I ran the "Miles on the Mohawk" 10 Miler yesterday in Schenectady, New York, finishing in a time of 1:06:57, which was good enough for top master female and 11th woman overall.
The trip up to Albany/Schenectady started off with a minor headache when I realized on Thursday that I hadn't received the normal "we look forward to welcoming you" email from the Courtyard Marriott, where I had booked a room. A search of my email could not find any confirmation message, and a call to the hotel confirmed that a) I had no reservation and b) the Courtyard was sold out. Ooops.
Fortunately the other hotel at the finish line - the Landing Inn - was still available. Unfortunately it was both more expensive and had a non-negotiable 11 am checkout. But at least it was right by the finish line - my room overlooked the finish. With my race starting at 9 am, time would be a bit tight after the finish, but doable. So I booked a room, with relief.
For the next few days I was repeatedly taunted by internet ads reminding me that I had not yet booked my room at the Courtyard Marriot - Schenectady. Our internet overlords can be cruel indeed.
I flew from Baltimore to Albany on Saturday - my first flight since the pandemic. I flew Southwest, like I usually do. I'm a fan of Southwest's irreverent approach to pre-flight briefings, communications from the pilot, etc - any flight you can start with a grin is a good flight (assuming you don't crash - that's my biggest requirement for a good flight).
But sadly that was absent on both my flights this weekend - replaced by entreaties to be kind to each other and to please wear our masks at all times and we would be wearing our seatbelts the whole flight and there would be no inflight service. After my first flight I learned of the Southwest Flight Attendant who had her teeth knocked out by a passenger, and the other recent issues with abusive passengers. I guess that explains it.
Race morning dawned as forecast - cool and overcast. At 7:05 I left my hotel so that I could be on the first bus to the start, leaving at 7:15 (which turned out to be 7:25). It was both very odd and very normal to be on a bus to a race start surrounded by fellow runners (this time masked) chatting about the current course and past races.
Once again, I was on a bus with a confused driver, who made two wrong turns (but did execute an impressive three point turnaround in a tight residential neighborhood). It reminded me that one of the secrets for a successful race morning is to ensure that at least one person on your bus is local and knows where the start is. (How you actually accomplish that is beyond me - consider this an aspirational goal).
Once there, I used the portajohns and then headed out to warm up. The best (and really only option) to warm-up was on the half-mile of the course on the road. Unfortunately, the road would not be closed to traffic until the start of the race, which meant that I and others were sharing the road with various trucks and cars.
To be honest, I found it nervewracking, and had to pause my warm-up a few times to step off of the road until a car/truck had passed by. Granted, most of this is my own emotional baggage and I'm guessing the other runners didn't find this situation as stressful. At the same time, I think this race would benefit from closing off this section of the road (or at least coning half of it off) about an hour before the race, so that there would be some place for runners to warm-up without dodging trucks and cars adhering to a 35 MPH speed limit.
Unfortunately, during the warm-up it also started to drizzle - the forecast had been for the rain to hold off until around 11 or so, but oh well. Fortunately it was very light - just enough to wet the roads and make me wish I had worn a hat. (had I worn a hat, I'm sure it wouldn't have rained).
My Running Ahead forums friend Jon was also running this race, and he and I managed to meet up before the start, which was great. We chatted as we waited for the start of the race, which would be done with the now-almost-normal staggered start. There were several lines of 8 dots before the start line - when you were ready to start, you'd step onto one of the 8 dots furthest from the start to join that line. Then, as each row of 8 runners started the race, the runners behind would advance one row closer to the start. There was a 10 second interval between starts, with a 5 second countdown before each (which must have been tiring for the announcer, but was nice for us). So...."5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go" then the rows behind would advance and the cycle would repeat. About 9:01 am Jon and I started. We wore masks until we crossed the line, and pulled them as we began the race.
The race started in the parking lot of historic Mabee Farm, before exiting onto State Road 5S. We'd run north on that road for about 2/3 of a mile before making a left onto a side road and then a left again onto the multiuse paved trail that would be most of the course. The parking lot of Mabee farm was slick with the rain, making for a slippery start, but fortunately that was only about 10 seconds of running, and then we were on the road with much better traction.
