New Year, new healthy beginnings, right? With that in mind, I looked for a race to kick off 2012. Previously, I had run a race in every month of the year except January. It was time to change that! Last year, I ran a race to end the year (the Post Christmas Blues 5k in Canandaigua 0n 12/31). The only timed race I could find nearby was the Cookie & Hat Run in Big Flats, NY (about 1.5 hours away). The race started at noon, so it gave me plenty of time to get there. Fortunately, the weather held up and it turned out to be a mild winter day (mid 40s).
I hit the road at 9 and was in Big Flats by 10:30. The race started from the American Legion building. It was sponsored by the Wineglass Running Club. You were encouraged to bring a donation of food (canned goods, etc), so I did. Race entry was just $10. You didn’t get a tshirt, but you got to pick out a hat. I picked a brown, fuzzy one.
I warmed up outside with a short jog and talked to a few people. Many of these folks had also run the Wineglass Full or Half Marathon in Corning, NY. What a difference in weather from that day – such challenging weather conditions (at least for me). I also stumbled on an old high school friend’s younger sister. Small world! Then, at 11:45, the walkers lined up. There were some power walkers there too. They were really fast. That looks more difficult to me than running!
Finally, at noon, we were off! This race was not a 5k. They change the route every year. I had heard it would be around 4 miles. My goal was to run it in under 40 minutes (under a 10 min mile). Not a great pace at all, but I am up in weight, was not feeling super great and needed to be realistic. The race director (I think that is who it was, I was way in the back and could not see anyone) explained that the race course was thru the streets and then into the park. “Just follow the yellow (spray painted) arrows”. And with that, we were off.
Mile one – flat with a few turns. I was doing ok. I did not have my shuffle, so no music, which is not a good thing for me. I’ll admit it, I like to distract myself from hearing my breathing. I was at a 10 min pace at this point, so I was fine with that.
Mile 1.5-4 – we turn into a park. Running on gravel/path was fine, but then we had to run on mud and grass. This did not go well for me. At one point, you had to cross from one side to the other, up a small incline. I had no choice but to step into water/mud, submerging my shoes. Hated that! I moved to the right, hoping it would not be as deep – no such luck. I got caught in these prickly branches. Mood level at this point – not good. Thankfully, a fellow runner was helping people up the embankment. It was really slippery! If she had not yanked me up, I would have fallen face first into that mud, I just know it. Thank you my running angel! She also helped other runners and still beat me in the end (how sad is that?). You can’t tell from the picture, but my shoes and pants were a muddy mess by the end. I even had mud on my sunglasses. I do not like getting dirty, another sign that trail running will never be for me.
Ok – back to the race. After I got up and over that muddy part, I kept running thru the park. My breathing was heavy at this point, as I continued running in wet shoes and trying to not slip. I am always nervous about getting injured, and I am not good at dodging uneven terrain, branches, etc., but I did the best I could. We then ran into this area where the ground was this light brown, straw-like moss stuff. I sank into that. It was strange and dark in that part. I was just trying to keep my footing and not lose sight of the person ahead of me, since I had fallen way back at this point. I was happy to leave that part of the park/forest area, and be back on a paved path. But, then it was back on the muddy grass – yuck. Finally, I was back on the street, heading to the finish.
I ended up finishing in 45 minutes, one of my slowest paces ever – 11:15 min mile- even slower than I ran my slow half marathon (the Wineglass Half in October)! I am used to being in the middle of the pack, not the back. My average race pace is usually 9 something. Ugh. But, I did finish my first race in January. Now I can say I have run a race in every month. 🙂 And, I will do better next time.
After the race, I headed back into the American Legion. They had bagels, doughnuts, orange juice and water. Age group categories for awards were in 10 year increments. Prizes were star shaped ornaments and a box of homemade chocolate covered oreos (yum!). They also had wine glasses for top winners and bottles of wine. 3 people got lost on the course. I can see that happening, as there were a lot of turns, and, if you were in the back, it did get confusing- especially if you had no one ahead of you to follow.
Amenities: rest rooms inside were available to use. This was not a chip timed race. They tore your bib off as you finished the course.
Pros: Healthy way to start the New Year. Cute idea giving out hats and cookies as awards. Friendly people – some dressed in festive holiday/new year hats/attire. I also like the idea that they change the course every year – this means you have a PR every race!
Cons: No water stops 😦
Overall, this was a nicely organized race with friendly people and (in my opinion) a challenging course. It was more like trail running to me, and that is not my thing. Perhaps if I get in better shape, lose weight and improve my speed, I will like this type of course better. This was my 55th race in the past 5 years. Not sure I will do so many races this year though. It was discouraging starting off the year running so slowly, but it does give me lots of room for improvement (granted, I said the exact same thing last year). I see this group also offers a Valentine’s Day race with a heart shaped course, so I may run that race. We’ll see.
Best of luck to everyone with their races/runs this year. I’ll see you on the road!