Monday, April 8, 2013

2013 Urban Environmental Challenge: XC 10K

I had no intentions of signing up for anything else between Coogan's 5K and the Brooklyn HM, especially not for a difficult trail run, but when running buddy Leiba told me that she was doing the 10K up at Van Cortlandt, I reluctantly signed up. Even as we were choosing our orange, color coordinated outfits, I was a bit nervous, but figured that it would be nice to have a change of scenery. We even managed to match the race shirt, albeit by accident. 

Getting to the race was pretty easy. I didn't have to wait too long for either the bus or the 1 train, and I got there in plenty of time to pick up my bib, check my bag, and stretch. It was a bit chilly waiting for the start, and I could have sworn that I felt a couple of rain drops, but thankfully it didn't actually rain (even though my Garmin thinks it did).

Leiba & I walked to the start, which was across a field from where the finish/baggage check was. We had planned on running together, but with the understanding that if she wanted to race it, she could take off. My only goals were not aggravating my hamstring and not further injuring myself, although with my road PR of just under 51 minutes, I was hoping that finishing under an hour would be possible. 

There was no electronic timing for this race, and the start was indicated by a line drawn in the dirt. We lined up towards the middle, and after a couple of speeches about how great the park was, we were off. Leiba took off soon after we started, and within the first mile, I had completely lost sight of her. 

At the sight of the first hill, I immediately realized how woefully unprepared I was for this race, even more so than when I had ran Van Cortlandt Park almost two years ago. My mileage was lower, plus I was out of practice running on the Central Park hills, let alone on these trails. After the first mile, I knew that finishing under an hour wasn't likely to happen, and things just got slower from there (as per my awful splits on the left).

 The uphills weren't the only reason I was going slower than I wanted to. As hard as they were, I was terrified of running fast on the downhills since I was really afraid of injuring myself further, so I probably took those a little slower than I could have. I also ended up walking one of the tougher hills later on because my legs were pretty close to going on strike at that point. 

This was my first time using the Garmin in a long time, and although the trail itself was fun, it was hard and I felt discouraged. I spent most of the next couple of miles wondering why I signed up for this. It didn't help that I fell down twice and got a big bruise on my leg from banging it into a rock as I fell. By the time I hit the 5K marker just under 33 minutes in, I regretted signing up, and was horrified about the idea of running yet another 5K. I also realized after passing the one water table I saw when I wasn't thirsty that it was probably the only water station, and that I would be doing the entire distance without drinking once. Great.

However, slowly but surely in the second half, I started to enjoy myself a little more, and appreciate the beauty of the trails. The course marshals were good at lifting everyone's spirts, and saying how great everyone looked, even if they were lying through their teeth. One of the course marshals was a friend of mine, and she got a picture of me from the later part of the race, looking as awkward happy as always despite being a little miserable. 

There was a girl in purple who I chatted with for some of the time, and towards the end, I made it my secret goal to beat her to the finish line. She was ahead of me in the last couple of miles because I had to tie my shoe, but I caught up with her towards the end. After we stopped talking, we were on the final part of the race, which was a flat track, and I took the opportunity to speed up and have something resembling a finishing kick. I thought I had a shot at finishing in under 1:05 in the end, but alas that wasn't meant to be. 

I was more annoyed with myself than anything else, but I was happy for Leiba as she finished in 57 minutes and change. The race was scored old school style in that our tabs were taken off our bibs as we crossed the finish line. Leiba was told that she was 7th place female, so she had a good chance of getting an AG award. So we went over to the results table to check whether AG awards were being given out. After looking at the yellow tags indicating the female entrants, a strange, unheard of thought occured to me.....could I have possibly won an AG award??????

After some initial confusion where Leiba was placed in the wrong age bracket, and after realizing that the AG awards started after the first place female and male, the impossible happened - I was officially 3rd place in the 20-29 year old age category on what was possibly my worst 10K performance to date. Leiba ended up with 2nd place in our AG, and to my surprise, there was no female our age who finished in the 8 minute gap between us.  It was a bittersweet moment because although I wasn't proud of my performance, it had been a goal of mine to win an AG award and that moment had finally come. Being honored in an awards ceremony was a nice experience. 

Leiba and I showing off our orange pride.
I even re-laced my sneakers for this. 
We both won mini carrot cakes, but I ended up giving mine away to my coworkers because I can't stand raisins. Getting home should have been as easy as getting there, but to our horror, we got to the train station just to be told that the 1 train wasn't running at all. Since I didn't know anything about the bus lines in the Bronx, the two of us walked a mile and a half to get to the Woodlawn train station, which was the first stop on the 4 train line, using my IPhone map to make sure that we were going in the right direction. That was an interesting adventure. 

So although things didn't go as well as I hoped they would, I ended up being grateful to Leiba for convincing me to go up there. I hope that when I'm back in peak shape, I'll be able to eventually finish a trail 10K up there in under an hour. Perhaps next year? Only time will tell.