Throo The Zoo 5K – Louisville, KY (May 12, 2012)
Race: Throo The Zoo 5K
Place: Louisville Zoo, Louisville, Kentucky
Date: May 12, 2012
And so, my friends…I finally managed a new PR for a 5K race. I have yet to achieve my goal of a (real) sub-25 minute 5K…but I’m getting closer. Second-by-second. And, really, it should be taken one second at a time, right?
Apparently, the Throo The Zoo 5K is one of the more popular races in the Louisville area. I was actually surprised by the number of bibs stacked up on the table when I went to Fleet Feet in Louisville on Friday morning to pick up my race packet. For one thing, there was a long line and I was there right when they opened. The volume of t-shirts and bibs was crazy. I’m used to Louisville’s little 5Ks that run through one of the local parks. But Throo The Zoo is a big deal it seems.
With race packet in hand, I returned to work on Friday. But something was different. You see, my office had a nice handful of people who were not only coming out for the race, but some were going to walk it as well. For the first time in…well…ever…I was going to know someone at a local 5K race I was in. This, for some reason, made me incredibly happy. And, my roommate and her aunt, Judi, were coming out to watch, wave signs, scream, shout, and be an awesome cheering section.
Saturday morning came way too soon. I was up at 5:00 a.m. to get ready for the race. This meant packing up my race bag with a change of clothes and everything I might need post-race. Eating some cereal. Meeting up with Judi. Getting us all in the car and over to the Louisville Zoo by 7:00 a.m. They recommended on the Web site that we arrive early because roads coming into the zoo were going to be closed at 7:30 a.m. in preparation for the race. That being said, we barely made it there due to the massive amount of traffic heading into the zoo. Seriously. Then the hunt for a parking spot (that we would remember) was on. My roommate was determined to park near a landmark so she chose one of many similar looking trees in a lot and parked. I was eating a Lärabar in the backseat because I hate at 5:45 a.m. and knew I would be starving by the time the race started at 8:00 a.m. if I didn’t eat something I could easily digest in between. So when 7:00 hit…I was making sure I’d have some energy for the race itself.
We grabbed the race stuff from the trunk (bag and signs) and made our way toward where the starting gate was staked. It wasn’t in place yet as traffic was still pouring into the zoo. Too early to stretch, we sort of just hung around and chatted, taking in the sheer volume of people that were arriving for this 5K race. And that’s when my teammate from the office, Kayla, found us. She and her husband, Will, were both participating in the walk. Amazing they even spotted us. So, we conversed and chatted and goofed around. Will inquired as to when I would normally finish one of these races. I said I tend to come in between 25-27 minutes in 5Ks these days, but didn’t know what to expect with it being this big. Oh…and that I always finish fourth in my age division. We all laughed about that…because…I’m usually right on that cusp when it comes to the smaller races. The clock was ticking down toward race time so it was time to do my stretches to get my muscles loose and warm before shucking my hoodie. We took a couple of pictures before we saw a flood of runners and walkers making their way toward the starting gate, which had been moved now across the road. It was 10 minutes before race time. Hugs. Luck. And all that good karma stuff was thrown out among all of us and we took our respective spots.
The wait for the start wasn’t too bad. There was an electricity with this race. No one was being negative at all about anything. People of all ages were around me, from kids to older adults. I love glancing around me at my starting position just to see what kind of people turned out for the race. And it was a mixed bag of everyone for this one.
No sooner had I turned on my iPod, we started moving. I guess the race started and somehow I missed the whistle. Not that it matters. I usually position myself toward the front of the middle of the pack, so I move when everyone else does. I go where everyone else goes. I’m never the fastest at a race, so I don’t ever concern myself with learning the route pre-race. I just go where everyone else does.
That being said, this race being so big and running on tight neighborhood streets, were cars were parked on the side, made this a new kind of a challenge. I had been warned that there were too many people at this race, and it was too big, to attempt any personal goal or record. So, I went into it just planning to run a good race and to keep a good pace. My GPS watch was my guide for that. And as we headed through the neighborhoods, I also discovered how hilly this area was.
Initially, the hills were little mounds that were just a little hindrance to the pace. I powered through them as best as I could, not wanting to expend too much energy too soon because I wanted that strong finish. I didn’t want another Frankfort, KY moment where someone outruns me at the very…last…second. That being said, as we crested another rolling hill, one of the runners in a Fleet Feet shirt stood at the top, high-fiving people as they came up and said, “It’s all downhill from here!” We all pretty much knew better and I laughed at that when I heard it. However, I did find myself passing people though as we moved, and being passed in return. We wound our way past the zoo and down through another neighborhood before turning, heading back toward the zoo for the final portion, which actually took us through the Louisville Zoo (hence the name of the race).
This was actually the part I was looking forward to the most. We entered the zoo and were directed down a hill (FINALLY!). The path we were taking was the one that wound through the outer parameter of the zoo itself. And it also brought about our water stop. I found out from one of the walkers later that when they hit that spot, all the water was gone. You’d think a race that is this big of a deal in this area would come better stocked with water.
That being said, I was winding my way through the different areas of the zoo. There wasn’t too much out to be seen at this point. I did see a polar bear as I ran under one of the walkways in a concession area. The polar bear was up in the pass, sort of watching all of us. Probably thinking breakfast was served. But, that was basically it for me as far as the animals went. The path took another twist and at the 2.5 mile mark…Gorilla Hill. Welcome to the cruelest thing to throw at a runner when they are making their way toward the finish line. A massive, massive hill. Gorilla Hill (near the gorilla exhibit) was a climb. And my legs felt every bit as I pushed my way up it. It slowed me down, for sure, but I’ve been making a point to get out and run on hills, so my legs are starting to get used to that kind of a push. Normally I take hills leisurely, but during races I tend to push a bit more. And I was pushing as much as my body would allow.
As it leveled out, I was down to the final portion of the race. We finished up inside the zoo and were brought out. We turned a corner and the finish line was now in sight. I picked it up as much as I could, really working on that strong finish. That is such a vital part of road racing. With me passing people, people passing me, and the usual runners dance toward the finish, I crossed, stopped my GPS watch and was immediately greeted by Cathy and Judi. And for the first time, I checked my GPS watch. If it was correct, then I had a new PR. Only time would tell.
I meandered over to the recovery area where runners could pick up some post-race goodies. Clif Bars, bananas, barbeque sandwiches, donuts, etc. I grabbed a banana and thanked the people at the booth for having something gluten-free. I walked around the area to see what all there was, then rejoined Cathy and Judi near the finish line.
We had a lot going on that day…plans to hit up a local farmer’s market (opening weekend!), see The Avengers at the theater, do lunch, and grab some ice cream…so as much as we wanted to stay to cheer on the people from our office, we had to depart. We gave a parting glance to the finish line and made our way through the parking lot, searching for the elusive tree we parked near. With the car found, we piled in and headed out to enjoy our day.
It was while the credits were rolling during the film that I pulled up the race results on my iPhone.
And the results were that I finished the Throo The Zoo 5K in 25:10. A new PR! It beat out my time in the Westerville Bunny Hop 5K (my fastest 5K at the time, not counting the Durbin Classic 5K where they said the course might have been shorter than 3.1 miles) by 14 seconds. I was the 210/2153 finishers overall. And yes…I finished 4/169 in my age division. See…always 4th. It made me laugh when I saw that.
This was a great, packed race that had a great atmosphere to it. I would totally run this one again in a heartbeat. So…if I’m here next year…it’s going on the list.