Saturday, December 10, 2011

Race Report: Frostbite Series #1 - 3K

Every winter, the Saint Louis Track Club organizes a series of races called the Frostbite Series. There's a race every-other Saturday in Forest Park. You can run any of the races by themselves and they're each ridiculously cheap, or you can enter to run the series as a whole and pay one price for all five races.

You also have the option of running either the Short Series or the Long Series. This year's Short Series races are: 3K, 2M, 5K, 4M, and 3M. The Long Series races are: 12K, 10M, 20K, 13.1M, and 15K. I've never run the Long Series... mostly because I don't want to race that far in the cold.

The Frostbite Series always draws a lot of participants and I didn't pre-register so I got to the park early to sign up for the Short Series. It's been a few years since I've run the Frostbite Series but I remember the registration area being crazy on the first day. There was a year or two that I almost didn't get registered in time for the start of the race.

This year wasn't a problem. When I got to the information center where the Track Club sets up shop, there weren't very many runners there yet.

Outside the Information Center when I arrived.

I was able to register really quickly and then found a quiet corner to hang out in until closer to race time. I pinned my number on my shirt and then settled in with a book I brought to pass the time.

When it was time to drop things off at my car so I could warm up, I went back through the lobby and saw that the crowd had arrived. Everyone was packed in the lobby trying to stay warm until the race.

A familiar sight at the Frostbite Series.

Things were much more lively outside too. It was so quiet an hour ago and now there were people everywhere and you could tell by all of the runners' nervous energy that it was almost race time.

I went for my usual warm-up run and then ditched my extra layers in my car. Both races start at the same time but at different starting lines so I went over to the 3K area.

My only criticism of this race is the start. The 3K starts on a side road and as soon as the horn sounds, we make an immediate right turn onto the road that runs in front of the information center. Without fail, that turn causes problems for the pack of runners. You either have to line up at the very front or at the back of the pack unless you want to risk getting tangled up and trampled.

Today was no exception. I lined up near the front so I could get out and away from people early but when the race started and we turned the corner, I could hear the scuffling behind me. I'm pretty sure a couple of people hit the pavement.

As an added bonus this year, the road must not have been closed because there was a car and a city bus in the middle of the road right in front of the information center. The road is already lined with parked cars and I always envision side-view mirrors being torn off but now we had to dodge cars in the middle of the course too. We all did our best to control the chaos as we swarmed around them and once we passed the bus, we were in the clear for the rest of the race.

I don't have a lot of strategy for a 3K race. It's just under 2 miles so I basically run the first mile as fast as I can without killing myself and then try to keep the pace from dropping in the second mile. It's an out-an-back course and I reached the turn around feeling pretty good. It seemed like there were high school kids everywhere and I remembered that the Frostbite Series usually has a lot of kids racing to stay in shape between cross country and track seasons.

On the way back, I started to tighten up and it felt like I was running a track workout. Running a short, fast race like this brings on such a different kind of tired from the fatigue of a long run. I notice the tightening in my arms first. It gets harder and harder to breathe. Everything tightens up instead of just feeling run down. I could feel my turnover slowing so I tried to get a little more distance out of my stride and every now and then tried to pick up the pace.

At the end of the race, the course turns onto a winding sidewalk that snakes around behind the information center. The path is about 100 meters long and every Frostbite Series race ends here. I'm always tired and hurting when I turn that corner and I have two goals for that last 100 meters: 1)Don't let anyone pass me. 2)Pass anyone within reach in front of me.

I didn't pass anyone in the home stretch today but I didn't get passed by anyone either. I crossed the finish line in 10:59. My first mile was in 5:36 and my average over the race was 5:54 per mile so the second half of the race must have been significantly slower. It's still my best 3K ever!

Even though the temperature was in the 20's, the race was so short, I didn't have time to get cold. I snagged some of the post-race snacks... the Frostbite Series always has good cookies and pretzels filled with peanut butter... and went back to my car for warmer clothes and my book.

I waited in the information center for the results and wondered if this part of the process would be faster than in past years that I've run the series. It's amazing how technology has changed races in the past few years. Results are practically instantaneous thanks to timing chips and computers.

Sure enough, there was a flat screen monitor set up that scrolled through the results as they were posted. The list was updated every few minutes and it seemed like they would be able to start the awards ceremony soon.

Fast results.

Apparently, the technology still isn't perfect though. At first, it reported that I finished 6th overall. That didn't seem right. I know I wasn't far from the front, and I know I get a little bit of tunnel vision late in the race, but it sure seemed like there were more than five people in front of me.

The list obviously wasn't complete yet and apparently, some of the people that signed up for the longer race decided to run the 3K instead because their results were already listed for the long race. I found a place to sit with my book and the list kept cycling across the monitor. I moved from 6th, to 9th, to 12th, and finally ended up 28th overall. I finished 2nd in my age group though so I got a ribbon and I should be in a good position as far as series points in my age group.

When I left, a lot of people were still huddled around the monitor looking for their results. Another problem with this system is that it listed all of the 3K finishers and then started scrolling through the long race results. But the system reset every few minutes to update the results and the runners lower on the list of long race finishers never got to see their results because the system always reset before it got to them.

This is the first time I've seen results posted in this way and the system has potential, but it still has a few flaws that need to be ironed out.

Goal For The Day: Race!
Distance: 1.86 Miles.
Time: 10:59. 5:54 Avg. (5:36, 5:23*).
Route: Frostbite Series #1 - 3K.
Conditions: 26 degrees. 9:00AM.

Time: 10:59. 5:54 avg. (5:36, 5:23*).
28th out of 573 finishers.
2nd out of 22 men ages 30-34.

Notes: Didn't set a PR in the Thanksgiving 5K, but set a new PR for 3K today! The first 11 finishers were ages 15-17. 21 of the 27 people that beat me were 19 or younger. Made me feel old!

Daily Miles: 1.86 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 609.62 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 14,350+ meters.

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