I saw Ed's report and I agree there are things they need to do better, things that should be basic for any road race. That said, I could see myself going back. It was a great race for crowd support and, with Lisa and Shayla there, it was a great race for spectators. The prizes were also nice. I'm thinking of emailing some comments, not intended to be taken harshly but as friendly suggestions as to how the race can be improved, because I believe this is a race with potential.
As for my story of the race, it started two weeks before race day. In April, I was committed to doing the Deer Run. That's a race I truly enjoy and one I look forward to when I have it on my schedule. Unfortunately, I believe due in part to routes I've been forced to run on thanks to construction, I was experiencing some tightness in my hips, especially my left hip, in April. It flared up on Deer Run week after a Tuesday speed workout. Wednesday was horrible, Thursday and Friday were only slightly better. Saturday, instead of racing the Deer Run, I ended up taking my first day off in three months. That Sunday, I bought a foam roller and began using it to try to get over the hip tightness problems.
With the foam roller, the hip problems were almost immediately resolved but I had a lot of muscle pain all over my legs as the foam roller seemed to find knots in my muscles everywhere. However, in a week's time, I was feeling so much better that I began looking for races. Knowing that my schedule would only fit a May race on the 12th, I only had a week to find and prepare for a race. Eventually, with Ed's help, I found my way over to Bayside for the Cupcake Run.
Seeing as the race course was a double loop with trip near the start/finish line roughly halfway through the loop, I thought this might be a good race for Lisa and Shayla to come with so Shayla could see Dad run. They would see me at the start and finish and 3 times out on the course. I wouldn't be out on the course for more than about 5 minutes without going past them. Plus, it was a 5K so about 17 minutes, give or take, and I'd be done.
We arrived in time to get front row parking and I went in to register, while Lisa and Shayla started browsing some booths they had up there. I ran into Ed before I got registered and he helped me find the registration area (it turns out I entered a back door and registration was right inside the front door - go figure). Registration seemed a little strange but, on the good side, I saved $5 by not getting a t-shirt. They didn't even record my name or age on the pull tag of my bib number so I eventually just wrote it on myself. Good thing I did.
After a little while chatting with Ed and keeping Shayla entertained, it was warmup time. Ed and I ran the 1.5 mile loop that was the race course, then took care of pre-race business. I chatted with Ted Shue a bit, the only runner other than Ed I recognized well enough to approach and talk with. It looked like Ted was my main competition at this race. That means it's going to be an honest race but one that, if I'm on my game and I run a good race, I can win. How is my hip, though? It was a little tight in the days leading up to the race and was a little tight on my warmup but not too bad. As I mentioned to Ed on the warmup, it felt best in the past few days when running fast. I jokingly said that means, if it starts hurting during the race, I just need to run faster. I did a few strides pre-race and, sure enough, they sent any soreness I had away.
At the start of the race, I got out hard like I prefer to for a 5K. I was out with about 3 kids. Early on, one moved over in front of me and nearly tripped me. The typical kid thing, just not experienced enough in racing to know better. No harm, no foul. We did a funky little loop through the parking lot, then set out on the roads. Shortly after hitting the roads, I took the lead and got to enjoy a police truck escort, at least for the first half of the first loop. Unfortunately, the escort seemed a bit less sure of the course than I was but it remained far enough ahead of me to get going the right way well before I arrived at any turns. I'd say roughly 4-5 minutes into the race, I ran by the starting area and Lisa and Shayla were out there cheering. I tried to get a high 5 from Shayla but she played shy.
In the second half of the loop, I glanced back a couple of times on sharp turns to see Ted well back already. Either I'm going out too hard or I have this one well under control. Through the start/finish area to complete the first half of the race, I discovered what may have been the highlight of the race. There was a surprising number of spectators there and going through this stretch was like going through a tunnel of cheering, with spectators right on top of you. This was a pretty cool experience and something you don't get a lot of at relatively small road races like this one. At the finish line, just past the halfway mark, I heard a split of 8:21 called. Wow, am I actually running 16:42 pace or faster? I know I'm moving well but am I really moving that well?
Into the second loop, I heard someone say make sure I get my trophy. Hey, hold on here. I'm only halfway through this thing. I'd like to believe I'm in solid position to win this thing but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Through that funky loop in the parking lot, I got an opportunity to see where Ted was and see that my lead was solid. Out into the streets again and it took me almost no time to begin encountering walkers. As usual, it wasn't so bad at first. Just a few scattered walkers who I could maneuver around pretty quickly. Back through the starting area and the walkers/joggers are getting more densely populated. I was pushing pretty hard through here but, at the same time, the more dense the walkers/joggers got, the more I took just a little edge off my effort, partly to pick a path through them and partly just because I didn't need to run that hard. I even fulfilled a request for a high 5 about a half mile before the finish, shortly after seeing my lead over Ted was solid enough that even his brutal kick couldn't make a race out of it if I just kept up a solid effort.
Coming into the finish, the school's mascot wolf decided to race me in from about 20 yards out with about a 10 yard head start. I managed to pass him right near the end, though, without needing to hammer to get past him. Finish time: 16:43. Unfortunately, the course was short enough that this was probably 20-25 seconds faster, by the time I factor in added distance due to weaving in and out of walkers/joggers, than a legit 5K. So I was probably just a bit short of a sub-17 true 5K. Not bad, though, for a guy with a hip that was bad enough two weeks ago to not just keep me from racing but even keep me from running at all for a day.
Final result: 1st place in 16:43 (rough equivalent of 17:03-17:08 true 5K).
Given the fact that I didn't hammer the second half quite as hard as I could have, I know that sub-17 is there for the taking. Given the place I was in just two weeks ago, I'm very happy with this result. I still want more but this is a very good place to be right now, after how my April went. Definitely a solid result to build from. I also got a mug with some nice handcrafted artwork and a gift certificate for a massage for my efforts.
I do think they need to make a few changes with the course. First, they need to add about 150 yards to ensure it's a legitimate 5K. Second, they need to come up with some form of traffic control. My first thought was assign one side of the road to people on their first lap and the other side to people on their second lap. They had cones all over the place and I believe the course was closed to cars. Put those cones right down the middle of the road and have signs every block or two reminding people to stay to one side on their first lap and the other on their second lap. Another, if they are going to keep that ridiculous parking lot loop which I would actually suggest getting rid of, would be to turn everyone around at the halfway point and have everyone run the second half the opposite direction of the first. Having runners come head on at walkers, I would suspect, would give walkers a little more warning and incentive to give room to pass.
Still, I think this race has potential. I loved the crowd and the close confines creating a cheering tunnel that you essentially ran through three times at the start, halfway point and finish. Also, at roughly the midway point of each lap, you got other spectators cheering. That's more cheering than you can usually count on from a mid-size race, much less a small race like this. Work out those course issues and I think this could be a heck of a race.