Tuesday, April 24, 2012

City Parks Foundation Run for the Parks RR

Short Version
Distance: 4 Miles
Previous PR: 32:44 (8:11mm)
Time: 31:31 (7:53mm)
Overall Place: 1865 / 7303
Gender Place: 323 / 3468
Age Place: 94 / 807 (61.05%) 

Long Version
After the NYC Half last month, I plugged in my new personal best of 1:52:28 into the McMillan calculator and realized that I did not have a single PR at a shorter distance that reflected my potential. Well, I knew that long before last month, but my new PR made my previous ones even more obsolete. Even my previous 4 mile time, 32:44, was about a minute slower than my potential time of 31:49. Last time, I set my 4 mile PR about a month after the Cape Cod half last year, and it turns out that this race would be almost exactly a month after the NYC Half. I realized that if I were able to run this race to my potential, I would be accomplishing two of my goals for 2012: to get a sub-8mm bib pace for NYRR and to obtain over a 60% AG rating for a race.

With that in mind, I set the following goals
A) Finish in less than 32 minutes and get above an 60% AG rating
B) <32:03 and get an 60% AG rating 
C) <32:44 and PR 

I picked up my bib from NYRR on Thursday and ended up being in the 5th corral with an orange 4xxx bib. I was usually one corral closer to the front, but I figured that maybe there were a lot of faster people running this race. 

The day before, I did something that I had never done before a race. I was helping my manager train for his first half marathon coming up in May, so I agreed to do his 8 mile long run with him. While we took it at his easy pace, which was close to a minute slower than my own easy pace, a part of me wondered whether I had just completely sabotaged any chances of a good race the next day.

There had been predictions of monsoon-like rain during the race, but to my relief, it looked like it would hold off. However, I wore a baseball cap to be on the safe side. Since this was my very first race as a member of team HSS, I wore my team shirt and a running skort. I ate a quick breakfast and was out the door. 

After running a mile and change to the race as a warm up, I used the bathroom, said hi to a couple of people quickly, then headed straight to my corral. After the usual pre-race stuff, the horn went off....and my corral waited for almost three minutes before finally crossing the start line. Ah, the joys of larger races. 

Waiting in my corral
Even after passing the start line, I found it very difficult to establish a pace as I had to weave around tons of people, so I probably wasted more energy than I should have. Nonetheless I finished mile 1 at 7:47 per my Garmin (all miles are a few seconds off due to weaving). Although mile 1 contained a large hill known as Cat Hill, it was still close enough to the beginning where it was barely noticeable because of the adrenaline. 

Mile 2 was a slight downhill for most of it and was a nice reprieve between Cat Hill and the West Side Hills that would come in mile 3. My goal was not to slow down during that mile, and happily, I was a few seconds faster at 7:44. 

The last time I had raced this course, I had slowed down significantly during the West Side Hills of mile 3. Although I was breathing hard by that point, I did not want to allow myself to go slower than 8mm, so I pushed myself as hard as I could. To my surprise and delight, my Garmin signaled that I finished mile 3 in 7:49. 

A few seconds later, when I passed the marker, my watch indicated that I had really finished the first 3 miles in 23:40 or so, meaning that I had to finish mile 4 in 8:20 or faster to get a sub-32 race. Since mile 4 was either downhill or flat other than right at the finish, I pretty much knew that I had my A goal in the bag.

However, I refused to get complacent, so I ran as fast as I possibly could. I felt that mile 4 was faster than mile 3, but afterwards I checked my watch and it was almost the exact same speed at 7:50. However, the extra 0.05 at the end was at a 7:31 pace, so I probably sped up as I saw the finish line up ahead. I started to get nervous after I got past the 31 minute mark, but after I crossed, I looked down and saw that my time was 31:31. Mission Accomplished!

I know I'm hard to spot, but my arms are up in the air
The look on my face says it all. I don't think I left
anything on the course
My official results came out a few hours later - and I was excited to see that not only did I meet my sub-8mm goal, but I also got my first AG % above 60%!

Although NYRR puts on a well-organized race, there were a couple of things about it that really bothered me. According to the results, there were over 7,000 finishers, and I felt that it was too many people for a Central Park race. I did not remember having to struggle so much to be able to run my pace. I also didn't like the fact that they weren't going to hold the raffle until after the kid's race - I didn't want to wait around an extra hour so I left right after that. I also didn't like the fact that a few people literally crossed right in front of the runners (and then had the nerve to look offended that we didn't get out of their way), or that a few runners almost spit on me, but that's clearly out of NYRR's control.

Despite the few annoyances, I had a great time on Sunday. Perhaps someday I will take on the challenge of smashing my now very obsolete 5K PR of 27:26, but until I find one that fits my schedule, I'll have to accept that the 4 mile distance is my substitute 5k. 

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