Yesterday's race was the Firecracker 10K. Last year I gave this race a pretty negative review. All I've got to say is what a difference a year makes! The race organizers listened to criticism and made this a truly memorable event.
Sunday morning broke cool but clear. It was shaping up to be one of those spectacular days in Southern California.
Traffic is always a crap shoot in L.A., so I left with plenty of time to spare. I got to Chinatown a little early and snagged a parking spot right around the corner from the start line. I got my bib and goody bag. Wow! A reusable tote bag with more than just race fliers!
At this point it became *very* apparent to me that the race organizers took last year's criticism to heart. This year the organizers blocked about a half a city block so that everyone got a great view of the festivities. Way to go Race Director!
Since I had about 30 minutes until the 10K started, I headed back to my car, ditched my coat and pants, used the porta potties, and then roamed around a bit. Yes - all in 30 minutes. And yes - at a race with 4000 plus runners plus friends and families. Ever go to a race where you can't find water before the race? Not so here! Excellent Mr. Race Director!
This is not an easy course. The elevation profile tells the story: The course is a steady uphill 2.5 mile climb, a little level off at the top of Los Angeles's Elysian Park, followed by a steady downhill back into Chinatown. This requires a pacing strategy (something that I am still struggling with) to keep from blowing up.
I often read about races with thousands of runners going different distances all sharing the same course. Not so here! There were 2400 5K runners and 2000 10K runners. It would have been easy to put us all on the course at the same time and then split the 5K runners off at some point. Instead, the 5K runners started half an hour earlier. This made all the difference when it came to some of the narrow points on the course. Kudos Race Director!
We started promptly at 8:30 AM. It took a couple minutes to hit the start line and activate our timing chips. I tried to hold back as we headed toward the steeper uphill portions of the course.
In about 3/4 a mile we turned left off the city streets and stared climbing in earnest. I shortened my stride, but as I hit some of the steeper parts of the trail, I still had to slow down to a brisk walk. My pace was almost pedestrian at times:
Mile 1: 9:16
Mile 2: 10:49
Mile 3: 10:44
As I moved up the hill, I couldn't help but notice the views where phenomenal!!!! Miles 2 and 3 actually include time stopped (yes stopped) to take photos and to take photos for others running the race. One *really* nice touch were the signs letting everyone know what they were looking at. Nice touch Race Organizers!
Here's the view to the Northwest:
Here's one that I didn't need a sign for - Dodger Stadium! (Oh - with Downtown L.A. in the background):
I started downhill. Unlike last year, I was not sporting a stiff, painful back, so I was able to let it rip as I headed down the hill.
Mile 4: 8:01
At mile 5, I had to stop again. Yes - that's right. I said STOP. We were entering BLUE HEAVEN!!! I am a *huge* baseball fan, *and* I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I had to pay homage to my beloved Dodgers.
Mile 5: 8:49 (Three stops included - video of Taiko drummers, photos of Dodger Stadium)
Mile 6: 7:55
Mile 6.2: 1:39 (7:11 pace)
Final time: Garmin: 57:16, Official: 57:30.4
half minutes). But what better place to leave it? I was pleased with my first time ever sub-8:00 miles (even though they were downhill miles).
I finished up the day with dim sum at Ocean Seafood in Chinatown! I met up with some of my Twitter friends for a delicious tweetup!
Pictured are @biblio_phile, yours truly, @nicolapiggott (standing), @ridgeley and @anotorias. Great way to wrap up a great day and great race.
Bottom line? I will definitely be back next year! If you are in Los Angeles in February, you should too!