On New Year’s Day I ran the #ReadySet1stRun in Lowell, MA. They ran a 5K and a 10K that day and we ran the 10K as our 2013 kick off race.
The race was capped at 2,000 runners but only 1,624 ran the races. We are in a cold snap here in New England and there is ice and snow on the ground in some locations. I think these conditions kept some of the more casual runners at home on New Year’s Day. Only mad dogs and runners would be out running in freezing temperatures!
The race started at 11AM and we left Melrose a little before 9AM. We arrived in Lowell before 10AM but had to drive around the city a bit to get around a closed road. Someone had a bad accident at an intersection and they had a fire truck parked across the road. My GPS promptly directed me to turn down a one-way road and then had to “re-calculate” when I refused to break the law.
The race organizers had arranged a ton of parking for us and we were able to park within a quarter-mile of the Lowell Elks club where the race was being run out of. As soon as I got out of the car the biting wind gripped me. I instantly thought of putting on all of the clothes I had with me. I quickly rummaged through my bag in the trunk of the car and grabbed what I needed.
I ended up wearing an #UnderArmor shirt and a #BostonMarathon shirt under my regular jacket. I never run in a street jacket but it was so cold I knew I could not run in just a nylon jacket or no jacket at all. I loaded my pockets with food, tissues and my phone.
We walked the frozen quarter-mile to the Elks Club to pick up our numbers. The place was packed but the lines moved along quickly. We made a visit to the porta-potties and then went back inside to keep warm and hang out with friends from our running club.
At 10:45 they started moving us outside to the starting line. Gail and I thought we would run at an 8:30 pace but did not feel any pressure to stick to that plan if we didn’t feel good. We ended up starting with the 10 minute pace group which was fine. I don’t think most people were too wound up about where they started. We certainly were not.
To start the race we counted down from 10 and yelled out “Happy New Year”!
The start was crowded and the race did not thin out very much until close to one mile into the race. After one mile we were both struggling and felt that we must be beyond our goal pace of 8:30. Gail was fighting a head cold and I had not run in a week. I was not completely over my cold either. Both of us were also wearing a lot more clothes than we normally would for a race. But we felt like we were doing well. Then I looked at my watch and saw that we were running an 8:58 pace! We were a bit deflated by that. Under the circumstances I’m not sure why we were surprised, but we were.
At about 1.5 miles we turned onto Pawtucket Blvd. This is a nice level road that runs along the Merrimack River in Lowell. We expected there to be a cold wind off of the river but it turned out not to be so bad. I started to engage my marathon cruising gear and look for ways to move through the crowd. Gail did not feel like she could run that pace and told me to go ahead. After she said to go ahead a few times, I did.
They only had the breakdown lane blocked off for us, and then only by the occasional orange cone. There was only room for 2 or 3 people to run abreast. This made it difficult to move up but I managed. Sometimes I had to run to the left of the cones in the street, but traffic was light and I was careful.
Just before the three-mile mark we turned back onto Old Ferry Road. The 5K folks started to kick it in and the pace picked up. At about mile 3.05 the 5K runners turned into the Elks Club driveway. I could hear the announcer calling out names as runners approached the finish line. For a split second I thought about turning into the driveway with them! It was cold, I had not trained properly and I was getting tired. But then I snapped out of it and ran past the driveway.
Now it was just us 10K runners on the course. Out of 1,624 runners only 607 were running the 10K. There was a lot more room on the side of the road and I was able to run my race. I still had to negotiate getting around people. At this point in the race most of us were locked into our pace and there wasn’t a lot of passing going on anymore.
The hills were not that bad and there weren’t that many. There was one good hill on Varnum Avenue. This race ran the same loop twice so us 10K runners got to run this hill twice. The road only rises 23 feet over a quarter-mile which is pretty modest for a hill. The first time we ran it Gail and I were able to pass a few people. On the second loop I went back and forth with two other runners but didn’t move up on anyone. I told myself I was putting distance between me and the folks behind me. Yeah, right. Maybe.
I see hills as my competitive advantage. I’m not a pro by any measure but I’m pretty good at hills for an old amateur. I often can pass people on hills and we did on the first pass. On the second pass we were all 10K runners. After 3.75 miles we were all pretty much sorted. At some point in a race runners get sorted out by their capabilities and you end up running with runners who have approximately the same abilities as you have. I went back and forth with two other runners but other than that there was very little passing going up this hill.
After we turned onto Pawtucket road I was able to kick it into marathon gear again. I passed about 20 people and felt pretty good. We were now near the end of mile 5 and most of us had been running hard for almost all of those miles. For mile 6 my pace was 8:35 which was my 2nd slowest split after mile 1 which was 8:47. I had actually slowed considerably, but less than others had.
Just after mile 6 we turned back onto Old Ferry Road. At about 6.1 miles I could see the turn into the Elks Club driveway and hear the announcer. Almost done! As I approached the finish there were not that many people on the course with me. I crossed the line by myself.
The finisher’s medal was a wine bottle stopper, which I thought was really cool. I grabbed some self-serve water and waited for Gail to cross the finish line. I hung onto the barricade and stretched my hamstrings while I waited. After a few minutes she crossed the line and we headed into the Elks Club to get warm and grab a beer.