Gandy Dancer Fly In 5K (3.15 miles)
Average Pace 9:36/mile
A few of you may be wondering by now why I run so many races on the WI side ... being that I'm from MN, and MN/WI have such a rivalry against each other and all. And, if you're really watching my race reports, you might have even noticed the WI races all cluster around the town of Siren.
Well, there's good reason for that: my in-laws own a cabin near Siren. And, since I'm out there a bit in the summer, and small town races are typically way more enjoyable (to me) than big, over developed, branded races... I try to take advantage of any races I find out that way. I mean, I'm already out that way enjoying the cabin anyway, may as well squeeze in a workout too, right!?
Anyhow, so begins my race report!
First, I should mention how I came across this particular race because it's pretty important to the over all story. Which means I need to start this story off right.
Although I don't believe I've mentioned it here, I think some of you may already know that my husband has his private pilot's license.
Yes, yes - we own a small plane.
Well, technically... he owns a small plane. I simply have worked up the courage to ride in it. I can even manage the occasional smile mid-flight.
Like my sexy pink headphones? Yeah, yeah - they're only pink. I tried to find someone who sold bejeweled pilot gear, but no luck. Would you expect anything less from a girl who runs in cheetah leggings?
Anyhow, for those of you not in the know of hobbyist pilot excitement, this week is Oshkosh week. Which basically means anyone who's a flying nerd is either at, or dreaming of being at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. (AKA the mecca of all things air show). From Monday, July 29th through Sunday, August 4th, people from literally around the world converge at Oshkosh to check out exhibitors selling the newest innovations, attend various demos on how to build/install/utilize airworthy items, and generally ogle each other's planes.
People in attendance at these things literally gawk at plane catalogues like they were put out by Playboy. I'm not kidding.
So, what does Oshkosh have to do with Siren? Siren hosts a fly in breakfast the weekend PRIOR to Oshkosh, so that people who are on their way to Oshkosh might consider stopping at Siren along the way for a rest break, day trip or even overnight stay in the area.
Last year was the first year me made an effort to attend the fly in at Siren... which was basically just a breakfast at an airport with a lot of privately owned planes parked all over. We (my husband) had a good time looking at planes, and we (me) enjoyed pancakes amongst the sound of backfiring engines. It was then that I learned how the smell of jet fuel really complements maple syrup.
Of course, ever since, my husband had his eye on this year's event. Have to keep the calendar open, you know.
So, when he found out they were expanding the event to include more activities this year, he was quite enthusiastic. Hoping to get me more excited, one afternoon he came running downstairs from his office (gaming) room and said... "They're doing a 5K at the fly-in this year!"
Ok, ok - he got my attention.
I asked him how to register, and he was clueless. After some googling of my own, I found a contact name for the event, and send them an email. Literally within minutes I had a link to the official fly-in website, and found the registration form. Whoever was organizing this thing was just as excited to have me attend as I was to run. Score.
While I was at it, since I had invited my sister to bring her family up to attend the breakfast this year, I registered her as well. Let's just say I neglected to ask her permission first, and uh... failed to mention later that this was technically a trail race and not a paved course. Minor details. Besides, she's getting a free t-shirt, so she won't mind, right?
Let's fast forward to race day, since this recap is already getting long.
On the day of check in, I noticed a few minor "first year" race mistakes. IE, the organizers forgot to ask our ages on the registration form (which they quickly managed to fix and utilize immediately post-race for age graded placement), and they made a few spelling mistakes on my name. No, it's not spelled Natalei. No, I do not have an F in my last name. Whoops! Hahaha!
Despite the minor mistakes, everything else ran EXTREMELY smoothly. They had staff directing you where to park, check in was very fast, and there was even a shuttle to take us from the airport parking area to the start line. (You can see in the map below that there is a good distance from parking lots at the airport to the start line).
And, thank goodness the check-in was at the local government center... with nice, flushing toilets! Because, this is where the nick name for this race began. I'll spare you the details, but suffice to say, being in a pinch for dinner and eating a pizza found in the cabin's freezer the night before a 5K race probably isn't the best idea... especially if you haven't eaten a frozen pizza in over a year. *Gurgle*
At least I remained settled enough to not... offend... anyone on the race shuttle.
Speaking of the shuttle, my sister and I were waiting to board when I noticed a young girl, maybe 10-12 years old, nervously waiting with her dad. I thought nothing of it until the shuttle pulled up, and the girl proceeded to board the van alone and buckle in. She looked like she would burst into tears when her dad wished her well and walked away, and I can just about imagine how nervous she was. I practically had an anxiety attack when I ran my first 5K, alone, when I was 30. Poor thing!
