The UMKC Regalia Run was the third 5K I had on my dance card, which I’d mentioned in my earlier posts. I had said I didn’t think a 5K was my distance, and then I found myself signed up for three. Now they are run and done.
I had done the Regalia Run last year, and I regaled you patient readers about it in this post. That was the first year the run was held, and now I’ve been to the second running as well, so I feel like a legacy. I guess I’m going to have to keep doing this every year.
I was surprisingly nervous about this run in the days leading up to it. I’m not really sure why. I can do the distance. I knew the course (even if this year’s course was different from last year’s). I was rested and fueled. I’d been turning in faster times on races all summer. The weather was just about perfect for a run. My new shoes were broken in. The stars were in alignment. And yet I was fretful for some reason. I suspect it had to do in part with a desire to do better this year than last and in part with the knowledge of how hilly the course this year was. It might also have been some transferred anxiety about a long run I’m hoping to do this coming weekend.
Whatever the reason, I slept fitfully on Saturday night and woke before the alarm on Sunday. I moved about the house. Let Queequeg out (and checked the weather — which was much warmer than last year). I drank some tea, ate a banana, and swallowed a vitamin (in part because I don’t eat much of what most people would call a balanced diet but also because the vitamins seem to ward off the cramps I otherwise get in my hands, feet, and legs). I surfed online for a while. Checked and re-checked the race web page for updates (none). Brushed and flossed. And then slowly began slipping into the kit you see in the photo above. (Note: KC Running Company is a local store that sells the usual gear but also runs and sometimes sponsor’s races. They were running this year’s Regalia, so I thought I would wear their shirt.)
My wife and I got to the University about an hour before gun time (and before most of the other runners) and got ourselves over to the start. I felt chilled in my skimpy plastic clothes, so we found an open door in one of the buildings and let ourselves in to sit in comfy chairs and wait. (Also, indoor bathrooms.) The sun had finally crested the hills to the east and was falling on the campus grounds. About a half hour before the start, we headed up the slight hill to the start and wandered about there. I had my blood pressure and pulse checked at one of the booths operated by the nursing students (137/73, 54 bpm). We speculated whether that really was Steven Spielberg sitting on the stone wall. (If so, he ran under an assumed named since he doesn’t show up in the results, but it sure looked like him.) I ate a free energy bar. We wandered about. I looked for other runners I knew but didn’t see any. There were only about 250 runners signed up this year, but that beats the 200 they had last year. Still, it would have been nice to see a familiar face.
Last year the start had us running down a short, nice hill. This year they had us start halfway up a hill, continuing up that hill once we crossed the mats and were underway. (At first that seemed a little unkind to me, but on reflection, maybe not. Starting out too fast is a common problem for many runners, so starting out going uphill might prevent them from doing that. Or it might tire them right away. I don’t know.)
About five minutes before the official start, they asked us to assemble behind the arch and get ready to run. There was some speechifying that was mostly inaudible, and then the countdown began. I had told my watch to find some satellites, and it had, so I hoped it would hold the signal until I pressed the GO button. When the University chancellor blew the horn, we were off. Uphill. People were passing me, of course, and many more passed me as we rounded the first corner and began heading downhill.
It was a brief downhill stretch before we turned another corner and headed uphill once again. It was too early in the run (not even a half mile) to think about taking a walking break, and, really, I shouldn’t need that on such a short run. Right? So I ignored the voices in my head suggesting a brief walk (as many others were already doing) and just kept grinding up the hill. At the top, we turned again and began a delicious, long downhill run. I’d say it was almost a half mile. It was along here that I first began passing other runners. I’m still new enuf at this game to be surprised that I can actually do that, and I took it as a sign that I’ve made some decent progress as a runner in the last (nearly) three years.
The delicious downhill soon came to an end though and we runners reached our first intersection where the traffic was not detoured. The police were there blocking the cars that wanted to cross our path, but when there was a big enuf gap in the runners, they let a few cars through. I could see that I might be at the head of one of those gaps, so I picked up my pace to get myself closer to the few runners ahead of me. Once I was through the intersection I didn’t care what happened behind me.
