Saturday, August 16, 2008

My Quest For Olympic Gold:
Race Report From NYRR Team Championships 5M Run

Let me start off with a public service announcement (in so much as my blog is a public service…) I sincerely apologize (again!) from my absence during the past week from the blogosphere. My professional responsibilities had piled up on me while I was away in San Fran, and it’s taken me long than expected to take care of things or delegate them to someone less fortunate. Almost coincidentally, I’d been afflicted with a mild form of PMD, or post-marathon depression that has left with me with a runner’s block and blogger’s block. Physically, my body also felt somewhat beaten up by the marathon, and is complaining most strikingly with a deep right upper thigh pain that escalates in severity when I walk right after a run. As a result, I allowed myself to take the last week completely off from running in order to prevent any further injury during my recovery process. I guess the long and short of it is that my running, similar to my blogging, had been taking a much needed and well-deserved hiatus.

Well, now that my two-week post-marathon grace period is over, I decided to announce to the whole world my return to running at the NYRR Team Championships 5M Run. For those who are unfamiliar, Team Championships is a highly competitive specialized race held annually to allow all the running clubs in the tri-state area to come together to decide who the top dogs/cats are in both the men and women’s divisions. Clubs are awarded points based on the order of finish, and the top 10 men and women from each club score points for their team. It was important we run well in this race because the points earned from this race are counted DOUBLE in the cumulative standings at the end of the year.

In retrospect, I had every reason to lay an egg in the race this morning. As mention before, I hadn’t been running for a week, my right upper leg was sore, I hadn’t slept well in days (damn you, late night Olympic coverage!), and I was working so hard the previous day that I completely forgot to hydrate. Still, I had high hopes and expectations coming in to this race because I suspect that my intense marathon training may have had some carryover effects on my short game as well. Because I had no idea what my current speed and endurance is, I was planning to use my race results to calculate my training paces for the next marathon training cycle.

I arrived at the starting line extremely focused to run a good race. The air was cool, the sky was blue, and there was even a gentle breeze blowing over us as the runners took their positions at their respective corrals. Since the race was restricted to runners belonging to a team and the 8AM men’s race wasn’t as crowded as it ordinarily is for a NYRR race. I was assigned to the second (red) corral this time around. In my mind, I knew that in this competitive race field, I was hardly elite. I was surprised to see all of the Flyer men who are usually much faster than me lining up in my corral. I wondered aloud who the first corral start was reserved for if all the sub 6:00 pace people were lining up with me. I was rather intimidated by their presence, so I introduced myself, exchanged some pleasantries, and took my starting position a few steps behind them.

I was still in somewhat of a focused runner’s daze when the race started a few minutes later. Because the race started on the 102nd St transverse going in a counterclockwise direction, the first mile was all about the west side hills. Learning from my previous CP race experience where I blistered up the Cat Hill at 5:56 min/mi pace only to bonk at miles 3 and 4, I forced myself to run the first mile as slow as possible. In this particular race, this was harder said than done because everyone around me were pushing the pace right from the opening horn. All the people I recognize that run about the same pace as me in previous races were suddenly running about 10-20 sec/mi faster today. I resisted the urge to keep up with them. Rather, I followed the same strategy I employed during the San Francisco Marathon two weeks back. Conserve energy early, let the frontrunners go on ahead, and have confidence you’ll catch up with them later. I was proud that I was able to stick to my philosophy today, because even though I felt as if I had only jogged the first mile and hadn’t as yet hit my stride, I still managed to passed the first mile marker at 6:09, which was exactly where I wanted to me.

After starting out gingerly over the first mile of hills, I picked up the pace on the less treacherous Mile 2. Since this section was almost all downhill, I had little trouble generating some good speed that I was able to maintain for a good duration during the flatter areas. I caught back up to the crowd that had separated from me at mile 1, and cruised to the mile 2 marker at 6:05.

