Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Frozen Turkey 5k: Freezing my tail-feathers off!

I should've known that any race with the word "frozen" in the name would not agree with this heat-seeking runner chick.  But, when my coworker and running buddy, Mike, told me he was going to run the Tremont Frozen Turkey 5k with the goal of placing in his age group, I thought "Well, I could run that. How bad could it be?". And when fellow FASTie, Stephanie, posted a picture of the race shirt on Facebook and asked me if I was going to run it too, I said, "Why not... how bad could it be?"

As it turns out, really, really bad.

The morning of the race, it was approximately 147° below zero, with 321 mph winds. When I left my house, it was actually snowing sideways.  I struggled to keep my car on the road as I made the drive to Tremont.  When I finally arrived, I realized that I had no idea where to go.  The race website gave no indication of where the race actually started.  Fortunately, Mike had found out it was supposed to start near the library.

So, I showed up at the library.  I went into the library to ask where race-day registration was.  The librarians looked at me like I had three heads.  They made a phone call to the fitness center, which was the site of  packet pickup the day before, but nobody answered.  Since I had time to spare, I decided to drive over to the fitness center myself.  When I got there, there were lots of other runners looking lost and confused, as the guy at the fitness center explained that race day registration was actually at the "old park district building".  Never having been to Tremont before, this was not helpful information.  He explained that it was across the street from the library.  That's where I had just come from!  So I drove back to the library, finally managed to find the registration, and got signed up for the race.  I even got one of the really cool long-sleeved tech shirts, even though they weren't guaranteed to race-day registrants.

That turkey doesn't look nearly frozen enough. Also, he looks like he's having fun, which is very misleading.

And then I realized I left my Garmin at home.  I didn't have time to go and get it (it was a 40-minute drive each way, and the race was going to start in 30 minutes).  So I had a mild panic attack.  Okay, I had a major panic attack. It's not that I need my Garmin while I run, so much as I need the data to analyze after the run.  How would I know what my splits were?  How would I know the total elevation change of the course?!  How would I know how accurately-measured the course was?!?! I felt so naked and lost without my beloved data-collection device.

You'd probably think, after all of this, that things couldn't possibly get any worse.

You'd be wrong.

I met up with Mike and his wife shortly after I registered, and of all the bad luck, he forgot his Garmin too!  Well, that ruined my plan to run with him and snag his Garmin data afterward.  The race was supposed to start in 15 minutes, so Mike and I decided to go for a warm-up jog down the street. We were encouraged by the fact that the sun had come out.  Maybe it wouldn't be so cold after all...

It's not a good sign when you finish your warm-up jog feeling colder than when you started it.

Bonus points if you can find me in this picture
(Photo - Tremont Park District)

We lined up for the race start, and before we knew it, we were off.  The first half of the race was running directly into the wind. My face was frozen, my eyes were watering, and snot-sicles were forming on my nose.   I'm sure it was a beautiful sight. Mike stuck with me for about the first mile, and then I noticed him drifting further and further behind me.  I was absolutely miserable, trying to fight the wind, but I could see the turnaround point ahead, and I was highly motivated to get to it quickly, so that I could finally have the wind at my back.

And what a relief it was to run with the wind, instead of against it!  Of course, I expended so much energy in the first half of the race trying to battle the wind, that I didn't have much energy left for the last half of the race.  I pushed on as best I could.  When I rounded the final turn, I tried to kick, but I had nothing left.  I crossed the finish in 24:27, a far cry from a PR.  (My current 5k PR is 23:13)  But given the horrendous race conditions, and my complete lack of speedwork during the last 5 months, I was actually really pleased with my performance.  I wasn't sure how many women had finished ahead of me, but I didn't think it was more than about 5.  I was hopeful that I had placed in my age group.

Almost done.  And almost dead.
(Photo - Tremont Park District)

When Mike finished, about 40 seconds behind me, he confessed that it was the first time he had ever wanted to quit a race.  That's how miserable it was.

Mike (right) finishing. Not quitting.  'Atta boy.
(Photo - Tremont Park District)

Somehow, despite the horrible wind, fellow FASTie Stephanie managed to run a PR, which is very impressive.  Just imagine how well she will do in a 5k that doesn't have gale-force winds!

Yay Stephanie!
(Photo - Tremont Park District)

After we had recovered from our efforts, we all moseyed over to the awards presentation ceremony.  I knew Mike really, really, really wanted to get an age group award.  He's never gotten one before, but he's been getting faster as a runner so I thought it was a possibility.

They announced the female award winners first.  I was ecstatic to find out I won my age group.  And before you ask, NO, I wasn't the only person in my age group!

Like a boss.

Then they moved on to the male award winners.  They appeared to be having some trouble with Mike's age group (40-44), and they stumbled over a few names, but ended up skipping giving out awards in that group altogether.  Then they got to the Male 50-54 age group.

"Third place: Mike!"

So, he won an age group award.  It just wasn't in the right age group.  He alerted them to their mistake, and after some hushed discussion among the race coordinators, they ended up telling everyone there was a problem with both the 40-44 and 50-54 age groups, and they would contact the winners later, after they sorted it all out.

Well, damn.

Race results were posted online a couple of days after the race, but the results did not list ages or gender of participants, so there was no way to tell how Mike had placed.  But then, a couple days after that, they posted the age group award results.  They still had Mike in 3rd place in the Male 50-54 group.  But a quick look at the results of the 40-44 group, and it was clear that Mike should be in 3rd place in that group.

A couple of phone calls to the park district later, and Mike was the proud owner of his first age group medal.  And of course, he sent me a picture right away.

It's the right age group and gender and everything! 

"Aren't you glad you didn't quit?" I asked him.

"Yep!" he responded.

It's true what they say: Quitters never win, and winners never quit.

But it's also true what I say: Running in the sub-freezing gale-force wind really sucks, and it's best to just never, ever do it in the first place.

Peace. Love. Train.