Holy crap, I won a race!
Not first in age group, not first by default, not third. FIRST! Sweet huh? It may not have been the most impressive win ever by the numbers, but by golly I’ll take it. It was a race and there was competition… despite what the results may or may not show to you.
I went into the thing hoping to best my last year’s time of 30:10 and just finish under 30 minutes, having run 32 something in 2009. I knew this wouldn’t be extremely easy because the course is fairly tough. Oh there’s nothing that looks too daunting about it after pedestrian inspection — but when you’re trying to maintain a quick pace over the whole thing it can really do a number on you.
So anyway… show up race morning and immediately run into Tad… hah! I knew he couldn’t resist! Are he and I now the only two to run the thing all 3 years? Well probably someone else has… not sure I’ll try to track down the missing 2009 results and see!
Well it’s at least 45 minutes to race time so Tad and I forwent the shuttle and took a leisurely stroll to the race starting area. Tad had already been there once and made mention already that I might win the race — but its a familiar jest — you always wanna joke about who’s going to show up (and more importantly who will not) and thereby allow a win by default! Well down at the staging area there are indeed not many people… a couple milling about here, another couple over the- nevermind those are volunteers… yea not many people here today. I made the again familiar joke though that we could expect a shuttle load to show up at any moment packed with
Kenyans High Schoolers with racing flats and trail junkies who eat Haven’s for breakfast.
After a lot of standing around race time drew near… and sure enough here came one last entrant: a guy hops out of the bed of a truck and someone remarks – oh glad you could make it for your 2nd 5k today! Well I was pretty sure I knew where he had run… I had even briefly entertained doing it myself… there was a 5k on Ft. Leavenworth the same morning… their annual Turkey Trot. Same race where I actually got my 5k PR in 2007. I haven’t really run it since because of the Haven’s which is always scheduled on the same day. Given the choice I will choose Haven’s every single time as I’m really starting to love trail running.
Ok… so this guy is on his 2nd 5k of the day… fine. That could work to my advantage as he could be tired from the first 5k… or… that could have just been his warm-up race. He looked minimally like a mild competitor. Looking around otherwise… well it looked well in hand but you never know. Having been at many many 5ks now you just never know who’s going to take you for a ride!
Well the horn was blown and all 22 of us (yes, only 22 runners… you were bound to find out at some point!) started up the hill. This is quite a hill and makes for one hell of a race start as every one typically at local 5ks takes off quite quickly. Needless to say at the top I was winded! Yes winded! Here, with a chance to win the darn thing and I am out of breath and feel like quitting a scant 1:19 into the run!
Well I’m in the lead and running fairly comfortably, if winded… a little unsure if I can hold the pace. Never having lead any race before… it’s a little different being out front… *you’re* dictating the pace *you* could take a wrong turn… oh wait I can do that (take a wrong turn) any time! Well it wasn’t long before I heard an exchange behind me about pacing, what-not, and then – Tad: “that guy there’s going to win the race” – uh oh Tad. That sounds dangerous at this point! Really dangerous! It’s like probably 2:20 into the race now and I’m feeling like it’s seriously time to quit — or at least bow out and hand “the contender” the reins and have a nice leisurely jog in – hoping to get under 30 anyway.
Well somehow I’m maintaining… and the course begins to diversify into rocky accents and descents, some quite steep. These are wonderful! Not only am I going to momentarily forget to think about how much I need to quit while I’m concentrating on going up and down these things… I’m thinking I can probably gain some ground besides… I specialize in these things! Surefoot Bob, that’s me! I might stumble all night and day over strewn toys, dogs and kids but by golly I will RACE you down Stone Mountain! We even get to one that is quite steep with a rope for suppo- no. No time for that… I just raced down the thing a millimeter from total disaster. It’s ok… I think I met the deductible already this year.
