Sunday, May 4, 2008

Santa Monica Classic

I’ve been looking forward to running the Santa Monica Classic 5K for the last two weeks. To prepare for the race Rene and I have incorporated speed in our workouts, and made sure to work on our pace by running 1-mile repeats during the week. I was on target to run the race in 24 minutes, a pace of eight minutes/mile. I was even hoping to go below 24, if I felt good towards the end of the race, by picking it up on the last mile and finishing in 23:30. That was my plan, and on the morning of the race I expected to see either 23:30 or 24 minutes on the clock next to the finish line.

The race was staggered according to mile times: there were pace leaders holding signs for different times, and I got behind the one for 8 minutes. At the start of the race I felt good and surged ahead of the pace leader, hoping to run a faster time. I felt pretty good during the first two miles: I was relaxed and running a consistent pace around eight minutes/mile, and approached two-mile marker in 16 minutes. At the start of the third mile I picked up the pace, but saved some energy for the finish, in which I would go for broke and use up all the energy and speed I had.

After passing California Street, which was supposed to be the turnaround point (both the 5K and 10K races use the same course, with a turnaround point for the 5K race), I became a little worried but thought that the organizers had moved the finish a few blocks away, probably due to traffic and/or pedestrians in Santa Monica. When I still didn’t see a SIGN or a PERSON directing runners after the fourth traffic light (and the people ahead of me still running straight ahead – keep in mind that only the 5K was being run at this time, the 10K race hadn’t even started yet), I asked the people next to me if they knew where we should turn around for the finish. I told them the course map said we should’ve turned at California Street, and after a few seconds of thinking about it we turned around and hurried towards the finish. At this point I was starting to get upset – we ran longer than a 5K but didn’t know how much we overshot. It seemed like an eternity to the finish, a finish line that was poorly marked and overcrowded. I was already SO OVER that ridiculous race that I didn’t even bother to sprint to the finish. What was the point? The course wasn’t marked, so the times and rankings were off, depending on when people turned around for the finish. My time at the finish line was 30:04, and after I cleared the chute I was STEAMING – I was pissed at the race organizers for doing such a poor job and not making it clear to the runners where they were supposed to go. And it wasn’t just me – EVERYONE was pissed because their times were off. Even the pace leaders ran further than 5K due to lack of signage/direction – the same pace leaders who were supposed to know the course and guide runners.

The organizers really blew it. What was the point of having people run a race if they couldn’t stand by the accuracy of the distance, time, and ranking? Lots of people, myself included, care about that information. That information helps determine if the workouts we had the week prior helped, and what the goal time should be in the next race. Worst of all, it was my first race of the season, and I was so disappointed that it went so disastrously. I have never before run a race where runners were not given proper instructions. That being said, I don’t think I’ll be running this race again next year. It’s a shame, really, that it worked out this way. It’s the charity that benefited from the race, Heal the Bay, that’s going to suffer next year and not the organizers.

The race expo was held in the Santa Monica pier. Rene, May and I drowned our sorrows in free food, drinks, and race swag. We walked away with some nice things: a dri-fit race shirt and socks from Nike, reusable (and compact) grocery bags from Heal the Bay, and all the Powerade and Volvic water we could get our hands on. (We felt pretty slighted by the race organizers so we took a LOT – we now have enough drinks to last us a week.) About an hour after into the expo the race the results were posted, WHICH WAS STUPID AND BOGUS, and I came in 279th place at a pace of 7:34/mile (the pace time was based everyone running four miles instead of 3.1 miles – but who’s to say everyone ran four miles? I probably ran close to four miles though.). I don’t know why they even bothered posting the results because you couldn’t trust one piece of information on that paper except your name and age. The finish time, rank, and pace were all WAGs (Wild Ass Guesses) – it’s a wonder people didn’t riot and beat up the organizers then and there. I was too hopped up on Powerade and bananas to care.

More pictures here.

I am running another race next weekend in Malibu Creek. It’s a 4-mile course with this crazy hill in the middle, a hill that might surprise people who don’t expect it. I ran this course a few weeks ago with Rene and May, and even though the hill is only about half a mile long, it’s narrow and steep and feels like it goes on forever. The only thing I’m asking for next weekend is for the race organizers to have their act together. The last thing I need is to run up another hill that's not part of the course.



On Monday afternoon I found this message on the race website:

As many of you know, the turnaround marker on the 5K was set in the wrong place for some time during the race, and many of you were forced to run almost 7K. The runners in the Santa Monica Classic have justifiably come to expect a high level of service, and it's my job to provide you with a well-marked course. I obviously didn't do that today, and you can blame me for that.

By the time we corrected it 300-500 runners were affected.
As for the results, we've extrapolated everyone's 5K time based on their per-mile pace. While this may not be entirely accurate, it gives a fairly close approximation of the time you would have run had the course been properly marked. Please accept my apologies, and I'd be happy to extend a $10 credit for next year's race if you feel the event did not match your expectations. Heal the Bay thanks you for you support, and we hope to see you back next year.


Peter Abraham
Race Director
Santa Monica Classic

I looked up the "official" results, which weren't any different from Sunday morning, except for one glaring mistake:

According to the results, my husband Rene is a female that finished first in his age division! Ha ha! He did pretty well on the race, finishing 45th overall and 5th in his age division. Since the results are rubbish, it remains to be seen if they'll send him a medal for finishing first in the 30-34 FEMALE division.


Camels & Chocolate said...

Bummer! I hate when idiots like that mess up something so important to you. I run with a Garmin GPS watch, and when I did my half marathon last week, I was pissed to find it was .3 miles longer than the 13.1 it should have been. So I stopped my time at 13.1 miles and did my warmup for the remainder, just out of principle (though I'm sure it bumped me down a good 100 places or so). But good going on your quick pace!

Also, I want to read the Emperor's Children, so let me know how you like it!

Michelle said...

yup, I ran that race on Sunday, too and it makes me so angry! I upped my speed on the 3rd mile, thinking I only had a mile to go -- of course that was sooo not the case so i basically died.