Monday, May 11, 2015

Clayton Road Race 5K -- uh oh, which way?

The Clayton Road Race 5K on Saturday 5/9/15 had not been on my race list; only future track events.  But, as things happen, I decided on Friday night that my legs did not feel too achy and if it was not raining I would go.   The drive to Clayton was encouraging. I saw flat farm land. Well, good.  This one might be a nice flat 5K.  My first problem was finding the Start.  Street signs at Hwy 70 intersections were either non-existent or tiny and hardly visible.  I had not used the GPS since the directions seemed simple: HWY 70 to Fayetteville St.   Next time, when in Johnston County, I will use GPS.

My trips to Johnston County in the past were to rural areas with lovely names such as Willow Springs and Four Oaks. Smithfield is renown to the older generation as the once upon a time home, and now burial site, of actress Ava Gardner.  Johnston County used to be known as bootlegger land.  Sort of independent one might say as opposed to lawless.  Even I heard of Percy Flowers when I first got to NC.  For side entertainment, a bit of his history:  (and hound dogs!)  

When I entered the Clayton Center to register, I encountered the Nog Run Club adorned folks   Oops.  I was the oddball in my pink Shamrock 5K shirt.   The Nog ladies and I warmed up, trotting several of the streets (but not going down the hill we would later run up towards the Finish) It was overcast, but no rain.  The race director announced that this was the 32nd running of the event and thanked the returnees and welcomed newcomers.  He mentioned that the course this year differed from prior years (construction?) It was situated between Hwy 70 and the rail road tracks.  The route was marked with chalk arrows, white and orange.  (I must have missed what each signified.) He did say that the new route was hilly.  What? Oh, sure!

 The race started promptly at 09:00, heading downhill before making a right turn.  I had lined up about mid pack, making sure I was not in the path of a lady with a baby jogger.    I kept pace with those ahead of me until after we turned the corner.  Then, when it was clear, I moved more to the right and steadied my pace to something more reasonable.  The Nog ladies were well ahead of me.   There followed a few more right turns to put us on Fayetteville St, which was a longer trot before we began making turn after turn it seemed.  A tall fellow in a red shirt ran nearby.  Off and on during the course, we swapped places, so we were maintaining a similar pace.  The homes along the route were single story.  A few dogs barked. I did not see anyone outside other than race volunteers and other runners. People staying inside sleeping or avoiding the hoard. Almost like a deserted town. We encountered a long uphill of medium grade along the way.  At the top, we turned right. 

.A water stop was ahead. I was skipping the stops, so at first did not pay much attention. But then, I felt some confusion.  I think we were coming up a slight incline.  Ahead, a water stop table was manned by young girls.  The confusion was that I noted a white chalk line pointing to the right and an orange line going straight beyond the table.  I hesitated mentally. Some runners ran straight and others turned right.  I decided to follow the runners I’d been behind all along and turned right.  This turned out to be the correct decision.

 We had about a mile to go when I became aware of a lady gasping as she ran along.  She reminded me of how I sound when nearing my limit.  “I’m dying” she said, every so often.  She had headphones so I wasn’t sure if she heard me when I told her to keep on at it.  I knew how awful she felt, but unlike when I am gasping, she persisted in keeping her pace rather than slowing.  Finally, a spectator outside of his home, with a large excited dog on a lead.  The dog was getting his exercise lunging back and forth until the owner took him inside. 

I could not get to the final turn soon enough.  Once there, I still had to drop to a walk even though I knew the Finish waited several blocks ahead.  Uphill!  I walked up the hill until the last intersection before the Finish and then sprinted across the line.  Since I had just walked, I had enough breath to go all out.  I was later rewarded by a comment from a young fellow (10?) that certainly gave me a lift.

I stopped and watched some of the folks come up the hill towards the Finish. 

 A little dog came running along with one, danced around, followed another for a short distance, then darted back the way he'd come, down the hill and out of sight.

happy running dog

Back to the water stop issue.  One of our Nog runners had gone straight, along with other runners.  She became suspicious when they made some turns and ended up intersecting with the main batch of runners.  Plus, her Garmin was about 4/10th of a mile short.  She had gotten second in her age group but told the officials she had gone off course and was short on distance. (Gee, I am reminded of the Rock N Roll marathon winner who was led off course by the lead biker, then got a ride, and reentered the course – losing time – but still recognized as the female winner.) Any way, the Nog runner was not recognized in her AG. 

So, 32nd year of this event and they still have something to learn, such as have an adult course monitor there to direct runners.  (I have no idea what the orange line was for – maybe we came back that way and I did not recognize the terrain.)

Interestingly, the three male overall winners were all under 16, with Caleb Silver, 15, the winner in 17:29.  The three overall women winners were all in their early 30s, with Susan Heuser (Nog!) winning in 20:31.  207 folks ran the event and 19 people walked it as part of the 5K Health Walk.  It was sunny by the time the event ended.  Except for the directional confusion at the water stop, this was a nice event to run. 

A larger home near the Finish, with a cat safe in the doorway observing the runners in the intersection on the side street.

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