Race Report: NYRR Colon Cancer Challenge 4 Miler

Oh, happy day. I feel like little Charlie Bucket, having at last found the special, golden-ticketed chocolate bar. Sure, it’s not exactly a candy-filled wonderland with Gene Wilder and a cabal of singing and dancing orange dwarves. But it’s the next best thing: entrance to Corral 1 in NYRR races for the foreseeable future.

After my recent good two miler and Thursday’s fabulous track session, I was feeling pretty good about my chances today. The one worry that I couldn’t do anything about was the wind. Everything else that I had control over, I took care of.

I got to the park ridiculously early: at 8:40 for a 10:00 o’clock race. I did not want to get stuck in the back of Corral 2 again and have to spend the first mile fighting crowds. So I found Baggage, wandered around, did a 1 mile warmup, peed about nine times, and then headed to the corral at 9:30. With a magazine. A guy in Corral 1 teased me about bringing a magazine to the race, and I realized it probably was a bit weird. But it was either that or stand there and be nervous.

It was cold today, but the windchill was above freezing, which helped. I wore a disposable long sleeve race shirt and some disposable gloves, my lightest tights and a short sleeve tee. And my new favorite racers, the Asics Hyperspeeds. I was situated in the front of Corral 2, although Corral 1 was barely a third full. Once they removed the tape separating the corrals and we moved up, I was for all intents and purposes starting in Corral 1 anyway, maybe 5 seconds from the start mat.

Horn blows and I remember my mantra: “Just keeping running hard.” I have my watch set to show average pace. That’s all I need to see. In the first half mile my average pace is 6:36. Probably too fast, but whereas trying to bank time in a 10 miler and up is foolish, I’ve learned recently that you can get away with this in shorter races.

Then, at about the .75 mark, potential disaster strikes. Two giant black trucks are pulling out of a side driveway directly into our path. The first is stretched nearly across the course area, perpendicular to runners. A cop yells, “Hold up! Stop!” Yeah. Uh, huh. That’s going to happen.

This unexpected turn of events greatly displeases those of us who are approaching at approximately 9MPH. We swear at the cops. We call them idiots. I don’t know what’s happening behind me after I veer 90 degrees to go around their vehicles, but I hear a lot of yelling.

I’m so angry and freaked out that my heart rate has soared. I have to calm down. We’re turning onto Museum Mile and I remind myself that this is always a great stretch to regroup, since it’s the closest to flat you’ll get on that course. It’s also a long straightaway. So I cruise it, trying to relax a little and prepare for the hills that are coming in the second half.

I come through mile 1 in 6:47. Good. I have a 12 second credit in my account.

We hit the 102nd Street Transverse. My hands are boiling, so I dump the gloves along the side of the road, just before the turn onto West Side Drive. Second mile split is 6:48. Credit is now 25 seconds.

The worst part of the course is coming, a series of rolling hills, most of them up, that always both slows and wears me down. I know I will give back some seconds here; the question is how many.

Oh, it’s windy now too. There’s a brisk headwind coming from the E/SE. NYRR always underreports the wind in their stats: they say 6MPH. It was more like 10MPH steady with gusts.

Mile three sucks: 7:06. Credit has reduced to 19 seconds. One mile to go, much of it downhill. I do not want this to be a squeaker. But unless I blow up I think I’ve got this. Finally.

But now the wind is making me nervous. Was that last mile so slow because of the wind rather than the hills? If I ran 18 seconds slower in mile 3 than in miles 1 and 2, I could just lose this by a hair again. So I start running a little harder. I focus on hitting the tangents. I am passing people, people who are dying because they ran too hard up those hills. My legs are really starting to hurt. But I know this will be over with soon.

I also don’t see that many women. I see two a ways ahead of me. None are with me. It’s not a huge race, but, still, I’m surprised at how few of us there are. I’m not racing anyone else anyway, just the clock. I don’t give a shit about finishing position or awards or anything today. I just want to be wearing a fucking blue bib when I come back here next weekend.

We pass the Delacorte and the flat bit is in sight. If I can continue to motor along this I’ll be fine. I know it’s less than half a mile. I keep running hard. There’s the turn for the finish. In a final fit of obsessive-compulsive overachievement I decide that I won’t be happy unless I finish with a clock time of well under 28:00. I cross the mat with the clock reading 27:43.

Mile 4 was 6:42. Apparently I didn’t hit the tangents perfectly because my watch read 4.02. The .02 was run at 6:11 pace. Whee!

My fate is sealed.

I was in such a good mood that I decided to get the 5 mile recovery run out of the way then and there. So after some water and an energy bar I was back out on the course, headed up to the transverse where, to my mild surprise, my gloves were still lying. A retrieved them, turned around, and headed back down the east side. Toward the 4.5 mile mark the 15K race leaders started coming through. I was glad I wasn’t running that race since the wind had picked up and it felt like the temperature had dropped.

By the time I got back to Baggage they’d posted the results. Well. To make a good day better, I discovered that not only had I won my first ever award in a NYRR race, but I’d done it with style: 1st in the 40-44 women’s AG. It’s a good thing my birthday is a week away because the 45-49 winner beat me by 16 seconds. I was 12th overall, out of over 1,300 women. I’m still in somewhat of a state of disbelief.

Manning the awards table was an elderly gentleman named Al Goldstein (not to be confused with the Al Goldstein of Screw Magazine fame). He gave me a congratulatory hug and told me that hugging attractive women on Sundays was the biggest fringe benefit of his volunteer job, which NYRR founding member Kurt Steiner gave to him in 1992.

