An Unexpected Trophy
SOMERVILLE, MA - Unlike Mike Pelletier, when I woke up New Year’s Day and looked outside, I did go back to bed and pull the covers up over my head. I had not registered for the race, had no money to lose, and figured the conditions were somewhat unsafe and crazy. Furthermore, I had completed the whole series in 2008 and had my very handsome fleece to show for my endeavors. I felt content later that morning eating blueberry waffles and drinking a leisurely cup of coffee snug and warm in my house.
Later on that day I checked the results of the Frosty Four just to see how many hardy but crazy runners had braved the unusually harsh elements. I was shocked to see that it was about 300! A small element of doubt crept through my thoughts – “Had I wimped out?” When I read Mike’s article about the race and saw the many Striders who had run, I was filled with chagrin. Right then and there, I formed a resolution that some way, some how I would redeem myself.
A week later an opportunity presented itself and I decided to go for it – Khoury’s Winter Challenge in Somerville. No two races are equivalent, but events began to unfold such that I figured I could again hold my head up high amongst my comrades a foot. The weather forecast was not good. It called for snow throughout the night and morning with cold and windy conditions. This meant that in order to make it to the race, I had to get up early and shovel out my car and driveway. I completed this task like a good Catholic doing penance. Jane said to me, “You’re going where?” as I packed my gear and prepared to leave. Her look of astonishment only spurred me on. The roads were snowy but passable with few cars on the road. I found Khoury’s on Broadway in Somerville (a fine city that I had lived in for quite a few years in the past.) As I entered a friendly man greeted me, asked if I was here to race, and directed me to the sign up. Runners drifted in and a while later I heard him say to someone else, “Well now I think we’ve got a few more runners than volunteers!”
Finally it was time to start the race, and most of the runners had elected to stay inside instead of warming up. The snow had pretty much stopped, but it was cold and windy with slush on the streets. I had gotten some information on the course – it’s up a long hill to start (in fact, Winter Hill in Somerville), a 4.13 mile distance, and crossing several main roads (i.e., the McGrath Highway) for which you are on your own as this is an informal race. Volunteers were stationed at the turns, which was good, since I really didn’t know where I was going.
Almost immediately the first challenge is getting across McGrath Hwy and then up the almost 1 mile of Winter Hill which is a steady significant climb. I decided to push fairly hard but be safe since you had to be careful of slush, ice, cars and people throwing snow into the street who were shoveling along the way. I settled in to my level of effort and felt I had done okay, considering the conditions, as only 3 runners passed me during the race.
The post race gathering at Khoury’s was fun – a hearty brunch, friendly people, and an informal, humorous awards presentation. In fact, it was explained that many of the trophies had the wrong year listed as this was a low-budget operation! Much to my surprise, I received an award – 2nd place trophy in my age group. I had finished in my usual area in the race – the middle, but this was a small race – about 40 participants. Perhaps there were few in my age group dumb enough to run or others were being more careful than I. Hey, it is what it is. I don’t aspire to being a middle of the pack runner (but many of us by definition have to fill that role!)
Wicked Frosty Four
SALEM, MA - New Year Day, 2009 dawned clear, cold, and extremely windy. The temperature at 6 am was 2 degrees F, but the wind chill was -14. As soon as I saw that, I knew what I had to do: go back to bed and pull the covers over my head.
But the Wildwoman would have none of that; she was on me in a flash, telling me, "Oh, no you don't. You can't wimp out now, not after we paid $40 to register for this race. I want my $20 worth of fun and you're coming with me!"
Properly chastened, I pulled a face mask and a helmet liner from my ski bag and headed downstairs to get ready. Shortly thereafter, Mario called to ask if the race was still on and if I was really going through with this.
"Of course," I said. "I wouldn't miss this for the world."
A few minutes later, Dave Jefska called and said he'd like to ride with us to the race, but he'd need to get there early to post register. Our third call was from Annajean, who had needed until 8:30 to be convinced to run. Once committed to race, Annajean sprang into action and was soon at our house. By 9:15, we had parked behind Front Street in a prime spot and were walking toward Old Town Hall, bent against the wind.
By race time at 10 am, it had warmed up to about 8 degrees; so, I decided to run without my ski parka and with only a singe pair of wool socks inside my running shoes.
The biggest problem during the race was the gale-force winds blowing snow onto the roads. The resulting slippery footing made each step an adventure: could you slow down enough to avoid slipping and tearing a muscle or tendon, but not slow down so much that you were walking. Between miles 2.5 and 3.5, a new challenge emerged. As the wind howled out of the Northwest and across Beverly Harbor from the general direction of the Salem-Beverly Bridge, runners either encountered a head-wind that nearly stopped them in their tracks or a cross wind that blew them sideways across the road. At Dead Horse Beach, the cross wind picked up sand along with snow and hurled the mixture into the runners.
It was a relief when, at last, the race turned onto Essex Street and houses and buildings again provided some shelter from the wind. Runners tried to unleash finishing kicks, but as they turned up onto Charter Street to run straight to the finish line on Front street, the wind seemed to shift back into a head wind and then the final sprint to the finish on Front Street was over snow-covered cobblestones.
All in all, it was one tough run. I was 4 minutes slower than last year. The only three Striders listed below who ran faster this year at the Frosty Four were Mario Fagone, Anne Pelletier, and Carol Geis. The Strider coming closest to last year's time was Melissa Behl who was rewarded with a 3rd place medal and two frost-bitten fingers.
Personal note from Anne: "Any of you who have not done this race yet might want to consider it for next year. The Wicked Running Club does a great job staffing the race. Since most streets were snow covered, they had someone at every turn to point the way, and cheer us on. The food afterwards was fantastic! Hot soup, chicken fillet sandwiches, hot drinks, bananas, yogurt, bagels, pastries, cake, cold drinks complete with stemmed glasses for the sparkling apple cider, and water."
Full results at Cool Running.