Friday, June 15, 2012

NYRR Mini 10K #2: Getting a 10K PR despite not knowing how to race a 10k

Short Version

Distance: 10K
Previous PR: 54:27 (from June 2011)
New PR: 50:45 @ 8:11mm pace
               24:51 for the first 5K, 25:56 for the second 5K 
Overall / Gender Place: 804 / 6119
Age Place: 221 / 1406
AG Gender Place: 1138 / 6119
AG Percent: 59.79%

Long Version
I had done this all female 10K last year and had a great time. I hadn't planned on doing this race again - I initially decided that my goal 10K race would be the Scotland Run in April. Unfortunately, my brain failed to register that I would be out of town that weekend.  
So instead, I decided to suck it up and pay the $35 to register for the Mini 10K - it may not be expensive for a 10K, but it was a steep price increase from $18 last year for NYRR members. Since it was a club points race for women, I would get the chance to represent my work team. It turned out that this would be my last chance to represent team HSS - I recently graduated from business school and was offered an amazing opportunity at another hospital, so as of next month, I'll be switching jobs. It was bittersweet - it was fun representing the team for a final time, but we weren't scored as a team because we did not have the 5 runners required - we only had four. 

The last time I really raced a 10K was this exact race last year, so my previous PR of 54:27 was very soft (my 15K and HM paces were faster). When setting my goals, I plugged in my 4 mile time of 31:31 into McMillan and got 50:03 as my optimal 10K time. Since there was only a four second difference between that and sub-50, I decided to make 49:59 my "A" goal for this race. While it was achievable, I knew that it would be a reach for me. I arbitrarily set my "B" goal at sub-52, and my "C" goal was simply to PR. 

I went to number pick-up a few days before the race, and since it was a women's only race, I got placed in the second corral for the first time ever. We ended up getting a fitted, orange, cotton t-shirt that for once wasn't way too big on me.  I had taken a cutback week so that I would be well rested for this race.

The morning of the race, I woke up early, and after catching a downtown bus, jogged to the baggage check area. After checking my bag, I recognized one of my Facebook running friends, Meaghan, starting her warm-up, and after introducing myself, she was gracious enough to let me tag along during her warm-up. After running about 1.5 miles together, we headed towards the start corrals. 

I started in the back of the red / second corral, and met up with another Facebook running friend, Gemma. Meanwhile, in another part of the corral, this happened. I won't go into detail here, but let's just say that I was very lucky I wasn't standing anywhere near that.  

Since this was the 41st year, and the 40th anniversary of racing the 1st ever race, they had the very first winner,  Jacqueline Dixon, who was a 17 year old Californian at the time, come in and say a few words. This was the first time she had been back since she won the race. Other notable athletes at the event included Nina Kuscsik, Desiree Davilla,  Katherine Switzer, and  Edna Kiplagat, who ended up winning the race in 32:08. On a personal note, my own mother ran the race in 1988 when it was called the L'Eggs Mini Marathon. 

After the customary National Anthem, the race began, and since I was close to the front, it took me less than 30 seconds to get across the start. For the first mile and a half, the course went directly up Central Park west, which is the western border of Central Park, instead of directly in the park. Since this was flat and fast, I finished my first mile slightly faster than I intended at 7:50. Last year, my parents were waiting on their corner to take pictures, but this year they were out of town. We entered the park in the middle of mile two, and I slowed down slightly to finish at 8:02. Mile three had the northern part of the park, which included Harlem Hill, but I stayed pretty consistent and finished in 8:03. I ended up crossing the 5K point at 24:51, which was a 7:59 average pace.

Since there was a timing mat at the 5K split, am I allowed to call this a 5K PR?

At this point, I was still going strong, but shortly after that, the wheels fell off the bus. Not only did mile four have the most elevation gain, there was no elevation loss. Here is what I had to say about mile four from last year's report: "Mile 4 was the hardest for me - after Harlem hill, the incline towards Engineer's Gate always seems unnecessary and painful....I found myself starting to get tired." Let's just say that history repeated itself. Despite my best efforts, my pace dropped to an 8:20 for that mile. 