While I was standing there chatting with him, I had a quintessential New York City moment. A woman came up to the awards table and picked up one of the awards, which are all the same: half inch thick blocks of plexiglass with the award details engraved on the back, so they show through the surface of the plastic (they make good paperweights). Al said, in a friendly yet firm voice, “Please don’t handle the awards.” To which the woman replied, “I was just trying to see if they were glass or plastic.”

Al said, “They’re plastic.”

To which she testily replied, “Well, this is a race to fight colon cancer. They shouldn’t be made of plastic since that causes cancer.”

Al gave her a look that I can only describe as withering. I was somewhat tempted to ask her if she was concerned that runners would insert the awards into their asses. Otherwise, what was the issue? But I decided against it.

So one of my unwritten goals for this season has been met: I’m now a blue bib girl. Next week I do my longest race yet this year, the Scotland 10K, back on those hills. I have no goals, although it would be nice to break 7:00 again.

25 Responses

  1. That’s fantastic, Julie! what a great race report and congratulations on your AG win!

  2. LOVE this report!! Just great, all of it! Congratulations on the major award and I had to laugh at you reading your magazine in the corral. Too funny. So happy for you, Julie! Woohoo!!

  3. Excellent race report, and result. Non-NYers must wonder at our constant discussion of the peculiarities of Central Park, but the rolling hills, and the lack of more than 1/4 mile flat all the way around, help define our races, as you note. (I will note that you neglected to point out that far and away the toughest uphill on the course — Cat Hill — was in your mile 1, so you handled that (and the trucks) with outstanding aplomb.

    See you next week.

    Oh, while a New Yorker might steal the shirt off your back, she won’t take your gloves on the side of the road. Ick!

  4. Excellent! The FB icon paid off, I see!

  5. Julie, very amusing account! I was second in our age group today with a time of 28:01, and your race is the race I would like to have run. See you at the next one perhaps (from my place in the red corral, alas). – Ellen

    • Oh, your time was my worst fear today! Please line up in front of Corral 2 (I’ll be in back of Corral 1) and introduce yourself. :) Maybe we can help each other along.

  6. Congratulations! Not only did you get your blue bib but you also won your age group. That is fantastic!

    • Thanks! I think AG wins in NYRR races will be rare, if it ever happens again. I suspect many of the usual suspect speedsters are tapering for Boston or other spring races right now.

  7. Great job! Looks like “the spring of speed” is turning out to be a fun one! Interpreting science for the public is a challenging problem, in one ear there is “prenatal bisphenol A exposure in rats may be linked to long-term breast and prostate cancer susceptibility” and out the other is “plastic causes cancer,” at least for some people. I hope she was running barefoot to avoid the hazardous polymer foams in running shoes (/sarcasm).

  8. Congrats! And 4 milers aren’t the easiest things to pace either since its an odd distance. Glad you earned your right to move up where you clearly belong.

    As far as that woman’s comment? CLASSIC. Just…beautiful. Reminds me of standing on the 2 after the marathon and watching this woman with two young girls use the marathoners as a science lesson:

    “Mom, why do they have those sheets on?”
    “Those are made from mylar…what else do they use mylar in?”

  9. My understanding is that by using that material it is easier to recycle the awards. If one’s not picked up in 30 days, it can be shaved down and used for another race.

    AngryRunner: In NYC, 4 milers are quite the thing, perhaps the most common NYRR distance as 5K is the rarest. This is because the inner loop of Central Park is about 4 miles. Add the lower loop for 5 miles and the whole Park for 6. A 5K would get you a start nearly a mile from the finish and things are chaotic enough when they’re a lot closer.

    • Now that you mention it, I have seen a bunch of 4 miles put on by the NYRR and that explains why. (I’ve only run in the park a couple times, sadly.) They’re a bit rarer up here – I can think of three in this USATF region? One good sized race switched to one for a year…then went straight back to a 5k due to a decline in participation. Sad.

  10. That was a great report Julie — congratulations on an equally great race. I hope you are a blue-bib girl, but I fear the worst with the title of the more recent post.

    Anyway, well done on the AG award, top-15, yada yada. If you’re in corral 1 for the next race, get up the front — like Kevin at Boston.

  11. that truck WAS crazy! i was just ahead of it as it was pulling out so i didnt get to run sideways at all. amazing work making up for lost time though!

  12. [...] you can just skip ahead.] Last week there were a number of race reports on either the Colan Cancer 4-miler or 15K. They note the varying terrain of Central Park and how it comes into play with respect to [...]

  13. [...] but who’s counting?) and was punctuated with a very good speed session on the track and then another good race on Sunday. Aside from feeling like crap that Saturday, primarily due to overindulgence the night before, I [...]

  14. I know Al Goldstein fairly well (the elderly gentleman (who just turned 90) not the porn king). Your story about him was just great. I hope you don’t mind if I print it and share it with him. As you can imagine, he does not read blogs.

  15. By the way, the Al Goldstein 5K summer series is coming up in Prospect Park. Whenever I’ve done these races in the past, Al Goldstein has been there, assigning runners their numbers. This year the first one is May 26; info on the series appears at http://pptc.org/. At $5 per race, this is one of the best running bargains in New York City. Since the 5Ks are held in the evenings (every other Wednesday at 7:00), they are also great for people who don’t like waking up early for Central Park races. And everyone is extremely friendly and welcoming there. (No, I am not a paid promoter; these are just great small races.)

  16. Thank you, Ellen. I know Al because I am now the Director of the Summer Series in his name.

  17. Fabulous – I’ll look for you there then!

  18. [...] it looks like I made zero progress between this 4 miler and the 4 miler on the exact same course in March. But one must look at the splits, grasshopper. The splits. Very important. The splits, they hold [...]

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