I nearly forgot. This is a story worth telling. Two blogs ago I told you I was gearing up for a PR shot at the OC 5k. I had some friends running the marathon and I thought it would be fun to race and then cheer them in. (Getting up much later than them was also very appealing). I didn’t get much of a warmup before the race but I made it to the start through the crappy traffic and parking. It’s just slow getting into the lot.
Pre-race they introduced the Hawaiian founder of Wahoo’s. Then we were off. Immediately a group of 4 broke for the lead. I looked down at my watch and saw sub-5 minute pace and decided to stay steady and not break for the leaders. They settled into a pace about 25 meters ahead of me and I locked in. The leaders were mostly young guys, so I was counting on their youthful exuberance to blow them up. A mile in I passed a straggler that tried to catch the leaders and we ran through the campus of Orange Coast College. There were students cheering and a lot of markings so we didn’t go off course. I was kind of pleased with the tall cones and police tape. There wasn’t a bicyclist leading the field or anyone directing us, so signage was important. I didn’t know how important it would become. Heading into mile two the lead pack split up and I started picking guys off one by one. I was slowly catching the leader and before I could, he hung a right onto Fairview Rd, as we were about to enter the fairgrounds. I slowed and looked to see if that was the right direction. The cop behind me yells “Hey! Where ya going?” and I responded back “That’s what we want to know!”
There was only one direction to go, straight. Runners were still running on the other side of the street, coming from the startline which was only a few hundred yards away. Police and spectators stood in between, in the middle of the intersection. I crossed the 4 lane road and the former leader tucked in behind me. Quickly I realized we were running out of real estate. What?? It was fenced off.. so I took the only turn I could, I went right, following the route I took the day before when I had to pay for my expo parking. At this point I was having doubts. I didn’t see any spectators or signs and I slowed a little bit thinking “I don’t know if this is right.” But then I saw the mile 3 marker ahead so I picked it up again to put some distance on my competitors. When we got to the mile 3 marker, my watch read 2.55mi. Not good. We missed something. There was a final hard 90 degree turn (I had no idea which way I was turning) and then immediately the finish line. I threw my hands up in the air and said “Something was wrong, the course was too short.” My finishing time? 14:05. 5k finishers started piling in behind me. A race official came over and asked who won. I told them I had, but that the mileage wasn’t right. I then explained what happened at the intersection and she told me not to worry about it, that they’d sort it out, and that I should go to the VIP tent and enjoy a nice breakfast.
At the VIP tent, I explained the situation again. The lady there says, “Oh, so you didn’t win?” Well.. everybody followed me, so what does that mean. Then the girl from the finish line comes up and explains. She said the police officer at that intersection didn’t seem to know what was going on earlier, so she wasn’t surprised. At this point, I still didn’t know what turn I missed or where I was supposed to go. I know I was supposed to go back into the fairgrounds, but it wasn’t at all clear as to how. No signage. Nothing. When I left, I looked and still couldn’t tell. On the bright side, I got my VIP breakfast and then shuffled out to meet my friends who were running the half and the full.
So I won, in 14:05. Only, if that’s my 5k PR I’m going to retire. It’s bittersweet. I mean, I won fair and square. The leader who took the wrong turn wasn’t even close to me at the end, so I’m sure I would’ve beat him anyway. But I was on PR pace and with a kick could’ve gotten it. We’ll never know.
I got interviewed by the local paper and did the best sports interview I could. No really, I said a whole lot of nothing, trying to sound gracious. Afterwards I realized how stupid I sounded. I should’ve been eloquent and said I came to watch my friends run the marathon, but couldn’t turn down the chance at a PR. I didn’t even mention the course mishaps. It’s probably good I didn’t. The race ended up sending out an apology about the course and offering 50% off next year’s entry. I don’t think I’ll be running the 5k again. I might run the half, but I don’t want to put myself through the awkward situation. I feel like I ruined their race.
Let me say on my behalf, after looking at the race map, I’m still not 100% where I was supposed to go. All I can think is that I was supposed to cross back over into oncoming traffic (which hadn’t cleared) and run that way. But there were police and spectators standing, making a line where I would’ve crossed. They need signs or volunteers or a bike.