5k

Run or Dye: 5k – Recap

featured-past-dye


Course Map

NOTE: I decided not to map this run with Endomondo since it was a “fun” run and I was afraid the dye would get into vital components. So instead I bring you the map on their site, which actually isn’t even close to what we ran.

Their "5k" Course
Their “5k” Course

RunOrDye-Map-Actual


Recap

I would do my usual recap and reflect on my experience but this race was pure shit from the beginning so instead I will just list all that went wrong:

  1. NOT A 5k!
    See Course Map above for proof. Their tag is “The Most Colorful 5k Run” but that should be changed to 4k. The “Dye Zone”  moved to the start/finish and that decision cut off a chunk of the run. This inaccurate map was the first of many errors on their site which brings me to…
  2. INACCURATE WEBSITE!
    You rely on a race website to have the most up to date information on a race. People need to know; where to park, where the expo is, and start times. The Run or Dye site got about one of those right. See a Rock and Roll Marathon site for comparison. Night and day right? One glaring omission is that Run or Dye claimed to be a charitable event but the closest information you can find is on there About Us page that only vaguely states each race works with a local charity. At the race there was zero mention of this charity. I was only aware of it from the post race email. The expo info wasn’t even on the site until a few days before and even then the hours were inaccurate. The only reliable source of information was from the weekly email, which got caught in my junk mail the first two times.
  3. OVERPRICED!
    Now I was lucky with this one since I only paid $30 total via Groupon for our registration. If you try to sign up regularly, expect to pay $45-50 per person. What do you get for that fee? A heavy cotton shirt with their logo, one dye packet that lasts about 30 seconds, temporary tattoo of their logo, cheap plastic wristband, and lots of fliers for other stuff. The white shirt is a clever idea since you want to see all the colors but heavy cotton during a run? Oh man is that a mistake. My shirt also failed to clean up completely as the neck has this purple ring around the collar.
  4. POOR COMMUNICATION!
    So we get there an hour before the start and get to the main gate of the coliseum. We see people lining up around the Sports Arena and only one sign saying that it is the Registration line. We start to stretch but notice that a steady stream of people is working towards the parking lot south of the Sports Arena. Once we weave through the lines to the parking lot we see a sign saying that it is the Dye Zone, we assume that’s the start. Nope! About thirty minutes later someone finally comes over the speakers and says we need to get to the chutes that are south of the Dye Zone or as he put it “near the porta potties.” So the crowd slowly inches over there through the barriers. No staff helps move people to the start. We stand around well past the 9 am start time and we finally move forward! And stop. Five minutes later we move again. And stop. This cycle goes on for about an hour. It wasn’t until we could see the starting line start that we realize they are doing wave starts. No message about wave starts was ever given over the speakers. We could only hear the bad music coming from the DJ booth. No notice was given about the late start until the post race email. Apparently, the packet pick up line snaked around the Sports Arena and spilled into the course. I would’ve been more understanding if they had told us at the day of the race.
  5. COURSE HAZARDS!
    Along the 4k course we had to deal with uneven pavements, pot holes, narrow trails, and just about every other course hazard you can think of. None was marked and the course itself was roped off only in certain places. This became an issue when a regular amount of pedestrians walked through the course.
    Strollers, who should have been told to start last, would come to a grinding halt when the course would hit an unmarked sidewalk. This was especially dangerous after the first Dye Zone where your vision was impaired by the dye for a few seconds. The stroller in front of me barely saw it in time to stop just shy and caused the rest of us to run into the spectator area to avoid a pileup.
    There was also the traffic (runner and car) that had to be dodged throughout the street sections. The staff of the nearby museums and parks were a lot better at marking hazards than any of the Run or Dye staff. One woman from the coliseum security actually stood near a pot hole the entire time to make sure runners didn’t hit it. She complained into her walkie-talkie that she could not find any of the Run or Dye staff to take over.
  6. PACKET PICK UP MADNESS!
    If you read through their Facebook page you will see numerous complaints about the packet pick up. I can verify that the lines snaked around the Sports Arena and definitely took an hour to clear. I only saw two people doing the registration part. There were also complaints about the staff just giving up and handing out numbers towards the end. As well as not having enough shirts and dye packets. These last three I did not witness. I went to the Citadel packet pick up the day before and while we did not have such huge issues there were still some problems.
    The email said the pick up would start at 10. We got there exactly at 10 and the tent wasn’t set up. The Run or Dye Staff was told by the Citadel staff to change a bit of their layout. Thankfully we did get an update; their computers weren’t connecting to the wifi but would be in a few minutes. So we stood there for another twenty minutes until they got it all set up. This shit should have been fixed an hour before the actual start time. People complained about needing to get back to work and that it should not have taken more than ten minutes. I did not have any where to be so I was not too bothered by it but I understood their frustration.
    When we finally got registered and moved into the packet pick up tent, they STILL weren’t ready. We had to bag our own goodie bag and the line ended up at a dead-end. They set up so the line would lead into their small store but instead it was blocked off by merchandise boxes and tables for the first few minutes. We could not walk back through the single file line so we stood there and alerted the staff who moved a few items out-of-the-way to let us out. I guess that should have been my first warning at how incompetent this company is.
  7. DYE TO THE FACE!
    In the final packet info they instructed us not to throw dye at each other’s faces. I’m pleased to report that none of my fellow racers did that, the kids manning the Dye zones however had no such restriction. There were a few dye zones along the course manned by teenage volunteers. A good number of them would make it a point to throw it high and smack you in the face with it. I got dye in my ear and Meghann got dye in her eyes/mouth. A few other runners had to pull off the course to cough out the dye. One even pulled out her phone to call her fellow runners to complain. Yes I expected to get dye in my face but not intentionally. These kids were gloating to each other about how many people they’ve smacked in the face. I would hope the next time some adult supervision would be at each station to avoid this.
  8. DOUCHEY PICTURES!
    Now this is something Run or Dye didn’t have any direct control but definitely could’ve cut down the amount of instances. Pictures at the start/finish dye zone wasn’t a big deal but when people would stop in the MIDDLE of the course dye zones to Instagram the moment how the fuck is that not stopped? I literally ran into people doing this at every color station. It didn’t occur to them that some were actually running the course. They even had the Run or Dye staff take pictures for them. I wish more of the runners would just enjoy the moment.
  9. LACK OF COURSE SUPPORT!
    Any race you do, there will be at least one water station along the course but not Run or Dye. There wasn’t a water station at mile 1 nor one at the finish. There was a tent that had some water bottles but they were all out by the time we finished. Again the staff just said “there are more near the porta potties”. Why the fuck would they be placed there? I found no such secret stash of water bottles.
    Got dye in your eye and causing problems? Too bad! There was a medical station but it was from another event at the coliseum at the middle of the course.
    Hungry after running for 4km? Ha! You could buy food from a food truck but that was as far as food selection went.
    We left the finish area after some annoying hype man was calling for a walk off competition. I needed food/water and it was obvious Run or Dye wasn’t going to provide any.