At that point, I said to myself, "Ok, you're behind your "A" goal, but if you turn it around during mile 5, you might have a shot".  Despite my best efforts, and despite having a downhill for at least a quarter of a mile, my legs were not having it and I finished the mile in 8:16. When I crossed the mile marker, I knew that my sub-50 was out of the question, but that I still had a good chance of hitting my sub-52 "B" goal. I said to myself, "you have less than 10 minutes of running to go. Let's do it!" Despite my pep talk, and even after putting in my best effort, I was still obviously struggling - mile 6 ended up being the slowest one of the race at 8:23.  I am the first to admit that I am much better at pacing an HM than I am a 10K  

When the 50 minute mark passed on my Garmin, I was less than 200m away from the finish. I ran as fast as my tired legs would allow, and I finished the remaining 0.2 in 1:50. My Garmin said I finished in 50:47, and the official time was 50:45. Although not getting sub-50 was disappointing, I still PRd by approximately 3 1/2 minutes.  After looking at my results, I was more dissapointed when I realized that had I been 12 seconds faster, I would have reached 60% AG. Oh well, live and learn.  On the bright side, I finished first out of the members of my team. My garmin splits can be found here

After the race, I met up with a few friends for coffee. Wallis, Amy, and Barbara ran the mini as well, and we met up at the Starbucks after the race. An elderly gentleman was kind enough to take our picture. Everyone got a medal for finishing the 10K - while I personally don't think a medal for a 10K is necessary, we got that, and a pink flower (and true to tradition, I manage to break one and find another sitting around on the grass, just like last year). 

Coffee with some of my favorite
NYC running buddies
A few days later, the Brightroon pictures came out, and to my horror, I look like I am dying in each and every picture - probably because all of the pictures of me were taken within the last couple of miles on the course. Below is the one picture in which I look remotely decent. 
I decided to do a variant on my usual hands
in the air finish - I'm doing sign language
for the letter "Y". I thought about this
a great deal over the last two miles
in an attempt to forget the pain in my legs
In retrospect, I realize that although I have the potential to run a sub-50 10K, I just did not have the fitness to do so that day. Here are some reasons why things might have not worked out:

1) Possibly too little pre-race nutrition. I usually have something more substantial than a serving of shot bloks beforehand
2) The course. On a flat 10K, sub-50 might have been possible. Central Park is very hilly, and I'm used to running it in the other direction
3) The weather. The humidity wasn't quite as bad as last year, but 69% and 55% humidity still isn't ideal racing weather for me. 
I am very grateful to Meaghan for letting me tag along with her during her warm-up. I doubt that I would have done as much of a warm-up on my own, and it's one of the reasons why my first 5K went as well as it did. 

Thanks everyone for reading! The Corporate Challenge Race Report will be coming along sometime this weekend! 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Runners Occupy Wall Street: the AHA 3M RR

Short Version
Distance: 3 Miles
Time: 24:34 @ 8:11mm 
Overall Place: 1572 / 5540
Gender Place: 360 / 2693
Age Place: 126 / 804
AG Gender Place: 476 / 2693
AG Percent: 56.51%

Long Version

   I ran my first 40 mile week in 2012 last week, and this week, and I didn't do any sort of taper, so I knew that I was not heading into this race with fresh legs.
   Last night was the American Heart Association Wall Street Run, which is a 3 mile race held on the streets of downtown NYC. I had wanted to do this race last year, but couldn't due to my school schedule, so this was my first opportunity to do so. On Tuesday, I went to pick up the t-shirt and bib.

