I’d never done a women-only race before, and NYRR’s Shape Half-Marathon is typically Boston Marathon weekend. So when I saw this on the calendar, I asked Coach B if I could do it if I used it as a training run with T-shirt and water stops.
Only later did I realize that signing up gave me seven 9+1-eligible races for the year, which meant I needed to find a volunteer opportunity just in case I ended up running nine races. (I was signed up for eight as of race day, and did my volunteer stint already.)
None. Well, a couple. Mostly to have fun, and keep the race easy effort. Given the hilly course and the warm weather, I was figuring on 1:40-ish. The following Saturday is the Queens 10K, where I set my 10K PR last year. It’s the only flat course I’ve run a 10K on because all my others are either in Central Park or Bethlehem, which both have lots of hills. So I was toying with going for a PR at Queens. This would give me a sense of how likely that would be.
I did have two #RunningtoNYC2018 goals in mind: Clothes and course.
The Mini 10K course starts on Central Park West at 61st Street, runs north on CPW to 90th Street, then hangs a right into Central Park and picks up the main loop around the park — going clockwise.
Typically, races (and runners) go counter-clockwise around the loop. But the last couple of the miles of the marathon are clockwise around part of the loop. (For those familiar with Central Park, the course comes in at Engineer’s Gate, runs down until a turnoff to head out to Central Park South, then back into the park at Columbus Circle and back to the main loop.) Both races finish at Tavern on the Green. So except for the section at the south part of the loop, this would give me a good feel for the last couple of miles of the marathon course, in a race environment.
The other thing I tested out was a “new” pair of capris.
Every year at RWF, lululemon has a deal for a free item of clothing (limited selection) for the first 100 runners who show up. I went in October, and scored a pair of capris that retail for $88!
The only downside: lululemon only carries up to size 12, so they didn’t fit. I kept the tags on them, and decided that one of my non-scale goals for the year would be fitting into them to wear them for NYC. Why? They have AMAZING pockets.
I’d pulled them out a couple of weeks ago when Mother Nature finally picked a season and I could put away my winter clothes for good and pull out the last of the summer ones. They looked not all that much smaller than my clothes, so I mentally made a note to try them on soon and see how close I was to fitting into them.
When I realized that the gear check location for the Mini 10K was going to be a PITA to get to given my transportation into the city on race morning, I thought of those amazing pockets. If they fit, I could probably get everything I needed for the day into the pockets and wouldn’t need to do gear check.
I tried them on.
So I took them out for a run to make sure they would be OK to wear for the race. Next step: Test them out during the race.
Spoiler alert: They passed!
I’ve gotten my pre-race routine reasonably well sorted, and the only quirk this time was getting into the city early enough. Still, I got to sleep in my own bed and could sleep an hour later than on a normal weekday.
One thing I decided to experiment with: coffee. I went for a small instead of my usual medium. Since this wasn’t a race, it was a good chance to see how caffeine would affect me. I can’t really experiment with that during the week because I run so late in the day. If I have coffee before I run, I won’t get to sleep.
NJ Transit cooperated, and I picked up coffee at Penn Station before heading up to Columbus Circle, then found a bench where I could sit, legs propped up, while I waited for the start of the race.
Massachusetts Ex-Pat also was running, so I waited for her to arrive. We hadn’t seen each other since Broad Street, so once she got to Columbus Circle, we had fun catching up before we had to head to the corrals.
I’ve been doing Jay Johnson’s Leg Swings before all my runs for a while now, but this week was the first one where I’d added the Lunge Matrix to the mix. Lunges are always a challenge for me because of my wobbly knees, so this was something I put off longer than I should. The first day, my legs were toast the next morning, but after a week of it, things felt pretty good and it took less time for each run to feel good. So I did those as well, then started working my up toward the front of the corral.
Another tip I picked up in my training journal was to be big. Take up space proudly. There were different suggestions, but I ended up choosing a modified mountain pose. It felt good, physically and mentally.
As always, the first mile is kind of a mess because Corral L is everybody with a 10K average pace of 11:30 or slower. That makes for a pretty big range, and so I always just focus on not getting caught up in the crowd and finding my pace.
