Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Almost Unofficial Thanksgiving 5M PR Race
Race Report from the Garden City Turkey Trot

The Preface

While most people probably spent their holiday cooking, eating, or watching football, I spent the bulk of mine finding the answer and dealing with the consequences to one of life’s greatest mysteries—What is the opposite of banditing a race? (C’mon you know you wondered about this too at some point in your life. No? Maybe it’s just me then.) Well, in any case, it turned out to be a Thanksgiving I would not soon forget.

The Intro

Of course, I never intended for my only day off this weekend to be THIS interesting. All I wanted to do this Thanksgiving, more than anything, was to do something I had never done before---participate in a Turkey Trot race. For reasons unbeknownst to me, the powers that be in the NYC racing scene doesn’t believe in holding races in Central Park on Thanksgiving even though there’s practically a race there on every other weekend all year long. And because I’ve never traveled far from the city on Thanksgiving since most of my family is from around these parts, I’d never been privy to join in this annual American tradition. This year however, because I felt I just had to enter a Thanksgiving race to celebrate and give thanks for the best running year I’ve ever had thus far, I made special arrangements to enter a Turkey Trot race in Long Island, which was about a half-hour drive from my parent’s house in Whitestone Queens.

Because this was my very first Turkey Trot and my first roadrace experience in Long Island, I would have been excited about this race regardless of circumstance. Yet, on the morning of the race, I was practically bubbling over with nervousness when my mom, my dad, and my little brother decided to come along and watch me run. Given that no member of my immediate family has ever before been spotted on the sidelines for any of my previous races, having them all there to cheer me on was such a special moment for me. I was so intent on making a good impression that I told my brother right before the race to expect me in less than 31 minutes. My previous PR for a 5 mile race was 31:07.

Although the field was not nearly as crowded as any of the NYRR races I was accustomed to, I was still quite surprised by the massive sea of runners that I found myself a part of at the start of the race. Fearing that I’d be stuck behind hordes of people that were going to approach this Turkey Trot more as a family fun run than a race, I situated myself as close to the front as I possibly could. All around me, I could see representatives from all of the local NYC running teams – Warren Street, NY Harriers, Central Park Track Team, etc in their uniform singlets, conversing boisterously over the race director shouting race information into his megaphone as if they were members of a running elite, far too important to worry about frivolous details like where the water stop and port-a-potties were located on the course. I for one was quite annoyed by this display, and wondered aloud if their gaudiness and arrogance could be reserved for a more appropriate race venue back in the city.

The race started a little after 10AM with the race director signaling a countdown with his fingers in the air and shouting “GO!” into the megaphone. Since I was but a few steps behind the starting line, it didn’t take me long to find and hit my pace. The course for this five mile race consisted essentially of two giant loops. The first 3.5 miles would be a out-and-back loop around a golf course while the last 1.5 miles would be a loop around a park and field house. My miles splits for the first part of the race was pretty good (Mile 1 – 6:00; Mile 2 – 6:12; Mile 3 – 6:10). I ran to the best of my abilities and tried hard to ignore the pack of teenagers gunning it right from the start. I eventually caught up to most of them between the second and third mile, although one of them stole the cup of water that a volunteer was about to hand off to me when he messed up the transfer and dropped his own cup of water and reached back for another. Luckily, I knew that I could do without the water anyways, so I took the opportunity to overtake him while he drank the water. In the end, justice was served because he never caught back up to me again after that.

After circling back to the start, I passed my family again at the 3.5 mile mark, which was quite thrilling. My mom was clapping and yelling my name as I ran by while my little brother gave me a thumbs up sign as I ran across. I was tiring somewhat by then but did all I could to hold on. I passed Mile 4 at 6:19 and knew that if I could hold on at my current pace, I’d have my PR. Towards the end, I found myself trailing a female runner and did all I could to catch up to her. I probably would have too if it weren’t for the fact that there was a turn about 0.1 mile from the finish and the road narrowed to a single file around the finish line. I gave it my all with a big sprint at the end and came in just after her with a final time of 30:46. My last mile was ran in 6:03, which was a lot faster than I thought I was capable of feeling so exhausted at the last mile. For my efforts, I recorded a PR by 20 seconds! I was very stoked that I ran so well in front of my family. Unfortunately, they missed my triumphant finish as they were still wandering around the course, not knowing where the end of the race would be. Still, everyone was excited that they saw me run for the first time, and they all guessed I was within the top 20 or 30 runners at the point that they saw me. Personally, I wasn’t so concerned about my overall finish, just my age group finish. I thought for a moment that I might be up for an award, but when I saw that they were only giving out trophies for the top 2 finishes in every decade, I knew there was not going to be any souvenirs for me that day. After drinking some fluids and allowing my head to settle from the post race nausea caused by my anaerobic sprinting at the end, we headed back home and prepared for the rest of our Thanksgiving Day activities.

The Discovery

After a self-congratulatory hot shower and some lunch, I proceeded to enjoy the rest of my day off watching football and having a grand ol’ time with the family, and forgot all about my race. It wasn’t until later that night, during an intersession in Thanksgiving dinner when I logged on to the race website to check on my official result that I knew something was wrong. As I scrolled through the screen searching for my name, I became more and more disappointed. Not only couldn’t I find my name in the top 50 or top 100, my name was not even listed among the 2293 finishers!

