Saturday, December 1, 2007

My Race Report: Hot Chocolate 15K

After returning from my brief excursions to funny funny land and nostalgia, I realize that it’s been a while since I’ve talked about my running. And since this IS a running blog, and as you can see from my training log, I am still running, I am going to share a race report of the fun run that took place in Central Park today…

The name of today’s race was the Hot Chocolate 15K. Although this an annual event takes place in the park at the same time every year, this was the first time for me. To be honest, I had signed up for this about three weeks ago and had forgotten all about it until three days ago when I got a reminder e-mail from NYRR. I spent the past couple of days trying to remember why I originally signed up for this race. Maybe I wanted extra incentive to make sure I would keep running after Thanksgiving. Maybe I thought it’d be cool to do 15K and set an instant PR since I’d never raced that distance before. Or maybe I was suffering from post-marathon running withdrawal when I haphazardly signed up for 3 races in 4 weeks. Whatever the reason, I was regretting my decision when I dragged myself out of bed early this morning only to find that the air temperature outside was 31° with a wind chill of 19°. Are you serious?! I know it’s called the Hot Chocolate 15K but racing in below freezing temps is utterly ridiculous. I wanted to close up shop and climb back into bed, but I knew if I was even remotely serious about training for Boston, I’d have to learn to run in cold weather. Once I made the decision to run, I got dressed as quickly as I could and headed out the door.

Actually, I don’t think I’d made it out the door if NYRR hadn’t given me extra incentive to get out there today. Yesterday, when I took out my race packet, I was tickled silly when I found out that they had assigned me the number 2131 for today’s race. What’s so special about 2131, you ask? Well, if you take out the 1s, which don’t really need to be there anyways if you ask me, you get 23, and we all know who number 23 is right? That’s right…MJ. And if you read my last post, you know how much man-love I have for MJ. So I spent all last night decorating my race bib, blackening in the 23 and writing Jordan on top of it like a uniform. So yeah, in actuality, there was no way I’d miss my first “real” opportunity to “Be Like Mike” even if it was in colder temperatures than they have in Chicago.

As I jogged over to the start, I formulated a game plan for today’s race. On the surface, it was a simple two-loop run in the park, nothing I hadn’t done before, but for me, it was a challenge, both physically and mentally, to run a long distance race with sweatshirt, sweatpants, gloves, and a whole hat. To all the elites heading over in their singlet and shorts, I must have looked like I was dressed more appropriately for snowshoeing than racing. I didn’t care though. I was warm and was fully prepared to just run my own race. At the finish line, waiting for me at whatever time I get there, will be two brand new PRs…one for the new distance of 15K, and one for the sub-freezing temps. Since I had no expectations for a finishing time, I was just hoping to average something better than 7:00 min/mile for the duration of the 15K.

By the time I made over to the park, I barely had enough time to remove my sweatshirt, put my bag away, and head over to the start before the gun sounded and we were off. Despite the lack of time for adequate stretching, I was feeling good as the race got underway. Because I didn’t really know what to expect, I told myself to not worry about the clock as much and just run as comfortably fast as possible. That was the game plan anyway…but then something happened during the first mile that brought out my MJ and made the race personal. As I was running up the west side at about the first mile marker, some guy in a bandana clipped my leg from behind as he ran past me, causing me to stumble. I regained my balance just as I was about to do a face plant on the gravel. I was annoyed that he hit me, yes, but whatever, accidental bumps is nothing unusual in a road race with 4000+ runners, but the fact that he didn’t even have the courtesy to glance back to see what he had clipped or to apologize was inexcusable.

At the speed we were going, the crowd had gotten sparse by the time we hit the first mile, so it wasn’t difficult for me to spot the perpetrator. And because guy with a bandana probably did his speedwork only on the treadmill with a 0 setting, he slowed down significantly after the first set of hills, and I was able to catch up to him before mile 2. I purposely ran right next him and shot him an evil glance just to let him know I acknowledged but didn’t appreciate his running me off the road a little while ago. He returned my stare, glanced down at my number 23, sneered, and took off as the course dipped downhill. That was the last straw, ladies and gentleman. Roughing me up and insulting my running, I can handle (hey, I do it to myself here all the time!) but when you openly denigrate this jersey that has been blessed with the number and spirit of #23, Mr. Bandana Man, that is an open declaration of war! All of a sudden, the music, the song, and the man appears before me, and it is on…poor running man, he has no idea who he’s just offended.
Although he was sprinting down the down side of the hill at a pretty good pace, judging by how he struggled uphill, I knew I would catch up to him again. Besides, its only mile 2 of a 9 mile race, why was he running so fast now that he’s offended me…doesn’t he know that the bigger hills haven’t even yet arrived and he’ll have to do them twice before it’s said and done? I allow him to sprint off momentarily as I assessed my own situation. Mile 1 was ran in 6:33; mile 2 in 6:23. I was once again setting a blistering pace despite my intentions to run this race easy. Oh well, I was still feeling well, not hot or cold, but knew that I’d be slowing down once we moved back over to the East side. I made sure to hit all the water stops to maintain adequate hydration.

I ran the next four miles at the same level of exertion I had for the first two miles. Although the mile times became progressively slower (6:30 for Mile 3, 6:44 for Mile 4, 6:37 for Mile 5, and 6:45 for Mile 6) the further along in the race I was, I was still running much faster than anticipated and in the meantime was passing many runners who had similar difficulties maintaining a fast pace. One of these was Mr. Bandana Man who I caught up to and past at Mile 7 during the second tough uphill portion of the course. As I passed him by, I sang aloud the refrain “I dream I move like Mike, if I could be like Mike!” He had a look of bewilderment as I slowly ran beside and eventually past him. He was devastated, as if he never figured me to be able to catch up. After I past him, I was estatic, and cruised the rest of the way to the finish...even pushing the last 1.3 miles at 6:31 min/mile pace, which was faster than the pace I had started with at mile 1.

I finished the 15K race with an official time of 1:01:30, which is an average pace of 6:36 min/mile. By the time I picked up my bag and headed for home, my fingers were so numb I couldn’t even turn the key to open the door to my apartment! I proceeded to spend the next half hour at the corner Starbucks with a grande Vanilla Latte in hand, listening to Christmas music. My heart was warm though, knowing I had run an excellent race, established two PRs, and play the role of my childhood hero, if only for one day. Thanks, Mr. Bandana Man for spurning me on to “Be Like Mike!”

5 comments:

Reid said...

Great report! You had me laughing and rooting for you the whole way through. Congrats on the PRs and beating Bandana Man!

Jamie said...

Your race reports are awesome! I always feel like I'm right there with you. Way to go on beating Bandana Man in the latter part of the race. Seriously the gall of some poeple to not even apologize (or respect MJ).

Frayed Laces said...

You should have waited for him at the finish and said "hey, cute headband. Although it matches your eyes you may want to use it for training only, since it looked like it slowed you down back there!" Then, you can air-slam dunk right over his head, kick him in the shin and book it home.

Non-Runner Nancy said...

Congratulations, Mr. Bandana Man, you've just been Laminated. Insert Evil Laugh here. (I bet I could Plankinate him, too!)

What a creep. I'm glad you put it to him.

I always feel like I'm right there with you too, except you run like twice as fast as me. I guess you'd never have to worry about me clipping you. :D

AWESOME RACE, MJ LAMINATOR

nwgdc said...

Hilarious! Bandana man wasn't wearing a number 3, by chance? If so, he could have been Craig Ehlo collapsing to the floor after MJ hit the jumper at the free throw line.
Congrats on a great time! Sheesh, and I was feeling good about my 1:04. Jerk! :)

 
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