Race: Million Mutt March 5K
Place: Louisville, Kentucky
Date: October 27, 2012
It had been a pretty intense week for me. After churning out my fastest half marathon not even a week earlier, getting in my training runs for next week’s half marathon, traveling, getting caught up on work, and having the weather go from 80 degrees one day to 43 degrees the next…I admit…I was tired.
I also admit that on Saturday morning, the thought of stepping out into the windy, cold morning to go run a race at Cherokee Park was not really thrilling me. I don’t dislike Cherokee Park. I train there a lot with my fun run group at my local running store. The hills make for a nice challenge and definitely help build strength in my legs. But I just wasn’t feeling it that morning. My legs were achy due to the sudden return of cold weather. My original plan to wear one of my running skirts changed before I walked out the door after a quick check of the weather. I know a lot of people who would still venture out in shorts to run. Normally I would too. But not with that wind. I was already cold just sitting around my apartment. So, before my roomie and I headed out, I changed into my capri pants, grabbed a Lärabar, and stepped out into the cold.
Like I said…it wouldn’t have been too bad save for that wind. That’s what made it cold.
We arrived in really good time at Cherokee Park and managed to find parking not too far from the pavilion where packet pick-up was happening. I ran in the Million Mutt March last year too, and one of the best parts of this race is the number of dogs that are brought out. You see, this race benefits our local no-kill animal shelter No Kill Louisville, and not only are adoptable pets brought out, but runners bring their dogs as well. Some dogs even run with their owners. The first dog across the finish line gets an award. It’s a fun race for a good cause. So when I saw I was going to be in town for it, despite the still travel/race weary legs, I had to sign up for it. I wouldn’t miss this one for the world.
Packet pick-up was a breeze. It had just opened up 15 minutes before I arrived and no one was there. Granted, there had been an option to pick up your race packet the previous night at the local Fleet Feet in Louisville, but I wasn’t going to make an extra trip into Louisville only to return the next morning. Not for this race. Packet pick-up at Cherokee Park is never difficult. Go to the pavilion, tell them your name, get race bib and t-shirt. Easy. And that was exactly how it ran. The only difficult part was that the lady at the packet pick-up had to reluctantly remove her mittens (yep…told you it was cold!) in order to flip through the race bibs to find mine.
I was handed my number (28!), asked what size t-shirt I wanted, and wished luck. I thanked them, grabbed four safety pins and went to find where Cathy was standing. I handed her my race bib and she went to pin it on me. This meant I had to unzip my hoodie and be a little chilly for a moment. So…I did.
Before you think I’m wimping out, I understand that I did run a half marathon where the temperature was 43 degrees and I was in short sleeves and a running skirt. But with the wind here,this 43 degrees felt like 37 degrees. And my rule is once it hits the 30s…I don’t do shorts. So, with that rule in play and the temperature feeling like it was in the 30s, I went with capris and my Soft Kitty (from Big Bang Theory) socks. Long sleeve tech shirt and my running jacket. Layers. Layers are my friend in this sort of weather.
I got my number pinned and immediately zipped my jacket back up. We walked my t-shirt back to the car and I debated on whether or not to wear my gloves. I decided, in the end, to skip them. Not sure that was the best choice, but…you know…
We still had about 40 minutes to go until the start of the race, so we ventured back toward where all the activity was. Vendors and pet adoption/rescue places were setting up booths for the event that followed the race. We made a quick circuit of the area, then returned to the little basketball court. I stood there, shivering, looking at the dogs that passed, giggling at some of the costumes they were wearing (some owners dressed up their pooches for the Doggie Costume Contest). I eventually devoured my Lärabar (Peanut Butter Cookie, in case you were wondering) about 30 minutes before the race was to begin. And then, I began to do a few stretches.
When it gets cold, I usually get lazy with the stretching. I don’t want to stand out in the wind and loosen up. I wand to fold my arms across my body and attempt to just stay warm. But that won’t help me in a race, especially with hills, if I pull a muscle. So…I half-assed some stretches, but at least I did it.
Soon, runners, walkers, and pooches were all making their way toward where the start and finish line of the Million Mutt March were set up. A woman wearing a t-shirt walked past declaring that today was her wedding day. I congratulated her and she said that her husband-to-be is afraid she’ll fall on her face and get hurt. We laughed a little at that. Then, I moved to find a spot, actually near the front of the pack for me, to get started. We were given instructions about the course…and then had to part from the start due to one of the shuttle buses arriving. Seriously. The bus went to the drop off point, some cars followed it through, and we got back into our spots and prepared for the start of the race. I hit play on my iPod, saw the small group ahead of me begin to move, and headed for the start. I hit the start button on my Garmin as I crossed the line and was off.
Somewhere in those first few steps at the start line, I made a decision. I run Cherokee Park quite often, so I figured, why not experiment a little with this race. Push a little harder. Yes…tired legs…I said push harder. I could at least try, yes? So, with that decision made, I made for a quick decent down the first hill to the point where it levels off. I tried to keep my hard pace. It wasn’t too difficult. I had an older lady running just slightly ahead of me in a yellow jacket. I used her for the first mile to help me keep my pace up. It was a trick I had read about in numerous books on running and one I was now going to employ. The course veered from the Scenic Loop and headed down one of the roads connected to the park. Mile 1 was now done and I was making good time. I didn’t check my watch, but I heard it beep. I know now…if I don’t focus on my time, I run a better race. Keeping that in mind…that’s how I chose to run this one.
