After settling in to our crappy accomodations and devouring a bag of goldfish we set out to head back to Utica. The plan was to find Donna and then find a place to eat a simple pasta dinner. I think that we made it back to the expo area with out making wrong turns but my memory is probably fooling me. We made so many wrong turns that weekend that I find it highly unlikely that we made it there correctly in one shot. Anyhow, we did make it there and quickly met up with Donna. We decided to drive the course and then find a restaurant.
We made the mistake of using the map provided in the race packet for the course. While it is a decent map of the course it omits pretty much everything except the course. Not having side streets or other landmarks on the map makes it hard for non-natives to navigate the streets of Utica. That seems to be the trend with the directions and maps for this event. They seem to be great if you are familiar with the area but horrible for everyone else. Even the course was very hard to follow. They had mile marker signs but they were brown posted on brown street signs. They weren’t very large and they weren’t mounted very high. At first I didn’t believe the others when they told me there were mile markers.
We headed through the course but made the mistake of looking at streets on the north side of the road to find the left left turn. We ended up missing the drive up through the golf course. I suppose it’s just as well as that turned out to be the steepest section of the course. After a wrong turn or two we ended up at the finish line for the course. We then turned around to find dinner.
We weren’t able to navigate the course in reverse and made a wrong turn but stumbled across a little italian restaurant. They had pasta so we stopped. I got a spaghetti like dish. They served enough to feed approximately 42 people. I ate a little of it and passed on the garlic bread. Garlic bread always seems to make me thirsty. Donna ordered pasta “hats.” Apparently it’s somewhat of a type of pasta local to Utica. The hat pasta looks like little winter hats. When I saw it I could only think of the guy with the pink hat over his eyes on Fat Albert. Although they seems like they would be the perfect hat for your tongue it turns out that they are not. Donna tried to wear one on her tongue and it fell out on the table. Ick! Dinner was graciously sponsored by the Official Rowe Fan Club (thanks!).
After dinner we dropped Donna off at her hotel, which was something like 1.6 * 10^1000000 times nicer than the disgusting Quality Inn in Rome NY (yes, I’m hoping that gets picked up by google so other poor saps don’t spend $130 on a “room” there). We then headed back to Rome. Yes, we made a wrong turn. This time we were on the right track but didn’t give it enough time. So we exited route 49 early, turned around back onto 49 and then continued on to the crappy inn.
Suprisingly we arrived back at the hotel at a reasonable hour. We were advised that we should leave Rome by 5:45am to comfortably make it to the start of the race at 8am. We set our alarms for 5am and turned off the TV. Luckily I really didn’t have the race on my mind so I was able to sleep pretty well. I was more concerned about the smear on the headboard than the race. Overall I slept pretty well. I was awakened by some poor soul at about 1:30 or 2:30am. Apparently their Advil was locked in their friends trunk and they could not live with out it.
At 5am the alarms went off. I got up and went to the shower. Although the room was gross the shower, thankfully, wasn’t too bad. I cleaned myself up for the day and got suited up. I ate half of a bagel and waited for Mary to get ready. We ended up running a little bit late, perhaps by about 10 minutes. We met up with the Official Fan Club in the parking lot near the checkout. They had already checked out. I went in and found that the computer systems weren’t working and they weren’t able to check people out. I wasn’t the only racer there and at least one of the racers was a little upset. I was more upset about headboard smears and overpriced rooms but the race was the only important thing for me at that time. The guy at the desk took down our names and email addresses and promised to email us receipts for our rooms. We didn’t have a choice or else we’d be late for the race.
We headed out to Utica and made a wrong turn not more than 5 minutes into the drive. We then turned around and made another wrong turn AT THE SAME INTERSECTION. Three is a charm and we finally started on our way. On the way we saw a van slow down and then clip the back end of a deer. The deer was launched into the air where it spun around once and then landed. The van wasn’t in very bad shape. It seemed to have just barely hit the deer. That’s pretty scary considering the force that was applied to the deer. Anyhow, we were grateful it wasn’t us. Had we not made 2 wrong turns and been delayed maybe we would have hit the deer? Nah, more likely we would have been in Utica before the deer even got up for the morning.
When we arrived in Utica there was a light-up sign proclaiming “Utica Boilermaker Parking turn here.” Being an idiot I followed the sign. That was the ONLY sign. I guess they just assumed that after you made that turn you’d magically find the parking. We decided to turn around and go the way we knew was right. Shortly after that we made it to our parking lot near the starting line. We gave out valuables to the Official Fan Club and then headed over to the actual starting area. The Official Fan Club then drove over to the finish line to park their car. I felt bad as we ate up a lot of their available time to find the lot because of all the wrong turns that we made.
While sitting on the curb, sipping a little bit of (free!) coffee Donna stumbled across us! We hadn’t determined any place to meet so it was nice to find her. She wasn’t feeling well. Her cold was really bad. We hung around observing the pre race routines of other runners. We hit the porta-potties a couple of times. I couldn’t help but wonder…out of 14,000 runners how many would have diarhea on the morning of the race? It’s gross I know, but the odds are against you. You have race day jitters and a water supply that you aren’t used to. Luckily I didn’t end up in that miserable group of people.
At about 7:45 or so we headed over to our designated starting area. They place you based on the honor system and we were placed in the last group. A few minutes before the start of the race I headed over to a garbage can to throw out some water. I stepped over a guard rail and scraped my leg. It started to bleed but it didn’t bleed much and it didn’t hurt. I wondered if it would sting when I started to sweat.
While waiting I observed that the sun was pretty warm even at 7:45 am. I was pretty worried that the sun would be a significant factor in the race. I don’t like running much when the sun beats me down, over and over. The announcer came on and told us about the Legendary Price Chopper Lunch awaiting us at the finish line. Then there was the national anthem and the typical people thanking people section that no one cares about. Promptly at 8 am the gun went off and the elite runners were a mile down the road before we even moved one foot forward. This race is chip timed so it wasn’t a big deal that it took a full 8 minutes to reach the starting line or that a huge quantity of runners hadn’t made it to the line-up area and instead just cut in front of the people that can actually follow directions.
…And we were off. Donna with a terrible cold, Mary with tired legs, and me just not quite feeling like running and being worried about the sun.