Sunday, December 21, 2008

How to Shave Your 5K and Win Second Place in Your Age Group

Back on January 22, 2008, I was dumb enough had enough foresight to enter the Shave Your 5k Challenge, sponsored by the twisted encouraging Half-Fast.

Had I known on January 1, 2008, the day I ran the 5k that set the time that I would need to shave, that I would be entering this challenge, it's entirely possible that I would have run much slower. However, I didn't know, because he hadn't invented it yet, so I awoke on Jan. 1 and ran my fastest 5k ever, in a blazing 30:15 (9:46 min./mile).

Except that the Shave Your 5k Challenge has been weighing on me ALL YEAR. For 354 (give or take) days, I've been walking around thinking, "Jeanne, you NEED to find another 5k before the year is out! And then you need to run it faster!"

HF laid out the terms and conditions in excruciating detail, but here's the essence:
The basic idea is to see who can shave the most time off their 5K time during 2008, so everyone will run a 5K at the beginning of the year and another one at the end of the year. The winner is the person that shows the greatest improvement.
At the very last minute, I managed to find a 5k with a $5 entrance fee: the Potomac Valley Track Club 5k Christmas Caper. I showed up Saturday morning at 8:00 for an 8:30 start on the lovely, windy, cold, godforsaken Hain's Point.

It was cold.

Cleverly, I had specifically designed my last post to set up all the reasons why I not only would NOT be shaving my 5k, it would in fact have grown a beard.

But hope springs eternal and the mind is a powerful tool as Number One Daughter's boyfriend is fond of pointing out. So I set my brain for 29:59.

There was a field of about 164 (or exactly 164). The start was a chalk line on the ground, and a piece of cardboard stuck on a stake, as were the mile markers. The start signal was someone yelling "go."

As always I had a carefully thought out strategy: Run like hell until you drop. You know, the same plan the experts recommend.

Mile 1: 9:13

My heart did feel like it was going to break, and I had to give myself a talking-to: "Don't worry about what will happen in mile 3, just keep going. Try to pass people."

So I did.

"That guy who is breathing up your arse? Do. Not. Let. Him. Bother. You."

So I didn't.

"Do NOT look at that watch or I will hurt you. DO. NOT. LOOK."

So I didn't.

I missed mile markers 2 and 3, but somewhere around mile 2.something, while I was busy bargaining with myself ("Just get to that tree and you can walk. O.K. you really don't need to walk we have BEEN THROUGH THIS BEFORE, no walking but you can slow down. A little. Oh forget it, you can't do this WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE") someone jumped out and took a photo. He yelled "Hi Jeanne!" None other than D.C. Spinster, coaching his crew in the half-marathon program. I have my own paparazzi. Just sayin'.

That jolted me awake. Now the mental calculations began. I allowed myself to glance at my watch and saw 26 minutes elapsed. I thought I had about half a mile to go (NOT) which I figured I could do in 5 minutes IF I KILLED MYSELF. "What's the point," I thought, "you've already lost." (I specialize in this kind of self help. Call me for a consultation.)

But as I neared the point of Hain's Point, I saw some people hanging around, some webbing, something looked different, holy shit the finish is right here, stopslackingturnitonRIGHTNOW!

I flew through the chute EXACTLY as the clock ticked over to 30:00. Or did I make it before? I checked my watch and it said 29:59. (No fancy technology at this race, just good ol' fashioned bib #s.)

How thrilled was I? Ecstatic. I started babbling to a woman standing at a picnic table about the Shave Your 5k, and making 29:59 and blah blah blah. Finally remembering my manners, I asked, "So, how'd you do?" "Ah," she replied, "I won."

(Longtime readers will remember my penchant for inadvertently picking the winners to brag to.)

I had looked at last year's results beforehand, and noticed a lack of speedsters in my age group. There were awards given for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, in 10-year age spans.


It was too much to hope for.

The RD read through the winners of all the age groups, finally getting to Men 50-59, then, Women 50-59, "First place goes to.. Betty... and there are no other women in this category..."

"Um, hello?!? I'm here!"

RD: "Oh, are you here? C'mon up and get a prize."

It was a bit anticlimactic.

The prizes ran the gamut from candles to cookies to popcorn to Christmas kitchen towels. I choose a giant candle.

Then I picked up NOD and her BF and dragged them to breakfast so I could brag. After which I posted my (unoffical) time on Facebook. And called everyone I knew. And wrote to Half-Fast, "29:59!!!!!"

