Monday, March 25, 2013

40th Annual Chenango Forks XV

Somewhere near mile 3 where it was
actually flat.
Chenango Forks is a small, rural town in upstate NY and home to the ever popular Forks XV. Yesterday was the 40th running of the 15K race.

The race is organized by the Triple Cities Runners Club. They always do an excellent job of holding a race. From the registration, to the timing, to posting the results, everything runs smoothly.

I was a little nervous about running this race. A nagging hip injury has kept me from anything longer than 8 slow miles. 15K is 9.3 miles and I knew there was a killer hill at the end. My first fear was that I wouldn’t be able to finish. My second fear was that I’d have to walk the dreaded hill.

The race starts and finishes at the high school. I got there with plenty of time to warm up, got my bib number and shirt, and then did plenty of stretching. The hip was a little sore, but I was ready to run. There were a lot of runners. A lot of good runners. A 15K race tends to weed out the slower runners. No one really wants to be running for over two hours.

There was an early start for anyone who couldn’t finish the race in 1:45. I wasn’t even tempted. I was quite sure I could finish in 1:30. Assuming I finished.

When it was time for the start, I saw just how many runners there were. 300 maybe? That was more than I was expecting. Although cold, probably 38 degrees, it was sunny and actually a beautiful day. Everyone was anxious to run.

I'm somewhere in the middle of all this. What a crazy start.
I took a spot near the middle of the pack. Usually I line up just behind the front runners, but this was a long race and I didn’t want to run the first mile too fast. Turns out it didn’t matter. I got swept away by the wave of anxious runners and did everything I could not to step on someone or get stepped on. After a few minutes the chaos of the start was over and everyone found their place. I was running faster than I wanted, but had no desire to slow down. The hip felt fine and I was running a race.

The course was mostly through the country. The roads were not blocked off, but there was very little traffic and a wide shoulder. Cars were very good about slowing down and pulling over for runners. There were a lot of fans along the course, people waving, playing music, holding signs. It was nice.

The course was described as mostly flat with a horrible hill at the end. To me, mostly flat means no hills or just some slight hills. At mile two, I had already encountered a few hills. They weren’t steep, but they were hills. At mile three, there was another hill. At mile four, yet another hill. I was starting to see a pattern. This course was nothing but hills! I don’t hate hills, but I lose time on them. I can’t maintain the speed that I have on flat sections. At mile six, a large group passed me on yet another hill. I tried to increase my pace a little, but the hip was starting to hurt. Two young girls in bright green shirts flew by me like there was no hill at all.

I had brought water with me for this race. In the past, I have suffered from dehydration and a lack of energy at anything over an hour. At 45 minutes, I took a big gulp. At 55 minutes another gulp. There were water stops on the course, but I find they slow me down too much and I made a homemade sports drink to keep my glycogen and sodium levels up.

At mile seven, the hip was making itself known, but was no worse than it had been at mile six. The hills were not helping, and the downhill runs were actually more painful than the uphill runs. I had just over three miles to go.

There was a water stop at mile 7.7 and even though I didn’t stop, I head the lady manning the stop say, “Just that last big hill to go. You’re almost there.”

I looked up ahead and there it was. The killer hill. I’ve been running practice hills all winter. A local cemetery has a huge hill which I try to run a few times a week. This hill I was about to climb was probably just as steep as the cemetery hill. Part of my brain was saying, “OMG, look at that hill.” Another part was saying, “Oh look, another hill. What a surprise.

I switched into steep hill mode and started up the hill. Steep hill mode means going up on my toes and taking tiny little steps as fast as my legs will go. “Baby-steps, baby-steps, baby-steps.” Had there not been runners around me, I would have started chanting this. Half way up the hill, people were walking. And a little farther up, I saw the green shirt girls off to the side walking. I passed them by with my crazy little baby-steps. Then I passed this big guy in a USMC shirt. He was soaked in sweat and dying. I passed a few more people who had passed me by at mile six. I was feeling pretty good.

The end is near.
The hill kept going and so did I. More people were walking, but not me. Those silly little baby-steps were working. Then finally the hill was over and there was a half mile to go. I could see the turn into the high school parking lot. There were two runners in front of me. At mile nine, I passed them both. Just 0.3 miles to go.

The course snaked around the front of the school and then disappeared around the side. There was no one in front of me and I couldn’t hear anyone behind me. It was a strange feeling. As I turned the corner of the school, there was finish line and a few runners I knew were there cheering me on. The clock read 1:28:24. It was time to give it everything I had left. I went to switch into finish line mode and a searing pain tore through my hip. It was so bad I could only take a few steps. I had forgotten all about the injured hip until now. I went back into normal run mode and crossed the finish line - 1:28:52.

I had run the entire Forks XV.

9.3 miles, 1:28:52 minutes, 9:33 pace

(215/288 for all finishers, 5/11 for my age group, 69/117 for all women)

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