Sunday, October 11, 2009

Race: St. Johns Pumpkin Trot 10K

Where do I even start for this event???

I started off real strong. I started at a 5:20 pace per mile - way too fast to maintain for 6 miles, but I figured that if I could maintain a super fast pace for the first mile, then I could settle in to my groove (7:15) and finish well. Last year I took 1st in my AG at this race so I assumed I could do the same again. I quickly found out that there were only 4 of us in the lead pack. We stuck relatively close together... let's say that at the farthest - the leader was in sight. First climb was up the city sledding hill. I powered up it, and looked back. The next closest person wasn't even at the bottom of the hill yet. I've been training on this hill over the past 2 months, so I knew what to expect. First mile was a mix of paved walkway and trails.

Mile 1 at 6:22 - ok, time to settle in. Paved road for about a half mile, then dirt roads to the turn around. Return back towards town and run into the residential area of the city. Mile 4 was just back into the city with an aid station... but NO marking telling us which way to go. So I yelled out to the 1 guy at the aid station - he shrugged his shoulders in disconcern. The runner in front of me yelled back saying that the pavement had markings to go straight. So I followed them. Mind you, still in 4th. At the next main intersection 2 volunteers pointed us to our left. Ok, we're good... I thought.

This was the poorest race course marking I've ever seen. We followed what we assumed was the course as it was marked 10 with an arrow. Then later realized that those markings were from the 10 mile run earlier this year. At the point where we neared the city park (starting point of the race) I yelled out that we had to be going the wrong way. I KNEW that this race did not have any loops. We stopped for a quick second and agreed to head back towards the last main street. As we rounded a quick corner, we realized that about 10-15 people were following us.

Got back to the main road and past the volunteers who told us the wrong way. Ran north to the point where we figured the course crossed back over. I had my Garmin Forerunner, so as we talked between breaths we assumed we would still be close to 6 - 6.5 miles at the end of the race.

Then two guys sprinted out and left me and another guy back. I picked it up, dropping the other guy. I wasn't sure whether to just walk back to the start/finish or keep running. This had never happened to me before... being in the lead group or getting lost. I kept at the race and found the cross street that the course takes back to the park. I turned left. The 2 leaders went straight. They were too far ahead to hear me yell. I caught up to another guy and asked if he was in the 5k or 10k - 10k it was. I had no idea that he was the 'race leader' at that point. Turns out that after our group deviated course, this guy was left leading.

Pissed, I took off. Back in the 6 minute pace I felt like I was going to puke. The last part of the course was back up a hill. A bigger climb than the sledding hill and over a longer distance. Then gave it everything I had to cross the finish line strong. Sure enough - first overall finisher for the 10k. Now I felt like crap and went to the race director. Moments later the other leaders were by my side.

My FR showed a total distance of 6.29. So we ran the distance, just not the course. The director says that he had no way to know that some people went off course and didn't see any problem with our finish.

All in all, I unofficially ended up finishing first OA...

Looked at the race results and it showed me finishing 2nd OA... What??

First place finisher had a time 10+ minutes faster than my finish. Not possible as I was with the top finishers from the very start all the way until that last turn when the 2 made that last wrong turn. So I guess this other guy missed a turn somewhere too.

Many of us were so frustrated. I should have ended up 3rd OA. I took my 2nd OA medal and walked. I wasn't sure that I should have taken it. I took my AG last year and knew I would be faster this year, and since I still put in the distance, I just took it.

But the 2 turns that we missed were not marked on the pavement and once we asked a man at the aid station which way to go and he shrugged his shoulders. Another set of volunteers pointed us in the completely wrong direction. I'm trying to justify my feelings here. I'm not sure who really won that race. Not me. Even though we went farther and still finished on top, something just doesn't sit well in my gut.

Another friend of mine who ran just behind us would have been the first female finisher. The extra distance set her back by about 24 seconds and some other girl who was in front of her got the trophy for 1st OA Female.

*So pissed*

Finished with an avg pace of 7:24 per the Garmin. That's good, but I would have been faster without the confusion.

I'm not asking for any type of sympathy, but what would you have done? ever have an experience like this before?


a said...

This is why the participant is responsible to know the course prior to running the course. Good job you've come a long way.

Jeremy Hagerman said...

The course wasn't marked right, in fact, it was marked wrong. Volunteers should be able to point you in the right direction, or at least tell you that you are going the wrong way... neither of which happened.

I did look at the race map prior to the race, but when you're in the lead group you rely upon correct road marking and volunteers to help guide you. even when you've raced that course in the prior years, such as 3 of the top 4 of us have.

Lastly, 4 of us ran farther than the rest of the runners... and we still finished before them.

I digress. If this were a better organized race and we went off course, we would have been disqualified.