Race: Marengo Underground 5K (Firecracker 5K)
Place: Marengo, Indiana
Date: June 30, 2018
Want to know what is fun to do on a very hot, summer morning? How about run through a cave? A nice, chilly 56 degree cave? Sound like heaven? Well…it definitely is. I promise you that.
I was talked into doing this race by my good friend, Melissa. Her husband was out of town on a trip and they had run this one the year prior to this one and had a lot of fun. I figured it was something new and different…and I had nothing else going on that afternoon…so why not? Bonus: Melissa’s mom was going to walk it and I talked Cathy into signing up to walk it as well. HA!
Melissa made plans to come and pick Cathy and I up around 6:15-ish so we could make the drive to Georgetown to pick up her mom and then head out to the caves to get our packets, use the bathroom, and get ready to run. In the years prior to this one, this race usually hosted around 500 people. This year…1700 signed up and almost 1500 people finished. You know a race is a good one when it pretty much triples in size.
I had actually looked at a few of the previous year results and it looked like, if I had a good day, I could be an overall female finisher. But when I heard about how many people were turning up this year…that thought immediately got pushed to the wayside. Which was fine by me. No pressure. Just go have some fun.
I think the morning was a comedy of errors. Melissa left the house without her inhaler (and she has asthma, so that is kind of necessary). I thought I had forgotten my sunglasses (I realize that 2 of the miles I was covering was INSIDE A CAVE), but it turned our I did actually have them. I mean…we were hot messes. The ride to pick up her mom and to get to the caves was just a lot of talking (this is usual for us) and joking around, and listening, because friends sometimes just need to be heard. It was a relaxing morning overall. When we arrived at Crawford County Middle School, we were directed into the parking lot and then onto the grass near the school. We parked and went to go pick up our packets inside the school.
After we snagged our bibs (mine was weirdly a much lower number than the other 3 people with me) and even chatted with the race director about the race (this is how we discovered how big it had gotten), we went over to the bleachers to pin each other up. Once we were numbered, we went to get into the (at the moment) small line to use the flushing bathroom inside the gym before taking our stuff back out to the car and sitting down inside the car for a little while…to rest our legs, stay cool, and relax before the race.
We did get out about 30 minutes before to eat something small (fuel your runs, friends!), and hopefully get back into the bathroom line. The line for the port-a-potties and the line for the flushing toilets were CRAZY long. We stood in line inside and Melissa even went on a hunt for another bathroom (because a school HAS to have more than one, right?). But after 20 minutes, announcements to get to the start and line up were being made and Cathy came and, being the good race mom she is, ushered us out of the bathroom line and toward the start line.
On the way, my friend Wendy spotted me and called me over. Her daughter was running it (and she kicked some butt too), and we started talking. I know her from my spin classes and we were just catching up. HA! Cathy eventually wandered back over and told me that I really needed to get to the start line if I was going to get a good spot in the crowd. So, I caught up with Melissa and her mom and we all hugged and wished each other luck.
After a short wait at the start line, where there were children up front (which is usually not a good idea…but some can hang, I get it…but still…for safety, it’s often asked that kids move back so as not to get trampled), a lot of red white and blue tutus, and a lot of people running together (you could tell…they were dressed alike), I made myself comfortable a few rows back from the timing block at the start and eagerly awaited the start. Melissa came up to wish me luck and move a traffic cone back further for my own safety (see Dopey Challenge – Disney World 5K story for that)…and I wished her luck…gave her a hug…and prepared to make a sprint (and we all know…sprinting is not my thing).
It was a HOT morning. Humidity was high. Dewpoint was high. And it was close to 80 degrees at 9 am, which is definitely a late starting time for a summer race. The air was thick and heavy, but the mood was excited and so alive. The race announcements were made, discussing how the cave was a comfortable 56 degrees inside, but we had a mile outside the cave, and then we were inside for 2 miles of it and then back out for the dash to the finish (probably about .25 miles). Simple enough. After a few moments, and the lead car in place…we were off.
The first mile was a scorcher. There were small rollers to go up and down, and I actually pressed pretty hard in this mile (it felt harder than it was thanks to that heat and humidity). I passed a lot of the kids that had lined up at the start. I got passed by a few women and that didn’t surprise me at all. But I also passed a few too. We rounded a corner onto E Pleasant Avenue. As you near the end of this road and go to turn left to head toward the cave, you pass by the finish line area. So you know…that’s how far you have to come back when you emerge from the cave. I crossed the railroad tracks and pressed on, my watch alerting me of the first mile just before I hit the entrance of the cave. I didn’t check it…I dove into the darkness.
