I was awake before my alarm went off at 6:30 last Saturday morning. I have had trouble sleeping the past couple nights in anticipation of my first road race in two years. The thought of long, flat, open stretches of road are daunting in my mind. For those unaware, I’m an avid trail runner. I am at home covering technical single-track, climbing mountains and exploring new paths through the woods. This skill-set will be less beneficial in the Fly with the Eagles Half-Marathon which begins in a few hours.
Much to my surprise as I look out my bedroom window, there was an inch or so of fresh snow and ice on the ground. The forecast calls for 20 degrees with 20+ mph winds at the race start, resulting in a wind-chill of 7deg F! Our winter has been rather mild here in south-central Illinois; that is up until the day before the race. The gun is set to go off at 9am and I need to be ready to toe the line, I have to forget the snow and continue my race-day regiment. After coffee, yogurt and granola I’m suiting up to make my way to the race.
Upon arriving at the race venue, I find runners sitting in their cars soaking up the heat as they pin on race numbers and make last minute decisions on attire. The race directors have indoor/unheated warehouse space available, but I forgo this to warm-up with a jog to locate the start line.
10 minutes to the start. I remove my warm-ups and jacket, exposing myself to the energy sapping winds. A short jog to the start and it’s time to get this show on the road. There are a few runners with only shorts on; many making comments on their insanity as final race directions are shouted over the freezing crowd.
Bang! We’re off. The course began with a 1/8th mile of frozen dirt road, leading into the first paved section. As the first mile marker passed, everyone had found their pace and was well on their way. After 3-4 miles we hit gravel and were crossing a lake as those 20mph winds hit from the right. Up to this point I was strong, maintaining my pace. Once across the lake we ran a loop of gravel roads covered in snow, shaded from the sun and wind. It has been hard to hydrate, as it is so cold. Once past the half-way point, we were back into the wind. This is where I began to feel my energy diminishing. Needless to say the remainder of the race was difficult, but I pushed through the fatigue and stiffness to avoid the dreaded DNF. Ultimately finishing with a 1:39.45, 10 minutes shy of my PR in the 2010 Clemson Easter Bunny Run. I crossed the finish line stiff from the cold and dehydration. My hands were numb, resulting in a major loss of dexterity; I couldn’t even remove my own race bib tab!
Needless to say this race was a learning experience for me. Having never run in weather below 28 degrees, I was unprepared for that cold of weather and wind. While I had all my skin covered (except my face), I should have worn more. This would have helped make it easier to hydrate and maintain pace. A simple bandana could have covered my face and warmed the air before entering my lungs. A wind-breaking layer would have also been a huge help! While I was plenty warm the first 1/3 of the race, the heat was eventually sapped out; remember to plan for the long run!
Not every race, or even training run, will necessarily go as planned. While a poor performance may be difficult to deal with at times, remember it’s how we bounce back from those days that’s most important! Personally, I’m back at home running my trails working towards longer and longer runs. I’m looking forward to the King’s Mountain Marathon in April where all my hill training will be quite beneficial. I hope to see you and many others at the start in a couple months!!
Keep setting those goals and pushing yourselves my fellow runners!
P.S. I’m coming for YOU, Jared.