From a social distancing perspective, this set-up worked great - even though they were only starting 8 people at a time, people were still close enough at the start that the trail would have been a bit crowded. However, 2/3s of a mile was enough distance for people to sort themselves out into smaller packs that worked well when we entered the trail.
We hit our first bit of rough pavement when we made the left turn on to the side road and then the side road was broken up in spots - I struggled some navigating both of these areas, but was able to pick up speed again once on the trail. From there, it was mostly smooth sailing. There were a few rough patches where I'd have to slow up, but most of the trail was conducive to a nice steady hard rhythm.
|Example of a rough patch. I struggled a bit here. |
I'm guessing most people were fine.
There was also a short section where the marathoners and the 10 mile course intersected with the marathoners running in the opposite direction and crossing paths with us. However, the marathoners were very few and spread out, and this ended up being less of an issue than having an oncoming runner approach during a normal tempo on a bike path.
For the first 6 miles I had groups to chase down, but then there was nothing but open trail ahead of me (and one other runner behind me). By this time we were facing a mild headwind, and so I encouraged him to share the work with me. I had to do it a few times, but finally he caught on and pulled up ahead so I could tuck in for a mile before he slowed and I took the lead again.
Mile 8 had the one notable climb of the race, which was notable because it was the only one - not because it was especially imposing, steep, long, or anything like that. Also notable because it was about this time that the on-and-off light rain turned more steady. At least I was almost done.
Soon after that, we were directed off of the trail and onto a set of sidewalks and streets, where I once again struggled with my balance - I let my impromptu running/racing partner pull ahead as I slowed to navigate this section, before catching up to him once we were on the paved trail again and then passing him on the final stretch past my hotel and to the finish.
After crossing the finish, I stopped my watch and checked the time - 66:57, which was about 30-60 seconds slower than I had expected to run. Oh well - it had felt like a good effort and a well executed race, and both those were good things. If you can just consistently execute a good race every time, you'll run fast when everything else falls into place (fitness, etc). And I really wanted a good all-out run at 10-13 miles to give me a fitness boost, and I got that.
My splits ended up being:
- Mile 1: 6:52
- Mile 2: 6:52
- Mile 3: 6:40
- Mile 4: 6:37
- Mile 5: 6:38
- Mile 6: 6:32
- Mile 7: 6:36
- Mile 8: 6:40
- Miles 9-10: 13:28 (6:45)
- The weather for this race ended up being 50 degrees, light to steady rain, and wind of 7 mph from the east (so a light headwind that we were mostly shielded from).
- I got to see Jon again at the finish and do a short and very soggy cooldown. It was great to finally meet him after so many years.
- I wore my Vaporflies for this race, with my ankles taped instead of using my braces. This was because I've been planning to race in this combination. I discovered during my first 20 miler that the ankle braces I normally wear for hard runs become too tight and painful during longer runs, due to foot swelling. Hence my swap back to tape, since I can't really race the marathon in ankle braces. But I don't think my current taping job is supporting the ankle enough - I need to do some work on that the next few weeks, and get some professional advice.
- I ended winning my age group. Awards were given out based on chip time, but due to the staggered start, you couldn't grab your award until 30 minutes after your finish time (to ensure nobody starting behind you ran faster). So I went back to my hotel, checked out, and then back to the finish line to pick up a nice water bottle that perfectly fit into my back pack.
- This was a really well managed race, and I recommend this race org (AREEP) to everyone. I wouldn't hesitate to fly up again for another one of their races.
- I did successfully make my 11 am checkout post-race (and even managed to get a good shower in).
- Flying to and from Albany reminded me of how much I enjoy the actual flying aspect of airplane travel. The acceleration of the takeoff, the sensations as the plane banks, the views of the clouds or ground, and the satisfaction of a solid touchdown. I just loathe every other aspect of airplane travel (security, boarding, deplaning, reclining seats, navigating airport bathrooms).