Today, that turned out to be 13:47 for the first mile.
Yeah, I was running harder than easy, but not a lot harder — my watch showed heart rate in the marathon-effort range, and it felt pretty easy. Still, I tried to pull back some, especially when we headed into the park and hit a bit of a climb.
As we headed toward Harlem Hill, I passed somebody who made a pained noise, so I said something to encourage her. I don’t even remember what. But she did.
She caught up to me a bit further and thanked me for the encouragement, and we got to talking. Turns out she trains at one of Corgi Coach’s group training sessions. She was doing intervals, and as we headed down what is normally the uphill part of Harlem Hill, I lost her because I was cruising. Harlem Hill is WAY easier backwards.
Next up: The section I was dreading. Normally, there’s this nice downhill by the skating rink and Harlem Meer that heads into Harlem Hill. Since this was a reverse loop, that was going to be uphill, and I felt like it would be at least as bad as Harlem Hill.
So when I hit Mile 3, partway up, I was surprised that I was feeling good, running easy(ish) and hadn’t slowed down appreciably from Mile 2. At the 5K mark, I realized I was right about 45 minutes, which had been my 5K PR pace until last summer. More to the point, my 10K PR was 1:32 and change, and once I finished off this hill, most of the rest of the course was downhill or flat, so it should be no slower than my first half. Which would get me to 90 minutes, and a PR.
That can’t be right. Can it?
I was still running (with occasional walk breaks) uphill as I was thinking this through, and made my brain simmer down. It was warm enough that they had sprinklers on the course, the temperature was still rising, and there was half the race still to go. Plus, I wasn’t supposed to be running this hard, so I needed to back off if it stopped feeling easy.
Once I got past the hill, I just kept cruising, watching for the Met up ahead. My legs felt like they were moving fast, and my heart rate was higher than easy, but it still felt pretty easy, so I kept going.
As I saw the Mile 4 time clock coming up, I decided that I’d see where things stood at that point. If I was under an hour at 4 miles, then I could PR as long as I didn’t slow way down.
Mile 4, and I was almost two minutes under an hour. To quote Spider-Man Subber, “Oops, I PR’d.”
Yes, there was a lot of race left, and yes, I still wasn’t going to push hard if I couldn’t keep the pace with my current effort level, but from here through the end of the race, all I could think was Oops, I PR’d.
I got through Mile 5, and saw a sign saying .75 miles left and thought “Wait, I’ve run more than a quarter of a-“ 10K. 6.2 miles. My thinking I was set for a PR was based on doing the math for 6 miles, not 6.2. And with an uphill on the final .2, and a commitment in my head to not pushing hard at the end, that meant I had to allow more time for that final bit than I normally do.
Just keep moving.
This last bit was the same as the Dash to the Finish Line 5K in November, so I had a pretty good feel for what was coming. That was an easy run, too. No Coach B and her Adventure Twin cheering at the final curve this time, though.
In that race, this final hill had felt tough. Today, it didn’t. In fact, that had been true almost all the way through the race. None of the hills felt hard, and I ran a lot more of them than I had thought.
I did end up picking up the pace a little at the end — habit, I think — but not by a lot.
Oops, I PR’d.
The big one is the challenge: This marked the third or fourth race in the past year that was a success, but all of them were ones I went into with no intention/expectation of success. The ones I was looking to do well at were the ones that were disappointing. Shades of the lessons of non-attachment in yoga here. In all cases, I ran the first part of the race as though it really wasn’t, then checked in at a set point and made the decision of how hard I would push in the second half.
The challenge, of course, is to be able to take that and apply it to a race where I do want to succeed. It feels like a challenge worth taking, though, so if the weather cooperates with Queens in a week, that’s something I’d like to try.
Beyond that, I was able to test my NYC pants and fiddle some more with my pre-race routine. Bronx will probably be the final chance I have to really test all of that out in a race setting since that’s longer than my 5 and Dime races at RWF. My summer goal is to test on my long runs and then use Bronx to put it all together.