Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Run for your life!

Because SO MANY readers of my blog have asked for it (thanks, Laura), here is a report on my participation in the Riverfest 5K race in beautiful downtown Wetumpka last Saturday. First, let me say that on August 1 the official high temp in Wetumpka was 95 and 8/2-8/5 it was either 98 or 99. From 8/6 until today it has been over 100 and is predicted to surpass 100 through this week. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the high in Wetumpka was 105 each day. This information should not be ignored as you read this because it CAN NOT be ignored if you work (and/or play) outdoors. Last week was a 6-day workweek for me, including the Saturday of the race. I had planned to run the race and go to work late since Saturday is normally a short workday for me. My plan was to use this race as a barometer to determine if I had any chance to survive a triathlon near Americus, Georgia on the following Saturday (8/18) with my brother. The results are in; 1] I have little chance of survival 2] I signed up for the triathlon Sunday afternoon.

The race was fun, all things considered. The organization was less than ideal but much better than it could have been. The start time for the race was 7 a.m. or 7:30 a.m., depending on which source you were depending on. This poses some problem since showing up 30 minutes late for the start of a race that should be over in less than 30 could be both confusing and disheartening. I made the only wise decision--to show up prepared to run at 7 and not be surprised if it began at 7:30. That is exactly what happened. Well, not exactly. As it turned out, the "organizers" were not quite organized at 7:30 so the hour I had already been there and the two jogs from my truck to the starting line area were not enough. We needed to stand in the blistering sun a little longer. We started some time around 7:45. It is always fascinating to me to watch people at events such as this. O.K., it is fascinating to me to watch people almost anywhere, but especially when they are about to "perform". These events draw a wide assortment of people. All the characters are always there. The names change, but the characters are represented. There are true athletes; those who take it very seriously and train hard. They are not the first ones you notice and often it surprises you which ones they really are. Then there are pseudo-serious athletes; these folks have expensive, new apparel and gear. They drive sporty cars and have stickers displaying allegiance to various sports. And there is a variety of individuals that prompt you to want to ask "Are you REALLY running in this race?" Not just the ones that are old and heavy, like me, but they have complex waist-belts with multiple water-bottle holders or hydration backpacks and ipods and heart monitors and wires everywhere. Really? For a 5K? You know that is 3.1 miles? Do you really think you will need to refuel several times in the next half-hour? Will you really have time to listen to Mozart or Rick and Bubba? Do you really want a lot of distraction while you jostle with 150 other people running through traffic for 3.1 miles? You DO realize this is NOT a marathon, right? My favorite for this particular race was the lady who showed up late. By late, I mean later than the actual posted start-time (the second one, not the first). She screeched into the drive near the registration table, hopped out of her car (leaving it in the drive), and ran to get her race number. All eyes were on her as she explained to the lady at the table that she got "horribly lost". Really? In Wetumpka? With the registration table in front of city hall on MAIN STREET? Then you think the thing to do is drive through the crowd that has been standing here for an hour so you can park 7 feet from the start line? Here is what caught my attention about this lady; as late as she was and as rude as she was (because of the emergency of being late), you could not help to notice that her make-up was flawless. That's right folks--bright red lipstick, foundation, blush, mascara--she was ready to rumble. Perhaps she was applying make-up while driving, which may explain getting "hopelessly lost" in Wetumpka. Eventually, we did get underway and I was flying. Man, I was running near the front of the pack and it did not seem that hard. As many races as I have run over the years, I should have recognized that I was starting too fast for my level of conditioning. But I could not help myself--I was unleashed and could not be held back. Until about half-way. Then something began to hold me back--a lot. What is that? Gravity? The weight of years? The weight of Snickers bars? The wet blanket of Alabama humidity (did I mention that we ran next and twice crossed the Coosa River)?

My second complaint about organization/planning is (and I hate to complain because I really appreciate the race--but when you fork out $20 for a race, you expect these things to be done) the miles were not marked. With no indication of the one, two, or three mile mark you not only do not know how to judge your level of exhaustion but also can not compute your pace. This is a major flaw and should not be tolerated by a race director. Otherwise, I may have won. Well, at least I could look back on the race and figure how many miles I had remaining when the real runner won. Seriously, the late start and lack of mile markers did not affect me too much since the best I hoped for was to run at the middle of the pack. But serious (and semi-serious) competitors need that information.

I saw Matt Dixon at the race which was a little weird since I had watched him perform in "Little Shop of Horrors" at the Faulkner dinner theater Friday night (just hours before). Matt did well--improving on his time from a couple of weeks ago by about two minutes and beating me by about that margin. Man, that hurts. Don't count on it again, Matt. I am not having it. Matt is also training for a triathlon--only he is actually training. I am sure he will do MUCH better in his than I will do in mine. Good luck, Matt. I am proud of you.

One more shortcoming of the race was that there was no visible clock at the finish line and nobody calling out times. Again, this is just not acceptable--not even to the back-of-the-pack runners. A registration and accompanying fees should assure these basics or you are just paying $20 to go for a run. Kudos, however, for the great fruit table at the finish line.

I had fun and am glad I did it. It had been a long time since I participated in an organized (?) event like this, so it was fun to get back into it. Also, a GIANT THANK YOU to my wonderful wife who got up early on Saturday, drove to Wetumpka, and stood in the heat just to cheer for ME! That means that although my time was over 28 minutes and lots of folks finished ahead of me, I was a WINNER! It is great to have fans. Thanks, also to co-workers who tolerated my schedule so I could go out and play. Next week I will post about the Georgia Veterans Triathlon. I continue to train even as I am writing this by finishing off a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos. I am so ready! I hope it is 110 degrees Saturday.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just loooove being your #1 fan!!!!

1-4-3!
wanna

Helen said...

That's MY Daddy!! :)

Jamey said...

I've been tossing the idea of training for a 5K (or shorter if there is such a thing) after I have this baby. It would be incentive to lose the baby weight and get in shape again.

So, I must say you are inspiring me. Keep posting about your racing endeavors, and I may make up my mind.

Sounds like you and all those other runners were very dedicated to fight the heat...

Lerra said...

Ugh...I don't even want to walk Toby down the street in this heat! High-five, dad! :-)

Lerra said...

"High-five, dad"?? That was gay.

Kenny Simpson said...

Glad they had a good fruit stand at the end for you.

JSM said...

Next year I hear they're planning on having masseuse (sp?) tables at the end in lieu of the time clock...