But once I was through that intersection, the flat grade at the bottom of the hill was pretty much over. We began another very long ascent of more than a half mile (according to the map the computer created when I plugged in my watch later). I kept grinding, telling myself I wasn’t even half way through the run and that I couldn’t embarrass myself by walking so soon. I was passing some walkers, but I had no desire to pass any runners. (By this time, the faster runners were far ahead and I was in a pack of those who ran at about my pace. It’s good to know there are many others at my ability level.) I deployed my usual technique for dealing with long hills; I simply put my head down and concentrated on the three feet in front of my two feet. The hill seems flatter that way. And if I stick with it, by the time I do look up, I find myself most of the way up the long hill.
At the top we turned a corner in front of the art museum and had a nice level stretch before us. There was a water station at the end of this and I grabbed a cup, threw the water down my throat, and then obliged the hard working man who was running up to each of us with a trash bag to catch the empty paper cups we would otherwise throw to the ground. (The few hundred feet after a water station is generally peppered with thousands of paper cups that somehow don’t make it into the trash cans set out for them. The saying is that runners make terrible basketball players.) After this, we faced another wonderful downhill stretch that was longer than the uphill we had just completed. We would re-enter the campus on its west side, which is lower ground than in the center where we started. This gave us nearly a mile of downhill or flat running. Life was good.
But we weren’t done. There was still about a half mile to go before we reached that arch on the side of the hill where we had started and where we would finish. Once inside the campus, we began a series of ascents that were merciless. I don’t know who thinks having an uphill finish is a clever idea. Really, a race should be just like college. In your last semester, aren’t you allowed to coast? But, no, we had a long hill to climb before the last turn and then the two-block run up another hill to the finish arch. I was beat, of course, but I was also feeling strong. I tried to throw in a little kick, but the hill was taking it away as fast as I was delivering it. I saw my wife on the sideline taking a picture (actually a video I learned later), and I saw the arch getting closer, and I kept pumping my legs. I heard my name announced over the speaker system (always wear your bib on the front). And I was across the mats.
But I wasn’t finished.
A 5K is 3.1 miles long. My running watch had recorded only 3.02 miles. And I hadn’t been cutting any corners. In fact, I was running wide in some cases just to high five the police or course monitors out on the edges. (The high fives give a hard-to-define boost to my run in the low spots.) If anything, I ran farther than most of the other people on the course. I’ve had this same thing happen on several races lately. That horrible half marathon I did at the Air Force base came up as only 12.87 miles instead of the 13.1 it was supposed to be. That’s nearly a quarter mile discrepancy. Assuming our first line of defense doesn’t get these things wrong, I began considering that it was my watch that might be at fault. Since this continues to happen (sometimes, not always), and since when I’m running with others their watches report different distances and paces than mine does (again, sometimes, not always), I suspect the problem is on my wrist. Maybe at the turn of the year I’ll want to step up to a better watch.
So, the run came up short on my watch. I had the timing chip removed from my shoe, accepted the bottle of water, and then accepted the medal given to all of the finishers. (That’s a blue and gold kangaroo on the medal — our school mascot. His bib has a 14 on it for 2014. Last year it had an 80 on it for the 80th anniversary of the university.)
And then I started running again. I needed less than a tenth of a mile to get my watch to consider my run a 5K, so I ran down the block a ways, turned around, and ran back. That was enuf. I had 3.11 on the watch and my run completed for the morning.
My wife found me and we wandered over to the booths where the freebies were. I stopped again with the student nurses and had my numbers checked. My BP was 126/62 and my pulse was roaring at 120. The nurse assured me that this was the way it should be. The heart was pumping more efficiently so the blood pressure was lower, and I had just run 3 miles, so it was pumping faster to service the body. (I wonder what an instant pulse measurement would be right at the end of the run rather than five minutes of cool down later.)
I found the chocolate milk (which I recall they did not have last year) and while there were still no bagels, there were also no donuts to tempt me as they had last year. I ate another energy bar. And then we decided to leave.
It was a good run. I came in eighth in my age group of 15 runners, which is fantastic compared to last in my age group, which was a position I defended throughout 2013. I’d also beaten my time from last year’s run by more than 5 minutes, but that’s not quite a fair comparison since the course was different. But in any case, I had just run my fastest 5K ever by 35 seconds! I had not even intended to set a personal record. I plan to do a really long run this coming weekend, and I need to take it easy. In fact, I’m done running until this coming weekend. But I still need to fuel up. And stay hydrated. So I have that going for me.