Race Report: Scotland 10K Run (squeak!)

My Low Expectations World Tour 2011 continues. And it’s going well.

I ran just under 45:00 (44:59), a 19 second PR for the 10K (my previous one being on the same course at the Mini 10K in June). I had no expectations for today, and no goals other than to race hard. While I wore my simple Timex and took splits, aside from mile split 3 (which I saw by accident when trying to locate the button), I did not look at the watch until crossing the finish mat.

Today was a near-perfect day for racing: wind chills in the upper 40s, overcast, not humid, and almost no discernible wind. I even had all my usual pre-race events that are indicative of racing success: a plumbing crisis yesterday, nightmares about our house being flooded, terrible insomnia and a messed up GI system in the morning. Seeing those bags under my eyes in the mirror, I thought, “Damn. You’ll run well today.”

I’ll cut to the chase. Since NYRR was doing a much better job of enforcing corral placement today, I was able to get up toward the front of the second corral, and crowding was not an issue after the half mile mark. I guess it wasn’t an issue at all, since it was my fastest mile.

The splits: 6:58, 7:11, 7:10, 7:37, 7:10, 7:17; 1:32. Mile 4, which comes around the top of the park, the second of two big hills, always kills people. I passed a lot of people in mile 5, which I was surprised to see the split for, since it felt like I was crawling through that mile. There was a lot going on in my head at that point in the race. I was getting very tired, but telling myself, “The weather is perfect and no one’s in your way; you have no excuse not to apply yourself.” But I was also aware of how spent I was between mile 5 and 6, so much so that I am now seriously doubting my ability to race a half marathon in three weeks. I’ll have to see how things go.

Nevertheless, I was happy with the effort and a PR is always a good thing, although I have run a faster 10K segment in a half marathon (the 43:00 range) way back in 2008. But I am coming back and it’s early days yet. Not looking at the watch helped, although at times I was dying to see how I was doing. I will keep racing blind in this way, since I’m finding that doing so removes a whole dimension of stress, especially in the final miles.

Stats: I was 7th in my AG (there’s a guy from Australia mixed in with us in the results), 132nd (or maybe 131st, given the guy) out of close to 4,000 chicks. Second New York Harriers masters woman (there were only two of us out there today). The big news is that Jonathan raced today too, his first race in 10 months. Given that he’s just started running hard again and his mileage is quite  low, he did not have great expectations either. But he ran without foot trouble and I consider that a major victory.

I saw lots of Harriers both on the course and out spectating. It does help to get acknowledged, even if I’m in danger of keeling over if I try to say anything in response. I also saw many kilts. Was there anything under them? I’m not sure, but thinking about that was a fun distraction while nearly puking my way to the finish. Two Front Runners guys effectively served as my pacers today. I thanked them afterward.

After the race we headed over to Ditch Plains on 82nd and Columbus for brunch with fellow New York Running Show co-hosts TK, Joe, Brenn (and his lovely wife and cute baby) and Steve. There, I eagerly shoveled eggs Benedict into my face, followed by s’mores. The shoveling has continued through the afternoon.

NYRR introduces brand new way to annoy and inconvenience its customers

I try not to rag on NYRR excessively, saving my screeds for when they’re truly justified. Here’s one that seems justified enough.

This was posted on the New York Harriers’ message board yesterday, quoting (presumably) from NYRR materials for participants in this weekend’s NYC Half Marathon.

“A participant wristband will be put on you when you get your bib at the expo. You must wear the wristband to enter your starting corral and throughout the race on Sunday. If you break or lose your wristband before the race, you must return to the expo for a new one, and your name will be recorded in our entrant database as having received a second one. If you are not wearing a wristband when you finish the race, you won’t be given a finisher medal and won’t be eligible for post-race amenities.”

Really? I have to wear a bracelet (and a flimsy one, by the sounds of it) for three days in order to be allowed to run in a race that I’ve paid the better part of $100 for? Why not just institute electronic tracking ankle bracelets like the ones they put on convicted mob bosses? Or (Jonathan’s idea), how about requiring that I wear the shoes I plan to race in to the expo for a special chip that requires I keep the shoes on (even in the shower and in bed) until I’m done with the race? How about a chip that serves as a “third eye,” implanted in my forehead and read by a bioscanner?

