ARC of Onondaga County Half Marathon 2006

Earlier in the week, I was hedging on doing this race. My left foot was bothering me a bit. Not so much when I’m running, but afterward. I think it was me gunning a little too hard on my Monday fun run. Sticking to my normal 6 milers at the Y during the work week wasn’t helping either. So, I skipped running on Friday.

This morning, I felt pretty good. Digestive stuff seems to be pretty under control. Felt kinda stiff all over, but nothing was really sore. So, about 7, I headed off to the registration tent. I tried leave a little later than I normally do. No other nutbags make the scene that early, so after flying through registration, I just end up sitting around waiting for the starting gun.

After picking up my number and goodie bag I headed back to the car. It was a bit light this year, but I’m not complaining because it still included the high quality long sleeve shirt that I really like. As I pulled my book to pass the time, I noticed a nagging sinus migraine starting up.

Yar, this gonna suck. Geez, I wish I popped a Sudafed before I left the house. Wait a sec, do I have some in my bag. Whoo-hoo, I do. I washed it down quickly with my race water. Hmm, was that good idea? Sudafed usually makes me a little loopy. Oh well, better to be a little loopy than feeling like my head was in a vise.

About 45 minutes before race time, I figure its time to make a potty break; especially since its a good distance from the starting line. No lines, no waiting; just the way I like it. On the way back, I bumped into Steve. I was happy to see someone from the old running crew. We chatted a bit, then made our way to the starting line.

As usual, I’m not quite sure where the actual starting line is. But, this year, I had a little hint. I just kept my eyes on the guy with the starter’s pistol. Pretty sure that he’d know where things were starting. I wished Steve a good and safe race as they announced 1 minute to go.

Bang, and we’re off. Hmm, perhaps I started a little too far up in the pack. We were about 5 feet from the starting line. I’m moving a lot faster than I want to be and folks are sailing past me. None seem to be annoyed at my pace, so I just chug along. Wow, the first mile done already? I click my split and see 7:40. Ouch, that’s gonna hurt later.

As soon as I made the turn out of the park out Route 370, I felt a little cramp start. By the time I made it to the bridge over the Seneca River, it wasn’t a little cramp any more. Ow! it was a for serious cramp. I slowed up a bit and tried to get my breathing under control. That seemed to help, and things got a little easier for a while.

Then as the climbing up 370 continued, another wave of cramps. These might have been the worst I’ve ever had during a race. The kind that twinges oh so nicely with every step. I seriously thought about hanging it up in mile 3. I slowed to a barely running pace and tried to work in some deep breathing to clear things up.

As I limped around the turn on to Hayes Road, I was still in agony. But, the downhill section helped me through it. I was still kinda hurting at the bottom of the hill, but it was at least tolerable. I was no longer thinking about flat out quitting, but maybe bagging when I got back in the park.

Back on the 370, and heading back over the Seneca River again, some big rain drops start. Then, for a minute it or two it rained lightly. It was kinda refreshing, but I shivered a bit when the breeze caught me. Finally, I seem to be falling into a good pace. The cramp is still there a little bit, but I’m able to mostly ignore it.

In the park, it feels good to be in familiar territory. As I head up the skate trail, its nice to see some of the folks not too far ahead of heading back after the turn around.

Geez, did I mention I hate turn arounds. I swung wide to try to lose momentum. I think it worked, I was able to catch up to a small bunch of folks just ahead of me.

Ok, there was mile 9. Time to put the less than optimal start behind me and bring it on home. About three quarters into most races, I start looking for challengers. I pick people not too far ahead of me and challenge myself to catch up to them. After a few challengers that were a little too easy, I found one who wasn’t really pulling away from me, but that I wasn’t closing in on. Come on, Crowther, you can do it I said as I turned into the last out and back.

I’m always amazed at just how long this section of the course is. I’ve biked it a zillion times and it seems like just a blur. Unfortunately, on foot, it’s actually pretty long. When I eventually happened along the 10 mile marker, it felt like it was hours since the last one. Phew, I’m starting to get a little tired now. Hmm, my challenger is really starting to pull away.

Man, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see that last turn around. I’ve actually realed in my challenger quite a bit. But as I start mile 12, I’m beginning to get a little worried about running out of gas. I try not to think about it and just concentrate on evening out my pace. Just when I get comfortable again, I realize my challenger is out of site.

Ok, there’s a few folks chugging along a little faster than me, so I’ll use them to help speed me up a bit. Seems to be working, I can feel things getting faster as I near the end of the trail. I’m not sure if my challenger stopped for a water or stopped or something, but suddenly I’m right on her heels.

I gun it up the file uphill section. We’re running just about side by side now, she said something like “have a strong finish…” and then took off. Oh crap! I’m not losing this race in the last quarter again. I hate the final stretch of this race because its chocked full of pot holes and gravel pits of various sizes. Its pretty much the last place I wanna go full throttle.

I picked it up a lot to pull up next to her again. Houston, we have a problem! A bunch of ARC folks are meandering there way across the course. I’m not sure if they’re care taker knows that this probably not the best place for them to cross. Rather than stutter step or try to head them off, I went off the course behind them. Phew!

I figure after than maneuver, my challenger will be too far ahead to catch in the last 1000 feet. I guess she got held up a bit too. We made the final 90 degree left onto the home stretch. I was about to crap myself after making that turn on loose gravel at full speed.

My challenger is pulling away. Ok, now, I’m not gonna lose this in the last 500 feet. So I pump my legs like they’ve never been pumped before. I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever run that fast before. There’s an enormous gravel pit in front of me.  Deep, slippery, pea sized gravel; Lovely! Some how, I sail across it like its not even there. I pull head for the last 100 feet and tear across the finish mats.

After getting my timer chip clipped off, and clearing a few cobwebs, I saw my challenger and thanked her pulling me in for the last few miles. I don’t know if she heard me.

Man, that finish felt great! But it was pretty stupid. I’m very glad there were some picnic tables in the finish chute, I really had to sit down for a good 5 minutes to recover from that last blast. Felt like my whole body was on fire. After sitting for a minute or two, I realize I never clicked stop on my watch.  I’m guessing I hit about 1:51:30.  Oh well, have to wait for the official online results.  I’m pretty pleased with the effort, but left wondering how much better I would have done without all that cramping.
Soon enough Steve rambled through the finish, looking pretty good. He said that seeing me on the turn arounds helped him get his mojo working. We then headed off to find his wife and kid. We hung out for a little while after than, then weather looked a storm was gonna roll in, so we said our good byes and headed back to our wheels; tired, but satisfied.

After rehydrading (dropped about 5 pounds during the race), getting some food, and some sleep, I’m thinking that the mad dash at the end perhaps wasn’t the smartest idea. My knees, shins, and ankles are still yelling at me. Maybe I’ll take tomorrow off?

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