Earlier this month, I headed to Ithaca, NY for my fifteen year Cornell reunion. I cannot believe I have been out of college for fifteen years already!
My five year Reunion was a ton of drinking. Makes sense… we were in our 20s. My ten year Reunion, though, surprised me by also being a lot of drinking. (Though that year, I at least made it to the Saturday morning Reunion 5K, whereas I woke up still drunk and skipped it at the 5 year.) This year, I figured that most people would be at Reunion with spouses and kids in tow, and assumed that it would be a lot more tame.
Well, I was partially correct. I got to Ithaca on Thursday morning and took my work calls from my dorm room.
But most people didn’t arrive until Friday – which meant Thursday night was pretty quiet. As I was already coming off a work conference Monday through Wednesday that involved a lot of drinking, I was pretty strict about keeping Thursday low key, and had about half a glass of wine while meeting some new friends from my graduating class at dinner. The dinner (some wraps) was nothing to write home about, but a half dozen of us ended up wandering around North Campus and crashing the ice cream social another class was hosting. Cornell Dairy, yum!! I was quite content with trying half scoops of each flavor as my dinner 🙂
Friday morning, I went to a few lectures, alternating with popping back to my dorm room for some work presentations. I attended a great campus walking tour, where I learned a bunch of things I didn’t know about Cornell thanks to our amazing class historian, and in the afternoon, I enjoyed a lecture on Lessons from the Underground Railroad (which inspired me to pick up this book, which I’m excited to read). However, I found myself getting really sleepy during that, so I ended up going back to my dorm room and joining the President’s address via livestream from bed instead of going in person. Man, college kids these days have it made that livestreamed courses are an option!
I didn’t end up falling asleep during the President’s address, so I still felt pretty tired when it was done. But I had to get up and ready fast – it was time to meet friends for cocktails at the library!
From there, it was on to a reception for my college, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, where I met a few friends and also even saw my old labor economics professor. I was really excited about that last part – many of the professors I had fifteen years ago have since retired, so it was wonderful to see Professor Boyer still teaching 🙂 Then, it was on to our class dinner, where I was delighted to see a lot more people I knew. I was told that the 15 year Reunion is usually the biggest dip in attendance (due to the young families thing I had predicted), so we only had about 150 people from our class there, but I decided I liked the smaller size of the event – it made me more open to meeting and having meaningful conversations with new people instead of just having quick superficial conversations with people I knew in college. And I had met a group of friends at the 10 year reunion that it was really fun to connect with at the 15 year. I couldn’t believe how the last five years had flown by!
I had a few glasses of wine at the dinner, trying not to overindulge, but by the time we went up to the Arts Quad for the tent parties that began at 9pm, I was pretty tired! I ended up calling it a night at 11:30pm, which made my friends tease me… but I told them I needed the rest if I was to run the Reunion 5K in the morning. And I told them my goal was to beat them, so… 😉
The next morning, I woke up feeling reasonably rested when my alarm went off at 7am, even though I wasn’t totally sure how that was possible. The dorm we were in had VERY thin walls… to the point where I could hear my neighbor periodically cough from the next room over. (Thank goodness that was all I heard! 😂)That said, our dorm this year was definitely an upgrade from the year before. My understanding is that they assign the worst dorm to the youngest class (who is presumably much more able to tolerate the crappiness), and then as you age, you get a better dorm each time. While this dorm was old and not very nice, it was arranged in suites so you only had to share a bathroom with two or three other people, which made the whole communal bathroom thing not nearly as bad.
Speaking of that communal bathroom… I got ready quickly, and then knocked on my friend JP’s dorm door – we had planned to drive to the race together, but he stayed out later at the tent parties and overslept 😂 Luckily, he was able to get ready fast and we made it to the botanical gardens where the race was being held with plenty of time to spare.
We especially had plenty of time when there was a delay with the shuttle buses that most people were taking, and they pushed the race start back 15 minutes. Grr! I was a little antsy about the delay, since the race was already set to conflict with an ILR school breakfast I wanted to attend. My plan had been to run the race fast (I hoped), then quickly jet over to the ILR school and join the breakfast / talk already in progress. But when that plan seemed to be going out the window, I was able to make the best of it and spend the time catching up with my former Deloitte colleague, Joshua, who is from the class 15 years earlier than me and now lives in Saudi Arabia… but still comes back for every reunion!
It was lovely to see Joshua, but I got so invested talking that I didn’t do the warmup jog before the race I had planned. (Okay, and let’s be honest… I was grateful for the distraction, as I didn’t much feel like running extra!) I knew from the Bolder Boulder a few weeks ago that a warmup jog really helps me race my best, but… oh well. Let’s see how this goes!
Seeing all the little kids around me, I lined up at the front of the pack, but took off at what I didn’t think would be a too-aggressive pace. I ran the first 1/3 of a mile at about a 6:40 pace, which was what I was optimistically targeting as my average pace for the whole thing. It didn’t feel bad, though – I normally go out way too fast, and this felt reasonably comfortable. Plus, I noted that I was the first female, with about seven guys ahead of me.
