Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hardcore Running:
Race Report from NYRR Anniversary 5M Run

So many times along the way from my bed to the start I considered sitting this one out. Sigh…if I only looked out the window or left ten minutes late, I could’ve avoided the whole fiasco! Oh, did I mention, I PR’d this race by exactly 30 seconds! Yeah, imagined how PO’d I would’ve been if I didn’t even have that as a race souvenir! A bunch of you, especially those that don’t live in NYC, probably have no clue what I’m talking about right now, so let me take a step back and reintroduce the topic again.

The NYRR Anniversary 5 Mile Run was held today (Wednesday, June 4th) at 5:30 AM to celebrate NYRR’s 50th birthday. As one of the highlight races of Running Week, it was somewhat unique in that it was FREE and took place on the morning of a normal workday. I had signed up for this race a couple of weeks back because I wanted to run a 5 mile race which I hadn’t done since last year, and also as a mini-practice for the San Francisco Marathon in August, which coincidentally enough will also begin at 5:30 AM. Originally, I thought the timing of this race would make it inconvenient and unpopular for the majority of NYC running folk. So I was totally surprised by the news a few days back that the race cap of 5,000 participants had been reached and registration for the race was closed. Wow!

I had planned to get to bed by 10pm last night in order to get up at 4AM for the trek over to the race start, located at the Lower West Side of Central Park (which by the way is so inconvenient for this Upper East Side apartment dweller!) However, as been the case recently, I didn’t really hit the sack until closer to midnight. Urrgghh! As I drifted off, I set my alarm grudgingly…not knowing whether it’d be realistic for me to get up to race on a work morning with only 4 hours of sleep!

When the alarm first sounded at the appointed hour, I sat up with a slight headache, shut off my alarm, and had every intention of drifting back to sleep. I was still very tired, and the thought of dragging myself more than one-and-a-half miles over to Tavern on the Green for a 5 mile race with a full panel of patients to attack once I got back sounded crazy and incomprehensible. Yet, the more I wanted to go back to sleep, twisting and turning every which way, the more I was unable to drift off. Eventually, I got fed up with the whole exercise, saw that the clock only read 4:30 AM, got up, got dressed as quickly as I could, and headed out the door.

In retrospect, maybe it was fortunate that I didn’t get up at the designated hour, because then I would’ve had time to check the weather forecast and seen what I was up against. I didn’t know until I was fully dressed in running gear and out the door that rain had been falling steadily since late last night. There were puddles everywhere and I was not prepared for either the rain or the crisp cold humid air. I had never run a race in rain before, so my first instinct was to turn around and go back to bed. But then I thought about how tough it was for me to get up this morning and how bad I felt this weekend after my miserable long run and knew that I needed to prove to myself that I am a runner and not a wimp. Besides, it was only a light steady rain, and I could barely feel it hitting my face while I’m running. It’s not so bad.

Boy, was I wrong. By the time I jogged over to the east entrance of the park, the light steady rain had begun giving way to an outright downpour. Up to this point on my jog over from my apartment, I did not pass by a single runner, which was unusual for a sold-out NYRR race. Maybe they had canceled it due to the inclement weather, I thought to myself as I continued to jog over to the start. All around me, the rain was pelleting the ground like little water grenades As I slowly made my way on the wet pavement, I started to get worried. Where are the cones, the mile markers, the volunteers? Could it really be that I was the only one dumb enough to show up for a race in a torrential rainstorm? What an idiot am I if I showed up only to find out it had been canceled. Maybe I should just go back right now. Why am I going further? I can’t run a race in this weather. This is absolutely crazy! Kudos to the little voice in the back of my head which kept telling me “We need to be hardcore right now…are you a hardcore runner? Because only hardcore runners would be running here at THIS time, at THIS place, under THESE conditions…everyone else who’s not is at home sleeping right now…you decide which you wanna be!”

I felt a little better once I made it over to the 72nd Street Transverse when I saw a pack of crazy runners with bib numbers jogging over to the start. It turned out that I wasn’t the only hardcore runner here today. I just couldn’t see them from where I was because they were all hiding underneath the trees, trying to find some cover against the rain. There were not that many people at the race today (at least not what I was accustomed to at an NYRR race anyways) but to everyone’s credit, all the people that were out really tried hard to enjoy themselves. There were more smiles and laughters to be had in the inclement weather than looks of concern or disgust…which really really surprised me. So this is what hardcore runners look like. I had no idea! For once, I think I was quite proud to be one of them.