What shenanigans are they trying to prevent? Bib borrowing? Who gives a shit? Why does NYRR give a shit?

If they insist on playing playground monitor to racers, then why not do what every toothless, imbecilic carnival ride worker in the world knows to be much more efficient? Just use a special stamp with ink that takes at least four days to wear off. Imagine the money they’ll save on special bracelets, dealing with angry return expo visitors, and setting up and maintaining computerized tracking systems.

Sometimes I think NYRR wants its constituents to dislike them.

Training: Feb 27-Mar 5

Here ya go.

I was really keyed up after the previous week’s long run in Central Park. I ran what was supposed to be a 5 mile recovery run way too hard, in wind and on hills, around my local streets in the Crestwood neighborhood. My adductor started hurting, so I cut it short and took the next day off.

Determined to stay off the treadmill,  on Tuesday I headed up to Scarsdale for what was supposed to be a progression run with 2 fast miles at the end. But I was really beat, plus it was incredibly windy again. So I made do with a run at decent effort, dropping the faster stuff. I knew I had a speed session and a race coming up, so there was no point in pushing things.

Wednesday featured a horrible track workout. That was unhelpful.

I spent the next few days focusing on getting mentally ready to race a 5K, since my body was not doing its fair share. One of the Harriers’ coaches sent round a “Racing Coogan’s for Dummies” document and I studied up. Then I did some race visualization. I know it sounds hokey, but I’ll try anything at this point.

That race went pretty well, although I was a minute off my PR. But I was not expecting miracles. Nor did I get them.

And there you have it. I ran a measly 31 miles, but given my performance on Sunday, that is okay. I’m becoming convinced that less is more when it comes to pre-race mileage, provided you keep the quality up.

This week I’m back up to 50 mpw, with the staples: progression, speed, long. With the exception of one fartlek session featuring Billat surges, all of my speedier stuff between now and April 10th’s Scotland 10K race is track torture. While it’s not 10K training per se, the variety of shorter track stuff mixed with progression work over hills is bound to help when I line up for that race five weeks from now. Or at least I hope so.

Race Report: Coogan’s 5K

I still hate 5Ks. But I hate them a little less after this race. Maybe the Gridiron 4 Miler a month ago helped to prepare me for this. Or maybe it’s the fact that I still have no real race endurance (meaning I know that trying to race, say, a 15K would be infinitely more painful and embarrassing than any 5K at this point). But this was okay.

Fun stuff: This was my first race wearing a New York Harriers shirt. There were unexpected benefits. Well, at least one, which was getting acknowledgments (running the gamut from staid nods to frenetic thumbs up) from fellow Harriers. It also meant I could tap a fellow Harrier (as I did today) and say, “Good luck!” without the action being confusing.

Also, I started the race a few feet away from Gary Muhrcke, known by marathon history nerds as the winner of the inaugural New York City Marathon, and by watchers of the YES! Network as the enthusiastic man on the commercials for Super Runners Shop, which Muhrcke founded.

Minor annoyances: NYRR was not enforcing its corral system today. I started the race surrounded by people in bibs with numbers 5,000 and above. They should have been two or three corrals back. I spent the first third of a mile fighting my way through slower runners. Boo. Also, they started the race three minutes early. Bizarre. Finally, the finish line was not marked with a banner. So what I thought was the finish mat was actually the final start mat. I hit Stop and started jogging after hitting it. Later, my results would reflect this: I lost about 6 seconds due to not knowing where the finish actually was. Grr.

The deets: Allowing for the initial crowding problem (and my theory that the course is slightly harder than the 4 miler course in Central Park), I think I’ve improved slightly since last month. I was careful not to kill myself in the first mile, and I was good about motoring on the downhills, as I passed a lot of people.

The big hill from 1.9-2.6 was not that terrible. Once I crested it, I recovered pretty quickly and was able to roll pretty well through the last half mile. Although that was a treacherous stretch, as it was Pothole City, especially under the bridge. Although I am told by Amy, who calls Washington Heights home, that they did a lot of work to fill those holes before the race, so I should be grateful.

I have no memory whatsoever of the bands or the actual scenery on the course.

