19 December 2016

Conference House 6 Hour Race Report: Timed Races in the Freezing Cold Are Actually Fun

The Conference House 6 Hour Race was 32 miles of cold, sunshine, and friendship.  

I usually run a BUS race but whenever I can, but this time, I had my favorite yoga class that I teach: my Sunday Flow & Restore at Awakening. I usually include readings, meditation, sometimes pranayama - we open with short meditation, warmup, flow, and then totally melt into restorative poses. And I'll skip the class on occasion, but really didn't want to on this particular week. So I found this random 6 hour and signed up, despite having almost zero info.

I convinced my friend Jill to drive down from Rhode Island and run with me. She was struggling with a return/nonreturn to ultrarunning after a break (and ultimately, decided to take another break). I was worried about my tendon flaring up, and my training has been pretty minimal because of it.

NYC has been pretty mild this autumn. I've been biking everywhere and feeling pretty good about it. Of course, the weather plummets for the start of the race....

I got the start and realized, you idiot, the race is right on the water....which means crazy wind. Jill lent me a stinky windbreaker, which I was grateful for. 

The course was a two-mile loop, primarily easy trails.  The terrain was pretty easy - trails, but nothing technical, one baby hill. There were two port-a-potties next to the course, and we could easily leave drop bags. There were some pretty basic aid stations - they had M&Ms and kisses and pretzels (pretzels, that's all I really ever need) and I think clementines too. But I mainly had eyes for pretzels. They only had water in small bottles, which meant filling up your bottle was rather time-consuming (especially as it wasn't always readily available).

Nearly every time we ran through, the RD and timers would cheer us on. It was a really great feeling. One of the runners had the most amazing wife - she was out there, cheering us on, the entire time, with the kindest of words and a huge smile. The volunteers were great, and I felt like I was running in a small race of neighbors and friends.

The race started and I took off at a decent pace, not pushing too much, but not going too slow. I ended up chatting with this random guy, and we ended up spending the first 10 miles together. The pace was in the 8 minute range the entire time, and I felt good.

But I had decided I was going to run this one slow, for various reasons. I told Jill I'd run with her, and she tried to dissuade me. "I'm too slow. You won't want to run that slow." But I figured I'd run until I caught up with her (lapped) and then finish with her.

After 10 good miles, I passed her. I used the bathroom and then waited at the bottom of the little hill for her to reach me - and then it was like 22 miles of easy fun. 

Ultrarunning is more like hanging out with your friends sometimes than racing. Like, Jill and I could go out and drink wine and talk - but it was also pretty much the same as when we were running (except we complained about Jill's period and my stomach or whatever). Oh, and it was freezing, and I doubt I'd drink wine if I was freezing. Aren't you supposed to drink whiskey in the cold???

We finished. There were no partial loops, and we finished without enough time to go out and do another loop. That was fine. I got my plaque, I got my 50k coin (32 miles), and I got some pizza.

Jill and I headed back, and I questioned my sanity as to why I had avoided heat for the past six hours. But I felt so good - so amazing in that "this is why I love doing it" way.