So what did I enjoy? Not much. The two upsides were that it was near a metro station and the initial Dye Zone was actually fun. Any one of the complaints above would’ve been enough to override those two upsides.

Still it was slightly enjoyable since I had Meghann around to keep me from going crazy.

Run or Dye: Pre-Race
Team M&M always looking at the bright side of life

Post Race Comments

This event is nowhere near an actual race. As it stands it is just an excuse to take pictures of yourself throwing some dye. I would only recommend this race to those who have money to burn, can get a big enough group to make your own fun in the Dye Zone, and who aren’t interested in a race.

While the company did eventually send out an apologetic email here are the only two solutions they came up with:

1. Better line management.  We’re committed to making the line move faster and more productively, including roping it off, having more check-in staff as necessary, and ensuring that people don’t cut in line.

2. Getting started on time.  The fact is, the line was so long that it stretched into the course — which is why we started late.  If we would have simply set up the line away from the Dye Zone, we would not have gotten a late start.

Acknowledgment of the poor communication and a plan to rectify that would’ve been a big fix in my book. And what did we get in return for being part of such a shitty run? 50% off an upcoming race, limit two. I gave mine away on their Facebook page with a warning of how much of a train wreck Run or Dye LA was. No way am I ever doing another Run or Dye race.

UPDATE
I got another email from the Run or Dye people with another coupon (I still won’t bite) and further details on what has changed since the LA fiasco.

1.Dramatically improved the check-in process, including creating an electronic QR code system that allows us to check runners in very quickly
2.Quadrupled the amount of staff we have checking runners in at packet pick-up and on race day — another adjustment that helps the line move faster
3.Moved the check-in line at race day so that there are NO delays to the start time
4.Put water prominently at the finish line
5.Created extensive training materials to ensure that our volunteers DON’T throw dye in the face or other sensitive areas

LA River 5k

featured-upcoming-lariver


Why?

It’s for a good cause as all the funds go towards revitalizing the Los Angeles River. I got Meghann to join me so Team M&M will be at the ready. This race also fills the gap between Rock ‘n’ Roll SF and Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland. I love breaking up big races with some fun 5ks.


Expectations

I hope I can break my 5k PR, which now stands at 25:47 from the Pasadena Marathon 5k. Might be a bit tough since the Pasadena course was really flat and I knew the route.