I proceeded to sit next to her, with my sister on my other side, and immediately began silly discussions with my sister to lighten the mood. I think the girl got a few snickers out of our stupid talk. And when we exited the van, I told her "just follow the person in front of you, you'll do great". She answered with a timid "ok", but I think I saw a little more confidence on her face as we all lined up for the start...
Which is where, of course, we had a little pre-race speech. And then bang, the gun goes off.
Amazingly, there's not much for me to talk about regarding the actual "meat" of the race. Once I got past the gun, it was just a mediocre run for me. The weather was ungodly cold (40-50 degrees in July? WTF!), and I was trying to keep a pace that would get me a sub 30 minute finish (fail) without any sh!tty surprises (literally). And, I always had one eye on the trail to ensure good footing. Somewhere in the last mile, I was warm enough to warrant unzipping and removing my jacket. That is the only remarkable event I recall.
Well, that, and on the final half mile stretch I realized the fact that Psy's "Gentelman" song really sounds like he's saying:
"Diarrhea! (Something something something something something) Diarrhea! Damn girl, you so freakin' sexy..."
Man, this race was sh!tty in every sense of the word. LOL!
Really, besides the diarrhea song, the course wasn't to terribly exciting, as you can see on the map. The majority of the race was run on the Gandy Dancer, a crushed gravel recreational trail for non motorized traffic that circles the airport on it's way in/out of Siren, with less than 1 mile on paved road before transitioning onto the grassy air field. Where it got exciting for me was towards the end, at the "race enter mark":
In case you can't tell from the map, that's when you exit off of Airport Road, and actually run onto the active airstrip area. So I went from feeling sh!tty to sh!tty music to flying
Well, technically we weren't running on an active airstrip, we were just on the grassy field leading up to the airstrip. Which means that you get an up close and personal experience with anyone flying in to the breakfast. In fact, when I was heading down the grassy knoll, two of these bad boys flew over my head. Pretty neat!
At the finish, they had a photo system that I'd never seen before. It was essentially a motion activated security camera that snapped your picture as you crossed the line. So basically I ran away from the flying sh!t and hustled my sh!tty self across that line for a
sh!tty finish time. Then, I turned in the lower portion of my bib tag, and got my camera ready for my sister.
When I could see her hot pink jacket off in the distance, I also noticed a familiar mini van coming in to park. Perfect timing! The rest of our crew has arrived just in time to see my sister finish!
Realizing his mom was rounding the bend, and also slightly jilted that he couldn't race in this event, my nephew couldn't resist running along for a bit at the finish. Not to worry, he didn't actually go more than 10 feet or so.
As my sister made it across the finish line, I noticed our little friend from the start line coming down the chute. While she didn't make it the entire way running, she still managed to make it to the finish! I cheered for her as my sister met up with her family, and then I hustled everyone over to the breakfast line.
I was starving despite my sh!tty stomach issues earlier, so I was excited to eat. Runners breakfast was included in race registration fees, and everyone else paid $5. Breakfast included wild rice pancakes, ham, milk, juice, coffee, sliced cheese (yes, this is WI and the breakfast is a fund raiser for the local dairy group)... and ICE CREAM. Heck yes! Ice cream at breakfast. Nothing sh!tty there!
A few sticky fingers later, we roamed the airport for a little bit waiting for the race officials to wrap up. Almost on cue, I found these. How did they know I was having a
After about 10 minutes of roaming the airport post breakfast, I noticed race officials gathering with megaphones and medals. Being that this was a smaller race, I had my fingers crossed that I would place in my age group. But before they even hit the women's 30-39 bracket I hear my sister's name called for 2nd place in the 20-29 category!! Shortly after that, my name was called as well.
Wahoo - we both placed! We're #2, we're #2. It's like the day was MEANT to be sh!tty themed! :-)
Yeah, my niece is totally eying up my bling. Jealous, kid?
She should be, it was pretty cool... even had an engraved plaque on the back:
Once we finished up celebrating how awesome we were, we went back to wandering the airport to look at all the planes. My nephew was very eager to point out when a plane had two props (since most in attendance only had one), and he also got a kick out of a plane that had the same name as my sister.
Luckily, before the weather really went south with high winds and rain, we were able to see some aerobatic flying and a model plane demo - during which, my niece was not exactly a fan of wearing hearing protection ...
But luckily for her, finally the sh!tty day was sealed with a sh!tty kiss - the skies opened up, and unforecasted rain started to fall. So, back to the cabin we went.
Overall, this was a really fun, but unfortunately small race. I think the organizers did a great job planning the event, and I wish them all the best in getting a better turn out next year.
And that's the story of how race bib # 31 joined my collection. Here's to another race soon!