2017’s Minor Races

My running has always been centered around racing. While I ran a few races in 2016, they were few and far between. Early 2017 has shown a marked increase in race frequency, and they have been a blast so far.

2/25: NYRR Al Gordon Brooklyn 4 Mile 26:55 – Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY

I’m lucky to live where I live. I’m a bit more than a mile away from the Flatbush Ave entrance to Prospect Park. Center Drive, very close to this entrance, was the starting point for the Al Gordon 4 Mile. We had great weather for February: 53° F, virtually no wind, and some mist. There were a total of 5,262 running, and I came in 306 overall.

4 Miles is a strange race distance, and I had not run it before. I was pretty satisfied with my result, particularly in my first race of the season. One major mistake I made was in how I worked  the big hill in the northeast corner of the park. I probably lost between 5 to 10 seconds, that I could have cut off the time. Splits (via Strava) were 6:59, 6:34, 6:28, 6:47. The middle two miles were both had major declines in elevation, while the first and fourth miles included some inclines.

Crown Heights Running Club (CHRC) had a great showing at the race. We had 22 finishers, and a great cheering section. Best part of the weekend: after the race I headed up to Providence for a big Friars victory over Marquette.

AG4M

3/5: NYRR Washington Heights Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K 20:30 – New York, NY

Crown Heights to Washington Heights is FAAAAAAR. It’s especially far for a 9:00am start. the Washington Heights Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K was the first Club Points race of the year. CHRC had 14 racing this morning, and it was a much different morning than the Al Gordon 4 Mile a week before. The temperature for the race as 14° F, but we were fortunate to be mostly free of wind. 4,445 runners braved the cold, and were official finishers. Of this group, I placed 465 overall. From an Age-Graded perspective, this was the best I have done in an NYRR race. My AG percentage was 63.54%.

In addition to not being fully fit, I’m not a good 5K runner. My greatest difficulty with the distance is understanding how hard to push, and how to hang through the discomfort of fast (for me) paces. I attribute this difficulty to the fact that I never ran track growing up. This makes it difficult to understand the difference between pain because I’m running hard, and pain because I’ve pushed too far. In addition to being a poor 5K runner, I don’t run them very often. This is something I plan to change with this Summers PPTC Summer Speed Series set of 7 5Ks in Prospect Park.

I really enjoyed the course, and the amenities of the race. We were lucky, especially considering the temperatures, to have the opportunity to warm-up, change, use real bathrooms, and pass time in the heated, and historic Armory. A cool aside: The Armory also hosts the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.

The race overlooked the George Washington Bridge, and the Hudson for the majority of the course. We headed almost directly north into Fort Tryon Park, and used The Cloisters as a turnaround point before heading back towards The Armory. Splits were 6:42, 6:34, 6:29 (and a 5:46 pace for the final .1).

After the race we enjoyed breakfast at Malecon. I made a mistake ordering the Chimichurri, but the cafe con leche was delightful. Great way to end a weekend which started with a big Friars win over St. John’s at MSG.

4/9: Clamdigger 5 Mile Road Race 34:06 (1st AG, 4th OA) – Westerly, RI

The best part about racing in Rhode Island, is the opportunity race along the water on sleepy roads by the beach. The race along Atlantic Avenue in Westerly felt a lot like running back in Wickford (my hometown). The Clamdigger 5 Mile was a great race. There was a fairly small field, and the start time was 11:00am, which is nice for one as loathe to wake up early as I am.

We were in Rhode Island for Meg’s bridal shower, so pre-race was a lot more of packing up, and cleaning up from the shower. We were a bit later arriving than I would have hoped, and I wasn’t able to get in any real warmup. Traveling to races, and getting to them on time is the source of the biggest arguments and disagreements between me and Meg.

Similar to the Al Gordon 4 Mile, I had never run a 5 mile race before. I wasn’t sure exactly how to approach it, so I tried to channel my 10K strategy. We were lucky to have a temperature in the low 50s, but the wind for the race was fierce. This added a bit more difficulty because the last mile and a half were directly into a 20 mph headwind. I finished 4th overall, and 1st in my age group. I made a pretty major mistake, though. When I surged past a runner to take 4th position, I was positive I was in third place. I changed my strategy at that point to ensure I finished in a podium position. There were two runners about 20 seconds ahead of me. Had I known I was in 4th, I would have made a play at trying to catch them. I’m not sure I could have caught them, but I wished I had made the attempt. I was fairly happy with the result, though.

