Among the Amish community Rumspringa (derived form the German term “Rond Springen” or “running around”) generally refers to a period of adolescence for some members of the Amish, that begins around the age of sixteen and ends when a youth chooses baptism within the Amish church or instead leaves the community. (wikipedia). However, Uberendurancesports has cleverly grabbed on to the “Running Around” part to give us runners a chance to well, run around.
The Rumspringa half-marathon took place in Adamstown, PA yesterday beginning and ending at Stoudtburg Village, which is a cute little European modeled tourist attraction that is half-shopping center/half-residence. Adamstown and Stoudtburg Village are both found in the heart of Lancaster County, hence the Amish tie to Rumspringa.
It was pouring rain when I woke up early before the race and I thought “Swell”. But when I left for the short drive to Adamstown, the rain had pulled away and low clouds scudded across the sky as dawn broke. It would clear up as the morning wore on. But those clouds were being moved out by some pretty strong winds.
Packet pick-up was quick and simple. This was a no-frills event. I got a shirt, bib (#117), and a blue ticket for a post-race beer. Stoudtburg Village is conveniently part of the Stoudt’s Brewery complex and a post race party would take place at the brewery. Nothing like a 10:30am beer to inspire a great race performance. It was nearly an hour before race time and while the temperature was not too bad, the wind was whipping and the wind chill extreme so I made my way back to the car and sat with the engine running to stay warm for a bit taking the opportunity to get my last-minute race stuff ready.
As race time rolled around I checked the temperature. 46 degrees and very windy. I have to admit it was a little tempting to just wait in the car until the post-race party started. I had gone with compression shorts, calf sleeves, and a long-sleeved running shirt. I debated about gloves. I hadn’t thought to grab a pair of cheap, throwaway gloves but this would have been the perfect day for them. Oh well, I decided I’d wind up carrying gloves for most of the race and decided to deal with cold hands for the start.
Geared up, I made my way to the porta potty line and found myself behind a young women with an IM visor on. I asked “Which one”? Her name was Lauren and she had done the inaugural IM Chatanooga. We whiled away the time in the lengthy porta-potty line chatting and comparing notes about Ironman. We would both like to “try again” but need to convince our skeptical spouses. Lauren also qualified for Boston in the fall and will be racing in 2016 as well. I’ll have to keep an eye out for her among the 26,000 entrants.
Before the race I bumped in to friend Crista Raymond. Neither of us knew the other was racing today. Crista informed me this would be her first half-marathon. Awesome! I thought to myself that after today, others halves would seem pretty easy. The Rumspringa course is basically a hilly lollipop shaped course.
Finally, it was time to head to the start. The race is billed as a collaborative effort between a pastry chef and a runner. We were promised a race on a hard course followed by good food. What’s not to like? With that we were sent on our way with the traditional “On your mark, get set, GO”!
We started out on the narrow pathway out of the village. There was a green traffic control hitching post kind of thing around the first corner that could have been lethal to the unwary runner, but once beyond that we exited the village and were on to the main roads. Last week my coach, Mark Kotarski, asked me what my goal for this race was. Goal? Hmmm. I hadn’t really thought about it. Have a beer? That seemed like a good goal. Vaguely, I decided on a 7:30 pace as a goal. Early season, hills, and as it turns out, wind. Sure. 7:30 pace was my goal.
Stephan Weiss, the race director made no bones about the course. It is notoriously hilly. He said the first 6 miles are easy after that you are in the hills. In fact the first 6 miles are a gradual downhill. At that point the wind was not at it’s peak but it was at our backs. Running those first few miles was somewhat effortless.
I began encountering one issue that would not go away throughout the race. Before going any further it is a known fact that runners and triathletes share far too much information about bodily functions. In running or endurance sports circles this discussion is de rigueur and fellow athletes don’t bat an eye. To the uninitiated, it could be a bit TMI. That said, I had started the day and the race with a bit of a lower GI cramp somewhere in the leftt side of my abdomen. While I’m not doctor, I am quite sure the prescription for lower GI discomfort is not running a 1/2 marathon. Despite attempts to relieve the cramp (refer to porta potty line above), the cramp persisted and was growing worse. Well, too late now. Just keep running. It probably isn’t fatal.
There were 369 entrants for Rumspringa. I had started basically toward the front and by mile 5 the field was pretty strung out. So much so that it became a bit like a long run with only the occasional runner out in front of me most of whom I passed, and others were just visible in the distance.
