On Saturday, March 10th I took part in the Slainte St.Patricks Day 5 KM road race, held in Hamilton, Ont. The fast course and fun festivites were off-set by a few errors.
The Slainte 5 KM. Known for it’s post-race free food & beer, the course is one of the faster 5 KM courses around, with a 300+ foot descent around the 3 KM mark. The course is marketed as an optimal location for a PR.
I’ve previously taken part in only one 5 km event, the St.Catharines Grape & Wine 5K, finishing in a time of 23:26.
I have to admit, I was a little trepidatious about running this race. Firstly, I’ve had some issues with my knees and downhills. And secondly, I’m a little uneasy about setting an unrealistic 5km PR based upon a gimmie course.
The packet pick-up was on the day of the race, always a plus. The location for the pickup is the Slainte bar itself. The ‘swag’ bag was a little underwhelming, just a non-tech T-Shirt, bib & a few sample nut bars. After picking up the packet runners moved towards a couple of school busses, which traveled up the hill to the starting point.
Buses began running at 10:30. I ended up on the 11:45 bus. When we arrived at the school right around noon there were a number of people waiting outside. Why? Well, the school was locked until noon. I really feel sorry for the individuals that caught early busses, only to wait out in the cold. At least on this day, being late had it’s advantages.
I wiggled my way to the starting line and went out fast… way too fast. I recall looking at my watch at 0.21 miles in and feeling like I was about to run out of gas. I attempted to keep the lead pack in my sight, as my pre-race strategy was to run to the downhill, recover for a spell during the descent, then turn it back on and run to the finish. For the most part I stuck to my plan, although a few course issues made my task difficult.
The distance of the race ended up being 5.54 KM. The error was blamed on an off-route police motorcycle escort.
About a 1/10th of a km in to the race a runner informed me that we were already off course. He wondered where we were going and just said screw it (well his language was a little more salty than that) and followed the motorcycle.
The police officer had the lead pack weave in and out of side streets. By the time we reached the 1 km mark we were at about 1.2 km. This changed the nature of the course, as the hill portion was expected right around the 2.8 km mark. Instead it didn’t show up until about 3.1 – 3.2 km. That difference doesn’t seem like much but it’s a big deal when you plan to sprint to the hill (as I did). The 5 km mark of the run came and went with no finish in sight. From 5 km to about 5.45 was a straight line run, then the course turned two corners and the finish line finally came into view.
Pro-rated Race Times
I crossed the finish line at 20:36. My time was then ramped up to 20:41 on the first official time sheet and then pushed up once again to 20:46 on the final times. I can’t get my head around three different finishes during a chipped time race. I can understand the big clock having an error and then corrected. But then a third time. Oh well.
The race director ultimately pro-rated times down to 5km distance from 5.54, sending my time down to 18:43. This race represented my best placement finish, 14th overall (out of around 450) and 4th in my age group. I don’t foresee myself running anywhere close to the hill adjusted 18:43 time again, I’ll strive for a sub 19:30 on a flat course as a realistic PR marker.
The post-race was enjoyable, as all race participants were fed a bowl of chilli and allowed one free beer. This helped ease some of the tension from the incorrect distance, although I was under the impression that free beer meant more than one drink.
Making Things Right
The race director has stood up and taken a portion of the blame for this race (while still throwing the motorcycle cop under the bus), saying that the distance snafu was inexcusable. He’s offered a two day 50% discount to all race participants for the next downhill series race on this course in August.
I’m personally going to skip this race and others in the Michael Lamont series until they can produce a few error free races. One positive about the GTA/Niagara region is there are a number of races & race providers throughout the year.