Oakland University Homecoming 4K Recap

Homecoming weekend at Oakland University has typically taken place in the winter, but this year it was was moved to the weekend of September 19-21. Matt earned a couple degrees from OU and works there now, so we tend to be fairly involved with campus activities. We went to a BBQ and caught some volleyball and football on Saturday. On Sunday, we participated in the 4K run around campus.

The Grizz statue on race day.

The Grizz statue on race day.

We enjoyed running the Homecoming 5K back in January 2011, but there has been no race to coincide with Homecoming the last couple of years. The campus roads are well-maintained during the winter and it was nice to race during the time of year when there are few races to choose from. However, it was so cold that tears ran down my face and froze, so I was looking forward to racing in more reasonable conditions this time.

A 9:30 start meant we didn’t have to wake up crazy early, and it was refreshing to have temperatures in the low 60s by the start of the race. We collected our bibs and cotton t-shirts in the O’rena lobby. It was nice to have the building open for the sake of having restroom facilities and a place to hang out before the start.

A cool race t-shirt.

A cool race t-shirt.

Although it was a little windy, it was a beautiful morning to run around the campus. The Grizz statue and the brand new Elliott Tower looked especially photogenic.

OU's new carillon tower.

OU’s new carillon tower.

Another photo of the Grizz.

Another photo of the Grizz.

Ready to race!

Ready to race!

Because this was a 4K, I figured I could try to run a little faster than my usual 5K pace. However, I had run 11 miles the day before and knew the campus hills wouldn’t make it easy. I had to laugh when Paul Rice, OU’s head track and cross country coach, said the race would be all downhill with the wind at our backs. I sure knew that wasn’t true! Luckily, the race did start downhill, providing some good momentum at the beginning. I lost most of that momentum half a mile into the race when I headed right into the wind. Once I made the turn out of the wind, that’s when the climb started. We probably climbed close to 100 feet through the second mile, and that was enough to slow me down significantly. The bonus is that there was only half a mile left after that, and we did get another downhill stretch before the finish. I finished in 17:39 and averaged 7:05 per mile. That was 10 seconds per mile slower than last weekend’s 5K at the Detroit Zoo, but this course and the wind made things more challenging, so I was still plenty happy with my time.

A loop around campus.

A loop around campus.

The elevation according to my Garmin.

The elevation according to my Garmin.

My splits.

My splits.

Water, bananas, and bagels were available in the O’rena lobby after the race.

Post-race in the O'rena lobby.

Post-race in the O’rena lobby.

We were told ahead of time that they weren’t going to have an awards ceremony, so we could collect awards in the lobby when the results were ready. This was a pretty small race and both Matt and I were speedy enough to collect prizes. I was the first woman in my age group, and Matt was second in his age group. We were thrilled to find out that we received gift certificates to Runnin’ Gear! I’ll take that over a medal any day. :)

We really enjoy running around OU’s campus and we were glad that the Homecoming run made a comeback this year. Hopefully it will become a solid part of the Homecoming weekend tradition because we’ll certainly be back to run the race again!

– Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

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Run Wild for the Detroit Zoo Recap

On Sunday, September 14th, Matt and I ran the Run Wild for the Detroit Zoo 5K. We’ve considered the race in the past and finally decided to give it a try this year. We’ve been following Hal Higdon’s half marathon training plan, and the schedule included a 5K race for last weekend. We adjusted the schedule and moved the 5K race to this weekend instead. I really wanted to race a 5K to see where I stand with my training right now. I’ve been using training paces that correlate with my half marathon PR (from a year ago), but I haven’t been sure if I should speed up or slow down. This race confirmed that I’m on track and might even be able to aim for a faster goal.

I went to the zoo a couple days before the race to get our bibs and cotton t-shirts. It meant one less thing to worry about the morning of the race. It looked like the packet pickup and registration lines were pretty busy the morning of the race.

The race t-shirt.

The race t-shirt.

This race offered a 5K, 10K, a combination of both, and a fun walk. The 5K was the first race, beginning at 8:00. We knew that the race drew a pretty large crowd, so we got there about an hour early. We found the porta-potties, which luckily had no wait, then went back to the car for a few minutes to stay warm. It was only 45 degrees and we haven’t adjusted to the cooler temperatures yet! Although a little cold for standing around, we knew it would be perfect racing weather.

The race started on a service drive just outside the zoo. Matt and I ran through the parking lot, out the gate, and past the starting line for a half-mile warm up. With such a large crowd (over 1,500 people in the 5K), I figured we should line up early. I was surprised to find that most of the people had lined up well behind the finish line. We had no problem getting right up to the front. The race was chip-timed, but based on past results we knew that we should start near the front.

A beautiful morning for a race.

A beautiful morning for a race.

