Race run on July 6th, 2019
Craig had a bachelor party scheduled the weekend of July 4th, and my firm gives us all of July 4th week off – so I figured the second weekend of the break would be a great one for me to make a quick solo getaway. I always find it difficult to plan trips to other places (when I am on vacation, I just want to be home, since I travel so much for work), but by then, I would have already had eight days in Superior. As good a time as any to visit my family in upstate New York!
As usual, once I had the trip booked, I started checking out Running In the USA to see if there were any races I could while I was in New York. Sea level is always a treat! And as luck would have it, I discovered that there was a very special 5K scheduled in Lake Luzerne, New York.
I was the nerdiest kid ever in elementary school, and had basically no friends. By 6th grade, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was just weird and unlikeable and would never have any friends. (Ha.) Then I got a scholarship from Luzerne Music Center to play French horn at music camp.
I made so many friends at camp, was voted “most congenial camper” at the end of the summer, and even left camp with my first boyfriend (who kissed me on the cheek in a canoe on the last day of camp… ooh la la). It changed my life. I went back to middle school a new person, started making lots of friends, and in high school, was voted onto the prom court. Quite a far cry from lonely ten year old me!
So when I saw that the “Move it for the Music 5K” was being scheduled to raise money for the Luzerne Music Center scholarship fund, I couldn’t believe my luck. I could go back and see my old beloved camp, while also giving a little bit back to the organization that had given so much to me. Plus, a few years ago, my mom made a donation in my name to the camp as a gift to me (best gift ever!), and my name was also supposed to be inscribed on a music stand somewhere at camp – I thought it would be fun to wander around camp and try to find it 🙂
I got into Albany on Friday afternoon, and both of my parents came to greet me at the airport – I felt like a celebrity! My mom headed back to her house after that (I’d see her Saturday morning), while my dad drove me up to Saratoga. As usual, I was planning to stay at my brother’s house for the weekend, but my brother and his family were over at a friend’s house for the afternoon, so I joined them over there for an impromptu pool party. Pool parties ended up being the theme of the weekend, and we spent each afternoon having one!
Late afternoon, we invited my brother’s friends back to my brother’s house for an impromptu barbecue, and I helped my sister-in-law cook up a few dishes to go along with the chicken and ribs my brother was grilling up. Most people ended up staying up late hanging out, but I yawningly said goodnight early – which meant I got a really good night’s sleep the night before the race.
My mom picked me at 6:45am, and after a stop at Stewart’s Shops for their delicious coffee (I had caffeinated, since it was a race day!), we were on our way through tiny Corinth and onto Luzerne. The town was smaller than I remembered it – I had thought the camp was set way back in the woods (we felt so isolated there!), but it turned out to be very close to town. Then again, back when I was at camp, a mile felt like forever, and a distance I wouldn’t have dreamed of running or walking 😉
Turning down the camp driveway, I was surprised how much of the camp looked the same. There were a bunch of new buildings, yes, but so many of the buildings looked almost exactly they way they had when I was a camper, more than twenty years ago. We parked in the big recreation field (that was rarely used as anything other than a parking lot, since most of us hated sports), and I headed to the table that had been set up by the camp director’s office for packet pickup. The campers were serving as volunteers to hand out the race bibs, and it felt really weird to see my old music / theater and running worlds colliding!
We had a little while before the race start, so my mom and I wandered around camp for a little while; then, everyone headed from the front yard of camp out to the perimeter road that went around the lake – this was where the race would begin. We had some brief announcements from the camp director, while I looked around and tried to gauge my competition. There was a girl next to me who looked like she might be a good runner, and we exchanged a few quick words to learn that neither of us had done this race before or had any idea of the route. Well, here goes nothing!
The race began, and I switched on my very special playlist I had made in the car – first the overture to Candide, then Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. With Rhapsody in Blue being so long, that would take me to 21 minutes… which hopefully would be enough time for me to be totally done! This was my second race of the week with only a two song playlist (the Superior Mile being the first), but this race would be quite a bit longer. I was excited to get to run to two songs I had learned to play at camp!
I took off, and quickly left many of the campers behind… but there were several adult runners ahead of me. It looked like two women and three men. I wanted to be up there with them! The race started on a slight uphill, but a half mile in, we got a big downhill – and I took advantage of it to fly down and pick up some speed. (Strava says I was running a sub-5 minute pace on it, but I never know how accurate those point in time paces are.) And at the bottom of the hill, there was a quartet of campers playing music for the runners. How sweet!
We turned left to curve around the lake, and immediately had a hill in front of us. I took advantage of the opportunity to pick off one of the female runners, and one of the guys stopped to walk so I passed him as well. Two down, four to go! But the woman and two men ahead were running strong, so I bided my time.
The one mile mark came right at the top of the hill, and Strava told me I had run it in 6:41. Definitely not a sub-20 minute, PR kind of day, with this heat and humidity, but I thought that was still pretty respectable. I focused on keeping a steady pace and not letting the woman ahead of me widen the gap. I wasn’t ready to go after her yet, but I wanted to make sure my window didn’t get away from me.
