I have been looking forward to this race since November, when I started filling up my race calendar post-New York City Marathon. I
cajoled others to join me for a race that I remembered as filled with smiling
faces, positive energy, and lots of encouragement from fellow racers. There are
no 'spectators' to speak of in sparsely populated Rock Hill, NY but the
water-stop volunteers and fastidious timekeepers at the mile-markers rallied us
on while we all battled the elements (they joined us out in the elements) on
the wet chilly almost-spring day.
The VCTC members racing Celebrate Life for the first time, Jamie, Alexandra,
Sherry, Hiroshi, Erika, JoAnn, and Erick, inquired about the hills on the
course. I had a terrible case of
hill-amnesia, and told them that only the first hill, in the first mile, is
painfully steep, and after that it is mostly rolling. We huddled together for a pre-race picture and took our positions
in the starting pack. I crossed the
start line with Sherry, also my mom, and made sure she started her Garmin. I sped down the first hill and braced myself
for Hill #1.
“Drafting” was the word that became my mantra as a head wind plowed down on us as we struggled uphill along side Route 17 for the entire
first mile and a half of the race. I started the race without much of a pace
plan due to the wild weather. I could only withstand so much physical pain and
if the elements planned to inflict a beating, I was not going to additionally
pummel my muscles seeking out a new PR on this course.
However, I realized that, in order to stay with a pack and avoid some wind resistance, I was going to have to slow down and let the next
pack of racers catch up, so I could draft, or push a little harder up the hill
to stick with the guy wearing Vibram 5 Finger shoes and his panting buddy. I sped up.
In the second mile, I started counting females. I couldn’t see many ahead of me but the field was far spread at this point. At
mile 3, I passed a young woman, guessed she was in my age grade and noted how
effortful her stride looked. She would not re-pass me.
While waiting in line for the loo before the race, I noticed a woman wearing purple shorts. I was
impressed that she was wearing shorts, envious of the purple color, and aware
that she was my competition. She passed
me at mile 4.
A woman with a red windbreaker passed me shortly after. I was starting to feel discouraged, beaten, and lonely. So I started chatting
with a friendly fellow racer. We kept
each other entertained for miles chatting about our future races in exotic
locales: San Francisco and Boston. I started to enjoy the scenery and stopped
counting female heads. I lamented one
woman’s passing to my new friend (she was wearing a green top) and he affirmed
that this wasn’t the race I was training for, Boston was. By the time we hit Mile 8, I was feeling
much better about the day. I had found
a smiling face and some positive energy when I needed it most.
I plowed up the monster hill just before Mile 9 and lost my new friend. I was a little bummed he
couldn’t keep up, but I was ready to finish the last few miles strong. At Mile 10, I passed the lady in the green
top. Shortly after, the red windbreaker, she looked pretty worn out.
I came up behind the woman in purple shorts on a wild downhill, I picked up plenty of speed and my mantra became, “I will not be re-passed by
anyone I pass (especially the women).”
I held onto a strong pace with the help of a guy in a purple top
(ironic?). His form looked effortless
and I mimicked him: holding my arms at right angles, shoulders back, legs
The downhill between Mile 11 and 12 was a major wind tunnel and I stuck so close to the guy in purple that I finally had to say “g’day”
lest he think I was an “indecisive passer.” He didn’t mind being used as a wind
break and once we were up the final hill at the end of Mile 12, I could hear
him yell, “Go!” as I took off for my final kick.
I am proud to report, I ran the final mile in 7:00 flat.
I am less pleased that I missed a place on the podium by 40 seconds.
I am thoroughly satisfied that every woman I set out to pass, I passed and kept behind me.
I never passed him, but I slightly annoyed that the Vibram 5 Fingers guy beat me.
I wish I had gone out a little bit faster … and started closer to the timing mat.
But all these little vexations are overshadowed by the satisfaction of conquering all those hills and the opportunity to share that tough course with my mom who ran a stellar race to my mediocre effort. I am so proud of her shiny new PR.
The smallest, sweetest victory was a personalized congrats from the guy in the purple shirt. My
final kick was strong, he assured me, I’ll have plenty in the tank to go strong
Congrats to all you hardy racers – I hope you’ll be back next year!