Thursday, July 3, 2008

from the archives: 2003 putnam county classic race report

it's hard to believe in the days before blogs and on-line forums i actually wrote race reports. i did - they were essentially unpublished, and usually filed away in case i planned to run the race again. it took 5 years, but tomorrow i'll run this one again...

i ran the putnam county classic only once, way back in 2003, before i became friends with a bunch of the taconic road runners club members (including emmy)! here is the slightly yellowing, vintage look back at that race:

Putnam County Classic, 8 Miles
Mahopac, New York
July 4, 2003

Looked forward to this race because it would be my first eight miler. Was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to drive to Mahopac, a straight line on the Bronx River Parkway, Taconic, and Route 6. Of note, however, was the fog that blanketed a good portion of Westchester. On some parts of the Taconic actually slowed down significantly as a direct result of the poor visibility. Arriving at the start, Mahopac High School, however, required a little bit of detective work. The printed directions didn't specify how far (in mileage) one should drive down Route 6 to the turnoff. That paled in comparison to the other glitch: the 7-eleven store given as a landmark for the turn-off, was no longer a 7-eleven!! It had remained a convenience store, as I discovered when I pulled in there to ask for directions. "We used to be the 7-eleven," the clerk told me when I asked where to find it!

Anyhow, the high school was about a mile away. I pulled into a lot adjacent to the track, hoping it wouldn't be blocked off by runners at the end of the race. I walked by the set-up for the finish line and was told that the registration was actually in the middle school (on the other side of the track). What really caught my eye at this point was the row of watermelons next to the bagels and bananas. That was awesome, my favorite post-race food.

I was also taken aback to see a small trailer with the "Taconic Road Runners" painted on it. A pretty impressive thing for a road running club to have its own trailer filled with everything necessary to put on a road race - including clock and finish line. The one item missing from this otherwise trailer of plenty was a series of visible mile markers. More on that later.

Made my way to the registration in the middle school gym. Outside was one runner already wearing the grey commemorative singlet. My bib number was 1025, with "Taconic Road Runners" across the top. Later I discovered that only the pre-registered runners had these bibs, the other runners had "Putnam County Classic" across the top. A small point, but I would have preferred a bid with the race title. At the registration also picked up a copy of the TRRC newsletter and a race application for their next event, a run/swim biathlon.

Pinned my bib on outside and, before heading back to my car, decided to use the bathroom inside and avoid the porta-johns at the track. The runners started arriving in large numbers as I walked back. At the car I dropped off the singlet and newsletter. Had a good half hour to kill before the 8AM start. It was overcast, but the sun was already burning its way through the cloud cover. By the time the race started we had direct sunshine overhead. But at that point I had two more important things on my mind: where does the race actually begin, and get some information about the course. I quickly found out that the race began on the road right in front of the school. Information about the course itself wasn't as easy to find.

I had an idea that the course was a hilly run around Lake Mahopac from a posting on the Milan Running League's web site. Basically a hill at the mile and a half point followed by two more hills on the other side of the lake. That was the extent of my knowledge. One runner I asked about the hills said "there are plenty of hills, this is Putnam County." I couldn't find an actual map of the course, so that was it. I made my way to the start and hoped for the best. More than 200 runners toed the line.

The first mile was downhill. Not sure where the first mile ended because I didn't see the mile marker. Pretty sure that it was in the 6's and thought I would just average out the first two miles when I hit the second mile marker. Definitely met the hill as advertised, moderately challenging, but did not find the second mile marker. This was not a good thing. Was confident that I managed another 6 minute mile, but without markers I would have a hard time pacing myself. At some point beyond the second mile, maybe into the third, we went off the main road and into a marina. That was my first flash that it was getting hard and I wondered if I could keep it together for the entire race! Strangely, passing the marina and some stretches of lake view reminded me of the Fairfield Half Marathon, Mystic Places and the Jersey Shore Marathon.

At this point in the race was pretty much running with only a couple of other runners, at least two dozen runners had gone on ahead and were out of sight. The rest of the pack was decidedly behind me. Now the question was whether I could pick off any runners, or would be the one picked off. Still no marker for the fourth mile. Maybe we were expected to run the race without mile markers? What on earth was going on? It was one thing to suffer through the heat, humidity, and hills - quite another thing to not know how much longer it would last.

And as I grappled with this annoyance, lo and behold the mile 5 marker. Thought it was some sort of mirage - it was the size of a large index card stuck on top of a metal post on the road side. Wow! The only thing more remarkable was my split time for the 5 miles: 34:24:27. Could I have been averaging a 6:53 pace for the first five miles of the race. Things were definitely looking up. But, despite the five miles covered, the sun was starting to take its toll on me. Still, convinced myself there was less than a 5K left to the race.

I actually took comfort in this little rationalization. But it only lasted for about a half a mile. That's when the impressive hill showed up. This one could easily have been borrowed from the Mt. Washington road race. Not only was it large, but it had a hidden crest. As I reached what I thought was the top, the road veered to the right and instead of heading downhill, it went higher still. That was it. Within fifty yards of what seemed like a sneaky kick in the gut, I walked the remaining yards to the crest. Ugh. It only lasted for a handful of steps before I was running again. In fact, soon came upon the mile 6 marker! I couldn't believe that my time for that last mile was 7:26:65!! That included the hill and walking. My overall time was 41:51:02 - a pace still under 7 minutes per mile.

Despite being two miles from the finish, I kept trying to push myself forward. The sun and hills were really hammering me by this point. I actually missed the mile 7 marker, maybe because it was in the middle of that third hill. Once again another nasty hill (not as awesome as the one at mile 5.5) took the wind out of me. I again walked to the crest. Twice in one race was too hard to rationalize. Still, despite the hills, I pretty much maintained my overall place. Nobody had passed me yet. That would come in the last mile, but right now was holding it together.

I realized we were within reach of the finish line when I heard shouts coming from over a large hedge that separated the high school track from the road we were on. This was great. But if all the prior hassles weren't enough, now I developed a side stitch to keep me company for the last half mile or so. Ugh. The line of runners was pretty much established now. As we approached the entrance, a volunteer said it was just on the track. At the track, another volunteer said it was just one lap of the track to the finish. Had to laugh inside. Unfortunately, just as I got to the track an old man slipped in front of me! Where did he come from? I wasn't able to pass him on the lap of the track and he finished 2 seconds in front of me!

I ran the last 2 miles in 14:23:67, or an average of 7:11 per mile, to finish with a 56:14:69. Not too shabby, a 7:01 pace for that difficult course was alright. Went straight for the watermelon and after a few slices, I felt great. Watched more runners enter the track for that final quarter mile while I cooled down. Finished 35th overall out of 245, was the 32nd male out of 174, and 9th in my age group out of 69 (M40-49).

later today i'll try to post a more current preview of the race :D


CTmarathoner said...

so glad you found a 2003 race report --I wonder if I ran that year? I can't remember that far back:)...I alternate between the 8 miler and the New canaan 4 miler..when you described not finding the 7-eleven along Route 6,that reminded me of me getting lost going to the Norwalk 5 miler last Sat. -I couldn't find my old-standby turnoff -Wilton Diner. It had turned into a bank.

Pam said...

Dude - you're scaring me. Are the hills really that bad? Does it compare to Fairfield? New Castle? Ugh! I thought it was rolling hills. I'm gunna' strangle the race director! :)

AnthonyP said...

Going way back in time with this one. Maybe I'll see you there tomorrow.