Saturday, November 30, 2013

Manchester Road Race

Thanksgiving was this Thursday. I started out the day with some very exciting fitness. I've been wanting for ages to do a run with Dad and Lisa. They have both been getting into / back into running. Lisa had suggested the three of us do the famous Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving. No one had to ask me twice!
The race was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving. 15,000 people participate annually in the Manchester Road Race, making it, by far, the largest race I have ever done. Lisa, Dad, and I are the causious sort, so we headed out early to Manchester.
As luck would have it, my friend, Walter, who I met at Tough Mudder was not only interested in doing the Manchester Road Race with us, but had done it many many times in the past. He made some great suggestions for parking that helped make things go very smoothly. As a result, we arrived with around two hours to kill before the race. We decided to walk to the starting line and scope things out.
Because the race is large, they ask everyone to be in the starting corrals at least a half an hour before the race starts. If you are very motivated, you can submit time for seeding and get a pretty good spot. For everyone else, people like us who didn't submit times, you have to start in the back of the pack at the 40 or more minutes mark.
After figuring out where to go, we tailed it back to the car. The weather was brutal! It was just around 30 degrees Fahrenheit with a very significant wind chill. My brother girlfriend, Grace, who runs Manchester every year with her family, said that this was the second worst weather she remembers -- the other time it snowed.
I had dressed fairly warm for running -- lined tights, my Nike Pro Hyperwarm shirt (which is fuzzy inside), running gloves and hat, and my warmest ever Nike Sphere hoodie. I even wore warmer socks instead of my favorite Hyperlite ones. I like this outfit (or the same outfit but with my running jacket instead the hoodie) for my cold weather runs. It tends to work at least decently, though I have definite challenges running outside in the cold. However, I had road tested this outfit on Tuesday with a four mile run in thirty degree weather and, while there was a slight dusting of snow, still felt okay.

However, at Manchester I would have felt chilled in my warmest coat -- hanging outside in running clothing was terrible! The wind was the real killer and it would not let up.
As a result, was decided to wait in the car until the last possible minute. Every second we spent outside was agony from the cold. We were parked less than half a mile from the starting line, so we waited until around 9:20 a.m. to start making our way to the start line.
It was crazy packed! I began to realize what running with 15,000 people was like. This was very different from the 300 person runs I was used to taking part in back home in Western Massachusetts. Here's a picture from the race to give you an idea. See the people way back up towards the section where that hill starts? That's us.
After getting into the corral the long wait in the cold began. The fortunate thing was that being packed in with so many people definitely helped with the wind. The wait was, in a way, easier than the walking around we did before the race.
Things were so hectic, and we were so packed in, I began to dispair of ever locating Walter. We had been texting back and forth and making call and, by the way of some Thanksgiving miracle, Walter found us.
Shortly after we connected with Walter announcements began. The race, now in it's 77th year, was going to be televised on Fox. There were elite runners there. There were people in elaborate and festive costume -- everything from Captain America to a Thanksgiving dinner. This was a big deal!
Finally, after many freezing moments, the starting gun sounded and off we went. Except...not exactly. We were pretty far back and for a few minutes nothing happened, then some slight shuffling, then walking. Over five and a half minutes after the clock started we crossed the starting line and began our race.
I had dedicated myself to just having fun at Manchester and not worrying about my time. This was a decision mostly made because I had taken some time off from running because of my calf, which has been bothering me on and off since the race I did around Halloween. However, regardless of what my physical state, I could not have more than jogged at Manchester. The course was swamped! People everywhere! I now know that if you really want to run at Manchester you definitely need to submit for seeding and get to start ahead of the pack.
However, for the race I wanted to run -- one that was fun and just about having a great experience with friends and family -- the spot I was running in was perfect. This is the first race that I ever ran without music. There was just too much to do and see and hear. This was going to be a fun 4.748 miles!
I started off the race by catching up with Walter who I hadn't seen since Tough Mudder though we had been emailing a bunch. We ran up Main Street together, following Dad and Lisa and a pair of Ninja Turtles, and made the turn towards the first mile marker. People lined the street cheering and holding signs. Hemmed in with runners, we were running around a 11:30/mile, a very easy jog, which allowed us to talk easily.
We passed a flag announcing that we had passed mile one. The second mile was up hill along the aptly named Highland Street. A mile up hill is always a little bit of a challenge, but we were going so slowly that things didn't feel too difficult. The hill was also a gradual climb, not overly steep. Onlookers continued to line the course cheering us on and playing festive music out of large rented speakers. People had gathered the bands they were members of and performed along the race route. I had never had an experience anything like this.
Shortly after mile two, we made a turn onto Porter Street. Whew, the hill was over. At this point Walter jogged up to chat with Lisa and I caught up with my dad, who I would run the rest of the race with. The Manchester Road Race was the farthest my dad had ever run, however, because of the measured pace, he felt fine. He, like me, usually runs at around 10:00/mile, so this was a slow jog for him too, making the race easy and enjoyable.
Mile three and onward were definitely the most heavily spectated part of the race, probably because they were the most residential. People were on their lawns drinking beers, waving signs, and cheering. Again, lots of people played music out of rented speakers. The atmosphere was festive -- I couldn't believe how many people had come out to see other people run. I guess this is Manchester's version of a big Thanksgiving Day parade.
By around mile four, things had started to spread out a little, allowing Dad and me to pick up the pace ever so slightly. We were back into a more commercial area of town. We passed another band and then a group of people playing gongs.
We made the turn onto Main Street. From there, I was able to look down the hill towards the finish line and see a sea of people all running. What a sight. I wish I had been able to take a picture. Going as fast as we were able (still not very fast) we crossed the finish line one right after the other. Our times are posted right next to each other online! I finished in 9,010th place with a time of 54:27 (11:29/mile).
Dad and I had lost Lisa and Walter during the race. We looked around with a bit, but eventually decided to just head back to the car to meet Lisa so that we could make our way back to their house for some warm showers and then onward to Thanksgiving dinners.
The Manchester Road Race was a blast! The entire thing go me so excited that when, later that day, I saw that Runner's World magazine was having a holiday running streak, I decided to join in!
What is the Runner's World 2013 holiday running streak? It's a pledge to run at least one mile every day between Thanksgiving and New Years.
Of course, the streak started out in an awesome way with the Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving. So what did days 2 and 3 of the streak look like?

