On Saturday, June 2nd I ran the Giant's Head 5.4K race in Summerland, located between 2 of my favorite racing destinations, Kelowna and Penticton. I picked up my race kit at the Aquatic Centre, and I discovered when I was putting on my bib that they'd given me number 1, which usually goes to an elite runner. As I was walking around some people, mostly kids, kept saying "Hey, it's number 1!" and my reply was usually "Yes, and it's a lot of pressure I don't need!"
There was also the Man of Steel Triathlon that day plus a 10K race starting the same time as mine, all part of the Summerland Action Festival http://www.summerlandactionfestival.com/ . It was a fairly hot day and I was already sweating pretty well during my warmup, after which I headed a block over to the starting line as it was about 10 minutes to blastoff. There were a few hundred runners there, and a bunch of little kids were at the front on the left where the 5.4Kers were supposed to start, so I followed a young woman over to the right where it was mostly 10Kers, but far less little kids.
At precisely 6 PM we were off, and there was some criss crossing as the 10Kers were turning right almost immediately, while we were going to the left. After we'd turned off onto a main drag it took a little while, but eventually we got past the mob of kids. We turned up another road into a quieter area, and then hit a hill, not too steep but about 300 meters long so it slowed us up considerably. Next we got hit with a good headwind, which ironically I somewhat welcomed as at least it cooled me off a bit.
We zigzagged around some streets, and our little pack kept passing people until there were only 3 people in front of me, 2 guys who looked to be about 14 years old or so, and a fellow in his 20s. We hit another hill, and this one was short but pretty steep, another leg killer, after which we had a downhill which helped me speed up again. At this point the older guy took off well ahead of us, and I now had the 2 youngsters to contend with.
I'd passed them a couple of times earlier, but they retook the lead both times. I tried again now but they sped up too and I couldn't gain on them. They were too short to draft off of, and the heat didn't seem to bother them a bit, and I was sweating profusely. One of them took off ahead as we hit the 4K mark, and now there were just 2 of us, but I wasn't sure who was behind us because I never looked back.
As we approached the 5K marker we were back on the main drag and there were more and more people lining the street cheering us on. We hit the 5K point and both of us sped up as we were directed to turn right down the street for the final sprint to the finish. We saw and heard the cheering crowd up ahead and finally the huge finish banner was overhead as we zoomed in and over the line. The young gun ended up beating me by 2 seconds, but even though I was in a broad 40-59 age group, I was pretty sure I'd won it, as I hadn't seen anybody even close to my age in our initial front pack. As it turned out we were the actual frontrunners, and I not only won my age group but was 4th overall!
There were bananas and oranges plus juice, water and slushies for us after we'd finished our jaunt. Not the usual feast but the race fee was only $15 and you got a great race tshirt plus everything else, so this was fine! More and more people came in, and we cheered for them as they did, and soon there was a huge mass of people, both athletes and spectators, in the large finishing area, with more arriving all the time.
I headed a couple of blocks over to the park where there was a huge stage with a great rock band playing, and there was a huge selection of food to buy from the various vendors. First I had a large and very tasty beef donair, and then I had a chicken shnitzel burger followed by a beaver tail http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BeaverTails and I was full.
The awards were supposed to begin at 7:30, and the results weren't ready yet, but they had $2500 worth of draw prizes to give out. The band had finished up and they had set everything up on the stage, and so they started giving out the loot. There were so many people there that it usually took awhile for winners to get to the stage, but it moved along fairly quickly, with lots of cheering as people's names were announced, especially for the youngsters. Here's the original sheet with $2000 worth of prizes, but another $500 was donated, including standup paddling rentals.
It was almost 8 when the awards began, starting with all the entrants 8 years old or younger getting a finisher's ribbon. These were handed out by Miss Summerland and her 2 princesses standing on the ground in front of the stage. Once this was done they went back up onstage, and the medal awards started, beginning with the women's 5.4K ones. Next up were the men's and they reached my category and announced our names for the gold, silver and bronze medals and we headed around the back and then up onstage. The young women presented us with our medals, and then one of the guys said "Let's give a wave to the crowd!", so we did, just like we were in the Olympics, and got a big cheer, so that was a lot of fun!
We shook hands and headed offstage, and a fellow sitting on the grass with his kids said "Hey, you lived up to your number!", and I repeated my lame "It was a lot of pressure!" joke, but people were so nice they always laughed at it. I stayed until the end of the 5.4K awards, but since I had to drive to Barriere, which ended up taking 2 and a half hours, and run a race there in the morning, I decided I'd better hop in my car and get going, so off I went!
My final stats were 4th overall out of 401, and 1st of 34 in my age group, in a time of 23:22.