I hardly know where to start with this race recap.
I signed up initially for the 10k, as part of my Spring of 10k’s. And then, last week, it occurred to me that I knew I wasn’t in shape to PR the 10k (or even get close) but I could potentially PR the 5k. My 5k PR of 26.15 is two years old and I know I am faster now than I was then. All the 5k’s I’ve done since have been pushing the Dude. And I found myself getting SUPER-EXCITED about racing a 5k! So I emailed the organizer, she happily switched me and I started planning.
I had two goals for this race. My A goal was to come in under 25 minutes, something I’ve wanted to do for a while. This would mean I needed to run 8.02 pace, which I thought was possible. My New Year’s Day 10k pace was 8.11 – I know I’m not as fit as I was then but maybe I could hold 8.02 for 25 minutes? My B goal was just to PR, and if I couldn’t beat 26.14, I would be pretty heartbroken.
My son is ‘taking a break from running 5k’s’ so I was the only one who drove out to Livermore early Saturday morning. I allowed too much time as usual – it took about 45 minutes at 7am! I got there quickly and found the race being set up. It was a really lovely event – a tiny, community race to support a non-profit helping women who have suffered sexual violence. I felt pretty moved to be part of it. I got my number, used the loo (actual loos in their building) and went back to my car to do myself a little playlist and keep warm. It was surprisingly chilly at that time.
The start line at dawn
At about 7.30 I went for a little warm-up jog, just one mile along the course. I’m glad I did – the course was marked by arrows on yellow pieces of paper, taped to the ground. They weren’t that easy to see – having them standing upright would be easier. A quick reconnoitre helped.
Livermore has vineyards basically in the town centre. I could live here.
My future place of work?
The staging area was busier now and the queue for the loos was much longer – 2 bathrooms for 150 or so people wasn’t quite enough. But soon enough we were lining up. I positioned myself somewhat uncomfortably near the front – I thought I was in the right place, looking around, but I’m not used to being at the front. And the klaxon (?) sounded and we were off.
It was the weirdest thing. I was in the lead. (For the women, obviously. The men dashed off). I ran along, waiting to be passed (and going too fast) but was in the lead. It was kind of awesome. I ran on and still no girl passed me. I was running hard, I have to admit but I got to the turnaround point at halfway and somehow I was still in the lead. As I turned back, I didn’t really look at the girls coming the opposite way – I was trying to focus on things I could control. My running, my breathing, my race. ‘Focus on the PR’ I kept telling myself. But I was in the lead. I admit it, I felt like an Olympian.
The problem was…I had no idea how to play this game. I have never been in this situation before. I had no experience of race strategy. I had no plan about ‘racing’ this race. I was a total rookie and I had no idea what I should be doing. So I just kept running.
The way back felt very long. I ploughed along…still in the lead. A woman still heading ‘out’ whooped for me and yelled ‘First woman’. (HAHA, THAT’S ME!). I kept running but I was struggling now. I was running too fast. With about a mile to go, we had to turn sharp right. I turned, and glanced over…and saw a girl just behind me. My heart sank. I kept running.
With about half a mile to go, the inevitable happened. She passed me, looking pretty much effortless, and she ran steadily into the distance. I was disappointed but kept telling myself ‘Focus on the PR’ and just kept pushing. Eventually I turned into the home straight, the balloon arch was there and I may have accelerated a tiny bit…and I crossed the line and stopped my watch.
FLYING to the finish line Photo Credit: Layla!
The hordes at the finish line went wild Photo Credit: Layla
24.23! I hadn’t won but I’d got my goal time!
Once I’d caught my breath, Layla came over. She was out cycling for the day and stopped to cheer me over the line. This girl is an amazing team player – she can’t run much at the moment but she’s always out cheering for her friends. I hugely appreciated seeing her and giving her a delightful sweaty hug. Less fun was when I saw the course was short, I’d run 2.99 miles instead of 3.1 and when I extrapolated that pace up, my 5k time would have been 25.19.
So I lost the only race I’m ever likely to win and I didn’t get my goal time.
I shook hands and had a chat with the winner, who paid me the great compliment of saying she had to work hard to catch me and that I ran a great race (le sigh). A while later, I saw her go up to get her prize, so I sidled up to get my second female prize. I envisaged a giant trophy. Gold, with a plinth and a female runner on top. Oh the Dude would be so impressed. Or maybe a plaque declaring ‘2nd woman’. But somehow… no. There were only prizes for the first three overall runners, which mean that I didn’t get a prize…and more significantly, the female winner didn’t get a prize either! I was actually pretty shocked for her. Bearing in mind, TriValley Haven is a women’s nonprofit, this was pretty ironic. They did have a fantastic buffet spread so I claimed a doughnut as my prize once Layla had cycled on and I could pig out in secret :) There was also a good raffle, but I didn’t win anything.
My awesome cheering squad of one (and her swanky new bike)
I have some (genuinely constructive) criticisms of this race, which I’ll mention below but frankly, none of them are important. This race raises money for women who have undergone great trauma and it raised over $10,000 for their work. So NONE OF THESE THINGS MATTER! But because I hope this review might help future runners, these things need pointing out.
- They need more bathrooms. 2 isn’t enough.
- The course was short. This isn’t the first time I’ve run a short course and it’s so disheartening. You run your guts out and find that your time isn’t really valid. Checking and double-checking the distance is crucial. I’d rather overrun slightly than run short.
- You HAVE to have prizes for the top three women. You don’t need age-group awards, nice though they are but the top three women need prizes. The female winner DEFINITELY needs a prize. The girl who won looked like me, like she doesn’t win races every day, and I felt bad for her.
- Chip timing. This doesn’t actually bother me at all but it’s worth saying this race didn’t have chip timing.
TriValley Haven are organising a race in October and I believe it WILL have chip timing, a certified course and age-group prizes. So I may well be back to try again!
My returning has NOTHING to do with the doughnuts they provided, obviously!
But as I said – it’s not important. This month, I’ve been reminded again of what IS important and what isn’t. Running is awesome, but helping other people is what really matters.
Personally, I have really mixed views about my performance and I haven’t quite worked them out yet. On the positive side…I PR’d and that is always a fantastic achievement and one that should be celebrated. I also placed overall for the first time ever! 2nd woman is pretty awesome! I thought about how I chatted with the winner and how I’ve NEVER had that kind of discussion before. I thought about the male winner coming over, congratulating me and asking if I’d been first female. No-one has EVER asked me that question before. I know this was a tiny race, but this whole experience made me feel like a runner more than anything ever has before!
On the negative side…I didn’t run my goal pace. That is genuinely disappointing. I also lost the race. I could smell my first ever win and I lost. Pretty gutting. Most materialistically, I also think that if I had won ‘something’ as second female, I wouldn’t actually be bothered about losing the race. (That’s kind of embarrassing). So overall, I feel a bit flat.
I’ll tell you something though…I feel flipping FIRED UP! Sub-25 is within sniffing distance for the 5k. Sub-50 is within sight for the 10k. Today’s not-winning experience has filled me with fire and the desire to run fast and achieve those goals. I may or may not have spent the rest of the weekend planning!!! More on that later this week.
Here endeth the world’s longest, most navel-gazing recap of a Saturday morning’s 3 mile run