All day Saturday, the weather reports from the news and online forecasted a 60% chance of showers all through the day yesterday so I really didn’t know what to expect when I woke up bright and early Sunday morning for the race. I had been suffering from temporary insomnia for the few prior nights so I was especially tired when the alarm so rudely interrupted my desperately needed slumber. I got up to look outside my window somewhat wishing that it was already raining so I’d have an excuse to miss the race. Unfortunately, although there were plenty of puddles out on the streets, leftover souvenirs undoubtedly from a thunderstorm passing overnight, it was not actively raining. Moreover, the temperature was actually a bit on the cooler side. Knowing this was better racing conditions than one could ideally hope for on a summer solstice, I surrendered myself to the circumstances and started the obligatory preparations for race day.
Since the race start was once again located on the lower west end of the park, it was a rather long trek from my apartment on the Upper East. Although my stomach usually feels quite queasy from performance anxiety and pre-race jitters on the walk over, I was unusually calm yesterday morning, even once I took my usual position in the back of the first starting corral. The air was misty with a hint of light drizzle by the time the pre-race instructions were given and the national anthem was sung. After some brief props delivered by Mary Wittenberg to the first time fathers in the crowd, the starting horn sounded, and we were off.
Mile 1 – I fought my heart, the crowds, and the adrenaline rush to start my race at what I thought was an appropriate pace. Instead of bobbing and weaving the first quarter mile like I usually do, I stayed in lane and waited patiently for openings to appear before jumping ahead of slower runners. Because this was a points race for the guys, it was unusually packed near the front. Although mostly inadvertent, the constant arm brushings and meandering feet clashes made me nervous and claustrophobic to be running so fast in the beginning next to my neighbors who were all less than an arms length away. I was so terrified of being tripped and falling flat on my face that I didn’t even realize I had conquered the hills until I passed by the first mile marker. [Time – 6:08]
Mile 2 – I saw this Flyer girl cheering from the sidelines pretty soon after crossing the mile marker. Feeling somewhat triumphant from having conquered the opening mile, I slowly released the clamp on my legs and allowed them somewhat to open up. My strategy for attacking the hills in this course was to take the uphills steady without pushing effort or pace and utilize the downhills to gain speed and momentum. I was careful not to expend excess energy rolling down the hill. Nevertheless, in retrospect, I might have still opened up way too early as this mile became the fastest of the race for me. [Time – 6:03]
Mile 3 – I paid for an overly aggressive mile 2 with a slow and painful mile 3. Although this mile has a net elevation gain, I didn’t expect it to be THIS difficult. My legs suddenly felt tired, my breathing labored, and my will to fight almost nonexistent. Because the halfway point of the race just happened to pass by Engineer’s Gate, close to my apartment, I had more than a few thoughts of stopping to walk or just dropping out and going home. I eventually persuaded my legs to just keep turning, albeit at a slower pace than in the beginning. I saw my cheerleader friend again just as I was losing speed, interest and composure. [Time – 6:23]
Mile 4 – Having just conquered the highest elevation point on the course, I advised my legs that it was time to pick up the pace. But unlike my previous races where proper pacing resulted in some heroic second half surges. This time, the leg muscles could not and did not respond. It was as my body just laughed at the suggestion to speed up and forced me to slow down to recover a bit before I caught a second wind. I sprinted down Cat Hill at an easy effort, hoping to recharge the batteries a bit before the mad sprint to the finish in the final mile. I allowed a few people who I had been tag with since the start to pass me by, hoping I’d have the last laugh in the end. I saw the mile marker and was a little disappointed that my time this mile, was only a couple of seconds better than my previous mile, despite the downhill. [Time – 6:21]
Mile 5 – The last mile was more a psychological battle than a physical one. Although I once again told my legs to push the pace through to the end, the pickup never materialized until the final 200 meters. By then, the damage had already been done and what was a good effort and time in the first two miles, (course PR-6:13 average-aspiring? Overall PR-6:09 average-aspiring?) turned sour in the middle and this became just another race for me. I did beat out a few of the guys who passed me by earlier in the race and regained some dignity in the process. Eventually, I plowed through the finish at Tavern on the Green and it was over. After recovering for a bit, I walked around, posed for a few pictures and congratulated my teammates on their races before heading home to celebrate the rest of my day with Dad. [Time – 6:17]
Official Finishing Time – 31:12
Average Pace – 6:14
Overall Place – 160/4538 (3.5%)
Gender Place – 156/2818 (5.5%)
Age Graded % - 69.1
NY Flyers Men – 3rd
Things I Learned From This Race
1. If you’re actually yawning in the starting corral, your legs will probably do the same halfway through the race.
2. Despite your best intentions, you’ll never pace properly starting out with the gazelles in the first corral.
3. Expect to lose your flow in the middle miles if you haven’t been doing your tempos and your finishing kick if you haven’t paying the track its due.
4. Your race is a reflection of your mental state. Yet…
5. Your mental state will always be driven by how you race.
Hope everyone had a great Father’s Day weekend!