Splits:  6:46, 6:52, 6:53, 6:42, 6:47

4/29: Red Hook Crit 5K 21:05 (21:22 official/gun time) – Brooklyn, NY

The Red Hook Crit 5K was one of the worst races I’ve run in a while. I misplayed just about everything leading up to it: too much volume in the couple days before, rode my bike over, and started my warmup way too close to race time. I haven’t run a 5K that slow in a LONG time. The 5K was part of the Red Hook Criterium bike race. It was an absolute blast. The course was a 1.25K loop that we ran 4 times. With a course so closed, the men’s and women’s events were held separately. The bike race was even more wild. The bikes racing had no brakes and no gears . . . there were some serious crashes.

It’s a race I’d absolutely do again. I might even make it a goal race. The most difficult aspect of the race was once I started getting lapped. I’m not sure I’ve ever run in a race with a field this fast. The top 4 runners all came in under 15:00. In retrospect, it was pretty cool to be on the same course, but looking at my pacing, I can tell where I got lapped for the first time. There was a pretty marked slowdown at that point.

I had a blast at the event. The run had a great crowd, and it was a lot of fun watching the bike race. It’s definitely a race to keep on the calendar for next year.

Splits: 6:21, 6:41, 7:05 (6:21 pace for final .1).

RHC5K

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2015 Toronto Waterfront Marathon

My training for this race was less than optimal.  I had gotten okay mileage in – but barely – and almost exclusively junk mileage.  I have as many excuses as you have time for, but the training cycle can largely be reduced to my unwillingness to devote the appropriate time to training while some big life changes swirled:  relocating to a new city, unemployment caused by said relocation, arduous job search, elevated stress levels related to previous excuses + a brutally hot, humid summer.  My plan was to use Pfitz 18/70, and then to re-try using Pfitz 12/70, and eventually started to try to match Pfitz 12/55 and then resulted in trying to get to 50 miles a week each week for the final 8 weeks preceding the race.  Ultimately I ended up running an average of 45 miles per week in the 20 weeks leading up to the race.

My goal prior to training was 3:15, but once I reviewed the training cycle I decided I would be thrilled with 3:19:59 as an ‘A’ goal, 3:25 as a ‘B’ goal, and a few months of self-loathing as a ‘C’ goal if I failed the above.

My training for this race was less than optimal.  I had gotten okay mileage in – but barely – and almost exclusively junk mileage.  I have as many excuses as you have time for, but the training cycle can largely be reduced to my unwillingness to devote the appropriate time to training while some big life changes swirled:  relocating to a new city, unemployment caused by said relocation, arduous job search, elevated stress levels related to previous excuses + a brutally hot, humid summer.  My plan was to use Pfitz 18/70, and then to re-try using Pfitz 12/70, and eventually started to try to match Pfitz 12/55 and then resulted in trying to get to 50 miles a week each week for the final 8 weeks preceding the race.  Ultimately I ended up running an average of 45 miles per week in the 20 weeks leading up to the race.

My goal prior to training was 3:15, but once I reviewed the training cycle I decided I would be thrilled with 3:19:59 as an ‘A’ goal, 3:25 as a ‘B’ goal, and a few months of self-loathing as a ‘C’ goal if I failed the above.

Pinned up the race bib, and ready to rock the Rhode Runner Running Club singlet.

Pinned up the race bib, and ready to rock the Rhode Runner Running Club singlet.

It was chilly when we started, probably around 37*F, this was colder than I was anticipating, and I wasn’t sure what to do (I’m overheat quite fast), so I decided on the Brooks Sherpa shorts I’ve been wearing my Rhode Runner Running Club Nike Miler Singlet, my Philadelphia Marathon 2013 long sleeve tech tee as a throw away shirt (good riddance to that awful memory), and a Saucony headband to keep my ears warm.  I committed one of the cardinal sins of racing by wearing long (almost to the knees) not-quite compression socks that I hadn’t trained in, but was hoping might provide some extra warmth, and a pair of Saucony Kinvara 5s  The socks had started to sag by mile 3.

My last marathon (Hartford – October 2014) I felt good and in control the entire time, and was able to really hammer down at the end.  I thought I’d try to equal my first half split from Hartford (1:40:20), then start to use my brain.  The race started almost right on time, and I positioned myself halfway between the 3:15 and 3:25 pace groups.  I was hoping I wouldn’t see either for the race.  My watch was giving erratic paces for most of the first mile, but I just made sure to let the more ambitious pass me, it ultimately settled in and put my first mile at 7:41, just about where I wanted to be.  I felt controlled, and was enjoying the course.  There was reportedly a hill that we were ascending for the first mile and a half or so, but I truly didn’t notice it.  As I let my attention slip, my pace started to creep up running the next two mile in 7:25, and 7:26.  Around the 5K we were herded to the right side of the course, as an elite laid wrapped in a blanket on the ground, receiving medical attention.  I haven’t seen what happened to him/her, but hopefully it was not serious.