Training Schedule

Only a 5k so I’ll just keep my regular running routine. Hopefully I will have some strong glutes by then.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles: Mini-Marathon – Recap

Recap

As we waited for the Goldline at 6am on a cold Saturday morning I recapped how we got here. I picked this race since I want Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena to be my first half-marathon and needed to check out the organizer. But I also didn’t want to do this alone so I had managed to convince Meghann to join me. I did not expect her to sign up since we had one good race, one great race and really shitty race. It took a bit to get both of us out of bed but here we were… pinning our race bibs and getting pumped for another race.

We only just made it to the start on time and due to the tight corrals we were not able to slip into our assigned Corral 1. We saw Robert up in Corral 4 and tried to get up to him but instead we would only get as close as Corral 7. I didn’t even have enough space to stretch properly as everyone was packed together like sardines. Naturally, I began to worry if this was the race I wouldn’t be able to finish. The day before I had finished the Pasadena Pacers 10 mi Challenge and now I was worried about a 3.5 mi race. Seesh. Since this was a wave start I had plenty of time to worry. Each wave would get called to the start and after a 10 second countdown they would be unleashed. I heard Corral 4 released and I knew Robert would be running fast to stay ahead of me. I now had a goal. Catch. Robert.

Unknown “Celebrity” Announcer: Corral 7 move on up! I want to hear you! COME ON CORRAL 7! 10… 9… 8…
Marlon’s Thoughts: Come on lady just get to fucking 1!
Unknown “Celebrity” Announcer: 6… almost there! 4…
Marlon’s Thoughts: Seriously?
Unknown “Celebrity” Announcer: 2… 1… GO!!!
Marlon: The chase begins.
Meghann: What?
Marlon: Nothing. I love you

I kissed Meghann and told her I would see her at the finish… I had a god damn Robert to catch! Like the Aquarium of the Pacific start, I had to dodge a few walkers. At first I followed a woman who also was on a mission. We ducked and weaved past Gumby, some Smurfs, a weird-looking Elvis and a Decepticon. At the half mile mark I noticed the sidewalks were finally empty and there was no rail to keep us on the course. I made a break for it and quickly passed another large group. Running on the sidewalk meant I only had to dodge uneven pavements.

I kept scanning the crowd to see if I had caught up to Robert. He would be easy to spot since most of the crowd had costumes and he was in race gear. About a mile in I saw the first Pacer, he was on the sidelines holding up the “Run Pacers Run!” sign and taking pictures. He gave me a shout out and I quickened my pace. I love being a part of such a supportive group. I ran past the first cheer squad and water station but still couldn’t see my target. I did manage to spot another Pacer… in a full Banana suit. Jamba Juice had given him a free entry if he would run the half-marathon in the suit. So he did and was telling banana jokes along the way.

Andrew Banana: What’s Mario’s favorite fruit?
Crowd Does Not Respond
Andrew Banana: Ba-na-na-na-na-na. Ba-na-na-na-na-na
Crowd Laughs

We had reached USC and the race was splitting off into the Mini-Marathon turn around. I wished Andrew good luck and laughed as he started telling another joke. I went back to hunting down the most dangerous game of all… man. As soon as I hit the turn-around I kicked it into high gear. I hit a 5min/km pace and never looked back. Despite this pace, on the other side of the cones the half-marathoners were speeding by. The same teams I saw at the Bell-Jeff Open were racing by. I wasn’t foolish enough to even try to match their pace.

I still could not spot Robert or Meghann, so instead I began to take a look around. I found it odd that I was so focused on catching up that I never bothered to take a breath and look around. I was running through downtown Los Angeles! I could see the skyline glistening in the morning sun, a hobo scratching himself on a “bum-proof” bench, and a confused sorority girl trying to run across the course. LA, I love you.

I ran by the cheer squad again and a DJ playing some Rocky music. With every random cheer and “go Pacer go!” I would get a nice burst of energy. Running around the neighborhood just can’t compare to the sights and sounds of well-organized races.

By the time I reached Figueroa and Pico, I realized I would not catch up Robert. I could, however, finish strong… unlike the Devil’s Gate Dam 5k. Dan you hipster! I ran past even more walkers and I could see the big finish. I spotted a women a few feet from the finish and made her my target. I went into a full sprint and did my best… but she finished just a few steps ahead of me. Damn it! Couldn’t even catch her. I grabbed my medal and spotted Robert a few feet away. The bastard had finished 2 mins (gun time) earlier. We talked for a bit and collected some freebies while we waited for Meghann. He said he knew I would be gunning for him and saw me sprinting by on the turn around. Bah. I’m not much of a hunter after all. A couple of minutes later we spot Meghann coming in. Despite being sidelined with random injures since our last race, she managed to get back to her 11 min pace. We gathered up and headed to the post race area.

