Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Cure for Taper Madness, Part 1: The Pumpkin Classic

Taper time is upon us, and we all know what that means.  That's right: the madness is rearing its ugly head.  As marathon day gets closer, and my runs get shorter, I find myself growing increasingly uneasy.  "Uneasy" is probably too nice a word.  "Irrational" and "obsessive" might be more accurate descriptive terms.  But I may have discovered a possible cure for taper madness.  Well, maybe it's not so much a cure as it is a diversion tactic.  It simply involves running lots of races.

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that one of my personal mottos is "Why run just one race in a weekend when you can run two (or more)?"  So this past weekend my plan was to run both the Morton Pumpkin Classic 10k on Saturday, and the Fox Valley Half-Marathon on Sunday, as well-organized training runs.  No racing, no pressure. 

I hadn't run the Pumpkin Classic since 2008, so I was fairly certain I could PR without running a hard effort (I have run only one other 10k race since 2008, and I didn't race that one either).  My good friends Becky and Mike were also planning to run it for fun, so we decided to all run together.  After picking up my race packet (which included a long-sleeved cotton t-shirt), and attaching my bib and timing chip, I lined up with my friends by the 9:00-12:00 / mile pace sign.  I figured since the race was chip timed and we weren't planning to race, it wasn't important to be near the front.  Too bad I didn't realize they didn't have a timing mat at the start of the race.  Good thing I wasn't actually racing this race, or I would've been a bit upset about that.

I was shooting for a 9:00 - 9:30 pace for this "race", which was comfortable given the nice cool weather.  The three of us stuck together for the first 5 miles, running and chatting and enjoying the course entertainment (there were several bands playing along the course).  But in the last mile, Mike started picking up the pace, and I followed suit.  Becky (wisely) didn't want to play our silly race game, so she let us go on ahead.  After Mike kicked my butt in the 5k race last weekend though, I didn't want to get beat again.  He sped up a little.  I sped up a little.  He sped up a bit more.  I sped up a bit more.  We came around the final turn and the finish line was in sight, so I sped up a lot.  I thought I had lost him and I was going to cruise into the finish, but then he caught back up to me and we kept running faster and faster. By the time we got to the finish line, we were doing about a  5:30 pace and I was yelling "Dammit, Mike, slow down!!!" 

He did not slow down. 

Nor did I.

Mikey got chicked! (by choice)
Mike let me beat him.  Barely.  But he let it happen.  I am pretty sure he could out-sprint me with both his hands tied behind his back, so yeah, he totally let me win.  Even though we have the same time in the official results, my result is listed first, which means I WON.  HA!  *sticking tongue out at Mike*  Not that I'm competitive or anything.

Oh, and incidentally, it did end up being a 10k PR for me, although I hesitate to really call it a PR, since I have run faster-paced half-marathons than this.  But, in a strictly technical sense, it was a PR for the 10k race distance.  It was also a PR for Mike since it was his first 10k ever. Go us!

Mike and I collected our medals ("oooo, shiny!"), met up with Mike's wife and her friend (who had both done the 2 mile walk event) and enjoyed the post-race "feast" of bananas, granola bars and orange slices.  It wasn't really much of a feast if you ask me.  Uhhh, hello?  This is supposed to be the pumpkin festival!  Where's my post-race pumpkin pie???

Loser on the left, winner on the right. 
Of course, if Mike reads this, I don't think he'll ever let me win ever again...  
All things considered, this was just an okay event.  The course was fairly flat and fast, so for anyone wanting to really race a 10k, I think this is a good one.  But the lack of chip timing at the race start is annoying.  Also, the age groups in this race are 15 years, which meant that I was competeing against 20-year-olds.  How completely and utterly ridiculous.  In an event with this many runners, there should be standard 5-yeard age groupings. I was also irritated by the long line for post-race refreshments.  One line for 1500 runners and walkers?  Not cool.  I did, however, enjoy the course entertainment, especially the band playing Beatles songs.  And the finisher's medals are pretty nice too.

With a few small tweaks, this could be a really great event.  I would sign up for next year's race right this minute if I was promised free pumpkin pie at the finish.  True story.

Now if you want to hear about a truly first-class event, stay tuned for Part 2 of this weekend race report...

Peace. Love. Train.

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