I ran the Gridiron Classic this morning and it was good. Today was the perfect racing day: sunny and hovering around freezing at start time. I arrived in time to do a quick warmup from Columbus Circle up to the corrals and realized the black ice could be a problem for my race plan. I saw a running friend at the start and we cruised up to the Boathouse and back to shake the legs out a bit. My first impression during the pre-race scene was the size of the crowd. There were 5700 finishers and it kind of felt like they were all packed into the blue and red corrals.
The start was slow, as always. Too many runners in too small a space and every one of us worried about black ice. With a jam-packed corral in front of me, I hardly had to keep focused on a conservative start strategy. In the first half mile, I'm pretty sure I couldn't have run any faster without stepping on someone. I guess I should be grateful to have had 1000 people pacing me up cat hill, but mostly I just felt frustrated not to be able to stretch my legs out.
Fortunately, the course condition was safer than I expected. I managed a decent stride on the inside lane relatively close to snowbank. There were some tricky patches as we took the left turn onto the 102nd street transverse, but I was able to open it up a wee bit as the pack split to run through the respective chutes that indicated fan support for either the Packers or Steelers. As I saw it, the Packers were the clear favorite. Quite an accomplishment since it meant taking the wider path through a turn. And now I think I should have just taken the inside lane....
The left turn onto West Side Drive was the last ice of any note (what's with the ice on the turns, anyway?). It was, of course, the entry into the ass-kicking west-side hills and boy did they kick mine this morning. I lost about fifteen seconds as I pushed my heavy, angry legs up and down the rollers. I was sucking wind and feeling overheated as we passed the fluid station at mile three; I removed my hat and gloves to moderate my body temperature. A half mouthful of water gave me a nice pickup through the slight downhill, but the next 800 meters or so still felt like a crawl towards the blessed end. Finish line signage always kickstarts my inner racer and I cranked it up for the final hundred meters or so to finish strong.
It feels good to know I didn't leave much out there today. I do wish I'd shaved eight seconds or so off my official time, but there can be no tears about 26:08 and I know that with a bit of work (and some course training) I'll see some improvement.
It was a BEAUTIFUL day today. Pretty much the best an NYC February day can offer. I took a cool-down lap through the park with Fernando, a fellow Inwood Hill Runner. He's a relatively new runner, I think, but he's fast and getting faster. He's also got an impressive dedication to the sport which is evidenced by his significant commitment to running through the winter. (I think NYRR should hand out some sort of swag to folks who run all the winter series events. A merit badge perhaps?) Hopefully this is the year NYRR recognizes Inwood Hill Runners and I'll have a chance to race next to IHR's diverse and dedicated squad.
I'm happy with my performance today. Happy to have run on such a mind-blowingly beautiful morning. Happy that the Brooklyn Half registration opens tomorrow and I can start focusing on SPRING.