If you are not familiar with Fontana, where the Speedway is located, the city is notorious for harsh winds. Whenever the Santa Ana winds blow, Fontana takes a brunt of the damage. And since we live very close to Fontana - my runs over The Hill actually take me into Fontana - it is usually windy here whenever it's blowing in Fontana.
So I was glad that I'd wanted to just run a good race and not worry about trying to beat my time, since harsh winds don't exactly make for good racing conditions (later, I checked the weather for Fontana and there were gusts up to 21 miles per hour and a wind advisory was in effect for most of the day).
My brother Jesse got to my house just before 7 a.m., and we went over to the Speedway. I wasn'g going to run with my music so I let him use my phone/music player. On our way to the track, which is maybe eight miles from here, we passed by a nekkid semi lot.
What the heck is that?
lots of nekkid semis
My blog buddy Zoë has a thing for nekkid semis, as she calls them. Actually it's a fear thing, as in she doesn't much care for them. She had a 5K of her own Saturday morning somewhere in Washington state, so I figured in solidarity I'd shoot this picture for a fellow 5K runner.
We kept on going and eventually came across the Speedway.
it's the California Speedway to me! this is a sponsor-free blog
There were absolutely no parking issues, as you would expect. The Speedway is used to hosting mammoth events that people travel from all across the country to watch, so the parking there is vast. We zipped right into a parking lot and made our way to get our bibs.
We had time to pose for a couple of final shots before warming up.
Two 5Ks in 14 days for Jesse!
ugh, not a good picture, but I did wear my Surf City shirt
instead of my usual pink Loper shirt
I strapped the phone/camera/music player to Jesse's arms and off we went on a little bit of a warm-up. The wind was blowing hard, and the way we ran we wound up running right into the wind at the start, and then with the wind to our backs on the way back. We did that for a good few minutes before the race was about to start.
The section where we trained at was going to be the final stretch of the race so I knew that for at least one part of the race we'd have the wind at our backs.
After the usual pre-race festivities, we were off. I instinctively reached down to start my watch but I was naked - no watch, no Garmin, no music.
Now, this was a free 5K race, and the event organizers encouraged people to run, walk, ride their bikes, push their strollers, ride their skateboards or roller blades or whatever on the course, so there were several pre-teens and teens on bicycles, as well as a few skateboarders and a few younger children on scooters.
While I wondered what part of my body would take the brunt of the damage in a collision with a 12-year-old and his bike, on the course they weren't much of a concern.
But the wind was. The wind whipped and swirled, fanned the trees and flags, fluttered and flapped, and mostly just beat down on every person running the course.
The. Wind. Slowed.
To. A. Crawl.
It. Seemed. Like.
I. Was. Walking.
I tried to make myself compact, drew my arms in and lowered my head slightly but it did no good. I felt like I was churning my legs forward but also felt like I was doing so in water, since I didn't feel like I was moving very fast.
Wind and all, the course wound through a parking lot or two, spilled us onto a small road and into the track we were headed. There were a few runners and bicyclists ahead of me but I saw the track up ahead. It was gray and immense, and sloped at a ridiculous angle. We turned a hard left and were running on the inside track, alongside the main course. Up ahead were the grandstands, filled with thousands of empty bleacher seats.
Just five weeks ago, some 72,000 people filled the stands to watch the 2010 Auto Club 500, and the venue seats around 92,000 in total. I felt like an insignificant minnow in a lake.
We curled around and were in front of the stands. In front of us now were large, individually-marked spaces big enough for cars to fit in, and I realized I was at the end of pit row. There was a large number 40 on the side, then 39, then 38 and I ran right past all of them. I tried to imagine the zip zip zip sounds normally heard when stock cars make pit stops, with the changing of the tires and all.
Once we got past pit row, the track curved some more and finally the wind died down. Opposite the track, the stands gave way to huge billboards, and these gigantic advertisements for home improvement stores, grocery stores and soft drinks kept the wind at bay.
Finally, we were on the track itself. Everywhere were skid marks, tracing a chaotic pattern with a series of thick dark lines. I was on the track and smiling, just thinking of how great it was that running had taken me to yet another amazing locale.
We exited the track and ran alongside it on the outside. Fences and the back of the grandstand blocked our view, but not the wind. It was still blowing furiously at us, giving us a reprieve only for the moments it took to take a deep breath and then blow hard on us once more. But the course curved slowly, gently and eventually the wind was our friend, blowing us on the back and helping give us a little extra bounce in our step. Maybe the wind felt bad for having slowed us down and having show no mercy on us, but whatever the case I was thankful.
I ran past silent concession stands and acres of unused parking spots before I saw the lot where we'd parked. I had been picking up my pace and was pretty much at top gear at this point. I could see the finish line and wondered what the time would be, not expecting anything close to my 23:03 time from two weeks ago.
Sprinting to the finish, I was heaving loudly and just trying to give it what I could. I saw the time at 23:55 and tried to get past the finish before the 24-minute mark. I ran through the finish line and saw 24:0-something before coming to a halt. grabbed a bag of goodies and a medal and walked around to see Jesse finish his own race, about three minutes later.
The wind was howling, relentless and unappreciative of our efforts but running on the track more than made up for it.