Also, it was raining steadily and there were numerous puddles. My favorite racing shoes — the Asics Hyperspeeds — are equipped with drainage holes in the bottom. These are great when it’s pouring rain because it’s like wearing colanders on your feet — the water drains right out. On a day like today it just means your socks get wet during the warmup. But it’s a 5K. It’s not a marathon. Wet feet: not an issue.

The stats: 22:13 (to my watch’s 22:06, dammit), 11th in my AG, 2nd F40+ Harrier. Yay.

The whole point: I know why you join a club now. For the post-race drinks! Think about it. Go drinking at 11AM alone and you’re a sad lush. Go drinking with other people at 11AM and you’re being sociable and festive. I met up with around 30 of my black-clad teammates at Amsterdam Ale House (they wisely avoided the clusterfuck at Coogan’s; I knew there was a reason I joined this club) for Newcastle and chitchat. Urp.

Training: Feb 13-19

In which I worriedly, hurriedly prepare for a short race

I am quite aware of the fact that I have a 5K race looming on the horizon. I don’t like 5K races but, to be fair, I haven’t raced that many of them, and only a handful have been since I started running competitively. In two weeks I’ll cover the Coogan’s course in Washington Heights. I have been doing what I can to prepare for a short, fast race while also trying to not do anything that’s going to irritate the adductor injury that continues to hang on for dear life. But I feel I’ve turned a corner in that if I’m careful and do a shit-tonne of stretching and strengthening, it’s under control and on its way out, however slowly.

That said, this was another okay week, featuring two decent workouts and one half-assed workout. I did not hit the 52 miles I’d originally planned, but that’s life. I do, however, now feel pretty confident that I can handle real training. With that I will get back in touch with Coach Sandra (whom I’ve not wanted to bug during this period of testing the waters) this week to talk half marathon training.

I’m at the point where running 10 miles at any pace doesn’t feel like a 20 miler. But endurance at faster paces continues to be an issue and time’s a-wastin’. So I am trying to add in some substantial efforts at speedier paces. This campaign to not embarrass myself in two weeks began with Sunday’s trip into Central Park. This time I dragged Jonathan with me, who managed 12 miles with some discomfort in his foot. But, heck, he ran 12 miles, some of them on the faster side. So that’s progress.

We ran 6 miles together to warm up, then split up to do our little workouts. I did an inner loop, he did an outer loop. I managed three miles at sub-7:30 and a last one at 8:00 (me so tired). That was pretty good for that course, in wind, coming off a “big” week. Having learned last week that a longer recovery run on Monday is a no no, I split things up into two runs.

Tuesday was a big social day as was Wednesday evening. On Wednesday morning I decided to try a fartlek run again. There has been some slight improvement over last week’s fartlek in that I could do two sets and the speeds were slightly faster. I also shortened the between-sets recovery time from 5 to 4 minutes.

On Thursday I didn’t feel like doing anything, least of all running. I spent pretty much the entire day finding ways to avoid running. Then I forced myself to go to the gym to do some circuit stuff and figured I’d just try getting on the treadmill and if it sucked I’d climb off and call it a day. Mostly, I wanted to go there so I could use the sauna. After the first couple of miles I felt okay so decided to at least do something a little more productive than a 9:50 plod: a couple of miles at faster paces, if not stellar ones. At least the 20 minutes in the sauna seemed well-deserved.

Friday I was flat out exhausted, so I skipped exercise entirely. Saturday featured an evening run at home on the treadmill. For some reason I felt compelled to tack on a half mile to the planned 6. I think I felt bad about bailing on Friday’s run entirely. A half mile here, a half mile there. Pretty soon you’re talking, like, a whole extra mile.

Next week I may attempt some actual speed work if I can find a clear outdoor track or uninterrupted flat pathway to run on. That depends entirely on snow meltage. We are scheduled to get more snow this evening, so yeah, ha ha. It’s February, bitches. Have another cup of snow. I suspect I’ll being doing more fartleks on the treadmill. They’re close enough.

My training weeks begin on Sunday (or, put another way, end on Saturday). But I got in the habit of posting these training tomes on Sundays. So I’ll cheat and mention that I did my first outdoors tempo run since the summer today in Central Park. I basically tried to simulate a 5K more or less, but split up into three bits separated by 4 minutes. I managed to run my 7 minute segments at around 6:50 pace, which I’m pretty damned proud of because it was hellaciously windy today. I was running at harder than tempo effort much of the time, but whatever. I’m not going to be a purist about anything at this point. Waste of time. I need to get used to being really, really uncomfortable for around 21 minutes.

