Well…. that was not the headline I had hoped for. As you may have guessed, it was not the race I had hoped for either.
I never thought I would be that girl. In fact, I always do (and did this time), take the steps to avoid it.
I looked at the map. I ran the course the day before. I knew where I was going, and I knew I was likely to be at the front, so even asked the race director if there was going to be a lead vehicle while I was on the start line. Yes, he responded; one for the half marathon, and one for the 5k. So I relaxed.
What I was not accounting for, was both lead motorcycles going straight when they announced that the 5k runners turn right at the split (which was on par with the course I had run the day before). So I turned, but he did not, and therefore no one was up ahead alerting the rest of the police officers that the lead woman was coming.
But lets backtrack a little, starting from the beginning.
It had been a while since I felt this ready to race. Since the London marathon in fact. I ran the Bluegrass 10000 in less than optimal shape, and then after the Bix 7 I felt like I was a few weeks away from a good race. However, that of course was wedding time, so I hoped that I would get my training in and stay healthy, which I did.
We picked this race a few months ago,
knowing thinking that it was a big enough race to be well organized, and it was a fast course. I was not exactly looking forward to racing a 5k, I even asked Steve the night before the race if I could do the half instead, but he was standing his ground.
I needed to get used to the pain of a 5k again….ugh.
But a small part of me was very excited, was looking forward to really seeing where I was at. We had some indicators these last few weeks that I was ready to go, and I was looking forward to having something solid to see for real where I was at, rather than just what my garmin had been saying….or so I thought.
Steve and I traveled up to Indianapolis the day before the race (3 hour drive), and stayed in a hotel less than 1/4 mile from the start line. Everything seemed like it was pointing towards a great race. I had a lovely chat with Lindsey at the Expo, and then Steve and I went out for pizza at a local place called Bazbeaux, followed by cupcakes at Flying Cupcake. With a happy belly, I felt relaxed, but excited, and even slept decently well that night.
At 4:45am I woke up, and went downstairs to allow Steve to sleep a little while I ate my bagel and drank my tea. I heard some thunder, and looked at the weather forecast. It was not looking good…..the race officials said they would make a last minute decision, so Steve and I waited until the last minute to warm up. At 6:45, I started my 4 mile warm up, and it had stopped raining, it was looking promising. I went up to the room at 7:15 to change into my race outfit (one of the benefits of being so close), and we headed to the start line for the 7:30 start.
I felt good on my strides, and the weather seemed to be holding off….for now.
The race started, and I took off into the lead, knowing most the women were in the half marathon. About 800m in, a woman came flying by me, and I knew I was going fast….probably too fast, so it surprised me. I expected to see one of the other two elite women I saw in the starting corral, but it was neither of them, it was a Russian woman I have raced before, who was in the half marathon! I wondered what she was doing, but it actually ended up working in my favor as I kept catching her, before she surged away again, it gave me something to focus on so I did not back off the pace. I felt confident, especially as she kept turning around to see if I was still there….being the metronome I was, I was just keeping my pace.
I did not look at my watch, so at the time I had no idea what speed I was going at, but it felt fast, and that was all I really needed. Steve seemed happy at the 1 and 2 mile mark, so I kept going with my run by feel.
After the 2 mile mark, the race split into the two distances, the Russsian woman kept going straight, and I turned right to make one more turn onto the main road, back towards the finish. I noticed I did not have a lead vehicle with me (even though I asked at the start line!!!), but like I said, I knew where I was going, so I did not panic. However, I soon noticed that all the other participants of the race were to my left….and to turn into the finish I had to turn left…..I wondered how I was going to get across them, but figured that wherever the turn was, the marshals would somehow let me through. EDIT: The Russian lady had changed her status from half marathon to 5k, but she would have been DQd for doing this had the race displayed official results. For that reason, I must have turned too early when they announced that we needed to turn right, I assumed she was going for the half, but in fact she was in the 5k also.
I put my head down (the wind had picked up significantly and it had started to downpour), and focused ahead. I was hurting, but I was supposed to be at this point right? I only had 800m to go.
Suddenly, nothing looked familiar anymore. People were still yelling “go girl” and “woooo”, but there was now traffic coming towards me, within inches of me.
I started to panic, frantically looking for the street names (which of course there were not any as I was traveling down a one way), knowing in my heart that I had gone too far, but no one was saying anything at each block I went by, and my mind was foggy with the tiredness, so I kept going. Until I reached the road that I knew the race started on. I stopped to ask a police officer where the finish was. He had absolutely no idea. At that point I knew my race was over. My watch was at 18 minutes, and I was at 3.4 miles.
I started to cry, and at this moment Steve caught me up (he had realized what had happened and was chasing me down). We both ran towards the finish in the pouring rain, and I saw lots of other runners finishing.
I yelled and cried at the officials I could find around the finish (apologizing to them later), I was so frustrated. This was the first race in a long time I had really gone for it, and I was in good shape to do it. I could not believe this had happened, and I was just lost for words that such a big race would not only have a lead vehicle who did not do their job, but no marshals to direct me to the finish!
I cooled down with Steve, and we went over what happened, and then I talked to the race director who apologized profusely, as did another guy who in charge of the finish area when I crossed. They were both great, and I could see in their eyes how sorry they felt for me, they knew how much this race meant to me.
I know they were under a lot of stress, and the thunder and lightening that started with the rain meant that the half marathon was cancelled, so I can only imagine how stressed they were.
I could see in their eyes that they were brokenhearted that this had happened in their race. They did not end up publishing official results, and I think part of the reason for that was because they knew how much they messed up. Although I have heard that the elites got lost last year too, so maybe they are not learning from their mistakes….
However, it doesn’t change the fact that I was so upset and mad. I could not believe I was so ready for a great time, and after struggling through these last few months of speed work, I finally had my chance to show what it was all for. And besides, I know I was not the only one who got lost.
My splits averaged 5:15 per mile, which would put me at a 16:15-16:30 for the 5k, but I honestly believe I would have run sub 16:20 as I would have kicked it into the finish. That is only just over 10 seconds from my PR, which is a great step forward for me. I only wish I had the result next to my name to prove it. It doesn’t really mean anything when you say “I should have done…..” because anyone can make that up, but like I said on my Instagram post that day, at the end of the day, we got what we wanted out of that day; we proved I am in good shape, and I got a hard effort in.
These things happen in life, but its how you learn from them that really sets the next part of your journey in motion.
Yes, I am frustrated. Yes, I am bummed. But I now have an extra motivation to really go for it in my next opportunity to race, as you never know what is going to happen.
Oh, and once again, you see that even elites have bad days 🙂[bctt tweet=”Wow! Even elites get lost! Read this recap from @tinamuir” via=”no”]
Have you ever got lost in a race? What was your worst racing experience?