Racing season has always marked springtime for me. It used to be late-winter track meets, then it was early-morning bike races in the park, and now it's the beginning of NYRR's club series that helps me close the door on winter and kick off spring training. Of course, spring training means one thing primarily, work. It's time to figure out my training needs as the days get warmer and longer and my spirit starts to emerge from its midwinter funk.
As it turns out, I've got a little bit of work to do in a lot of different places. This isn't a huge shock. I know I'm carrying around six or seven extra pounds since I can feel them slowing me down. I know that unstructured long runs are great for base-building, recreation, and sanity, but they can't form the backbone of a serious training regime. I know that I need to incorporate lactate threshold training. And on and on and on. In other words, spring is here and it's time to get serious.
The race today is a tricky route. The ease of the grades throughout the course mask how hard they can be when racing. I scouted things last week and came away with the impression that it was an easier course than Central Park. I think I was wrong about that.
The weather this morning may have been a factor for the spectators, but it wasn't bad for racing. If anything, the break in the rain meant that it was a few degrees warmer than my body and wardrobe were counting on. The road surface was very wet, though, and there was plenty of uneven and broken pavement to look out for.
I began my race prep by running the few miles down Broadway to the race start. I cruised this at about 8:45 and was feeling really good when I pulled into the Columbia Medical campus around 8:25. I took my time stretching and running along Haven Avenue before trying to track down a some friends at the start. Not much luck there, although I did see Melissa and her crew of speedy women from VCTC. My parents are in town for a visit and I ran into them around 172nd Street, just in time for some good-race wishes before getting situated in the middle of the packed blue corral.
The race has a fairly flat start that quickly turns into a hill after the first half mile. The hill has the advantage of spreading runners out a bit, but I was in with such a fast group of club runners that there wasn't a whole lot of that happening. Really, all I noticed was that I was getting passed by some impressive looking men and women who were finding their natural place in the race order. I pushed myself (and was pulled by the crowd) through the first mile at just over a 6 minute pace.
Heading into the second mile, we hit Margaret Corbin Drive in Ft Tryon Park for the loop around the Cloisters. As fast as the descent is on the first part of this loop, the climb back out is an anaerobic nightmare and I was sucking wind as we passed the mile two marker at the top of the hill. I probably should have taken a swallow of water at this point, but my mind was kind of floating away from me at this point. My second mile at 6:11 was certainly aided by the downhill and hampered by the climb back out.
With one mile to go I knew there was a bit of climbing left to do, but I failed to realize just how badly it would kick my ass. Thanks to the climb back from the Cloisters, I knew I didn't have much left in the tank. I cursed my lack of speed work as I let two runners go who I'd been jockeying with from the start. With a half mile remaining, I tried to pull it together for a respectable kick and found I had just enough to bring me within reach of my earlier running mates.
There were a few times this morning that I felt like I was out of my body—certainly out of touch with it—and there were plenty of moments that I felt outclassed and outmatched. I do think the 5k is a challenge I'd like to face again this season, especially if I can create the kind of structure in my training that I'm craving. My time this morning was 19:23 for a 6:15 pace. Plenty of work to do, but also plenty to feel good about on a hilly course early in the season.
I ran into some VCTC and IHR pals after the race. Congratulations to Fernando (@MCFernie) on a PR and to everyone out there today who gave it their all on a tricky course and a rainy day.
The great joy of my morning was watching my daughter in the four-year-olds' race. She was ecstatic to be running in a REAL race, but was mildly disappointed that the distance was so short. I think that's a good sign....