Race Report: NYRR Mini 10K

This was my second Mini 10K, the last one having been 2008. I missed last year’s because I was too busy crying into my microbrews in Oregon after dropping out of the Newport Marathon at mile 18.

It was warm and humid this year, but not nearly as bad as it was in 2008. I’d say it was around 70F and the dewpoint was maybe in the low 60s. Not ideal, especially for a bad hot weather runner like me. But not disastrous either. It was also overcast for most of the race. This is about as good as you’re going to get in New York in June, so I was not complaining (for once).

This year was special for me because I got to meet so many of the elite runners yesterday, giving an extra dimension to my fandom today. Jonathan dropped me off at 72nd St around 8:00, an hour pre-race. I had no trouble getting my bib and I was able to do a leisurely warmup: .8 miles very easy followed by 5 100m strides at just below race pace. Along the way I spotted Benita Willis doing some easy running alone, Emily Chebet jogging along with her coach and another runner who I didn’t recognize, but she was a skinny Kenyan and obviously A Somebody. After the speedy bits, I adjusted my laces, did some dynamic stretches, downed a gel and some water, and I was ready to rock.

I had a blue bib for this race, first corral, a number in the 600s (they number the various corral bibs by last name). Getting up to it from Central Park South, where I did my warmup, was a challenge, but I plowed through the crowd and managed to arrive about 8 minutes before start. Corral 1 was crowded, but people were in good spirits. I saw a contingent of New York Harriers ahead of me but didn’t feel like expending a lot of energy by introducing myself and being social (how unlike me). So I hung back anonymously and waited for the festivities to begin.

The elites were introduced, with three brought up to the stage: Goucher (who decided not to run, although blew the horn to get us going and was at the finish holding one end of the tape, with Kathrine Switzer holding the other), Radcliffe and Kiplagat. Goucher and Radcliffe’s pre-race comments weren’t memorable. But Kiplagat’s were dry enough to be a Bond martini. She deadpanned (and I’m paraphrasing): “Everybody have a good time today. Don’t run the first miles too fast. Whether you’re first or last, you’re a winner.”

A few photos follow (thank you, Ellen).

Photo courtesy Ellen Jovin

Winners, all. This photo reminds me of a Manet painting for some reason. Is life imitating art?

Or is art imitating life?

My pacing plan was as follows: 7:10, 7:10, 6:50, 7:30, and the last 2+ miles were whatever my legs could manage. I have yet to have nailed either the 10K as a distance or on this course in particular. I have a history of running too hard in the first three miles. Then mile four, which is slow for everyone because of the Harlem Hills, does me in and the last two miles are a slog. I did not want to repeat that pattern today, so I paced the early miles so the first two felt easy. No going out at 6:30 was allowed.

As it turns out, I still haven’t nailed this course, but I’m getting closer. My splits were: 7:08, 7:04, 6:58, 7:37, 6:52, 7:09, last .39 (ran long) at 6:41 pace.

Mile 1 felt way too easy. I kept telling myself that it was supposed to feel easy and to just be patient for once. 7:08 was close enough. I spotted Jonathan somewhere into Mile 2, after we’d turned into the park at 90th St. I had plenty of energy at this point, more than enough to wave and say hello.

Mile 2 still felt way too easy, so I pushed things a little, but not too much. Maybe that was a mistake. 7:04. Whatever. What’s 6 seconds?

Mile 3 has a big, gradual downhill followed by the first big Harlem hill. I was flying at 6:30 for the first part of the mile and I felt fine, so I went with it. I knew the humidity was going to slow me down later in the race, not to mention the big hill that was rapidly filling my field of vision, so I ran by feel and didn’t worry about pace. 6:58.

Mile 4 is the bastard on this course. A huge, long hill follows the 5K mark. You wind up around it, past the Lasker pool/rink and Harlem Meer, and you’re still running up and up and up as you approach the 102nd St. transverse. Then you have a flat bit that if you’re smart you use to recover since you’ll be heading back uphill very soon. It’s draining as hell, and if you’ve spent too much energy in the first 5K, this mile will destroy your speed for the remainder of the race. It is what always happens to me. 7:37. Slower than I wanted, but not a meltdown.