Rock 'n' Roll Los Angeles: Post Race
“Enjoying” Michelob Ultra with the most dangerous game
Rock 'n' Roll Los Angeles: Post Race
Team M&M
Rock 'n' Roll Los Angeles: Mini Marathon
The first RnR medal of many!

To sum up the race: it was fucking awesome and I’m definitely getting the Tour Pass to run as many Rock ‘n’ Roll events in 2013 as I possibly can.


Previous Posts About Race

Where I’m Going

Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles: Mini-Marathon

Featured-Upcoming-Race-RRLA


Why?

It’s close to my birthday and runs through downtown Los Angeles. This will also be my first Rock and Roll Marathon event so I’m looking forward to see how well organized the event is… and how awesome the shirts/medals are! And, of course, I’m running for Team ASPCA and want to do well for them.


Expectations

I want to finish at 25 mins but most likely will clock in at 30 mins. Running this with Meghann, Robert and a few Pacers so the motivation will be there. Just hope all the training I’ve been adding will amount to a measurable improvement.


Training Schedule

Since this is only 3.5 miles, I am not on a real schedule. During last two weeks I will try to stick to running a sub 30mins 3.5 mi run.


Training Totals

Bellarmine-Jefferson Open Race

Featured-Past-Race-BJO

Recap

A logo. That’s the only reason I signed up for this race. While browsing the Pasadena Pacer’s Facebook Page I noticed there was a post asking for volunteers to form a team for this race. The team needed 5 members in order to get our name on the back of the shirt. I checked the race website for details and promptly signed up. We quickly found others to join the team and we got our sweet logo on the back of the shirt!

Or so that’s all I thought I was running for. This race turned out to be quite more. The location and timing tested my resolve. The course tested my training. By the end of it, I had realized that running had quickly become more than a “hobby” it is now one of my passions. Well I am getting ahead of myself so let’s just get to the recap!

When I first looked up the location of the race, it didn’t look that far away on Google Maps. The directions given were just one bus ride away and about a mile walk. Totally do-able. Then I realized I needed to be there at 6:30… and it would take an hour to get there by bus… so including prep time, I needed to be up by 4:30am on a Saturday and I had plans with Meghann on Friday night.

I had grown accustomed to being out the door by 5:30 during my weekday runs so what was another 30mins? Yeah, I was up by 4:15. I was surprised at how quickly I had my pre-race routine down:

  • Eat 1/2 Cliff Bar
  • Drink cup of coffee
  • Apply sun block and Body Glide (no not the fun version)
  • Put on tech-shirt, soccer shorts, running socks and athletic underwear (totally worth the $!)
  • Grab Keys, ID, Phone, armband, sweatbands and wireless headphones.

It took me less than 15mins to get ready and get out the door. The ride there was uneventful but I did notice I was the only person on that bus that wasn’t heading to work. The rest were half asleep and dressed in their work uniforms. I had already gone into my pre-race panic/excitement mode.

By the time I got to the race location the first two pacers had shown up and the event looked like it had been set up hours ago. I met up with the team and we started stretching.

Bellarmine-Jefferson Open Race
Running with the Pasadena Pacers

I looked around and saw nothing but hills around us so I asked if anyone knew what to expect from the course. Two of the pacers had attended the course preview the week before and said it was a very hilly course and most of the trail goes up the first “small hill”.

Bellarmine-Jefferson Open Race: First Hill
The first “small hill”…

Yeah, I thought I was done for. Up until now I had only ran three flat courses and the lone trail race had been my worst showing. The week before was the first time I even started doing hills training on the treadmill. Now I was looking at a course that was filled with hills and rough terrain. I was warned to be aware of the narrow edges, uneven pathways, cracks in gravel, and random pedestrians since the course was not closed off from the main trail. Oh and the High School athletes would be unleashed 30mins after our wave…

This race benefited a local high school race and by 7am the entire park was filled with teenagers. I was quickly reminded of the annoying teenage volunteers from the Aquarium of the Pacific 5k and the Devil’s Gate Dam 5k. Now they would also line this course by the hundreds and run amongst us if we were falling behind. I made it a point to finish before those bastards could step foot on the course.

We lined up for the start, I looked around and noticed all of the other teams; Nike Team Run LA, Gritty City Track Club, LA Tri, ARC Racing Club. These fuckers were fit and looking to make new personal records… I was just looking to outrun the hounds/teens. So I stepped towards mid-pack. I let all of those with six pack abs and shorts-shorts take the lead.

As the rules were read aloud to us, everyone shut up and put their game face on. I ignored most of the chatter and just focused on waiting for the signal. I did a few more shoulder rolls to release the tension and stretched my calves one last time…

bell-race-2
And we’re off!

