Let’s recap my run in the Lake Hodges 5K way back on January 30, 2011. I was fresh off a 5K podium and PR of 16:35 two weeks earlier, so I was feeling pretttyyy confident about this smallish trail run. It also was the first run of a 3-part trail series put on by the Sun Striders. And my mom was running it too. The podium was nice, but I wanted to win. So I lined up at the front (a first for me) and planned to go out with the leaders.
Well that didn’t quite work out because four kids just gunned it out off the line. I have no top-end speed to speak of (more of a diesel-engine type), so I let them go and figured I’d reel them back in at some point. Sure enough, I passed the first after about 3/4 of a mile. The next I passed as we neared the turnaround. Since it was an out and back, I knew at halfway that I was behind the two lead runners by about 50-100m and that just past the 2 mile mark, there was a slight downhill followed by a short, steep uphill. I would ramp it up at the 2-mile mark, then make my move on the rollers. I hit the 2-mile mark. Take one step, take another step, and boom.
Straight onto my face. I caught a toe in trail rut and went down hard. Both hands, both knees: bleeding. Since it’s an out-and-back and I was near the front, I managed to do this right in front of the main pack of the race. I picked myself up and gingerly started running again, with that post-crash hyper-awareness where you notice every nuance of your body (Is my stride off? What’s that I feel in my ankle? Why is one arm swinging further than the other?). I knew I was still in 3rd, but I had trouble getting back up to speed. Passed by someone half a mile later, I coasted into the finishing chute at just under 19 minutes (2.5 minutes slower than the race 2 weeks previous) in 4th , dejected and off the podium.
The awards ceremony starts and 3rd place overall gets announced. It wasn’t the guy that had passed me. Strange, I must have miscounted. Then the award for 2nd overall is called. And it’s me? Huh? What the hell happened out there?! 1st overall is the guy that passed me? Then I put it together.
Yes, I had faceplanted while leading the race (so cliche) chasing a bunch of high schoolers who decided to bandit the race during their Saturday run. To make matters worse, the guy who passed me was in my age group, so I didn’t even win that. You know who won her age group? My mom. “Oh you come from a running family!” was a frequent refrain post-race (which (a) isn’t true and (b) belittles the hard work of any runner trying to improve. Genes don’t set PRs, people). So, yeah, I bloodied myself for no reason and lost to my mom.
The cherry on top came a few days later when the race pictures came out:
That’s the guy I passed near the turnaround. It doesn’t get more obvious that these guys were banditing.
So there you have it: my personal story about why I would never think about entering a race without paying for it and judge the crap out of those that do. Or maybe it’s my personal story about how I’m an idiot who needs to pay more attention while running. I guess you can pick.
I’m sure someone else must have a terrible bandit story. Let’s hear it.
Epilogue: The second race of the trail series was a 7K directly up Black Mountain and back down. I won that race handily (and then won the raffle after there race. The crowd was unimpressed.) and went on to win the trail series. Big pat on my back for that one.