Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pippi Longstocking & the Mini for Grete: It's a RACE!!!!

I had been looking forward to this event for quite a long time. Not only was it my first all women's race, it was the first race I participated in that gave out medals. This race also held sentimental value because it was put on in memory of famous marathoner Grete Weitz, who died earlier this year (which is probably why we received the medals in the first place).

In addition, although I had a great 10K debut at Scotland, I still had a funny taste in my mouth after doing the Healthy Kidney 10K under the weather. Although 57:08 is not a bad time by any means, I wanted to redeem myself and at least do better than that this time around. But considering there was a high chance of thunderstorms and high humidity, I decided not to go into this race expecting anything.

On Friday afternoon, I went to pick up my bib and t-shirt from NYRR. To my complete surprise, I was in the yellow corral. I guess this is what happens when guys are not allowed to participate in the race!

I met up with some friends for dinner after bib pickup for Gary's birthday, including Gary, who's weight loss journey has been inspirational to me, Amy, who's doing the mini off of three weeks of being sidelined due to injury, Rachel, who I met at the NYRR 4 mile and who's blog I also follow, and Gal, who is way faster than I could ever hope to be. I enjoyed a spaghetti dish with seafood and a white wine sauce. We had an interesting discussion about race day expectations people put on themselves, but I'll discuss that in a separate blog post - to simply put it, the wide range of opinions on this were very illuminating and I learned a lot about my own perspective, and how I wanted to approach these races.

The next morning, we woke up at 6am and each had a half a bagel - she had hers with cream cheese and I had mine with peanut butter - and then proceeded to get ready. Rachel braided my hair in pigtails. See the picture on the top left? I looked sort of like that, and probably just as young!

We were going to do a warm-up jog, but it was so humid that we didn't want to risk being too tired for the race, so we took a downtown bus and walked towards the park from there. We get to baggage by 7:30am and checked our stuff in. As we walked towards everything, we saw some club teams meeting up, and they all seemed so tense. After using the porta potty, we walked towards the corral. Rachel met up with Amy there, and I met up with Abbey in our corral. I was a bit dissapoinated that more women didn't wear pigtails in Grete's honor, but I could understand if people didn't feel comfortable running in pigtails. Oh well!

I decided that since I was feeling good at the start, I would go for a 8:45mm and try to hang on as long as possible. If I had enough energy after I finished the hills, I would push the last two miles.

Unfortunately, my garmin chose not to pick up any signal until after about 1/4 of a mile, so my splits are really messed up. The first two miles went really well - they were run on Central Park West for the most part. We set out a little faster than I had intended and probably finished mile one close to 8:30. It was a bit faster than anticipated, and I knew that we would have to slow down in mile 2 if we wanted to get through Harlem Hills successfully.

As we continued through mile 2, I saw my parents on the corner of 86th and Central Park West. They took some nice pictures of the race, including the one on the left. As we entered the park midway through mile 2, the humidity hit us like a ton of bricks - there was over 95% humidity, but all of the trees in the park made it that much more noticeable. We finished mile 2 more slowly, but strong, and knew that the hills were coming up ahead.

We took the Harlem Hills of mile 3 far faster than I anticipated, but I felt like I was going strong throughout. Mile 4 was the hardest for me - after Harlem hill, the incline towards Engineer's Gate always seems unnecessary and painful. It's probably a psychological thing. During that mile though, I had a harder time keeping up with Abbey, and I found myself starting to get tired.

Sometime just after the mile 4 marker, Abbey took off, and while I really wanted to keep up with her, I just found myself unable to do so. With the knowledge that I still had a good chance of a PR (bad garmin splits made it hard to tell), I decided to try and hold an 8:45 pace for the rest of the race and hope for the best.

Mile 5 was the hardest for me psychologically because even though I was tired, the end was not in sight yet, so it was probably my slowest mile. But once I realized I only had about a mile to go, I picked up the pace and flew down Central Park South as fast as possible. I passed the 800m sign, the 400m sign, and after seemingly forever, the 6 mile marker. Although it was uphill at the end, I pushed the last 200m as fast as possible until I finally crossed the finish line.

As I finally crossed, I heard my name, and I saw my mother cheering for me at the finish line, which was a complete surprise. Apparently after she cheered me on, she ran some of the course, but crossed the park at 72nd street so that she could get to the finish line in time. She accompanied me to the baggage claim, where I found my friends after a few minutes of anxious searching. I got my medal and rose along the way (I managed to break two of them - mom got me a replacement for the first one but the other one broke after I left).

I had a few minutes of panic when the results were posted - initially, my name wasn't up there with my approximate time - and I worried that my first time with the B-tag would be a complete failure. I probably drove my RW friends nuts with my worrying - sorry about that! When the results were reposted, I finally saw my name - with a PR to boot! I finished in 54:26 - 29 seconds faster than my first 10K and much better than the Healthy Kidney race last month. I wanted to redeem myself after that race and it looks like I finally did.

My first 5K was a new 5K PR for me - I finished in 27:01, which was 8:41mm. My second 5K was slower at 27:25, 1 second faster than my time at Coogan's, for a 8:50mm. While I slowed down during the second half, I managed to maintain a 8:46mm, which was essentially my goal. Overall, I was extremely happy with my race, and I felt like I had a strong finish. All of my fellow NYC Runner's World forum buddies, along with the other people at the race that I knew, finished strong and had amazing times. I was especially proud of Amy, who was able to get out there and run the 10k even after 3 weeks of barely running. I don't know if I would have finished as strongly under the same circumstances.

After we left the raffle, in which I didn't win anything, a group of us from the NY Forum of Runners world went to Starbucks and hung out for a while. Since I didn't have much cash on me, I owe my friends a coffee next time around! :-) Afterwards, despite some nitwit couple stealing our cab, a few of us managed to get a taxi-ride back to the east side. It's amazing how many new, amazing, and inspiring people I have met over the last 6 months! You girls are all amazing!

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