At the first hill we were all funneled into a narrow trail. I found a fellow Pacer and just followed him for the first kilometer. Around the second hill I noticed Mullet Lady behind me. She was the same Mullet Lady from the Aquarium of the Pacific 5k whom I had followed through the pack. It was my turn to repay the favor so I broke away from the Pacer and charged ahead up the first “small hill”.

bell-race-3
Trying to stay ahead of mullet-lady… didn’t happen

I lead us through a group of hipsters, past someone who looked like Jack LaLanne, and left a smug 10 year old in our dust. I could feel the energy of the crowd! The power of each step! The… burning in my thighs and knees!

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have charged up that hill. By the time I reached the plateau I was thinking of finding the nearest bench and curling up in the fetal position. I ignored those thoughts and settled for jogging at a slower pace. Mullet Lady would have none of that and quickly made her way past me. She continued her trek to bring back the style. Maybe next race I will be able to keep up with her past the first mile. God bless you Mullet Lady.

Around the 1.5 mile mark the trail opened up and reached a point where I could see downtown Los Angeles in the distance. With the sun rising in the background, I took a moment to take it all in. I had never seen LA from this height and with such a grand view… this is one of the reasons why I run; to see more of the places that I love. I felt re-invigorated.

According to the data from Endomondo, shortly after seeing downtown I ran my quickest kilometer of the race. Sure it was mostly downhill but I still think LA saved me from giving up on the race. If it had been an ugly course like Devil’s Gate, I don’t think I would have kept up the pace.

But then, as I rounded the tennis courts I saw it… the big hill. It finally hit me why they had called the first one the small hill. The elevation gain of the small one was about 10m… the big one was 30m. Fuck.

The hill had collected quite a few of us. There was a lady in a cross-fit shirt who had pulled off to the side looking like she was dry heaving. An older man had decided walk it. Young dude came up from behind us and tried to charge it… only to stop halfway. Then a stick figure of a woman flew past us at a leisurely pace. What did I do? Well I tried to keep a jogging pace and failed once the trail curved to show that we were only half way up the hill. A collective “FUCK ME!” was yelled out. I did manage to beat the pack up the hill but the old man ran past me on the flatter section, crafty bastard pulled a tortoise. I made a mental note of walking up steep hills in future trail races. There is no shame in being realistic.

Over the last hill I saw the starting area and my biggest fear… the teenagers were being given their 5 min warning. Oh hell no! I ran down the hill and flew past a few others. As I came closer to the final mini-hill I noticed that the teenagers were lined up against the ropes and they were… cheering? The hell? I expected some sarcastic remarks or insults. But instead I was greeted with kids trying to read my race bib to cheer me on and telling me that I was close. One even shouted that I need to finish strong. That was just what I needed.

I used up every last bit of energy in the final km. According to Endomondo, I hit my max pace of 4min/km during that stretch. As I ran through the finish shoot, I heard people cheering my team name. A few “GO PACERS!” and one “COME ON MARVIN!”… to be fair the print on my bib was a bit small. I knew I should have written Marlton or Gulpo. I finished in 24 mins 59 sec, one second shy of the mark I wanted to hit. I hunched over and chugged a bottle of water. Then I heard the teenagers unleashed onto the course. I cheered them and myself.

I stayed along the finish to cheer on my fellow Pacers. We exchanged sweaty high fives, compared notes on the course and complained about that bastard of a big hill. The race expo didn’t have much for me so I headed back to the bus stop.

Halfway back to the stop I passed a group of teens warming up:

Girl 1: I hate running
Girl 2: What? Then why the hell are you here?
Girl 1: I need it for my college application. I’d rather be sleeping
Girl 2 looks at Girl 3: Not us. We love running.

That explained why they were so nice. These kids were on the road as early or earlier than I had been and were there because they wanted to… well except Girl 1.

As I got on the bus for the 45min drive home, the one mile walk back to my apartment and the cold shower that awaited me I knew this is something I was doing for myself. I could have called it quits at various points but each time I kept with it. This is something I want to keep doing for the foreseeable future.

Devil’s Gate Dam 5k

Featured-Past-Race-DevilsGa


Course Map


Recap

We signed up for this race after seeing a flier for it in our race packet during the Aquarium of the Pacific 5k. It was a local race, just 5 minutes away from home, and the money benefited Danny’s Farm which is a great cause. I was a bit hesitant to give the race organizers another shot after the poor management of the Aquarium of the Pacific but the cost was low enough, $30. I also managed to talk Hugo and Janeth into joining us.

This time around the parking situation was better managed, though we got there early, and the bib pick up took no more than 5 minutes. We stood around for a bit and I went into my pre-race routine of stretching/pacing. Thanks to Runner’s World and random handouts from running stores, I actually knew what I needed to do to get ready. The start was also a lot better organized. Just one vital part was missing… the course map.

