Race Report: 2015 Great Pumpkin Race 5k

Last Thursday evening I was faffing about on Gametiime, looking for some races to keep me motivated. I’ve been traveling so much this summer and fall that I seem to miss most local races, but I was in town this weekend, and I noticed there was a 5k on Sunday. I’d offered to drive a friend to the airport that morning, but after some quick calculations, I realized I could drop her off and still make it before the start. It only cost $15 and the race benefitted the Arizona Center for Autism. I figured that the worst case scenario would be that I didn’t make it in time to run and instead made a donation to a worthy cause.

So that’s a long-winded way of saying that on Thursday I signed up for a 5k at the last minute. I’ve mostly been getting in long miles the past month or so. I have done exactly NO speed work since…let’s see…since fall 2014. So I had no idea what I’d be able to do.

After the airport run I headed west. The race was at Buckelew Farm (west of Three Points, for those of you who know southern Arizona), so it was a bit of a haul to get there. I arrived about 30 minutes before gun time, feeling a little rushed. But I got my race number and even had time to warm up a little bit, jogging up and down the parking area.

The race started with a 1 mile kids’ run, so as that was ending the 5k runners started to make their way to the start line. I picked my way around folks to make my way closer to the front of the group so as not to have to dodge around walkers and people pushing strollers for the first mile.

500+ runners waiting for the start.

500+ runners waiting for the start. Note the corn maze on the right, which figures into the last part of this race.

We counted down from ten and were off. The route was mostly through the farm’s pumpkin fields, so it was a combination of dirt tractor roads and recently mowed areas. The dirt made for some dusty running at points, the newly mowed areas were a little slippy with all of the fresh cuttings, and the footing was a bit uneven, so you had to pay attention.

The first mile was mostly on the dirt tractor roads. Dusty, and a bit uneven, but relatively solid. I focused on not going out too fast and settling in, getting a good breathing pattern going.

On the Oiselle Team Facebook page the other day a woman asked for advice about the best way to mentally approach her upcoming 10k race. Someone gave the advice, “Just run the mile you’re in.” Boy, that resonated with me (in running, and in life, but I’ll stick to the running for the moment). So that became my mantra.

Just run…the mile…you’re in…Jennie.

Just run…the mile…you’re in…Jennie.

Just run…the mile…you’re in…Jennie.

I repeated it in my head (and maybe under my breath a few times) over and over again.

Just run (breath in) the mile (breath in) you’re in (breath in) Jennie (breath in).

Mile 1: 8.16

My Garmin beeped to let me know I’d finished the first mile. Wow! I was not expecting it to be that fast. I quickly put it out of my head, though, and focused on Mile 2–you know, the one I was in. I was pushing a bit, but I didn’t feel like I was overdoing it.

The first two-thirds of mile 2 were more dirt tractor roads. Then the route turned into the pumpkin patch, weaving back and forth between the rows. This section was hard because it felt like you just weren’t getting anywhere. Run up one long row, down the short side, and back down another long row, times five.

Just run…the mile…you’re in…Jennie.

This is where I started muttering it under my breath. Somewhere in there I passed the mile 2 sign and shortly after my Garmin beeped.

Mile 2: 8:29

All right! Slowing down a bit, but still feeling good. These are the fastest two miles I have run since…oh, probably since March.

Mile three continued through the pumpkin rows, down the long edge of the parking lot, and back down towards the start line. Then we curved to the west and entered…THE CORN MAZE. This was both cool and challenging–lots of twists and turns so you’d go a few strides and then need to take a sharp right turn for two more strides and then take a sharp left turn for two more strides. It was hard to maintain speed.

Just run…the mile…you’re in…Jennie.

I caught a glimpse of the heels of the man in front of me a few times, and could hear the breathing of the people behind me, but mostly it it felt like I was running on my own. I passed the mile 3 sign.

Mile 3: 9:12

I made a few more turns in the corn maze and popped out to a crowd of spectators shouting, “Kick! Kick!” The finish line was in front of me. I put my head down and gave it all I had left.

Finish time: 27:00

I went into this race with two goals, goals that I barely even whispered to myself because I was so unsure I could do either of them: 1) Finish in under 27 minutes; and 2) place in my age group.

When I saw my finish time I couldn’t believe it–SO close.  The lesson learned here is that you should never, never let up. One second! Then I realized that this was 17 seconds faster than my PR, and that I hadn’t been training for a 5k, and that I was actually pretty pleased with the result. I ran a 27 minute 5k–onward and upward! I finished 105/502 overall, the 29th woman, and first out of 22 in my age group. (You can see all of the results here).

I walked around for a minute or two until I caught my breath and then made my way over to the finishers tent, got some water, and went to sit down in the shade to wait for the official times and see if I had made my second goal. I hadn’t been there long when a woman came up and moved some people out of the way, saying, “I’m not sure she can walk that far.” I looked to where she was gesturing and there was a young woman sitting in golf cart who had collapsed on the course around mile 2. I walked over to the two of them and said, “Can I help? I’m an EMT.” We walked the runner into the shade of the tent and got her lying down with her feet elevated. Now, I have been an EMT since 1999 and used to work on an ambulance, but it has been a long time since I used my skills on a daily or even a weekly basis. I was grateful for my EMT instructors who drilled those skill sheets into my head year after year during refresher courses, and my WMI instructors who taught me how to improvise in the back country when you don’t have any actual first aid equipment. I snapped into EMT mode.

The long story short is that the woman had heat exhaustion. She was dehydrated, hot, and woozy. I had a willing crew of bystanders just waiting for something to do, so I sent one to ask for a t-shirt, another for water and sports drink, and a third to grab some flyers on a nearby table. I got the t-shirt wet and used it to cool her down, poured water over her head, and had three people fanning her with the flyers to get some evaporative cooling going. I didn’t want to get her so wet that she took a chill, but she needed to be cooled. It took about 30 minutes, but she started feeling better slowly. As I was working on her I heard the race director ask over the microphone, “Will the woman who is helping  [the patient] please come up?” I was confused, because I was still helping her, but he was insistent, so I walked up to the front of the tent, where he handed me a coupon for a free pumpkin and thanked me for my help.

I went back to what I was doing. Her pulse came down and pretty soon she was able to sit up, drink a bottle of sports drink, and eat something. As we were doing all of this they began to announce the overall winners, as well as the age group winners. I was pretty focused on what I was doing, so I didn’t really hear where they were but then I heard my name. What?! I walked back up to the front and the race director looked at me like, “Yes?” I said, “You just read my name, Jennie Duberstein.” He consulted his sheet and said, “Oh! You won your age group–congratulations!”

So in addition to my Good Samaritan pumpkin, I got a plastic milk bottle-looking cup with an orange straw. But holy cow, I won my age group!

The end of the story is happy: the runner had a peanut butter GU that someone had generously given her, she finished a 32 oz. bottle of Powerade, and felt much, much better. I got to pick out a lovely pumpkin to take home, got some strangers to take a picture of me in front of a giant chair, and drove home.

Next up: The Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco a week from today.

1st in Age Group!

1st in Age Group!

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