[The 2010 race will be on June 12.]

Executive Summary

The First Annual Centaur Festival 10K at the Rockefeller (and Old Croton Aqueduct) State Park was tough, tough, tough. No PRs to be had this day. But the race was fun, fun, fun. In that perverted standard that governs our lifes.

The Report

I’ve posted before about my teammate Pascal and his wonderful, must-read Paris race report. Margo is his friends’ daughter, and she is fighting against cancer. (She recently underwent surgery, and it went well.)

At our last race together, Pascal gave me my “Running for Margo” t-shirt, and today I decided it would debuted. The race: the first annual Centaur Festival 10K, at the Rockies. Technically, most of the course was not at the main part of the Rockies. It started and finished at Rockwood Hall and spent much of its time on the Old Croton Aqueduct. Map (PDF).

I was familiar with most of the course. I usually run the Rockwood Hall loop when I’m up there. This course had three solid hills plus a brutal uphill finish. My goal was simply to enjoy things. Not too hard, not too fast.

For those unfamiliar with Rockwood Hall, it is well away from the Rockefeller estate. It is right along the Hudson. To get to it on a normal run, you go down a brutal switchback, cross a bunch of little bridges over a stream, and, voilà, you’re on this flat stretch along the River (which is not a river) with breathtaking views of and across the River. Alas, to get up to where the mansion was (it is long gone and only a terrace remains) you must climb a brutal switchback. That’s what you see in the photo (taken some time ago). We’ll get back to that, and to that other switchback just mentioned.

The start was on a narrow stretch, so all entrants — the field was limited to 400 — had to include a predicted per-mile time on their entries. I put 6:00. I got No. 8. There were a bunch of youngsters (well, to me) with lower numbers, and I had no intent of going out with them, and succeeded in not going out with them.

Instead of my WSSAC singlet, I wore my “Running For Margo” t-shirt. The shirt is heavy, but the temperature was not too high and it did not seem too humid. I also decided to wear my Garmin, although there were mile markers (about which Dan Isleib, the RD, said might be a bit off given the difficulty of using a GPS in woods).

Tim Colleran says hello. He’s Erin Colleran’s husband, and I met him but once before, at a track meet at Icahn. I’ve warmed up so we chat, and Erin shows up, exchange air kisses, and chat some more. She’s worried; she has No. 38; “how’d I get such a low number?” I ask him to take a photo of me and my shirt (which I’ll post when I get) and he obliges.

The Race

Called to the start. Horn goes. Group of four goes off together. Heading north, perfectly flat. It rained heavily yesterday, but the course had only a few muddy spots. One shortly after the start. There are a couple of kids, by anyone’s definition, in the mix. The course turns into the woods, and then we hit that switchback I mentioned, the one that goes down towards Rockwood Hall. I am able to catch up to one of those kids — I tell him it’s the toughest hill on the course — and almost catch another guy. I’m not sure what place I’m in, but I think it’s 6. That other guy is gone when we hit the flat, and I’m left with the kid. Water stop. I open up on the kid past the two-mile mark on an uphill. This would be a typical race; I am going much faster than those around me on the ups. Not so much on the downs.

We cross Route 117, after another water stop. There are arrows directing us to continue on the Aqueduct, by turning right, which is the way I thought the course went. But there are volunteers in their yellow shirts straight ahead. The guy in fifth is long out of view. I assume that if we were meant to turn, someone would be there. I assume incorrectly. I get waved back; I was to turn at the arrows.

Three people pass me while I’ve detoured. I quickly catch two, including the kid. I lose those two as we turn back into the Rockies proper. Indeed, for the first time we’re on the main Rockies trails. Whoa, a hill. Not expecting that. Note I said at the top that I was familiar with most of the course. This was the other part. It’s steep but immediately followed by a down. In typical Rockies fashion.

