I am spending a few days in the bay area with my wife and daughter. I figured, as long as I am here I ought to get in a race. I looked around and came across a New Years Day 5K and 10K, just south of San Francisco in San Mateo. My hotel is in South San Francisco, so the race is just a few miles from the hotel.
My wife and I drove over there this morning nice and early. The race time was not to be until 10:30 so we had lots of time. The weather conditions were ideal for some fast running – 40 something degrees and very little wind. I checked in and hung out in the car to stay warm until it was time to run and warm up. During the warm up I noticed a park map that showed the parks roads and trails. I recognized it as being the same as an online map of the race course. One little thing stood out – an out and back section was marked as a dirt trail. I don’t mind running in the dirt, but even if it is flat, you simply cannot run as fast on the dirt as you can on the pavement…
The starting line was very organized. They had volunteers holding cards with race paces starting at 6 minutes and working its way up to 12. One thing immediately stood out. The girl with the 6 minute card was all alone by the starting line. There was one or two guys standing between her and the 7 minute card. All 100 or so other runners were neatly lined up well in back of the line. I finished my warm up and as they got ready I took my place right in front on the start line.
As the race began, a high school age boy took off to the front, followed by a 30ish man. And then there was me! I am not used to being this far up in a race. I guess all those other runners had lined themselves up correctly. The first mile went by in 6:28. This was a little fast, but I was feeling pretty good. The second mile I dialed it in to my target pace at 6:43. Actually, this was a bit too slow, but it included that dirt section. This section turned out to be a jetty out into the bay and a uturn back again. It was dirt and it was a bit breezy out there. By the time we reached the end of the Jetty, the youth, the 30ish guy, and I were all running side by side fighting for the lead.
Coming back in from the Jetty the young guy dropped off the pace. The course had a few twists and turns along the way. There were a lot of volunteers and there was a lot of chalk arrows drawn on the ground. Unfortunately, there were also old arrows from time to time left from previous events. The other guy spotted one and led me off course for a few seconds. We ran together across a parking lot and we were both hesitating not seeing any more arrows. I told him I did not think so and ran back, finding that we should not have left the waterside pathway.
Right after this we experienced a hill. What? They said FLAT and FAST! The hill was not crazy big but it was more than a quarter of uphill and a shorter very steep descent. Somehow I got in front of the other guy. We flattened out and ran past the turn signifying the end of the first loop! Cheryl was there and I could hear her call my name in a tone of shock, surprise and delight! 3 plus miles into a 10K and I am leading!
The detour and the hill got me behind my PR pace. Mile 3 was 6:56. I figured with the dirt section, the hill and probably some questionable overall course measuring, a PR was out of the question. But I was in a battle for an actual win! Mile four was 3:33 as we continued to battle. On the early part of mile 5 though, the 30ish guy started to surge ahead. Checking my half mile split, I had not slowed, he had just found a little more speed and got away. Mile 5, with the dirt section and an increasing headwind came in at 6:56. The second hill slowed me down a little more. I had noticed for awhile that there was a long haired asian runner gaining on me. She caught me at the base of the hill. The Garmin beeped that it was done measuring 10K LONG before I was done running. Of course some of the extra was from our little detour. Still, I think the course was a bit long. The Garmin stopped at 42:31, but my official time was 43:14
So, no new PR to start the year, but I did get a medal for 1st in my age division. I also have started the new year with 10 points – 2nd place male runner overall!