Today the Mcleary Bear Festival 10K will join the pantheon of races that I have run at least 5 times. Fun little race that is an easy choice if I don't have better plans for that day. Sunny and warm. I arrive in plenty of time to get my parking spot. Same RD as last year, who is again not really advertising this race. Last year we had six in the 10K and this year there will be seven. The two miler option is more popular with about 20 runners and walkers in that. Same course as last year, except we will run the loop counterclockwise this year, finishing down main street before a final turn to the finish line. Same side of the road as previous years, this way will be facing traffic which will make it a little safer. $10 Day of Race entry with the no shirt option is much appreciated.
I jog the 0.2 miles from the registration/finish area to the start line on the quiet side street. Then a longer warm up and I am feeling ready to race. Just before 9AM the other runners and the RD, volunteers and a police officer arrive. We are all standing in a semi circle listening to the safety briefing as I evaluate the competition. One young guy looks really fast and my hopes of winning are dashed. Also two very fit looking woman who I imagine could be faster than me.
Start - With little fanfare both races take off. Very short way down the quiet road and cross the larger street to then turn right, as the two milers turn left. I am even with one woman, but out of the corner of my eye, I see the young guy turn left to run the 2 miler. I pull ahead of the woman.
Mile 0.2 - There are so many ways that one can feel while running. Very rare for me is the exciting yet scary feeling of leading a race. I know that someone is right behind me and that I need to just do my thing and not go so fast. Steady but strong and able to go a little faster if needed. 10K is a tough distance to get right. My breath is worse than my legs.
Mile 0.8 - I know that there is a left turn ahead. The course is not marked on the road itself, but there are plenty of yellow signs sticking up, warning drivers about the race. I see a left turn and no marker ahead, but the road says "dead end" so that can not be my turn. I hesitate a little and look back. First woman is maybe 25 feet back. I go straight and soon see a yellow sign, then the real turn.
Mile 1.5 - Getting warm. Aid station. I drink a little and splash a little on my head. Look back and I have extended my lead but not by much. Hot in the sun, cooler in the shade. Steady pace, but it is harder in the sun and a nice relief in the shade. Last year's new chip seal road is much more runnable this year.
Mile 3 - I look at my watch just at it clicks to 3 miles and see that I ran that mile in 7:45. My overall pace is 7:54, so that was my fastest mile so far I think. I am hot, but if I can hold this pace I should be able to win. Now the second aid station. Cup of very cold water. I tell the volunteer "thanks, that was great". She says "that is Karang (?) water". "Oh that's so good" I say. She replies "Do you know what that is? Do you want to hear about it?" I am already 30 feet past her and trying to win a race so I shout something about not having the time right now, sort of in a hurry. Later I will try to look it up, but I don't think that I remember the name correctly. I do peek back and see that my lead is extended and fairly comfortable.
Mile 5 - The wheels start to come off. Legs stiffen a little. New chip seal here. Frightened that I will really fall apart. I really want to know how far my lead is. But looking back is a sign of weakness and fear. But I am weak and scared so I might as well look back. I do and see that I am still comfortably in front, confident now that I will win. Soon the big smoke stack comes into view and it does not look so far to the finish line. Down Main Street where people are starting to gather for the parade. No one cheers for me though. Then the last turn to the finish where a small crowd waits and cheers me in.
Finish (mile 6.2?) - But my GPS reads 5.79 miles. First woman comes in less than a minute later and says that the course is short and she keeps running to get in an even six miles. Second place woman finishes and her watch reads 5.76 miles. We each get a cold bottle of water and medal and recount our adventure. None of us, nor the RD can figure out why the course is reading short. Maybe because I was exhausted from running so hard, but the simple answer comes to me a few hours later. By turning right instead of left at the start, we never covered the short bit of main road from the quiet street to the finish line. In previous years we would do that at the start of the race and then again as we approached the finish line. So my finish time looks very fast, but really I am happy with the pace I ran and of course to get the victory. Then I realize that I was the only male out there, so in addition to first overall and first male, I was also last male runner.
1st place of 7
Race#421, Bear run 10K #5