Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Wrong Way Feldman

My running buddy Jim Macie and I ran the Firecracker 5K/10K foot race at Nash Farm in Hampton, Georgia on July 4th. Instead of following the masses to Atlanta for the Peachtree Road Race we decided on a local Get Set Grow race that was a little closer to home. Jim had pre-registered to run the 5K race and I made the decision to run the 10K the night before the race.

On race morning Jim picked me up at 6:45 a.m. I woke up at 6:00 a.m. so I had plenty of time to get ready. I set my gear out the night before so I wouldn't forget anything. My breakfast was light, just a bit of cinnamon roll, water, and Gatorade. Not too much.

Jim and I arrived at Nash Farm with plenty of time to spare. The starting chute was set up as were the registration tables. I registered and Jim and I set about waiting for the race to start. I brought several energy gel packs with me and ate two of them just before the race.

Jim with his race t-shirt before the race
I titled this blog Wrong Way Feldman not after the famous football faux pas when a player ran a recovered fumble the wrong way during the 1929 Rose Bowl or even the pilot who flew east from New York to Ireland instead of west to California in 1938. I found the second incident on Wikipedia. Instead, this is a Gilligan's Island reference. I'm a child of 1970's TV sitcoms. Feldman, also a pilot, landed on their castaway's island and when he left to go get help and rescue Gilligan and his fellow islanders he flew the wrong way. In my case, the 2017 Firecracker 10K was my Wrong Way Farmer.

The night before the race, and with a good deal of searching, I found the 10K race course certification on the USA Track & Field website. I was surprised that a certification even existed. That's rare for smaller local races. I posted the certified course map on the race director's Facebook page to verify the course map which he did promptly.

Firecracker 10K course map

Front side t-shirt artwork

Back side t-shirt artwork
The t-shirts are cotton.  Timing was done via a race bib chip that recorded runners times at the finish only. All runners have the same start time.

The race started just a few seconds after 8:00 a.m.. The 5Kers and 10Kers started all together. I whittled my way through the few runners that were in front of me and at some point the 5Kers and 10Kers separated. At that point I believe I was in second place about 200 yards behind the front runner. I continued on with the front runner no longer in sight. I took a right turn after calling out to a volunteer "10K left or right? Right right?" I turned right and continued on. My pace was good in spite of the heat and high humidity. I passed the 5-mile marker which was on the other side of the road and the front runner came by in the opposite direction soon after. As I approached the second turn-around I called out to the volunteer "is this the turn-around". She said yes but then said I was going "backwards". Thinking I had reviewed the course well the night before and again that morning I was taken aback by her statement but I decided to continue on. My new route dumped me out onto Mt. Carmel Road. I continued on, took a left onto Dutchtown Road which eventually dead-ended. I turned around there. I knew I was well off course so I removed my race number. I ran back to Conkle Road. As I ran I passed the water station I'd seen before and a few runners and walkers along the way. Thinking that my only error was running too far and not that I had completely gone off course I ran through the finish gate holding up my bib number in my hand. My finish time was 56:11. I had run 7.68 miles. My pace was good, under a 7 minute/mile for the first 5K but after I went off course I lost some of my motivation.
Jim came in first in his age-group. Apparently I placed as well but knowing I had gone off course I decided to forego the awards and Jim and I left the race. I must say that I was a bit disappointed in myself for missing the turn back onto Carl Parker Road, especially when I'd studied the course beforehand. I'd also looked at the 2016 results so, from the start, I knew my chances were good.

Now that this has happened, I can see how someone can unknowingly medal in a race. It wasn't until I got home and checked my Garmin watch that I realized how far afield I had gone. Somehow I missed the first right turn and took the second right instead. I was in fact running the course backwards after all.

Let this be a lesson to me and anyone else who either runs races or volunteers. If you're running - know the course. I thought I did, but I was wrong. Volunteers should talk to the runners, not yourselves. Runners are acting on depleted oxygen to the brain and need someone to tell us 5Kers go this way and 10Kers go that way. At least that's what happened in my case. I need someone to do my thinking for me.

I don't know if I was the only one to miss the turn. I hope so. I'd already planned to run a few miles more than the scheduled 6.2 miles but only after the race was done, not during. I guess I accomplished some of that goal, sort of.

Thanks for reading.