July 4, 2019
Drove back down to Southern California after spending 10 days with my dad while my mom and sister are chaperoning the choir tour out of the country; I didn’t want to miss out on 4th of July festivities.
This event has become sort of a tradition for me and Dona McBride. We take turns driving to the race, wear something patriotic (usually flag shorts for her and a small flag (with stick) inserted into my hat. After the race, there is a pancake breakfast (for an additional fee).
I always have to mention the weirdness of this event. The 5K is the most heavily attended race with loads of walkers, and so they begin the race in front of the city hall, which is also where the announcement stand and the national anthem singer is located. The 10K, on the other hand, usually has 25% of the total (my guess is less than 100 runners). So, we are relegated to 0.15 miles down the road (also to make up the distance missed in doing two loops. We can hear the announcements and the national anthem, but we don’t really feel a part of it. The best part is the start when our starters are essentially listening to headphones or cellphone or something to coordinate us with them.
We take off and can see the “conflagration” in the distance of red, white, and blue bounding and swirling and slogging. There are lane lines down the middle of the street to keep the two races separate for a bit. Within a couple of minutes, I have passed probably 3/4 of the 5K runners and struggle to insinuate myself into the middle of the next level of runners who I am slightly faster than (trying not to stumble on the traffic bumps as my side of the street becomes open to traffic). The struggle is mostly because we are making a left-hand turn, but it’s okay to be on the high side because in another two blocks, we will turn right (except there are cones keeping us on the left side of the street). Despite being ahead of most of the masses, it is still a bit chaotic making all these turns.
This little zig (to make up to the 5K distance) goes through a quaint neighborhood and there are always locals sitting on camp chairs cheering us on and wishing us happy 4th.
Now we curve back out to the original street and prepare for another left-hand turn onto the longest straight stretch of the race. This is when I surge and slow, and take a couple periodic walks when my breathing is too much or my back or leg is bugging me. When I walk, the dozen or so people I struggled by earlier repass me with vindication… until I slowly recatch and pass them when I begin to run again.
At just about 2 miles, we make another left-hand turn, pass a few businesses and the local high school, and then one more left turn, past the 10K start (one more weird location for a water station so close to the finish), and then I move over to the far side of the street and pass by the finish, and most of the folks I have been competing against stay left and finish the race.
Up ahead is the vast wasteland of the 10K, less motivation to push the pace with almost no one around me, but I hesitate to take a walk break until after I have made the far left-hand turn.
Once I am back into the neighborhood, most of the locals have packed up their chairs and gone inside for breakfast, not content to watch the scant masses of 10Kers pass by in ones and twos. I do wish a happy 4th to each of those that remain and they wish me the same.
On the long straightaway, I take a couple more walking breaks (5 in total for the whole race (which in the past I wouldn’t have done 10 years ago). I am mostly not seeing a lot of 10K runners but there are still runners out here – 5K walkers that I am lapping. I am supportive to all of them along with the police and volunteers that are guarding the cross streets. I always make sure to thank all of them each time I pass. Sometimes they are directing traffic so I don’t worry if they acknowledge me back.
I end up having a nice sprint finish (no one needs to know about all those walks!) in 51:50. I am still (forever) in a competitive age group so that ends up being 4th in my division. Dona did the 5K and won her age group.
Afterwards, we wait in line for our pancakes, sausage, OJ, and coffee, greet fellow runners and random people that we always see on the 4th, and sit through the entire awards ceremony. They always do all three names in each age group for 5K, 5K Walk, and 10K (and read all the times). The Race Director and a city rep (mayor sometimes) shake their hands and present their awards. I think they gave medals this year, but I have duffel bags, 20 oz glasses, and other stuff from the past.
Dona and I drive back to her house and then I drive the two miles home. When I am a block from my condo, my car starts acting up at the penultimate stop light. (My car’s too new to be giving me problems.) But when I get home and turn on the TV, I learn there was just a huge earthquake in Ridgecrest 10 minutes ago.