Syracuse Festival of Races- 20 Years

Posted: September 30, 2012 in Ironman Lake Placid, Running, Syracuse Ironman 70.3, Training
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Wow, hard to believe that twenty years have passed since the inaugural running of this race. This is a very significant stake in the ground regarding history and my sense of  space, time, and other aspects of aging. Back in my early hay days I worked on a number of races with race director Dave Oja. I volunteered as a technical coordinator for the very first festival of races, and a few more after that. Dave had big ideas on putting on a fast 5K that attracted national and world class level talent. That he did. It was a lot of fun putting on very successful races, and very rewarding to be a part of all that. It was every bit awe inspiring to watch runners at that level go to work on the course that was laid out. Eventually my professional life and eventual move to Cortland took me away from the Syracuse area, at least on a daily/weekly basis. It would also lead me away from the sport of running & triathlons for an all too long of a time.  Coming back home to run the twentieth year of the race is very fitting as 2012 has been my renaissance if you will. The race also fits for a few other reasons which I’ll get to.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I have been fortunate to have participated in one well ran race after another the entire 2012 season.  Aside from my emotional attachment to the event,  it is my humble opinion, that the Festival of Races is a well-planned, and well-executed event. Lots of great volunteers, great support from sponsors, great SWAG, and the Syracuse Police Department was above and beyond.  I heard some complaints about weather. Personally I loved it. Cool, a little misty for the 5k’s, and it did drizzle some during the 3K fun run. My attitude is that we always get “weather,” It is not to going to deter me in the slightest.  I drove up on Saturday to grab my packet, and that was super easy at Destiny Mall. A quick stop at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and I was all set. Love the nice long sleeve tech shirt.

Even though I am in training mode for the NYC marathon, today’s 5k was useful for testing to see what leg speed I have post Ironman Syracuse, and the fact I have not done all that much speed work since. My bad………

I would run this full throttle, and re-establish a baseline Vdot for training pre and post marathon.  I use races sometimes to do the testing, as I like the energy from the event, and I find it easier mentally to do it this way rather than tough it out solo. I would run a zone five (heart rate) effort, and whatever I could withstand the last 2K  of the course.  I arrived early to get parked before traffic control was set up. Again, super easy, directions were spot on. Nice to see friends and familiar faces. For a warm up, I headed out for a half mile easy jog with a few pickups to loosen up and then stretched a bit before lining up. Start was smooth, and I seeded myself behind a few rows further back from the fast runners. No problems, got running room quickly, and went to work. I goofed up double starting my GPS watch, no problem. All the kilometer and mile splits were called out on the course (kudos to the volunteers). I had pace and heart rate, and that would do just fine. 7:48-7:56 pace first two miles. Heart rate pegged at my estimated max of 179 bpm. I was working it, and I was going the leave it all on the course. Even though I was working hard, I kept my breathing smooth and kept thinking to myself “smooth is fast” Going to 4k, my heart rate was 182-183, and I got it back down to 181 bpm with about a third of a mile to go. I clocked in a 25:10 (8:06/mile pace) Second best time this year at an 5K event. Not fast by most standards, but a good performance for yours truly. Happy that I did not lose to much speed since my “A” race at Ironman Syracuse. I’ll be able to start my out season base training  later this fall with a much higher Vdot than I had last fall. Very helpful for Ironman Lake Placid next July.

For reference, winner of my age group (50-54) turned in a 15:24. Another observation, It took until the turn around, and working it hard to just pass a bunch of the 70-74 age groupers in the USAT Masters division. God bless them, but I can’t see how I can live long enough to beat these national class guys. Only way it will happen is attrition, simply outlive them. Me verses the zombies. Seriously, they were most impressive. Another observation: going out to the turn around, I got to see the front runners coming back. They make running sub 5 minute miles look so effortless and fluid. My DNA envies them. Takes me back to the days of driving the lead vehicle, and watching the front runners churn out the course. I always enjoyed that.

Post race refreshments were great, Gatorade, turkey sub, and I was good to go. 20th Anniversary finishers medal was very nice! While I was relaxing post 5K, another runner came up and asked if he could have his picture taken with me. I was taken back at first, as this is not something I normally get asked. After a little conversation I learned that he had focused on trying to catch me during the race, but just not able to catch me. Given my pace, again, not something I am use to hearing. Maybe he focused on my bright neon yellow Nike tank top, or the tattoos, not sure. I must be easy to spot- just saying. I believe he had a good race, and sought me out for the picture (posted at the bottom). As it also turns out, my new friend, Xinyu Wang is a student at Syracuse University working on his masters degree in engineering. Being an engineer myself, I do like the commonalities. It is a small world. Great to make a new friend, and it was a little twist on a great day of racing. It made my day.

Once I got myself settled down, I relaxed until the 3K fun run. I jumped in on that to run a couple of miles easy and enjoy the crowd. The kids were fun to watch, and I enjoyed my warm down.

Lots of great thoughts on today’s event.  It brought back many memories from those early years. Congrats to Dave, and the entire crew that puts it on every year, and I extend my best wishes for the years to come.

  1. Carrie says:

    Sounds like a great race, Mike! Those crazy fast and elite age-groupers are unbelievable; like you wrote, they make running sub-20’s look extremely easy. Also, I haven’t done any true track speedwork since …. uh … August, so we’re in the same boat. 🙂

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