Yesterday I ran the Harvest Hop 5K. Though before I describe it, I should make some stuff clear. The race is put on as a benefit for the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, which is a place where I volunteer. In fact, my volunteer shift was the morning of the race. Which is why I say that the race was slightly shitty: I’m a bird care volunteer, which entails things like taking up old bird food, washing dishes, preparing new plates of food, providing food and water and nectar, feeding a turtle (there’s one turtle that lives in the room with the birds [and the butterflies, which are actually the main focus of the room where the birds live, but the birds are an important part of the ecosystem] and the turtle needs to eat, and so it falls under the aegis of bird care), and—to finally come to the point of the sentence—cleaning bird shit from railings and barriers. So, when I was running, I can’t be certain that I was 100% bird shit-free.
I can’t really speak to the organization of the race, apart from saying that everything seemed fine. The only strict running races I’ve done have all been put on by the Nature Museum, so there’s nothing for me to compare it to. There weren’t any obvious issues, though. And people seemed to enjoy the fall festival that was going on at the museum and which runners were invited to visit.
Before the race, I was absolutely dreading it. I’ve been pretty miserable just life-wise for a couple of weeks, and bad diet and poor workouts have been part of the result. So I wasn’t feeling physically all that good. Weatherwise, Chicago has hit fall in the past week, but it hasn’t been the nice crisp-but-sunny fall weather that makes everyone feel happy to be alive. It’s been cold and gray and really windy. Sunday was probably the best day in about a week, but it still wasn’t great.
So, given my physical and mental state, I wasn’t expecting good things at all. My best time, set last year, was 26:24. This year I was expecting to be in the 27:30 range, and I was preparing for higher.
I started at the very back of the pack, behind even the strollers. Which made me feel like a bit of a dick, although it was a good idea—given my mental state, having people ahead of me to pass was much better than having people in my vicinity who were passing me. It also wasn’t 100% my fault—I was expecting a little bit of time between lining up at the start and actually starting, so I wasn’t in a rush to get in line. So then the race started and I wasn’t in position at all. It was chip-timed, so no actual big deal there.
Last year, conditions were absolutely perfect—pleasantly warm but not uncomfortably so for running, absolutely no wind, and I fell in behind a fellow who paced me absolutely perfectly—he seemed to be much faster than me but going pretty easily and using it as a “fun run” (I don’t believe that concept actually exists, but other people seem to). The result was that his pace was precisely at my upper limit of speed for a 5K.
This year things weren’t that lucky. Grumpy weather, as I mentioned, and no perfect pacer for me. Also, the course was slightly hillier—in that the route this year followed a path that twice went under a road, with the accompanying run down and then back up. So there was a total elevation change of 30, maybe even 35 feet, making it possibly the hilliest race in all of Chicago.
The route was a loop, but the two sides of the loop were really only about 40 feet apart. And the start/finish line was kind of in the middle: we went about 3/4 of a mile south, then about a mile and a half north, and then back to the line. Which meant that it was sort of possible to see a split time as we passed the starting area at the roughly half-way point of the race. But—though I didn’t realize it at the time—I’m pretty confident it was actually a fair bit past the half-way point of the race, because my time there was 17 minutes and change.
When I got to the finish line, the time said 26:50. Which, as I suggested above, was shockingly faster than I expected. Moreover, that wasn’t the actual time, since I started the race a fair bit after the clock started.
Did I beat my time from last year? Let’s add some suspense, since I didn’t know for a while…
Yes, I did. My official time was 26:09.
I feel like I should tell you about my celebration. To be honest, I biked home, and glowered about the problems that I’ve been dealing with for the past few weeks. Hopefully there will be some resolution to that soon.
Sorry to end on a down note. If you’d like to laugh, or just bring the poop theme full circle, watch this video. It’s of an MMA fighter who poos himself, taps out, and then the poo goes in more places than would normally be considered ideal. That’s not a joke, so if you don’t want to see a video of that, please don’t actually watch it. K? Thanks!