A few young boys came along at the last minute and stood right at the front. I know kids that age tend to start way too fast and fizzle out quickly, so I wondered how long they’d last. Not very long! One of them made it .15 before stopping to walk while the other two stopped even sooner. I know they have no sense for pacing at that age and hope the remaining three miles went okay for them!

Matt and I have run a 5K at Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, and that race actually goes through some of the zoo. This race runs around the outside of the zoo and through the streets of Huntington Woods. The first mile was mostly along the service drive, and we got to run past a golf course for a little bit. The neighborhood portion of the race was nice and peaceful. This was a great course because it was flat and fast!

The 5K route.

The 5K route.

Not counting triathlons, the last time I was in “race shape” and really raced a 5K was in June 2013. I’ve hovered just above or below 22 minutes, so that was my goal for this race. I figured I shouldn’t run much faster than a 7-minute pace to start, so I consciously slowed down during the first mile after a quick start. My first mile split was 6:59, so I was right on track. Typically, by the time I’m halfway through a 5K, things get miserable. I start to question why I torture myself, I wish I was already done, and I have to convince myself that I really shouldn’t stop to walk. None of that happened during this race! My breathing was a little bit labored, but I actually felt pretty good. My second split was a 7:03 – still right around where I wanted to be. After that, I basically ran based on effort and pushed a bit more as I approached the finish. I saw that the clock was just under 22 minutes, so I pushed in hopes of staying sub-22. I did – by one second! My official time was 21:59.

My Garmin splits.

My Garmin splits.

Technically, my 5K PR is 21:57. However, my pace according to Garmin was 7:06 for that race. If I base it on my Garmin pace, this was a new PR. It’s the first time I’ve maintained a sub-7 pace for a 5K, so I was thrilled! I think this may also be the first time I really felt good for a 5K. I typically start fast and fade, feeling like I’m about to die by the end. I feel like I kept things pretty even for most of the race and still had energy to pick it up at the end. This race let me know that my training is going well and that I’m getting better at pacing.

The finish.

The finish.

Bottles of water, Gatorade, and bananas awaited us at the finish. Matt and I went to the car to get some warmer clothes, then we found a spot where a couple of big screens flashed through the age group results. I ended up placing first in my age group! It was my last day of racing in the 30-34 age group, so I wondered if I’d finish it off with one more award. I joked before the race that I didn’t stand a chance since our speedy runner friend Danielle was there and she’d certainly win the age group. Well, she was so speedy that she was the overall female winner – pretty awesome. That meant she won an award for being first place rather than getting an age group award.

My results.

My results.

Our bibs allowed us free admission to the zoo for the day, so we went in and sought out the post-race party area. Although the fun walk through the zoo still hadn’t started, we were able to help ourselves to the food. They had tons of hot dogs, chips, and granola bars. It was kind of funny to eat a hot dog at 9am, but it sure tasted good. There were several picnic tables outside as well as a large tent with a ton of tables inside. Some of the sponsors had tents, and a band played as well.

Eating hot dogs early in the morning.

Eating hot dogs early in the morning.

After our snack, Matt and I walked around the zoo for an hour and a half. For the most part, only people who had run the 5K were walking around while we were, so it was nice to enjoy a calm and quiet atmosphere. One of the highlights was probably watching the seals twist around in circles and swim upside down.

It seems like everyone always has to take a picture in front of this fountain.

It seems like everyone always has to take a picture in front of this fountain.

The awards ceremony started at 10:30, so we worked our way back by then. They announced the overall and masters winners but not the age group winners. That was kind of nice because it saved a lot of time. I’m glad I was standing right next to the table where they handed out the awards and got over there quickly. After I collected my award, I saw that there was a ridiculously long line behind me. We checked out the penguins next then headed home.

What a cool medal!

What a cool medal!

We were really glad we did this race and it was a great experience overall. There was a nice, speedy course, a great post-race party, and a fun walk around the zoo. We’ll definitely keep it in mind in the future!

A picture in the car after the race, with Matt sporting free sunglasses courtesy of Moosejaw.

A picture in the car after the race, with Matt sporting free sunglasses courtesy of Moosejaw.

– Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

 

Naperville Last Fling Mile Race Recap

Vertical Horizon playing Naperville's Last Fling festival.

Vertical Horizon playing Naperville’s Last Fling festival.

Thanks to the band Vertical Horizon, I ended up racing a mile for the first time on Labor Day. When I saw that the band was scheduled to play a festival in the Chicago-area suburb of Naperville, IL, it sparked the idea to visit family who lives there for the holiday weekend. I looked for more details about Naperville’s Last Fling and found that the festival featured a mile race on Labor Day. Tom, my half brother-in-law who we’d be visiting, is a great runner so I asked him about it. He’d never run the race but he was interested in trying, so he signed up. Matt and I hesitated to register in advance because I’d been having some problems with my right hip. I took three days off of running in the week leading up to Labor Day, and the first run back was pretty painful and frustrating. I took another day off and luckily I was okay for my next two runs. Since I got through 90 minutes of running the day before, I figured I’d survive a mile.

