On New Years day Emma and I decided to start the running year with a race, the Hangover Classic in Salisbury, MA. Although trails would have been preferable this road race had several unique features which made it stand out above your ordinary road race. Although I can't credit the race organizers with the course conditions on race day the previous days snow left the streets of this seaside town covered with a layer of packed snow. The sub-freezing temperature and strong winds with gusts in excess of 30 mph certainly made for unpleasant conditions if you were one of the unfortunate volunteers standing around directing runners. But the real draw of this event is that after finishing runners are given the option of a plunge in the ocean and are rewarded for their foolishness with special beer glass.
We had planned to do this race for some time, this planning occurred when it was warmer and the thought of jumping in the ocean wasn't so far fetched. But as race day approached and we watched the weather forecast is began to look like swimming in the ocean on New Year's Day might not just be a bad idea but might actually be really bad for us. This was until Jim informed us that he and Shauna were coming along and that in his mind the plunge was not optional.
The Hangover Classic offers two race options. Jim, Shauna and I all opted for the 10k and Emma, who was feeling somewhat less certain of her abilities due to a slow recovery from major knee problems, signed up for the 5k. To further protect herself from having her name attached to an unflattering time Emma registered under a fake name and wore her See-You-Jimmy hat as a disguise.
Driving 70 miles south did nothing for the temperatures, nor did waiting for the late 11:45am start. It was damn cold and windy and as we walked from the parking lot to the bar where registration was held I think we were all questioning why we were doing this. After standing around in the snowy road for way too long we finally took off running. I think the roads for the entire first mile were covered in a thick layer of packed snow. I was grateful to have brought a pair of Brooks Cascadias each with 16 screws in the bottom. These certainly gave me an advantage over many runners who were forced to slow down because of the conditions. I noticed that when cornering I had a particular advantage over runners who really slowed down to keep from slipping. Suckers.
After the first mile there were plenty of clear patches in the road, but overall I'd estimate that only half the course was free from snow. In some places there were wind blown drifts that must have been 6 inches deep. Luckily it didn't take long to warm up, and by about halfway through the race I started thinking about what it was going to feel like to jump in the ocean later. It actually seemed doable. At around 4 miles I ran straight through the only aid station on the course, even though it was serving beer as well as water I decided that losing momentum might bring on a chill that would make me lose interest in swimming so I kept going.
About 1/4 mile from the finish I saw Emma, who had finished the 5k race and gone to the car to get a change of clothes for everyone, standing at the side of the road cheering me on. She chased me to the finish and I was quite surprised to see the time on the clock as I approached just turning to 41 minutes. I had been warned that this might be a short course, and was hoping that since the start/finish was in a new location this year that the distance would be accurate but I don't think I was going that fast, not in these conditions. I would expect to break 41 minutes on a cool fall day in good conditions but not in the crap that we were running in today. Oh well. I'm not a 10k runner so it doesn't really matter to me.
When Emma caught up to me, we headed into the bar for a few minutes to keep warm until Jim came through the finish line. I knew he'd be stopping at the beer station en route and would be a few minutes behind. Jim crossed with Shauna right behind and we all headed for the beach, only a few yards from the finish line. We stripped down to the bare essentials and took off running for the water (except Shauna who was enjoying watching). Luckily the tide was not too far from high so we didn't have far to run. By the time we reached the water our skin was frozen from the -10 windchill so the water temperature didn't actually feel bad at all.
Much to our surprise the sandy beach dropped off abruptly once we were a few feet into the water. This helped with the submersion process, there was absolutely no choice, but this made getting out a chore. A slight undertow and cold muscles made swimming out very difficult. Once back on the beach I threw on a bathrobe (probably the most important thing to bring to a winter ocean plunge), grabbed the rest of my gear and headed for the bar. The mistake I made is that I decided to carry my shoes rather than take the time to put them back on again. This meant I got indoors rather quickly but not before running across the snow covered road barefoot. By the time I got inside my feet were frozen. Literally frozen. I have a minor case of frostbite.
10 minutes later we were all warmed up and the free beer was flowing. We bumped into a few other folks we knew and had fun hanging around for a while in the crowded bar. Oddly enough Emma, who was the least confident in her abilities going into this race, came away winning a jacket and $20 for finishing in 5th place in the 5k (however the results show her finishing in 6th, oops!)
distance: 6.2 miles
place: 26/295 - 9%
weather: 11 degrees, sunny, very windy -10 windchill, water temp: 37 degrees
conditions: roads 50% covered in snow/slush
gear: Brooks Cascadia 3 (screwed), wool socks, triathlon shorts, thick tights, 2x thick thermal tops, thin balaclava, buff, 2x gloves, sunglasses