One of my Black Friday purchases was registering for the ZombieRunner Bay Trail Race. I have not run double digits since October 28th so I decided not to be overly ambitious and opted to do the 5-mile race vs. the half-marathon.
I'm always looking for new places to run and this race was at the Baylands in Palo Alto, somewhere that I was not familiar with. I thought exploring the area during a race would be a safe and fun way to check it out.
The 5-mile race was scheduled to start at 8:15 am but bib pick-up was between 7:00-7:45 am. I wasn't sure what the parking situation was going to be like so I got there shortly after 7 am. It was cold -- 41 degrees -- that is cold for the Bay Area!
I sat in my car for and "checked in" on Foursquare. Right after doing so I got a message from Alice, a social media friend who I hadn't yet met in person. She was also there running the half as a training run for her first marathon! I was so happy that we finally got to meet in-person and chat for a few minutes before her race started (at 8:00 am).
After the marathon and half-marathon races got under way, the 5-milers were summoned to the start area. The race director told us there were about 700 people running the event, and around 100 or so running the 5-miler. It was the largest race he'd managed to date.
Then he gave directions, explaining how the course was marked with different colored tags, one for each race distance, to direct us where to go.
During this time I chatted with a woman standing next to me. She asked me what pace I planned to run and I said, "I guess a 10 min/mile pace?" The next thing I knew the megaphone sounded and we started running.
The course started out on a narrow, paved trail. Being that there weren't any waves or corrals, there was a considerable amount of weaving for the first quarter mile or so. Actually that is a total guesstimate since I wasn't wearing my Garmin.
Once the crowd thinned out I fell into a nice rhythmic pace. By now the course had turned to dirt and gravel but nothing too awkward or difficult. I found myself running next to the woman I spoke to at the start. At first we ran in silence, matching strides, then we started chatting.
Just before the half way point the woman told me, "You have a really nice stride going on. You know we're running a sub-9 pace right?"
As soon as she said that I panicked thinking, "I don't run this fast." Then that became all I could think of and I lost focus. Almost immediately I fell behind her and never saw her again. Ugh - I didn't wear my Garmin for a reason because it messes with my head like this. Dammit.
From the turnaround on I know I dropped my pace considerably and even walked a couple of times on the sandy part of the trail. As I lamented about how much I suck at the mental part of running, four or five people passed me. My annoyance level (at myself) was high and I vowed not to let the person who was ahead of me out of my sight. I tried to regain focus and get rid of the other fleeting thoughts.
When I approached the Finish Line and saw that the clock read 44:xx. I'm not very good at math but knew that had to be good. Maybe the race hadn't been as bad as I felt it was?!
As soon as I crossed the finish I was handed my (unexpected!) medal, cooled down and then made my way over to the snacks and drinks. Like many trail races they were stocked with pretzels, chips, trail mix, and even pumpkin pie. I grabbed a handful of nuts and waited for the results to be printed.
My official time was 44:39 which would have been an avg pace of 8:55! But then they explained that the course actually measured 4.8 miles so my avg pace was 9:18. I am still very happy with it! And given that I've only run one other 5-mile race I guess this was a PR?
Ironically that other 5-mile race was in January of this year, held by the same organizers. It was unplanned, but I started and ended my race year with them! They put on well-organized, fun local events and I would love to do more of them.
I'm really glad that I participated in this race. After a few ups and a lot of downs in 2012 so I'm glad I was able to end it with a happy one.