The race started at Naperville North High School, and we got there about an hour early. Matt and I registered on the spot, so we filled out forms and got in line. There was one line for pre-registered people and one for day-of. Each line moved slowly, but ours was REALLY slow. We were in line for half an hour! Tom got through his line eventually and went out for his warm-up run while we kept waiting. One of the biggest issues was that we had to stand and wait as a woman typed in the registration info for each person. We didn’t expect t-shirts since we signed up the day of the race, and sure enough, they ran out of extras by the time we got up there. When I saw the green cotton shirts, I knew it would probably end up stashed in my closet anyway. Tom was kind enough to give his shirt to Matt.

Race t-shirt.

Race t-shirt.

After we finally got through the line, Matt and I went out for a warm-up mile. We ran half a mile down the road and sidewalk, trying to dodge people getting ready for the Labor Day parade that would follow the race. We didn’t see any porta-potties by the start and it seemed like no one was going in the school, so we figured it wasn’t open. Teams were practicing around the back of the school, so maybe some doors were open in the back. We finally found two porta-potties a quarter mile down the road. It was kind of odd and frustrating that it was so difficult to find any, and a guy in the parking lot jokingly asked if he might get in trouble for going there since we couldn’t find any other options.

After our warm-up, we lined up for the start of the race. I knew it would be a mad dash at the beginning plus it was not chip-timed. With a gun start, I wanted to be close and lined up about four people back from the front. We waited for the 9:15 start, but realized people were still in the registration line. Everyone was frustrated as time ticked by. Someone in charge finally showed up ten minutes late and tried to yell out some directions. Without a megaphone, few people could actually hear her. Luckily we could hear the signal for the start and we took off.

As expected, the start was a total cluster. Plenty of kids lined up at the front, and the inevitable trips and wipeouts occurred. Aside from coming to a complete stop to avoid stepping on a girl who was on the ground, I managed to dodge most of the mess. I was able to run my pace with minimal weaving. I didn’t really know what that pace should be though since I’ve never really raced a mile. The McMillan calculator said I could run a 6:22, so I hoped I could at least finish in 6:30. I settled in around 6:35-6:40 for much of the race and figured I’d speed up at the end. Aside from a very slight uphill portion at the start, the race was pretty flat. We ran down one road for most of the race with a couple turns near the end. The final turn came about .15 from the end. The finish was downhill which made for a strong finish. I kicked into a super sprint for that segment and finished in 6:25.

I had been averaging around 6:40 up until the last stretch and managed to drop the average to 6:25 within the last .15. That tells me that I should have sped up sooner or maybe I was too conservative the rest of the time because I had WAY too much kick left in me for the finish. I really had no idea how to pace this race, so it was a learning experience. I was just a few seconds off McMillan’s estimate of 6:22, time I probably lost when I stopped to dodge the girl who was down on the ground. I’ve had great luck with McMillan’s calculator in the past, and once again, it was right on.

They had water, bananas, and juice for finishers. They also had a computer set up where you could enter a bib number and it printed a small receipt with finishing info. It said I was first in my age group of 30-39 and Tom was second in his. I found out later that I was actually third in my age group. Two of the women ahead of me received awards for being in the top three overall, meaning they were not included for age group awards.

My age group award.

My age group award.

We waited a while for awards, but the rain that held off for the race suddenly came down in sheets before they got to the awards. Some of us retreated to a parking deck while the rain was especially heavy. Eventually we got our awards, then we did a cool down mile back to the car. I was glad that my hip held up for the race because all of the downtime must have made me stiffen up. The pain got pretty bad for the cool down jog. The parade had begun, so we had to run through the middle of it a couple times to get back to the car.

A post-race photo of Matt, me, and Tom.

A post-race photo of Matt, me, and Tom.

I’m glad I finally tried racing a mile, but if we happen to be back in Naperville for another Labor Day weekend, I’d avoid this race. Apparently the race has been held for years, so I’d expect things to run a lot smoother than they did. I question why they had such a major issue with the registration and packet pick-up process. I know a lot of people signed up the day of the race, but they probably should have had more volunteers to man the table. The late start and lack of bathrooms also bothered me. Matt had issues because he knew he finished faster than the time they listed for him. Looking at the results, he saw that a guy placed in front of him even though Matt knew he had passed him. The timing company was able to sort things out based on photos taken at the finish.

Overall, too many factors made this race a bit of a disappointment. The course and the race itself were good, but the rest of the experience was not great. I was happy with how I ran, but now I’m anxious to race a mile again to see if I can do even better.

– Janet
Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography