Friday, July 4, 2008

Fourth on the Fourth

Beginning with the ending, I finished fourth in my age group in the Yankee Doodle Dash 10K this morning. That is, I was the fourth 40-something-year-old woman to come in. But I still won the third place medal!

How can that be, you may ask. It happened because the first place 40-year-old woman was also the 10K female winner (and second overall), so I guess they didn't count her in the age group awards. Whatever—I decided not to argue over whether I deserved the medal. They want to give it to me? Fine.

I was #41 overall. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

It all began when my alarm went off at 6:00 this morning. That was a little galling—a Friday off work and I still need to wake up almost as early as a workday. I wanted to leave at 7, so I suppose I didn't need such an early alarm, but I'm hooked on the snooze button. Sure enough, before I knew it, it was quarter of 7 and I leaped out of bed.

Despite speedily throwing my clothes on I didn't get out the door until 7:15. No biggy. I planned to take a short (2-3 mile) jog on the way to the Y, as a warmup for the race. I had plenty of time, since the run didn't start until 8:30.

I just followed a very abbreviated version of my typical run route, turning back at 18th Street and heading downtown to the Y. I actually went directly to Starbucks (still plenty early) and got a double short latte for a caffeine boost prior to the race. I was almost at the Y when my phone rang—my mother, parking the car a few blocks away. I turned back to meet her and we walked down the the Y together. I wondered if I could count my extra walking distance toward my weekly mileage.*

The weather was great for a run. Now, only runners would describe this kind of weather as "great" on the 4th of July. At 8:00 or so it was mildly balmy—neither cold nor warm—and cloudy with a chance of mist (in fact there was a short spray of mistiness during the run, which never turned into anything more). All throughout the area people were probably moaning about the lack of sun for their July 4th barbecues, but everyone on the race course was happy. (And eventually, in the later part of the afternoon, the sun came out too. The best of both worlds for everyone.)

I picked up my race packet and went into the Y bathroom to stand in line and pin on my race number. I put on the race shirt because it's the 4th of July! Gotta wear the festive shirt. I also had my red running jacket (before and after the run only) and a white cap. I really, really wanted a flag-themed cap. Unfortunately, I only decided that a couple of days ago and it was too late to get my hands on one. I tried! I went to a couple of sports stores and Target, but with no luck. I did order one online—just a nice white running cap with an American flag logo—but obviously there was not enough time for delivery before the 4th (thank goodness they didn't offer an overnight option, I might have succumbed) and I'll just have to save it for next year.

Yes, I like to dress for the occasion.

When I went back outside my mother had run into one of her friends, who was there because her (50-year-old) son and (14-year-old) grandson were running the 10K. The son planned to run at the back of the pack. The grandson had been reported to say that it was impossible for him to run as slowly as his dad does.

Regarding the pack, I decided to put myself somewhere near the front; behind the superfast runners but hopefully ahead of the slowest ones. While we waited to start, I fiddled with the Garmin, adorning my right wrist for its inaugural outing.** I had studied the directions but I was still shaky on operation. By pure luck (and some random punching and touching), I did manage to get into training mode so that I was ready to time. What I did not know was that you had to do something else to measure speed and so forth by the mile, instead of by the entire run. So my whole race turned out to be one "lap."

But I didn't know that as I took off, poking at my wrist to start the timer. I wasn't sure if I had, but I knew that I would lose time if I started fiddling with the Garmin while I was running. So I decided not to look at it again until the end of the race.

I had other things to worry about, anyway. Like the competition. The competition in general—all the runners ahead and behind me. And the competition specifically—a person I knew from work who was running with his wife and daughter, and who I had beat (meaning finished ahead of) in the Whidbey Half Marathon. I felt compelled to try to beat (finish ahead of) him in this one as well. This is what I was thinking when I passed him a couple blocks into the race.

Then, unfortunately, I saw him pass me about a mile into the race. This was bad, very bad. Although, in some ways, it was kind of good, because it gave me a goal for the entire race. "Must beat M.I. Must beat M.I." was my mantra throughout the run. I could see him ahead of me (and eventually picked out his wife as well), and unlike most people who pass me in a race, they did not disappear into the distance. That leads me to believe we must have been running about the same pace except for that window of time when they initially caught up and passed me. And pulled ahead of me.

I gained a little at the water station where he stopped to drink and walked through. (I did not stop for water—I didn't need it because it wasn't hot out.) Still, they stayed about a half block ahead of me and I could not close the gap.

My last shot was in the final mile, where I am often able to pick up the pace when other runners are flagging. I may have picked up the pace, but not enough. By the time we rounded the corner into the final .2 mile stretch, I knew the competition was over, and I was not the winner.

