Sunday, October 28, 2012

The DeLaveaga Fairway 5.7K

 Run on a golf course? Sure. I've done that. But it was 25 years ago, at 4am and I was on 3 tabs of ecstacy and wearing nothing but a roll of toilet paper and a tiara. So I don't really count that as 'training'.

This race had 3 strikes against it before it even started:
1) It was a late addtion to our calendar, and the 6th 5K we had run this year. So we were a little bushed.
2) Due to the Giants improbable (and extensive) journey through the playoffs, we hadn't really trained much for this one. Karen had done exactly one training run in the two weeks since the Aloha 5K, and I had done one less than that.
3) I had stubbed the two littlest toes on my left foot on Thursday. Thought I had broken the pinkie for a few hours. (Hmmmm.......does 'pinkie' apply to toes as well as fingers? It kinda sounds like some tropical disease. "Sorry, can't make it. I've come back from Bora Bora with a bad case of 'Pinkie toe')

Plus, it was an inaugural race, which means there could be a whole slew of rookie mistakes from the organizers. Which there were, plus one gigantic Unforgivable Curse of a screwup.

On the plus side, it was a 5 minute drive from our house and amazingly we had the morning free. So what the hell: Break out the butt butter baby, we're going racing!

Post-race toes. Doesn't really hurt, but you can feel
bad for me if you want.
I've lived in Santa Cruz for 24 years now and had never been to the DeLaveaga Golf Course, even though its 2 miles from my house. Well, I've never been there on Purpose. When I first moved here I, like so many others, ended up at the links on accident when we actually were trying to find DeLaveaga park, which is on Branciforte Drive. So is the golf course. But to find the park you have to go up Branciforte, then take a left off of Branciforte, and then a right onto the other Branciforte, then continue straight, as if you hadn't just stepped into a wormhole for a sec.

So it was rather pleasant to be to headed up to the links as a destination, and not just a profanity-laden turn-around spot.

This was a small race, maybe 75 people, but they were a hearty and friendly lot. The Fairway 5K was a fund-raiser for Harbor High School. The HS supplied the volunteers, which were abundant and vitally necessary for a course that was laid out across 9 holes of a golf course. I think the students also supplied the music selection for the registration area, because it was all 'boomchickboomchickboomchickboomchickboomchick' dance crap, with one note melodies and even less chord changes. Christ, I'm getting old.

The first hint that this was going to be an odd race was that the big blue arch we could see  downhill from the Registration area was not the starting line, but the finish line. The start was 1/4 mile away, down around and up at some random point on the links. And instead of a starting gun they had a starting SHOTGUN, which seemed a little gratuitous for only 75 people, who were standing right next to it.

ka-BOOM!! And we're off, with ringing ears and powder burns.

I am the red head (literally) to the right of center.
(Photo by mvahradian. Used with permission.)

The course was billed as 80% grass and 20% pavement. I'll give them the 80% grass only if they let me point out the 40% pavement and 5% dirt. (It's a New Math thing.) But whatever, it was a beautiful, warm Santa Cruz morning, the sun shining, the dew on the grass, the majestic cypress and eucalyptus trees providing dapples of shade across the miles and miles of....lawn.

I'd never really been on a golf course before (I was totally kidding up there in paragraph #1). They're very........artificial. Yes, it's nature, but its not natural nature. When people praise the beauty of golf courses what they usually mean is the things on the periphery of the fairways: The trees, water hazards and views. That is, the views of things beyond the golf course. The course itself is just a series of manicured lawns laid ruthlessly down on top of what was once a beautiful forest, or marshland, or cliffside scrub land.

And I won't even get into all the water that is used to make the greens, you know, GREEN. Or, maybe I will: Audubon International estimates that the average American golf course uses 312,000 gallons of water per day. "Per Day" here means, every day of the year. Its a hard number to get your head around. Let's it put it this way: 312,000 gallons of water is more than a family of four uses in a year. "Year" here means 365 days of living near a golf course that uses that same amount for every one of those 365 days.

