2015 Race #4: Syracuse Half Marathon, Syracuse, NY

Date: March 22, 2015
Gun Time: 1:43:51
Chip Time: 1:43:38
Placing Overall: 303rd out of 2773
Placing in Age Group: 27th out of 136
Theme Song: (Tie) Arcade Fire, “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” and Foreigner, “Cold As Ice

Ah, the first weekend of spring. Rebirth. Renewal. Return of green and warmth, and druids dancing around Stonehenge and stuff.

Except, um, if you live in Central New York State. And to be fair, most of Canada.

I had only ever been to Syracuse for a very brief overnight visit during a college road trip, and I have to say, we really enjoyed the city on race weekend. A cold rain washing over us on the I-90 as we approached the city gave way to clear skies later in the day. The kids loved the Museum of Science and Technology, we had some great eats downtown, and though we missed the NCAA tournament games at the Carrier Dome by a week, we took in a Syracuse Crunch hockey game at the War Memorial Arena (the home team losing a close one to rival Utica). I felt good and rested as I turned in for the night, having taken 3 days off to rest and prepare for the half which was to start the next morning at 8AM. Packet pick-up earlier in the day at Fleet Feet in East Syracuse had been extremely well organized and I got a nice quarter-zip pullover for registering, in addition to a couple of cans of Red Bull, which I decided I’d stay away from until the race, given my, ahem, problems with the last half (I came well armed with Imodium and was careful with fibre the day before and that’s all anyone probably wants to know about that).

Rising at 6AM I was raring to hit the bricks. I knew it would be cold from the forecast, but looking out the window, um, this.

I believe the air may have turned blue for a second and it had nothing to do with the cold, if you know what I mean.

Facing the prospect of running 13.1 with seriously crappy footing, I nonetheless headed down to the OnCenter a few blocks away, where the race expo and starting line were. This was a large race, with 3500 spots sold out before race day, and given that the temperature at race time was in the teens with close to zero windchill, most of us were huddled inside the building, waiting for the starting gun.

 

It has to be said, though, that this was an extremely well organized race. There were clear directions given to runners, the race expo was solid, and it felt like a smaller competition despite the number of participants. The only blip of the day was the delay of the start time by 15 minutes, which was presumably done so that the city workers could get the course as clear as possible. Eventually we all gathered outside in the starting corral, and I lined up near the 8:00 mile pace sign, shivering with the other runners. After the anthem, the gun mercifully went off, and thankful for the opportunity to generate some warmth, off we all went.

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Snaking out of downtown, we headed up a long incline along James Street into the pleasant Eastwood neighborhood. Two things became evident to me fairly quickly. Firstly, the organizers and city had done a magnificent job of clearing the course – the footing was not a problem at all during the entire duration of the race (big kudos to you guys for this). And secondly, there were hills on this course. Quite a few hills actually.

So, yet another flaw exposed in the training. I need to run more hills.

Now, the elevation gain on the course wasn’t enormous, but it was a good 400 feet, and it was clear early that this was slowing me down somewhat. Periodically I would turn a corner and curse to myself as another upslope came into view. On the other hand, most of the gain was in the first half of the race, so at least we weren’t expected to climb when more fatigued at the end. As well, we were greeted by a long and much appreciated downhill at around mile 8 as the course headed to Inner Harbor and back downtown.

There were also more hardy Syracuse natives out to cheer us than I expected given the weather. I saw one kid holding a sign reading “Hurry Up, I’m Freezing!” and gave him a thumbs up. It was really nice to have the support of the locals in the harsh cold.

Running past our hotel I wondered whether Lori and the kids would be waiting outside for me to pass by, but they weren’t. It turned out that they were not aware of the late start and thought they missed me. I soldiered on through mile 11 or so. By this time a PR was not a possibility based on my splits, but I was still going to be able to run a sub 8:00 mile for the race if I kept pace. Heading down the last straightaway I was tired but still felt good enough to pick it up a bit, and crossed the line in 1:43:51. I could hear my son shout my name, and I looked over to see my family standing there, teeth chattering.

“Hunghh hhhnnn huhhn,” I said, approximately. My lower jaw had become so numb I couldn’t really move it, and we quickly moved inside to get warmed up.

So, not a PR, but a cool medal, post race pancakes, bacon, and sausage helped a lot, and there was a live band playing. And I felt pretty good about my performance under the circumstances. I would definitely run this race again, and indeed probably will next year. There’s lots to like about Syracuse and the race was really enjoyable.

I just hope it’s a bit warmer next year.

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