I had been looking for a 5k race to test out the early season fitness and the timing for this one looked just right. After a little research I noticed that there was an 'elite' entrant category that undoubtedly included some perks so I optimistically emailed the RD to check into this option.
Alas, the RD let me know that my pedestrian 17:25 from last year wasn't worthy, her elites were preferred to have times under 17 minutes. However... in my case she would make an exception if I could do her the courtesy of firing some emails off to my faster friends who might be interested, and giving the race a shout out on social media. Heck yes I can do that!
With that accomplished I got my secret code for ~ELITE entry~ and officially registered.
The morning of the race - pouring rain and my wife needs the car. Ahhh, the usual situation. So I bulked up in wetgear and packed some dry stuff for post race and jumped on the bike out into the rain. The race starts at a very civilized 0930, I think so that by the time they wrap everything up the post race beers are more at lunch time than breakfast time.
At the park the rain was lessening a little but it was terribly cold. I jogged around and bit then got into the big nasty line to do the bag check. Having got through the line I then walked past the ELITE tent - where I realized special people like us had a personal area to keep our stuff, no need to bag check with the riff raff. I've gotta learn the ins and outs of being elite a bit better.
There was about 2000 racing so it was kind of mayhem getting into the que at the start. This was a first class set up though: Steve King on the announcing and lights, banners and arches all around. Following some other fast looking people I got up the front where again there was a roped off area for ELITES - I decided I was really starting to like this arrangement.
Pretty deadly serious in the minutes up to the start. The announcer again emphasized that they wanted the elites up front, but a couple of very non elite old dudes pushed in front of me. Ah well, that's racing for you. On the other hand, one girl beside me noticed my number (ELITE number) and kindly said - 'you should be in front of me'. Yay, loving this!
Countdown... bang! Off we go! Since I knew there were heaps of fast guys here I wasn't at all surprised to see the large numbers of people zooming away from me in the first km. I knew a PB here would still only be about 50th place. When up against real runners (as opposed to triathletes where I rate more favorably) I am probably more of a fast slow guy than a slow fast guy.
The first 500 meters or so is downhill on pipeline road toward lost lagoon. It's quite a downhill, so running at full tilt I would expect almost everyone (except the the old dudes that snuck up to the front) were doing about 2:50/km pace. Quite a pounding running that speed downhill on pavement.
They had set up an archway and giant timer at the mile mark, so we all got our mile times shouted to us on the way past. I was between 5:07 and 5:08 at that point. Feeling good but also like it would be hard to maintain that speed for too much longer.
Just past the mile mark I saw the same guy who had almost bit it on the banana peel, stopped on the side of the road taking his shoes off! Speaking with him later he said he had just worn some little leather covers on his feet but in the water they had become incredibly slippery. After getting his shoes off he charged by me again at a high rate of speed, now barefoot!
Things held together pretty well until the dreaded turn back up pipline road. The hill and headwind both were at full force by then and my splits slowed drastically to about 3:40 pace. I glanced at my watch once near the top (the finish line seemed much further off than I had expected) and it looked good for breaking 17... but alas, 17:13 at the line! Damn! Did have enough pop in the legs to charge past one guy on the finish line. Yay, up from 54 to 53rd!
The after party was as promised, awesome food and beer fueled mayhem. Prize cerimony I had thought to not even bother with, but it looked like such a party I wanted to go in to have a look. At the door people were being turned away but again - I flashed my elite number - 'he's ok, he's elite', and I get waved in.
I think I'm going to make a concerted effort to get faster if for nothing more than to achieve this mystical 'elite' status. I could really get used to this.
At the prizes it was fun with dancing and prizes, I managed to scrape out first for M40-44 even though there was heaps of people in front of me. Lucky on that one I think. Sweet prize of brewery tour, Growler of beer and some Ryders sunglasses. Really nice.
A great race and I'm going to make a serious go of it for next year.