Beautiful. And thirsty.
Me, I like the golf where you have to hit the ball into the little windmill.

So off we went, Karen racewalking and me doing my 'tenth of a mile run, tenth of a mile walk' tango that is so annoying to the runners around me that pass me over and over and over again as I pass them over and over and over again.

What surprised me about the course is how undulating it was. Everything is either up or down on a golf course. The uphills were fine, especially if I hit them on a walking 10th. But the downhills were waking up my poor, bruised toe and making it all frowny.

Still, I enjoy a challenge, and I really liked that I had broken 40 minutes two weeks ago at the Aloha 5k. So I pressed on, up, down, grass, pavement, run, walk. I had no idea where I was most of the time, which is part of the fun of running races. You just have to trust that the course designers knew what they were doing, and didn't lay out the course at 4am after taking 3 tabs of E.

After two years of running 5Ks I have the length pretty well memorized. The human body is exceptionally trainable, and like a dog, it knows its patterns and responds well to them. So I know that the 3.1 miles will break down as one mile of Technical, one of Endorphins, one of Hanging On and smelling the barn and .1 of running like hell so you look badass for the photographers.

But something was wrong. Very wrong. I hit 2.5 miles and I was smelling the barn alright, but I couldn't see it anywhere. 2.6, 2.7, 2.8 - where was that big blue inflatable arch?

After the race, looking back at the finish line, trying to sort it all
out in my little mind. (Photo by mvahradian. Used with permission.) 
I know GPS isn't precise, but it's usually within a tenth of a mile or so, and as twisty as the course was (the map on my phone looks two pretzels mating) there was a race volunteer at every turn to guide us on our way. The only time I went the wrong way was when a volunteer told me to go 'upside' of some trees, because honestly, what the hell does 'upside' mean, anyway? But that was only a few steps.

Certainly I must be close! At 3.1 miles (exactly 5K) I was delighted to see that I was at 40 minutes, which was more than I was hoping for with a sore toe. But this race simply wouldn't end! 3.2, 3.3, on and on it went.

And here is where your well-trained body REALLY starts protesting at you. You promised it a 5K, but it looks like it'll actually be closer to 6K, and that is not the pattern its used to, and suddenly everything is wrongwrongwrong.

Finally I saw the big blue arch and I staggered across at 45:15. And then a 1/4 mile uphill walk to the Registration area, where the 'boomchickboomchickboomchickboomchickboomchick' rave music was still pounding forth. While I waited for Admiral Karen to appear I polled some of the other racers and they all told me the same thing: Good course, but WAY long. My NikePlus Runsystem had me at 3.58 miles, or 5.7 kilometers. Now I'd be forgiving of a 10th of mile or two, but this was HALF A MILE of extra distance tacked on. 14% more running than we had been lead to believe.

When I showed my phone results to these runners the universal reaction was one of relief. "Oh thank goodness - so that wasn't my worst time ever". I located the race director, and as I walked up he was getting an earful from a woman who was voicing the complaint of all the racers I talked to: Since when does 3.1 = 3.6?? I backed her up. No, the undulating terrain would affect our time, but not the distance. We followed the course that you set up, and you missed the mark about about 2600 feet.

It's not a huge thing, really, but it left a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of racers. Overall  the day was beautiful, the T-shirt is nice, the goodie bag actually had interesting things in it, the volunteers were plentiful and enthusiastic, and the course was challenging and interesting. Plus, 2 miles from our house. Aside from the 5K actually being a 5.7K I'd give the DeLaveaga Fairway 5K a solid B+, and I hope the Harbor High Pirates made a trunk full of cash out of the proceeds.

So, we'll be back next year. But maybe we'll do a little extra distance training beforehand (wink).

Angus McMahan


  1. I just registered for the 10k in March. And so the training begins...

  2. Sweet! We're going to move up to 10Ks next year. And so the training begins.....

  3. Love the first paragraph ;)

  4. I've had a wild and crazy party-down life - in my mind, anyway.