Bronx 10-miler Race Report

10-mile races aren’t common, but the two I get to run each year are among my favorites. Today was my second try at the Bronx 10-miler, one of the New York Road Runners’ Five Borough Series races.

The Context

One nice perk of running the Five Borough races is that if you run four of the six races (yes, there are six Five Borough races) in a calendar year, you get guaranteed entry into the NYC Half the following March. Since that’s the one Five Borough race that has a lottery (so far), it’s easy to get in a cycle where you run four of six to get into NYC Half, then find yourself doing that over and over.

The other four races: Fred LeBow Manhattan Half (January), Brooklyn Half (May), Queens 10K (June), and Staten Island Half (October). Bronx was my fourth for the year — all but Fred LeBow — but I’m also running Staten Island in two weeks for my dress rehearsal half before NYC. And I’ll be running the NYC Half in March for the third time.

Last year, Bronx also was my fourth, and my eighth for 9+1, which was about the only reason I did it. That day was hot and humid and miserable. The race wasn’t quite as bad only because I ran the last two miles with Train Runner and BOTP Badass and we got my favorite race photo EVER when the race photographers caught our emotional group hug after the finish as we all celebrated finishing the four of six challenge.

This year had no Train Runner or BOTP Badass, but it had glorious weather. I wore LONG sleeves over my race shirt and then was cold after I dropped that shirt in my gear bag and checked it. I haven’t been cold before a run in months, and it was a great way to start the day.

The Course

It’s basically an out-and-back with a couple of quirks, including a finish about six-tenths of a mile after the start line and a tiny crossbar at the top, like an out of proportion T. There’s pretty much no flat to the race — just gradual ups and gradual downs, with a few places where the elevation change is a little less gradual. I decided last year that it’s a good course for me — enough elevation to make use of my strength, but not so much that I have to walk all the uphills.

The Plan

Coach B had penciled this in as all easy effort, and I had been hoping for something like last year where I did a big chunk at marathon effort. But she said no, too much training stress for the week if I went beyond easy. Still, this was my first real chance to see what easy effort looked like pace-wise in good weather after all my summer swelter miles, so easy effort it was.

The Gear

New Sub-30 tank that just arrived Wednesday (and went for a test drive that afternoon) to see if that was a possible marathon shirt. My long run sneakers (NB 940v3) because I wanted to have as much support as possible during these last weeks of training since Staten Island and NYC will be in my preferred 860s (the 2017 NYC 860v8 limited edition). Also my freebie lululemon capris with the amazing pockets from RWF last year and regular weight Balega merino socks. Except for the sneakers, that’s probably what I’m wearing for NYC, plus arm sleeves. I wanted to test the tank without them to make sure I wouldn’t run into any arm chafing issues, since I probably won’t be wearing the arm sleeves the entire marathon.

Pre-Race

Another plus of Bronx, which finishes in front of Yankee Stadium, is that I can drive there in under 20 minutes. Today was a little longer than that because I missed my turn to the street where my parking reservation was and went in circles for a bit before I got back there. But it was still the rare NYRR race where travel doesn’t eat half my day, and that’s another plus.

This was also a good chance to test out some things before NYC. I’ve made some tweaks to my race fueling plan, so I got up early enough to treat today like it was the marathon.

Pre-race: Oatmeal cup (Quaker Medleys peach almond) three hours before, a bagel each hour after that, and a banana 15 minutes before the start, plus 32 ounces of water mixed with Nuun Performance and a grande latte from Starbucks.

I’ve gone back and forth on the caffeine because at Broad Street it bumped my heart rate up higher than I felt like I was running based on breathing, but when I tried Brooklyn without it, I felt like it was much harder. I finally came down on the side of drinking the coffee but keeping the effects on my heart rate in mind. In today’s case, I figured if there were points where my heart rate kicked up into Zone 3, I’d see how my breath was and use that to decide if I was working too hard or not.

During the race: I tested four Clif Shot Bloks every 30 minutes during last week’s long run in the city and it worked, so today I wanted to try it again with Gatorade Endurance in the mix and at (likely) faster paces. As part of that, I used my watch lap button to mark off 30-minute increments, not distance. I thought that might also keep me from getting caught up in pace and time.

The driving in circles meant I only had time to eat one bagel, and the race started about 20 minutes late, so my banana was more like 40 minutes before the start, but I wasn’t hugely worried about either because this wasn’t all that long of a race, relatively speaking. (2016 Jennie is wondering when 10 miles became “not that long.”)