As promised, the mile 6 marker was a chalk mark on the road half way up a long hill. I was familiar with the hill. I had ridden up it at least once by bike so I knew the length. There was a photographer part way up. I thought “Really!? Here!? Why not back down where it was down hill or flat and we all had smiles on our faces”? From miles 6-8 the hills and the stomach cramp got worse.
The worst of the steep hills were now behind me but Mother Nature had another “treat” in store. At the mile 9 aid station I walked and sipped water and stretched a bit hoping to find some relief from the intestinal knot. Trying to find relief from GI issues mid-race requires a bit of delicacy. Those that have been there will understand. I got passed by the only person to pass me most of the day. It was Lauren’s brother whom I had met pre-race. I told him “great job” as he motored away from me and I followed.
Shortly after mile 9 we turned North . . and were greeted by an extreme headwind. Wow! I would read later in the day that gusts had hit the 40 mph hour mark and I can believe it. Sustained winds were in excess of 25 mph. As we made our way to the end of the loop and back to the stick of the “lollipop”, the winds really got fierce. Most of mile 11 was in wide open country heading directly into the teeth of the wind and uphill. If an Amish buggy had come along I may have hopped on the back. As it was, I had to run with my head down to keep my hat from blowing off. That mile was probably one of the most difficult I’ve ever run in a race.
The good news is running into that wind I forgot about the growing pain in my side for a while. In the distance I saw a runner turn right into the relative shelter of the development we would wind through on the way back to Stoudtburg Village. I focused on reaching that point. Once I made the turn there was a little protection from the wind. The way back was all a steady uphill with occasional secitons into the teeth of the wind but nothing like the brutal mile 11. But the ache in my side was now throbbing. I desperately wanted relief and walked a few feet now and then to get it to subside. There was one young woman who passed me the couple times I walked but I passed her back as soon as I started running again. We leap frogged our way through the development and mile 12.
Finally, I could see the brewery. Time to ignore the pain and run. I left the development, turned momentarily onto 272 with the guidance of a local police officer and then on to the road to Stoudtburg Village. I passed the young woman again for good. There was nobody in front of me to catch and nobody else behind me to worry about catching me. I ran up the road and into the narrow village entrance with a bit of a crowd cheering me on. I noted that the crowd included a cute, fluffy golden retriever puppy I would meet post-race. (His name was Gus.) A course marshall said “Just around the corner. You’re almost there”. I’ve raced enough to know that to a marshall or spectator “almost there” could be several hundred more yards. That may seem like “almost there” to someone who hasn’t run 13 hard miles in the wind but to me “almost there” would be about 50 yards. I was running as hard as I could finish. I raced down through the little Euro-village and it’s colorful buildings. A finished runner said “Just around the corner”. Uh huh. I went “around the corner”. No finish yet. I got to another corner. “You’re almost there”. But this time I was. There ahead of me was the finish. With the wind, hills, and cramp I had decided anything sub-1:40 was good. I crossed the line at 1:38:14 which turns out to be exactly 7:30 pace. Now if I could just get rid of this cramp enough to drink a beer I could hit all race goals.
I made a bee line for the nearest place to sit to recover for a minute and then high-fived the young woman I finished just ahead of. Now about that cramp . . . fortunately porta potties are not busy when you finish the race quickly. With the cramp extinguished, I found the post-race food and nibbled on a banana and bottle of water. I caught up with Lauren and her brother as well as fellow triathlete Mike Kahn. I was getting cold so made my way back to the car to change into drier warm clothes. This act was performed car-side using a large towel. I’m pretty skilled at this but a hard wind adds a bit of challenge. Inevitably some muscle cramps up at an inopportune moment too. But I managed to don dry clothes with relative modesty before heading to the brewery banquet hall.
Overall the race was enjoyable despite the vicious wind and cramp. It was inexpensive, local, well run. The post-race beer was a nice touch though the brewery only assigned two bartenders and it took a long time to server 300+ thirsty runners a beer. They featured traditional German music and dancing while we were waiting which, frankly, was a bit loud but otherwise entertaining. I sat and sipped my beer with Mike, another Ironman triathlete Don Bitting, and their friend Scott. We all agreed a bit more beer might be required to go try the German dances and none of us were interested in either.