I catch up to No. 6. He opens, I close. Stuff like that. The course is winding with well-marked turns now. I catch him, and say there are only two more real hills. He says there’s another one as well. We chat a bit. He’s from Pleasantville, so has a bit of a home-court advantage. We agree that it’s best that we’re not going up the switchback on Thirteen Bridges. He opens up, and I shout, “See you at the finish.” But on this heretofore (to me) unknown other hill, a wicked switchback up to Thirteen Bridges Trail — years back I counted on an SSRMC run and confirmed the number — I catch and pass him. I can hear yet another guy behind.

Briefly on Thirteen Bridges and a left up to the OCA. This turns out not to be a bad hill, and I get water at the top. The water is to my left and I manage to use my left arm to grab it. Much of it falls on my now wet t-shirt, making it stick to my chest, but I get a good amount of it.

Two to go. Downhill for a spell. A brief up followed by a down, and flat again. Now I’m feeling things. I have not be pushing it, trying to get into a strong but relaxed pace, largely with success. I’m now straining. My Garmin, which is a bit off from the mile markers, tells me I’m running at 6:40ish. It feels hard. I tell myself to run it like a tempo or MP workout. Rhythm and strength. In the woods I think of Margo and her struggles. It gives me some comfort. It does not give my legs comfort.

Where’s the five mile mark? One last water stop. Where’s five? At least I’m going down that switchback to Rockwood Hall after which it’ll be flat to almost the finish. There’s the five, right at the switchback. A quick peak; that guy who was catching me and the guy from Pleasantville is not too far back. I care not.

Down the switchback, hold it together. A few glances at the Garmin. It’s not moving as fast as it should be. Nor am I. But hold it, hold it. There’s a slight uphill on the “flats” along the River (which is not a river). Where’d that come from? I’ve never noticed it on my many forays here. There’s the Rockwood terrace. There’s the retired-person complex, which stands at the southern end of the trail. The finish must be coming.

There’s the finish stretch. I know the finish is not at the top of the switchback. It’s at a break partway up, but I’m not sure how high that “up” is. Focus focus. After one back-and-forth, I stop, very briefly. Take a breathe, and start and I almost immediately see the finish. IT’S NOT THAT FAR! I’m through. Clock around 41. My chip time will be 41:00.

In that photo, the finish is just to the left of the end of the trail.

Finish

I am dead. Get some PowerAde, see Tim. I head down to root for Erin. While waiting, someone coming up the hill asks me my age-group. I say 50. He says “Fuck you.” I laugh. What can I do? Erin comes through. “Go Erin.”

I walk back up. Chat with Erin and Tim. We see Arthur Weisberg — who has a history with Erin from the Scarsdale 15K back in 2007 and who I last saw on the Bronxville track a few months back — who wins the 60-69 AG, and he comes over. Erin is worried. Her left leg, to which her chip was attached, may have been outside the start’s mat. This bothered her for the first mile. But her results are up. Worried about her seeding number 38. She finished 38th.

I am 6th overall, first 50. I am tired. Erin and Tim disappear, and I can’t find them. A woman crosses with a “RunsLikeAGirl” headband. What about Julie T? She Tweeted that she had entered and was heading up. Where was she? Not to be found, and not on the results. In the event, she got lost. She can drive hours and hours to find a lousy lake in Oregon and can’t find a beautiful River (even if it’s not a river) and streams half-an-hour away? And she’s from California where people are, like, born in cars. (In her defense, she’s influenced by someone who comes from a place far, far away where they drive on the wrong side of the road! And where they really hate July 4.)

Where was I? As I was writing this, I got the race results from Dan Isleib.

  • Sixth overall.
  • First 50-59.
  • First Age-graded; 35:17, 1:11 ahead of second.

As a frame of reference, recall that I ran 37:38 six weeks back in a Central Park 10K.

For the record, the race the race was won by 22 year-old Skyler Mosenthal in 36:29 and the “kid” to whom I referred is Thaddeus Sheehan, age 14, who faded a bit to 15th but ran a quite respectable 43:01.

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