I checked out the website daily to see if the map was available. Even to this day the website still says “Coming Soon”. A few minutes before the start, someone drew the “map”  on a white-board. Just looked like a giant U to me. We had tried to get a preview of the course the week before but it seemed like the course would be a turn-around and not a loop. The call for the starting line didn’t take as long this time around but I made sure to get as close as I could to avoid having to dodge the walkers.

After a brief Aztec ceremony, the company is named Aztlan Athletics, we were off!

Devils Gate Dam 5k: Starting Line
And so begins the dirtiest run yet…

The picture above made it seem like a nice start but as you can tell by the kid in the green shirt, things got hectic fast. You see, when you mix such a large group of runners and very loose dirt you will get a nasty dust cloud. By the time I reached the first curve all I could see was a giant dust trail in front of me. I quickened my pace more than I wanted to just to try get ahead of the dust cloud. The first hill provided enough of a gap for me and I charged ahead. Looking back at the main pack, I knew Meghann, Hugo and Janeth were probably covered in dust… poor bastards.

The route we took wasn’t very scenic nor easy to navigate with such a large crowd. A wave start would have helped ease the traffic. Screwed again by this damn race organizer. I made a mental note to avoid any runs organized by Aztlan Athletics.

Once I got to the dam it was smooth sailing. The route still was lined by teenage volunteers, who somehow were even less enthusiastic than the previous race but the trail was well marked and there was actually a water station and marker at mile 1. Things were starting to brighten up. I still found it odd that their official mile maker was about a quarter mile behind my Endomondo app. I wrote it off as my phone having GPS problems.

I found someone to keep pace with and fell into a nice pace. Again, it wasn’t much of a view. Other than the signature dam in the beginning and JPL at the turn around, it was mainly dust and a dry lake-bed…. oh and a lot of horse crap on the trail. By the time I reached the turn around, I was covered in dust from head to toe. It was a bright and sunny morning so the sweat was starting to turn the dust into a nice paste. Bleh.

I reached the Mile 1 marker on the turn around, guess one marker is better than none, and noticed my playlist had reached the final song. I had set up a playlist to try to keep tempo with… I still had the dam an an entire mile to go… so while Van Halen was telling me I was running with the devil (what? I thought it was fitting!) I was actually about a mile away. So that song ended and it went to a random song in my library…. it landed on Black Eyed Peas “Shut Up”. Fuck you music app! I couldn’t get the damn thing to skip so I just went with it.

When I was coming up to the final bend I noticed this hipster (American headband dude in picture above) kept passing me on the hills. I was unsure of my time or really how far away I was so I just kept an even pace. To be honest, I was feeling quite tired due to the uneven terrain. The treadmill had helped with flat courses but just a few hills and the initial charge to get away from the pack had drained me.

I finally saw the finish line and two women in front of me began to push and shove each other to get to the finish. No they weren’t friends. I decided to just hang back and let them duke it out. Then out of nowhere comes the hipster charging ahead to pass me at the last minute. The refs were pointing to him and telling me to stand in line behind him. I was a bit confused as to what was going on. I was just happy to get a chance to drink some water and wipe off the dirt.

I looked at my app and the final time was around 32 minutes… 6.16km! Somewhere along the course the race directors had added a mile. Others around me were also pissed off about their times and checked their apps to confirm it was longer than a 5k. I grabbed some water and food while I waited for the race results and for Meghann to come in. Hugo and Janeth had decided to walk the course so I wasn’t expecting to see them just yet.

Again I stood right next to the cat mascot and got him to cheer Meghann in…. and again she didn’t notice us. I noticed she was having a tough time breathing and asked her if she was ok. Turned out all that dust had caused her to have a minor asthma problem. Despite that she finished at 48 minutes. She was pissed off about the time until I told her that it was actually a 6.16km run. That evened out our paces to 8 min 34 sec for me and 12 min 32 sec for her. I was quite proud of her since she kept about the same pace from the last race despite all of the set backs.

We looked at our results… I came in fourth in my class! That’s why they were so adamant that the hipster had come in right before me. I missed out on a medal due to me giving up at the last stretch. Bah!

We stuck around long enough to see Hugo and Janeth finish up. It so far is the worst race I’ve been to. I really hope Danny’s Farm got a good chunk of money from it as they are a great cause. However, if they don’t switch organizers for next year I highly doubt we will be back. It’s safe to say we are done with Aztlan Athletics.

Aquarium of the Pacific 5k

Featured-Past-Race-Aquarium

Recap

Just shortly after crossing the finish line at the Pasadena Marathon: 5k I decided I would sign up for another 5k as soon as possible. At the Pasadena Expo I had grabbed a couple of fliers and looked for one that would also appeal to Meghann. This race was by the waterfront in Long Beach and granted access to the Aquarium of the Pacific after the race. Yeah it didn’t take much convincing to get Meghann on board. So off we went!

