Sunday, September 26, 2010

Race report: Great Cow Harbor 2010

Seconds after crossing the line (in yellow)
 Yesterday's run (Great Cow Harbor 10K): 1:00:56.6 (9:49 pace)

The 2010 Great Cow Harbor 10K has been run and it was truly a new race experience for me. I'll admit that I was disappointed with my performance when I saw that I missed my target finish time by over four minutes, but a day later I'm okay with it. I was surprised to see that an hour had passed before I crossed the finish line and I'm not sure that I fully understand why. Yes, it was hot. But it was hot for the many runners who finished before me. I did still beat over 2,100 other runners, not including the DNF's,  leading to yet another mid-pack finish. It was still an incredible experience and I wouldn't change a thing about how I ran the race. So like I said, I'm okay with it.

T-Shirt pickup at registration
 The experience started Friday night. After a long day at work I headed to Northport to pick up my race number and timing chip. Heading there at the height of rush hour was a challenge and as I made my way through downtown Northport I began to understand the scale of this race. Cars and people everywhere. At the Laurel Avenue School the scene was a madhouse. A thousand cars looking for parking spaces. People everywhere. I found a spot near Main Street and hiked up the hill to the school. Once I was in the building I was very impressed by the organization and the kind patience of the many volunteers. There were many people and it was fun to spot a few of the elite runners among the crowd. After pickup I headed outside behind a small group of young men and women who were in from other parts of the country. They were single number folks -- those that started in the first wave and probably finished before I got to Widow Hill. They all seemed like nice people. One woman asked "Is Cow Harbor an actual town?" It sure was this weekend!

The innovative staggered start
Team Emerging Runner headed to the parking lot at Northport HS at 6:15 AM on Saturday morning. My kids were sleepy but great sports about giving up a weekend morning. My wife (and team manager) had everything organized and on track as usual. We boarded a bus that took us to Laurel Ave. where the race would start. It was early but the crowd was building and the excitement was tangible. The long bank of Porta-Potties was well used and the runners organized themselves into lines. This race is masterfully produced, every detail considered and managed. Along the way we ran into some of our kid's teachers from their old elementary school. Two of them were racing for the first time. We also ran into Dave and chatted with other runners we'd met that day. I headed to my designated corral (the race has a staggered start to accommodate the thousands of runners) and BJS found me. He was his usual smiling self, happy and excited to be running Cow Harbor once again.

Looking good on Laurel Avenue
The staged start was interesting. Each group held a separating rope across the front of the line and we were moved up after each report from the starting gun. Once we reached the line a person in a cow costume challenged us to make noise for the "Moo Meter" and soon we were off and running. Despite my two days of rest my legs felt heavy within the first few minutes and I hoped it would pass as I adjusted to my pace. Following the strategy I'd read, I held back on the mile 1 downhills to reserve energy for the hill on James Street. When we reached Woodbine there were hundreds of people standing along route yelling and moo-ing. The runners were still clumped together so I had to be careful not to jostle people too much or step on people in front of me. My timing chip on my ankle was beginning to dig into my skin and that plagued me the entire race. I ended up with big cut at the strap line. Once we turned onto James Street I went into hill climbing mode, keeping a steady pace and passing many other runners and loads of people who chose to walk "Widow Hill." I didn't love the work but I was proud how well I came through it. I thought the worst part had passed. I was wrong.

My Garmin, which seemed accurately calibrated the last time I ran with my Kinvaras (I wore them for the race) was wildly off compared to the mile markers. I knew from my elapsed time that I was running about a 9:20 pace at the 3 mile mark but I'd hoped to make up some time on mile 4. That didn't happen, I actually lost time struggling up the long incline on Waterside Ave. There was a point where the heat was becoming intolerable, my ankle was throbbing and I was stuck next to three women running side by side chatting loudly about their kid's orthodontists. I couldn't stand it so I used every ounce of energy to put some distance between us. At four miles my energy level was nearly empty and I gobbled my gel in an attempt to restore my glycogen level. It didn't provide the boost I'd hoped and I took water as well but felt really depleted as I rounded the corner of Main Street and attacked "Pumpernickel Hill."

Crossing the finish line (yellow blob center right)
 Along the way I passed more walkers but I also got passed by numerous other runners as we reached the final mile that is mostly downhill. I had hoped that the last part of the course would allow me to surge but it merely kept me in motion. I could see the finish line, like a mirage, way ahead, and I couldn't believe how long it took to get closer. The crowd was deep as I made my way to the finish line chute and I crossed the line well after my hoped-for 57 minutes. I immediately saw Team Emerging Runner along the sidelines and then saw a few people I knew who had finished around the same time as I. We walked to the waterfront area where there were thousands of runners going around the many tables and booths that were handing out energy drinks, juice, coconut water, carb snacks, protein bars and freshly baked cookies. After taking it all in we boarded the bus back to the High School and soon we were on our way back home.

The rest of the day was extremely busy. We had a family event that required some car travel and the long day and evening was exhausting for us. It was a great day though and we all slept well last night. I got a note from BJS who ran a few minutes off his goal time but still finished under an hour. I'm planning to do a recovery run some time this morning. It's much cooler than yesterday and probably much less humid. I wish I'd finished closer to my goal time but that's not the way it worked out on Saturday. I still think I trained well and I'll continue to focus on distance even though I don't have a race on the October schedule. I'm not giving up on achieving a decent time on a 10K. Perhaps with the cooler fall weather that can happen.


  1. A lot of people didn't get to meet their goal times yesterday. It was not only hot, but quite humid and when you consider it has been really cool during the last few weeks you can make the assumption that the heat played a large roll.

    I myself felt quite bad near mile 5...the sun was strong and the site of a collapsed runner on the side and stopping to check on him took some more out of me.

    Good effort yesterday. It's a truly hard 10k course.

  2. Thanks - It figures you would stop to help a runner in need. How did you do against your goal time? You're right, that heat and humidity were brutal.

  3. I didn't really have a goal time. Just wanted to get out there and run it. I figured I'd finish in around 45 minutes, so with the minute I lost for the downed runner I was right there.

    Looks like all that biking I've been doing has helped.

  4. I enjoyed your race report. Yesterday's humidity certainly had a negative impact on many runners race times yesterday. I found that taking in water at every table where it was provided helped. As for gels, did you take one before the race? For short races, less then a 1/2 marathon, I take one about 45 minutes before the race begins. Taking one during a 10K is not really effective since it takes time for your body to absorb the gel. When I run a marathon, aside from the gel I take before the race, I take one after eight miles and then another at 16.

  5. Mark - I think you're right about the time it takes to metabolize gels. I'd thought the combination of simple and complex carbs activated faster than that. I ate the Zone energy bar that was included in our race packages 30 mins prior to the start but still semi-bonked at mile 5.

    I think the humidity did me in. Seven people where sent to the hospital for dehydration during the race. I probably should have used more water than I did. I skipped two stations, took from two others and passed on one that was dispensing from a garden hose!

  6. Great photo. Thanks for this post. It captures the spirit of the event.


Comments that promote or link to commercial products will be swiftly deleted.


blogger templates | Webtalks