I’ve clocked in my fair share of training runs in the pouring rain — and even the occasional race — but never before Saturday had I toed the starting line as the rain poured down and lightning shot through the sky. It was a dramatic start to the morning’s Great Pumpkin 10k in the Saratoga Spa State Park. Good thing I was prepared: I was sporting a mullet.
When I ran this race last year (my first 10k at the time; this was only my third 10k), there seemed to be a lot more people in costumes. This year I seemed to be one of only a handful in costume (and I ended up winning the best costume award, which was, fittingly, tickets to a hockey game in Glens Falls! — though, in fairness, they kind of glossed over the adults’ contest since it was so cold and rainy, so I won by default since Jen and I stayed till the end).
And I didn’t care that I was one of the few in costumes. I wore my mullet with pride and was loving all the funny looks I was getting. Apparently some people weren’t sure if it was real or not. After the race, one woman walked past me and Jen, glanced at me, then back at her husband, and said, “See? I told you it’s a wig!”
As for the race, we showed up with only about half an hour to spare, so it was a bit of a rush to register, pin on my number, attach my timing chip, adjust my mullet, and hustle to the starting line, where both 5k and 10k racers lined up in the frigid downpour.
When the clock struck 9:30am, everyone started yelling at race officials to start. The race started nearly on time and we launched forward into the rain, eager to warm our bodies.
The first 5k loop out toward the front of the park, past the Gideon Putnam, down the path toward Route 9, then back down the Avenue of the Pines was quick and incredibly wet. Racers dodged puddles and tried to keep shoes from getting any soggier than they already were. I ran fast, but comfortably so, keeping my pace around 6:40/mile and my heart rate in the high 160s, saving enough for what I knew was a tougher second half.
With 365 5k finishers and 190 10k finishers, I knew that most of the people running in my vicinity were 5k-ers. As the 5k-ers around me turned off toward the finish around 20:47, the pack of remaining 10k-ers really thinned, and I could tell immediately that I was toward the front, which was an exciting feeling.
Like last year, after taking the left just past the finish area and up the hill toward the turn-around near Route 50, I saw the race marshal, dressed as a pumpkin on a bike. I started counting runners and saw that I was in 6th place overall! Rockin’, I thought, and picked up the pace around the turn-around as I slammed back some water from one of the volunteers kind enough to stand in the rain.
The final couple miles were the toughest, with a bunch of gradual up-hill climbs and a quick downhill thrown in that took us into the picnic area. By my count, the runner in front of me was in 5th overall, and she was the lead female runner. I slowly gained on her in the up-hills, then turned it on in one of the downhills for the pass in the final mile and change.
With 1.2 miles to go, I gave it everything I had left, powering up the last steep uphill and around the corner to the finish. I had the runner in front of me in my sights, but I couldn’t quite catch him.
As I cruised across the finish line, the announcer declared, “And here we have our first mulleted finisher: Gabe Anderson from Saratoga Springs!”
There was a mix-up about my time (42:15, a new 10k race PR) — for some reason I was showing up in the 5k results… so instead of placing near the top of 10k finishers, it looked as though I had placed near the end of 5k finishers. I talked to the guy working the scoring computer about correcting it.
When it came time to announce the official results, though, they were reading from the wrong sheet, so they never announced me as having won 2nd in my division (and it looks like I was 4th overall). Technically, though, if you go by the way every other race I’ve run works, I was 1st in my division since overall awards go to the top 3 finishers, then the division awards begin. I’m not sure why the race organizers chose to give overall awards only to the #1 male and female finishers.
Overall, it was a really fun race. As I say after most races, I felt like I could’ve pushed harder. But I had a great time and that’s what counts. I’ve also been taking it easy the past couple weeks since the Mohawk Hudson Marathon, so I was really relaxed and fresh going into the race, and wasn’t really worried too much about my time. I just went out to have a good time, and that I did.
I was also powered by Guinness and the handful I’d had the night before at Wheatfields happy hour with Jen and Jami. Normally I don’t drink the night before a race, but maybe all the iron in the Guinness helped me run faster!
Major props to my biggest fan, Jen, for braving the storm to cheer me on and to document yet another race!
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