And was hit with the cold. It was like entering a refrigerator. But after the heavy humidity outside, it was actually very refreshing. I was expecting to hit this part of the race hard…however…I failed to account for the darkness.
I know what you might say…”But you run in the dark all the time!” And…you’re not wrong. The difference is…when I run in the dark…I know those roads and sidewalks. I know where there are holes and potholes and dips and lifts in the pavement and cement. I didn’t know anything about the cave…except that it might have this dusty, loose gravely sort of layer to run on. For the next mile…it was solid. But the twists and turns we went through were dark and at times, it was hard to see the runners doubling back. That being said…LOVED that temperature. Even in my cute little crop top.
So, I pushed it cautiously. When in training and not running a goal race, you don’t do anything stupid. Injuries, as I know, can take you out for the rest of the season, so I pulled back on the pace enough to feel comfortable in the dark cavern. But I kept moving. And I kept picking people to try to chase down. This lasted as long as it took to get just past Mile 2 inside the cave when that loose gravel dusty and uneven ground…became a reality.
I think the words, “Not today, Satan!” actually exited my lips as I really eased back and took each step with a bit more caution and care. No twisted ankles or busted up knees or broken bones. Nope. Not on my watch. So, this meant I had quite a few people pass me up, but I felt good, and safe, and when I got back to the solid ground, picked it up again.
The exit of the cave was in sight, and I popped out, just as Melissa’s mom was about to head in! She gave me a cheer. I went to lower my sunglasses, but they had fogged up, so squinting was now happening. My watch hit Mile 3, so it was the final stretch to the finish line. But this is when that cool air from the cave dissipates and you get the heat of the day back. It was like an oven…a slow burn that just got hotter and it made it very hard to get back to pushing that pace. I headed over the railroad tracks and there was Wendy, and she gave me a cheer as I headed through the finishing chute. I could hear people coming in fast behind me, so I kicked it as much as I could (I have no kick)…and crossed the finish line.
There was water soaking in some kids pools so I went and snagged a bottle. It was still warm, but it was wet and I was grateful for it. I went and stood with Wendy and we cheered in her daughter. She went to go and find her and I waited there, cheering, and soon, Melissa was on her way in. I gave her loud shouts of encouragement and she went into the finish line. She returned and brought me more water (which I needed) and we chatted a bit about the race, standing in the shade, until she spotted Cathy.
As Cathy crossed the railroad tracks, we cheered her in and she picked up her pace to jog it into a strong finish of 48:15…for her first officially timed 5K. WOOHOO!! Cathy snagged herself some water and I went to gather her up so we could cheer in Melissa’s mom. At one point, a train came through and cut off some people heading into the finish. Some even thought about trying to beat the train, but thankfully didn’t take that risk.
Soon after that, Debra was on her way to the finish line. She finished and we went to meet her and find some spot in the shade to wait to hear the overall and age group winners. I knew I was out for those, but award ceremonies are fun. We cooled off with waters and cheered the super fast winners. Now that this race has grown, perhaps they will consider going to the standard 5 year age group divisions, instead of the 10 year range they are currently using. When your race is 500 people, that makes sense. When it’s almost 2000, not as much.
Afterwards, we went to take photos with the giant flag before making our way back to the car to head home and get on with the day. THIS…friends…was a totally different and fun 5K to run. We all had a blast. And we really loved the reprieve from the hot day by running through a dark, chilly cave.
So, the official results of the Marengo Underground 5K (Firecracker 5K) are that I finished in 23:53. I actually thought I would have been able to do better. But my splits were 6:54, 7:53, and 8:13…which is actually laughable. My fastest mile was actually in the heat. I think the darkness and then the uneven and soft/rocky surface through me off. Or…maybe I’m just not a good 5K runner. It’s frustrating…but this was not a goal race. That first mile though!! If only I hadn’t slowed down so much in the cave. Safety first. I was 90/1463 finishers overall. I was 25/928 female runners. And I was 10/250 in my age group.
Running in a cave on a super hot day is fun…and challenging. And this little race is starting to go places. I hope to be back.
Also…not a lot of photos for this one. We were all running so there was nothing for that finish line. And no official photos of me at the end.