Around the four mile mark we left downtown and began running west along Lake Ontario, until turning around and coming back downtown.  This was my least favorite portion of the course, it lasted to about the 11 mile mark (though the course was marked in KMs).  The cool part of this first out and back was watching the elites flying by, and there were more elites at this race than any other I’ve been a part of.  Incidentally, this uninspiring part of the course was where I started to feel weak.  My paces for miles 2-5 had been an average of 13 seconds fast, and I thought I might be feeling the beginning of a loooong bonkfest.  To make matters worse, I knew I needed to keep hydrating, but this necessitated a quick drainage stop.  Just before mile 12, I hit the point where concentrating on not stopping would impact my ability to race well, so I made the stop.  Luckily I only lost 20 seconds. 

This feeling of relief, returning to the crowds of downtown, and the poor bastard running in a Blue Jays mascot costume getting loud ovations from each group of spectators helped put me back on track.  The half marathon course diverged around the 12 mile mark, and I felt fine heading into the lonely final half of the race.  By the time I hit the half split I was at 1:40:10, and decided to just try to stay the course.  We went out on an out and back that took us through miles 14, 15, and 16 and I was strong enough to chat a bit with a 17 year old cross country runner that was running the race for his second time, we crossed paths while I was tying my shoe (the second unscheduled stop I had to take).  While running with him, I went with a bit of abandon racing up a few baby hills, and really unloading on the downhill.  Mile 15 ended up at 7:10, as I made the unwise decision to make up all the time I lost on the shoe tying (all 15 seconds of it), and ended up over-reaching a bit.

I saw my best friend spectating just after the 16 mile mark.  As a master of vanity, I decided to put on a brave face and act like i was feeling good.  This brought me to a highway overpass that seemed to slow some of the runners in front of me down.  While pretending to feel fine, I started to feel good.  Knowing how volatile the last 10 miles can be I kept checking myself from going too fast . . . I made mental note to wait until the 23 mile mark before making any rash decisions.

Around 19.5 we came to the best part of the race.  On a long curve that led up The Beaches, there was a house with a group of people blasting Springsteen and cheering us on.  As we entered The Beaches the energy was incredible.  The streets were packed, and the support was incredible.  It was undoubtably the best section of any marathon I’ve ever run.  People were cheering for us by name, and there was a real party atmosphere.  This was about a 2 mile out and back, and really set me up to attack the end of the race. 

The turn-around point was about 20.5 and that’s where I made the decision to go BOTT.  I realized that I had an outside shot at an automatic qualifier for Chicago, and I was willing to blow up to get there.  To quote a recent race report from a participant in the Runner’s World Online Forum, I thought about the question:  “who knows when I will be here again?  This is the time to get after it.”  Though it wasn’t an original though, it resonated.  As I exited The Beaches, and passed the party house they were blasting “Eye of the Tiger,” and I started to reel in the runners in front of me, singing to myself, and out-loud while I went.

Going BOTT, my paces for 22 – finish line were:  22 – 6:59; 23 – 7:06; 24 – 6:54 “C’mon sack up, CHICAGO!”; 25 – 6:49 “LET’S GO MOTHERF—-ER!”; 26 – 6:11 “wow, I better start saving for Chicago”; the 27th split ended up registering at .54 of a mile, which I did at a 5:20 pace.  I’m not sure if it was poor tangents, or just normal GPS variance, but I came in at 3:15:50 missing the automatic qualification time by a mere 50 seconds.  I was absolutely thrilled with the result, and thrilled with my performance.  I didn’t think that sort of time was possible, even during the beginning of the race, so I’m not too disappointed with missing by the close margin. 

Coming to terms with missing Chicago by less than a minute.  Still finishing strong.

Coming to terms with missing Chicago by less than a minute. Still finishing strong.

I struggled to catch my breath after finishing, but felt remarkably good for a just completed marathon.  I hungry to get the Chicago qualifier, especially as my racing companion had a monster day and qualified for Boston in only her 2nd marathon.  When I loaded my info into Garmin Connect it gave me credit for my fastest mile of all time @ 5:35.  I’m not sure if this is accurate, but pretty happy if it is.  Strava gave me credit for my second fastest 5k of all time (19:47); my 3rd fastest 10 mile time (70:27); but indicated the fastest mile was 6:08.

With a 4:30 negative split, I know I left some time out there, but I’m ready to get back after it, and hoping to keep committed through winter.  I’ve made the decision that it’s time to lose some weight, as well, if I’m going to get serious about a BQ at some point in the near future.  175 lbs is too much for my 5’8” frame.  I’m really tempted to sign up for the Rehoboth Beach Marathon in early December to attack 3:15 from the beginning and run Chicago next year . . . we’ll see how recovery goes.

Go Friars,

Pete