Today was the Cadillac Firecracker 5K at the Brentwood YMCA. Just yesterday I was shopping in the upscale, affluent community of Brentwood, TN. I went to Fleet Feet to get some shorts, socks and a training watch. I had to get a women’s model because my wrists are so thin. The teenage sales girl and I compared arms, and ours were about the same size so she agreed a black, women’s model would be fine for me, which I got.
After Fleet Feet I returned to my car to find I had locked the key in the ignition. No problem. Just call home and get Val (wife) to bring me the spare key. Ring, ring, ring. No answer on any of the three phone numbers at home even though Val, Derek and Ryan were all home and it was 10:00 AM. After 20 minutes of this I called 411 and found a locksmith who arrived 30 minutes later. While waiting I had a lot of time to people watch in front of the Brentwood Kroger. One thing I noticed was how fit all the women were. The men, not so much. It was a Friday morning so I think a lot of the women were full time moms and the men were rich fat cats. In Brentwood you see a lot of runners and cyclists. In the restaurants you see thin people eating reasonable portions. It’s a health-minded community.
At the heart of it is a mega-YMCA. This is the training HQ for many of the healthy Brentwoodians. It is also where today’s 5K race was held. I got up at my usual work day time of 5:00 AM and arrived at the YMCA at 6:15 for the 7:00 AM race. There I was, in the belly of the beast–the Brentwood YMCA. I, from Columbia Tennessee where our number one industry is medical supplies, in the midst of all the squash playing, BMW driving elite.
Parking was already pushed back from the Y to nearby office buildings. I parked and ran a little then walked to the Y and got my bib, shirt, chip and my friend Pam’s bib and shirt. She was not able to come. I didn’t get her chip as that would be cheating. The chips you see are quarter-sized plastic discs that you tie to your shoe with cable ties. Using RFID technology the chips allow the high tech timing system to get your exact start and finish time, no matter how far back you are from the start line when the gun fires, and you can be pretty deep in a field of one thousand runners! So if I had carried Pam’s chip it would have appeared that she came to the race and precisely tied me on time.
I walked around for half an hour waiting for the race to start. Most people had other people with them. I sure wish Val, Derek and Ryan had come*. Ryan wanted to but I couldn’t leave him alone in a crowd like that while I ran, and without Val or Derek to watch him, he had to stay home. The crowd was intimidating. Everyone was in such good shape, including the older folks like me, that I was concerned I’d get left behind badly. I toured the Y. I have never seen so many machines. Why do people work out inside when they can just run around their neighborhoods? I went outside and found a light pole to stretch against. A young black man who looked like a track star came up to it and started to stretch along side me too. He was very nice. He was the only person I spoke to the entire time in Brentwood other than the volunteers who gave me my bib and shirt, and that was just transactional.
Ten minutes before seven they announced we could go to the start line. We were instructed to line up leaving the front for faster runners, so I put myself about fifty feet back from the start line. As people started to settle in around me I became comfortable with my self-placement. “I can keep up with this bunch” I thought to myself. Finally the gun. We scrunched but no movement for a few seconds then finally I was moving, walking toward the start line. Then I was crossing it! I punched “start” on my new “Iron Woman” watch and it began to tick off the seconds. I just went with the flow for a half a minute then realized I was not going as fast as I wanted so I started to move around and forward through the crowd.
There was a turn, a hill, people passed me. I passed others. Soon we were spread out nicely and there was plenty of room to find your own pace. It was hard on a new course, not my familiar Woodland Park run, to know how far I had come and how hard to push it. I was pushing it too, telling myself “Go man! What are you holding back for now? This is it!” So I ran faster and passed a few people. Finally a mile marker. I glanced at my watch and it said 7:45. Wow! Under eight minutes for the first mile. I began to suffer a little, wondering if I could keep this pace up. We passed a water station and people were holding Coke cups full of water out to us. Many grabbed them, but I wasn’t about to slow down for water and who needs water in such a short race?
At the two mile mark I was under sixteen minutes and feeling like my legs were gone. A man who had passed me earlier was now walking. My pace had not changed since about 100 yards from the start. The last mile was brutal. I was passed by a young man with a running stroller. He looked so strong I bet he could have carried me in that stroller and still done fine. We were coming back to the Y now. People along the route were clapping and whistling and yelling “Go! Don’t stop now!” Then the finish line was in sight. Merciful heaven above the finish line. A man went to pass me in that last 50 yards, and he did, but I caught back up to him and we crossed about the same time. It didn’t matter who won of course. It’s a race against the clock. We didn’t start together. Still it was fun to have that little sprint at the end. I remembered to hit stop on my watch as I crossed finish.
A volunteer snipped the chip off my shoe and I walked around with the 252 people who finished ahead of me. Some were getting free coffee. Coffee??? I found water and started walking back to my car. I got my camera and went back to the Y to take some pictures, then watched the last of the runners stroll in. After that I got in the car and drove back to Columbia. I stopped and got Ryan breakfast and had a grapefruit with him and told him about the race. Val was having coffee and expressed some interest in my morning.
Later I went to www.nashvillestriders.com
and lo and behold they had the race results posted already. My time was twenty-four minutes and thirty-four seconds, just one second different than the time I got on my new watch. It was good for 253rd place out of 942 and 13th out of 48 in the 50-55 age group!
Even though in the big scheme of things, all I did was drive 40 miles and run around an office park for 5 kilometers, I feel like I accomplished something by getting into shape, getting up early on a holiday and pushing myself through some pain. I was faster than 3/4 of the super fit looking people I had observed this morning and the day before while stranded. Looking at my time I even beat the majority of the older teenage boys and the men in their twenties and thirties. I am a long way from placing, however. So I am going to keep it up. Running and these public 5Ks are a great hobby. I highly recommend it. Can’t wait for the next one.