It didn’t feel too bad, until, however, we hit a massive hill at the 0.3 mile mark. I didn’t remember this hill from last time! We climbed about 50 feet in just a tenth of a mile, for an average incline of 16% – yikes! The whole hill was around a curve, so I couldn’t really see what was ahead of me, and I was quite relieved when we were finally at the top. I had slowed down to about a 9:30 pace, but I hadn’t walked (yay!), and when it flattened out, I reminded myself to keep pushing the pace even though I was breathing heavily. Although it never feels like it in the moment, I knew that the lack of incline alone would help me recover and I didn’t actually need to slow down. Now I remembered that this hill was where some of my classmates had been throwing up into the bushes after a late night at the last reunion, haha 😂 The course was a double loop, so while I knew I’d be back here in another mile or so, it was comforting to know that the next mile would basically be a cruise-y downhill back to the start. What goes up must come down, right? I kept my eyes on the two guys in front of me as my rabbits, hoping that perhaps an opportunity would come to make a move and pass them at some point.
At the top of the hill, we gradually rolled down Arboretum Road a little bit at a time. I don’t think there were any real uphills, but the road would dip a bit and then flatten out; meanwhile, the course also undulated back and forth in a wavy line. I tried my best to run the tangents (which wasn’t too hard since there weren’t many people on the road in front of me for this lap), but between that and the big hill, this was definitely not a course to PR. I focused on trying to push the pace and ensure that my effort was just as hard on the downhill as it had been on the uphill, and found myself doing just under a 7:00 pace. I hit the first mile mark in 7:18, which I thought was pretty good given the steep hill.
Shortly after the one mile mark, we took a sharp right onto another road, and there was a little baby uphill (of no more than a couple hundred feet in length) before a more steady downhill back to the start. I passed the start at almost exactly 10:00 in, but my watch only showed 1.4 miles at this point, so I wasn’t quite halfway done. By the time I hit 1.5 miles on my Garmin, my watch time showed 10:34, which meant I was on track for about a 22:00 5K if I could do the same thing again. With that hill to go over again, I didn’t think it was likely I’d be able to shave enough time off to go sub-21, but I was fine with the pace I was going.
This time, though, I found the big hill a lot easier since I knew what to expect. I reminded myself that it was only about a minute to the top, and that I had done much longer efforts in Peloton tread classes (ahem, Matt Wilpers and his 5 minute hard efforts). As it turns out, I was just slightly faster the first time than the second time, with the Strava segment for Arboretum Hill Climb clocking in at 1:21 for the first lap and 1:23 for the second lap. A 9:09/mile pace is no joke for a hill that’s at a 16% grade!
Soon after I got to the top, my watch ticked across the 2 mile mark (7:10 split), and I reminded myself that I only had two songs left and I would be done. A 5K goes by so fast! And, the big hill was now permanently behind me; I just needed to keep pushing the pace downhill to the end. This lap wasn’t as easy to run the tangents, though, as I started passing walkers on their first lap. I tried my best to cheer for them as I ran by, but I honestly didn’t do a great job, as I was trying to push my own pace too much to be exuberantly friendly running by.
Unfortunately, as I crossed the start line, I realized that there was no way this course was long enough – my watch showed 2.8 miles crossing the start, and I knew it wasn’t another third of a mile to the finish. So while I soon crossed the finish line with my watch showing a very respectable time of 21:18, the distance only showed 3.03 – almost a tenth of a mile short. I considered continuing to run past the finish line so I could do a full 3.10 and see what my time would be, but with the big hill starting right after the finish line, and the fact that I didn’t want to look like I was trying to show off by continuing, I instead did the more “normal” thing and just finished at the finish 🙂 The race was self-timed, and although I was the first woman to finish, there were no awards or other fanfare. Instead, after I finished breathing heavily, I asked a volunteer if she would take a photo of me at the finish. Good enough! And then I settled in to wait and watch for my friends to cross the line.
The rest of Reunion Weekend was a lot of fun – I attended an incredible lecture on “Designing Your Next Best Move” (by the author of Options Are Power, which I highly recommend); took a class on dress patternmaking; spent a little time reading and relaxing at the library; and then met my dad when he drove up to join me for ice cream at the Cornell Dairy and an a cappella concert.
That night, I took Dad to our class dinner, where had fun making friends with my friends (new and old), and then we headed to the Arts Quad to dance the night away. While my dad ended up calling it a night and going back to his dorm room after that, I joined some new friends in heading to the Ag Quad for the official after-party, and then back to the common area in our dorm for an unofficial after-party of beer pong until 4am (!).
While staying up partying until 4am may not have been a change since college, one thing that had very much changed were the beer pong roles. In the interest of hygiene, we filled the cups with water and then sipped our drinks whenever someone scored. In the interest of middle-aged metabolisms, we drank White Claws instead of beer. And in the interest of our long-dormant beer pong skills, we capped the games at 45 minutes, even if we hadn’t managed to get more than a cup or two in that time 😂
Sunday morning, I slept late (though not late enough) until 9am, and then my dad and I headed up to Saratoga, where I got to spend a lovely (if too short) afternoon with my brother, sister-in-law, and nephews. I haven’t seen them since before COVID, and I missed them so much! I am hoping I can start coming back to visit a lot more.
In all, this was a wonderful weekend back to New York. I may not have PRed in the 5K, but I never expected to do so, so that was no disappointment. And instead, I got to reminisce with a lot of old friends, make a lot of new friends, and see my family for the first time in a long time. An amazing reunion, indeed!
Distance: 3.1 miles
Time: 21:18 (watch time; the race did not have official times)
Pace: 7:01 / mile