I've gotten lost on courses before. In small races, I tend to fall in that sweet spot where the elite men are far enough ahead of me that I lose sight of them and am running alone with nobody to follow. Without proper signage on a poorly marshalled course, it's a 50/50 chance I'll get lost. Confusing course on top of that? I'm doomed!
Saturday night's Southfield Summer Soulstice at Lawrence Tech University had all makings of a race disaster waiting to happen . . . I just didn't realize it. BUM BUM BUM!
Although I was slightly nervous about an evening race, I was mostly excited to see how different it was to race at 7:30pm versus 7:30am. I was careful about what I ate all day and took a nap in the afternoon. Brian and I got to the race early to pick up our bibs and hang out with the rest of the RUNdetroit family. It was a big night because there were about 15 runners doing their first 5K as part of graduation from the 3.101 program. We also had a few Flight Club members doing the 10K and many doing the 5K. It was awesome to have such a big group!
The RUNdetroit tent was set up in the back by the music stage and beer tent. There was a small row of port-a-potties nearby that I will call the "secret bathrooms" because there was never a line! I was the first to use two of them! They were very luxurious, too. Each one had a sink with soap and paper towels. You don't get that kind of service at every race!
The vibe before the race was relaxed and cheery. People were stretching, dancing, and doing yoga. There was music playing and an announcer was keeping the crowd entertained with amusing commentary. I got in my mile warm up and run drills. I was ready to go and feeling confident.
The race started about 10 minutes late due to some traffic on the course. Not a big deal. Everyone took off and ran through campus, heading out to 10 Mile Road, looped through campus, then back toward 10 Mile. At this point there was a man telling 5K to turn right and 10K left. It was confusing and I hoped I'd gone the correct way. Why was this poor man having to tell everyone which way to go? Why wasn't there a sign?? No time to think about it. I kept running, heading back the same way I'd already gone. At least I got to pass my RUNdetroit cheering section for a second time!
After this a marshall directed me to cross over M-10 (the Lodge) and into a business park area. I ran through some parking lots where I was able to chick two dudes. Then I had my first indication that something was awry. I passed my first mile marker - but it was the Mile 2 sign and my watch was showing 2.6. I was hoping they weren't off at every mile and that somewhere along the way I would sync up.
After the business park I crossed back over M-10 where I saw a course marshall holding up 10 fingers (I was in 10th place!) and ran past my RUNdetroit cheering section for the 3rd time. I saw the Mile 3 marker (3.6 for me), turned back into campus, and converged with the 5K runners. I made a left turn where I found a water table and thankfully overheard a volunteer tell another runner that the 10K was supposed to go straight "back that way." I whipped around, uttered words not for children's ears, and ran like hell in the other direction. Why do I always get lost at races?!?
I saw one of the guys I had passed up ahead down another path so I followed him. We were running in the opposite direction as 5K'ers, which seemed odd. I finally caught up to him and made sure he was running the 10K. We made a left turn on 10 Mile for a couple of blocks before getting to a subdivision blocked off with construction barrels. I wouldn't have turned into it unless he'd told me to. I wasn't sure it was correct but inside we found a man at a water table, a port-a-potty, and a fun group of people cheering. Yes this was the course! We did one loop through this little shady subdivision before heading back to 10 Mile. I was feeling confident again to be back on course, in the top 10, and leading lady.
Until we headed back to 10-Mile Road where I saw a line of 10K runners streaming past the subdivision. "10K this way!" I shouted! They all looked at me like I was crazy. I knew what they were thinking: Who is this lady and where is she coming from? One woman said, "Ah, I hate when I do that."
Holy SH*T. I went off course again!
How was this even possible? I started to book it. I wanted to reclaim something. Then I thought WHY? I looked at my watch and it read almost 6 miles already. My 10K was almost over. I'd been averaging a 6:45ish pace. It was hot and humid and I'd given it my all. My stomach was cramping up. It wasn't worth being miserable to finish out at race pace because I'd gotten lost twice. Screw it. I slowed down and took it easy to finish out. I ran by the guy who told the 5K and 10K to split. At another corner I ran by a volunteer in a golf cart. "Lost twice!" I shouted. He just shrugged at me. I ran by my RUNdetroit cheering section for the 4th time. Almost back.
When I ran down the final stretch I saw Brian and the rest of the 5K finishers. I joked to them, "Is this the right way?" I couldn't wait to tell them about how I got lost at a race AGAIN. I seriously wouldn't live this one down. As I crossed the finish line, Greg Everal (Everal Race Management) was on his walkie talkie saying, "10th place, 1st woman," I started to wonder if there was more to this than I realized. I was clearly NOT in 10th anymore, nor was I first woman. I'd seen all those runners streaming past me when I came out of the subdivision. Greg seemed to know I'd gotten lost - but how? I started to talk to some of the fast guys who had finished ahead of me. That little loop through the subdivision? We WERE supposed to do it. Ok so that answers that. It didn't answer how I ended up with 6.87 miles for a 10K but it made me feel a little better.
I grabbed a water and went over to talk to the other racers. This is when I found out that while I'd been running my race, thinking I was just getting lost as usual, everyone else had basically been running amok as well! For the 5K, people ran anywhere between 2.9 and 3.5 miles. I heard a record low 4.8 mile 10K and mine was 6.87 miles. Spectators saw finishers running down the chute from both the start and finish sides, as well as coming across the grass. Nobody knew where to go!
It's still unclear what exactly happened. The course was very confusing with lots of twists, turns, and loops. I tried to study the map ahead of time but gave up because it just didn't make sense. On the course, there weren't signs, arrows, or other indicators of where to go. Cones aren't enough. I can count on one hand the number of course marshalls that directed me where to turn - and one of them misdirected. You see, we think the problem ultimately was with the first man who directed 10K to turn left and 5K to turn right. Everyone should have turned the same direction. I basically just ran part of it in the wrong direction. I think.
10K course map:
Here is what I actually ran. Looking at the two now I see when I ran to the water table at Civic Center Drive I was supposed to do that. The thing is, had I not overheard someone say I was supposed to go back, I wouldn't have known. There wasn't a sign to turn around. You can also see I missed a loop in there, have an extra triangle, and seem to somehow have gone beyond the course boundary of 10 Mile Road!
5K course map:
Here's what Brian ran. Despite only being on the actual course for 1 mile, he still logged a 3.51-mile 5K. He ran this loop once and when he realized he was about to run the whole thing a second time he stopped and turned around.
In the end, however, everyone made it back to the finish line safely. There have definitely been worse outcomes at races! The race director was very apologetic about the events of the evening. Obviously nobody's times could be officially recorded. No awards could be given out but they did a raffle to make up for it. I won a gift certificate for a restaurant in Farmington Hills. They also had half off beer in the beer tent. We stuck around for a while and everyone had a good time. And hey, it makes for the BEST story!!
Plus, you know what's great? It wasn't just ME who got lost this time!
(Unofficial - for 6.87 miles)
Bagel with peanut butter (2.5 hours before race), 1/2 banana (1 hour before race)
Summer Teeth / Wilco
Mr Blue Sky / Mayer Hawthorne
Vacation / The Go-Gos
One Summer Night / that dog
Holiday / Vampire Weekend
Cruel Summer / Bananarama
Hot Summer Night / Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
Holiday / Green Day
Miami / Will Smith
Summer of '69 / Bryan Adams
California Gurls / Katy Perry
People of the Sun / Rage Against the Machine
The Other Side of Summer / Elvis Costello
Did you run the Southfield Summer Soulstice? If so, please share your story (which race, your actual distance, map, etc.).