I ran five races in March: 2 5Ks, a 4-mile, 5-miler and a 2.7 mile snow shoe race.
I posted about the March 7th Smuttynose Palooza 5K and the March 14th Running of the Leprechauns 5K in Medford. Driving home from Salisbury after the Palooza, I started thinking that driving 80 miles round-trip by your self for a 5K is crazy.
Since then I’ve been scouring the internet for local races.
My 3rd race in March was the Nutty Irish 5K Cocoa Run at Olde Salem Greens golf course in Salem, MA on March 21st. I drove to this race with three friends and Salem is a lot closer than Salisbury.
The race organizers advised runners to bring snow shoes for the race. They even had some snow shoes that runners could rent for the race. Many years ago my wife bought snow shoes as Christmas presents for the whole family. Mine still fit, so I took them to the race.
It snowed all the way to Salem. When we got there they advised us not to try to drive up the hill to parking unless we had 4-wheel drive. My BMW 325xi has all wheel drive and I told the lady, “I have four people in my car so I should have enough weight.” Did I mention that my three friends are ladies?
As soon as the words came out of my mouth I knew I was in trouble. I was just stating the fact that I had 4-wheel drive and would have plenty of traction from the weight of four people. The ladies good-naturedly gave me a hard time and we all had a laugh.
Erring on the side of caution, I parked at the bottom of the hill.
We found the number pick-up tables at the top of the hill, in front of the club house. Each runner got a pair of “texting” gloves for schwag. I took a look around the start line of the race. The golf course was completely covered with snow. Not a blade of grass or spot of mud to be seen.
After we got our numbers and met some friends, we went back to the car to get ready for the race. I took my snow shoes out of the trunk and looked them over. They looked brand new and ready for a run.
We headed back to the club house to warm up before the race. The place was packed and there were about 14 of us from the Melrose Running Club. We managed to get 12 of us into a photo, the other two were off doing their race prep.
The Call to Start
About 10 minutes before the race they started calling us to line up. I headed out right away as I had to get my snow shoes on. I haven’t worn them in about 12 years and I wasn’t sure I remembered how to put them on or if my running shoes would make it difficult.
The first one went on in no time. The second show took me a few minutes to put on. This was partly due to the straps being tighter and partly to my fingers becoming numb in the freezing cold. I did mention that it was snowing, right?
As the horde came out of the club house, I took a spot about 50 runners back from the front and off to the right side of the course. I knew I wasn’t going to be fast and I might even fall on my face.
Nutty Irish 5K Cocoa Run is off!
As soon as I started running I knew this race would be unlike any other. It felt like I had row boats strapped to me feet. I had to keep my feet wide to avoid stepping on my self and my feet weighed at least three pounds more than usual.
People were passing me like crazy and I stayed to the side. Not my usual race start experience. A few hundred feet into the race I stepped on my snow shoe and tripped up. After unleashing a few F-bombs I realized this was a family race and a women and her pre-teen child were close by.
She didn’t seem too upset with me and may have been amused at the sight of me. What bozo wears trail snow shoes to a race, and then tries to run in them? I was the comic relief for sure!
The Right Stuff
While having row boats strapped to your feet isn’t the best way to run a race, it does have some advantages.
Everyone else had to worry about poking through the crust of the snow and snapping an ankle. Not me. I just had to worry about falling over my self and breaking all kinds of stuff. When I got to an area with lots of holes I just tramped right over them, no worries mate.
Everyone else had to worry about slipping down the hills. I had inch long steel grippers on the bottom of my snow shoes; talk about ultimate traction.
All I had to worry about was catching the toe of my snow shoe and doing a full speed down-hill face plant.
Going up-hill was easier with ice gripping traction also. I actually managed to pass a few people on the hills.
Somewhere around mile one I had my one and only face plant. I stepped on one snow shoe and tumbled forward. I managed to fold my arms in front of myself but had a hard body slam to the ground. It happened in a split second.
I quickly took stock and realized that I hadn’t snapped an ankle, broken my nose or lost a tooth. A few people asked if I was okay and I said yes as I got up. Nothing hurt when I put weight on it and I had a good laugh at my self.
On the open and flat sections of the course I tried moving faster. My shins were tired from lifting my heavy shoes which at times had an extra pound or two of snow on them.
I was trying to figure out the mechanics of running in non-racing snow shoes. I wouldn’t say I figured it out completely, but I did get the basics down and managed to move along at a pretty good clip.
You’re off course Major Tom
The short course was a 1.5 mile loop and the 5k runners were supposed to go near the finish line but not cross it. Instead they had the 5k runners turn at the top of the hill about a quarter-mile from the finish line.
I didn’t think about it, I was just trying to stay on my feet. We had a highly experienced race management company running the show so I assumed they had things figured out. We ran the loop again and I was working so hard I couldn’t tell if it was the exact same loop or not.
As we approached the top of the hill they told me I was the first snow shoe runner! That was pretty cool. I didn’t even know what the hell I was doing.
From the top of the hill it was about a quarter-mile down hill to the finish. Normally I would lengthen my stride and let gravity pull me home. This race was a little different.
I had to reel it in and not dock this one on instinct. My legs were tired in ways they haven’t been before. A total wipe out right in front of the finish line was a distinct possibility. I had to hold it together and not worry about my time. There was no way I was going to be the talk of this race.
The finish and apre
I crossed the mat at 30:48. They did not list my finish time for a few days. When they finally did they had me listed as a 1.5 mile runner with an average pace at 20:32 per mile. Garmin shows I ran 2.36 miles at an average pace of 13:03.
The race was really a bit of a mess. This was the first race for the group running the race, but the management company has extensive race management experience. I’m sure I didn’t miss any awards, but they didn’t even have me listed in the right race!
A bunch of us hung out at the finish line and waited for everyone else to finish. Then we went to the club house for a hot chocolate. I had mine with amaretto.
We took a few more pictures, compared stories and then headed for home. It was still snowing.
Run well my friends,