Mile 5 was exactly what I wanted it to be. I wanted to be passing lots of people during this mile. And I was. I felt really good during this mile and that good feeling led to some extravagance that I paid for later on. 6:52. Jonathan told me that news of the elite race was being relayed to the finish and Linet Masai also had an extravagant mile 5, dipping well under a 5:00 pace. She was on course record time then. But, alas, her legs couldn’t hold that effort and speed any more than I mine could (relatively speaking — very relatively). As I crested Cat Hill, which I flew down, I passed two guys holding a Swedish flag, looking intently for (presumably) a Swedish lady friend runner. “Go, Sweden!” I yelled and they replied, fists up, “Yay!” First laugh of the race.

Heading into Mile 6 I passed Tavia, who shrieked (she’s very outgoing), “Julie!” [pause] “It’s Tavia!” For some reason, I found her comedic timing to be both brilliant and hilarious. This gave me laugh #2. Well, of course it’s Tavia! Her voice and enthusiasm are unmistakable!

At the 5.5 mile mark I was surprised to spot Benita Willis again, spectating right there on the course. There seemed to be a momentary flash of recognition, although I think I probably looked considerably more relaxed and attractive yesterday when I was sipping water and asking dumb questions than I did as I struggled past her toward the “800m to go” marker. So I was probably imagining things. I was verging on oxygen debt and developing a side stitch, so didn’t dare run faster. 7:09. Ouch. I knew I wasn’t hitting sub-7:00 that mile, but the readout hurt to see.

The last bit I managed at a 6:41 pace. Perhaps I’d been too conservative earlier on, but based on mile 6 I don’t think so. Nevertheless, I was happy that I could run that fast at the end. But I know I have homework to do as far as figuring out that last mile on this course.

Official time: 45:18. That’s 36 seconds faster than 2008 time. This was also my first club points race. As I’d hoped, I managed to contribute points to the Harriers 40+ women’s team, placing 2nd after the club’s masters rock star, Stephanie Hodge, (big gap in time there) and helping to put us into seventh place for this race.

Photo courtesy Ellen Jovin

Masai wins! I picked the wrong Kenyan for the win (Chebet), but at least I picked the correct runner's African country of origin (out of two).

Mini 10K wardrobe plans

For anyone interested, tomorrow I will be racing the Mini 10K sporting black shorts, an Orangina-colored shirt, Asics Hyperspeed 3s and a stern expression. Maybe also sunglasses, although I don’t like wearing them when it’s too hot because my nose gets all sweaty and then irritated by salt (TMI?).

I spent most of the morning talking to the Mini 10K elites. They included:

  • Kara Goucher
  • Paula Radcliffe
  • Lornah Kiplagat
  • Magda Lewy-Boulet
  • Emily Chebet*
  • Benita Willis
  • Kim Smith
  • Adriana Pirtea

Somebody pinch me.

A preview: The highlights for me were Lewy-Boulet, who had a lot to say about fostering post-collegiate talent; Pirtea, a surprise showing who I didn’t research but got some great answers from in response to hastily improvised questions; Kiplagat, who as far as I’m concerned is the reigning Queen of Distance Running (or maybe Co-Queen with Catherine Ndereba) and who I could have spent all day asking questions of if she had let me.

Some news: Irina Mikitenko is out with a “back twinge” according to one of the NYRR media people. Too bad. I really wanted to ask her about compression socks, “good” vs. “bad” running form and other weighty matters.

I have no idea when I’ll get to post about this morning’s chats since tomorrow is a race and Sunday I need to get to work on my third Houston Hopefuls interview. And spend the morning shepharding Jonathan to and from a race in Connecticut. And some freelance work.

Then Monday I go back to my real job. And I have more freelance work starting next week. And then the Vermont Relay all next weekend.

Fucking hell. I have way too much to do.

Good luck to everyone racing tomorrow. I was excited about this race until I spoke to the elites this morning. Now I’m mega-excited. If you’re spectating, you’re in for quite a show. I am amazed at the depth of talent NYRR will have assembled on the starting line this year. Nice video with some history.

