Saturday, May 8, 2010

2010 Throo the Zoo 5K Race Report

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound? Today, I finally discovered what I personally think the answer is. Now, as a warning, everything I say from this point forward involves me sharing personal feelings and opinions. It’s not me trying to whine or gripe (though others today might disagree!) Instead, I am venting a frustration I have and sharing my learning experience for future races with you, people who may at least understand my frustration, even if you do not agree.

Today was the Throo the Zoo 5K at the Louisville Zoo. It was my third time running this race and each year, I definitely have a blast. It’s a unique course in that you run through the Zoo and are amongst the animals. And it’s a lot of fun to stay after and enjoy the free admission to the Zoo. It’s actually the one time each year that I visit the Zoo and get up close to the animals. Plus, each year we have more people join us, which only adds to the fun. The first year, it was just me and my husband (we weren’t married yet!). Last year, we walked it with both of our Mothers! (We still weren’t married yet, but we were newly engaged!) And this year, my Father-in-Law and Brother-in-Law joined the four of us! It’s such a fun time, and because of that I will continue to do this race annually—just with a changed mentality.

Also, I want to shout out the awesome barefoot runner I talked to before the race. Everyone was saying “Hey look at him, he has no shoes!” That has to get annoying, but I imagine someone who barefoot runs probably has a pretty thick skin (no pun intended!!) already. I stopped to talk to him because it’s something I am moderately interested in. He was what I would consider an experienced barefoot runner—with two years’ experience. He was open and friendly, and as far as I could tell, ran a great race. Highlight? Seeing him bounce into a pool of mud and get his feet wet. It was so innocent and fun! Observation? He had nice feet.

Okay, moving on. Three major problems existed with this year’s race. The flawed course design (which isn’t a new issue, but it’s usually easily overlooked), incorrect course distance and terribly designed finisher’s chute (I believe it’s possible that the chute problem was the main reason for the distance problem, so combine the last two problems if you wish.)

First of all, the start needs to be moved. It moves participants through a VERY narrow portion at a very early stage in the race. And we all know what that means—bobbing and weaving through walkers, strollers and groups of people oblivious to the world around them. Narrow passageways are fine on courses, but give everyone a chance to spread out before forcing us onto these early in the race when we are already dealing with congestion.

Second, my Garmin read 3.02 at the “finish line.” Anyone with a Garmin knows that if you want to run 5 miles on Friday, run until the Garmin reads something like 5.15. LOL Could my Garmin be off? Sure. But by my finish time, I know it wasn’t. The course was short, which many will overlook. After all, what does 0.10 really matter? Well, for me, it matters. It’s 160 meters. It’s 528 feet. And for me, it takes well over one minute to run that. That’s a pretty significant, if you ask me. Now, I wasn’t running a PR today. So why does it matter? Maybe it doesn’t. But it was frustrating.

Last but probably most annoying, the finisher’s chute issue. Have you ever run all out during a training run or a race—almost as fast as you can—and then stopped immediately. No walking, just STOPPED? Well, I did today. It sucks. It doesn’t feel good. Then, they proceeded to create two separate chutes just behind me, splitting me and my husband up. We walk a step or two, then stop. Walk a step or two and then stop again. This went on for the length of the chute and THEN they had two people taking our bib tags at the end. Unbelievable. So guess what? Even though my husband and I finished AT THE SAME TIME, he is recorded as coming in over 140 people behind me. Again, unbelievable. If you are going to take bib tags as a point of reference for the place of finishers, then do so BEFORE splitting the chute into two.

Of course, I’m probably in the minority of people out there today. Most people probably didn’t notice, probably didn’t care. And maybe I shouldn’t either. But I do. This is the one thing in life that I have CHOSEN to do for myself because I LOVE it. I love almost everything about it. So I care about almost everything about it. Why wouldn’t I want to run a well organized and well executed race? Of course I would!

So the answer to my opening question, does a tree that falls in the forest make a sound? Who cares? The forest isn't even certified! So it doesn't matter to me, and it won't matter to any other runners or walkers who even remotely cared about their race time or the distance of the course. Did I have fun during the race though? I sure did, and that’s the saving grace of the Throo the Zoo 5K race. It’s fun. Though I learned nothing new today, I did discover my personal feelings about running a non-certified (albeit USATF-sanctioned) race. If I intend to, I will do it for fun and only for fun. In other words, I won’t be paying attention to the falling tree. I’ll just be looking at all of flowers instead.

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