The day after Thanksgiving, I had planned to take a rest day. However, in honor of the streak, I washed my running clothing Thanksgiving evening and made plans to head out for an easy two mile recovery run on Friday. The weather was a crisp 29 degrees, but there was no wind. I was saying at my mom's house, my childhood home. My legs were a little tight, but the two mile run went fine. I alternated between roads and some trails through conservation land. All in all a pleasnt run.

Today was day three of the streak. I had a strength training workout planned as my main workout of the day today, but decided a quick 15 minute run (1.5 miles) would work well for maintaining the streak. Plus adding some cardio into your day is never a bad move. I kept my strength workout to half an hour and then quickly changed into tights, a longsleeve tech shirt, my warmest Nike Sphere hoodie, gloves, and hat. My warmest running pants and shirt were in the wash from yesterday, but I was fairly hot from 30 minutes of working out already -- I felt like I was in good shape.

I stepped outside my house. It was f*&%ing freezing! 19 degrees. I began to run, albeit slowly so as not to pull a muscle. I started my run by tackling the hill that we live at the bottom of. If anything was going to warm me up this would.

No luck -- it was just too damn cold. My calves felt like blocks of ice. The air, when I breathed in, felt like sucking in shards of glass. The weather was miserable!

I wasn't tired. My legs and energy were fine, so the run, in a way, was easy. However, the conditions were less than ideal. Weather that cold couldn't be good for me, so, even though I felt fine, I decided to keep the run to a mile and a half. This wasn't a cardio day after all, and, in frigid weather I could save my mid-length to longer runs for the gym.

Still three days down and the streak is on. I think this will be a fun challenge. Lots of days, I plan to only do one mile. These are days when I want to focus on strength training or want to do a non-running form of cardio. I think that even running one mile a day will make me a better and more consistant runner. Plus, I am a bit of a hermit in the colder months and think that getting a little bit of fresh air (though not too much if it's super cold) will be good for me.

I'll keep you posted on how the streak goes. I have to admit, I'm a bit nervous. I have never done something like this before. The weather is definitely a primary concern as well as staying injury free. But I think it will be fun to experiment with something new. Wish me luck!

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