Why I wanted to run this race / Goals:
I originally signed up for the Western Pacific 10K because I really wanted to set a new 10K PR. The Western Pacific seemed like a good choice because the course is relatively flat and it was being put on by Brazen, one of my favorite race organizers. Plus, KP, LJ, and RC also signed up. Unfortunately, my ankle had other plans when it decided to be ornery and get injured a week before the race. After lots of thinking, I decided to switch to the 5K.
My plan was to start the race at a conversational pace with LJ and see how I felt. If my ankle felt bad, I’d walk. If it felt good, then I’d try to kick it up a notch towards the end. I had no idea what to expect.
In the days leading up to the race, I kept struggling between the desire to run smart (i.e., follow the plan above) and my competitive side. On one hand, I was thinking it would be fun to not stress out at a race (for once!!). On the other, I felt like not trying my hardest during a race was kinda lame. Why am I paying money to run if I’m not putting it all out there? Fortunately, the first argument won. To help ween my competitive habits, I left my Garmin, Spibelt, and iPhone at home or in the car. I made a pledge to myself that I would not get caught up with pace or how slow/fast I was going. The plan was to run by feel, and to really pay attention to my ankle.
Because I was not super anxious about the race, I was much more relaxed about my pre-race routine. “Sure, let’s have coffee, even though I’ve only done that once before and it was a mistake.” (It turned out totally fine.) “It will *totally* be OK if I don’t have my usual race crutches – my Garmin, Clif Bloks, etc. I can survive without them for 30 minutes.” The only extraneous running accessory I allowed myself were compression socks. I figured that they would be more comfortable than trying to run in an ankle brace, while still preventing swelling in my ankle.
A little before 7:15 am, KP, who was running the 10K, showed up at my place and we carpooled down to Fremont to Quarry Lakes Regional Recreational Area. I had never been there before, and I have to admit that I was quite surprised at how pretty it was. (Shows you what my expectations are for Fremont! Sorry Fremont. My bad!) From the start/finish area, we had a view of placid lakes with rolling hills in the background. Another surprising thing was how warm it was. Even though last week’s heat wave had mostly passed, there was still a remnant that lingered, rendering it tank top and shorts weather at 8am. With a 8:45 am start time, I worried a little about how hot it would get, but then I reminded myself, “Hey who cares? You’re racing for fun, not for time, remember? Just relax and enjoy yourself.”
After getting our bibs, KP went off for the bathrooms and to do a warm-up, while I waited for LJ and RC to arrive. Without my phone, I was a little paranoid that I wouldn’t find them… even though the crowd thinned as each race started. (There was also a half marathon and full marathon that morning.) They arrived just as the 10K runners were about to start at 8:30. It turned out that they would have gotten there earlier, but RC’s iPhone directed them to another Quarry Lakes. D’OH! Luckily, they figured it out in time. The 3 of us got into the starting corral at ~8:40. I don’t know if it was the coffee, or if it was because I wasn’t anxious for once, but I was outright giddy. I kept making silly jokes, which seemed HI-larious at the time, but are truly terrible in retrospect. (Don’t worry, I won’t repeat them here.)
The horn blasted at 8:45 am, signaling the start of the race. Even though we planned to run conservatively, LJ and I positioned ourselves a little ahead of the middle, about 1/3 of the way back from the front. The thing about Brazen races is that they attract a lot of walkers, so if you plan to run at all (however slowly), I’d suggest you line up in the middle of the pack, especially for the 5K and 10K races.
I think the first 1-2 minutes were probably the most difficult for me, as I fought hard not to surge ahead with the group. I ran in front of LJ, but checked back with her every few seconds to make sure I didn’t get too far ahead. Once the initial crowd dissipated, I felt comfortable running side by side with LJ. We talked and ran, while I periodically checked in with my ankle. At first, it was a bit uncomfortable, but after about 10 minutes, I noticed that the pain/discomfort was pretty much gone. Sweet!
As I had feared, it was really quite warm. The first bit of the course has a bit of shade, but soon we were fully exposed to the bright, hot sun. I kept telling LJ (and myself) that we were closing in on an aid station. I usually never take water at a 5K, but I was already thirsty and very hot. After sipping my water, and checking in with my ankle again, I looked over at LJ and told her I was taking off. She nodded, which I assumed was the go ahead, and off I went!
The next 5-8 minutes were so fun, as I fell into a fast groove and passed at least 2 dozen runners. I’ve never chased down that many people at the end of a race, let alone a 5K, so it was quite exciting and a real confidence booster. I did eventually slow down a tad as I realized that the finish line was farther off than I had thought. It’s one of those courses where you can see and hear the finish from a little less than a mile away, so you think it’s SO CLOSE, but in reality it’s SO FAR AWAY. Also in this section, we had to run next to one of the parking lots, where there was a lot of miscellaneous, non-racing pedestrian traffic. The worst part was having to run a big loop at the end, where the course runs parallel to the finish chute then makes a wide 180 turn to the finish.
After I crossed the finish line in just under 32 minutes, I was given a medal and a small Jamba Juice smoothie. Very refreshing! I eventually found RC, who finished almost 2 minutes ahead of me, then went to cheer LJ and KP at the finish. RC and LJ took off quickly, as LJ was afraid that she got sunburned (which she did, unfortunately). KP was disappointed that she didn’t get the PR that she was going for, but she did end up coming in 3rd in her age group!! Uncharacteristically, Brazen did not have the age group medals available — I’m not sure what the issue was, but they would not be there until 2 hours later. A lot of age group winners were disappointed, some more than others. It’s funny what emotions a little piece of medal can bring out in people.
KP and I indulged in post-race snacks, which of course included an It’s It. After my Jamba Juice, I was not in the mood for a whole It’s It. Luckily, KP was nice enough to let me have a few bites of hers. Sharing IS caring.
I don’t think this race could’ve gone any better, weather notwithstanding. I ran a really strong 2nd half of the race, which boosted my confidence. I got to race with friends, try out different things (clothes, gear, coffee), enjoy beautiful scenery, eat lots of stuff after the race, and I even came in 4th in my age group, bum ankle and all! In fact, I think that the race actually helped my ankle recover by breaking up the scar tissue. Not sure if that’s true; regardless, my ankle feels SO much better.
In retrospect, I’m really glad I didn’t try for a 10K PR because the warm weather was less than ideal. Also, the course was actually 6.3 miles, not 6.2. Every tenth of a mile counts when you’re trying to PR! Finally, this race made me realize that I’m overly dependent on my Garmin and that perhaps I should try to race without it… or at least race without the pace displayed. I’m going to be experimenting with that a little bit before the SF Half. As always, I’ll keep y’all posted on how that goes.
About the race:
- Organizers: Brazen Racing
- Cost: $40 (This was the cost of the 10K; no fee to drop down to a 5K. I opted out of a cotton tee and saved $5)
- Course: The official numbers: 3.2 miles with ~68′ elevation gain, mostly on gravel.
- Parking: Plentiful and free for racers.
- Aid stations: One at ~1.8 miles, the split between 5K and all other distances.
- Bathrooms: Flush toilets were supplemented with plenty of porta potties.
- Swag: T-shirt, which I opted out of, and a well-designed medal. Lots of food afterwards. Free photos posted on Picasa.
Official time: 31:49 (9:56/mile) for 3.2 miles