Chasing the Frozen Turkey, a race report
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Before I go out for a run, I always go online to check the weather; the temperature so I know how to dress, and the wind speed and direction so I know which way to start my run. If I’m heading for a race, I look at both the real temperature, and the “feels like” temperature. The “feels like” temperature is, I believe, a combination of relative humidity, cloud conditions, and actual air temperature, all processed through some weird meteorological algorithmic hocus pocus.
When I’m running from home, I dress according to the actual temperature, because I’m inside, then I’m outside and running. I get warmed up in no time. If it’s a race, I dress somewhere between real temperature and “feels like” temperature, depending on how much standing around there will be before we actually start running, and where that standing around is likely to take place. Most of the time, I get it right but it’s a work in progress.
Yesterday, for the Schaumburg Half Marathon Turkey Trot, the temperature was 24F and the “feels like” temperature was 12F. Now, I’ve often run from my house when it was cold, but this would be the first time I’ve raced at these temperatures. Being familiar with the race site, I knew it would be cold at the start where most of the standing around would take place, and although the race is in a forest preserve, there are many sections of open meadows without any tree cover for windbreaks.
So, how to dress. One long sleeve tech shirt or two? Sweatshirt or hoodie? Mittens or gloves? Can I get by in just running shorts or should I wear long pants? Thin long pants or thick sweats? Ear covers or full knit cap? Decisions, decisions.
I settled on one long sleeve tech shirt, with a short sleeve shirt over that, then my heavy fleece hoodie. Running shorts with light long pants over the top. My new wool, calf high socks. Gloves and ear covers. Just to be on the safe side, I also took along my mittens, a heavier pair of pants, and my full knit cap. Pinned on my race bib, packed my Gu and Honey Stinger Wafers, and I was on my way.
This race is only about 3 miles from my house, and the location allows for parking quite close to the start area, so I knew I could wait in my nice warm car until very close to start time. Thank goodness. One trip to the porto-potty and I was back in the car putting on the warmer pants and the knit cap. It was cold. Two more trips to the porto-potty (it wasn’t the cold, I always need 3 trips, no idea why) and it was time to head for the start area.
Since I hadn’t really trained for this race, I decided to run with a pace group provided by the race organizers. I have a tendency to start out too fast, so I picked the 10:40 pace group, thinking if I stuck with them, I would start as I should and still finish at an acceptable 2:20. It didn’t hurt that the pacers were two cute young ladies. (No, I’m not a dirty old man!! No.)
This event had about 1700 runners, and for some reason the start area funneled everyone through a narrow chute about 2 or 3 runners wide, so it took 10 minutes from the time the gun went off until our group actually crossed the start line. It seemed to work though, because once we were out of the chute, everyone was moving along quite nicely with very little dodging and weaving and juggling for position.
Our first mile was slower than the 10:40 pace, but we picked up the speed for mile two and three. I knew immediately that I had made the right decision because it felt like we were almost walking and if I was on my own, I would already be burning myself out going too fast. I stuck with the group for another 2 miles, but by mile 5 it just felt too slow and I couldn’t find my own rhythm. I decided to split from the group, pick up the pace and find my own way.
I was fine, for awhile. It seemed that I had dressed appropriately, I wasn’t too cold, and didn’t feel overdressed either. I was walking through the water stations, I was staying hydrated (yes the water was starting to freeze), and taking my Gu every 5 miles or so. At mile 11, I was spent. I was dragging my butt. It was “just hanging on” time. I was cursing myself for not staying with the pace group.
As it turned out, I was not all that far in front of them. In fact, at the final turn-around point near 11.5 miles, they caught up with me. Now, did I have enough left to keep up with them to the finish? I had too. I started with the group, I would finish with them. Oh man, that last 1.5 miles was agony. With half a mile to go, they picked up the pace. WTF!! Okay, if you can do it, so can I. I stayed right on their heels. And we crossed that finish line at 2:19:45!! And I was done!!
I thanked the ladies profusely for getting me to the finish, thanked the lady who handed me my finishers medal, and staggered to the bus taking people back to the start line and our parked cars.
All in all, a good race. Much better than this blog.