Groovy new Tempo Run playlist appears below.

In which I am uncharacteristically social

I spent all day Tuesday with a friend (and part of the afternoon with her five-year-old, who is smarter and more articulate than many adults I know) in Manhattan. She’s one of the few people I’m still in touch with from graduate school from way back in the (gulp) mid- ’90s, and by far the friend from that milieu to whom I’m closest. She’s moving out of the country indefinitely in July, so we’re trying to spend some time with each other fairly regularly before that happens. I’m happy for her, but it’s still a bummer to have to say goodbye. There’s virtually no chance I’ll visit her where she’s headed. That sounds ominous; it’s not meant to. She’s not going to prison or anything. She’ll just be very, very far away in a place I have no desire to visit.

On Wednesday evening I drove up to Rye Brook for dinner and conversation with my heretofore virtual friend, Cris/Darkwave of Well, I’m TRYING to Run fame. I have been trading training notes and amusing quips online with Cris for several years, primarily on this weekly thread on LetsRun (although I have been absent for many months during my injury odyssey). Cris was just as intelligent, interesting and warm in person as I’d expected her to be. It was a fun evening, although I worried I kept her up too late on a school night, since she was up here on a business trip and had to get up at 5:30AM the next morning and be a responsible adult. I, on the other hand, being an irresponsible adult, was free to sleep in late and then spend the day farting around the house.

In which I somewhat reluctantly show some team spirit

I bought a long-sleeved Harriers tech shirt this week, since it was easy enough to swing by Urban Athletics on my way to see my East Side friend. It’s a little weird to anticipate wearing it in a couple of weeks, not only because I don’t want to put further pressure on myself in a race at a distance that is not my forte. I’m not generally a joiner and uniforms of any sort always give me pause. But wearing a shirt in the points races seems to be what people do.

I will say that it looks pretty fetching on me (I look good in black — and somewhat menacing, I hope) and it was comfortable enough on today’s test run, for which I wore it as a base layer so I could continue to stealth train.

In which I go back to my artistic roots

I have more websites than is reasonable for one person. Especially since none of them are making me any money. But I can always launch another one, even as the current ones sit neglected. I expect to launch this newest creative venture pretty soon — probably next month or in April. Those who have known me for a long time know that I have a long history of drawing cartoons. I have had a dry spell of this activity for, oh, about 20 years, although I will sometimes make a painting when under stress.

Anyway, I have been besieged by funny ideas lately. That has led to sketching and frequent giggling. I should do something with these ideas and with the good domain I own but have not known what to do with (people have offered to buy it from me, but I had faith that a use for it would eventually emerge). Yes, I want to express myself. At least I’m not writing erotic poetry or making wallets out of duct tape.

So look for that soon.

———————————————————–

Mix: Tempo Run

Nobody’s In Love This Year – Warren Zevon
Change4Me – Bettie Serveert
No Matter What – Badfinger
1994 – Amberhaze
When I Wonder – Charlatans U.K.
Souls Travel – Bettie Serveert
Meet Me In The Basement – Broken Social Scene
Elephant Woman – Blonde Redhead
The Well And The Lighthouse – Arcade Fire
Sincerity – Charlatans U.K.
Girls Talk – Dave Edmunds
Changes Are No Good – The Stills
Bled White – Elliott Smith
Pop In G – Heatmiser
Gimme Animosity – Superdrag
Godspell – The Cardigans
Better Things – The Kinks
American Girl – Tom Petty
Something’s Out There – Freedy Johnston
Don’t Look Down – Lindsey Buckingham
Billoddity – Mojave 3
Swimming Song – Kate and Anna McGarrigle
My Favorite Mistake – Sheryl Crow
Finding You – The Go-Betweens
Cellophane – Creeper Lagoon
Dirty Secret – Grant-Lee Phillips
I Need Your Love – Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac

Listen on Rhapsody

Things for you to read: what’s here and what’s on the way

I have a giant list of writing-related project to dos (plus some podcast prep stuff). But most of them are so daunting. I haven’t got it in me today. This fucking head cold is still here. It abated for a bit last night, but it’s back with a vengeance this morning. I spent three hours shouting over ambient noise at the NY Harriers holiday party, which probably didn’t help. But I met some nice people, and it was good to get out of the house after four days of cabin fever, so it was worth the trip in.

