Well. If there was ever a race I shouldn't have run, it was this one. I last ran this race in 2003, when there were 405 finishers. Today, there were 30 or 40. When I showed at 8:00am for day-of-race sign up, they told us that the start time had been changed from 9:00am to 10:00am because one of the volunteers was going to be late (huh?). It's sad to see a formerly vibrant race die a sad death.
I decided to wear my new Brooks Launch (the old red and orange model. They're new, but sitting in a box in my garage for over a year), instead of my new Pure Flow; partially because of a tweak behind my left knee (thanks to a lot of jumping in my latest video) and thanks to multiple suggestions from my friend (and running conscience) Mark U. I'll do a few more short runs in them before I run a race in them. It was chilly, so I layered up with a couple of long-sleeve tech shirts under my Brooks racing singlet, and went with tights and compression socks down below.
One thing that made me a bit uncomfortable is the stereotype I seem to portray; especially at these small races. I'm decked out in Brooks pro race gear, so I look fast. I've also got the bodytype of a fast runner. The thing is...right now, anyway...I'm NOT FAST. But while waiting for the race to start, I could feel lots of eyes on me that seemed to be saying, "oh, this guy must be going for the win," or "what's HE doing here at our little race?" Boy, were THEY in for a letdown!
Once the race began, I realized that, for the most part, the course was unmarked and unmanned. There were 3 or 4 volunteers out on the course, but due to the winding nature (going up and down side streets, through wooded trails, etc.), there was no way to know where to go unless you knew the course, or could stay close enough to someone in front of you who did. I succeeded in keeping up with a high school cross-country runner (girl) so I wouldn't get off course.
I've had trouble all week with my breathing — partially due to a chest cold, and partially due to the lousy air quality here (which I'm pretty sensitive to, it turns out). Thankfully, the above-mentioned soreness behind my knee wasn't an issue during the race (although it's tender as I write this). What was an issue are the measly 12 miles per week I've been running...with no speed work...and this being my first race (aside from pacing my daughter) in 15 months. With that said, my game plan was to go out at 7:30, run mile 2 at 7:20, then bring it home with whatever was left. I ended up going out at 7:25 and ran mile 2 also in 7:25, splitting the difference (unusual consistency for me). As I neared the finish, I could tell the course was significantly short. I ran what turned out to be the last .92 in 7:06 pace (7:19 pace for the whole race). I did push myself but, with the breathing issues, I didn't want to go too deep into the pain cave.
It's a shame it was a short course, as I can't compare the finishing time to other races. Using some math, it was equal to a 22:42 5k, which is just about what I ran in my 5k time trial a couple of weeks ago. At least I have a bit of a benchmark to go by when I run my next race in January.
But skipping this particular race wouldn't have been a bad idea, in hindsight.