The 2014 Bay Days 8k kicked off my Fall 2014 racing season and was a bag of mixed emotions. I was first place overall female but also 40 seconds slower than last year on an extremely hot and humid day. With an 8:30 Start, I got to sleep late for a Race Morning and casually dressed, ate breakfast, had a big glass of water and got myself together before heading to Hampton.
After the fiasco at last year’s packet pick-up, I packed both my registration receipt and free registration letter from the race director in my race bag. We arrived in Hampton on Race Morning around 7am, beating a massive line to packet pick-up and easily parking in the free for runners garage. As expected, I was not in the system and had to re-register on the spot. Thank goodness I was prepared. Back at the car, I finished my E2, stretched out a bit, pinned my number on and slid into my socks and shoes. I had some time to burn before getting race ready so I found a shady spot and watched the packet pick-up line continue to get longer and longer as 8am approached. Apparently parking got quite slim at this point as well. When my watch showed 8am, I began my warm-up.
I normally do short, easy 400-800M jogging warm ups at races less than 10 miles and don’t do any at half marathons but because I really wanted to run this race hard, I decided to do my first serious pre-race warm up. When I was roughly halfway through my mobility drills and one mile with three strides, an announcement came over the loud speaker. The Start was delayed ten minutes. With a late, 8:30am Start time to begin with, this delay just welcomed higher temperatures for the run. Great. As if I wasn’t already regretting my decision to wear a black top. While I would like to say this the delayed Start made my too early warm-up pointless, it did open my eyes to the extreme race conditions I was about to subject myself to. I completed my warm-up and stood around near the front of the corral with a few hundred other runners, waiting.
When it was finally time to enter the corral, I had a short chat with Eric of Hampton Runner and could feel beads of sweat rolling down my back as the National Anthem was sung. I started right at the front of the pack and headed into my first trip over the bridge at the pace I needed to hit my goal. If it was 70 degrees and the air was a little less soupy, that is. I immediately gave up on my 35:30 goal and slowed down a little bit. Two ladies powered by me on this uphill but quickly faded before hitting the one mile mark. I knew I was the lead female and even though I had let my goal of averaging a 7:00/mile pace go, I still wanted to at least win my age group.
Temperatures during the race hovered around 80 with humidity never dipping below 85% making the 95% shade free course a warm one. Mile One was pretty uneventful after crossing the bridge. I encountered no traffic and was passed by a few men as we rounded a long, soft right hand bend into two quick turns that lead to another straightaway. I jogged through a water stop just before Fort Monroe at Mile Two, grabbing a cup of water and tossing as much as I could on my steaming head. Miles Two and Three were likewise uneventful, mostly trying not to overheat and stay lead female. Smatterings of people on the streets made me smile a few times and I was sure to say ‘thank you’ to as many Hampton PD officers as I could when I ran by.
A breeze off the water at the halfway mark was nice but just past Mile 3, I slowed to take a look around. The heat was really getting to me and I was starting to get a nasty stitch in my side. All I could see was a gentleman about 200M behind me and another 10-15 seconds behind him. As much as I wanted to keep moving at my goal pace, I knew I had enough of a lead to slow down and maintain it. For the final two miles I brought my pace down from a heat induced 7:17 average per mile to 7:50 per mile. This not only brought my heart rate down, eased my side stitch and let me start to feel less like I might hurt myself, it helped save my legs for Sunday’s 12 miler.
By the time I reached the Mile 4 water stop, I still couldn’t see much going on behind me and opted to walk through, grabbing one cup to drink and a second to pour over my head. I maintained my slower pace, fought off another nasty stitch in my side and hunkered down for the final 1200 meters. Powering back over the bridge, a much needed breeze helped me pass one more male runner as I eased into the newly located Finish.
The 2014 Bay Days 8k finished in Mill Point Park, rather than straight ahead as it did in 2013, after crossing the bridge a second time. Two quick turns coming into the Finish Line made a speedy finish difficult. One, because of two tight turns and two, because you couldn’t see it until you had a measly 50 meters to go. Not much motivation there. I crossed the line at 37:50, hot, sweaty and thirsty. I was congratulated, given a medal, a bottle of water and a banana. I walked a five minute cool down then settled in some shade to shed my shoes and relax while waiting for the awards. The Bay Days website had claimed that the Top Three Finishers would be recognized, leaving me unsure whether that meant top three of each gender or if only three men would be awarded at the event. Luckily, it was the former.
En route to the awards area, I stopped back at the Finish chute to acquire a second bottle of water. A volunteer told me it was only one bottle of water per finisher. This totally boggled my mind. It was 82 degrees, I had just finished exercising, the sun was shining and there was no other source of water to be found. I understand that he was probably just doing as he was told, but whoever told him that was both ridiculous and putting people in danger. Equally as shocked as I, a runner crossing the line had heard the statement, grabbed a second bottle and handed it to me. Many thanks to her!
The awards ceremony was pushed back to after 10am and took place on the seating around the park’s stage, rather than on the stage that was still riddled with rigging for the evening’s concerts. I was sad to see there wasn’t a photographer to capture the moment because there had been plenty on the course, and who knows if I’ll ever finish first again. After accepting my award, Doug and I thought about having that complimentary beer. When we saw the massive, barely moving line for the event’s singular beer truck, however, we made for the exit. The small park was overrun by the event’s 1000+ participants, their families, coaches and friends.
The medals are nice and even though, as usual, the t-shirt doesn’t fit, it’s nice as well. For my first place finish, I received a print of this year’s Bay Days poster, a 30th Anniversary Hampton Bay Days slap on coozie and $75 in gift certificates to Point 2 Running in Newport News, VA. I was disappointed there’s nothing that recognized my achievement, I’d rather have something special I can have for the rest of my life than more running shoes. I hope the issues of massive packet pick-up lines, bottled water shortages, overcrowding in the park and too few beer vendors can be solved. I would also suggest an earlier Start time and better event day scheduling.
In the end, I’m proud to have been the first female to finish the 2014 Bay Days 8k but a little disappointed I didn’t have the chance to really go after my goal time. It wasn’t worth risking dehydration, injury or overheating to chase it and I hope the weather at the Heart of Ghent 10k in two weeks is more conducive to getting a gauge on where I am for Myrtle Beach.
What’s your first Fall race? How did it go?