Monday, August 25, 2014

Hell Has Officially Frozen Over: Traveling to Brooklyn, Staten Island & Back Again

Why, might you ask? Because even though I still haven't beaten my 2012 5K PR, I won an age group award with NYCRuns, something I never thought would ever happen. 

Strictly speaking, this isn't my first EVER AG award - I was talked into doing a trail 10K and I got third place in my AG despite having an abysmal time (for me). But doesn't feel the same when you're not proud of your performance and didn't even realize that you were in the running for an award. This race was a completely different experience in that regard, and I will explain why momentarily. 

I initially signed up for this race to use it as an indicator for a goal half in September. My goal half is no longer in September, but I decided to race it all out anyway, even though I am not good at pacing at that distance. This should go well, right?

I have been to this course several times, but have never had the opportunity to run the 5K as I usually am called upon by NYCRuns to work as a timer. As you can see from the picture below, there is a good reason why I am NOT the race photographer.

Timer Selfie!
Anyway, since there wasn't packet pickup during the week, I knew I had to get to Shore Road around 7am to avoid the long packet pickup and toilet lines. So, after getting coffee, I got on a train just before 6am and headed down to Brooklyn. Thankfully, the MTA was running smoothly, and after a short warm-up jog from the train station, I got my number without any issues. I was even able to convince the owner of the diner near the train station to let me use their bathroom. 

After saying hi to the NYCRuns staff and volunteers, I waited around for the race to start. Since the 5K and 10K were running at the exact same time, it was difficult to tell who my competition actually was. It's also hard to know where the best place to line up is, but I lined up mid-front of the pack and hoped for the best. After a slight delay, I heard the starting horn and we were off!

I saw what seemed like a huge pack of people fly ahead of me pretty quickly, so I assumed that I probably wasn't going to win anything. Still, I was resolved to run as fast as I could. However, I didn't want to look at the Garmin, but to run by feel. I was determined to try and find a pace to run where I was pushing it, but at the same time, be able to keep going at that pace for longer than a mile. 

Spoiler Alert: Nope! Better luck next time!
My Garmin beeped exactly at the first mile marker, and to my surprise, I finished that mile in 7:38. At that point, I was thinking that a PR was within reach. As I reached the halfway point where the turnaround was, I started to scout the people running back towards me to see where I was in the overall scheme of things. To my pleasant surprise, I didn't see many women, and as I reached the turnaround, I realized that many of the people who had previously been ahead of me were competing in the 10K. 

This gave me some added confidence, and I started pushing as hard as I could, but it wasn't until the second mile marker until I realized that since I was now running against the wind, I had started to slow down and clocked in at almost 8 minutes. Whoops. 

Around this time, I was doing my best to catch up with an older lady in front of me, and was using her as a pace guide. During the third mile, I noticed that someone my age was slowly catching up to me, and I did my best to fend her off, but unfortunately, she passed me and my legs just didn't have it in them to catch up. For all I knew, I just lost my chance to get an AG award - I wasn't sure how many women passed me and I could have missed people. But as petty as this was, I was determined not to be outran by someone who was almost old enough to be my mother, so although it was a close one, I manage to out-kick her in the end.

Thanks Leiba & NYC Running Source!
I managed to catch up with the person who outran me, and congratulated her, and while I hoped she was a young looking 30 year old, alas, it was not meant to be. Still, it was her personal best, and I was happy for her. Although she crossed the line at 24:29, her chip time was over 10 seconds faster because she started towards the back of the pack, so it was not as close of a race as it looks below.

Distance makes my race pictures look more flattering!
After I finished, I drank some water, ate a few grapes, and checked the results. It's a good thing that I chatted with the person who finished in front of me, because I was listed as first in the 20-29 AG in error. Thankfully, I was able to help resolve this before the awards ceremony. I felt overwhelmed and shocked as I accepted my award, and congratulated the other girl when she received hers. 

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was 2nd place out of 34 in my AG (with the overall winner taken out) and 6th place overall female. Despite slowing down and not getting a PR, I was still able to finish in 24:31 at a 7:55mm average pace. 

As I stated earlier, while this wasn't my first AG award, this time felt fundamentally different because I was aware of possible award status during the race itself. My entire mindset shifted from just wanting to do my best to wanting to place as highly as possible. That has never happened to me before, especially not at NYRR races where it is a miracle if I get within the top 1000 finishers or so. It was the first time I really competed against another person, and although I lost that race, it was the first time that I had an age group win within reach, and that was an amazing feeling. 

I am still in shock
When I say that this is most likely the only time I will get one of these, it is not because I have low self esteem, or that I don't believe in myself. The fact is that as a middle of the pack runner, the only real way I would have a chance to win an age group award is if I ran a smaller race, and even then, it would entirely depend on who showed up on a particular day. When I ran my PR, I got a very distant fourth place in my age group, and that time was at least half a minute faster.

