|5 to Thrive 5K: Not my best race.|
It's the end of the Atlanta Children's Shelter 5 to Thrive 5K, a race I've run in the last three years and had hopes for getting a new qualifying time for the Peachtree Road Race.
Already there were quirks, which should have been warning signs. First the race was going to be held in the afternoon, at 2:15 p.m. at the hottest time of the day. The last two years the race had been in the morning, the traditional time of races in the park. The weather is usually cooler and there are less people mulling about in the park.
The last time I ran in a non-morning race in Piedmont Park, I ended up off course before correcting and getting my first Master's win.
The next warning sign was they decided to have the same goofy age-group categories as last year, putting me in direct competition with guys in their 30s (typically age groups are five year spans, such as age 45-49). It looked like they were only awarding first place age group winners instead of three deep as last year when I placed third in the race for the hybrid age group but on Athlinks was first in my traditional age group category.
But whatever, I thought. The race is USATF-certified, meaning I can use it as a qualifying time if I run fast enough.
When I got down to the race, it was apparent the race was not going to be the same one as the one that is accurately measured and listed in the USATF archives.
Even then, I wasn't really nonplussed about this, just thinking I would use it as a tempo run and would just try to enjoy my first 5K since the Vinings Downhill 5K last August. I knew I would struggle a little bit but that these kinds of races have been extremely beneficial when run the week before a longer race.
When the race started, I intentionally told myself to hold back ... way back. I mainly accomplished this goal, even though I fell behind quite a few people. My first mile was 6:59 as we made our way down and around the splash pad in the northern part of the park.
I knew I was slowing after this, putting up a 7:22 mile as we rounded the bowl in the southeastern part of the park. Still I felt pretty good, as I passed a few guys that had been ahead of me or passed me earlier and was running behind a teenage girl as the course made its way back up the hill behind the tennis courts.
As the hill reached the top of the Active Oval, two guys who had been in the lead came up and ran by us. I wasn't sure where they came from but I think they had somehow been told to run down in between the Active Oval and the pavilion where the finish is and then been told to rejoin the course.
I passed the girl and was running behind the two leaders with the final turn toward the finish on the path that goes by Lake Clara Meer just before us when the leaders turned into the Active Oval. There were children's shelter signs with arrows pointing this way and as I turned I didn't see any signs on the path where the final turn was.
I followed the guys and then it dawned on me as I ran on the gravel of the oval we were way off course. I followed the leader up around the Active Oval, and out down toward the finish in between the tennis courts and the oval. My watch showed 3.1 miles on this path at about 22:44 for me. I ran Mile 3 in 7:34.
By this time I knew everything was screwed up. I could see runners crossing the finish from the proper way. I made my way around to the finish and maybe was 7th with a time of 23:44.
I'm not sure whether we three runners were officially disqualified as I left immediately after the race feeling it was pointless to stick around when I likely did not even win the age group. I took it in stride as this really was just a community fun run for a good cause instead of the Olympics. It happens, right? But not too often, since this is the first time in 30 years of running that I have ended up off course in a way that was not correctable.
It's too bad it happened, though and I'm really unlikely to run in this race in the future, especially since the design of the park always gets in my head somehow and I run 5Ks here in the 22:30 range, maybe about a minute slower than what I'm probably capable of.
Still, I could tell I was way out of 5K shape, I tried to take things too easily and not aggressive enough. While my Vaporfly shoes probably gave me a cruising cushion to run with, I felt like they were too soft and not responsive when I really thought I should be running harder.
Time: 2:15 p.m.
Temp: 64 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Big Peach Sizzler 10K), shorts, Nike Vaporfly 4 percent.