Name of the race: Wineglass Half Marathon
Where: Corning, NY
Date: Oct 1, 2017
Time: 7:45 am
Distance: 13.1 miles
Terrain: Road race, net decline with rolling hills
- December 1, 2016 – $80.00
- January 1, 2017 – $95.00
- March 1, 2017 – $105.00
- April 1, 2017 – $115.00
- May 1, 2017 – $125.00
Post-race Food: Bagels, bananas, apples, chocolate milk, cookies, chicken soup, minestrone, pizza, Gatorade, & water
Swag: Quarter-zip long-sleeved tech shirt, spike bag, small bottle of sparkling wine, stemless wineglass, $10 at Connors, $10 at Pure Design, & glass finishers medal
Performance: Overall: 191/2824; Gender: 68/2101; Age (35-39): 18/3787
Weather: 39 degrees, 100% humidity
I shivered in the cold, foggy air. It was minutes until the start of the race. The enormity of my task struck me – 8 min miles for 13.1 miles. I audibly moaned. A girl heard me, turned around, and smiled in comfort. I shook my head, “It’s not the distance. I’m scared of the pace.” It wasn’t all that long ago that 8 min mile was my hard tempo pace. Memories of failed tempo attempts of 3 to 4 miles with Ben flashed through my head. I had to maintain this pace for 13.1 freaking miles. I felt sick in my stomach with fear. I drew comfort from the other women who turned around and expressed their sympathy and understanding. We were in this together. In our own way, we all were facing a challenge.
The weather was absolutely perfect for running. It was 39 degrees, overcast, and no wind. Perfect for running. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions. I vacillated between immediately throwing off an old PJ top right before the start or wearing it for a mile or two until I warmed up a bit more. At the last second, I decided to ditch it. Normally I like to wear a shirt when the weather is close to 40 degrees, but the lack of wind made wearing a singlet doable. I completed my race outfit with a pair of throwaway gloves that I never threw away. When the weather’s cold, my hands never warm up regardless of how fast I’m running. I was really grateful to be wearing them because running with cold hands is uncomfortable.
Before the start of the race, I found Karen, the 1:45 pacer, who was going to run an even pace of 7:58 with a target time of 1:44:30. Knowing that I do best with a negative split, I decided that I was going to start way behind her (but in front of the 1:50 pacer) and slowly try to catch up to her, run with her for a few miles, and then if I was feeling it, slowly pull away from her.
A horn blared signaling our start. A rush of eager runners flowed past me. I walked slowly like a condemned man heading toward the guillotine. Once I crossed the starting line, it was on. Internally I was freaking out the first three miles. The early miles in a half marathon or a marathon are supposed to feel easy and slow. It did NOT feel easy and slow. I didn’t know how I was going to be expected to carry the pace if I was working from the very beginning. But by Mile 3, I caught up to Karen as I had expected and settled in with the group. I realized that I was running well and that it was going to be okay. It wasn’t going to be a perfect day with race magic when my legs are snappy and gravity was the only force that kept me on the planet, but I could tell that this was going to be a good day. I could trust my training to carry me through on a good day.
Karen was a very good experienced pacer. I had used my finely honed Google stalking skills, developed from when I was single and dating in NYC, to learn what I could about her. If I was going to trust her with my A-goal, then I had to know who she was. It turns out she’s an awesome runner (3:01 marathoner!) with lots of pacing experience. She chattered about various races, training, race strategies, and mantras to keep our spirits up and motivated.
By Mile 5 I stopped freaking out and realized that I was actually going to do this. I knew that if I stuck with Karen for the rest of the race, I will get my sub-1:45 goal. It was going to be a done deal. Having chased after this goal in vain for two years, the prudent thing to do was to stick with Karen. Go for the sure goal, especially when I had missed it in so many races because of undertraining, bad weather, having it just not be my day, or what-have-you.
Instead for the next two miles, I debated with myself about how badly I wanted a sub-1:44. There’s a fine line between having a great race, and going out too aggressively and completely imploding. If I was feeling really great and knowing that this was my day, there was no doubt in my mind about going for the aggressive goal. But I wasn’t feeling great. I was feeling good. Solid. I could be conservative and ensure a really good race and PR. Or I could risk it, risk blowing another PR, by going for an aggressive goal. Which was it going to be? How badly did I want the sub-1:44?
At Mile 7, I decided I wanted the sub-1:44 pretty badly. I told Karen bye and she wished me luck. I took off, leaving the 1:45 group behind me.
I didn’t take off that quickly. For the next three miles, I kept hearing Karen’s voice of encouraging her group and her laughter haunting, no, taunting me, reminding me that I was still not running as fast as I thought I was. It was galling, honestly. What could you do? I ran what I ran and I couldn’t sprint just then because it was still too many miles to the finish. I contemplated falling back in with Karen and trying again at Mile 10. At a couple of the hairpin turns, I took the opportunity to see where the 1:45 group was. Seeing that they were about 30 secs behind me made me feel a bit better. I could still do this.
