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!!!!


  1. Congratulations!!!
    You are officially a superstar. (But I already knew that.)