이것은 확실히 흥미로운 경주였습니다.
That says “this certainly was an interesting race” in Korean. I found a 10K for $20 on Active.com and knowing close to nothing about the race other than its location, I registered. Chris decided to come along with me and to Koreatown we went…
Arriving with 60+ minutes to play before packet pickup opened, we decided to explore a few blocks of K-town on foot. Despite being the most densely populated district by population in Los Angeles county (120,000 residents in 2.7 square miles!), it was quiet and peaceful at 6:00am on a Saturday morning. The race area seemed to be busier when we returned at 7:00am, but the packet pick-up tent and volunteers were far from ready. We were one of the first few in line to pick up and it was very disorganized, but we finally walked away with our bibs, shirts and safety pins.
For our warm-up, we followed the course, which was an out-and-back (once for the 5K, twice for the 10K) on Wilshire Boulevard. I wondered about my safety during the race as I watched a large SUV barrel right through a blockade (A-frames and caution tape), seemingly giving 0 fucks. In fact, I questioned whether the road closures would even be ready by the 8:00am race start. I noted that Vermont Avenue was 1 mile from the start/finish area as we made a u-turn.
We arrived back at the start line and learned that the race start would be delayed, of course. There was a separate “corral” for 10K runners, but there weren’t more than 35 of us in it. The 5K “corral” was much move lively.
The 10K wave started a few minutes before the 5Kers and I quickly found myself in 2nd place overall. I kept my effort in check for the first mile and was running a hard, but sustainable (for 6.2 miles anyway) pace. The course wasn’t as flat as I expected, but there weren’t any huge climbs.
Right after the 1-mile mark, there was a Taiko drum group, which reminded me of the LA Marathon. I smiled, waved, and kept rolling toward the turn-around, which ended up being at mile 1.6. The next section was slightly downhill and I felt myself speeding up, despite constant reminders to save my legs for part #2.
“I am definitely running 7 minutes per mile” I thought during miles 4 and 5. I kept moving forward as quickly as I could, however, and waited to see the Vermont Avenue sign. At this point, I remembered why I disliked racing the 10K distance. It’s short enough to run fast, but long enough to hurt… a lot. The second out-and-back was also very crowded, as we were running through the 5Kers. At one point, I almost hurdled a small child after he came to a full stop right in front of me. Negotiating the last turn was also interesting – the volunteers were handing water out inside of the very tight u-turn area. I tried to use the downhills to my advantage during the last 1.6 mile stretch and felt like I closed well. I lapped my watch at mile 6.2, but the course ended up being 6.6. I don’t usually hyper-analyze my splits (hi Bob!), but really wanted to gauge the effort based on my true 10K time, so I did the math. The first 6 miles: 6:29 , 6:22, 6:17, 6:29, 6:39 (not 7, but yikes), 6:01. My .2 split was 1:14, followed by 2:19 for .4 miles. A 41:50 finish time less 2:19 would give me a 39:31 10K time, which would be a 2 second PR. I am very pleased with that!
After completing a cool down jog, Chris and I explored the festival. It was definitely different from standard race expos/festivals, primarily because everything was Korean, including a majority of the announcements. We cautiously tried a Lotte drink called Milkis, which is made with corn syrup, sugar, carbonated water and milk. I expected it to be milky or yogurt-y, but it was delicious! We also chowed down on fresh watermelon and injeolmi.
At some point, we noticed huge stacks of ramyun (ramen) boxes off to the side and asked if they were freebies. In order to get a 6-pack of the soup, we had to assemble on the street into some sort of formation. Chalk lines indicated where we were to stand, and then we all waved at the drone flying overhead for a few minutes before the mad dash for free ramyun began.
With bags full of choco pies, custard cream cakes and Milkis, we went to the car to change before the awards ceremony. It looked like they were giving out large Lotte snack boxes for prizes – I was excited!
While I didn’t win a snack box or rice cooker, I was very surprised to win $150. Running an honest 10K+ effort, getting to know the Korean culture a bit, and pocketing some extra cash definitely made for an excellent race experience.
On the way home, Chris and I stopped for drinks at Gong Cha where I enjoyed a deliciously refreshing taro milk tea with white pearls. Having not had enough culture for the morning, we then stopped at H-Mart where I purchased pickled cucumbers, some sort of cooked noodle dish, and some pork pot stickers. We are already planning our next unique race adventure!