There will be a New York Harriers cheering section at Engineer’s Gate (90th and Fifth on the East Side) tomorrow. I don’t know what they have up their sleeves, but this tantalizingly cryptic message was posted to their message board this afternoon by one “tmk030″:

We have a special cheering approach planned for Saturday’s race that you don’t want to miss. While I can’t reveal the details because of the sensitive nature of the subject; this is one spectacle that you don’t want to miss. Meet us at the West 90th street entrance to the park right before 9:00 am on Saturday and participate in an event that will change the way Cheering is done for races in central park forever!

You’re going to like the way we cheer and I guarantee it!

* Who I think is more likely than not going to win, and I can say that because I’m not a real journalist but merely a journeywoman blogger.

The 1500

Last night I did my second track race, again at Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island. The weather was considerably more amenable than last time, although it was still on the windy side. Fortunately, it was a swirling wind and gusty rather than steady. It was warm, but not at all humid, which also helped.

We got there in 20 minutes. Last time it took us over an hour. So there was a lot of sitting around time. There were a lot more people there this time around, something I was happy about because it meant I’d get to run in a women’s only race rather than a mixed one.

I stupidly forgot to bring any water, so once I warmed up, I was pretty thirsty. I don’t know if the water in the women’s room sink spigot was potable or not. I guess I’ll know in a week or two.

As usual, I felt sluggish and slow during my warmup. But I’m learning to ignore that and not read too much into it. And, once again, I was intimidated by a woman who looked around my age but had much less body fat. I also did not need to worry about her, as it turned out.

I learned my lesson in the last race: starting lane position is important. Last time I started in an outer lane and spent most of the race running wide around people in the innermost lane. This time I lined up in lane 1. On the second lap I needed to hop into lane 2 in order to pass two people, but other than that I was in lane 1 the whole way. We were all really spread out anyway, so crowding was not an issue. But, still, it was good to get a start in the most advantageous lane.

My pacing plan was as follows:

Lap 1: 66 (remember, it’s a 1500, not a mile, so the first lap is 300m)

Lap 2: 90

Lap 3: 90

Lap 4: Run real fast

I was shooting for a 5:36 and had figured that if I could go out just a smidgen faster than goal pace and then hold at 90 for the bulk of the race, once reaching lap 4 I could either try to continue to hold on or pick it up if possible. The race didn’t quite play out that way. I’m still learning how to pace these things.

I came through the first lap in 60 seconds. Oops. So much for even pacing.

Lap 2 was 92. Not too far off.

Lap 3 was 96. The wind was noticeable on that one.

Lap 4 was really pretty awful from a physical standpoint, but I managed to hold on at 96 again. One woman passed me at 30m before the finish, but I held another one off. Another meter and she would have caught me (she was 0.2 seconds behind me). Jonathan said I looked very tight on the last lap. I need to work on staying relaxed while running fast.

Official time: 5:45.8. I was 6th F and Jonathan said he thinks I was probably the first masters woman.

I was fine until about three minutes after the race. I had what I now realize was the fastest allergy attack I’ve ever experienced. Uncontrollable caughing, copious amounts of phlegm, tears, and impressive wheezing. Jonathan disappeared in the stands to watch the other races. I was not in any shape to be around other human beings, so I disappeared around the side of the stadium to continue my dramatic attack.

After about 15 minutes I managed to calm things down, but it was getting to the point where I was getting, “Are you okays?” from people. A few other women who were in the race with me were similarly coughing/wheezing, so I have to think there must have been loads of pollen (or cancer-causing particulate matter from the cars on the RFK Bridge above us).

I was sorry I was such a mess, as I would have liked to have watched some of the other races (mine was the first event). But I wanted to get home to water and an allergy pill.

Today I certainly felt the effort in my body. Mostly my upper body, like I spent the previous day weilding an overhead paint roller. But it was not as bad as after the mile. I managed 7+ miles at recovery pace this morning without issue.

That’s it for track racing this season. I’ll be back next year, with faster goal times. And allergy pills and water in my bag.

