Oakland Lake Merritt is one of the more beautiful parts of the city. I know a lot of folks imagine Oakland as an inner-city cesspool, but there are certainly gems to find all over the place and Lake Merritt is one of them. The 5K course is basically a run around the lake and what makes it nice for a competitive runner is that the lake course is USATF certified as a 5K. My GPS read it as 3.28 miles, the extra distance to which I attribute to some recent construction blocking the normal route. Its incredibly flat over 85% pavement with a smattering of packed dirt trails. One rolling hill over a bridge and that's it. I consider it one of my primary training grounds.
|Oakland Lake Merritt.|
Two males began to catch up and slowly pulled ahead of me. I decided not to give chase until I was in the final 0.5 miles of the race. At this point we hit construction, and after nearly getting lost, I found my way up a bridge. This rolling hill caused the last of the teenagers to drop out. At around this point I got to test out some offroading for my Ekidens as I had to make a course correction by running through a severe downhill slope of woodchips. I was expecting lots of pointing jaggies stabbing my foot, but the Ekidens were surprisingly tough.
For mile 2 through 2.5 I was just about alone (or so I thought). I could spot Lisa about 200 meters ahead, a teenager about 100 meters ahead and one male who had passed me keeping a steady 30 meters distance from me. I was never able to catch him, but I did catch up to the teenager as he began to gas in the final quarter mile. At this point in my head I knew there were at least 4 males ahead of me along with Lisa. I had already given up on placing as I couldn't even spot any of the males other than the teenager now pulling away again. I began to gas myself and was entering the "just push it" section of the race. When I spotted the finish line about 100 meters ahead, I put myself into 70% sprint speed, figuring I would just finish it strong but not give it my all to save myself for the Oakland race. The crowd was roaring as I came in, which surprised me a bit. I found out why about 10 meters from the finish line as a teenager sprinted past me at full speed.
I learned from my exacerbated friend 5 seconds later that that teen took 3rd place from me. I hadn't realized that the 2 other adults who were ahead of me were actually part of the 10K race. I guess I'm maturing in my racing career because I just had a little laugh about it. I switched to my Vivobarefoot Ultras, which felt like Heaven at this point. Grabbed some free snacks and introduced myself to Lisa (she won the women's division!). At this point the teen who beat me by a few meters came up kind of upset as he had looked at the printed results and claimed he wasn't on the list at all and wanted me to talk to the organizers. I was a little turned off by how seriously he was taking it, but hey, who knows, making sure he got the recognition for his running achievement might encourage him to get deeper into the sport (he was wearing basketball shorts, so I was assuming he was a newbie like me). Which would be a good thing and very much in the spirit of this particular charity race.
|Best. Post-race shoes. Ever.|
After a quick talk we corrected it with the timers. I and the organizer who witnessed the "sprint off" held back a chuckle when the timer asked the excited teen how much further ahead he thought he was of me by the finish and he replied with an answer of 12 seconds. My estimate was maybe 0.5 seconds (3 meters at sprint speed), but I went ahead and said 2 seconds. Organizer agreed to that. We discovered at that point that the reason his time didn't registered is because he tied the wrong strip for his D-chip to his shoe. Definitely a newbie.
And that was it. I had a great time, $15 for a timed race was insanely cheap, got to meet a fellow runner whom I expect to meet very often from this point on (I even convinced her to race the Oakland Running Festival with me!......so I can secretly pace her, haha), got some swag, contributed to a good charity, tested out my Mizuno Ekidens in race conditions and got a good estimate of my abilities for the upcoming Oakland 5K, which holds particular importance to me as it will be my 1 year anniversary racing.
And oh, final time: 23:24. Exactly matching my Oakland 5K time from last year. Except this race was 0.12 miles longer on my GPS watch and I definitely wasn't going all out. Goal in two weeks: sub-22. Wish me luck.