These days, as a recreational athlete, I, like others, look forward to a few weekends every year: July 4th for the Firecracker Runs, Halloween – not necessarily a weekend but great for wearing costumes, the weekend before the third Monday in April or Patriot’s Day when you know the most majestic of all marathons will be run in Boston, and Memorial Day weekend.
Living in Southern California, Memorial Day weekend features the trifecta of running races. It begins on Saturday morning as runners head to the Santa Monica trails for The Tough Topanga 10K.
On Sunday, Brentwood shows off its Mercedes, Range Rovers, kids, dogs and a few thousand runners in their 5K and 10K races. Yes, if you are brave enough, the timing is such that you can actually run both the 5K and 10K back to back. And on Monday, we head south of the orange curtain for the Saddleback Memorial Half Marathon (used to be the Flo-Jo Half Marathon). The goal is simply to see how much racing you can compress into a 72 hour period and whether you can set PR’s all weekend long. Each race is distinctly different from the others and bragging rights for completing all of them last an entire year.
Now living in New York, I found myself missing the Memorial Day Weekend masochistic rituals so this year I decided to create my own, beginning on Saturday with a few Race with Purpose teammates as we set out on a brick workout of a Harriman Park 50-mile ride followed by a 10-mile run from 9W at the bottom to the top of Bear Mountain, some 1500 feet above.
We had another great weekend of firsts with Avi learning how to change a tire and use CO2 to freeze his little fingers off, Deana learning that the phrase joined at the hip should not be used when referring to her body and the pavement and that after 3 hours of cycling, Perkins Drive is challenging enough without doing the extra mile of climbing caused by missing the turn clearly marked with the words, “Exit”. We did get to swim with the fishes afterwards – I’ve always wanted an excuse to say that, in a little pond on the edge of 9W.
Sunday, I actually took it fairly easy swimming 3,000 yards including a timed 1.5 miler just to see how far behind Erin, Michelle, Stella and the other fish I would be when exiting the water at Tupper Lake this year. I then scurried upstairs at the JCC of Mid Westchester to lift chest and back before heading to my house where we had visitors from LA waiting for me. They now live “on” Long Island but like me they’re still in denial so it’s out of respect that I’ll refer to them as my LA friends. In general for my friends, waiting on me to get back from a workout has become a regular occurance.
After our dinner under the stars, our “friends from LA” decided that sleeping in their own bed was preferable to staying with us even with the 11:00pm departure and the two hour drive to their place just a little further east from where the earth ends on Long Island. That was actually cool with me because I was trying to figure out how I was going to be able to duck out of the house early the next morning to get a ride in before doing the mandatory house guest breakfast. So on Monday, I headed out to hook up with the Westchester Cycle Club and get in another 50-mile ride, followed by a 6.2-mile run afterwards in the 90+ degree heat.
Given that for many, goals help people to stay focused and do things they might not ordinarily do, I should mention that this season’s goal – the Tinman Tupper Lake Half Ironman – can be particularly nasty as it was when I raced in 2005. The temperature was 98 degrees and the run portion was in name only, resembling more of an exodus of refugees than a road race.
There is one place on the course where a family placed their water hose out and race participants were stopping there for 5 to 15 minutes like elephants wallowing in cool mud.
But this is how we train. We train in the weather and conditions that are placed before us because that’s exactly what will happen on race day. This year at Tupper Lake, if it is 65 degrees and overcast, we’ll just race that much better. If it isn’t, we’ll be able to look back on this year’s Memorial Day Weekend and know that we’ll be ready for anything.