We finally hit the turn around on the road and I looped around, now just behind the woman in the yellow jacket. This part of the course was flat, but I knew some of the worst hills in Cherokee Park were still ahead. My brain was telling me to slow down, my legs were screaming at me to slow down, but I didn’t listen. I had 2 miles to go, and this was a course I ran often and knew well. If anything, even on travel/run-weary legs, I could push this. I could.
As Cathy and I had driven into Cherokee Park, I knew that Mile 2 hit as we began the never-ending climb up what we call Dog Hill, so with that in mind, I went to go ahead and push a bit more, get past the woman in the yellow, and prepare to set my own pace going up that hill. It would be coming up in a few minutes. I went to pass, and she moved over to where I was running and cut me off. WTF?! I moved the other way, and she did it again. How aggravating and very unsportsmanlike.
Fine…if that was the game she was going to play, I’d pass her on the hill.
Or, that was my plan. As we started up Dog Hill, I once again moved to pass her, and she once again slid over in front of me making it impossible to do so. I thought about faking to the left and going right, but while that works in basketball, it doesn’t really work in running. I had heard about, even read about, these types of runners…but this was my first actual encounter with one…and I’ll be honest…she was really pissing me off!
I pushed even harder than usual on the hill now because I really wanted to get past her. But, every time she’d move in front of me and make it impossible. I finally just let her have the lead. No sense killing myself trying to pass when it obviously wasn’t going to happen. I was raging inside. I hit the top of Dog Hill, and now it was down before the last stretch of the race, uphill toward Hogan’s Fountain.
Usually this part of Cherokee Park I run on fresh legs, coming in from Eastern Blvd. from the running store. However, in the 5K runs held here, this is always the last stretch. So, I tried to run this as I would on fresh legs. I really dug deep here, wanting to just go all-out, even on hills, for this run. It was something I had wanted to do in the summer, but the extreme heat didn’t really allow me to throw caution to the wind and just push it at a race to see what I could do. Choosing to do that on a race with hills on tired legs…probably not the best way to go…but…well…the decision was made and I was now less than a mile out from the finish.
As I was nearing the crest of the hill at Hogan’s Fountain, another bus came through. Seriously. A bus. A lot of runners run with headphones in, and the guy and his dog just ahead of the bitch…er…the lady in the yellow jacket…didn’t even hear it coming. He could see the finish line and he was going for it. The director of the race was having a fit when that bus showed up. It even honked at the guy with the dog, but he just kept on trekking.
And while the woman in yellow was distracted by the bus, right there, right at the finish, I blew past her. FINALLY!! And wow…did I ever feel that run. I stopped my Garmin and turned off my music.
Cathy was there at the finish line, waving her hands as I went through. She came over to tell me I set a new PR, but either by a second or…by whatever my Garmin said. My Garmin said 6 seconds. So, only when official results posted would I know for sure. I held up a finger and walked away in an attempt to catch my breath. A table with bananas and water bottles was just up ahead, so I walked that way, taking deep breaths, and finally getting to a point where I could answer.
And the first thing I said was, “I have been trying for most of the race to pass that woman…and I just barely did it.” Yeah…don’t focus on the important thing there, star…bitch first. Oy. But…you know…I’m not normally the competitive type at these things, but the fact that she kept purposefully blocking my attempts to pass just set me off.
I took a drink of water (which I had to get Cathy to open as I couldn’t feel my fingers), and we walked around the little vendor/doggie adoption area. I bought another little race mascot, a little dalmatian in a No Kill Louisville shirt, which I named Frank N. Spot. And I nommed on my banana. We pet a few puppies, met some great dogs, were asked more than once to adopt a pet (if we could…we would), watched the Derby City Disc Dogs preform their frisbee tricks, and then were ready for the awards ceremony.
I knew that I had been the 5th woman across that finish line, so I figured I at least placed in my division somewhere. But as the names were read out for the 30-34 age division…I wasn’t called. I knew that couldn’t be right because the evil blocking woman was one of the grand master winners…so I had to have won something.
After all the awards were handed out, I checked with the race director. Lo and behold, my name had been on the page prior, as had three other people, and the awards were given to those who came in 5th-7th. Whoops. So, without any fanfare at all, I was handed my first place medal for the Million Mutt March age division and sent on my way. My roommate didn’t even take a picture immediately. I had to ask her too. Like I said…no fanfare. Kind of a disappointment for that kind of an error to happen…but these things do happen.
So, the official results of the Million Mutt March 5K are that I finished in 24:44 seconds, my new PR for a 5K race. Not bad for a hilly one, yes? I was 16/161 finishers overall. I was the 5/107 women to cross the finish line. And I was 1/19 in my age division. WOOHOO!!
I loved that I pushed myself on this race to do a little more than I normally do. I didn’t like some of the unsportsmanlike action taken by the woman ahead of me. I loved that in the end I beat her across the finish line. And I loved that my money for this race benefited No Kill Louisville. It was a cold morning, but a good one…and I ran for a great cause. And in the end…that’s what it is all about.