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.

The mile

Last night marked another first: my first track race.

The venue? Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island.

The distance? The mile.

The goal? Break six minutes.

The reality? Not on this night.

Just getting to the stadium was a trial. Google Maps said “18 minutes, 40 in traffic.” I gave us 45. That still wasn’t enough. It was bumper to bumper for much of the way. We finally got onto the RFK (aka Triboro, for you old school New Yorkers) Bridge and got way the hell over to prepare to exit right for Randall’s Island. I learned this lesson before when we drove to the Reebok games. But as we neared the toll plazas we saw signs that said “New. Left Lane. Ward’s Island”? Wha?

Panic. Go left or go right? We decided to stick with what we knew, which was to go right.

Now this maneuver is not for the faint of heart. I learned to drive in New York, so I’m fairly fearless on the roads, but crossing four lanes of traffic on this bridge takes the hand-eye coordination of a 12 year old and the steely resolve of a mercenary, neither of which I possess.

Jonathan, who accompanied me on this trip as much for moral support as for the purpose of helping me to not get hopelessly lost (which I would have), rolled down the window in an attempt to help me navigate through the onrush of cars. Just as he did that a giant SUV came by, landed in a pothole and sent a wave of water through the passenger side window. I half expected to see a fish in Jonathan’s lap. He was soaked.

So things were starting off well.

We wended our way down to the stadium. The next problem was, where to park? Any lots nearby were blocked and the one just outside the stadium was charging $20 for “event parking.” Oh, right. This is New York. If someone can gouge you, they will. A bunch of random schlubs running round a track was considered an “event”? I paid $20 to park for the Reebok meet. I wasn’t paying it tonight. We circled back and found parking outside of some sort of tennis complex.

It was a quick jog over to the stadium. In the pouring rain. Yes. It was pouring. And very windy.

As was promised, this was a very low key affair. I paid my $10 and then prepared to wait. It was about 6:45 and the races were to start at 7:00, running the 400, 800, 3000 and, finally, my event. The mile.

Did you know that Icahn has an open wifi network? I used it to post morose Facebook updates.

Jonathan, wet, was getting hypothermic. I gave him my extra pair of warmup pants (actually, they’re his, but I’ve gradually claimed ownership by wearing them constantly) and that helped. With no body fat, he’s delicate in cold, wet conditions. While he was off getting changed I found myself in a battle of wills with a mangy squirrel that found my duffel bag worthy of fascination. I looked at the track, which was in a downpour. And the flags, which were horizontal. I felt bad for all of us. This was rapidly feeling like a total waste of time.

I went down to do a warmup when they started the 800. I probably jogged a half mile back and forth along the side of the track. Then I did four strides. I ran the second one so fast that I nearly fell down. That would have been a little embarrassing.

Midway through the 3000 I put on my spikes, which for the record are called Gel Dirt Divas. I am not happy with that name. But they cost $35 and they are light and comfortable as can be. The 3000 ended (I felt sorry for those people, 7.5 laps in this shit). The rain had actually started to let up a bit. It was now a light rain. The wind, however, had kicked up and was a steady 20-25 mph blowing straight down the home straightaway.

The mile group was big, maybe 40-50 people. They divided us up into two races: the fasties and slowies. The fasties were all men, except for one brave woman. I raced with the slowies.

I did have a pacing strategy for this race, which was to run 88-90 for the first lap, hold on at 90 for two and three, then do whatever I could for the last 409+ meters. Standing there in the wind, I was thinking I’d be lucky to run between 6:20 and 6:30.

We line up on the special white curvy line and, whee, we actually get a starter gun. I’m in lane 5 when we go. Coming around the curve I position myself in lane 3, where I am stuck for the first lap and a half. I actually manage a 90 second first lap and think, so far so good. But it won’t last. I come through lap two seven seconds slower. Although, on the bright side, I’m now in lane 2 and working to get into the inside lane by passing a few people.

Lap three is, as Coach Kevin promised, the hardest one. My legs feel okay but my lungs are feeling it and I have a pain forming in my throat and rising up my neck to the sides of my head. This is a completely foreign sensation. I have never run this hard, for this far, in my life. Lap 3 is a little slower still, maybe 98.

We round the first 100 of the last lap and I’m really feeling it now. But I only have to do this for another 300 meters, so I push. There’s one guy a couple meters ahead of me whom I’d love to catch, but I can’t. Still, he pulls me along and I manage a slightly faster last lap, despite the extra 9 meters — another 97.

There is no clock at the finish. I don’t know what my official time is because the results haven’t been posted yet. But my watch said 6:23. I ran 1.04 miles, due to being in the outer lanes for most of the way. Doing the math, had I been in lane 1 the whole way, I would have been good for around a 6:08. Without the wind, I know I would have broken 6:00. Oh, well. Oh, well.

Afterwards, I couldn’t speak. My jaws were stiff and I was wheezing. I’d also generated a tremendous amount of heat. Despite being in a tee shirt and shorts in a wind chill in the 40s, I was boiling.

Spotted Robert (and said hi to his girlfriend, Helen, before the race), but I honestly couldn’t talk to anyone. I was in something like mild shock from the race. It was the oddest sensation.

Despite the bad conditions, the crowded track and lack of amenities like a clock for splits, I enjoyed myself. It was a new experience and an intense one at that. Unfortunately, there are no more mile races scheduled this season. But there’s a 1500 on June 8 and I’ll take another crack at it then. My goal is the 1500 equivalent of a 6:00 mile, or 5:36. I hope it’s not windy.

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