15 May 2011

Legend of Arlage 5K Race Recap, in which you begin to understand my blog's name

Precursor: I came home from this race all crabby and wrote a salty race review post. Then a few hours went by and I felt less crabby, and then late last night I got a wonderful email from the race organizer. So I am retooling my original post! I imagine that one will still pop in your Google Reader if you follow me there; if so, enjoy my rage! :) Also this post is REALLY long, consider yourself warned.

You know how I have, all along, been calling the Legend of Arlage spring run the fake 5K? I was perhaps more correct than I realized.

This race was tiny, which I pretty much figured it would be since I was always and forever the only participant registered on dailymile. When I picked up my race packet I asked how many people were running and the woman there told me 50, so I knew it would be small. This was the first year the Legend of Arlage race was being held, so in addition to being small it was super low-tech. There was no starting gun and no timing chips or bibs, just a guy with a stopwatch who would record our times after we ripped off the bottom part of our bibs and handed it to him. I don't actually mind the low-tech race, it fits with my lack of a Garmin and my love of cotton T-shirts (yes, I wore one in the race!), and since the field was small there wasn't really any variation between any of our starting times anyway.

The course was in Warner Park in Madison, which is a nice, big park with some ponds and a lot of trails. I ran some cross-country races there in high school, it's a great place to run.

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Being as this was a low-tech 5K, there was no race website and they hadn't provided us with any course maps, so all the runners were completely dependent on the course markings and the race organizers/volunteers to find our way during the race. The starting line and finishing line were the same, in one of the park's parking lots.

Before the race started, one of the race organizers gave us a brief and very vague overview of the course. There was both a 10K and a 5K, and the course split came just after the one-mile mark. To get there, he said, we were supposed to circle the parking lot, then cut back in and cross a bridge, which would take us to the one-mile mark. There would be cones to tell us where to go and also people on the course to answer any questions, he said. Then they lined us up, counted backwards from three and we were off.

It was a good day to run, weather-wise; it was cool and cloudy with just a little bit of wind. My strategy for this race was just to go out smart, try to hold myself back the first mile, to have negative splits if at all possible and to finish anywhere under 27 minutes. From the very beginning, I felt great. I was running smart, everything was clicking, and as we finished the parking lot loop and headed to the bridge, I was the second girl and was solidly in sixth place overall.

We circled the parking lots and then cut back in to cross the bridge. It should be noted that when we did this, we were within shouting distance from the race organizers. They could clearly see where we were and where we were going. As I said before the course was NOT clearly marked; there were some cones on the ground but they didn't really give any indication about where we were supposed to go, so I just followed the group of five in front of me (they were the people leading the race, I figured they knew what they were doing - duh).

We crossed the bridge, went on a running path that led to a residential street, and turned the corner to head back toward the park. We cut across a baseball field and then, ahead of me, the guy in first place abruptly stopped, turned to the people behind him, and pointed to something back toward the park. And then I started to realize that I'd been running for more than 10 minutes and still hadn't seen the first mile marker, and there was just NO WAY I was running at a 10-minute mile pace. I looked behind me, where I could see back for about a half-mile, and didn't see anyone there. And as we ran back into the park, it dawned on me that we had crossed the wrong bridge and gone the wrong way, effectively adding an extra mile on to our race course.

I was instantly annoyed about this because there were a handful of race officials who could clearly see us BOTH when we initially turned the wrong way AND when we came back into the park and went over the correct bridge. They said nothing to us either time; when I crossed back into the park I raised my arms and gave one of them a "help me" gesture and he just pointed to the right, toward the bridge I should have crossed in the beginning. Additionally, there were people milling around in the pavilion standing in the middle of both bridges - it would have been VERY easy for the organizers to shout to them to redirect us. So I feel pretty strongly that the race officials should have at least tried.

When we finally hit the two SORRY, THE ONE-mile mark my watch read 17:11. At this point I was really, really frustrated and I sort of considered my options. Dropping out was obviously one of them, but I am not a quitter and I felt like doing that would have been kind of stupid, even given the circumstances (and really, what would I have done, anyway? Walked the mile back to the starting line to gripe at the race people, then watched everyone else finish the race? Definitely would have been dumb). So basically my only option was to suck it up and keep going and hope that they'd make some sort of concession for the group of us who had run extra, but it was a bit of a mental struggle to keep going at that point because SERIOUSLY. There was no way to know at that point how much extra I had run, how fast I was going, etc. Basically, I just kept going because what else do you do? At least it could be a good training run.

The 5K/10K split came just after the first mile marker. Everyone in front of me that had also gone the wrong way split to do the 10K. I turned left to do the 5K, which officially made me the last-place 5K runner. That made me extra-pissed and gave me a bit of an adrenaline and speed boost because I was basically like, HELL NO, I AM NOT COMING IN LAST. My mom showed up on the course right around this time which was perfect, I got to vent a little to her and then she drove ahead and got out of the car so she could cheer me on in person. It was super great to see a friendly face there, even in such a tiny race, thanks for coming Mom! :)

I spent the rest of the run passing as many people as I could, had a pretty solid kick at the end and finished with a final time of 35:07. A woman I passed right near the end came up to me after and said, "Are you the first 10K runner?" (Ha! I wish, that would have been an amazing 10K time! Thanks for making my day, lady!)

