Saturday, December 5, 2009

Race #66 – Jingle Bell Run – Kings Mountain, NC – 12/05/09


Races are like pizza: when they’re good, they’re really good; when they’re bad, they’re still pretty good.
We knew in advance that they were calling for lousy weather this Saturday morning, but as a card-carrying weenie when it comes to bad weather I know I have to get out occasionally in the elements and run, just so I won’t feel so out of my element when the time comes that I have to be out in the elements. Over the past week all of my runs were on the treadmill, and while I love basking in temperatures in the 70s while I run, this ain’t Florida, and the treadmill can get a little unrealistic in the middle of the winter. Thus I decided to run outside today come h-e-double-hockeysticks or high water. Last night’s hour-to-hour forecast called for about a 60-70% chance of rain at race time, but when I got up this morning and checked it the chance of rain had dropped to 10%, which was a welcome surprise. Linda and I ran this race last year and it was one of the coldest of the year, not too surprising for December, and the weather this year was similar, with the temperature hovering around 40 degrees throughout the morning. My apologies if you’re reading this and you live in an actual cold climate where 40 degrees seems balmy in December.
Kings Mountain is only a hop and a skip from Gastonia so when Linda did her usual routine of rolling over and playing dead when I tried to wake her up, I told her she could stay in bed if she wanted to and I’d just go by myself, an offer she gladly accepted. Just a few minutes later though, she was up and dressed. After all, she’s almost as addicted to racing as me, and it’s been nine long days since the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving.
There seemed to be a breakdown in the organization of this race. As I remember it, last year everything went smoothly from start to finish and I don’t recall any problems at all with last year’s race. Possibly there was somebody new in charge, I’m not sure, but there seemed to be major problems with tracking the race results. There were no electronic chips, but that’s not a big deal; we’ve been in a number of races where they did it the old-fashioned way without chips and things ran smoothly. In today’s race there seemed to be problems with missing results, gender identification (there wasn’t a gender designation on the registration form), and name mixups. It all worked out, I think, but people were freezing waiting for the results while things were being sorted out.
To me, the biggest disappointment was that they decided to switch the awards from trophies to Christmas ornaments this year for race winners. Last year’s ice sculpture trophies were some of the best awards we’ve received since we began running. They’re prominently displayed in our trophy case and will always be special, not because of their monetary value, which is not a lot, but because we got out of bed on Saturday morning and ran faster than everybody who didn’t get out of bed (and some who did), and for that we were awarded a trophy, which we proudly display in our trophy case, so when the kids or grandkids or anybody else comes over, they can say (or think): “Grandpa and Grandma haul their butts out of bed on Saturday morning and run races, which keeps them healthy and happy; maybe we ought to do that too,” thus inspiring (hopefully) a couple of generations below us to get with the program and develop a more active lifestyle.
Anyhoo, back to trophies. Medals are fine too, especially the custom-made ones with words so you can remember why you won them, but once again I feel like a voice in the wilderness denouncing all of the other trinkets that I’ve received as an age group winner. Last week I decided that since my trophy case was starting to look like a display case at a flea market I would remove most of the non-trophy awards. Now I have a box of pretty much useless items such as a variety of unmatched drinking glasses, a pizza cutter, a jigsaw puzzle, an inscribed hand towel, etc. I removed 20 items from the trophy case and have 16 trophies left in the case. My point is that the trophies have some value, even if it’s just to make me feel good about my accomplishments as a runner. The other stuff has almost zero value. Sure, I can drink out of the glasses, but I already have a set of glasses that actually goes together; I can cut pizza, but I could already cut pizza with the pizza cutter I’ve had for the last 20 years; I could work the puzzle, but I don’t want to work a puzzle. I could donate the box of stuff to Goodwill, but nothing in there would be worth more than about a quarter to anybody else. I know this is not an issue of great importance to most people. It won’t solve the unemployment problem or bring peace to the Middle East or cure cancer, but other people more qualified than me are already working on those problems. I have to start small and this is my small way of making the world a better place (to run).
mitchell-rippy-empty-handedOne last thing about the awards: Mitchell Rippy was the overall winner of the 10k race, and as you can see from the picture on the right, he walked away completely empty-handed. Seems they forgot to print up a Christmas ornament for the overall winner, so they promised him they’d mail it to him. I guess that was the case for the 5k winner also. Mitchell took it in stride, but I think he was a little bummed that he didn’t get a nice trophy for being the overall winner in a race. I don’t want to get started again on the trophy rant, but every race should give a nice trophy or something of significance to the overall winners (male and female) in a race. Being the overall winner in a race is an accomplishment that most of us will never attain; it’s a big deal (even in a fairly small race) and should be treated as such.
Something else that deserves a mention is that the 5k course was actually longer than 5k by about .15 miles, so the race was actually 3.26 miles. Bubba Anthony pointed it out to me at the finish line and my Garmin agreed with his that the course was long. He said in previous years they had turned around in a different spot but this year we turned around at a traffic light beyond the previous turnaround, which of course affected the finishing times for the 5k runners.
Something that probably adds to the confusion is that there are actually four separate races: a 10k, 5k, 600-meter run for kids, and 2-mile kids run. Seems like they could just have one kids run and one adult run (either 5k or 10k) and simplify things tremendously.
Going back to my pizza analogy, there were some bright spots as well. The long-sleeved cotton T-shirts are great. The design was like last year’s, which was nice, but this year they were Carolina Blue, which I like better than the black ones from last year, and Linda and I are still wearing last year’s shirts from this race, while the majority of race T-shirts (probably at least 80%) have ended up at Goodwill.
The after-race food was a huge improvement from last year as well. There was hot coffee and some type of warm blueberry pastries I wasn’t familiar with, homemade possibly, and delicious, as well as some type of white chocolate fudge and slivered almonds. There were some other things, I think, but I was strung out on those blueberry pastries so that’s as far as I got.
I took some photos before the race and also some of the finishers. There are a total of 90 in the slide show. As always, you can click on the slideshow to go to the Picasa site and view full-screen photos or download the full-size photos (4000 x 3000 pixels) for free. No registration is required.

Race Rating:

3 – 1-10  Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
2 – 1-10  Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
3 – 1-10  Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10  Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10  T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
4 – 4/6   Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
0 – 0/5   Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
4 – 4/6   Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
3 – 3/7   Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
4 – 1-10  Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
6 – 1-10  Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
6 - 1-10  Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
5 - 0-10  Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups) (10 years in the 10k — 5 years in the 5k!)
0 – 0/5   Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
2 – 1-10  Bathroom Facilities
0-10  Other
TOTAL – 58