My head’s both everywhere and nowhere with this cold, but since I’m not up to a run or gym trip today, I feel like a sloth if I don’t do something productive with the time. So I’m tackling a few of the smaller writing projects.

First, there are several updates to the Houston Hopefuls site for anyone following along: one is an account of Tammy Lifka’s experiences with injury and his-and-hers blood clots; then there are the race reports from Jen Hitchings and Julie Wankowski from last weekend’s California International Marathon. My next interview will be with Lori Kingsley, a woman who went from being a slightly overweight, smoking non-runner to a national masters champion in just six years.

Second, I’ve made lots of updates to this blog’s Faves page. Some old favorites are still there, but I swapped in 75% new content. 75%! That’s massive! Go check it out.

Third, I’m working on an interview I’ve had lying around since September, with the recently crowned American 5K record holder Molly Huddle. I hope to at least get that transcribed today, if not posted. It’s up here: A few minutes with Molly Huddle

Fourth, I’ve finished work on a long feature article about Khalid Khannouchi, a follow-up to my article earlier this year about his comeback. I’m very proud of it. So much so that I’m trying to find a real publisher for it. But I don’t want to sit on it forever, so if those efforts don’t pan out then it should be posted up here sometime over the next few weeks.

And, finally, my second Running Times article appeared in print this week. It’s toward the back of the Jan/Feb issue and it’s entitled “The Racer’s Wish List.” The genesis of the article was a survey I did of race participants, which I then shared with one elite runner, one race management company owner, and four directors of races of varying sizes. I’ll put up a link to the online version when that appears in a month or so.

NY Running: The Club Scene

Last night Joe, Frank, Amy, Steve and I yacked for well over an hour (1:23:18, to be exact) on the NY Running Podcast. We chatted mostly about clubdom — what are clubs all about? What’s in it for you? And why won’t NYRR recognize the Inwood Hill Runners as a club? Steve also plugged a few upcoming races. This episode should get you through a 10 mile run if you’re running an 8:20 pace.

Listen to or download the show at Talk Shoe. Learn more about the NY Running Podcast.

Race Report: NYRR Club Championships

Well, fuck. This was a bad race. A five miler I’d really been looking forward to, for a variety of reasons:

  • It was my first club championships race, since I’ve only just joined a team a couple of months ago.
  • The work I’ve been doing lately has set me up for some faster shorter races.
  • We were gifted with ideal summer racing conditions: low-70s and relatively dry.
  • I’d more or less tapered since Tuesday, so felt ready from that standpoint.

All I needed to do was better than 34:45 for a PR today at the 5M distance. I felt it was well within the realm of possibility. I ended up with 36:24. So what happened?

As often happens the day before a race, I had a new little niggle to deal with, in this case a weird issue with my right hip that came on quite suddenly in the evening. If I put weight on it while standing at a certain angle, such as when twisting to load the dishwasher, it hurt a lot. But I had been fine on a run in the morning. As long as I didn’t make dishwasher-loading movements, it was under control. I decided to ignore it.

This morning I got up and the issue was still there, although it had eased in intensity slightly. But when I set off to do my warmup and strides near the race start, I had a new issue: a sore right hamstring (which has been giving me trouble for the last 10 days, although it comes and goes). This was worrisome. I briefly thought of bailing on the race altogether, but hated the idea of doing that. So I set a goal of 7:00 pace (down from the original 6:50 goal) for the first mile and figured I’d see if I could loosen up the hamstring over the course of the race.

I hit the first split in 6:58, which was good, as it’s one of the harder miles, and I was more or less on plan. The hamstring hurt and, worse, had obviously limited mobility. I could extend my right leg about 80% compared to my left one. I kept at it, albeit with a slight limp.

Mile two was a 7:00 split. I was doing okay, but nothing was improving and I was having trouble maintaining my lopsided stride. So I shortened my left leg’s stride to reduce the stress on the right side. I had to slow down too, as it was really beginning to hurt, especially on the downhills and flats. The last three miles averaged around 7:28. It was the best I could do on an increasingly gimpy leg.

