by Brad Lewis
On August 18 in Castleton, NY, I decided to run the Clove Run in preparation for the Wineglass Marathon, my goal race this training cycle. Going into the Clove Run, I knew it wasn’t going to be flat. The course is in Rensselaer County, of course it won’t be flat! The terrain wouldn’t replicate what I’ll experience in the Wineglass Marathon, but going through the motions on race day is always helpful to get into a rhythm for racing.
I didn’t expect huge crowds, loud music, big giveaways, or banners everywhere. The Clove Run is a local road race that brings the community together. The runners in town compete with the locals who are looking to support the community. I leavened my expectations with experiences from other races. I directed a local road race in the past, and know how much work goes in to pull it off.
Showing up an hour before the race, I did a lap around the finish area in my truck because there wasn’t a sign where to park. I think I was a bit early since the 8am start was for the 10-mile race while the 5k started at 9am. I parked and self-navigated to the front of the building, following a fellow runner. When we walked in they were half-ready. The T-shirts were laid out and the course map was available for perusing, but they were still working on the timing company set-up. I proceeded to the day-of race registration, so they needed to put my information in the computer. It was completed verbally, and they accidentally put my last name first and first name last. The results read “Lewis Brad”. With all of the admin work complete, I was ready to go for my warm up.
This is where the local races really shine. I warmed up by running the last mile of the course backwards, and since it is an uphill finish, it was nice downhill and the air was crisp and fresh. It was then I noticed the humidity, 93% which was almost unbearable, but the temperatures were in the 70s which was helpful. The course was very well-marked. Color-coded arrows were painted on the road. I used the restroom, no lines at this time in the morning and then I looked for the starting line. I chatted a bit with the guy who was leading the race in his motorcycle while there. I asked a couple questions about the course and then went back to my truck to change into racing shoes.
The race started with some brief comments from the new race director, Sara Westcott and then some from the former director. They plan to have a slight name change next year to honor the man who started the race. Without a hitch, the race began.
My goal was a 5:45 pace. I clocked the first mile in 5:41, which was slightly uphill (+21ft). The next mile climbed +44ft and I quickly had the humidity and hills hit me, 5:56. I fought through the next mile hoping to get back to 5:50 or better, but only managed mile 3 in 6:03 (+20ft). The first water stop was at mile 3. The humidity had me soaked and I was ready to take a drink. Since I was the first person, the guy hadn’t handed any water out yet. He put a small plastic solo cup out for me to grab, I reached and he was holding it too tight, my hands were too wet and I couldn’t wrestle it from him, the water fell to the ground. His son was the backup, and unfortunately he wasn’t ready for me at all. I ended up without water for that stop. Mile 4 was again uphill (+22ft) and I slowed to a 6:10. The next water stop was at 4.5 miles. They were positioned across the street. I waved at them and they gladly shuffled across the street to hand me water. Success! Mile 5 was downhill (-51ft) and I was able to bring back a 5:52. Mile 6 was also slightly downhill (-16ft) but I couldn’t do any better than a 6:03. The hills and humidity were getting to me. The views were amazing! Fields and views for miles! Mile 7 was overall downhill (-23ft), but an incredibly brutal mile. There is a 100ft elevation drop, a turn around a corner, and then you go right back up that 100ft climb over 0.2 miles. I barely managed a 6:21 on this mile. I was wondering when this course would finally descend to RT 9J and allow us to gain some time from all of the slow miles. Mile 8 was that mile (-121ft). I was able to squeak out a 5:59. Mile 9 finally hit 9J and ran along the Hudson river. I went through in 5:58 and it was -38 ft. The final mile is perhaps the hardest at the Clove Run. +125ft and 0.33-mile ascent back to the school we started at. Once up the hill we zig-zagged another +20ft for the final 0.67 miles to the finish. The hill slowed me up to a 7-flat pace, but I ran a 5:40 pace for the final 0.66 to finish up in a 6:21 mile.
The finish line is near the start of the 5k and as I was finishing, they were starting. I thought it was going to be an issue, but the course is designed perfectly for this scenario. I finished 1st in 1:00:41. The post-race event was full of goodies to eat, baked goods from the community, Gatorade, water and anything else you would need. After a quick cooldown and a 20-minute wait, the results were ready and I received my trophy. It was a good day and was a good local race. Everyone who volunteered was available to talk with the racers. If you are looking for a fun, challenging race for a good cause (the CCMS Anchor, a worthy non-profit food pantry in Castleton), the Clove run is a great choice.