(Results) This seemed like a perfect race -- $100 for first, $50 for second, and only the first-place male competitive for the past two years (last year the second-place male ran 26 minutes for 4 miles and the top two females about 4 minutes slower). So Melissa, Haynes and I headed out to try to grab some fast times and three of the top four places.
The race was hard to find! It was in an industrial area around Electric Boat, with broad empty streets, manicured lawns and trees, and huge warehouses. Well-maintained, perfectly flat, and completely devoid of human life. We couldn't find the road we were supposed to take, and we encountered another guy also looking for the race, but we managed to find a parking lot separated from the race area by just a fence, so we managed to get there.
Registration was uneventful... until the Brown track team showed up! Two of them had just run their last collegiate race the night before, so it was the first day of their entire lives when they could compete for cash, and here they were to do it! So Haynes knew that his chance of second place was now zero.
... and then Jenna showed up! I have run with Jenna once a week all this year and twice a week last year, and I probably know more about her training than anyone other than her, but still I had no good guess as to how fast she would run. Her 5k PR is about 2 minutes faster than mine, but it was three years ago and she hasn't trained much recently, so who really knew what she could do? Haynes shared his helpful opinion that no matter how out of shape you get, you can still run one minute slower than your PR for 5k. If that was the case, she would surely beat me.
We did our 2-mile warm-up jog with the map. It was a confusing course with multiple loops around the same roads in different directions, but by the end of 16 minutes all three of us knew exactly where to go. When we got to the starting line, it turned out we were the only ones who knew where we were going! Lucky for the others, there were volunteers at the intersections.
The gun went off and a woman in pink sprinted away. Luckily, I had watched Alan's 5k in Central Falls two weeks ago and I had seen this woman do the same thing and then finish in 20:30 or something, so I was not concerned. I passed her after a minute or two, and the four of us (pink lady, Jenna, Melissa) ran together. Jenna offered to lead so that I wouldn't have to break the wind for everyone the whole time, and I acquiesced. We passed the mile in 6:00, and at maybe 1.5 miles I took the lead back and let her draft off me again. (Drafting at 6-minute pace may seem dumb, but there was actually some breeze since these roads were close to the ocean.)
We passed 2 miles in 12:11, for a 6:11 second mile. Now we were on the lollipop portion of the course, out on a straight road, do a little triangle, and then back on the straight road. As we entered the triangle, the lead guys (the two Brown track guys) were finishing the triangle, and they were shouting ahead asking the volunteers which way to go! When we finished the triangle at about 2.5 miles, Jenna was still right on my shoulder. We were running into a headwind, and I had a choice: drop back and let her lead again so I can draft, or try to open up a gap. I chose the latter. Jenna hung on for maybe 30 seconds, and then the sound of her breathing gradually became further away. I went through three miles in 18:22, so another 6:11 mile. However, I would never discount anyone's finishing speed, so I didn't think I was out of the woods at all. I continued to press, only glancing back once when we made a 90-degree turn, and I discovered I had somewhat of a cushion.
Now I was following two guys, Haynes in front and then a somewhat older guy between us. We were running along a loop that we'd done twice in the other direction, and suddenly Haynes took a right! Without thinking, I shouted, "are you sure? Haynes!" and he turned around and came back to the course, just behind me, and immediately passed me and ran ahead. Now there was about half a mile to go. I passed the older guy and ran somewhat behind Haynes. Now the question was, would I try to out-kick him? The answer is no: I tried to out-kick him at the end of a run once, and his top speed was just enough faster than mine so that I knew I didn't have much chance. We both kicked, and he finished one second (!) ahead of me, 24:26 to 24:27. In the race for second place, Jenna got Melissa by two seconds (!). All four of us finished within a span of just 30 seconds. Gosh, what a race! (In the men's race, Eric caught the Brown guys and won by quite a large margin.)
The three of us did our 2-mile cool-down on a shady road (unlike the race course, which was in direct sun due to its being completely manicured) and then added on another half mile with the Brown track people while we waited for the awards. Those guys were really funny! It was the most fun half mile of the day, with the guys joking around and everyone laughing.
At the awards ceremony, they did the raffle first and ALL of us won prizes! Three of us plus all three from the Brown team (two guys and Jenna). The prizes we ended up with were not so good -- gift cards to the YMCA and one of those RoadID discount cards -- but it was free! Much better than nothing!
They announced the winners and had us sign for our cash. They had decided to only give out $75 and $40 instead of $100 and $50! I expressed my surprise to the nice lady giving out the awards, but you can't really complain when they're giving out cash. Later, I wondered what the etiquette is in such a situation: They advertise $100 for the winner, and then when you win, they give only $75. Is that dishonest of them? Probably. Is it within their rights to do it? I guess so. It would be a big deal if the Boston Marathon, for instance, advertised $100k for the winner and then only paid out $75k, but in a tiny local road race you take what you can get, I guess.
We left shortly after and did another 4 miles, stopping by the race area one last time to ask a question about the YMCA certificates. The nice lady said she was so glad to see me, because they had decided to change it and pay out the full amounts! So I signed for my extra $25. Then I realized I would be seeing everyone else who won money later this week, so she allowed me to pick up their cash, too.
Now I was in the extremely unusual position of running with $70 in my key pocket! That's definitely something I've never done before and don't plan to do again! In all, the three of us had fun and everyone agreed it was a good race and a good day.
10/16/17 PHD comic: 'Confusing Malaise'
15 hours ago