Another "small" oversized t-shirt
to add to my collection
   Getting to Wall St would have normally been a semi-pain since the green subway line was a long walk from my office, but I happened to have jury duty that day. It was an easy walk from the Courthouse to the start area.
   My friend / running buddy Abbey lives right at the start of the race, so I met up with her and her daughter Kayleigh beforehand. Abbey was nice enough to let me and my friend Zahava drop off our stuff at her apartment before the race. Our other friend Nicole came over as well, and we took a few pictures before leaving for the race. Kayleigh and her babysitter would come out briefly to see us start the race. 

Nicole, me, Zahava and Abbey
Me, Abbey and Kayleigh
We walked out of Abbey's building and the start was literally right there. Usually, in NYRR races, there are several different corrals differentiated by various color and number groups on people's bib times, but in this race, only the runners and walkers were distinguished, and the walkers had a separate start area (but a few of them managed to sneak in with the runners). There were small pace per mile signs suggesting where people should line up, but they were very ineffective due to most people ignoring them (or not even being aware that they existed).
   I didn't have my Garmin this time around mostly because it wasn't charged, but also because I had no real expectations of myself. I knew that the course would be hot and crowded, and that there was a good chance that I wouldn't perform up to my potential. Not the best idea on my part.
   The National Anthem was sung, but after that, the race was delayed by about 10 minutes for some reason. Once the race started, it took me about 2 1/2 minutes to cross the start line. I thought that I didn't care about my time, but the moment I crossed the line, it was like a switch went off and the competitive side of me took over. Immediately, I started dreaming of getting sub-24 minutes. My latest 4 mile race was sub-32, so theoretically, this should be a reasonable goal. 
   However, It did not take me long to realize that I felt completely lost without my Garmin, so I focused on trying to find my groove and getting around the crowds. Early on, I saw Zahava pass me, and at the time, I panicked and thought that I was starting out too easy, so I pushed it and blew past her and continued along the course. I didn't realize it at the time, but Abbey was right behind me for almost the entire race. 

Photo Courtesy of NYRR - I'm not in this one -
there were no photos of me on the course
   At the mile 1 marker, I saw that my split was 7:51, which was on pace for what I wanted, but early on in the race I could tell that it wasn't going to be my day. The streets were completely unfamiliar to me as a runner, and the pollution and smog made it very difficult for me to breathe. My mouth felt really dry at that point, and I was really tempted to stop at the one water station on the course, but ultimately I kept going. However, I didn't realize how far off pace I had fallen until I crossed the mile 2 marker and saw that my split was 8:19. Help
   By this time, it was painfully obvious that several people were using the sidewalks to cut the course short. The picture below displays this - some people ran in a curve along the building instead of running on the street to the corner before turning. To be fair, it's possible that some people didn't realize how much they were cutting the course, but there were definitely people who should have known better. I made sure not to do that - the few seconds wouldn't have been worth it to me. 

Courtesy of NYRR
   I knew that I would have to really push it in the last mile in order to have a shot at sub-24, so I went all in and ran as fast as I could. Mid-mile, some a$$hole decided to cross right in front of me with his dog and a collision almost ensued. Close to the end, everyone had to step up onto some sort of curb, which the course marshalls warned us about as we approached. 
   We finished along the waterfront, and although by that point I knew sub-24 wasn't going to happen, I was determined to finish strong and get sub-25. It was hard to have a fast finishing kick at the end due to the crowded, narrow finish, but I pushed as hard as I could. My final split was 8:24 and my official time ended up being 24:34. I ended up finding all of my friends within a few minutes after finishing, and I also said hello to my other friend Barbara as I was waiting. 

Courtesy of NYRR - Brightroom did not attend this race
so there were no finishing pictures for me personally
Overall, I had a fun experience, and although I know that I am capable of getting a sub-24 minute 3 mile race, today was just not my day. Would I do the race again? The jury is still out on that one. If the timing worked out I would consider it because I appreciated the change of scenery, but if it didn't work out, I wouldn't be crushed. If I do it again, my garmin will most certainly be there this time around.