Life was sweet!

Then they posted the official times.

94/164 Jeanne McCann F 51 Bethesda MD 30:01 (9:40 min./mile) 32/83 women F50-59 2/6

30....say what???

I could end my long tale here, and you all could get on with your lives, but I feel it's my duty to provide you with the REAL END to this story.

At the top of the results page, it fatefully says, "Send additions or corrections," and provides a helpful e-mail.

Yes. I am pathetic enough to write to an overworked, volunteer race director about a difference of TWO SECONDS. Couldn't he please make a teensy tiny correction? Wasn't it possible that the clock was wrong?

And here was the thoughtful, immediate reply:
Let me think -- what would Rod Blagojevich charge for that adjustment? Hmmm ...

It's even less than 1 second -- they clocked you at 30:00.64 -- so the program rounded your time up to 30:01 -- so near and yet so far!

BTW they clocked Betsy Agnvall at exactly 29:59.96, so the program rounded her time up to 30:00.

If you hadn't had that little headwind on the way out ...
if you hadn't dodged around that 10K runner ...
so many ways to shave off 2 seconds ...
and the Time Machine was started exactly 5:00 late -- what if it was 5:01 late, or 5:02?

On the bright side, now you know you can run sub-29:59 on a good day with just a little more training. And maybe sub-29:00!

Congratulations on your award-winning finish!
Can I just say I heart this race? And this race director??!!

(But poor Betty!!!)

I started this blog in June 2005, and I can honestly say that I have been waiting since then to WIN MY AGE GROUP! And now I have! I have also been waiting since then to magically run a sub-30 5k.

So now, apparently, I have to run another one. Sigh.

Life is good people.


LBTEPA said...

more and more evidence of your legendary status :D

peter said...

I have NEVER taken 2d in my age group, in 8 years of racing. CONGRATULATIONS. And you finished solidly in the upper half! Since a mere half second separated you from first, I apologize for startling you with my camera and momentarily (how long is a moment?) throwing your focus off. Because my focus was nowhere, still using film and automatic focus to boot. I'll get that picture back in two weeks, and it'll be one of the few ones that I won't have to scratch my head over wondering--WTH is this one a picture of?.

Remember running the July 4th CAN race with me? I'm really proud of you.

SuperSnail said...

Jeanne, you are hilarious. We're so proud of you!

Kelly said...

Wow! Congrats!!!

I once took first place in my AG. Actually, it was during my first 5k EVER. (But I was the ONLY one in my age group haha.)

You should set a good solid goal for 2009.

Just12Finish said...

Peter yelling at you is worth 2 seconds minimum.

Jade Lady said...

Congratulations on your 2nd place finish, but you know you're always a winner in my book. Happy holidays to you, Jeanne!

Anne said...

Another thoroughly enjoyable post with a good ending. Love the humor. Humility is way overrated. Congratulations on such a strong finish to this year!

Nancy Toby said...


So you're saying you submitted a request to FALSIFY RACE RESULTS? I just want to be clear on this.... :-)

Thomas said...

You know, this will make it ever so slightly easier to post a new PR in 2009!

Susan said...

WOW! Merry Christmas to Jeanne! :)

Vickie said...

Congrats! Okay, that's it. You're just getting too fast for me! You do realize of course that your running peaks after 7 years so depending on how long you've been running, you may still have room to improve!

Vanilla said...

Congratulations! I did get your e-mails by the way and will eventually get around to responding to everyone. Don't hold your breath. ;)

Congrats again! Great job.

Rachel said...

Congratulations!! Love your comments and writing style too. Very funny.

Rhea said...

Oh my god, Congratulations! I wish I I had been there. I actually miss running around Hain's Point.

SCMorgan said...

David and I laughed SO hard reading your post. Congrats BIG time, Jeanne. You should be SO proud...and what a damn fine writer you are. When are you going to write that book??
WAY TO GO....:)

Sunshine said...

Delightful monologue of encouraging self-talk... an interesting read. You are great.

Jess said...


Dying right now.


Old School Runner said...

Well done! Just imagine how well you can do under ideal conditions.

David said...

I didn't get a phone call for the second race in a row! Figures.

You and Blago - I can see you two now playing pinochle in the easy street Big House.

Well done young lady. Peter actually woke you up by my estimation.

NOD's BF has some mighty fine wisdom for a young whippersnapper.