Saturday, August 27, 2011

Race Report: United Way 5K

I LOVE small-town races!!!

My step-brother, Josh, and his girlfriend, Carla, came into town for the weekend so Liz and I went down to the Lake for some quality family time. Friday night, I decided that I would go ahead and run a 5K that was being held in Bonne Terre Saturday morning and got online to look up the race details. There was practically no info online but I found a map showing where the start would be and I thought I read that the race started at 8am.

We stayed up pretty late Friday visiting with everyone and when my alarm went off at 6:30 in the morning, I was disoriented and it took me a minute to remember where I was and why I was getting up. I got my stuff together and headed into town a little after 7am.

When I got into Bonne Terre around 7:15, I drove to the intersection I found online. I was driving down a road that ended in a field and there was no race in sight. I turned and drove back into town looking for signs for the race or a group of people. Bonne Terre is a very small town and I figured a race staging area should stand out pretty easily. I decided to drive down a side street toward the hall from our wedding reception and, sure enough, I saw a few tables with about eight people gathered around them.

I parked my car at 7:35 and thought to myself, "This is a perfect example of why I leave so early for races. I drove around town looking for this race and I still have time to register and warm up before 8:00."

I thought it was a little odd that there were only two other people there to run the race and it was supposed to start in 20 minutes. I was given bib #3 and I asked if they were expecting a lot of people today. One of the ladies said they had about 50 people pre-registered but I was wondering if many people were going to show. I started thinking this might be the smallest race I've ever run.

At about 7:45, I went for a 10 minute warm-up jog. When I got back, people were starting to arrive but it didn't look like the race organizers were even close to ready for the race to start. I walked around until 8:00... and then 8:05... and then 8:10. I wondered how long they would wait just so people who were pre-registered could show up. I realized something wasn't adding up and went over to the registration table. Apparently, what I thought I read online... "Race begins at 8:00." was really "Registration begins at 8:00." Oops. The race didn't start until 9:00.

I had almost an hour until the race started. I walked around town for a while and saw more of Bonne Terre in that 40 minutes than I've seen in the 10+ years that my family has been going down there. I ran another short warm-up and was finally ready to go at 9:00.

The turnout was still pretty small, so I started thinking I was likely to finish pretty close to the front and there was a possibility I could win. I recognized a couple of guys from other races in St. Louis but I couldn't remember if I usually run faster than them or not.

After the Opening Act 5K, I was determined to go out at a more controlled pace this time. Two other guys and I got off to an early lead and one of them dropped back in the first two minutes. The pace felt manageable and I was tempted to step it up a little, but I decided to hang with the guy next to me. If the first mile ended up being a little slow, I would have energy left to pick it up over the next two miles instead of fading as the race went on like in the Opening Act.

About a half-mile in, the guy I was running with turned and said, "Hey, good luck today." No one has ever wished me luck... or talked to me at all... when we were competing for the lead. It's common for runners to give each other encouragement when they see someone fading. You'll often hear people in the middle of the pack passing other runners and saying something like, "Keep it up." or "You're almost there." Runners being passed will even congratulate the people passing them... "Nice work." or "Way to finish." This guy started a conversation while we're in the lead with a lot of race to go.

I thanked him and wished him luck too. I told him I would do my best to keep up with him. He said he was thinking the same thing and that he's not used to running this far... he usually runs Miles. When he told me he's used to running a mile at a time and he can run a 5:50, I knew he was a good runner but he was probably running this first mile too fast.

The race was organized by a group of high school students and it wasn't very well executed. There was a bit of guessing where we were supposed to go. I asked my new friend if he knew where we were going and he said he only knew the next few turns. After we topped a small hill, he said, "This next hill is going to be a bitch." Not long after we started up it, he started dropping back. I wished him luck and decided to try and gap the field a little while I had the chance.

Training in Eureka helps me on hilly courses. The Opening Act 5K caught me by surprise and I struggled with the hills after starting too fast. I wasn't expecting this course to be so hilly either, but I handled it okay because I was more conservative in the first mile.

Every turn I came to had a volunteer standing at it to direct us but I had to make some noise to get their attention. The first several volunteers weren't prepared for us at all. At one point, the road came to a 'T' and there was no one standing there. I stopped for a second before I saw a volunteer a block down to my left. After that, the course looped back on itself a couple of times and I was able to find my way without too much trouble. Normally, I can just follow the people in front of me. It's a rare thing for me to be alone out front.

It was a really hilly course and I felt like I was slowing in the last mile but I tried to keep the pace up. It's not a good idea to look over your shoulder in a race, but I admit I checked a few times in the last mile to see how far back my competition was. There was a guy creeping up on me but I still had a pretty comfortable lead with a half-mile to go.

It's hard to push yourself as hard as you can when you're running by yourself. I didn't know how fast I needed to go to hold the lead and I didn't know how fast the guy behind me was coming up. Luckily, the last quarter-mile was all downhill so I could open up my stride and made it to the finish line in first place.

I finished in first place overall in 19:37. I averaged 6:19 a mile and not only held my pace through the race, I ran negative splits! I got a nice little trophy but more importantly, I was much happier with how I ran this race compared to my last 5K.

In a blog I started but abandoned, I once wrote about how the place you finish doesn't necessarily mean as much as how you run the race:

I ran 20:04 in the Opening Act 5K and finished 7th. I ran 19:37 in this race and finished first. But a 19:37 would have only moved me up to 4th in the Opening Act. The winner of that race ran a blazing 16:31... a time I've never even come close to! There's always someone better so I try to focus on competing with myself.

After the race, I was 'interviewed' and had my picture taken for the local paper. It reminded me of the farm town my Mom grew up in. If we went to Ramsey, IL to visit family for the weekend, we were in the local paper. Small-town races usually have smaller attendance, a better chance at winning, and can be a nice ego boost. But if I let it go to my head, I would be in for a rude awakening at the next big race I ran.

Goal For The Day: Race!
Distance: 3.1 Miles.
Time: 19:37. 6:19 Avg. (6:37, 6:28, 6:20)
Conditions: 78 degrees/sunny. 9:00AM.

Notes: Not my fastest times but one of the smartest races I've run. It was a messy morning, but I'm glad I ran the race. Good times! It was fun chatting with people after too. There probably won't be more results from this one since they didn't keep anyone's info, but I'll keep an eye out. Hopefully, I'll get to see the article in the paper too. How funny!

Daily Miles: 3.1 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 222.71 Miles.
  Bike - 98.53 Miles.
  Swim - 8,150+ meters.


  1. How cool is that--a first place trophy! And I love that you were the 3rd person to register. Fun times.

  2. You should edit to add the link to the article!