The theme of this entire winter has been about lousy running conditions, unusually high snowfall totals, and unbearably cold temperatures. So, it should come as no surprise that the 50 degree temperatures from two days ago were replaced today by bitter cold and unrelenting wind. As I packed this morning for the Foxboro Old Fashioned Ten Miler, the temperature was 14 degrees and trees were still blowing sideways. What had seemed like a good idea, a nice easy ten miler a week before the half marathon, was turning into a much bigger challenge than I had bargained for. I started having doubts about my level of preparation for this race as well as next weekend’s half marathon. I had taken two days off of running, and every run during the past week has been only 3.25 miles. My longest was a slow 12 miles from last Sunday. The weather wasn’t helping, of course, and if I hadn’t pre-entered for this race, I’m certain I would have checked the temperature on my phone, laughed, and rolled over with the covers over my head. However, I had invested money in this race (not to mention it’s on my very official Blog race calendar!) so I couldn’t possibly skip it.
I knew I was in trouble when I went to warm my car up and my legs were so cold I had to go put a second pair of pants on over my running pants. The wind tossed my hair in every direction, and my toes were instantly numb. I packed a couple extra layers in my bag so I could make some last minute wardrobe changes if needed. On the way to the race, my mother wondered if maybe the bitter cold would deter people from showing up. No, I figured. Anyone who paid would be here. Runners are a weird bunch. They’ll suffer through this and then boast about how they ran 10 miles in the bitter cold. Heck, I know I will. When I arrived at the race location, sure enough, the place was mobbed with runners sprinting in every direction. Some had bare legs; most had hats, gloves, and even a few face masks. I managed somehow to navigate through the registration tables despite the extremely tight crowds, then headed back to the car to change. I stayed in the car as long as I could for warmth, but eventually headed out to make a pit stop at the porta-toilet and then skip off to the starting line. At about 10 minutes before the race started I jumped in the toilet line and started to get nervous I wouldn’t get out in time. Fortunately the line went quickly and with 5 minutes to spare I headed towards the starting line. I walked, and walked, and walked, following other runners. Most of the runners started running. Where the heck is this starting line?? I overheard a guy at the toilet line saying the starting line was a half mile up the road, but geesh, I thought he was exaggerating. Finally I realized I wasn’t going to make the starting line if I walked the whole way, so I handed my coat to my mother and took off at a run to the starting line. It’s a good thing I did, because the guy in the toilet line wasn’t exaggerating. It was a full half mile to the start of the race. Once I made it to the starting line I realized I had a problem. The runners were facing me, and were thick from one side of the road to the other. The only way to get around the giant pack of runners at the front was to climb onto the snow bank along the side of the road, and precariously make my way towards the back. With just enough time to retie my shoes, the gun went off.
Whenever the gun goes off, people immediately try to jockey for position and there’s always a contest to see how many people you can pass in the first quarter mile. Against my primal instinct, I chose to wait it out. I knew from the beginning that I would be running a very slow race today. I was not looking to set any records, I just wanted a nice easy 10 mile race to give me one last long run before Hyannis. Although I wanted so badly to start darting around people and getting up to speed quickly, I knew it would waste too much energy and was unnecessary. Instead, I forced myself to exercise patience and have faith that the crowd would eventually thin out and I’d have plenty of breathing room.
After two miles my toes thawed out and went from numb to burning. Aside from that, the weather actually didn’t bother me, except at miles 6 and 9 where the wind really picked up and was very difficult to run through. The sun was strong and made the temperature a little more bearable. A few miles into the race I was very happy. Like, VERY happy. I was just bopping along the road thinking to myself, this is exactly where I want to be right now. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. The roads were beautiful and scenic, and I took full advantage of the rare opportunity to run straight down the middle of them. A couple observations made:
· In the first mile of the race there was a lot of talking among friends, which is fine because I wasn’t wearing an iPod so it was a good chance to eavesdrop. However, when one girl received a phone call on her cell and then answered it and had a full conversation, that was annoying. I secretly hoped she’d fall into an open manhole.
· All of the volunteers that stood out there for hours repeating mile splits and saying “stay left!” deserve the biggest round of applause, and I thanked them whenever I could.
· At some intersections were long lines of cars waiting to get through. Some drivers were clearly aggravated, but others turned down their windows (in 20 degrees!) and blasted music for us. That was a pretty awesome thing to do.
· Passed a number of runners wearing Boston Marathon jackets. One from 2010. Zing!
The rolling hills were enjoyable. There was one sizable, gradual hill between miles 6 and 8 that seemed to slow everyone down. At the 8 mile marker, a volunteer exclaimed that there were no more hills for the rest of the race. Sure enough, the road instantly evened out and it was smooth sailing to the finish. I picked up the pace and finished strong. Through the entire race I felt great. I was very cold in a couple spots, and I got a bad side stitch at mile 6, but as far as muscles, joints, previous injuries, everything felt great. Like, oddly great. Maybe I was just so completely numb that I couldn’t feel anything, or maybe it was the two full days of rest I took before today. Whatever it was, this was exactly the confidence boost I needed for Hyannis, and I am so incredibly glad I ran this race. I am also so incredibly grateful to the liquor store down the street that sells Japanese wine, since a glass of hot sake was the perfect antidote to my blue-ish lips. Cheers! J