We turned a corner, and now we were running on the sidewalk of the main road in town (Route 9). I could see the woman in front of me, but she was pretty far ahead, so I hoped I wouldn’t miss a turn. The previous turns had signs at them, but no volunteers pointing the way, so I hoped it would all be straightforward. But just before the 2 mile mark, we turned left from the sidewalk onto a side street, and started heading up a hill. Definitely not time to give up yet! My second mile clocked in at 7:16 – a thirty second slowdown, so I hoped I could maintain this pace (or even surpass it) for the last mile.
Heading up the hill was pretty quiet and lonely, so I focused on gathering myself together and continuing to run strong. When I got to the top of the hill, I couldn’t see the woman ahead of me, and I thought to myself how funny it was to be running a race where I couldn’t see anyone else, or any signs that I was going the right way. At least, I hoped I was going the right way! But then I saw a sign indicating a right hand turn up ahead, so I breathed a sigh of relief.
Unfortunately, that was my downfall. The previous turning signs had all come about 50 feet before the actual turn – so when I saw this sign (on the left side of the road), I looked ahead and saw the road go forward and to the right, and assumed that was where it meant to go. However, there was actually another street that went steeply uphill into the trees right where the sign was placed (again, with the sign on the left side of the road). And that was where I was supposed to go.
Instead, I charged forward, and found that the road curved to the right just before turning into a beachfront. I started heading down the hill, thinking “oh, what a lovely beachfront! How cool that we now get to run right around the water!”… until the road dead ended at the beach, and I didn’t see another runner in sight. There were just two guys getting ready to go standup paddleboarding, and the beach didn’t appear to go anywhere else. “Um, do you guys know where the race goes?” They looked blankly at me. But using my Nancy Drew skills, I saw no footprints in the sand, and deduced that I must have gone the wrong way – so I jogged across the sand, up the stairs, and saw another female runner coming toward me. “No, don’t come this way! It’s the wrong way!” I yelled to her. “I don’t know which way the course goes!” She had headphones in and seemed like she couldn’t hear me, so she kept going right as I found the uphill road I had missed turning onto. How had I missed this?? I don’t know; I am an idiot. But I checked behind me and found the other woman coming back as I started going the right way, so at least I didn’t feel bad that I had led someone else astray.
This wrong turn had cost me more than 90 seconds (especially since I stopped and stood on the beach confused for a few seconds), which was a big bummer. I wondered how many people had passed me going the right direction while I was down on the beach? I didn’t know that, but I did know there was no way I could now overtake the woman who had been in front of me. Disappointed, I found myself slowing my pace a little bit as I wound around the lake road. To try to get my energy back, I flipped my music from Rhapsody in Blue back to the Candide Overture – this was the music I wanted to finish to.
The course for the last half mile had lots of turns, and lots of little ups and downs. When Strava announced I had done 3 miles (third mile time: 7:51. Oof, that confused stop!), the finish line was still nowhere in sight, but I knew I had added extra mileage with my wrong turn. Finally, I heard some cheering in front of me – so I picked up the pace and at least finished strong. I later found out I hadn’t been passed by any more women, so my time was good enough for second place. But the really cool part was, two campers held up a tape for me to break! I’ve never gotten to do that before, and it was a lot of fun 🙂
I was totally out of breath, sweaty, and exhausted when I finished. That had been a hot, humid race! I was really grateful for the jug of cold water, and also for the brass quintet that was playing classics like “Chariots of Fire” at the finish line. That was a really neat touch 🙂 While I was really mad at myself for going the wrong way, I was more overwhelmingly proud of myself for how far I’d come since Luzerne. That nerdy introverted ten year old had blossomed into a successful and outgoing athlete! I was so excited I got to come back to this magically formative spot from my childhood.
After hanging out at the finish line and cheering for about twenty minutes, my mom and I headed back to camp. There was a post-race breakfast (pastries, fruit, and cereal) laid out on tables near the registration, but participants were also welcome to go into the dining hall – which I chose to do to get oatmeal. Walking into the dining hall, I was amazed at how that very specific smell came back to me and I remembered it. They say that smell is one of the strongest senses to evoke nostalgia, and this was evidence of that – 20 years later, I still remembered it!
The oatmeal was delicious, and then my mom and I enjoyed walking around camp for about thirty minutes until the award ceremony. I kept trying to find the music stand that was inscribed with my name, but didn’t end up spotting it – there are a lot of music stands at a music camp 🙂 I particularly enjoyed heading down to the waterfront. Although I liked to swim, I always remembered it as being a huge chore and really far to walk down to the lake… but it turned out to be only a two minute walk from the piano pavilion. It cracked me up to realize how out of shape I was back then, compared to now.
Overall, while I’m mad at myself for taking the wrong turn, I am so glad that I went up to Lake Luzerne to do this race while I was visiting my family. I just loved going back to where I feel like I first started becoming who I am today. (Though who would have thought back then I’d someday become “a runner”? Admittedly, I still have trouble calling myself by that label.) I had such a blast revisiting such a formative place from my childhood, and hope Luzerne can keep giving kids the same magical, musical summers for years to come! 🎶♥️📯
Distance: 3.1 miles
Overall place: 6th (total unknown)
Gender place: 2nd (total unknown)