Once I realized that I was actually going to run this race, I tried to devise a suitable racing plan. I knew right away that I was not going to break 32 minutes like I intended when I first signed up for the race. The heavy rain mixed with the wet pavement was just not going to be conducive to a fast time. I wanted to run conservative and in control, so that I wouldn’t inadvertently take a wrong step, slip, and take a tumble (I am very paranoid about avoiding injuries at all cost!) but still run fast enough to possibly PR. I fully expected all the hardcore speedsters to be out at full force, and for once, I’m not going to exhibit any bravado in an effort to chase anyone down, but just run my own race at a pace that was comfortably fast for me. To be honest, all I really wanted to do was get through the race so I could run home and get out of my dripping wet clothes!

After some brief announcements from Mary Wittenberg, the CEO of NYRR, at exactly 5:30 AM, we heard the starting horn and were off. It was still raining hard as the race began so I was glad just to be moving again. I started the race running a fast but conservative pace like I had planned. Despite some creative sidestepping around water puddles, I somehow managed to cross the first mile with a time of 6:13. I was surprised and frightened by this time so I scaled back a bit to avoid burnout.

Mile 2 coincided with the toughest uphill of the course, affectionately known to us regulars as Cat Hill. I usually like to take this hill pretty aggressively because this is my home turf so to speak and pride myself on being able to climb this steep incline better than my competitors, but given the weather and wet course as it was, I conceded my pace and yielded right of way to those around me. At first, it was quite demoralizing to see so many people past me by, but then one by one, they all said thank you as they ran past, as if they knew my plan all along. This has never happened to me before. It felt weirdly satisfying to be so appreciated. I think I was a little too willing to play this role as I recorded only a pace of 6:35 for this second mile.

The rain finally did stop sometime in the middle of Mile 3. I thought I’d feel better about things, but by this time, I really no longer cared. The damage had already been done. My shoes and socks were soaked and I had given up trying to avoid road puddles. There were just too many. After a slow mile 2, I had all but given up on running a fast race. All I was concerned about was keeping my average under 6:30, which was my previous PR pace, and finishing the damn run before I develop blisters on my feet. I reached the 102nd street transverse and the Mile 3 marker at 6:24.

Two more miles, just two more…I kept repeating to myself as I made the climb over the west side hills. I was starting to feel some fatigue in my legs from carrying my soggy feet for so long. Everyone around me was slowing down a tad too, which gave me extra motivation to beat a few of them up the hill. Aside from my hammys sending intermittent achy signals to my brain, I was actually feeling not so bad. The rain had stopped it seemed for good and the night sky had suddenly given way to some daylight. Because I had no aspirations of racing fast, I felt very comfortable running the pace that I was going. I knew I would have to push it in the final mile for the finish, so I took this next-to-last mile to appreciate the fact that I had made it out for this hardcore run so early in the morning. Rover, my Garmin, read 6:33 as I passed the Mile 4 marker.

Mile 5, the last mile, was all about bringing it home. It was for the most part downhill, which made it easier to run fast. I let two runners sneak up past me in the first half of this mile, but then caught two others in the last half. The finish of the race next to Tavern on the Green was anti-climactic because there was no crowd, no announcer, and not even a large banner to signal the end of the race. I think I could have shaved even a few more seconds off if I were able to tell where the actual end of the race was from a distance. Still, I was happy to end with a semi-fast 6:22 last mile for a final time of 32:10. It was another PR for me, an improvement of 30 seconds on my previous best at this distance. To celebrate, I ran home as fast as I could, showered, changed, and headed straight for work. Talk about hardcore!

Final Statistics
Finishing Time - 32:10;
Pace –
6:25; Age Graded % - 66.8;
Overall Place – 82/1784 (4.6%); [Wow…only 1784 finishers out of 5000 registered!]
Gender Place – 79/999 (7.9%);
Age Place – 29/645 (4.5%)


Jamie said...

That is hardcore! Nice race in such crappy conditions. Congrats on the PR.

Laura said...

Didn't make the lottery :( I'm now debating if I should try to do it through charity, or just wait till next year when I'll be guaranteed.

Xenia said...

Well done for getting out there in crap weather. And PR'ing no less. Congrats!

In Italian, a hardcore runner is either 'il corridore hard-core' or 'il corridore estremo'.

Bravo, corridore estremo!

Andrew is getting fit said...

You are hardcore indeed!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the PR! Way to tough out the weather and also the time of the race. I would say you are hardcore.

rundangerously said...

wow, congrats on a great race (and pr) in such tough conditions!

the italian that crept into mind for me was "pazzo" (crazy)!

i'm in the need for speed relay this weekend - maybe see you up there?

