Ready to go at 5 a.m.
I knew with a 35-degree start, one of two things would happen: (a) I would be so chilled at the start I'd have a horrible race, or (b) the cold would play in my favor and my body could do more before slowing down, and special things would happen. So ... (b) happened! I am SO happy with this race, mostly because it is a stepping stone on my journey to the NYC Marathon on November 2 and it went so well.
Amy and I woke at 4:30, enjoyed a coffee and peanut-butter covered pancakes, put on our Finger Lakes Running & Triathlon Company singlets (Go Team FLRTC!) and left the house at 5:30. Corning is an hour drive for us, and when we got there, we were greeted with a LONG line for the buses to the start (you have to take a bus to the start, no drop-off options this year). We made it to the start without a lot of time to spare, just enough to go to the bathroom and shed our cold-weather gear. UPS always does a great job handling the drop bags and getting them efficiently back to us at the finish! We walked the .2 miles to the start line, wished each other luck, and I lined up near the front with some very lithe looking college runners.
When the start horn blew 10 minutes later than planned (remember that LONG bus line?), we took off! The young runners set a really fast pace, and I looked at my watch a quarter mile in and saw a 6:00 mile. Wowza! On a hot day, that would be unsustainable for me, but today? I told myself, "We'll see how long you can keep this up!"
Around mile 5, Jason Husted from Elmira came alongside me, and we ended up staying together for the balance of the race. We didn't talk much: we laughed a bit when we caught the truck putting out traffic cones for our safety. I said, "I guess you know you're movin' when you catch the cone truck." We had a good laugh about that! At mile 11, I saw someone over my shoulder getting close enough to pass me, and was pretty sure he was a Master, too. I asked Jason how old he was, glad to hear he was 32. I told him what was up, asked him to "get me home before the guy behind us", and he looked back and said, "You got this."
I carried water with me for this race, so only had to stop once to get a small refill. Turns out that decision made all the difference: that next male master finished just 12 seconds behind me. Massive thanks to all of those runners around me, especially Jason, for providing the pacer motivation to keep running when the brain stays STOP! I knew I could do it, but the last two miles took some diggin' deep to find the mental strength. I was consistent in this race, with my mile paces varying from 6:23 to 6:43 (mile 11). Looking at the splits, I'm smiling that my last mile, the one that was so hard, was my fastest. I shaved just shy of 7 minutes off my PR from the prior year at the Red Baron Half, and finished first in my age group (100 runners) and also was the first male Master's finisher!
Amy and me, post-race