Now in the open field section. Still hurting, but still hanging on. Still resisting the urge to look back, but I’ve been hearing someone back there for most of the race I think…. Well the open field ends by taking a sharp right up a steep hill… it is here I think I’ll be able to get a glance of anyone behind me as I’m taking the turn… due to angle, fatigue, dementia… something can’t quite see where the contender is… well I start up the hill and its a killer. A killer. Ok so I walk for a minute here. After walking for a few moments I can hear the volunteer behind me cheering on the next contestant. Saying “he’s slowing, now’s your chance” or something to that effect. My one hope would be that he’d be stopping to walk too. I treated this as wishful thinking though … it would be a tortoise beats the hare moment as I outgunned him to now — he’ll just trot on by at a nice steady pace and I’ll be resounded to second. I walked as long as I dared… when I could feel his breathing down my neck and took off at a slow trot still up the massive hill.
This is also where a wrong turn (or lack thereof really) was taken in 2009, but I wasn’t concerned knowing to be paying attention here. Both my shoelaces have been undone since the open field but I dare not tend to them as that would lose precious time. Finally the hill was crested and its back into the woods, via one of those uphill rocky formations… my specialty remember? I think this is where I really closed it out. Once I beat him on that big hill that was it… I won. I didn’t know this at the time though… I was still running scared. I ran as fast as I could muster sprinting through the woods down the same hill we’d just run up on a street…. and…
…back into the open field. Back to just what I feared – one more uphill so that we could come down on the finish line hill. This hill was just about too much too. I stopped to walk again and I think chanced a look behind me. No one in sight at all… but I was still fearful they’d be making a push. Only about a quarter mile to go. Somehow I trotted it up again after the hill and turned on the jets to the finish line… wasting all my gas knowing I wouldn’t be needing any more reserves. The GPS had me on a 21:00 minute pace part of the hill coming up, and 4:36 pace running down it. How I never stepped on a shoelace I don’t know but I burst across the otherwise calm finish line at full speed never believing for a second I was going to eek out the win until it was done. The three volunteers there were a little surprised to see me I think… I really romped it down that hill running from an imagined contender that was no where in sight. I finished in 26:12 and the second place man came in more than a minute later in 27:25.
So this is how the winner sees it: everyone(!) coming across the finish line! Nice. I even grabbed my camera and snapped some pics. I talked with the second place guy and just about everyone else who came in about the race and Oklahoma St. losing to Iowa St. and whatever else. The 2nd place guy and his friend were from Oklahoma… pretty cool.
Luck was with me in more than one way today and I had no where to be for the next several hours so I waited it out happily in the best of spirits for the awards etc. I was pleasantly surprised to win some actual prizes and not just the presentation medals (with engraved medals coming) — a 1 year subscription to trail runner and a $15 road ID gift card. I was shocked by both… I hadn’t expected anything and this was just icing on the cake… nice!
Stood around for a while longer watching everyone else get their medals and what not… had a group photo and the day was done.
I just have to mention too, one last time how cool it was being number one. I heard a few people pointing in my direction and saying “that guy won” and “he’s pretty fast” etc. That was fun! I mean usually I’m the one looking at the winner and today I got to live the dream. Haha… once in a lifetime
Now really, it’s criminal for a race run, organized, and put on this well to have so few participants – so – now that I *ahem* have my win – I will promote the hell out of this sucker next year. I think it really got a bad rap for that 2009 ordeal with a bunch of people missing the turn… which is pretty unfair. I certainly do not want to see this thing cancelled either! So … I will have 100+ people here next year how’s that for a new goal? There were 70+ in year one, I believe 40+ in year two, and 22 in year three. So how about for 2012 we make it 112? Yes Haven’s is a cool park and even cooler run — so that many people should see it! I’ll get em out there by golly I will… I will attest and swear that you will NOT get lost now, you WILL have a
good terrific time, and you may even place as the awards are many and well distributed. I’ll really pump it up next fall =D Here’s to Haven’s!
Well after the race was all said and done and everything over I headed back up the hill again… a leisurely stroll this time enjoying the warm November morning and the silent park around me. I was off in search of a couple of geocaches. As I was walking down a peaceful bit of trail in total seclusion I reflected on races past and ones that were almost won, or anything that fell short for one reason or another. They were all absolved now. Every dog gets his day and today was mine.