Training: May 24-June 6

Another twofer, as I’ve remained quite busy with work and personal projects. And it promises to get busier: I’ve got the Mini 10K coming up this weekend (and, I hope, interviews to do with the participating elites). Then next weekend the Green Mountain Relay is upon us. I am purchasing massive quantities of Nutella this evening to outfit our team’s two vans with high energy, chocolately and hazelnutty goodness.

The last week in May was low key. I did two workouts — one a general aerobic run, for the purposes of facilitating heat acclimation. I hate running in the heat, but I do notice the difference later in the summer if I’ve made an attempt to ease my way into it. I also will be doing a fair amount of racing this summer, which is new. So I’d better get used to being hot and uncomfortable.

Then on Friday I did a speed session that was so so. I had to make it a short one since I was so busy with work. It was on the hot side at the track and I did okay for the first few repeats but toward the end of the fourth one I was working way too hard and decided to end the speed session there. I have a feeling I was still worn down from the “easy” run (which was very hot/humid) two days before. I wasn’t freaked out by having what on the surface was a failed workout.

My recovery runs continue to hover in the 10:00 range, an improvement over earlier in the season, despite the uncomfortable conditions lately. This is good news.

I saved my legs over the next few days for what would turn out to be a very strange, but very educational racing experience in New Jersey. As Ewen pointed out in a comment, that recent mile race on the track may have helped my speed.

As for the rest of the week, post-race I applied myself. I did another hot easy run on Wednesday. On Friday, it was baking already at 7AM and I knew that if I went to the track to try to do speedwork there, in full sun, I’d just end up suffering both physically and mentally, and probably running badly as well. So I switched plans and did my speedwork on the mostly shaded running path.

I did a series of five 90 second pickups during 8 miles of easy miles, with the pickups at around 5K effort. The good news is that they got faster as I went along, starting in the high 6:00s and ending at around 6:07 pace. Not going to the track had been a good idea. And I got about 8 minutes of fast running in, with some decent aerobic effort miles to boot, so I was happy. And very sleepy later on.

Saturday I played driver and water girl for Jonathan, who did a hilly 5K in FDR State Park. It was, again, hot and humid. I did 5 miles at recovery pace around the park while he raced. That was enough for me. Man, it was hot. Today was not his best time, unsurprisingly, but he put in a good effort and got 6th overall.

From masters stud...

...to tired hothouse flower.

The heat would be worse on Sunday. By the time I got out, it was around 10:30AM and the heat index was already in the mid 80s. It would be in the low 90s by the time I finished a 10 miler. As you can see, I was running at aerobic effort (mid-70%s MHR) and getting a slow pace for all that work. Oh, well. It will get easier.

In addition to the Mini on Saturday, this week I have my second track race, a 1500m race, again at Icahn Stadium. The weather is looking friendlier — 60s or 70s and (yay) very dry. A little wind, but anything’s better than 25mph. I’m feeling pretty good about my prospects.

New Houston Hopeful interview: Tammy Lifka

I published the second interview in the Houston Hopefuls series yesterday. Tammy Lifka trains in the Chicago area, has three young kids and uses high altitude simulation equipment, among other distinctions. It’s a long interview, but I think well worth the read, most notably for her perspective on pacing marathons, both as pacer and pacee.

For the full interview (with audio): Houston Hopefuls > Tammy Lifka

Mix: 90 Minute Groove

Some new discoveries by a few bands. This kept me company on a 10 miler this morning.

1. All I Want – LCD Soundsystem

2. Texico Bitches – Broken Social Scene

3. All To All – Broken Social Scene

4. Ungrateful Little Father – Broken Social Scene

5. Sweetest Kill – Broken Social Scene

6. Pilot – The Notwist

7. Equus – Blonde Redhead

8. 23 – Blonde Redhead

9. Dr Strangluv – Blonde Redhead

10. Sw – Blonde Redhead

11. Spring and By Summer Fall – Blonde Redhead

12. Silently – Blonde Redhead

13. Top Ranking – Blonde Redhead

14. She Just Likes to Fight – Four Tet

15. Always For You – The Album Leaf

16. See In You – The Album Leaf

17. Into the Sea – The Album Leaf

18. On The Other Side – The Strokes

19. Everything is Everything – Phoenix

20. The Cabbage – Teenage Fanclub

Listen on Rhapsody

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