Sunday, November 1, 2015

Canal-O-Ween -- or my first "naked" race

I may have just discovered a new favorite race this weekend -- Canal-O-Ween

The Delaware River was beautiful at 8 AM with the mist on it
Canal-o-Ween has both a 5K and 8K option. The course is run on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River Canal (my other races in this area have been on the Pennsylvania side), which means if you arrive early enough you do not have to cross the dreaded "George Washington Bridge," as my friend Debbi affectionately calls it, a name which has stuck with Don and I. The bridge is so narrow even with my tiny car, I tend to scrape the mirrors.

The course follows the Delaware River from Washington Crossing, NJ towards Trenton and back again. The 5K people turned at the 1.55 mile mark, the 8K people near the 2.5 mile mark. 8K works out to 4.96 miles -- with rounding, in my zone of running only 5 to 10 mile races this year.

The race fell on Halloween, which made it a great time to wear my Mad Hatter running costume again. Instead of wearing a tank top, though, I opted for an orange sweatshirt. It was 32 degrees when I arrived at 8 AM to pick up my race packet for the 9 AM start. At one point I felt a little warmer, so I took off my ear muffs.

My biggest issue at the race was that I immediately realized I left my running watch at home. I had enough time to leave and get it, but that would have meant losing my awesome parking space and having to park on the other side of the bridge. No thanks. Running without a GPS watch is sometimes also referred to as running "naked." For me this meant I did not have my intervals announced for me (I'm currently running 1 minute:30 second intervals) and had to guess at them.

This race is a lot smaller than the Perfect 10-Miler, but being a local race, I still bumped into friends, including Jessica and Gabrielle. Not nearly as many people wore costumes as I would have imagined.

The race started with this gentleman playing the "Star Spangled Banner" on his saxophone. It was announced he was born without lips, had reconstructive surgery, and has since learned how to play the sax. Incredible! My goals now seem insignificant.

The race started on time. I would have encouraged two starts -- one for the 8K runners and one for the 5K runners, but we all sorted ourselves out rather quickly. Since I was running without a watch, I started near the front so my finish time would be more accurate, besides there was no attempt made to space the 150 or so runners into "corrals."

The views were stunning. Though our fall folliage has been weak this year (the summer started off wet, but ended with a six week drought of sorts), it was still a beautiful fall day in New Jersey. If I wasn't so focused on running a great race, i would have paused to take more pictures.

The first mile was marked perfectly, as were the first two kilometer marks. I saw the 5K turnaround (1.55 miles). I then saw the 3K mark and had to do some math (1.8-ish miles?). There was no 2 mile mark. I thought I must have really slowed down since I don't see it. Not having my watch on made me really doubt myself (as with many things in life, running is very psychological). All of a sudden the 71 year old man in front of me pointed out the turn around point (4K/2.48 miles). If he hadn't, I might still be running on the canal.

Fortunately at this point I looked at my watch: 28 minutes had passed. That meant, I was on course to finish at the 56 minute mark -- which would be awesome! I figured out each kilometer was taking me 7 minutes to run (7 times 8=56). I figured out a good stride (200 steps running, 100 steps walking) and pushed myself to the finish line. I nearly fell over when I saw my result was 54:32! (I double backed and took this picture after I crossed the finish line.) That is under an 11 minute pace. I still think of myself as a solid 12 minute miler, but I'm starting to reevaluate that. This past year I've become much faster (a change in diet has led to losing some extra pounds and an improvement in energy levels). 

I finally had a chance to catch up with Gabrielle and study her costume. Those are mostly fake tattoos on her and eyeliner.

The race provided an awesome breakfast -- lots of protein and carbs (I skipped the carbs).

I lost Gabrielle when I stopped to help my new friend, Jim. Jim ran the 8K two steps ahead of me the entire time, but appeared on the 5K list. He was the only one in his age category (over 70 -- a category that didn't exist until Jim and I pushed for it), and hence the winner. He also seems like an overall nice guy with a positive attitude, even as he is pushing to finish the race "the old-fashioned way" by puking at the end (I think he was kidding as there was no sign of that on the finish line). 

Jim said he would see me there next year, so I suppose I'm running this one again in 2016. Food was great, but I'm still a sucker for a good medal as a souvenir.

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