This race report could alternately be titled: reasons why I won't be running this one again. The size, the traffic, and oh yeah, the 3.25 mile 5k.
I ran this race last year. While it was big at 2000 participants, it was manageable. Since last year, it's grown by a thousand people. This increased the people on the route, the people trying to park. It was a nightmare. I waited for 20 minutes to get into the parking lot, though I had a feeling that it might be crazy and left myself plenty of time to park. Unfortunately, I ended up in a back overflow parking lot, which would prove to be a pain when I was leaving.
Still, I parked and headed inside, where I spotted a coworker. We headed outside the 5k corral and tried to get a little closer to the front, but we still ended up behind a lot of walkers. I love walkers at 5ks. I think they should be at 5ks. 5ks should be a family event, especially a 5k on Thanksgiving. But when I'm trying to start out at a 9 minute mile, there's nothing more awful than trying to dodge a line of walkers ten across. Still, I'm not faulting the walkers because there was absolutely no instructions given to walkers to line up near the back of the race corral. This would be the fault of the race organizer and that is frustrating. The race started in a parking lot and took us over a speed bump, which was a fun obstacle along with dodging people left and right. Still, I managed to get around as many people and kids as I could to get out onto the road where it opened up a bit. Because this was an out and back course, they had cones set up in the middle of the road and were shouting at everyone to stay to the right (the road was closed, so I guess they were thinking the fastest 5k runners would be making their way back soon?). With a couple of thousand 5k participants, the bottleneck created by this was ridiculous. Myself and one other guy who seemed intent on moving and really getting around people attempted to stay to the center. This was working until a small child abruptly stopped in front of me and I dodged left to avoid her, not seeing an orange cone directly in front of me. Luckily I spotted and somehow managed to function well enough to leap over the orange cone, but imagine if I'd tripped? At this point, I was frustrated. After the first turn, the course started to thin out a little bit, especially when people dropped off at the water stop. Despite the cones and the crowds, I still finished the first mile in 9:04.
After mile 1, I pushed myself faster. I knew I could do it. Although I've never actually raced a 5k before, I felt like I was racing this one. I was passing more people than getting passed. I had my head down and was focusing just on running and breathing and although I wanted to slow down, I looked at my watch at 1.6 and reminded myself that I was halfway done. My Garmin beeped at the exact moment that the guy was yelling out mile 2 splits. I ran mile 2 in 8:41. I really wanted to slow down, but I knew I only had a mile left. There was a hill where people started to slow down or even walk, but I kept pushing past them. Toward the end, there was a girl who I was racing and I'm pretty sure she was racing me. As I really started to hurt and rounded the last corner, I heard a coworker yell my name and cheer me on... that was a huge boost! I wasn't expecting to see anyone I knew on the course, but she was there for her husband (who came in 5th in the 5k, finishing in 17 minutes--ridiculous!) and was back on the course. I knew that I was on the last straightaway and it registered slightly in my brain that it seemed like the finish line was longer away, but I also thought it was my brain playing that, "You will never get there" trick on me. I glanced at my watch and saw that I was still maintaining my pace and would finish in the high 26s or low 27s, which would be an awesome PR. I pushed through, still racing the same girl. My watch beeped mile 3 in 8:44. The finish line was still around the corner. Through the haze of burning lungs, I knew this wasn't right but still kept pushing. I watched the numbers I thought I would have fly by and finally crossed the finish line at 28:39 (I didn't stop my watch immediately because I never want finish line photos of me pressing buttons on my watch--what I'm vain?). What?! That's my 5k time when I run consistent, comfortable laps around my neighborhood, not when I push myself to the point of a stitch in my side, feeling like I'm going to puke as I cross the finish line. Then I looked at the distance and not the time on my watch and saw this.
I was disappointed, confused, but still hopeful that I'd misread it or screwed something up, until I ran into coworkers afterward who immediately commented that their phones measured the course long and they were frustrated because they'd trained for a 24 minute PR but missed it by 2 minutes due to the added length. Or rather, they'd actually gotten their PR, yet it wouldn't be registered because of the extra length.
I texted Sarah who ran the 10k, but her son ran the 5k. She said they were trying to figure out his time because it was a time he could run any day without really trying, until they got home and he registered the distance with Map My Run... and came out with 3.3 miles. I was still holding out hope until the official results were posted, but they have me finishing in 28:36 with an average page of 9:15. I know Garmin and official times can be off slightly, but not like this. There is no way they are that off. First of all, every single mile I ran was less than 9:15. I can tell you that simply based on how I felt, Garmin data notwithstanding. I ran this race HARD, harder than I've ever run a 5k. An average pace of 9:15 is what I can run while doing laps around my neighborhood in the morning. Officially, those results still show a PR of over a minute, but I'm pretty sure I hit 3.1 somewhere around 27:20, which means that I really PRd by over 2 minutes and do you know how much I'd love to have THOSE results showing right now? The results of the actual race that I ran? The good news, I guess, is that my ranking in my age group is 17/184, which is pretty high up. But still! I want my sub-9 minute average pace listed because I worked HARD for that pace.
Leaving the parking lot was a nightmare. I sat for, literally, 45 minutes in the back parking lot where there was an absolute gridlock. I'm not sure if the person at the front of the line wouldn't shove their way out or if cars just wouldn't let them out, but I didn't move. I watched the rest of the lot empty out while we could not move. Other cars left from the big lot while we SAT there. By the time we finally got out, the big lot was mostly empty. 45 minutes. Do you know how absurd that was? Why wasn't someone helping the flow of traffic? By the time I got home, I had 15 minutes to shower and change before heading to Thanksgiving dinner.
What I would like to do is find a 5k soon and get my official results (although of course, I'm nervous that this was a one off where there was good, mild weather and no wind and I'll be robbed of it), but all I can find are untimed Santa fun runs. I'm trying to be happy with the fact that yes, it's a still a PR, but it's not the correct result and it's not my actual time and it's hard to be happy with not getting credit for what you did.