After two hours of traveling back and forth, all I wanted to do was nap, but I had another, longer journey in store. One of my good friends had a bridal shower in Staten Island, and I ended up commuting over 3 hours total. It was completely worth it and I had a great time with a good group of people. 

The beautiful Brooke and two of her stunning bridesmaids!
Why yes, I do own normal clothing!
I experienced a lot of firsts today, for not only was it my first time getting an age group award, but it was also my first time going to Staten Island for a non-running related event. I even took the Staten Island Railway for the first time. 

This will not be a recurring event, and no, I am not just talking about Brooke's bridal shower (I am pretty sure she's only getting married ONCE in this lifetime). However, even if I don't win another age group award in my life, I will always treasure this moment. 

Thanks for reading!!!!

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Long Overdue PR: Join the Voices 5M

Short Version
Previous PR: 43:40 @ 8:44 mm pace
New PR Time: 41:01 @ 8:13 mm pace
Overall Place: 1006/4551 (top 23%)
Gender Place: 197/2285 (top 9%)
Adjusted Gender Place: 305/2285 (top 14%)
Age Group Place: 46/543 (top 9%)
AG %: 59.01%

Long Version
June 25, 2011. This was the last time I ran a 5 mile race, and at the time, I was absolutely thrilled with what was then my PR. The rainbow pops were also pretty cool.

Fast forward to over three years later. I hadn't raced this distance for a variety of reasons, and in all honesty, I had no intention of doing another one. That distance just wasn't as important to me as the 5K, 10K, half, or even the marathon. 

I had my 9+1 for 2015 all set up - I had registered for my 9 races, plus I had my volunteer commitment set. However, due to scheduling concerns, I was no longer able to attend two of them and I knew that I had to find two replacements quickly. After a few minutes of looking at my calendar, I found two replacements, including yesterday's race. 

I went to packet pickup, and to my dissapointment, but not to my surprise, I got another cotton t-shirt which I will never wear. I don't even know why I bothered taking it home with me. Nevertheless I was delighted to see that I was in the third corral from the front.

Since I didn't have much time to run the day before, I figured that I would incorporate this race into the middle of a longer run. So I left extra early and ran 2.5 miles beforehand. This left me a bit unexcited and hesitant about this race since it was already incredibly humid out. Whose brilliant idea was it to start a summer race at 8:30am?????

As I lined up towards the back of my corral, the usual thoughts started going through my head. Why am I awake? It's too damn crowded. The announcer is a liar - this is NOT perfect race weather! . Yet, as always, when the gun goes off as I head towards the start line, the adrenaline starts surging and all of a sudden, I am eager to get going and see what I am capable of. 

I decided not to look at my watch for most of the first mile, figuring that I was going really slowly anyway. To my surprise, I finished the first mile in just under 8:15. Huh. Ok then. The second mile included Cat Hill, and it was my slowest in around 8:20ish or so. After that point, my legs seemed to realize that they were in the middle of a RACE and that it was time to speed up. 

It was so tempting to stop for water, but I knew that I would kick myself later on for those extra seconds on my time, so I just kept going. After finishing mile three in just over eight minutes, I knew that I would most likely PR. After doing what I call "race math" in my head, I realized that I had a shot at getting close to 41 minutes. 

When the fourth mile was barely slower even with the West Side hills, I knew I had an outside chance of getting sub-41 minutes, so I went for it. Although I got my fastest mile in at 7:58, plus a little extra Garmin distance at 7:21mm pace, I didn't quite hit that goal. Still, I wasn't going to complain about a 41:03 Garmin time! 

Hooray for negative splits!
 Later on, I saw that unofficial results were being tracked and noted my final time of 41:01, which was an 8:13mm average pace. I was especially thrilled about placing in the top 10% of my age group. Not too shabby considering I admittedly never do as much speedwork as I should (or any, as a matter of fact).

After my race, I ran 1.11 very slow recovery miles home to get a total mileage of just over 8.5 for the day. There were no race pictures of me - which is probably for the best as I probably looked like a hot mess when all was said and done.

Although I am proud of myself for what I accomplished yesterday, I know that I am capable of doing better at this distance, especially since my 10K PR is at a faster speed and even that is soft. In addition, my recent 4 mile PR is at a 7:44 pace. However, improving my 5 mile PR time is not a major priority for me at this time, so it will probably stay here for quite a while. 

Anyway, I am not sure what my next goal race is, but I am looking to break my almost 2 year old half-marathon PR, and that will be a tougher nut to crack because I haven't earned a sub-1:50 time since then. I am considering trying for either Staten Island in October or a spring half-marathon, which is TBD.

Thanks for reading! Until next time!