The other great part about this race? It is put on, and benefits, the Riverside Police Officers Association, so it was a GREAT cause. You may not be familiar with Riverside, but if you watched the news at all earlier this year you heard plenty about the Christopher Dorner case and the police officers that were shot and/or killed during his brief reign of terror in Southern California. Several of the police were Riverside officers so this hit really close to home. Here's an except from their website about it:
The inspiration behind establishing the RPOA Hometown Heroes Honor Run is Officer Andrew Tachias. Andrew and his partner were attacked in early 2013, the injuries he sustained will require long term care and he is still in the early stages of his recovery. While he has a long way to go, he will continue to fight to improve and get healthy. We as a community owe it to Officer Tachias and others like him to honor them and care for them in their time of need, especially when the situation they find themselves came during the course of serving their community.
So, instead of doing the planned 6 miles this past Saturday we met up and took the short drive to Riverside to run the race. It's a really good thing that we were meeting up at our "normal" time of 5:00 AM because my Mom showed up at the house and I thought it was a little odd when she brought her purse in since we were leaving, but whatever...safety first, right? So I dashed off to the make a quick pit stop and when I came back this was the exchange:
Mom: No, Heather today? (my sister)
Okay, not too scared yet...
Me: We're picking her up, remember?
deer in the headlights look from Mom
Me: For the race?
more deer in the headlights look from Mom
Me: Hometown Heroes...in Riverside...today
Mom: That's TODAY?!?!?
You see, this one was last minute so apparently Mom registered and then wiped it from her brain. Thankfully she didn't wipe it before telling her boss that she needed to take a couple hours off that morning! HA! Crisis averted and we were back on track...Alright - let's discuss the actual race!
The race was held at the Arlington Sports Park in the "citrus" section of Riverside, You see, Riverside was one of the pioneers in citrus growing in the late 19th century and even though the citrus farms have diminished over the years, it has a rich citrus history and tradition. Because of this tradition, Riverside has worked hard to preserve the citrus heritage, rightfully so, thus, the unofficial "citrus" section of Riverside. The park is nestled next to the California Citrus Park - a State Historic Park (which I've never actually gone to...hahaha); perhaps I should someday, but you know how it goes, the history closest to us is the one we always ignore, right? So I think you can kind of get the idea that in this area, the course was most likely going to be somewhat in some orange groves...and you would be correct!
Packet pick-up began at 6:00 AM and we were actually there a few minutes before so we got speedy service and the ability to really check sizing on the shirts. We got our bibs and then picked up our goody bag and it was a nice surprise! For being a small race, they really had a great bag - it was a drawstring light material bag...so not just a plastic bag which is what I was expecting. They had some biofreeze samples, jelly bellys, sunscreen, and a water bottle with the logo printed on it. Pretty nice! The t-shirts were grey and also had the logo on them and really look nice. If you signed up early you got a nice dark blue tech shirt, but we obviously missed that cut-off. We walked our goodies back to the car and then did a nice warm-up walk...I don't know how much we actually warmed up our muscles, but the movement helped us warm-up our body temperature because it was quite chilly out.
|Goody Bag (Also available in Black)|
|Bagpipe Player - Played during the entire registration/check-in; then led the Color Guard|
|Orange County Sheriff's Dept came out to support and ran the entire course together while doing the little chanting-singing thingy that units do.|
The race course was a basic rectangle which was really nice because once you turned the third corner you knew you were on a straight shot back to the finish! My plan was to keep a fairly steady pace and to start off sensibly. Many times I get caught up in the excitement and end up having to take a walk break or stop and stretch stiff muscles, so I wanted to avoid that this time. I wasn't going for a Personal Record (PR) so I knew I could just take it easy and get into the rhythm. Which is exactly what I did. Nice and slow and I just let people pass me left and right knowing that many of them I would probably end up passing later...and I did!
So the first stretch was fairly short and then it was onto a long stretch that started off with a nice downhill slant which allowed me to pick up a little burst of speed. About 1 mile in we got to pay back the downhill at the beginning with a gradual, not steep, uphill. I was able to run the entire uphill and felt strong the entire time. Hit the first (oops - the ONLY) water stop and considered walking through it but felt so good I grabbed a cup and took a quick drink then continued on. I will say that I really have NOT even come close to mastering drinking on the fly because I ended up splashing water all over my face. I get the whole pinch and make a spout but it just never seems to be the smooth process I imagine it to be!
I continued running along and then hit the final turn and was doing some serious fishing by now - picking out a runner up ahead and then gradually passing them. I have definitely found that the fishing strategy works really well for me as far as keeping me mentally distracted because I continued to feel really good and picked up the pace just a bit. And wouldn't you know that just as I knew I was getting close to the finish line there's the other hill to match that downhill at the start! I knew I could run it if I wanted to, but I also wanted to reserve a little bit of energy to have a strong push at the end, so I walked this hill then put it into gear heading for the finish line. I wasn't paying attention to my Garmin and I knew I was at least a little off of what the finish line clock was going to read because I walked for a few before passing the timing mat, but recall that I wasn't going for a PR, so I didn't really care what my time was at this point.
Crossed the finish line strong and collected my medal and after a moment remembered to hit my Garmin - the time there was 34:22 and my previous PR was 34:21 so I just barely missed it. I thought for a moment that if I had just run that hill I could have PR'ed! But then I reminded myself that the point was getting a baseline for how I felt.
Here's where I would have at least one suggestion for the race organizers - have some water at the finish. They didn't have any water and they only had the single water stop on the route and by then I was quite thirsty. BUT what they did have was the Boy Scouts troop out there serving a pancake breakfast for NO CHARGE. Just tips!!!! And they had O.J. so that worked for the moment. I got a couple pancakes and sat on a curb to eat before heading back out to cheer in my mom & sister. Along the way I stopped at the race results table and looked up my bib:
Notice the Chip Time? Oh my gosh - that's a PR!!!! By a whole whopping 7 seconds...LOL. But hey - I'll take it! The thing is, when I got my previous 5k PR was at the Fearless 5k in San Diego way back in October 2011 and I remember that it felt really, really hard. I remember having to stretch a couple of times and I remember feeling towards the end like I didn't have anything left to give so getting that 34:21 was hard earned. This time? Well, really, it felt GOOD! I was very proud of myself for starting slow, managing the uphills, keeping a consistent pace, and not having any pain or body issues. My knee felt awesome the entire time. I wasn't even sore the next day, or today. So all in all, I think it was a very successful race and I had a blast! I rode that Pain-Free PR high the rest of the weekend, that's for sure!
Here's me and my Mom after the race:
I so thoroughly enjoyed this race and it is definitely one that I will be looking to do again next year. The course was beautiful and it is at the perfect time of year in SoCal - chilly in the morning but once the sun came up it was quite pleasant. The medal is seriously one of the best I've gotten outside of runDisney races...I'm sorry I didn't snap a picture of it, so you'll just have to trust me on that one. If you're in the Southern California area, definitely keep your eye out for this one in 2014!