I knew I was in for some colder weather when I flew north this weekend. I just didn’t know how much Mother Nature was going to be out to punish me. Since the forecast looked reasonable when I left, I packed some cold gear. Not nearly enough! The weather was actually pretty moderate until race day. Then when I woke up on race morning it was cold and extremely windy with a wintry mix of precipitation threatening (as the forecast had predicted once I arrived up north). I jogged my five mile warmup to the race venue dreading the weather to come. Nearly five miles in and I still didn’t feel warmed up! I arrived just in time for a huge gust of wind to start throwing things around. It was going to be an interesting day! Welcome to Wisconsin… sincerely, Mother Nature!
The rain and snow started shortly after. Unsurprising lots of runners just stayed home in their beds, so there were fewer runners than anticipated. Maybe they were the smart ones? Thats not my style: I welcome a good challenge. Sometimes it just requires shifting the gameplay or adjusting the goals a bit. But in the end, I’ll always find my way to the finish line.
While I originally thought that the First Call Half Marathon might be a moderately fast race for me, today was anything but. I figured the chilly Wisconsin weather would be close to optimal for performance, and with a course billed as ‘faster than flat’ it sounded like exactly what I needed to get in another sub 90 half without pushing myself too hard. With the miles I’ve been running this year, and my lingering injuries it would be foolish to try to PR each race. This sounded like a good opportunity… Until I read the race day forecast. More appropriate ended up being a goal just to finish, especially considering my total lack of familiarity with this type of weather. Someone remind me please how I used to do this during High School Indoor Track Season in CT?! Dahhhhhhhh!
So instead of stripping down to my race shorts and OneRun singlet then running hard to keep warm, I wore as many layers as I brought with me. While the rain and snow had stopped just a bit before start time, I wasn’t confident of my ability to handle this weather in racing attire. Sure enough, I was still chilly when those winds gusted, and the running gloves I have were not nearly enough to keep my fingers warm. Dressed in a bit more than I originally planned, I started out at what I thought was a reasonable pace. But I was frozen stiff, and it went downhill from there. Even in the second mile, my back flared up badly. It’s been quite a long time since it was this painful, and I wasn’t going to push it. I’m not sure if the excessive back pain was from the cold, the fact that circumstances forced me to sleep on bed instead of the floor earlier this week, stress, general fluctuations or something else, but wow was it rough today. The Holy Grail of the Boston Marathon is barely two weeks away. I won’t risk that under any circumstances. This became a ‘suffer through it’ and just finish race. My miles slowed progressively throughout the first half of the race. Yet I would not stop.
The course itself was indeed a fast one. Out and back on a paved trail, with only two U-turns. Other than that it was straight with just gentle twists of the trail and very minor elevation changes. There were plenty of water stops complete with sports drink and even gels at one station (passed twice). There were plenty of race staff out at the few and lightly trafficked road crossings to ensure that racers weren’t interrupted on their run. Mile markers were at every mile, and even though some of them had been flattened by the wind, you still knew it was there. Perhaps if the weather had been a bit more accommodating this would have been the fast race I originally thought it was going to be. Locals need not worry; they get another chance later in the season. It’s a bit of a trek for me though.
Post race I joined everyone else huddled under the shelter hiding from the brutally cold wind. While the fruit and other race food I’m used to were certainly welcome… today I was extremely grateful for hot chocolate. Kudos to the team from Silver Circle for a great event despite some very challenging weather, and it was a pleasure to meet a handful of my extended running family up in Wisconsin for a couple milestones! Although lucky number 13 half marathon wasn’t so lucky today, I still had a great experience, and passed the 800 mile marker for the year. I’m disappointed I didn’t win an age group award like I’d originally hoped, or even run anywhere near my ability level but such is life. I heard many good reviews of Silver Circle’s Trail Assail Race Series. Who knows, perhaps my path will lead me back out this way at some point.