I participated in the 18.12 Challenge on Sunday. The race is in its 4th year and is very well received in upstate New York. The race begins in Watertown, NY and finishes on the Sackets Harbor Battlefield on the shore of Lake Ontario in Sackets Harbor, NY. The race commemorates the two battles of Sackets Harbor during the War of 1812. There are two events – the namesake 18.12 mile challenge and a half marathon.
This was an event I wanted to do last year but never registered for. This year I decided it to give it a go and I’m glad I did. The event was well organized from start to finish and included AMAZING volunteers.
The expo/packet pick-up was held the day before the event at the finish line area, and since I was working, my lovely wife had to make the two hour drive two days in a row. Registration goodies were a plenty and the race shirt – a staple racers have come to expect – is very nice.
The morning of the race parking was limited and runners were encouraged to park at the finish line area and take a complimentary shuttle to the starting line, or, be dropped off at the start. I chose the latter. My wife dropped me off and after the race started, she and the kids traveled the short distance and spent the morning at the battlefield waiting for me.
The course itself was nice. Country roads, little or no traffic and an overall downhill slope. The weather was great also. On course were 13 aid stations staffed with awesome volunteers. (Disclaimer: As someone who can call himself a race director, I know how important volunteers are to an event.) These volunteers were AWESOME. Fueled by competition from the organizers, the aid stations competed with other stations to give runners the best race experience. Costumes, music, refreshments, signs, cold rags, popsicles, etc. These folks went all out. At the end, runners could vote for which aid station they felt was best overall.
My goal for the day was to run a consistent race in regards to my pace. I was aiming for a 7:15 pace because this is what I want to achieve during the Chicago Marathon – giving me a new and substantial marathon PR. I started out slower than goal pace because I didn’t warm up as much as I should have and my muscles were cold at the start. By mile four I was warmed up and began to increase my pace. I tried to not constantly check my pace on my Garmin and instead ran by how I felt. When I did check my watch, I realized I was running faster than I had hoped – between 6:45 and 7:00 min/mile. The only thought I had running through my head was don’t crash, don’t crash…keep it up! Historically, I have a track record for running excellent first halves and horrible back halves.
When I picked up my pace, I would locate the person in front of me and slowly pass them, repeating this process as many times as I could. The last person I passed was around mile 15 and I spent the rest of the race ensuring that I didn’t let them catch back up to me. Coming down the hill to the finish, mere yards from Lake Ontario, I was thrilled to have run a great race. It was just what I needed to give me confidence going into the Chicago Marathon.
I crossed the line in 2:06:24 (7:00 min/mile pace) and placed 8th overall. I placed third in my 30-34 year old division. However, this race does overall awards including cash prizes for the top three finishers, which in turn removes them from consideration in the age group awards. As the first and second place overall finishers were from my division, I was awarded the top spot in the 30-34 division. It’s cheating but I’ll take it!