The Freezeroo is an annual series of six races sponsored by the Greater Rochester Track Club (GRTC) between the months of December and February. This is my fourth year of running this often snowy and sometimes icy series. The individual races range in distance from the Don Curran 5K to the Valentine Run in Memory of Tom Brannon 8 Mile. Awards are given at the conclusion of the series for the top three overall and age group runners. Here’s my write-up of my participation in the first race of the season, the Don Curran 5K. BTW, the picture above was taken by an unidentified photographer at GRTC and found at the Freezeroo website.
The Backstory – I own a comfortable, late-model Subaru Legacy with heated seats and great sound system, but, I arrive at Northstar Christian Academy in my 1991 Dodge Dakota pick-up. There’s just something about cruising to this race series in this 25 year-old war horse with 193,000 miles on it that just seems right. Maybe it’s the throaty sound of the V8 engine, the crack of the speakers under the strain of Van Halen, or the spacious bench seat upholstered in “Austin Powers” burnt red velour, but, for me, this sweet ride is part of race-day fun.
We have overcast sky and a temperature of 36 degrees at the 10 AM start – great running weather! There’s no snow or ice to negotiate, just an intermittent, cold drizzle that holds off at start time. Rest assured though, dear reader, we’ll have challenging weather before the end of this series. It’s not called “Freezeroo” because the registration is free!
The Prep – Because of the winter weather, choosing race attire is especially important for this series. Too much: hot. Too little: cold. I’ve got my gray shorts over black compression shorts, green, long-sleeved Empire State Marathon shirt, and short-sleeved blue LIFE Runner shirt on over that. On my feet are Mission Vaporactive crew socks that I won from the Montezuma Half Marathon earlier in the year (third in age group) and black Asics running shoes. Because of the possible drizzle, I wear a ball cap to help keep the moisture off the lenses of my glasses, though I end up pulling this off at mid-race, due to a need to stay cool. On my hands, I’ve got stubby green gloves that probably belonged to one of my sons when they were younger – just enough to keep the fingers and palms warm!
It’s ironic that I looked forward to this first race of the Freezeroo series with such gusto, because 5K’s are my least favorite run. It seems that the only way that I can run one competitively is to open up full throttle from beginning to end. It’s all strain and pain. But, here I am! I pick up my bib, greet some fellow runners, and complete some brief warm-up laps. I’m ready to race!
The Race – I was tucked in the back half of the 146 runners and chatting at start time. I was making some goofy comment to my neighbor when everyone surged forward. I cut myself off mid-sentence and lunged forward in excitement. The race is afoot! I cruise out and establish a pace just under 7 minutes per mile. I begin traversing the course, taking care to avoid puddles and other runners.
The Don Curran 5K is an out-and-back that cuts through parking lots, streets, a park, and alongside a fairly major thoroughfare (Long Pond Road). The turnaround point is found midway down a residential street and marked with an orange pylon. Supportive volunteers point the way at the several twists and turns, so following the route is no problem. There are no aid stations.
Despite the easy going, “club” feel of this series, there are some very fast, competitive runners, and they have darted out ahead of the pack, creating, in one sense, a smaller race ahead of the race. I admire their speed! Because I started near the back, I truck past quite a few fellow runners in the opening minutes. I complete my first mile in 6:53.
The second mile begins on Long Pond Road and continues down the residential street. The race leaders begin passing us in reverse on their return route, and, for a moment, there is that twinge of envy: “I wish I could blast off like that!” The envy fades quickly, as I’m happy to just be in the game.
It is between 2.0 and 2.5 miles of a 5K that I find most difficult. I’m feeling it now, and there’s still quite a distance to go! I keep my head down and chug it out, though I’m slowing just a bit (i.e., about 7:08). I have some moments of doubt: “Is this the race that I crash and burn?” I reject these thoughts and press on toward the finish, willing my legs to maintain tempo and pacing deep, quick breaths. I can sense one fellow runner, whom I passed earlier, gradually moving up on me. I increase my tempo. We might say this is a leisurely series, but most of us know that a big part of the leisure is leaning into the competition. It’s that neighbor off your shoulder who brings out your best running efforts! As I bang out the course, I have a brief image of a battered sea vessel chugging beyond its comfortable limit, like when Humphrey Bogart’s character plows toward the German ship in the closing act of “The African Queen.”
The Big Finish – As I approach the final half mile, I am relieved with the growing awareness that, yes, I will make it. As I see the “3 Mile” marker, I pour it on and approach the finish line with my jets at full burn. I made it in 21:58 (28th overall, 5 out of 11 in my age group). I’m pleased that I got under 22 minutes! At the finish line, I bend over, tilt my head down, put my hands on my hips, and breathe strenuously – pant, I guess one would say – for about 45 seconds, in order to recover. Then the pain is gone, and I am ready to celebrate. Tim Dwyer, an athlete in the 55 – 59 age group, came in first with a time of 18:36. Now, that’s impressive!
Post-Race Festivities – Inside the cafeteria of Northstar Christian Academy, a beautiful post-race buffet is arranged by kind volunteers. I love the camaraderie and the celebration. If one hangs out with runners, they will be hanging out with a crowd that is, by and large, very happy to be alive. I settle on hot black coffee, banana halves, and a wonderful toasted raisin bread and peanut butter sandwich. I think peanut butter is the world’s most perfect food, and I would take that sandwich over most items on the menu of a pricey restaurant any day of the week. My thanks to the GRTC leadership, volunteers, and fellow runners for a great first race of the season.
How I Ended the Day with Rocker Lou Gramm – The legendary rocker and former Foreigner frontman performed at the House of Guitars that Saturday evening following the race. My family cruised over to the H.O.G. (this time in the family vehicle, not the Dakota truck, let’s be reasonable), found easy parking, strolled through the front doors, and listened to a great set of classic Foreigner tunes. I had heard that it was going to be an
acoustic set, but he had his band and amps. You probably know how impressive it is to hear musicians at the top of their craft up close and personal, and Gramm still has the chops! He and his band played some great tunes from my youth, including Double Vision, Urgent, Juke Box Hero, and, of course, Cold as Ice. Speaking of “cold” and “ice”, the next Freezeroo race is the 7.5 mile New Year’s Resolution Run at Mendon Ponds Park on January 1. And, I’ll be there, ready to go. Hey, if Lou can keep rocking, I can keep running.