Saturday, August 24, 2013

Wild Duck 5K Recap

Wild Duck 5K

The Wild Duck 5K, which is put on by North County Road Runners, is part of the USATF Dirt Dog XC Series. The race took place on August 24, 2013 at Guajome Park in Vista.  I was originally slated to run the Wild Duck with my son Zach and pace him. However, Zach has been having pain in his heel, perhaps Sever's Disease, so we felt it best to rest him.  As a result, I switched from pacing him to racing the event.

The first 5K I ever ran was the UCSD Triton 5K in June 2013.  In that race, which has a relatively flat course, I paced Zach and we ran it in 20:43.  The Wild Duck course I knew would be a bit hillier, but I wasn't sure of the course and didn't realize it was posted on the SDUSTAF website until about five minutes ago, which was Mistake #1.  Always know the course, before you race the course.


The morning of the race I left with plenty of time to spare, as I knew the parking situation would be difficult, as there is not much room to park at Guajome.  Although, the internet flyer for the race indicates that "you must park inside the park".  Of course when I got to the entrance to the parking lot, per the directions on the flyer, I was told the parking lot was full and I was going to have to park on the other side of the park.

Gee thanks.  Next time don't tell people you have to park in a specific place and then not have enough parking.  Instead of driving to the other side of the park, I parked a quarter of a mile away in a housing development and walked to Guajome. No big deal, as I used the walk as part of my warm-up.


The vibe of the race was good.  It's a low key event that benefits the Mission Vista High School cross country teams, so the boys and girls teams were out in force, along with some other schools.  In addition, members of the San Diego Track Club, North County Road Runners, PRT (Prado Racing Team), Jamul Toads and other local clubs were present.

Gathering intel

The first race was the Masters's Race (age 40 and above) at 8:00 a.m.  I should have been running in that race as I'm 41, but I lied about my age to be able to run with Zach.  Instead I was "37" for the day, which felt great, and competing against the youngsters.  In running, if you're going to lie, it's better to make yourself older than younger.  The Master's Race started a few minutes late, but I got to observe the start to know what to expect for the Open race at 8:30 a.m.


The race started with a typical cross country start, with a mass of runners lined up on the grass, which after 70 meters funneled into a dirt trail ten feet wide.  The race did not use personal electronic timers that recorded times as runners ran past the start and finish.  Therefore, once the horn sounded, there was no waiting - you ran.  At the starting line, I was in a quandary: start my Garmin a few seconds before the race began or wait for the horn, which would mean I would not be poised to get out in front.  I choose to start it about five or six seconds early.  I think it was the right decision.

The race then began with "runners set" and then a "brrrran" sound from the megaphone.  I took off and tried to get relatively close to the front, as there were a lot of high school students I would need to pass if I got off to a slow start.

I started to settle in to a decent pace about 200 meters in and was then kicked from behind.  I high kicked my way of it, but no apology was forthcoming.  I settled into my pace again, but was then confronted by a bunch of runners who were already fading a quarter of a mile in.  I moved up a bit, but ended up behind a man I wanted to pass, who was running zig-zag across the narrow trail.  If I went left, he went left.  If I went right, he went right.  I finally went to the outside of the trail, revved it up and passed about 20 people, before I settled back down.

Of course, this was Mistake #2, as this was within the first mile.  Strava has my mile splits as 5:33, 5:40 and 5:43 for the race. (Although these numbers are somewhat suspect.)  This is the exact opposite of how I should have run the race, my slower splits should have been at the beginning.  No matter, I relaxed and settled into a pace behind a pack of three runners, who I drafted.  I spent the next mile and half behind these guys, before they dropped me on the last hill.

As I came down the hill, I regrouped and readied myself for the final 200 meters.  I kicked and had just enough left to sprint hard to the finish line.  I finished at 18:05 per the course clock or a 5:50 mile pace.  I was pretty happy.  I met my goal of running under 20:00 and I had taken 2:38 off my best 5K time.  (Interestingly, Strava places me at 17:11 for moving time.)


Upon finishing, I really began to sweat as I walked over to where I had left my water and pullover.  Race tip: if you are at a race alone and there is no bag check, place your things near the finish line, so after the race you have a short trip to get that water!  I then walked  back to the race start to watch the other runners finish and was given an ice cold Muscle Milk, which tasted so good.  Another race tip: make sure you have a change of shirt at the end of the race and a towel.

All-in-all the race was a fun event and will help me set new training paces for the coming months.

San Elijo Hills Running Club

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