Mile 3, around the lower bend of the park, was all about maintenance for me. I tried hard during this stretch to maintain the speed and the company I had during the previous mile. I thought about pushing the pace some more passing the midpoint of the race, but because I had the ever treacherous Cat Hill lingering in the next mile and because my pace was already slowing a bit on this steady uphill mile, I decided to hold my position and pace as much as I could. The mile 3 marker passed without much fanfare at 6:17. I was starting to get disappointed at my less than stellar mile 3 time but then realized that it was still significant faster than my 5 mile PR pace of 6:25! It dawned on me a minute later as I was making my way up Cat Hill that I was actually more than 40 seconds ahead of PR pace. Wow! In my head, I imagined a green laser line trailing my footsteps as if I was Michael Phelps swimming towards another World Record. I was almost giddy as I ran a bit harder up the hill, passing more than a few runners in the process.

The end of the ascent came sooner than expected, I dare to say. To me, this infamous hill which had always seem so intimidating just a short while ago, pales in comparison to the mountains that I had to climb during the San Fran Marathon. Although I did slow down somewhat during this mile (6:27), it neither discouraged me or sapped my energy like it did in races past. The evidence for this comes from my pacing during the last mile. Traditionally, I have had a lot of difficulty holding my own during this stretch as my pace would slow down and I’d see runner after runner blow right past me to the line. Today, I was able to draw extra energy both from my excitement over a potentially massive PR, and from fellow teammates shouting my name to finish stronger than I’d ever done before in a 5-mile race. I finished the race with a 6:07 final mile and collapsed onto the side barricades soon after crossing the line.

Physically, I was way beyond spent. I had left everything out on the course today and in the process set a new personal record by more than a minute! In my mind, even if the final statistics would show otherwise, I had beaten the laser green line and won a personal Olympic gold!

Final Statistics
Finishing Time – 31:07 (PR by 1:03!)
Pace – 6:13; Age Graded % - 69.3
Avg HR – 183; Max HR – 194
Overall Place – 260/766 (33.9%)
Age Group Place – 98/233 (42.1%)
Flyers Rank (Men) – 8/64


nyflygirl said...

Awesome running...your pacing was perfect for the course!! Now you see why this race is one of my favorites, right? :)

*aron* said...

wow that is amazing!!! i had to take off the last 2 weeks too and am dying to get back!

jb24 said...

Congrats on your PR - especially after running a marathon a couple weeks ago and all of the aches and pains that go along with it. We all seemed to have a good race on Saturday. Cheers to the Flyers!

Xenia said...

Way to go, Lam! Damn, I can barely run a 5K in that time let alone 5 miles. Congrats!

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Laura said...

Hey Lam - something seems to be off with the font on this post, as it's really tiny. I had to paste the text into a text file to be able to read it. It seems like I'm the only one though? Not sure what's up...

Great job on the race!!!

The Laminator said...

Thanks all for your encouraging comments!

nyflygirl - with good PR course, a highly competitive yet exclusive field, and more standing room at the finish line than I've ever seen, yes, I definitely see why it'd be a favorite of yours.

aron - nice to hear from you. Yes, I agree. Waiting to run after a marathon was so very painful.

jb24 - So true. So many of us had a good race that day.

xenia - thanks for the compliment. Speed is all relative. If you don't believe me, check out how I finished among the men. There were 200+ who beat me in my own city. Very humbling indeed.

Reid - Yes, I'd definitely be interested. How do I contact you?

Laura - Hey, thanks for the heads up. I seemed to have messed up the font when I was correcting some grammatical mistakes. It's all fixed now...I think.

Nitmos said...

Wow, nice blistering time so soon after a marathon. I'm usually still licking my wounds 2 weeks later.

Irish Cream said...

You are incredible, Lam . . . to race so well so soon after San Fran? I am beyond impressed!! By the way, I don't think I ever got a chance to congratulate you on the Birthday BQ--CONGRATS!! That's a pretty sweet gift if I do say so myself, and you should be really proud of yourself for gutting it out! Keep up the great work . . . it's pretty darn fun to live vicariously through you! :)

Mike said...

Congratulations, Lam...I'd dare say you deserve the gold on that one!

Run For Life said...

Now THAT is a crazy PR, congrats!

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