As opposed the fantastically organized City of Pasadena Marathon, this one was contracted out to a local small time running organizer… the difference was noticeable from the get go. Parking directions were ambiguous at best. High school volunteers manned the packet pick up booths, who looked about as eager as cat after being fed the noms, i.e. blank stares all around.

Still we got our bibs and free stuff with plenty of time before the race. Like before, my mind went into panic mode. Here are a couple of thoughts that went through my head:

Does the course loop back? Where is the starting line? Oh god, what if I fall into the water??? Should I stay on pace with Meghann?

As if reading my mind Meghann told me to stop panicking and to not wait for her during the race. I love that woman. So as we lined up for the start we began to notice that it was less than 5 minutes away and yet there was no announcement. Nor was there a starting line. Turned out the starting line was towards the back… we had to figure this out. The awesome volunteers were busy checking their phones. To the back we went.

I began my usual pacing and stretching. Again, I looked towards the seasoned runners and copied them. I knew then I would have to start researching proper techniques. I made a mental note to subscribe to Runners World and to look for local running groups.

It was now ten minutes past the listed start time and still no announcement. People began to ask each other if we were at the right spot and if we had heard anything. Some asked the volunteers, they just shrugged and walked away. Awesome. What felt like another ten minutes passed before they finally set up the speakers and let us know that we were at the starting line and that race would being in 15 minutes… arg.

Meghann began to look bored at this point. I began to wonder if we should have just stuck with the larger races. My first race went so well that I wanted Meghann to have a similar experience. Yet here we were, standing around for an hour with very little guidance. Again, as if reading my mind she just smiled at me and told me everything would work out and we would get started soon. I really love this woman.

Eventually, we got call to line up for the start…. and since this was a run/walk there were strollers and people taking pictures in the front… I really wanted him to tell the slower people to move back but no luck. I was going to have to bob and weave my way through.

Aquarium of the Pacific 5k - Start
And off we go! Well not for me… I’m way back…

As you can see in the picture, those right up front had no problem. I was mid pack and still had to walk to the start line. Once I crossed that chip start marker, I made it a point to find a clear path or follow a fast runner. Out of nowhere came the woman who will from now on be known as “Mullet Lady”. Yes, she is about mid 40s and still rocking the mullet. She was on a mission as well and took the inside lane. In the picture, that would be to the left of the trees. I kept pace with her for about the first mile. She kept running at full pace and I decided to slow it down to a steady pace. Thank you Mullet Lady!

Once I broke away from the strollers, I looked around and took in the sights. The boats in the harbor. Beautiful ocean a few steps away. A lighthouse in the distance. This is where I wished I had stayed by Meghann’s side. I looked back to see if I could spot her but there was still a mass of people behind me. I pressed on.

About half way through I began to notice there was a woman with her personal trainer ahead of me. The trainer started off nice with lots of encouragement, including telling the woman she needed to keep pace with me since I was keeping a steady pace.

But around the 4th Kilometer, I’m only guessing the distance as the route was void of markers, she began to berate the poor woman. The woman had hit the wall and her trainer would not let her hear the end of it. I passed her and here is what I heard as I sped away:

Oh come on! He is leaving us in the dust! Pick it up! Don’t quit on me now! We didn’t come out here to quit! Damn it girl I said no walking!

Yeah it was pretty brutal to hear. I just kept my focus on finishing strong. Thanks to the poor course marking, I only knew I had passed mile one awhile ago and went by landmarks to estimate how much I had left. Then out of nowhere one of the helpful volunteers yells out we are only half a kilometer away. I kick it into high and I run by another volunteer who cheers me on and says I am only a kilometer away! Wait. What? I’m confused and ease back to jogging pace. I really wanted to break my Pasadena 5k time but the confusion lead to a few false sprints.

Finally, I see the fountain near the fake start and realized that was the finish line so this time I kick into high gear. I come running around the corner and up the last incline… 25 mins 45 sec! Damn! So close! Still it was a good pace and the views were totally worth it. I also earned a special medal for being among the top 100!

Aquarium of the Pacific 5k: Top 100
Top 100 Finisher!

After picking up some food and drink from the finish area, I head back to the finish line and wait for Meghann. She clocks in 36 mins and 4 secs and completely misses me standing next to a cat mascot whom I got to cheer her on. She was completely focused on finishing strong. We rest up for a bit and head to the Aquarium of the Pacific.

The Aquarium itself was absolutely amazing. For pictures of Aquarium see my Google+ album. We had a great time and the entry ticket made up for the organizational mishaps before and during the race. Meghann also had a great time and we quickly started looking for another race to sign up for. To wrap up this recap here is a picture of Meghann posing with the penguins.

