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#35 – Winter is Near at the Harvest Hustle 5K

19 October 2007

Saturday, October 13 was a crisp morning, perfect for the upcoming Harvest Celebration in downtown Lowell. The opening act for the event was the Harvest Hustle 5K and I was signed up to race. 2007 was the 3rd annual running of the 5K and given that the course goes right past my house, I had to take part! Ironically I was completely unaware of the race for its first year, and last year I finally learned of it just two days prior so I merely spectated.

Complications began even before race day – Amanda was going to need our only car to volunteer with Vicky’s Pet Connection to assist at a Feral Cat Trap-In so I had to walk to the race! No big problem since the start was just a half mile away; in fact I jogged there to warm up. I did have to wear pants and a jacket in the chilly 40-degree air, which I left in my SWAG bag under a volunteer’s watchful eye at the registration area. Thanks!

While picking up my race bib I ran into Roger Bonga, a fellow Lowell resident but a much faster one – he’s a talented triathlete that I’ve seen at several 5Ks this year. He jokingly asked me if I was prepared to win; being a small race I was wondering if I could win my age group but as I would later find out, speedy Roger is in my age group… Doh!

By the time we started my hands were already painfully cold, but the rest of me felt pretty loose. The race begins with a half-mile straightaway due east into the rising sun before turning north to head up a steep, 80-foot-elevation hill. How cruel! But how fun, too. I passed three on the hill, the same hill I’ve run repeats on in the past for training. As I crest the hill I’m shocked to see Amanda standing at the corner with a camera! I guess she decided to be a bit late to volunteer so she could take a photo; I obliged her with a smiling wave.

West down the backside of the hill, which isn’t as steep, we then turn north for another long stretch through the old neighborhood of downtown Lowell. My hands were going numb already, but at least my brain and my legs were working. I realized that we were well past a mile – there weren’t any mile markers in this race – and I had no idea how fast I was going. At the end of the north-bound stretch is a small dirt road cul-de-sac for a turn-around. I spotted Roger solidly in third place; I was somewhere around the top 10.

Near this turn-around I was passed by a very young teenager and another guy about my age, and I could hear the breath and footsteps of a woman right on my tail. Heading south now I recalled on the course map that we should be turning west into a cemetery. The two ahead of me run straight, and I ask the lady if we’re supposed to turn. She confidently states that we should continue straight ahead and I figure she’s right; after all, who routes a road race through a cemetery when a neighborhood street runs right alongside?

Back at the next cross street the two ahead of me turn east, but by this point I know that we should be going west. I yell out to those two that they’re going the wrong way and they join the lady and me going the correct direction. I noticed that the volunteers who had been at that intersection directing runners on the way out had since disappeared. Later I learned that one runner went the wrong way and turned his 5K into a 4-miler… no fun.

The teenager, the guy, and the lady all decide it’s time to leave me in their wake. I still had no clue what pace we were holding but I was definitely feeling tired; I had to be close to max speed. The threesome had gained about 20 feet on me as we turned south onto the final long stretch, another half-mile street going due south. There was one more turn to the east but the finish line I knew had to be less than 100 feet after that turn, so finally I knew that there was just half a mile left to go.

I decided to push my luck early; usually I put in a strong finishing kick over the last 200 yards but this time I accelerated with the half mile yet to go and just hoped that I wouldn’t flame out. Within 100 yards I had regained the 20 feet to the threesome; once I pulled even I actually sprinted a bit to put some distance on them in the hopes that I would demoralize them rather than inspire them to hang with me!

Apparently my tactic worked – the sound of their footsteps faded and I was still feeling strong enough for a little kick to the finish. Just before hitting the intersection I went all out and leaned into the turn. Facing the finish line clock I was shocked to see the first two digits read “20”… no way! My previous PR was 21:07 back in March. Reflexively I sprinted the last 20 yards, glancing at the clock to confirm a new personal best of 20:56!!!