"No,"I replied. "Just the first four-miler." (SADFACE, CUE THE VIOLINS.)

Right after I finished and handed my tab to the race organizer, I asked him if he had any idea how far I'd actually gone.

"Oh, you're one of the ones who did the extra? Nope, no idea," he said.

I stood there for a minute just waiting to see if he'd apologize or say anything else, which he didn't. Then I went and took some of the post-race goodies (bagels, cream cheese, bananas, muffins and homemade cookies), stretched and called Allison to vent because I knew she'd understand. I also talked to some of the other runners, and some 10K entrants who HADN'T gone the wrong way told me that even the marked course wasn't correct and that they ended up doing less than 6.2 miles (about a half mile less, was the guess).

There is, of course, no way to know for sure, but because I felt so good and all of the people ahead of me were running the 10K, I think there's a pretty good chance I would have won the 5K if this hadn't happened. I would have at least placed pretty well. That would have been, needless to say, really fun, since I am not fast enough anymore to really win "real" races. More importantly, I would have liked to see what my actual 5K time was. I'm sure I would have made my under-27 goal, but again, there's no way to know, since I have no idea what my first mile pace was.

I mapped the route out when I got home and it looks like I did 4.26 miles, give or take (it's a little hard to map things on trails in a park, particularly the part where we circled the parking lot). That's about an 8:14 pace which I'm pleased with. :)

Overall I was really disappointed. I understand this was their first year holding this race, but properly marking the course, or having enough people there to point you in the right direction, just isn't that difficult and frankly should be one of the top priorities, if not the first priority. But I was MOST upset because I felt like the people in charge of the race didn't care about what had happened, as they never came over to address the runners or say anything to us. But then late last night I got this wonderful, completely personal email from one of them:

Hello Kate~

Thank you so very much for running this morning in the 5K.... It sounds like the course was an issue and not marked at well as it should have been for runners?

I hope you didn't have too many issues with the course? We have you logged for time @35:08....NICE JOB!!!

I really apologize for the route not being fully marked. We were so concerned about making the route(s) with the exact mileage the last week with construction in the parking lot we focused more on changing that portion of the route. (The construction had the course change daily) We should have focused on the 10K route along the lake and having it marked properly....I am so sorry if it was confusing.

We will make sure next year we have a pacer and more volunteers on both courses and appropriate markings. We appreciate you hanging in there with us this year and hope it was not too much of a hassle?

Again, thank you very much for your donation to the National Alliance To End Homelessness. It is a great organization and you ran for an excellent cause! We greatly appreciate your participation and hope you will make it next year for the 2nd annual.

And just like that any lingering annoyance or RAGE went away. I am a super-forgiving person, I mostly just need to know that people care or have acknowledged situations that have upset me. I wrote her back just letting her know more in-depth what had happened, since she didn't seem to know the details, and that I was still happy to have made my donation to charity. I mentioned that I was disappointed for several reasons, including the fact that I was using the race as part of my marathon training and would have really liked to know my 5K time. I also told her I would be happy to run the race again as long as things were more organized, which is true - I like the small field and the course was great. And I made some really simple suggestions, including using signs with arrows instead of cones (and also made sure to point out that I know NOTHING about planning a race, at all, so if my suggestions seemed condescending, they weren't intended that way at all). She responded to that one with this:

NOT at all condescending! I really appreciate the feed back from you. As a seasoned runner I would have been really disappointed had i gone that far out of my way.

I am so sorry about messing up your training for the marathon.....Running that far out of your way your time is AWESOME! You should be happy with that time of 35:08 on 4.3 miles!! :)

Good luck on your marathon! My husband and I are doing one in Sonoma Valley this summer......we like to travel a few times a year to run a couple of marathons every year. It gives us a nice short vacation and an excuse to get away for a few days!

Thanks again for supporting our race! Let me know what marathon Kate so i can watch for your time and name!

Take Care~

So basically I have 99 percent forgiven them. The lingering 1 percent is only because COME ON I MIGHT HAVE WON. In short, I would encourage people in the Madison area to give this race a try next year - the post-race snacks are delish, it's a really fun course and it's a small and friendly field so you'll probably do well - but I would make SURE there is at least a course map available before doing so. I'm also chalking this up to a new experience. For all of my complete lack of direction and my tendency to do ridiculous and stupid things, I have never gotten lost in a race before. If only that had been on my bucket list!

One final note- my left hamstring continues to be a pain in the butt; it tightened up toward the end of the race. I'm not sure what to do about it anymore because I did a really good and really complete warm up beforehand, including stretching. It might be time for new shoes. Oh darn, an excuse to go to the running store.


  1. Don't you love it when you have an excuse to go to the running store?!? haha.
    I'm so sorry the race was a mess. I would have been a mental basket case and quit. Great job for finishing the race and running a great pace!! It might not have been the race you were looking for, but I'm sure it helped with your mental toughness?!? : )

  2. Dude, that sucks!! I would have been really frustrated too. But that's awesome the race director emailed you - good for her. :)

    Regardless, great job on your run!