stopping and walking the rest of the way because was it really worth getting hurt? I couldn't stop though. As crazy as this was, what a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction it would be to say I did it so I just kept running the best I could.

To help me get through this race, I used my "target" strategy again. Around mile .75, one of the women from the running club passed me so I decided I was going to try and just attempt to keep up with her. This also helped because I could see how she maneuvered in the snow and I could kind of copy her. She's an experienced runner with many races under her belt so I figured who better to "shadow" than her.

At mile 2.8, we ended up back on the main road that was clear and it was a straight shot to the finish. There was this HUGE puddle from the melting snow that I had two choices: run through it and get my feet soaking wet or try to jump it… I chose the later. I cleared most of it and the good thing about wearing smart wool running socks is if your feet get wet, they don’t really get cold so that was a good move on my part. If you've ever run in the snow, you know how exhausting it is so I didn't think had anything left in the tank for a fast finish. Perhaps it was my hurdling over the slush puddle or the fact I wanted to pass a couple people that were ahead of me because I had apparently more left than I thought. Looking back at my Garmin stats, I ran the last .20 of a mile in the mid 7's (depending how accurate the Garmin is). Not sure how that happened! Anyway, what really made me mad is when people crossed the finish line, they just stopped right there rather than move to the side so here I come barreling down passing one more person just before I reach the finish arch and I literally have to do some serious footwork not to run over the guy taking finish line photos (he was off to the side so it wasn't his fault) to avoid the morons standing smack dab in the middle of the finish.

After I crossed the finish and caught my breath, I found Paul who was standing by the finish watching for me. Since this series offers live results, I went over to check my time. Official time of 28:01 placing 6/44 in my AG, 65/353 females, and 146/598 overall. Splits: 8:55, 9:09, 8:49 I may not have met my one goal of PR-ing the course but I sure as heck made the top 10 and that was a HUGE victory! According to my Garmin, my time was 27:49 and I started it as soon as I crossed the starting line rather than when the horn went off so technically this wasn't my second to worst 5K time but since I count race times by the chip time regardless of how the start is or what my watch says, it's being chalked up as such. It's ok though, I was one tough mother trucker of a race and I did it without giving up even though there were times I wanted to so that makes it a great race to me regardless of what my time was.

Since I wasn't winning an AG award, we went inside and I claimed my free beer. The two dads who ran the NXC course with me last month were there so we chatted about how accomplished we felt running a crazy XC course last month and then this crazy race. Several of the XC kids ran this race too. I have to say it's pretty neat how the react when they see me. When I was trying to find a place to stand at the beginning of the race, a couple of the boys saw me and one started jumping up and down waiving his hands and down my name to say hi and after the race, several of them came up to me and high fived me and/or asked me how I did and congratulated me. I can't really explain why that puts a smile on my face but it does.

For what it's worth, the super speedy ladies in my AG who usually run in the low 20s had times for this race in the 26s and 27s so I really don't think I did too bad at all.

So thus ends my 2016 racing year and what a great to end it. What a great way to end what was a pretty emotional week, too. I may not have been victorious by wining an AG placing or PR-ing the course but I was victorious in so many other ways and that's what matters. What a great year it has been and I can't wait to see what 2017 brings!