The lady finished a few seconds behind me as the first overall female, so I didn’t get “chicked” by anyone this time. When I saw her later walking a cute golden retriever, I went over to say hi to both of them and chatted for a bit. I told Tammy (the woman) and Gracie (the dog) about my plans for running the Bailey’s Doggie Dash 5K on October 20th with my dog Haven, and Tammy sounded quite interested so hopefully I can introduce Haven to Gracie this weekend. 🙂

Post-race food hit the spot: poppyseed muffins and apple cider. After hanging around to watch the rest of the runners and walkers finish, the organizers still hadn’t posted results. A volunteer informed me that they wouldn’t be posting results until later in the week on their website, but I wanted to at least confirm that I’d just run a PR. She agreed to check my time and confirmed the 20:56, but was very secretive about the results sheets, making me turn away while she looked them over. Weird.

Nevertheless, I had just run a PR despite not knowing my splits and having to conquer a big hill on the course. My other 5Ks this year have all been flatter, yet I ran this one the fastest! I’m just happy to have finally arrived under the 21-minute barrier.

The race was definitely fun – the local setting had some huge appeal, yet the organization left a lot to be desired. First, we started from inside the finishing chute, unnecessarily compressing the field. The roads weren’t closed to traffic, which was fine since nobody was out driving, yet a few runners and I did have to dodge a volunteer driving a gator cart driving in the middle of the street! Come on.

Of course the worst was that there were no volunteers directing traffic at several critical turns. Luckily even though most of the field (including myself) ran around instead of through the cemetery, the distance and terrain were the same so it made no difference. However, one runner missed another un-staffed turn and it wound up costing him an age group win.

After all of the participants had finished, it was another 30 minutes before the overall and age group winners were announced. How could it take them so long in a race with just 50 runners of widely-varying ability? They should’ve been able to post results in real-time as we finished. This race doesn’t use timing chips and has no need to, but I’ve run other races without chips that were scored quickly and easily.

I’ll certainly be back next year; I can’t pass up a race that runs past my house! Hopefully the organizers will work out their kinks and not continue to make rookie mistakes in the fourth running of the race. Once the brief ceremonies were over I had to jog back home, including running up that dang hill again! My legs were pretty beat by the time I staggered up my driveway, but I wasn’t done.

You see, I had to go join Amanda to help volunteer at the Trap-In. She had the car, which means I had to ride my bicycle on race-weary legs! It was brutal. 11 miles into a strong headwind the entire way. To make matters worse I forgot to check my tires and three miles into the ride I decided to add some pressure since the air was pretty low. My stupid portable bike pump broke and let all the air out instead! I had to force the pump onto the valve (it wouldn’t lock and seal) and manhandle some air back into the tires, which ended up being softer than before. A ride that would normally take me 45 minutes at a comfortable pace lasted over an hour. But I made it safe and sound, we raised lots of money for dogs and cats, and I was able to ride in the car at the end of the day.

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6 comments

  1. I was recently set to run in a “First annual” charity 5 miler but pulled a hamstring & decided to DNS & go volunteer instead. The race was poorly publicized enough that the entire field was 15 people! (Dang, I could have been 3rd woman overall – of 3, ha!) At the end they STILL had trouble getting the results posted, if you can believe it. I have only been running for about 8 months, but I was the most experienced volunteer there. I told the guy in charge that I would help next year, to try to drum up more publicity and organize the event. It has the potential to be a very nice race – good course and nice setting. Do you know of anywhere where there is a “best practice” checklist or reference for putting on races? I will talk with folks in my running club who have directed races, but it would help to have a roadmap….
    I really enjoy reading your blogs – one more little fun thing to keep me motivated.
    Thanks!


  2. […] Run? Counting off the endless reasons to go running! « #35 – Winter is Near at the Harvest Hustle 5K #36 – Running with the (Dog) Pack October 23rd, […]


  3. Peg, here’s a detailed race director checklist by USATF posted by Cool Running:

    http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/5/5_1/266.shtml

    Good luck with your event!


  4. Good job on the harvest hustle 5K. You did great!


  5. Thanks Roger! You did pretty well yourself.


  6. […] don’t think I ever recovered from the Harvest Hustle and Doggie Dash, running 5K PRs on back-to-back weekends.  Or rather, I didn’t allow myself […]



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