As I approached the finish, I could see the clock had just turned to 53 minutes. Obviously I was not going to finish under 53, but unless I fell to the ground and crawled, I would definitely finish under 54 minutes. I think that not having that desperate surge to get in under the wire kept me from putting on as hard a push as I have in some races. I suspect that I could have taken at least a few seconds off my time if I'd had a little more desperation in me.

So, I crossed the finish line at 53:29—almost exactly the same as my last two 10K's (53:35 in Lynnwood and 53:31—or 53:52—on Guemes). I went back to the corner by the Y to find my mother, and she showed me the pictures she had taken. She and her friends had stood on the corner of Colby where we turned down California toward the finish line. That's where they waited after going to Starbucks for drinks and sitting at one of the sidewalk tables for a while (plenty of time to sip lattes while we labored on the course). After I passed she left her friends still waiting for their son and grandson to come by. At this point, neither had been spotted yet.

Turning toward the finish line. I was dismayed to hear pounding feet behind me, as the guy right behind me passed me and finished just ahead of me!

The final stretch! (And the last view of my ponytail before my hair is cut on the 5th.)

I went back down to the finish line area to scour the results boards. The Y still uses primitive methods, with the bib tags and a tape and a big board where they staple up the tags in order and calculate the times. There is usually some kind of mistake. (There has been one with my time every year.) But this time they seemed to have my place and time right (after they changed the person finishing right in front of me from 40-year-old female to 40-year-old male, which he was). This is where I figured out that I was the 4th female in the 40-49 age division, and thought that I would not get a medal. But I decided to stick around for the awards anyway, to see they other people I knew get medals and, I guess, just in case.

The person who bumped me out of the top three was an amazing woman named Jennifer Moe. I will amend this to add her finishing time when the results are posted online, because she deserves the kudos. Not only was she the first 40-49 woman, and the first woman of any age to finish the race, she was also second overall! She is just 40, so obviously she has just jumped into this age group and will now shame the rest of us who thought we were doing pretty well. (I should also add, the other two women in my age division who beat me were in their late 40's, but still beat me by several minutes. Talk about intimidating!)

I've already told the rest of the story at the top. They did give me the third place medal, and I accepted it without question. Here I am modeling my award!I have one other story, which I can tell because there are no names. After the race was over my mother reported the fates of her friends' son and grandson. At the time I finished, they had not yet been spotted. Later we learned that the son had finished in about an hour, the grandson somewhat faster than that. But the grandson had an unfortunate tale of youthful arrogance. He runs track, but hasn't really done long distances. In the beginning, he said, he started off fast, with the front of the pack. After a mile and a half, he had to stop and throw up on the side of the road. Then he went on to finish the race, at a slower pace. He is not a completely foolish young man, however, for he commented that he's learned you need to do more than go out and run a few times to do a race like this! (I still don't understand why they signed up for the 10K rather than the 5K, though.) When the age group prizes were being announced, he won second place for males 14 and under. They had left, so I took his medal and we dropped it off later. We didn't, however, tell him that there were only two males in his age division.

That was the end of the running portion of the day. After I changed my clothes at home, we zipped over to Molbak's for their 2-for-1 sale on annuals and perennials. Fired up with post-race adrenaline, I filled the car with boxes of annuals to fill my patio pots later in the weekend.***

Now my potting shed looks like a mini-nursery!

Oh yes, what about the Garmin? Well, it worked, as well as it could considering I was the one using it. I started it just a little bit after the start, and it measured the distance as 6.18 miles, and my time as 53:24 (so far, giving me the information I already had from the race). My average pace was, I believe, 8:38 per mile, and calories burned 769 (quickly re-consumed after the race in scones). I was quite disappointed not to have my per-mile pace. I'm going to try to do that for my run on Sunday.

*This is my theory on walking mileage. I generally don't count "walks," as such, in my weekly running mileage. However, if I do walk at all during a run (which is very rare), or at the end of the run (like home from Starbucks), I do count that because I consider it part of the run. At a very slow pace. So this walking portion, after running but before the race, is a grey area. Yes, I actually do spend time mentally debating these kinds of things. I am a lawyer. Argument and rationalization is my life. You should hear my theories on why it is okay to use an iPod in a race even when the race rules say not to. Maybe someday I'll write about it. I'm just kind of nervous that some race official somewhere would run across it and I would be flagged as a suspicious character forever. (Yeah, I'm also paranoid.)

**Because my iControl watch was on my left hand. I do know how to use that (to operate my iPod), so I figured it should have priority.

***I know, most people have planted their containers by now. Although, by the number of people shopping at Molbak's, I'm not so sure about that. After all, procrastination saves you money!

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Wow! Great race! Congratulations on your medal, even if it was earned by default *wink* I would be THRILLED.