Sunday, February 21, 2010

Take That, MTA: My Secret Unofficial Race

Today was supposed to be a special day. I had been anticipating today for a couple of months. I was supposed to run the Cherry Tree 10 Mile Race in Brooklyn as my first "official" race of 2010. Since I ran this same race last year, my performance in this race was not only supposed to give me a sense of my current level of fitness, it was also supposed to tell me where I am now as compared to the same point last year. In short, this race was supposed to be a big "fitness test" for me.

Maybe I should have informed the MTA before making such grandiose plans. Apparently on the weekends, two hours isn't enough buffer time to go from East Queens to Prospect Park in the middle of Brooklyn, a trip that would take an hour tops on the weekdays. Aside from "weekend construction" halting the F train randomly on the edge of Brooklyn necessitating a transfer to a shuttle bus for the rest of the trip, they left me high and dry this morning when it refused to even show for 40 minutes! C'mon MTA! By the time I found one and got myself moving into Manhattan, it was already too late. There would be no way I'd make it to the race in time. I was almost beside myself in annoyance and anger!

Since my chance at an "official" race was now shot, I made the executive decision that I'd hold my own "unofficial" race of one and rerouted my travels toward Central Park. Along the way, I thought about what my "unofficial" race parameters should be. In the back of my mind, I vaguely remember racing myself through two loops of Central Park a year ago in preparation in Boston. I remember pulling off an average pace of around 6:45 in that race simulation and afterwards feeling quite confident of my chances in running a good marathon. So I thought I would make that my target today to have a repeat performance as both a personal fitness test and a race goal.

Fifteen minutes later, dressed in my Saucony race jacket over a long sleeve tech shirt and race shorts that haven't been worn since last summer, I found myself at the foot of the Fred Lebow statue with a few dozen other runners but no other participants, anxious to start my unofficial secret race.

In retrospect, I probably should not have psyched myself so much in anticipation of this run because I made the same mistake I always do in races - I started out too fast. Mile 1 came in at 6:24, and Mile 2 (which included the gnarly Harlem Hill) came in at 6:31. By the time I was done with my first 5K, I was ready to throw in the towel. Somehow, I battled through, barely maintaining mile 5 and mile 6 at marathon pace (6:52) and finish the first loop (6.07 miles) in 40:29 for a 6:40 average pace.

At this point, it was approaching noon, I was sweating profusely and my heart rate (after passing through the gauntlet of Cat Hill) was through the roof. I thought about quitting seeing as I was in no shape to tackle all those hills a second time. But then I remembered that this was no ordinary workout nor for that matter an ordinary race. This was a secret race against me. No one out here knows I'm struggling. No one out here is passing me by. So technically I'm still winning! For some reason that was all the motivation I needed (after shedding my jacket and taking a sip of Gatorade) for me to start the second loop.

Maybe I was more aware of myself. Maybe I was much more conscious of not overextending my pace. Whatever the reason was, the second loop went so much better for me. I slowed down. The pace became more stable and consistent and I didn't feel like puking even after sprinting in at the last mile. Woohoo! As an added bonus, I even negatively splitted each section by a couple of seconds despite the fact that my average heart rate didn't budge at all through the whole second loop. I finished the second six mile (6.07 miles) loop in 40:53 for an average pace of 6:44.

Altogether then, I finished my unofficial secret 12.14 mile race in 1:21:22, which is an average pace of 6:42 min/mi. When I got home, I saw that my race of similar distance last year was run in 12 seconds slower which meant that I captured the gold in this race of one today. Yeah baby! (On a side note, last year's race of one was actually done on March 12, which meant I am one month ahead of schedule even though my target marathon is two weeks later! Score and double score!)

So in the end, although I never got a chance to test my fitness in an officially scored race, I was still able to hold my own unofficial race and claim my own personal victory. I even learned and re-learned some valuable lessons that I can incorporate into future workouts. Not bad I'd say for recovering a good workout after missing a highly anticipated race. Take that, MTA!

23 comments:

pen said...

