The good news: My wrong turn didn't affect my overall placement in today's race.
The bad news: I took a wrong turn in today's race.
I came to the Mooresville Pumpkin Run 8K hoping to break my PR and keep a 6:30 overall pace. I knew it would be a little hilly, but not much different from the 6-mile loop that I run almost every day, so I felt like I was well-prepared for the race.
I also knew there would be lots of support from fellow DARTers, both on and off the course. Julie Alsop, Chad Randolph, Tommy Wagoner, Mark Ippolito, and Johane Hirschfield would all be joining me on the course, and everyone except Mark and me had spouses and other family members cheering them on. Johane's husband, DARTer Marc, took all the pictures in this post. Here's the group of us getting ready before the race:
|Johane, Tommy, Me, Chad, Mark, Julie, and Chad's crew chief, James|
There were a few delays getting started, so we all stood at the starting line trying to stay warm and nervously chatting. I introduced myself to a runner from Wilmington who looked fast, dispensing any thoughts I might have had about sneaking in an overall win in a diluted field (there are at least 14 races going on in the Charlotte area today, including the very popular Runway 5K, which gives runners the opportunity to run on an actual runway at the Charlotte-Douglas Airport as flights are taking off and landing nearby on the active runway!). DARTer Chris Goodrum was handling the timing for the race, and he joked with me that it was never a good sign when a race starts more than 5 minutes late. He turned out to be right.
We finally started about 10 minutes late, and Marc got a great photo of the scene at the start:
|To my right in the yellow headband is Wilmington Guy|
He also got another great photo of Chad and some other guy:
|Mark, you need to work on hamming it up for the camera!|
Tommy and the Wilmington Guy sprinted off to an early lead. I felt like I was running plenty fast and filed in behind Tommy. We cruised up the hill for the first third of a mile, then mercifully started downhill. I took a look at my watch and saw that I was running at about a 6:12 pace. Like I said, plenty fast.
About this point, a guy dressed in black blew past both Tommy and me. I tried to stay optimistic, figuring third was still an option if I could keep up with Tommy. I finished Mile 1 in 6:22.
For this race I wanted to try a new system: Instead of letting my GPS automatically click off miles, I would manually record each mile as I passed the marker, minimizing the error introduced by the GPS. So far it was working great. I kept Tommy in my sights as I ran the tangents. Mile 2 had plenty of downhill and finished on a nice, steady downslope. I passed Tommy and cruised past the marker in 6:18.
Man in Black was still in my sights, but seemed to be pulling away a bit. We came up to a stop sign, and Man in Black went straight ahead onto a street marked "No Outlet." This didn't seem right to me, but there was no one there to point us in a different direction, so I followed. Wilmington Guy was nowhere in sight. Then ahead I saw Man in Black stop in confusion. I heard a shout and turned around to see the runners behind us making a right turn at the stop sign. We had taken a wrong turn! I ran back to the intersection and fell back in line. There were now three runners in sight ahead of me, including Tommy.
I started to sprint to catch up to them, then realized I needed to just maintain a consistent pace, and fell back in stride. When I passed Mile Marker 3, my GPS read 7:14, but I had still kept a 6:28 pace for the mile because in fact I had run 1.12 miles.
I had figured Mile 4 would be the hardest mile on the course, with a steep uphill to start and a gradual uphill for the rest of the way. Man in Black passed me, but I started reeling in the other runners. I passed a man and a woman, and only Tommy was left. Finally I passed Tommy for the second time, even though he had never passed me. I was gaining ground on Man in Black. He was running a solid pace, and I felt it wouldn't be fair to pass him since he was well ahead of me when he made the wrong turn. Honestly, I'm not sure I could have passed him if I had tried. But by the end of Mile 4 I was right behind him. As I suspected, this was my slowest mile, at 6:37, but I was still on track for a sub-6:30 pace.
Mile 5 had a long steady uphill, then a downhill finish. I stayed right behind Man in Black as we pushed to the top of the hill, then kicked as hard as we could to the finish. He finished about 15 yards ahead of me.
|Me, striding into the finish. No pix of Man in Black.|
At the finish, there was another bit of confusion. Chris said I was actually the fourth to cross the line, behind Wilmington Guy, some other guy, and Man in Black. He asked me if I had seen that other guy on the course and I said I hadn't. Apparently he had made an even worse wrong turn and skipped a half-mile of the course, and so was disqualified. That meant I was third overall, with a time of 33:09. Awesome!
I turned and waited for the other DARTers to finish. Tommy was right behind me, first in his age group. Mark and Chad finished 1-2 in the 45-49 group, and Julie and Johane were 2nd and 3rd overall females! Every DARTer in the race got an award!
|Tommy, just ahead of the women's overall winner|
|Mark is almost too fast for Marc to catch on film|
|Chad and Crew Chief crossing the line|
|Johane schooling a Man in Black imposter|
I won a trophy and a $20 gift certificate to Dick's Sporting Goods -- not bad. Then I was pulled aside with the overall winners for an official photo, which the photographer said would appear in the local newspaper, although she was not sure which one.
Here's a shot of (nearly) all the DARTers with their hardware after the race.
|Apparently Johane, Chad and Julie didn't get the memo about wearing BRR shirts for the photo|
My Garmin measured my average pace at 6:25, but officially it would be 6:40 per mile because of the missed turn. Either way, it's a PR at this distance, and it makes me confident that I may be able to break the 20-minute barrier in a 5K, since all that's needed for that is a 6:26 pace.
Hopefully the next 5K I run will have a better-marked course.
Note to race directors: Ideally you should have signs in addition to people standing at each turn in a race. I don't why the volunteers weren't there in our race, but it affected several runners. Even Wilmington Guy, who finished in 30 minutes flat, said that he was confused at that turn and nearly missed it. There was an arrow painted on the street, but it was very difficult to see.