Saturday, August 08, 2009

Kingston Firemen's Five Miler

While looking through last year's results on coolrunning for races in NH, I saw this race and thought I might be able to win it. Last year, a 48-year-old woman won in 34 minutes. Then, further searching brought up a newspaper article claiming that (a) there was $100 on the line for setting a new course record, and (b) the record to beat was 32:33. Huh. That was precisely my time for five miles in the Red Rooster Ramble #3 back in May. It seemed like it might be doable, but who knows? The course could be hilly. Nevertheless, I decide to do it and my goal was to win and set the course record.

Wait, back up. Saturday, August 8 was the last day of summer school at PEA, the day all the kids get on buses and leave campus. That meant that Friday night I would be up until midnight chaperoning a dance. As it turned out, I didn't get to sleep until past 12:30 and I ate pizza and drank soda at 11 pm. The race was at 8 am, so that meant less than six hours of sleep.

However, 8 am is a perfect time for a race. The morning was clear and cool. We drove to Kingston and found the registration inside the fire house. It was only $15 -- a steal! -- and they still had size-small T-shirts when I registered. Alan was still waffling on whether to register for the race and try to run fast, or not register and just pace me. He could run the five miler or the 5k, but in each race there were guys whom Alan thought would beat him, so he would only be going for second place (and $35, for a net of $20) in either case. We walked back to the car and Alan thought about it some more. Happily, he eventually decided to run with me.

We took a warm-up run of the first mile of the course, out to the 1-mile mark and back. It took 7:57 from the mile mark back to the start, a pretty reasonable pace. I changed into my flats and did some strides while Alan chatted with the men's contenders. I was unnerved to see several other women also doing strides -- oh no, someone else legit might be here! (In my experience so far this year, when I go to a road race and I am the only one doing strides on the starting line, then I win. When there are others also doing strides... who knows.)

The start was crazy because the 5-miler started about 100 meters in front of the 5k start, so we had to line up on the starting line of the 5-mile course with no starting official, just waiting to hear, in this case, a fire engine toot its horn loudly. And we were off!

Alan quickly moved into position just ahead of my left shoulder, and I stayed just behind him. I could hear a female breathing behind me, which I didn't like, but I wasn't about to push it in the first mile. After a few minutes, I got a glimpse of this other person, and was surprised to see an older man! It certainly sounded like a woman breathing. Weird. He stayed with me for almost two miles, and the entire time I was running a little scared, thinking that it was a female even when I had seen that he was male.

We hit the mile mark in 5:38. I didn't believe the man reading out times, so I looked at my watch. "Jesus, Alan, what the hell!" I shouted instinctively, even though I knew it didn't feel anything like 5:38 pace. (Another runner with a GPS later told us that it was at 0.91 miles, so 6:11 pace). Our 7:57 mile had made me believe that it was accurate. No matter, we kept running. A young kid in white shorts and no shirt passed us around the mile. Alan said not to worry, we'd pass him before two miles. We didn't, but we hit two miles in 12:18. The older dude dropped off and the bare-backed guy remained ahead. We got to three miles in 18:30.

There were a couple of small hills, which I did my best to crest with power. In high school my coach taught us to maintain our position on the uphill and then accelerate on the downhill. Post-collegiately, I have taken this to mean decelerate on the uphill and accelerate down the other side. I tried my best to avoid this. I managed to pass the bare-backed guy on a downhill. We got to four miles in 25:01, staring at a large hill. No-shirt dude passed me and went up this hill. I had no pep left to go up it quickly. "You could do this last mile in 7:30 and still get the course record," Alan reminded me. It was a pleasant thought (and one that had already occurred to me before he even mentioned it). The last mile was flat, as advertised; bare-backed guy stayed about five seconds ahead of me the whole time, and I started catching 5k stragglers. Otherwise, it was without incident. I crossed the finish line in 31:24 and refrained from excessive celebration.

Awards ceremony: After a cool-down and chatting with the 40+, female-breathing dude for what seemed like a very long time, they had the awards. Of course they announced the men first. The men's course record had been 26:04. "Our winner, in a new course record of 25:47!" Everyone cheered and applauded. "Kevin gets $100 for the record, plus $50 for first place!" I thought that maybe, since I had broken the course record as well, they would announce me next. Nah, second and third men. Okay, now my turn. "For the women, in first place Diana Davis in 31:24." I shook their hands and accepted my envelope.

Maybe I paused a little too long, or had a slightly quizzical expression. The man paused for a second. "Oh, that's also a course record!" The woman smiled and, seeming a little miffed, knelt down to retrieve the bonus envelope from the box of prizes. I smiled, shook their hands again, and returned to my place. "And she broke the course record by a minute," he followed as an afterthought. "Wow," said some people. Yah, for the record, Kevin broke the record by 17 seconds and I by 1:11...

This race double dipped (awarded age-group prizes to overall winners) so I also received a $25 gas card. And it had a raffle, in which I won a Bluetooth headset for use with a cell phone. So I got $175 and a headset and paid $15 for race entry.

It was Alan's birthday and he talks on the phone in the car, so I gave him the headset. He deserved it. I also gave him the gas card to fill up our rental truck with gas because, that's right, later that day we also moved to Providence. It was a busy day.

Full race results here.