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Ralston Creek 1/2 Marathon 2012, the Birth of Gunks McGoogly, or Why Short Races Hurt

Last month a friend of mine talked me into running the Ralston Creek 1/2 Marathon. He was bummed that the ski season was, in effect, shitty and was looking for something to motivate him to work out. He suggested, in an enthusiastic tone of voice, that we sign up for this 1/2 Marathon. I figured I could find the time to run one of those so long as I could find the entrance fee so I signed up.

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I have to say that I wasn't really that interested in running this race. At a $50 race fee, it costs just under $4/mile. I think that's pretty expensive. But I wouldn't have any other costs associated with this race, like food, lodging, etc, since I can drive to it in the morning and then drive home. So I figured, why not? But because I wasn't totally into racing this distance I signed up under an alias Gunks McGoogly. The story should end there, but when I registered I received an email from the RD or some person associated with the organization:

Good Afternoon,
I just downloaded the online entries and noticed that you listed your estimated finish time as 1:25:00 and your start wave as #1. Did you realize that the first wave is for folks who will finish over 2hrs 30min? This wave was intended for the End-of-the-pack folks that always finish long after the cheering crowd and most of the food are gone. With a 1:25 finish - you will end up disqualified… unless that's a typo? I've moved you to wave 2 - just let me know if I'm off base.
Also thought I'd mention that you'll need a photo ID to match the name you registered under.
Thanks Much,
Racing Underground, LLC

Totally understandable. I messed up the start waves because I didn't read the instructions. I like that last sentence. My response:

So I need to have an ID that says "Gunks McGoogly" to be able to race? What if Gunks doesn't feel like racing and transfers his bib to me? Is that allowed?
I thought the first wave was for people that will finish under 2:30. Thanks for moving me to the appropriate wave.
Steve, on behalf of Mr. McGoogly

and her reply:

I just realized that we don't ID for running races… it's the triathletes who have to have an ID (mostly due to folks who switch and don't tell us and that leaves us wide open from a liability standpoint). So, just have fun out there and we don't need to worry if Gunks has an ID or not.

Takeaway: sign up for races under clearly fake names and triathletes are liabilities.

To race day: went out a few nights before, but still thought I'd have a shot at a sub-1:30 1/2 marathon. I've never ran one of these so I didn't really know what I was getting into. I got there a little early to get my bib and stuff and waited around for 15 minutes for the start. I lined up towards the front, but not at the front, which was good considering there were some pretty fast dudes out there.

They had the count down...yadda yadda...I'd say there were 15 or so people in front of me and everyone was looking smooth. They looked like they were gliding over the pavement, I felt like my shoes were filled with jacks. But whatever. It was fun to go out fast. I don't think I've ever started a race that fast. I hit the first mile mark in 5:3X, and I was substantially behind the front runners. They must have hit it in around 5 flat. Too hot for me. My friend Zach stayed with me until mile 2 or 2.5 and then decided I was going too slow. He put the heat on and overtook the two people that were running in front of us - one guy who looked like a liability (read: triathlete) and Luke Crespin, a Denver runner who was looking strong.

For the next few miles I just kept them in sight and tried not to pass out. I hit the 10K mark several minutes under 40 and felt fine. The course was twisty and rolling, which would have made for a very nice trail run. It made for a very difficult 1/2 Marathon course. Normally, I'd enjoy and even relish slight ups and down, and twists and turns, but I found myself cursing them for messing up my flow. You should know, I'm not fast and definitely not the type of person who likes running fast. So instead of relying on talent, I was relying on the nebulously defined concept "flow."

And flow I did, until mile 7.5 or 8. The course is a basic lollipop course, with the spherical, sugary section being the circumnavigation of a small reservoir. There was a hill down into mile 7.5 followed by a huge hill with several large, looping switch backs. At this point in the race I really started to pass the people who started in wave #1 (those who were planning on taking over 2:30 runners). So they were all walking up the hill, which made me feel like a real runner. But I don't blame them. If I wasn't determined to put in a good effort, I would have pulled an ultra-runner and just walked the up-hills. But I was determined that Gunks McGoogly would not be an ultra-runner. I made it up the hill and was still feeling good, holding my position and I wasn't really loosing site of the liability or Luke. My friend Zach was way out in the distance so he was effectively gone. One the next downhill section, I started to struggle. The several guys behind me began catching up and I started to fade a bit. At some point, one of the guys behind me caught and passed me. The spirit of Gunks was strong and I felt new life come into me. There was no way I was going to let this guy pass me. So I held on until we finished the downhill section and we got back into the lollipop, rolling sections and then I hit the gas.

I was working hard and dropped that guy within a few rollers. Next was the liability. I was feeling really good at this point, I was working hard, and I could tell the liability was starting to struggle. A few more rolling hills and he was in Gunks' dust. Now all I had to do was catch Luke.

That didn't happen. Within the last mile or mile and a half, he kicked strong. I was putting the hammer down and I felt like I was really flying, but he just kept pulling away. He ended up catching my friend Zach and beating him by a few sections and I followed by 30 seconds or so.

All in all, it was fun. I've never tried to run that fast for that long. My legs feel ok. But surprisingly, my obliques and my arms are sore. Probably because I never run that fast if I can avoid it. So for the 13.1 mile I held a 6:19 pace, which isn't all that bad. I figured I could put in a 1:25 and I beat that by a few minutes, so I'm happy with that. I also discovered that shorter races are kinda fun. I was only out there running for 1:22, which is probably less time than I would have run on a Sunday anyway. So if you see Gunks McGoogly on the list of registered runners, keep an eye out. You might run into him.

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Ralston Creek 1/2 Marathon 2012, the Birth of Gunks McGoogly, or Why Short Races Hurt + running man