Veteran’s Day 8K: Race Report
I know that “down south” (which in Alaska-speak means the rest of the United States), the only thing on the running community’s mind is the NYC Marathon tomorrow. I’ve been experiencing some vicious marathon envy just reading all about it, but I’m sure that at least my parents and family are (maybe?) more excited to hear how my podunk little 8K went this morning than about NYC.
So here’s how it went down.
It’s starting to get (and stay) dark around here in the mornings and evenings, so the race didn’t start ’til 10 AM. I woke up at 6 AM for a four mile shakeout. I did this before my recent 5K, and it did wonders for getting my legs all ready to go. I came home, downed a sliver of banana mushed up on toast with a knifing of honey, and drank a pot of green tea. This is my new routine. Run a little bit early in the morning, come back and hang out at the house, and then go to the race. It’s working, so I’ll stick with it.
Then, I was at the mercy of Capital Transit, Juneau’s bus system, which is overall a solid affair but still gives me mini-coronaries whenever it decides to run late (or early).
I had to figure my way out to a race site I’d never been to before, which required sitting on the bus and then transferring to another bus for 45 minutes both ways, with the latest issue of Running Times to keep me company. I panicked and got a little confused and got off at an earlier stop than I’d planned on, so I ended up running an additional 1.5 miles to the start of the race course.
No big deal.
Except that I couldn’t find the start of the race course.
It was about 9:48. I was blundering around in some random industrial park, wondering where in god’s name I’d gotten myself, checking and rechecking the crumpled map I’d drawn for myself from Google Maps.
You see, the Juneau road race calendar tends to be stingy with it’s details — they make plenty of sense for real Juneauites, but out-of-towners like me end up doing a little head-scratching. You can’t necessarily find this stuff on Google Maps. You have to figure it out through the local back channels. I’d asked a few locals beforehand where exactly this mysterious “Brotherhood Bridge parking lot” might be found, and I’d get answers like, “Oh, it’s sort of in the valley, near the glacier, by The Safeway.”
Great. So I’d run 1.5 miles to “The Safeway,” (which, thankfully, is actually a store and not something as unhelpful as an ambiguous geographical feature like a valley or a glacier) and was now sprinting around through random buildings looking for any hint of runners. I knew I was in the enigmatic location that Google Maps had produced online, but there was no sign of any road race. I tried opening doors at a few of the buildings to look for a human who could help. I saw some lady at an orthopedic office getting a foot massage through a window, but I couldn’t find the entrance. Crap. The minutes ticked by quickly. I panicked. I’d had the foresight to program the race director’s phone number into my phone, so I took a stab at calling him.
Answering machine. “You’ve reached the home of…”
I sprinted back to Safeway and asked a cashier where the Brotherhood Bridge parking lot was.
“Oh, it’s just there beyond that bridge,” she said.
Right. Right. “Bridge.” There’s a clue. Use your brain, Cathleen.
I sprinted for the bridge and saw a blue tent materialize. Success! I hastily scribbled down my race registration info, threw my $8.00 entry fee down, crumpled up and pinned on my race number, and then sprinted into the woods to pee.
Then, it was time to line up. Per usual, the race director explained the course to us beforehand. Mercifully, it was a simple out-and-back. I knew as that long as I could find the orange turnaround cone, even my directionally-challenged self wouldn’t be able to mess this one up.
I decided last night that I wanted to win. I knew I could recalibrate this goal if any super speed demons showed up to the race, but I wanted to win. The whole darn thing. Preferably in under 32:00 minutes, because McMillan’s calculator predicted 32:08 based on my 5K, and I wanted to validate that 5K with a sub-32. (Ive been secretly scared that maybe I’m not capable of the 19:30 5K I ran last month after all. I’ve had a sinking feeling that perhaps the course was short. I didn’t believe I was really that fast. So I decided that if today’s 8K was consistent with my 5K time, then I could trust that the courses were true).
Anyway, we set out and I tucked in behind the leaders, who were two guys.
Did my usual slow-start-and-stalk combination.
I pretended I was a wolf chasing two caribou, waiting for the caribou to grow tired.
Actually, I did not really pretend that. It just sounds hilarious.
Okay, what next. One of the caribou got tired, so I passed him and ran next to the lead caribou for a while. The lead caribou was friendly and we chatted sparsely in the amicable way that runners do while they race. Well, there were no mile markers, but there was a turnaround point. Caribou #1 and I came through the orange cone in 16:15, right on pace for a 32:30 finish.
I had some work to do if I was going to achieve that sub-32:00. The other runner and I traded off for the lead at a few points, but then I pushed on ahead and I was on my own.
It was nice. Mostly flat, on a paved trail through the woods next to a river. I enjoyed myself. I got the tell-tale tummy knot that signifies to me that I’m doing honest work.
Perhaps I could have gone faster if there were others ahead to catch. On the other hand, perhaps I simply do better on my own, trusting my fitness and pace, alone in the woods with nothing but my own breathing for company.
All speculation aside, I crossed the line in first in 31:54. 6:25 pace. That was a surprise.
Then, while guzzling hot apple cider, I chatted up the other runners and found a possible running group to trot with for long runs on the weekends.
First half in 16:15, second half in 15:38. Good enough for me, but I wish this could have been a 10K. I feel like with my fitness right now, breaking 40 would not have been out of the question, especially since the McMillan calculator is now dangling this “40:12” carrot in front of me based on my 31:54 today.
But there are no 10Ks to be had, and the local race calendar goes into hibernation until well into February. I am itching to run a 10K and go for sub-40. I am itching to run a marathon and try for a 3:20, or maybe even a 3:15. In fact, if I wanted to whine about the lack of road races, missed opportunities, wasted fitness, now would be the time to do it, but you know what? I won’t. I’m going to take this solid season of racing for what it was. I had three fun races here in the fall, and I’m satisfied with that.
Time to look into the local nordic ski scene.
Who else is unreasonably excited to follow the NYC marathon hype tomorrow? I feel like such a dork. I keep getting all psyched and babbling about it to my friends, and they all just look at me with pitying smiles on their faces.