It seems fitting that for the inaugural race to honor Ted Corbitt — known as the father of American ultrarunning, among numerous other distinctions — we would have truly treacherous and trying conditions. A race of 9.3 miles is hardly an “ultra.” But today’s race felt a lot longer than it actually was.
Despite yesterday’s surprise storm — which dumped six inches of snow on NYC, followed by sleet and a plunge in temperatures — a few hundred hardy souls convened on Central Park’s 102nd St transverse this morning to honor Ted. The race was declared a “fun run” to discourage people from going nuts and turning it into a speed skating event. Our timing chips were collected and we were on our own to judge our performances against the clock, the conditions and our peers.
I’d been looking forward to this race for weeks, since it was slated to be a true HTFU* effort. Just how HTFU it would be wasn’t clear to me until I actually headed into the city this morning and saw the conditions we’d be running in: Temps in the 20s with wind chills between 7 and 18; a steady 8-10mph wind from the north; an outer loop coated in a thin layer of semi-frozen slush; transverses consisting of hard-packed snow. I’d say about 15% of the course was totally clear of snow or slush — I can see exactly where those sections were when I look at my GPS route map vs. the speeds I was running at various points.
Not only was I scheduled to run a 15K race, but I also needed to sandwich it in-between 9 miles to make an 18 mile long run. I ended up with a total run of 16.8 miles. The trains and subways were delayed, so I had to cut my pre-race run from 4.5 to 3.5 miles. Then I ran the race. Then — and this was the last thing I wanted to do — I set out to run the third leg. That ended up being 4 miles since the wind chill plunged 10 degrees in the final 15 minutes, my feet were soaked, and I was on the verge of hypothermia.
I do this for fun, remember?
Race time (unofficial): 1:09:10. I’m very pleased with that time considering the crap I ran through, on a course that’s normally pretty difficult anyway. Average pace was 7:24, but I managed a 6:55 for mile 7 (nice downhill) and a 7:07 for mile 9 (flat).
There were so few of us running that the volunteers recognized me as I did multiple loops. Three cute guys, all bundled up and huddled together, saw me approaching prior to the start, with a race number. At first they were confused, thinking the race had started and I was in the lead. Then they figured out that I was just warming up and instead yelled, “You can do it!” For some reason, we all thought that was hilarious. A few others noted that they’d seen me three times rather than two (since I passed by them on my third, extra leg of 4 miles), with one cajoling me, “You can stop running now!”. I thanked a lot of volunteers today.
Despite the conditions (and the considerable effort it took to get there and back on foot from Westchester), I’m glad I did this run today. Central Park was stunning, with a fresh, white coating of snow over everything. People all around us were sledding, cross country skiing and throwing snowballs. A winter wonderland oasis in a city where snow otherwise presents little more than a filthy burden.
After struggling to get out of my wet shoes and socks in a portapotty and endeavoring to get the feeling back in my fingers, I didn’t have the energy to trek the quarter mile to get a half frozen bagel from the boxes on the 102nd St transverse. Unfortunately, the one piece of food I brought with me, a PowerBar, had the appeal (and consistency) of a slate roof shingle; frozen solid! So I found a great little diner on 103rd right across from the subway stop, Jimmy’s, where I got a toasted bagel and hot chocolate.
*Harden The Fuck Up.