Wednesday, August 20

Chaos reigns at the not-so-Peachy 5-miler

Race 12 in the Colorado Runner Racing Series was a shambles from start to finish. Actually, from before the start to well after the finish.

The question we were all asking each other at the finish was not "How did you do?" but "How far did you run?" as a combination of inadequate course marking and insufficient marshals who knew where the course went led to almost all of the runners going off course.

The leaders, following the lead bike, ran the full 5 miles. My group ran 4.2; another bunch ran 4.5. Forget the times; the finishing order became a question of discussion, honesty and give and take. One poor young lad thought he had won his age group until he was asked a question about the feeding station; he couldn't answer it because he never got to it, so had to hand over his award -- a punnet of peaches,

OK, so the Peach Fest 5 Mile in Palisade, way out west near Grand Junction, is a nice laid-back local race, but just wasn't up to scratch for a Series event. We all like to have fun and not take ourselves too seriously, but this fiasco showed a complete lack of respect for runners involved in the chase for points. Many of the leading runners had invested in a round-trip of 400-500 miles, half of it in atrocious weather, plus the cost of an overnight stay.

I have no idea what the final "results" are going to reveal. But as far as we could tell working things out between us, all the age-group leaders -- including me -- managed to hold our positions. So from that point of view, the effort was worth it. And it was an effort. I was at the Wedding of the Year the night before, as my favourite training partner, national champion and world's double medalist Patty Murray married superfast 50-plusser Dave Albo. After the weddding I grabbed a couple of hours sleep and left the house at 2.45am for a horrendous 250-mile drive in torrential rain and, later, hailstones and snow on the high passes, arriving at the race at 7.30am for an 8am start.

I didn't need a warm-up so much as de-kinking after driving for so long and so hard. However, I needn't have bothered being quite so cavalier with the speed limits, trying to make up time after the bad weather delays, as the race was to start 20 minutes late. That was lucky for another reason, as there were only 2 (two) portaloos provided.

We were told the race was delayed because some trees had fallen across the course and a new route was being worked out. Hmm, we thought, must be mighty big trees to necessitate re-working and re-measuring the course. Whatever. Eventually we were dispatched to the far corner of the school playing field where there was no call to the start line -- well, that would have been difficult, as there was no start line -- no "set" or "go!", just a vague waving of a watch while we all milled about. Guys at the back were forced to walk while the field gradually realised we had started and began to point itself in the right direction.

Off we went on a brief tour of the neighbourhood, then onto a paved trail and then -- Big Surprise! -- we found ourselves in a cross-country race. I mean the real thing, with single rabbit-track like paths, bushes and clumpy grass underfoot, logs to jump, trees to duck under, the whole bit. Now bear in mind we'd been given no course description, no route map, no nothing. The course WAS marked with little yellow flags, but where to go and especially where to turn was not clear at all. And there was no one out there to put us right. We all just followed the runner in front - and it didn't work.

The event website did refer to "exciting single-track", but told us "The expansion of Palisade’s Riverbend Park presented a perfect opportunity to hold the event where it is 95% trail or path running and virtually traffic free." Well OK. But really this is an out-and-out cross-country course with a mile or so of paved road connecting the parkland to the 400m or so thick grass start and finish stretch... and mileage may vary.

As it happens, the course is a little gem and I would love to run the whole thing some day. But that's unlikely; I won't be back. The mood among the other old guys chasing Colorado Runner Racing Series points was "Please don't have this in the Series next year!"

The race organizer/announcer ensured us at the prize presentation, "Anyone who went off course -- it wasn't your fault!" Well he got that right. The semi-official explanation for part of the debacle was that police had removed some kind of gate/barrier that had been set up to make the route way clearer. I don't know. Once out on the country the route was complex; what it needed was more human beings to show us the way.

So, what I can tell you is that amid the chaos some familiar names emerged as division winners -- at least unofficially, allegedly, and just for now.... among them Steve Folkerts of Fort Collins (a 600-mile round-trip away) who we KNOW ran the full course at something like 5:40 pace, which was amazing. He is now well clear at the top of the Series open men. Tim Jones from Loveland (500 miles) again scored over local for the day Erik Packard to stay ahead as overall master.

In the 50-54 table John Victoria (500 miles) clawed back another ten points from current leader Robert Kessler (Highlands Ranch, 500 miles), and in the 55-59 race third-placed overall Devin Croft beat me and Heath Hibberd, so we THINK the standings remain about the same. Stephen Berger (Littleton, 500 miles) and Dwight Cornwell from Fort Collins (600 miles) finished in that order, leaving Dwight still well clear at the top.

The redoubtable Connie Ahrnsbark from Lakewood (450 miles) won the entire 60-69 age group at age 68 and has opened a useful gap at the top of the women's 60+ division.

These are just the results I managed to write down as they were announced; not surprisingly, there were no "official" results printed out and pinned up... so all these may change.

On the race website there's no mention of where the results will be available, so the best bet is to check on the Colorado Runner site here, where all the results and latest points tables get put up.

* Next up: the Aetner Park to Park 10-miler, on Labor Day, September 1. Glory be, it's in Denver!! Just 45 minutes down the road.

No comments: