I've taken a lot of pride in my renewed love for the sport of running and appreciate the gifts I've been blessed with. That mindset, along with a tremendous support team, is what pushed me through the Flower City Half Marathon on April 26, 2015. This race is also the second in the four-part series called the Four Seasons Challenge; four half marathons, one in each season of the year. The first race in this series was the Winter Warrior; a race around the Monroe Community College campus on a really cold, windy January afternoon.
The weather in Rochester, NY had been quite cold and snowy for two months leading up to the Flower City Half and my training plan took quite a beating. February gave us six hours of temperatures above freezing (yes, 6 hours) and the March snow piled up so high as to make visibility a real safety issue for running on the streets. We were all wondering what kind of weather April would bring.
Race morning arrived with cool but not cold, temperatures and a solid cloud cover...the typical Spring day in Rochester. I was nervous at the start line as I thought my training had been lacking.
|Pre-race in the Blue Cross Arena|
|Pre-race view of the finish on Exchange Blvd.|
I'd decided to use a pace group for the first time. While it seemed like a reasonable thing to do, that decision ultimately held me back. My first three miles were way too slow and as a result, my form was off. My Friend and unofficial coach, Greg, would later say "you didn't look good" in the first 5K. Greg has been a running coach for a long time and I've learned a lot from him directly and even more my watching him coach others. He's a great friend and supported me through my first triathlon last year.
Greg did a most remarkable think at this race...he followed me on the course. I don't know how he did it but he just kept popping up at various points along the route snapping pictures with his smartphone. How he was able to jump in his car, navigate the City, and get to the most out of the way places on the route is still a mystery.
|At the start - photo credit Greg Sloan|
|My view at start line, pace group marker|
|Slow "walking form" the first 5K at Frontier Field - photo Greg Sloan|
One thing that set the Flower City Half apart from the Winter Warrior (my first half) is the hills. Like any dedicated (obsessive) runner, I'd spent a few hours previewing the Flower City course. Although familiar with the area, I became acutely aware of difference between driving the streets and running on them. The nausea that accompanied that realization haunted me until I actually got to the hills on race day. The best news of the day came as we reached the hills. Rather than being slowed by them, I actually gained time! Hill training had paid off, but not as you'd expect. I found that, in addition to tackling the uphill segments strong, I was able to glide with good form and increased speed to take full advantage of the downhill running as well.
|In Mt. Hope Cemetery - Photo Greg Slaon|
|Passing Wilson Blvd near Ford St. - photo Greg Sloan|
Greg would later comment "you look better" as the race went on. At the finish line I was all smiles. Two down, two to go. I felt great throughout the race and finished strong, with a smile. My goal time of 2:00:00 remains a target to be hit as I finished the Flower City Half in 2:22 - just a few minutes faster than the Winter Warrior.
|At the finish - Photo Game Face|
|Crossing the line - Photo Game Face|
|Greg and me at the BCA after the race|
|Post race debriefing|
|An old friend, Tom Coyle, owner of Monroe Ambulance and some pre race encouragement|
|Bib, shirt, finisher medal, and Four Seasons Challenge medal piece|
|Winter Warrior and Flower City half marathon FSC pieces|