This past weekend my family participated in the 33rd Annual Race On The Base in Los Alamitos. And when I say family, I mean it! Not only was I signed up to run the 5k, so was a cousin-in-law of mine. Also, my mother-in-law ran the reverse triathlon and my son was scheduled to run the JR triathlon. Along with all these family members running different portions of the day, a few of my fellow Brea Runners were scheduled to run, too! It was a big day for all of us. Knowing how big this day would be and how long, we prepped the car and all our things the night before to be ready for our 4:30am wake-up call! We packed food and chairs and all our racing gear needed the night before just to be uber prepared.
Now because of the enormity of the day, I’ll break this down into segments to better explain how I felt about each because this day produced a mixture of feelings both good and bad. I’ll start off by saying that come next year, if we considered doing this race again (and that’s a HUGE if), we’d make A LOT of changes because the day was quite stressful and frustrating due to some unforeseen circumstances. Otherwise, I don’t think we’ll be going back.
The 5k Race
My cousin-in-law and I were signed up to run the 5k race. Our race started at 7:20am. And boy did they start RIGHT on time! Now we didn’t get our packets the night before but packet pickup the day of was pretty smooth. We walked up and got our numbers and chips. Because this was chip timed I had planned to start a little late so that I could see my son finish his triathlon. So we knew we had time. After pinning everything on and tying on our timer chips to our shoelaces, we decided to make one last pit stop at the porta-potties.
While in line we were being told that the 5k was starting soon and to get to the start line. I didn’t think much of it because we were timed so, what was the big deal if we didn’t start with our gun time? We’d be ok, right?
Well, I didn’t realize that they had the 5k walkers start only moments after the 5k runners took off. Because the two waves were back to back, if a runner was late, you got stuck in between strollers and kids and families and walkers just out to stroll the base. In the end it didn’t matter much. We started when we were done with our quick potty break and just made our way through the walkers.
Now for the course. It was a simple out and back. No hills, no real curves, just a big expansive flat course. The good thing about this is that my time greatly improved even with the slow start because there was no real strain on my body to take on any hills. The down side is that with a big flat course you can see the WHOLE course in a single glance and it can be overwhelming. 3.1 miles isn’t a big deal in portions but seeing the whole race makes me overwhelmed with how far I still have to go. But that’s probably more of a personal issue than anything. But it was fun being on the course because there were three bands to entertain us out there along with seeing the helicopters and the 10k runners WAY out there making their way through. For being a big flat field, there was a lot to keep you amused while you ran.
In the end, as I came around the last corner, I saw my husband, mother-in-law, and son waving to me wildly. My cousin-in-law was ahead of me by 2 minutes so I was running on my own and doing well based on my Nike+ time. When I reached my family, my son jumped into my race with me and crossed the finish line at my side. I’ll be honest, I love when he does this. It really boosts me and makes me pick up the pace for that last stretch of road.
My app time was 36:15 or so and I was thrilled with this. So much so I was almost in tears as I made me way through the crowded finish line to the nice volunteers handing out medals and helping to unclip our timers. My son was still with me at this point as I grabbed a water bottle and started to look for a way out. Then it happened…he disappeared into the crowd of sweating, swarming bodies. For a good 5 minutes I looked about frantically and I followed the steady stream of racers back to the common center of the race. Because there were gates along the course, I couldn’t jump out so I reasoned that my son couldn’t either so he couldn’t be far. But panic started to set in as I still couldn’t see him or my husband. Luckily I bumped into my mother-in-law who asked about Jake and told her as calmly as I could that I hadn’t seen him for 5 minutes and I was worried.
A few moments later, he popped out of the crowd with a scared look on his face. I could tell he was close to panicking himself. Mama bear was about to make an appearance had he not made his way to us at that time. I was ready to head to the guy on the microphone and yank it from his hands to yell for Jake. Whew… So we reminded him that this was a busy day and that the crowds were large so he had to stay close by.
The Jr Reverse Triathlon
Our son was signed up to run/ride/swim the jr triathlon that started at 7:00am. Sadly, I can’t comment on the race itself because we didn’t make it in time for him to participate. I have a few negative feelings about this because with all our prep time, we still didn’t make it through the gates in time for him to take part. At first I blamed myself for not having our packets the night before then I realized even if we HAD our packets, we still would not have made it through the gates in time. There was a mandatory meeting at 6:45 for the triathlon that we had to attend and we were on time to make that (even be a bit early) but we ran into issues getting through the gate.
So we were up at 4:30 and left for the race at 5:45 after meeting with the race of our family. This was probably a mistake. We should have left sooner. But with no traffic so early on a Saturday morning, we thought we’d have MORE than enough time and we did. Even with a pit stop for a bathroom break, we were still over 30 minutes early for the meeting before the race began. But the line to get into the base was extraordinary and even with some attempts to get past the line and go in through the sides, we still ended up waiting forever to get through the gate. At one point I even got out of the car and tried to get in on foot but didn’t have my ID with me. It was back in the car with my husband! Had I known, I would have taken it with me. In the end, Jake and I had to stand in the morning chill by a light pumping out warm air, waiting for my husband to make his way through the crowd so we could jump back into the car with him.
But even THEN, had I had our numbers and my ID to walk through, we still wouldn’t have made it on time because parking was not very close to the events that day. So our car was parked far away, too far to drag out our son’s bike and make it in time after fighting through crowd at the gate. I think the only way you can make this race work is to have packets and ID in hand, have your child’s bike and gear with you, walk in to go to the meeting while someone else parks your car. Had we known this, we would have made arrangements. But we didn’t and instead, based off the info given to us, we did our best to accommodate for everything and still managed to miss the kids’ race.
My son was devastated as we were, too. And I’ve thought over and over this. We felt pretty prepared even without packet pickup the day before (it was a bit far to go on a Friday night with traffic and work to pick them up). So how did we mess up so much? First, I think any race that has a mandatory meeting needs to be later in the day. Let the 5k run first THEN have the kids run their race. Why they scheduled this event so early is a little baffling to me, especially with all the care that needs to go into having the kids ready to run, bike, then swim. Also, if you know a ton of people are coming, maybe expedite the entrance gate situation to make it more fluid. The line to get into the base was ridiculously long even getting there as early as we did.
The Overall Day
The events for the day at the base were long. We started our day early at 4:30am and didn’t get back home until after 1pm. Long day is long…
I’m thrilled to say I PRed in this race, breaking my 36 minute marker with a finish time of 35:09. This pleased me so much I danced around and sang about it all weekend. I was thrilled! My new 5k time is under 36 minutes and I’m almost breaking through the 35 minute marker, too! Time to set new goals! This was the highlight for me personally but a lot of other people running PRed and did really well so as athletes it was a great day!
Personally, I do not feel the need to rerun this race. As a 5k, it’s basic and nothing special. And all the stress to get there on time and get parking and get through the gate really isn’t worth it if you are just going for the 5k. There are SO MANY 5ks out there, another one that is easier to manage would be a better choice.
But if you want to try your hand at a reverse triathlon, this is a great venue for it. They have that part down pat. I still think they need to rethink the scheduling and make the kids race happen later and maybe make Wave #1 of the adult triathlon go earlier.
Because we paid for my son to race and had his packet in hand even if he didn’t get to participate, we decided to turn in his timer and ask for his medal. At first, we were met with some resistance from someone at the help desk. They pretty much told us no even though we were trying to explain that we needed to return the Gemini timer, anyway. Not taking this answer as the definitive one, my husband when in search of someone else at the finish line to help. He did find someone that allowed us to turn in our timer and get Jake’s medal. He may not have run his own race but he did cross the finish line with me.