Wednesday, September 23, 2020

My First Real, Live, In-person Race since early March-Zionsille Half Marathon and 5K--Recap

September 23, 2020. A few weeks ago, Jackie, my wife, and I signed up for our first, real live, in-person race. For me it was the first since I ran at Gate River in early March. That race has thousands of runners and World Class Open runners as well as some very fast Masters athletes. This race, a 5K, by contrast, was in a suburb of Indianapolis called Zionsville, on Sunday, September 20th, and was capped at 200. That's the Corona Virus effect. Health authorities are allowing outside gatherings of up to 200 folks. And, of course, it must observe social distancing, masking, and sanitizing guidelines. The main race, the Half Marathon had the same cap. Half Marathoners started a half hour before the 5K runners. I chose the 5K because I was doubtful my mileage over the summer had been consistent enough to run a good HM this early in the fall. Maybe in a month or two I'll give a Half a try if any of the scheduled Half Marathons in this area are live rather than virtual.

After running nothing but solo time trials and one Virtual 5K since March, it was time for a 'rust-buster'! And there was plenty of rust to bust--My Virtual 5K time for the JMF 5K was 24:08. Although, unlike many other virtual race times I have heard about, I chose a course that was record eligible. It had less than 50% separation of the start from the finish and had less than a 0.1% drop...5 meters in 5 kilometers. The Virtual Brooklyn Mile allowed a 1% drop, 16+ meters in a single mile! Many others had no restrictions on the course virtual runners could use. I entered this race mostly to find out where I am in my training, and for the fun of running a road race with other folks running on the same course!

The race is put on by, Mike Cole's organization. Mike, a well-known Masters runner around Indianapolis, does not often compete nationally. The exception was the 2019 USATF Masters 8K Championship in Virginia Beach, where he finished 2nd Overall, behind David Angell. Mike is defintely giving bck to the sport in which he has excelled! We were urged to pick up bib and pins the day before the race, so on Saturday I drove out to Zionsville, donned my mask, reported to Greek's Pizzeria, went in through the front door, found my way along a socially distanced corridor, and entered a back room where there were 200 bags on tables with names on them. Runners picked up their bag, glanced inside to check for a bib and pins, and then exited through a back door. We were reminded that the start time for the Half Marathon was a ten minute window from 7:30 am to 7:40 and for the 5K, 8:00-8:10 AM Sunday morning. ll awards would be based on chip time, not gun time.

First Real Race Bib Number in 6 months! Photo Credit-Me

Sunday was the familiar pre-race routine. Up at 6:15 am-grab a quick bite, do some easy stretches. I have been pretty religious about doing these stretches every day at home before I go out to run. They focus on hamstring, adductors, and lower back. Into the car and a 20 minute drive to the race. I did an easy warm-up jog of about a mile, a few drills, made the usual porta-potty stop, except this time there was a social distanced line-up, and copious amounts of sanitizer on a nearby table. A few of those doing warm-ups on the Village streets wore masks but most did not. I had my mask with me but was not wearing it. That's the way I expected to run, based on pre-race instructions.

After a few drills, I changed into racing gear and Jackie and I headed to the start line. She got into a loose line-up with masks on, and socially distancing while I did a few last minute strides on a side street. Then it was 8:00 and they started the folks who were already lined up in the starting chute. I slid in behind a couple of runners who were advancing toward the start line on Main Street. They were not prepared to start at a fast pace so I found myself immediately swinging wide to go around them. The first 200 meters or so was much the same as I weaved among those who had started before me, gradually moving up towards the front end of the group. I worried some about running on the Village Main Street bricks, but experienced no difficulties. Except for two 20's- 40's guy who went by at pace, one in the first 200  meters, I had the fun of passing, but not being passed.

I saw a 50's runner ahead of me who was moving at a good clip but not much faster than I was. I closed on him and went past. He fought me for a bit but I gradually pulled away and did not see him again. Shortly thereafter a second runner came past me. I tried increasing my pace just a bit to stay with him but quickly concluded that would be a bad idea. Instead I sought to keep him within sight. That would both help me to keep my pace up and be helpful at turning points as I was not familiar with the course. As it turned out it was well marked but when we turned to head east the sun was very much in my eyes and I worried I might miss one of the signs pointing the way. There were no course marshals to point the way. My GPS gave me the alert at 1 mile that I was at 7:50. I was a little disappointed as I had hoped to average closer to 7:30 per mile. But I had lost a little time in the first 200 meters and the first mile has a 13 meter elevation gain. I hoped I would at least keep that pace the rest of the way. The second mile was flatter and I had found a good rhythm. 7:47 said Garmin for the 2nd mile--so far, so good. Since the race was an out and back, I figured I would face an easier 3rd mile than first although it doesn't have to work that way as there could be an uphill with a longer, or steeper downhill. In fact it turned out to be rolling downhill with a few turns but no steep uphill sections. I felt strong at the end; hearing footsteps behind me, I let it out a bit as we ran down to the turn for the final 160 meters; a few brief meters at 5:40 pace and then cruised in at sub-7 pace over the final 0.1. I saw later that GPS gave me credit for a 7:21 third mile. That's more like it! 

Across the finish line and into a small finishing area. I later learned that my Official time was 23:20; the pace per mile was 7:30.6. If I were already 75, that would get me above an 80.0% road race age grade on the brand new, updated 2020 road race calculator (, but as I am still 74, it comes in just under. At 74 years and 11 months, I will take it! I figure I finished pretty strong so I should have a faster time inside me; perhaps we'll see it later this year or in 2021! I finished 19th overall and won my age group.

I congratulated a couple of runners who came in just ahead of me. We were directed to tables set up int he area-one for medals, one for water bottles, one for bananas, and one for a packaged Rice Krispies snack. After I loaded up, the 50's guy I had passed walked by and I found I knew him. I don't often run in Indy any more but when I did, I got to know Ken as a dedicated runner. I congratulated him on a good run, but I was happy that I could still beat my 57-year old running colleague. He left, noting that this would be a good motivator for him. I am sure it was no fun losing to a 74 year old guy! I am also certain he'll be back and running stronger in a few weeks!

Jackie met me at the car a few minutes later. I suggested she had maybe broken 30 minutes. She was skeptical as she had just been doing her normal running at best. We learned later when we checked the results that she had broken 30 indeed, 29:26, and won her 60-64 age group--not bad at all for someone who runs for fun and health! Between Jackie's win and my win, we got $40 worth of Greek's Pizzeria coupons--We'll wait until we can have a crew and bring home pizza for all...maybe by the Friday or Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend--fingers crossed!

Despite some doubts when I was rolling out of bed and piling into the car before sunrise, I really enjoyed the run. Even without my USATF Masters Grand Prix circuit rivals and friends in the race, it just felt good to be out on the streets with a bunch of other runners. Happy with this race but also hope we can get some of our bigger and more prestigious races, not to mention USATF Masters Championships, back on the schedule by 2021!

Me in one of my favorite T's from last year's Blue Cross Broad Street Run, showing off my newest medal, the 2020 Z-ville HM 5K! Photo Credit: J. Bloom


Thanks, Mike for a great experience!

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