The first week of November ushered in some really lovely Indian summer days in these parts. On Thursday I did an easy run in a tank top and running skirt. Unfortunately by Sunday, the day of my first 15k, the temperatures had plummeted.
A new race, a new distance
Stockadeathon is a big deal in these parts. It’s supposedly the oldest 15k in the country and this year marked the 40th “running” of the race — and my first time running it. In the past, I’ve either been injured, not here, or the race just didn’t fit into my training schedule.
I’m not training for anything, I’m not injured, so it was time to tackle a new distance.
Packet pickup was at our local Fleet Feet. I thought I’d rest up the day before the race and then I remembered packet pickup (although I could have picked it up the day of the race, but I like to know there’s no problems).
Not to mention it was my chance to meet Frank Shorter, winner of the Men’s Marathon in the 1972 Olympics.
So no resting for me.
I ran a bunch of errands. Then I headed over to Fleet Feet early to pick up my packet, unsure of whether or not there would be a lot of people wanting to meet & greet Frank. So I had a lot of time to look around — and I didn’t buy a thing!
Frank was very personable and kind, agreeing to sign my visor and pose for a photo.
Plan — what plan?
As I mentioned, training is over for me for this year. I have a couple of races between now and the end of the year, but no goal races. Just enough to keep me running in my off season and not lose my endurance.
So I didn’t plan everything down to a T and have an actual race plan. Basically, mentally, it looked like this: don’t go out too fast, don’t slow down the second 5k, try to keep the last 5k under 12 mm.
So how’d that work for me?
- I tried really hard to start out slow. I felt like I was running so slow. It was a speedy crowd, though, and I did run those first 3 miles a bit faster than anticipated, even with a long incline at mile 2.
- Miles 4-6 steadily dropped from just below 12 mm to 11:36.
- Miles 7-9 continued to drop, except for mile 8, where there was a short, steep hill. Those first 3 miles felt so easy, these last 3 miles were definitely hard, but mile 9 was the fastest of the race and that always makes me happy. What made me even happier was that it was downhill!
- And a sprint to the finish, where Darlene was waiting (and apparently yelling, but I didn’t see her).
The weather & dressing
The forecast was for high 30s in the morning, warming up to about 50 by the time I thought I’d finish. And gusty winds. Lately it seems either I’m racing in unseasonably hot or very windy. The truth is even though wind will slow you down, I’ll take wind over heat any day.
That still left the question of what to wear.
I had already decided on a windbreaker and capris with compression sleeves (which makes capris like tights). I left out a short sleeve tech tee and a quarter zip long sleeve tech tee. I like jackets and quarter zips because it allows you to regulate your temperature somewhat.
It was quite chilly in the morning. I chose the long sleeve tee, and put a throwaway sweatshirt over everything.
The wind wasn’t too bad, although it did gust from time to time, and in the end I regretted my choice. I think I would have been more comfortable in the short sleeve top. Thank God for zippers.
To camel or not?
My last decision was whether or not to carry water with me. According to the course map, there was only 3 water stops. Wait, what? 3 stops for 9 miles? While that would work out to 1 stop every 5k, according to the map the last stop was at 5 miles.
I brought my small handheld bottle with me, but in the end I decided to not use it. Is it coincidence that my 3 best races this year were all races that I relied solely on water stops?
And thanks to Girls on the Run, I was not left high and dry — they had a water stop around mile 7ish, just where I really needed it. I had been considering their Fall 5k next week and now I’m signed up.
What I Saw/Felt
I lined up with my friend Lisa D. She was looking for her friend, but not finiding her (almost 2000 runners), but she did find her right before we started.
So I was on my own (Darlene and I failed to meet up before the start). I managed to keep Lisa in my sight for the first 3 miles, and then she was gone, but she was waiting for her running buddy again at the finish line, and since I finished ahead of her buddy, I got congratulated by her again at the end.
Ever since I started running fairly seriously, about 4 years ago, people have just raved about this race. I’m not quite sure why: it’s definitely not an easy course. I’ve done worse, by far, and they actually changed it a couple of years ago so you end on a downhill. But it’s still challenging.
There are definitely pretty parts of the race, but a lot also runs through downtown Schenectady, which frankly didn’t excite me all that much.
You start in downtown Schenectady, running through the Stockade neighborhood (which is where Stockadeathon gets its name), and you run by the Mowhawk river for a short amount of time. It was a pretty day, so I stopped briefly to snap a photo.
Then you start the low, slow, climb up to Union College. But it’s early days and you feel good.
Miles 3-6 wind through neighborhoods with sparse spectator support for the most part, although there are enthusiastic locals cheering you on at times. The only memorable thing about this portion of the race was that I tripped around mile 4 1/2 and almost face planted — but somehow managed to stay upright.
I think right before you enter Central Park you are on a bike path for a brief amount of time — it was pretty, especially with the runners silhouetted up ahead, and I planned to snap a photo at my next walk break, but it was such a brief amount of time I didn’t get a walk break so no photo.
At mile 6 you enter Schenectady’s Central Park, where I’ve run several races, and it’s pretty running around the lake. Thankfully this time I didn’t have to go through the woods, so I kept up a good pace, except for the short, steep hill around mile 8ish.
A volunteer said “it’s all downhill from here” at the pinnacle of that hill, to which I replied “Thank God!”. And they didn’t lie. It’s also mostly through a cemetery, and I remember thinking that this would be great for a Halloween run.
Once you’re in Central Park and the cemetery, the path is rather narrow. And there are people out for their own walks, there are the speedy people walking back already, and I found myself having to weave around people walking on the right side of the path (on paths, unlike roads, you’re supposed to walk/run on the right and pass on the left); it was annoying, I won’t lie.
And then it was just a sprint to the finish line.
Which is when one of the oddest things I’ve had happen during a race occurred: a woman heading back asked me if I wanted her to run me in. I wasn’t walking; I was running. Maybe she mistook my running for walking, although at less than 11:30 mm, my pace wasn’t that bad. Did I just look like I was struggling?
I politely declined. Where are those people when I am struggling?
Darlene of My First 5k & More was waiting for one of her STEM runners (and me) and snapped this photo of me crossing the finish line. I was totally unaware she was there, even though she was yelling my name.
Was the race well run?
Yes, absolutely. Packet pickup was a breeze. There are inside bathrooms at the Y before the race (although really long lines). There are also portapotties outside the Y, which didn’t have long lines, but who wanted to use them when it was chilly? Some people did; not me.
The course was very well marked except for one tiny section in Central Park that confused me. Not just with course marshals directing you, but with arrows on the road.
All water stops were fully stocked and enthusiastically manned. Water was waiting at the end even for slowpokes like me. There were numerous photographers on the course and photos were up quickly. I didn’t check out the food after the race, so can’t speak to that.
The only very, very slight ding would be the cotton race shirt. For a 40th anniversary? Really? You could purchase tech tees from the previous year’s race — but why would you want a tee from a race you haven’t run? I’m all for no tees or the option to purchase one, as I wrote about here, but please, enough with the cotton!
Will I run it again next year? Of course now I have a time to beat. But we’ll see how it works in my schedule.
1:51:32 (an automatic PR — new distance)