New Year’s Day 7.5 mile “Race” Report
A 7.5 mile foot race sponsored by the Greater Rochester Track Club is a New Year’s Day tradition in Rochester. 376 individuals, regardless of how late they stayed up the night before, braved below 25 degree and snowy weather to finish this “race”. Yes, “race” is in quotes because while some folks actually do race, I’m too slow to ever consider myself as “racing”.
So the race started at 10:00, I got up at 7:30 and struggled to put running clothes on. The weather looked cold and my iPad stated that temps at race time were going to be 21 degrees and snowing. I was sore from Pilates yesterday morning and eating junk all night. I just didn’t want to go.
Coffee consumption commenced and I took some time to surf the interwebs. Finally I browsed “trail- running” in my WordPress reader and found a race report on the Rodeo Valley 50k, and a nice blog about a 13-mile training run. These were pretty inspiring and made me want to get out there, until I looked out the window again at the coooold snow on my porch.
My wife came downstairs and could see that I was off. I gave her every excuse as to why I didn’t want to go, including the simple statement, “I just don’t want to.” What was the deciding factor to get me in my car to make the 5 minute drive to the start line? Well, I am cheap, and I already paid for this “race”, and dammit if I was not going get my money’s worth. (BTW this “race” cost me $2 per mile. I will always give you cost per mile for any event I do, because I am cheap).
Parking sucked, the lot wasn’t plowed well, runners were fighting for spots so they could get their bibs and chips in time for the start, it was brutal. Thankfully I trusted my Forester to get me in and out of a deeper snowed-in spot (not sure how the Civic next to me fared after the race). Once parked, I got a half mile warm-up to the registration cabin to get my bib and chip and then another half mile warm-up back to the car to make “race” clothing decisions.
A note about clothing choices…
I am fond of saying, “there is no inclement weather, only poor clothing choices,” I am lying when I say this because of course there is inclement weather, anything that is not 68 degrees and slightly overcast is inclement. So the issue always becomes, what’s too much and what’s too little. In the summer it’s easy, you are going to be hot so shorts and a tech-shirt plus a hat if it’s sunny, bandanna if it’s not rule the day. 25 degrees with snow and possible changing wind conditions is more difficult to judge. My plan was a short-sleeved tech shirt with a Mountain Gear hooded liner with hat and gloves. I determined that would be too cold so changed by adding a heavy RoadWear jacket. Yeah, that was too hot, fortunately I packed a Saucony long-sleeved collared pullover and put that under the Mountain Gear liner and dropped the RoadWear jacket. Running tights were already on and I was not going through the a-ache to change them. But the final combo seemed just right. My biggest issues with all of this are the following: First, my running bag should not have to be larger and more packed than my son’s hockey bag. Secondly, changing in a Forester sucks, but not as bad as changing outside the Forester in 25 degree weather.
At the start line, 376 people crowded together. This always reminds me of the mosh-pits of my youth. Although the clothing choices were bright yellow and green reflective jackets instead of Black Flag and Exploited T’s, most participants were waiting to take their first shower of the year after the race was over, so the crowding and the smell was similar (particularly because some folks clearly stayed up late the night before). Everybody was talking and whatnot so listening for the start commands was not possible. But I took it all in stride (this time) because I was content thinking that starting in the mob (yes 400 people is mob by my race standards) would keep my pace slow and would help me resist the urge to go out too fast like I always do. MISSION NOT ACCOMPLISHED. Mile one was a 7:54, I was actually anticipating 8:30s for the run, oh well, I can throw this race in the trash. (more on numbers in a later post). So I tried to settle in, making this my “strength-running” workout, I shortened my stride and increased turnover on the uphills, used gravity on the downhills, and recovered on the flats. (This was a hilly course). I tried to conserve energy but this other thing got in the way. I became obsessed with the mile markers and times (numbers). All of the “official” course markers were between .05 and.12 miles early, thus splits were being called out that made me feel really fast. My GPS was recording that I was on pace for an 8min/mile average race. Numbers, distance, pace, time, how to work the hills to maintain the pace, was I going to bonk because I didn’t fuel before the race….THIS IS NOT WHY I RUN! so why does it happen to me? Road races, ugh!
Just after the mile 4 marker, which was one-tenth of a mile early, there was a long hill with a slight incline. I somehow managed to settle into a nice pace using two women ahead of me (one with long silver hair, the other wearing a ballerina tutu) as my guides. The wind seemed to stop. The sun was attempting to peek through the clouds, and a gentle snowfall commenced. It was beautiful. For that moment, for that half mile, it all became worth it. All was right with the world. I was not too cold, nor too hot, I was at a comfortable, yet respectable pace, the surrounding Mendon Ponds Park scenery was gorgeous, and I was over half-way done with the event. THIS IS WHY I RUN. Sometimes it takes a while for the physical rhythm, my “physiological mantra” to kick in and remove all of the other stuff. At that moment the GPS did not matter, the course markings did not matter, wondering where Andy the guy who always beats me did not matter; I was at peace. When you have 4 kids, an ex-wife, a job that is in jeopardy every time a grant runs up, student loans, etc., peace is a needed commodity.
The peace was short lived as a left turn on Pittsford-Mendon Center Rd. brought colder temps a headwind, plus a brutal uphill after a substantial downhill, but the residual effects of the peaceful moment just propelled me to the finish. I caught those two ladies who were pacing me in the last mile and when I saw the clock had already struck 1 hour before I finished (I secretly wanted to break an hour) I was okay with it. It was a good run and a great way to start the New Year.
Post Race Musing
Every “race” brings its moment, sometimes it’s a social companionship moment, sometimes it’s overcoming a personal challenge, sometimes it’s a view, sometimes it’s a running insight that hits you, and sometimes it’s another insight unrelated to running. It’s that moment, always a moment of clarity, in which the world seems right and my place in it seems right that keeps me coming back.
Stats: (click on “Stats” for my Garmin read)
102 place (out of 376, in the top third)
84th male (out of 213, not top third)
10th in age group (out of 19; mid pack)
More importantly, that guy Andy, my nemesis, beat me by 3 whole minutes (I knew he had a good run when he was already cooling down as I was 100 yards from the finish line.)