I thought of dropping out, but figured there was an outside chance that I could score points for the Harriers master’s team. Had I not had this issue, I’m sure I could have, as teammate Addy and I kept passing each other (she while walking up hills, me while slowing on the downhills so as not to further strain the problem hamstring). I also decided against dropping out as I was afraid that if I stopped running I wouldn’t be able to start up again. This turned out to be a good call, although I wouldn’t realize it until hours later.

Yes, the worst was yet to come. After I stopped running, new problems emerged. Now the pain’s geographical coverage migrated to include my right hip. Between the hamstring and hip, putting any weight on the leg was really becoming quite painful and I was limping all the way back to the car. Once seated, I felt fine. But we got stuck in bad traffic, and I could feel the hip tightening up over the course of the hour or so it took it get home. Once in the driveway, I discovered that I could no longer walk. At all.

Crutches got me into an ice bath. Percocet got me out of the ice bath. Now I’m lying on the bed, hoping this isn’t serious.

Goddamit. I shouldn’t have run that race.

Race Report: Run for Central Park 4 Miler

Hot.

So hot.

It was hot.

I was hot.

It’s a good thing I went watchless today because I would have been discouraged indeed by my splits. Although I have to say I’m getting better at guesstimating my capabilities in hot weather. I figured I’d be lucky to run 7:30s today and that’s about what I ran, coming in at 30:05.

I barely did a warmup today. What was the point? Some dynamic stretches, three minutes of jogging and there you go. I was in Corral 2 today (red bib), which was disappointing, but it was a big race so I wasn’t surprised. I decided to run mile 1 like a hard tempo and see how I felt by mile 2. I picked it up a little, but, wary of the effect that mile 3 typically has on me, not too much.

Mile 3 would kill me anyway. I know this because I spent most of the mile trying to catch up with Harriers teammate Addy (whom I would meet, along with my other Harriers AG cohort, Susan, at a post-race Harriers shindig about an hour later). I caught her at mile 3, passing her at the water stop. And then promptly cratered at the crest of the hill heading into mile 4. She passed me and went on to open up a 1 minute gap. Either she was picking things up to a furious pace or I died in that mile. I suspect it was the latter.

Nevertheless, I scored again (third) for the 40+ women’s team category, helping to place us in 8th today. I don’t think the under-45s came out today or we would have placed higher (although I wouldn’t have placed at all). Again I’ll say that running for team points is a motivator that I like having. And now I regret the fact that I’ll probably be doing a lot less racing as I start marathon training. Oh, well. Can’t have everything.

I was good for 9th in my AG, which out of 145 is not terrible, especially considering how bad I am at racing in hot weather.

I met about 30 or so of my teammates afterward, all of them pleasant individuals. 47 glasses of water later I still feel dehydrated. So I’ve moved on to beer. I expect to pass out soon.

Tomorrow is the first day in a long while in which I have no responsibilities. Anything I do tomorrow is optional. This includes getting out of bed. But I’ll probably do at least that. Moreover, on Monday morning at 9 AM I don’t have to join my IBM team status call. Because I don’t work there anymore. Not that the call itself was so terrible. It’s the fact that on that call every week, the coming five days of Sisyphean to do’s would be writ large, filling me with dread, resentment, despair — and a shitload of tension would further compound in my shoulders, neck and back.

My freelance writing schedule is very light next week, something I have deliberately arranged so that I at last have time to get back to my running-specific writing projects. These have been the neglected middle child of my work life lately and it’s bothered me to feel that I’ve lost the momentum I had about a month ago. But there are only so many hours in the day and I frequently ran out of them over the past few weeks.

Next week I have maybe 10-15 hours of freelance work to worry about — the workload the past month has averaged 50-60. Hallefuckinglujah.  I’ve got a massage scheduled for Thursday morning. A Houston Hopefuls update and work on a Running Times piece, plus finally getting to the Mini 10K gems. I may go see the new Predator movie…in the middle of a weekday! And running all week.

Oh, I’ll be busy. But it’s going to be fun busy. I don’t remember the last time I felt this happy about the arrival of Monday.

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).

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