Race Report: Chilly but fun

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I woke up nice and early today (around 5:30am) so that I could participate in the Pea Ridge Runner 5k Race. It was a brisk 32F when I woke up, so that didn't help motivate me too much. The bed was much warmer and far more comfortable than my running shoes...

After hemming and hawing about the absurd nature of this early morning racing, I put on several layers of clothing and made my way to the car. I arrived at the park at just about 7:00am, which gave me 30 minutes to register, stretch, and find a place on the starting line.

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As you can see, it was still quite chilly at just 13 minutes before the race. Thankfully it was sunny, but it was also quite windy - take a look at the flag in this picture... according to my WeatherBug program, it was 21F with the windchill. Nice.

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As soon as I saw a group forming near the starting line, I hopped out of the car and made my way over to them. There were approximately 300 - 325 racers at the park, most of them appeared to be fairly serious runners - spandex was everywhere.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the race, as the park didn't set-up the course until Friday (yesterday), and no one at the park knew anything about the course when I had inquired last weekend. I assumed it would be some type of simple loop - 1.5 miles out and 1.5 back.

Well, the race wasn't organized too well... the marshals didn't have any type of bullhorn or PA system for communicating with us about the course, so instead they walked around the starting group shouting instructions about the race. Unfortunately, most people were talking, so the marshals had to repeat the instructions at least 10 times. This delayed the start (and kept us in the cold) for a good 15-20 minutes. A loud cannon blast started the race, and next thing I knew, I was off and running.

I had started in the last third of the group. I wasn't sure how fast everyone would run, and I didn't want to be in anyone's way. This was my second biggest mistake... my first mistake being not wearing gloves - my hands froze during the entire race.

I found myself quickly passing people like they were standing still. A check of my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch showed that I was pacing at an 8-minute mile, which is my comfortable running speed. Yet everyone else seemed to be crawling. So, I darted and weaved, and at the first turn I was in the top-third of the group.

The course was designed quite inefficiently... we ran from the main parking lot (pictured above), and headed west for 1.10 miles. Then we turned around and headed west, back toward the parking lot. This meant that there was a lot of traffic to negotiate - as I was making my way back toward the lot, I was having to dodge people who were running both with me and toward me... annoying to say the least.

At the 2.15 mile mark, we headed west/northwest toward one of the more popular landmarks at the military park - unfortunately, it's located quite a ways from the main parking lot... I wasn't quite sure how they'd get us all back to the main lot when the race was over, but I kept chugging away. The packs had thinned quite a bit, and I was now running mostly by myself. I had one guy who was tailing me, but other than that, it was mostly a solo affair.

We made our way past the finish line (yep, you read that correctly), and then turned around in the parking lot of the Elkhorn Tavern (that's the popular landmark), and ran another 500-600 yards back to the finish line. I finished the race (3.54 miles) in 27 minutes and 6 seconds. They haven't posted the results as of yet, but I'm guessing I finished in about 45-60th place overall.

After the race was over, it was still quite chilly, and we were now stuck about a mile from the main parking lot. Everyone was sort of standing around; people were still trying to finish the race, and there were supposed to be shuttle busses to take us back to the main lot, but they wouldn't allow the shuttles onto the course until everyone was done racing.

So, to appease everyone, the race marshals had ice water and ice cold Lipton Tea for us to "enjoy" while we waited for the buses. There was supposed to be breakfast food, but the catering truck was stuck in the main parking lot as well, waiting for the racers to finish. I had heard rumors of a bonfire somewhere, but never could find it.

So, I walked back to my car and left. There was supposed to have been an iPod Touch that was to be raffled off, and you had to be present to win it, but I wasn't going to stand around in 32F weather, drinking ice water, and hoping to win a $500 iPod.

All in all, the race was fun - the course was a bit dopey, but it was a good race. Logistically, it was a nightmare, but this was only their second year for the event, so some flaws are to be expected. I guess I'm now officially done with races for 2008... I'll have to wait until next year to do some triathlons and some more 5Ks.

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