I expected to feel ambivalent about skipping Cow Harbor this year but I don't. Racing used to be a big part of my running experience and I typically ran a race every month. This year I've only competed three times - a trail relay, a 5K and a half marathon. The excitement of looking at the race schedule and deciding which race to run has ended, at least for now.
Tomorrow is the Cow Harbor 10K and I know a lot of people that are running it this year. I regret not seeing them and having that shared experience, but I'm happy not to have to drive to Northport HS in the dark, take the shuttle to Laurel Ave and spend an hour trying to keep from freezing before the start. As I write this, I'm remembering the fantastic energy and excitement that pervades that event and that is prompting a little more regret.
For those I know who are running tomorrow, I wish you the best. I won't be joining you, but I'll share my tips from the times that I have run the race:
1. Find a spot inside the school to stay warm until 20 minutes before the start.
2. Resist temptation to fly down Scudder Ave's steep hill for the first mile. Save your energy for what lies directly ahead.
3. Don't underestimate Bayview Ave. It's a steady uphill section with rough and broken pavement leading to...
4. James Street which surprises first time runners who stop in the middle of the road and start walking. If you aren't careful you'll run into someone. Running around these people is like playing Frogger and expends extra energy.
5. Once you get to the top of James St. you still have an incline so you'll need to wait until you get to Ocean Ave before you can really recover.
6. Mile 4 is mostly flat and downhill. You can recover and still maintain target pace.
7. Waterside Ave seems like an endless upward slope, but it does have a couple of spots where it's nearly flat. Take advantage of water stops because if the sun is out, this is where you'll feel it the most.
8. Pumpernickel Hill is a lot shorter than James Street but it's not a trivial challenge at that late point in the race.
9. After the hill it's pretty much downhill until Main Street. This is where you can capitalize on an energy reserve (see point #2).
10. Don't be disheartened when you are on Main Street, see the finish chute, but don't seem to get any closer as you run. I think it's the longest quarter mile I've ever run.
I'm rooting for you all and a special shout out goes to buddies Aimée and Celia. Can't wait to read about your Cow Harbor experiences.