The Dilemma

I went through the five stages of grief in about five minutes after I overcame the shock of not seeing my name in the official results. At first I thought maybe I had dreamt the whole thing up and hadn’t really run the race. (I had to ask my brother if he really saw me run that day.) Then I became angry that they messed up and didn’t record my time. After that, I became confused and wondered if my PR should count since I didn’t receive an official time. A few minutes after that I felt sad that even though I ran a great race, and had my family there to witness my achievement, there would be no documented evidence of my running that race. Eventually, after another minute of contemplation, I accepted my fate and the fact that there wouldn’t be a time for me. So yeah, five stages of grief…all in about five minutes.

But while lying in bed that night and reviewing the events of the day, I couldn’t help but wonder if indeed my race should really “count”. On the one hand, I knew I ran the race and had witnesses that saw me run the race. On the other hand, if there was no time recorded for me at the finish, how could I prove to myself that I had run a PR? Even though I had kept the time on my Garmin, how did I know that I hadn’t started or stopped it a few seconds too fast or too slow. I had no way of knowing. In my mind, the result would’ve been the same if I hadn’t done the actual race but ran another 5 mile course somewhere else. Although I had every reason to count it as such, I decided that night that if my race result wasn’t officially posted, I would pretend it didn’t happen, which would mean no PR as well. To my analytical mind, my dilemma was the same as the philosophical question “If a tree falls down in a forest, but no one is there to witness it firsthand, did it really happen?” All I knew as I drifted off to sleep that night was that this awkward experience of running a great race and yet not receiving the acknowledgment must be the exact opposite of what it feels like to run a race as a bandit.

The Resolution

The next day, while scrolling through race results and race pictures still feeling somewhat numb from what happened the day before, I found out that I would have finished #37 overall and 8th in my age group (30-39) if my result counted. Not only so, but interestingly enough, the woman that out-strided me to the finish, was the first female finisher! In the picture they had of her at the finish, I could clearly be seen in the background, coming in right after her. Because of that, I had documented evidence of my finish! I quickly scoured through the race photos to find one of me and sent an e-mail with both pictures to the race director to ask about my race result.

Well, I’m happy to report that after three days of nervous anticipation, the official race results were finally corrected and my name was inserted in its rightful place today among all the finishers. Instead of being excited and thrilled that I ran another PR, my tenth this year, I’m just relieved that everything was fixed and I don’t have to have any further debates with myself on what to do with an unofficial race PR result.

Although the experience was somewhat psychologically traumatically and morally grueling, I’m glad that this whole experience happened because it proved to me how intimately personal my passion for running and running fast is. I know there are many around me who would never understand why this whole episode could be so aggravating for me. But then again my races and my PRs are all my own, and I would never expect anyone else to know about the many hours of hard work and training that goes into preparing for each of them either.

Hope you all had a good holiday weekend, whether or not you got to run. (But hopefully you did!)

14 comments:

Cowboy Hazel said...

Great job on the P.R.! This Thanksgiving was apparently the day to set them on 5 milers!

That's so annoying that they didn't time you. I've found that to be one of the tradeoffs to running in smaller locals. It's great getting out of the overwhelming size of NYRR races, but things are often not managed as well. (I once ran a 10 mile race in the mountains and they forgot to mark the turnaround point... we past mile 6 before a truck came up and told us we'd gone too far.)

Anyway, next year consider the Turkey Trot in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. It's one of my favorites here in the city.

D10 said...

Glad to hear all was resolved and you will no longer have to contemplate you PR. Congratulations by the way. your mom sounds cute!

M*J*C said...

WOW!!! Great job on the PR, what a CRAZY story!!!! I'm so glad that they fixed the results, that would have made me so upset!!! That's awesome too that your family was there, definitely a great Thanksgiving memory!

joyRuN said...

Congrats on the official PR! That was quite the oversight.

The Happy Runner said...

Oh, that would have burned me! I'm glad that they finally recorded your time, which was an awesome time, by the way. Really terrific.

J said...

Congrats on the PR but too bad about not being recorded in the initial race results. Glad that it got all sorted out!

Meg said...

Great job! What a funny story. I had something similar for my Turkey Trot, only they couldn't find my name when I picked up my race packet. Turns out active.com has my name reversed (last first instead of first last)...I mustn't have checked the silly autofill whenever I registered!

JohnnyGo said...

I believe that it is an official USATF rule that after your 9th PR in one year, all subsequent PR times are discarded until the end of the year.
;-)

raulgonemobile said...

That's an incredible story.

I'd personally have said that even if you were off by a second or two starting/stopping the Garmin, you'd still have a PR, and you could count it. But, everyone is different.

Congrats on the great race.

Irish Cream said...

Oooh, congrats!, Lam! I'm so glad to hear that everything was resolved and you officially got your PR :) And how fun to do it with the fam cheering you on!

I agree that you should try the Turkey Trot in Prospect Park--but don't wait until the week of the race to sign up! Wilson and I got shut out this year!

X-Country2 said...

Way to finally get it resolved. Congrats on a great finish! (No matter how official it would have been.)

runner26 said...

First of all, Congratulations!! You nailed another one!!

Second, I totally understand! My 5K pr happened in a non-chip race back in 2000. It was as bare-bones as you could get. But it was also the fastest I ever ran a 5K. I think I received an official time, but I have no proof of it. No website to look it up. No certificate for evidence. But I did have 4 of my closest running friends with me. They saw me race it. And I'll never forget that finish! But, honestly, I'm hoping to break that time some day soon. Last year I came within one second--so who knows. Maybe in the near future, I'll have a chip-timed official PR to show for my efforts.

Laura said...

Glad the results finally got updated. Congrats on the PR!

Run For Life said...

I totally would have gone through the same questions if it were me. Congrats on the PR and I'm glad your family got to see you run!

 
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