Small group of Subbers running today, including Bronx Speedster and Team Sizzle, so we all met up for a photo at 7:15, then most of us headed for the port-potties. Last year I made the mistake of thinking I just had the “nervous pee” urge while waiting in the corral only to discover when the race started that no, I really should have made a second pit stop. I tried not to make that mistake again this year.

The Start

Retiring President of Events and TCS NYC Marathon Race Director Peter Ciaccia is from the Bronx, so they had some extra stuff before the race in his honor, plus they had something logistical that delayed things, so we started more than 20 minutes late. At bigger races, I’ve waited until they started the race to eat my banana, but with only 15,000 runners and no wave start, I ate it before I got into the corral. Lesson learned.

They didn’t stagger the start for this race, probably because they had to clear the start before the fastest runners returned, so I ended up further up than I normally would because of how the corrals collapsed once we got moving. I stayed to the far right so it would be easier for faster runners to pass me — a factor at any NYRR race because Corral L is everybody with an 11:30 or slower 10K pace. I actually didn’t mind the corrals collapsing because I knew this would be a slower pace for me because I was running easy and I wanted to stay ahead of the sweep bus.

The Race

The plus of an out-and-back course with Subbers is I usually see a lot of them on their return, but today I didn’t. I think Bronx Speedster went by while I was making a pit stop, and Team Sizzle must have still been on the crossbar when I entered it, which is the one place where you don’t see people on the return trip. That actually was a nice confidence boost because Team Sizzle normally is far enough ahead that they would have passed me before the crossbar, and I knew they were racing it. (Mrs. Sizzle PR’d by more than 2 minutes!)

On the uphill portions of the return half, I found my heart rate bumping up into Zone 3, but most of the time I was still breathing easily (4/4 slow), so I just went with it. I did have to walk a bit more than I would have liked, but that might also be because I focused on walking briskly on the uphills, so I was not as recovered at the top as I normally am. I’ve found in training runs that I typically get better overall paces that way, and wanted to try it out in a situation where I was really pushing the pace to the top of my easy range. On easy training runs, I typically don’t and often hover around the break point between Zone 1 and Zone 2, or all in Zone 1.

Housekeeping: Yes, I clocked the pit stop (2:07) so I could pull it out of my time to get a good read on my pace.

When I got to the 15K mark, I felt good, so I stopped paying attention to my pace and just ran, and when I hit the turn to the downhill finish, I let it out. IT wasn’t a dig deep and run hard, it was more a “cruise with the fast finish.” Team Sizzle was there cheering me on, which was an awesome shot of adrenaline. I passed about 10 or 20 people in that last seven-tenths of a mile, which felt good.

Takeaways

  • The 30-minute manual laps worked really well, both for tracking fueling intervals easily and for keeping me out of my head.
  • There were a couple of points where I had to make myself eat the chews because I wasn’t hungry, but I wanted to test and make sure the extra cube (4 vs. 3) combined with the Gatorade didn’t cause GI issues. I did have a couple of stops where I went with water instead of Gatorade because I didn’t want more sweet, and that seemed to be a good adjustment.
  • My pace slowed as the race went on, but that was because my effort was rising — pretty typical when running by heart rate. If I hadn’t been trying to keep things at easy effort, I definitely could have held my pace from the first half all the way through without tipping into true race effort.
  • The tank worked well — no chafing issues. That’s actually an improvement over my short-sleeved shirts over long distances, so it looks like I’ll be wearing the tank with arm sleeves unless it’s cold enough to need long sleeves for the marathon.
  • The faster stretch after 15K was 14:16 pace, and it felt good to see I could easily pull out that faster pace at the end of a race, the day after a 90-minute long run, without having to dig deep (even if it was elevation-aided). The last bit across the finish was 10:16 pace, which was good to see for a stretch that felt easy fast, not dig deep fast.
  • I actually finished before Peter Ciaccia got out there to greet the final finishers, which is the first time I’ve finished a double-digit NYRR race without being one of the final finishers. That was a huge mental boost — especially since I wasn’t racing.
  • Oh, and my pace was 16:01, which backs out to 15:48 if you take out the pit stop. That’s almost two minutes faster than my easy pace in the spring, and only about 15 seconds off my half PR pace. Summer miles indeed make for fall smiles.