The Laminator said...

Thanks for the congrats all! I still can't believe I ran this race. Heavy raining weather is no way running weather, no matter how hard core you think you are, haha...

Jamie - Thanks! I'm just glad it was only 5 miles and not a marathon!

Laura - Sorry to hear the news. Maybe the thing to do is to sign up for a different fall marathon this year (Philly or Hartford are both very nice) and then run NYC next year?

Xenia - Thanks for the translation. Now I know what to say to my italian brothers when I see them next to me if I'm ever stuck at the front of a race in the rain again!

Andrew - Thanks for the comment.

D10 - Yeah...I'm a little hardcore. If only by circumstance rather than by choice...

Rundangerously - Thanks for the compliment. I'd say I was crazy too if I saw myself out there today!

Christine said...

that IS hardcore. It effects your feet in a whole new way to run in the rain.I experienced that at the half in Cleveland. My feet were like raisins when I was done..haha.

Irish Cream said...

I am beyond impressed! There was NO WAY I was making it out to that one . . . ha, I didn't even try to kid myself for a moment about that. 5:30 a.m. start time in the middle of the work week? No thanks! But congrats on a) getting out there, and b) bringing home the PR!

MissAllycat said...

Damn. Rain in the early morning?? Two of my biggest deterrents. Mad props to you!!

P.O.M. said...

Hardcore and fast. wow!
Racing before working? I would have taken the day off so I could sit around, eat pizza, drink beer and watch movies. haha.

Laura said...

Lam, I think I'm going to do just that. Haven't picked the race yet, but I'll definitely hold off on NYCM till next year.

Congrats on being hardcore! And don't be too down on the lower-upper-west-side starts... they're my favorite since that's where I live :) Are you doing the 10K this Sat?

Nitmos said...

I have never had to run a race in a down pour. I've always wondered if this would make me run faster just to get it over with or slower as I focused too much on the conditions. Nice PR!

bill carter said...

Hi lam

Well it is official... you are at least as nutty as I am. And truly hardcore. I ran the Erie Marathon last year in a torrential downpour that seemed to go on forever. It is amazing how much a soaking slows you down.. not to mention the fact that the roads get slippery and you are just trying not to maim yourself!

Congrats on your new 5m PR and just being a runner who has the tenacity to run in what sounds kind of like a monsoon.

sRod said...

Congrats on the race. Nothing like a change in climate to produce a PR!

Robert Reese said...

Nice work on the P.R. It seems as though everyone hit one on this race. Who knew that rain could be so helpful?

Non-Runner Nancy said...

My goodness, how fast would you have been on dry pavement? I loved Bill's comment. I love running in the rain, does that make me nutty too? Pretty good company there, it seems.

The Laminator said...

Thanks for the second batch of feedbacks...very much appreciated.

Christine - I'm not sure if I thought of raisins but there was definite some shrinkage of skin involved.

Irish - You did the smart thing. If I knew what I had coming, I wouldn't have stepped out the door.

MissAllyCat - Thanks for the props. They are generally two of my biggest "hates" as well

P.O.M. - Oh, you know I wanted to stay home and put my feet up to celebrate the PR. Having to rush off to work right after felt really wierd.

Laura - Good luck in the Mini-10K! I know lots of people running so I'll be cheering from the sidelines.

Nitmos - Trust me, you just want to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible!

Bill - Thanks for the recognition. I'm glad to be nutty and hardcore!

sRod - Thanks. Didn't know I'd PR until maybe halfway through. I just wanted to run fast so I could finish and go home.

Robert - Yes, running in rain definitely makes a difference. I think it forces you to be more careful with your pacing.

Nancy - Come, come. Join the nutty running club.

Run For Life said...

Well done, Lam, that's certainly hardcore!

I don't mind running in the rain (albeit, not a downpour) but HATE racing in it. I guess I'm fickle like that.

Debbie said...

Very hardcore! Free race...what a concept!

nwgdc said...

yep, you earned you "hardcore" stripes! there were several things working against you and you still got it done! and at a speedy clip, nonetheless! congrats!

Laura said...

Just posted on SRod's blog, but I thought I'd post on yours too just in case. Are you guys running tomorrow? If so, is it 9 AM at 89th and Lex and how far/fast are you planning on going?

The Laminator said...

Laura, I don't think we'll be there this weekend. sRod is celebrating his birthday with his wife and I'm running a relay race...maybe next time?

Reid said...

Sorry, I am a little behind on my blog reading. Congrats on the PR! Gotta love that.

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