At Mile 10, with only a 5K left to go, it was time to move up a gear. This was the danger point for me in a half marathon. I’m pretty good at running solidly for 10 miles, but I really need to work on holding everything together for the next three. Ben promised to be waiting with Bandit for me somewhere between Mile 11 and 12. I whispered to myself over and over, “Another mile until you can look for Benny and Bandit. One more mile.” I kept running. At Mile 11, I started looking for Ben and Bandit and keeping my hearing sharp for Ben’s voice. While I was getting tired at this point, I was amazed by how I wasn’t falling apart. Yes, I was tired, but not so tired that I thought I had to stop. Instead I was thinking, “I have ENDURANCE! I can keep running!” As long as I kept focused, I could still keep running sub-8:00 min miles. Finally just before Mile 12, I heard Ben yelling for me. He took several photos of me and then ran close to me on the sidewalks. Bandit yipped shrilly, vocalizing her displeasure in being kept away from me. Ben and Bandit kept me company for about a half mile, until I ran over the final bridge. There was no way they could run down East Market Street to the finish line with me. He yelled that he would find me after the finish line.
There was one more left turn to East Market Street. As soon as you turn, you can see the finish line banner hanging high welcoming you. The crowds on the sidewalks grow thicker, the closer you get to the finish, and the roar and cheers become even more deafening. I’m sprinting. I’m going to get my sub-1:44, the question was by how much.
I’m overwhelmed with joy when I cross the finish line. The official time is 1:43:27. I did it! I didn’t just get my A-goal, but I CRUSHED IT. I get my beautiful green glass medal and stumbled to get some food. Ben finds me and I’m completely delirious with happiness.
“Where’s the PR bell? I need to ring the PR bell,” I repeated to him. It was going to be my first time ringing a PR bell. All the other times that races had a PR bell, I didn’t get a PR, so I was on a mission to ring the PR bell. Ben patiently walked around with me until we found the bell and I proudly rang it.
Fortunately for us, a couple months prior, I serendipitously found an AirBnB house that was a mile away from downtown Corning that was available. The woman who had booked that house had to cancel because of injury. We snapped up that house because all reasonably-priced accommodations in Corning and other nearby towns were long gone. Because the house was so close, we could go back home for me to shower and change before getting a proper lunch in Corning. It’s a tradition that after Wineglass, we get pizza at the Atlas Brick Oven Pizza. We snuck Bandit into the restaurant. We grabbed a quiet table in a corner and had Bandit lie down under the table. She knew something was up because she was really well-behaved – perfectly quiet and stayed still the entire time. As a reward, I fed her bits of pepperoni and cheese.
It was another wonderful race at Wineglass. This really is my absolute favorite race. The expo is held at the Corning Glass Museum. I love this museum. Not only do they showcase glass art, but they go into depth about the science of glass and glass technology. All race participants get 50% off the entrance fee with their bibs. The museum’s gift shop is also super cool because they have so many wonderful glass stuff and ALL THE CORNING WARE!!!!!
If you ever go to Wineglass, you MUST GO TO THE PRE-RACE PASTA PARTY!!!!!! Seriously, it’s the best pre-race pasta party. Wineglass ruined me. All other pre-race pasta parties are sad affairs with mediocre food at best, but Wineglass really pulls out all the stops to have a great event. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet with different kinds of pasta (even gluten-free), various different sauces, quinoa, salad buffet, meatballs, rolls, bay shrimp, baked potato buffet, dessert, coffee, tea, and soda. There’s always a speaker. In 2013, it was Bart Yasso (so funny), in 2015, it was Colleen Alexander (very inspirational), and in 2017, it was Dave McGillivray (Boston Marathon race director). McGillivray spoke about his life story and of course, the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. While interesting, both Ben and I thought his talk was about 30 mins too long because he was awfully fond of repeating himself. He could have trimmed his talk without losing any content. I was disappointed that there was no time for questions after the talk. The Q&A sessions for Bart Yasso and Colleen Alexander were wonderful and revealed more about their personalities than their prepared talks.
The other really terrific part of the pasta party is that you get to meet other people who are running Wineglass. We talk about training, other races we’ve run, our goals for the next day, and anything else that comes to mind. It’s really a fun, jovial event. I randomly chose a table and sat next to two ladies. During our conversation, I found out that they ran Steamtown last year with me.
I jokingly said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if it turned out that we were on the same bus to the start line?”
One of the ladies asked in an astonished voice, “Were you in the lost bus too?”
My jaw dropped. Finding out that other runners did the same race the year you did it is not all that surprising, especially for a race like Steamtown. Steamtown is a well-known and popular race on the East Coast for BQ hopefuls. But to realize that we were on the SAME FREAKING BUS a year ago and now we were at the same table, that was wild!
The only drawback to Wineglass is the shuttle service to the start line. It’s not as well-managed as it could be. I think it’s only really the half marathon, which has the bigger field, that has the problem. Two years ago, I did the marathon and didn’t experience anything with the buses. I arrived at the bus shuttle stop at 6 am and stood in line where I was directed. Forty minutes later, I was still in line and annoyed because people who had arrived after me were allowed to get onto the bus. Out of sheer frustration, I jumped out of my line and into the moving line. I’m glad that I did that because it gave me just enough time to use the facilities and finish my pre-race cake and frappucino. All of the half marathoners did make it to the start area in time because we started on time.
There were several port-o-potties, so even though the line was a bit long, it moved quickly and I didn’t have to wait long. I also appreciated having a warm area (the high school) to wait before the start. I saw a few runners running laps on a track to do their warm up. The half marathon start area is a very pleasant one.
I totally love Wineglass and wish I could do it every year (the timing of this race doesn’t always work out for me). If you don’t live in the area, I think Wineglass is worth flying out for. If you do live somewhere on the East Coast, then Wineglass should be on your to-do bucket race list.