Aquarium of the Pacific 5k - Meghann Post Race
Meghann felt right at home… even if the little penguin was checking out her butt

Pasadena Marathon: 5k

Recap

This was my first race…. ever… well to be fair I did a race in a random PE event in elementary school; I finished 6th and earned the coveted “Great Effort!” medal. But the Pasadena Marathon: 5k was the first race I truly took serious. It had only been about 6 months since I started running regularly, just getting to the starting line would prove  difficult.

The night before the race I was very nervous and hardly slept. My brain tends to panic and worry about every possible thing that I can go wrong before any big life event. Naturally this time I worried about making it to the start on time, if there was enough parking, if I would get lost on PCC’s campus, if… yeah my brain was in full panic mode that morning.

Despite all that could go wrong we managed to get to the starting line without any delays. In fact, we were about 30 mins early. I looked around and was immediately intimidated. It seemed like everyone had on enrolled in cross-fit classes for months in advanced and in a massive group had cleaned out the local running store. Meanwhile I stood among them wearing my Target clearance rack shirt, well-worn soccer shirts from my earlier days as a piss poor intramural goalkeeper, and my beat up Nike cross-trainers whose only glimpse of cross-training was a short run two days a week. Meghann noticed that my demeanor had changed and quickly got me back on task by telling me to stretch… only 10 minutes until start time.

Meghann did her best to keep me calm... and made me take a goofy picture
Meghann did her best to keep me calm… and made me take a goofy picture

As I tried to remember what yoga moves I had learned early in the week, I quickly realized I should just copy whatever the people around me where doing. Cross-fit had to have shown them how to get ready, right? When they lunged, I lunged. Squat? Alright. Downward-dog? Now you’re talking! Weird plank thing with legs crossed… ok back to stretches I remembered from PE 101. I paced around like a golden retriever waiting to play fetch. Thankfully by my fourth lap around Meghann the announcer gave notice that it was time to line up:

Walkers and slower runners move to the back. 8-12 pace middle. Below 8, move towards the front. If you don’t know what your pace is, MOVE TOWARDS THE BACK!

I moved towards the back. At this point I just wanted the race over with. I began to doubt why I was even here. Why had I paid $45 to run through the same neighborhood I ran during the week? Why did I drag my ass out of bed so early on a Saturday when there was a perfectly comfortable bed with two over-sized cats waiting for me? Well when I finally got to the back it hit me. I looked around and saw people with over-sized sweats, tennis shoes, and most were preoccupied with taking their latest Facebook picture.

I moved towards the middle. I had not woken up at 5am every Monday just to show today and take a stroll through Pasadena. I had signed up for this race to see where I stood. Next time, I would improve my time. Next time, I would wear the proper gear. Next time, I would know what my pace was. Why look at that, I was starting to think about “Next time”. Now I was fucking ready to run!

As soon as I heard the signal I looked for a path to weave through the walkers. By mile marker one I had managed to find a fellow JPLer and tried to keep pace with her… and despite my best efforts she left me in the dust by mile marker 2. I didn’t care. I looked around and saw the cheering crowds, the wide open streets, and the pissed off drivers who didn’t read the countless warnings about road closures. I had found my happy place. From there I just kept a decent pace and took in the sights. I recall being annoyed by the show-off trying to hit on the cute girls around us but that’s about all the interaction I can remember. I was busy aiming for a good time and to see Meghann cheering for me at the finish.

I rounded the corner at Hill/Colorado and saw the finish line in front of PCC. Strangers were cheering my number and encouraging me to bring it home… And so I did. I sprinted despite my knees starting to tense up. I controlled my breathing while my lungs begged for more oxygen. I ran towards Meghann! Or so I thought it was her. I had told her I would probably make it in 30 minutes. She was barely making her way towards to the line at 25 minutes when she saw me come running by.

As I crossed the finish I looked towards the clock… 25 minutes 35 seconds… new personal best. FUCK YEAH! I took my medal like I had just beat Usain Bolt to the finish. It didn’t matter that I had seen about five teenagers run past me with ease. It didn’t matter that the man who was taking medication mid race managed to pass me twice. All that mattered to me was that I got out there and enjoyed every minute of it. Except for that terrible coconut water they handed out post-race. I couldn’t drink more than a quarter of that crap.

Pasadena Marathon: 5k
All of the Finisher medals looked the same. Hoping I can rightfully claim the 10k and eventually Half-Marathon ones.

Afterward, I met up Meghann and we headed towards the nearest bar! It was closed… so instead we celebrated with breakfast at our favorite café. She was quite proud of me and talked up the fact I had come in well below my expected finish. Seeing that smile of hers motivated me to look up other races nearby. This time I would try to get her to experience the race as I did. Amongst the crowds and running through the streets… in my happy place.