It was a dark and rainy morning with the wind howling and the shutters slamming against the old clap board siding as the few gaunt and frail looking runners lined up for the start of what would end up being the toughest battle man has ever witnessed………..

Ok, so maybe that’s a little over dramatic, but it sounds a little better than the reality of it all. This is how it really went down:

There I was chilling at the breakfast table with my loving wife Kelly reading the Sunday newspaper and drinking entirely too much coffee, as we do every Sunday. It’s our time to chillax as the kids sleep in. It’s our ‘kid free time’. This particular Sunday was a pre-race for me as I planned on making the 30min trip from HHDS to Cornell Campus in Ithaca for the Skunk Cabbage Half Marathon. This race is my “usual” kick in the pants that fires up the run training for the season. I haven’t had many miles on the legs yet thanks to mostly just being lazy about running in the cold/damp. This year I managed to throw out the suggestion to my loving bride that she should come with me and join in on the 10k, much to my surprise 😉 she took my challenge. We ditched the kids over at grammie’s house and headed out around 8:15 or so. My breakfast on this day was pretty light with just an PowerBar Harvest® Energy bar Apple Cinnamon Crisp.

Neither of us were pre-registered so we did that and found ourselves a nice warm spot to hang out for a while. Colin/Kris and Jim/Sue were there to hang with and help represent. This year had the half starting 15min before the 10k which I think was a much needed change over years past. After several race morning (ahem) moments :) it was 9:55 and time to line up.

Just before leaving the warmth I consumed a PowerBar® Energy Gel Double Latte , a new favorite!

A few pleasantries were exchanged on the line and a kiss to my wife was thrown. A big turn out as usual was all waiting for the gun to go off. 608 people were “toeing the line”.

The gun went off and that ever so familiar sound that follows of 608 ‘beeps’ from everyone starting their watch followed nearly in unison. It was a great start……. For about 50yards. At this point the course was supposed to take a 90* left turn down the finishing straight only the entrance to this road was 100% blocked from the crowd! A split decision by the few of us on the front said “Keeping going straight and take the next left” this turns out to be within feet of the same distance. It slowed the opening pace a smidgen as the leaders discussed the situation. But with 600 folks in tow, there wasn’t any way to stop and turn around. Funny actually a quarter mile up the road there were a few ‘officials’ calmly trying to tell us to turn around we just kept going yelling to him about the followers we had and our inability at that time to ‘fix’ the situation any differently than what we were doing. We all ran the same course to no harm no foul.

After we got to the first mile marker and saw our pace (that familiar group “Beep” of watches) was on target to suggest we didn’t add or subtract too much difference everyone calmed down a bit. At this point in a run, the first mile, at least towards the front of the pack, you can tell just about where you are going to finish. In this case I was top 20 or so and running next to Holly Hughes and Jessy Webb to Local runners that together usually take home all the prizes. Today had Jessy calling it quits thanks to a calf injury. I then ran the next handful of miles with the first place female. Sure, you could say I was keeping my ego afloat and you wouldn’t be wrong. I wasn’t feeling the greatest and knowing that this run was going to be the longest of any in the past 4+months wasn’t helping any. Heck knowing that I haven’t put a weekly total greater than 13.1 miles wasn’t refreshing. Mile 6.5 or so there is a left hand turn and you start heading back towards the finish. This was my mental check point where I was going to evaluate the situation. Honestly I expected to have an epic meltdown shortly after this turn, especially after avg-ing ~6:30 for those first 6 miles (including some hills). For those that haven’t been tracking my run progress this season (I’m sure that’s everyone) I’d like to remind you of my struggles as of late to even get my times down to low 7:00/miles with out being completely trashed.

The next half of the race was/is where the fun starts. You either learn that you went out too hard for the first half and are in for a world of hurt climbing the remaining rollers (my standard “M.O.”) or you paced it for a strong finish. Today was my lucky day. For the first time EVER in a race of this distance, heck really any distance I found myself at the halfway point with enough energy and fitness to make a strong push for home. I have been dropped like a bad habit for years at this point. Around the corner we went and my effort increased, though thanks to the elevation changes at this point the actual pace was a little slower. There were folks up the road that were starting to get closer, always a good sign. There were a few other guys from behind me that apparently had the same giddy-up in their step as me and started putting on some heat. When I’m running I seldom can tell you who I’m running next to but I know they are there and I know how they are feeling based on their breathing and foot falls. It’s really a fun time and I get a little rush out of it. THIS is racing. Myself and about 3 other guys were jockeying for position with surges being put in on the climbs and descents. It was rather enjoyable believe it or not. I had a big smile on my face for the entire way back.

The final aid station was with 3miles to go at that point I knew I didn’t need anything to get me home, so when the other guys slowed to grab a drink, that’s when I stepped up the pace to get a gap. I was able to increase my pace from that point to the finish. One of the three was hot on my heels as we turned back onto campus with a smidgen over a mile to go. A friend warned me of his presents and I gave a quick glance to see him just over my shoulder. I put my head down and gave my best for the last mile. At the finish my wife was cheering and I had a nice cushy 15 second gap on my pursuer. Overall a fantastic run for me. Not a PR on that course but we did take a wrong turn so I’m chalking up those 39 seconds from last year to this year as a wash 😉 good for a 1st in the M30-34 Age group and 15th OA…… someday I will come into this race ready to go.

Splits were:

Full results: 2012 Skunk Cabbage Results