Congrats on your gold medal! And what a great attitude you had to flip around a cruddy morning into something productive. I totally would have stewed and sent angry vibes to MTA if I had missed a race! :)

Carlee said...

that's great. I give you a lot of credit for having that mental toughness

430orbust said...

Way to be flexible and shift gears. And I love how you were able to motivate yourself for a 2nd loop.

This would be impossible for me, because I typically carry a huge bag with lots of gear (clothes for after) and I don't commute in my running shoes. I probably would have turned around to go home and settled for a subpar workout at home.

Julie said...

Hi Lam,
Way to be the man and run a virtual race when life was handing you lemons!! Wow, what an awesome time too!! You should be so proud of yourself:) You always motivate and inspire me with your strength and determination!! Congrats on your first "unofficial race" of 2010!! Lam, I hope that you have an excellent week:)

nyflygirl said...

Damn MTA!! They're always pulling shit like that...like having the 7 train be out of service the weekend of the Run to Home Plate :-P

Glad you got in a strong run today, but you were definitely missed today!!

marathonmaiden said...

love your positivity in turning what could be a bad-mood event into something worthwhile.

great job and a very strong performance! what mental toughness to push yourself like that. and it sure seems like your in a very excellent place fitness wise, you must be doing something right man

Jocelyn said...

Dude MTA totally blows on the weekend. Sorry you missed your race but I'm glad you got a good run in!

aron said...

sooooooooooo frustrating about the MTA!!! GAH. way to make up for it and get out there for an awesome run :)

Jesse said...

Wow, good for you for making the best of the circumstances. I probably would have just gone home and drank some scotch instead of trying to run my own "unofficial race".

lindsay said...

nice! congrats on 1st place overall :) more importantly (in my opinion), very nice job pushing yourself. it would've been all to easy to call it quits, it's not like anyone else would see you 'dropping out', but you pressed on.

now, where i can i get some results like that?

runner26 said...

omg--i would want to kill mta!! that only happened to me once and it was on the way to a training run. i had to abandon the group run plans and do my own long run solo. i am soooooooo impressed by what you did tho! that is seriously awesome! to run a race by yourself in central park--you are amazing! way to turn lemons into lemonade, as i like to say to my students ;) congrats on "winning" the "gold!"

RunMishiRun said...

Way to push yourself Lam!!! Congrats on your "secret" race. Oh the places you will go on your running journey seem endless...looking very forward to another year of following along.

Matt said...

Wow I just came across your blog. You are really fast!

joyRuN said...

Nice way to turn that crappy situation around!

NY Wolve said...

As someone who uses the MTA basically every day, I feel your pain. But at least you made lemons out of lemonade. The weekend subway is always a gamble. I am trying to figure out how to get to Prospect Park from Westchester on a Sunday morning for a race, and honestly, might just bag it because it looks too daunting. Particularly after hearing your experience.

But a morning run in the park is a pretty nice consolation prize!

Marathon Maritza said...

How annoying about MTA but holy moley, great job on your run!!!!!

I can't even FATHOM a 6:42 pace, much less run it...you are my hero! Keep it up!

P.S. Central park = I'm totally jealous.

J said...

Way to go! Too bad you missed the real race but still a great job! Looks like that speed is showing through!

X-Country2 said...

That's the beauty of hosting your own races. I do it all teh time!

ChickenUnderwear said...

Sorry you did not make it

Thanks for blogging about the 2010 Cherry Tree Race. I linked to you blog ....http://pptcblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/2010-cherry-tree-results-and.html

We will be there next year

Laura said...

Ugh, the E line used to be the same way and I missed a few flights because of it! I'm lucky I don't rely on the F too much on weekends because that is just miserable. Congrats on doing so well on your run in the park though!

Lisa said...

So sad you missed the race! Sometimes I love public transportation and other times it is the most frustrating thing ever! Glad to hear you had a great run afterall!

kevin f forde said...

Way to turn a negative into a positive,who knows maybe next year you could make it an"official unofficial"race??it's almost a 20k?

Linna said...

Quite entertaining! I'm enjoying your blog posts and good tips on making the most of a treadmill run!

 
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