Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pumpkins, a Corn Maze, and a Race!

(Originally Published on Runners World Loop 10/16/11)
Theme races are always exciting events, and this morning’s Great Pumpkin 5k was no exception. This race is held West of Tucson, not far from Kitt Peak, at Buckelew Farms. It’s a cross-country race, and the course changes due to the farm’s need to rotate crops. Most of the course winds through the pumpkin fields, and in the final quarter-mile there is a corn maze. The pumpkins are in season, with large orange and white clusters of them everywhere; and the corn stalks are about 6-7 feet high. The farm hosts Halloween activities so there are plenty of props, like skeletons and haunted mansions, to give the whole area a fun feel. The pre-race enthusiasm was high, with lots of nervous runners.
I was happy to have my youngest son, Jason, running this morning. We had some fun scoping out the area, and Jason made a new friend!
The race took off fast, and I hit the 1 mile mark around 6:02. By then we were in the pumpkin patch, and dust was flying. I wore my trail running shoes, which was good because some parts of the course were really mushy or rough. Mile 2 was around 12:15 and I knew I was slowing a bit. I wanted to run fast but also tried to hold slightly back since I’m only 1 week away from my next marathon. Shortly before the 3-mile mark, the course opened up to a wider, smoother section. Here’s a picture taken by my friend Doreen:
Here’s Jason running along that portion of the course:
After that, we came up a short hill and entered a very slanted, very soft and dusty path, which really slowed the pace; then we entered the corn maze. The maze had yellow tape to keep us on the right pathway, but the sharp turns along with irrigation channels made it very difficult to keep any kind of fast pace. But it was fun anyway! After exiting the maze, it was a sharp right turn and mad dash to the finish line.  Jason is behind the middle runner in this picture, ready to make his final move:
It turns out that this year’s course was extra long; my GPS watch measured 3.266 miles, and others measured as much as 3.4. My final time was 21:07, which got me 21st place out of 675 finishers, and 2nd in my age group. I won a small bag of candy for the age group award.
This race is a “class B” race, so the course is not exact, no finisher’s shirt, no big awards, but it was still fun. Jason ran very well, not his PR but since the course was long and challenging, I think he ran his best race yet.
When we arrived in the early morning, I made a mistake while parking and landed my front wheels in a ditch. Fortunately some friends helped me push it out – thanks to Bruce and Terri, and Shane and Anna! I have to admit that hanging out with friends is really the best part of any race, and runners in general are some of the best friends anyone could ask for.

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