Monday, March 4, 2013

Hill Training 101: The Coogan's 5K RR

Short Version

Distance: 5K
5K PR: 23:55 @ 7:55mm average pace
Time: 28:52 @ 9:19 average pace 
AG Rating: 51.28%
AG Placement: 266 / 573
Gender Placement:1054 / 2890 
Overall Placement: 3057 / 5825

Long Version

Special Note

For those of you who don't already know, I did this race not only as a stepping stone in my recovery process, but to honor Jen G., a running friend of mine who has battled cancer courageously over the years, and who has been an inspiration to me while I've been recovering from my hamstring issues. She's also the reason I was wearing as much orange as possible. 

Behold, the power of orange!

Packet Pickup: I picked up my number and cotton t-shirt two days before the race, and although I am not a fan of the cotton t-shirt, this one didn't look as if it would substitute as a nightgown. I was surprised that I was placed in the third corral since that usually doesn't happen, but since I was starting with one of my running friends, Nicole, it didn't really make a difference this time around, especially since there was no way I was running at my bib pace. 

Another cotton t-shirt. Hooray.

Race Gear: Last time I did this race, I dressed too warmly for it. This time, it would feel like 21 degrees at the start, and I knew that I wasn't really racing it. I also wanted my top layer to be orange in honor of my friend Jenny. I ended up wearing a grey tech shirt under my orange shirt, my orange socks and headband, and my comfy Sugoi tech pants, and it ended up working quite nicely. I forgot to charge my Garmin, so I didn't end up taking a watch to the race. Luckily, Nicole graciously sent me her splits.

Transportation: The crosstown bus took forever to come. In addition, both train lines I could take to Washington Heights were either not running far enough, or going express, so I had to take two trains to get up there, and barely made it in time for a group photo.

NYPH Running Club: I found out a couple of days before that my work had a running club, and that they were doing a pre-race group photo at Columbia Medical Center, which was near the race start. I met a lot of nice people there, and my colleague gave me a nice red team tech shirt. 

I look awkward in 99.9% of my photos. This one is no exception. 

Baggage Check: For the first time in memory, there was a line to get into the baggage check area. Nicole speculated that it was because it got set up late. We got lucky that we went when we did, because as we walked towards the corrals, the line had already become much larger. 

Waiting for the Start: I started in the fifth corral with Nicole, and eventually, it got pretty crowded. I was surprised to see young kids with bibs that would place them in the faster corrals. It just seemed like that was a disaster just waiting to happen. After a very poorly sung national anthem, the horn went off, but it took me at least a couple of minutes to even get moving, much less to get to the start line. Waiting around in the cold wasn't fun. 

The Race

The course was an out and back that looped around at Fort Tryon park, so we got to see both the front and the back of the pack at different points of the races. The front of the pack zoomed by us before the end of mile one partially due to their head start, and they made their extremely fast pace look so easy. 

The first mile started off fairly easy. I felt like I was going extremely slowly, but at the same time, it felt a little difficult because I wasn't completely warmed up. I got very nervous as Nicole and I approached the first hill, but it wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. While I initially wanted to be ignorant of my pace, not knowing was slowly driving me insane. At some point, I asked Nicole how fast we were going and she said 9:45, but ultimately, we finished the first mile in 9:35. 

The second mile had both the prettiest views and the toughest hills. It was nice running into the park, and the views of the river were also very nice. However, the hill at the turnaround point was very steep, and very long. However, I got through it, and even managed to spot a couple of friends after passing the turn-around point. Although it didn't feel that way, we must have sped up since we finished the second mile in 9:25. 

At that point, I knew that we were both capable of a sub-30 finish, which was a relief. While I didn't intend on speeding up too much, it happened naturally since most of the third mile was downhill. I got ahead of Nicole mid-way through the third mile, but she didn't end up finishing far behind me. While I was tempted to sprint to the finish after the third mile marker, I knew that it wouldn't save me much time overall, so I managed to overcome that temptation. 

Midway through the third mile.
Nicole is the green runner at the back left of the photo
Photo credit: NYC Running Source

I crossed the finish line, and didn't end up waiting for Nicole too long. After the official results came out, I did the math and figured that my average pace over the last 1.1 miles was 8:59. My official time was 28:52, which was a 9:19 average pace. 

Although Nicole and I ran together in the past, it was the first time we did a race together, and since I was really nervous going into it, I was really grateful that we did this one together. We ended up going to Starbucks afterwards to celebrate my return to running. 

Post-Race Analysis

My Performance: I am both happy and extremely irritated with my results. On the positive side, this was the first time I ran over two miles since mid-January, and I did one of the hilliest courses I could come across in NYC. I also was able to average what had previously been my easy pace, so that was an indication that I hadn't lost as much fitness as I feared I would. In addition, I had a negative split, which is very rare for me. 

Nicole's Garmin Splits. My third mile is different but
the overall trend is still the same.

However, a part of me is annoyed that this race will be on my NYRR record since it doesn't reflect what I am capable of as a runner. While objectively it's a decent time, the pace per mile is almost ten seconds slower than I ran an eighteen miler at last year. While I know that my fitness will come back, it's still frustrating to feel that I have lost some of what I worked really hard for over the past two years. 

Race Organization: Overall, I think that NYRR did a good job putting this race on. However, I just think that all of their races have gotten too crowded, and it ultimately detracts from the overall running experience. 

What's Next: I am starting a very conservative training plan for the Brooklyn Half this coming week. A low mileage plan with no speedwork may not get me a PR, but it will ensure that I will be building back my endurance safely. I also hope that I will be able to register for my first marathon (attempt #3) soon, as it's already March and there is still no information out there. Stay tuned for the next update!