Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lam Clan Become Road Runners
Race Report from the Fred Lebow Classic 5M

I have a confession to make.

Racing, January, and me just don't mix.

Never mind the fact that I've traditionally taken the first part of the winter off to snowboard, travel, or goof off in the name of rest and recovery, even during the years when I've been forced to start training early in preparation for a spring marathon, I've just never found much success racing in January. The weather is extremely variable, the roads are slippery and slick, and the treadmills at the gym are overtaken by newbies trying to make good on their New Year's Resolutions. Finding both time and space to train is a difficult challenge when you're at the mercy of the road conditions and mother nature. For these reasons and others, I make it a point never to schedule a race until at least late January.

Imagine my surprise then when I found myself pinning my bib and lacing my racing flats at 5:30AM this morning. At multiple points during this procedure, I asked myself just exactly what I was doing and where I was going. Outside, it was 23F with a windchill in the teens, was I sure I was heading in the right direction? If I closed my eyes, I could have sworn I was just walking in my sleep! But as I stopped to look at the three multi-colored racing bibs I held in my hand, I knew I had no other choice but to open the door and go.

A couple of weeks ago, somewhat unbeknownst to me, my parents and my brother had registered for today's race, the Fred Lebow 5M. Ever since they ran the Turkey Trot with my brother and me on Thanksgiving, mom and dad have been itching at the chance to run a race in Central Park. Despite my warning that this would likely be a frigid and cold race, they signed up for this, their first NYRR race, almost as soon as online registration opened. My brother went along soon after. I hawed and hummed but ultimately decided that if my whole family was going to race, I should at least showed some respect and run even if it meant totally going against my principle of no racing in January.

The train ride over to the race start was surprisingly efficient. For once, we arrived at our destination about 20 minutes ahead of scheduled. Because of the extreme cold and wind, we even waited in the station for about 10-15 before we ambled over to Central Park to start our race. We checked our bags, visited the portapotties one last time, changed and bid each other farewell as we went to our respective corrals. (For this race, I was in blue, my brother in red, and mom and dad were running together from pink).

I got into my corral with about ten minutes to spare. Because this race was so sparsely attended, I found room to run a few short sprints to warm up. It wasn't so effectively though because as soon as I was done, I'd be shivering again. As the corral filled up, I found a few Flyers and exchanged pleasantries with them as I waited for the start of the race. I also saw and spoke to DN, a fellow DailyMiler, who like me, was not so prepared for this race. We both lamented how we might have been better off had NYRR stuck with the original plan of going with yesterday as the race day. It would have been about 10 degrees warmer! As it was, this stands to be the coldest race that either of us has ever run in. We were both very eager to get this over with and get back to our warm clothes! Haha! Pretty soon afterwards, the national anthem was sung and we were off.

Right off the bat, I approached this race mentally as a tempo effort more than as a race. My feet were numb, my left knee was still hurting from a couple of nasty falls I had taken on hard ice a few days ago and i had not done a good long tempo run since sometime in November. I allowed my effort to ease gradually to a pace that I thought I could maintain. Lots of runners wearing lots of heavier clothes were passing me initially which felt odd but I did not get distracted and cruised around the 102nd St Tranverse and along the West Side Hills. I passed the first mile at around 6:20 by the course clock but noticed that my Garmin had somehow died. Since I was not aiming for a PR anyway, I figured I shouldn't try to fix my watch but just run "naked" instead, which is what I did for the rest of the race.

Mile 2 and mile 3 felt really steady. I was maintaining a good hard effort and passing people who had taken it too hard in the first few miles. I felt warm at the core but still numb on my fingers and toes. I pressed on the downhills and eased on the uphills, using my own perceived effort to maintain a steady pace. It was actually a little liberating not to know exactly what pace I was running so that I couldn't get down on myself at the end of every mile. There was a water stop at every mile marker but neither I nor the rest of my neighbors took up the offer to drink. Everyone just seemed too inconvenienced to deal with water at that point.

Mile 4 and Mile 5 were the hardest for me. I was tired, I was cold, and I didn't have my Garmin to gauge my effort. My left knee which had been achy was really starting to bother me and my effort over Cat Hill was suboptimal at best. I still managed to hold my position in the loose pack that I was in until the last mile when I allowed a 15 year old boy to pass me and another guy who I had been jostling back and forth with since Mile 2 to surge through with a quarter mile left. It was a good fight though as I didn't let up and sprinted the last half mile at my interval effort. I had the finish line all to myself as I heard the MC announced my name twice as I ran through.

As I regained my breath and allowed my finish time to sink in, I acquiesced to the reality that I ran a mediocre race today. I am disappointed that my five mile pace is the slowest it's been for a couple of years. However, I also know that racing this early in a calendar year is a rarity for me. I remain confident that my speed will improve once the sun returns, the temperature warms, the ice melts, and I can run and train without the threat of ice and snow tripping me up and making me fall. For now, I will continue to build my endurance and stamina slowly and carefully as I deal with the harsh reality of winter in New York.

Afterwards, I met up my brother who had his own troubles battling the Cat at Mile 4 and my parents who both PR'd by two minutes in their respective races. Everyone seemed to have a great time and had fun despite the unbearable cold temperatures and gusting winds. It was the first NYRR Lam Clan run and from the looks of it, there probably will be plenty more!

Official Time - 0:31:10; Average Pace - 6:18 min/mi
Weather - Temp 27F, Humid 67%, Frigid, Wind SE 14.2, WC 23
Finished 65th out of 2383 overall
Finished 11th out of 237 in my AG
Age-graded percentile - 69.1%


Lisa said...

wow, I'm impressed that you all got out there in the brutal cold. And it's so cool that your whole family is out there running!

Anonymous said...

wow. awesome job man. most impressive in the cold. racing in the wind is also no bueno so major props to your whole family getting out there

Susan - Nurse on the Run said...

Even this Chicago girl thought it was a little chilly today! Love that your family ran together...that's awesome.

Meg said...

Just getting out there was a huge accomplishment. It sounds like your training has begun!

Alan said...

Great race report dude.

I am still shivering thinking about the outside temps haha. dad says that he might even take running a little more seriously next I gonna have the worst AG time out of us all?!?!?!

Nicki said...

Great race recap! I always think about what I would write as I run but never get it down the way I want.

jov said...

awesome! you guys are AWESOME! :)

runner26 said...

the lam-clan -- love it!! congrats to all of you!

J said...

Racing in the cold is hard! Must have been fun to run with your whole family! Very impressive for it being so cold!

The Laminator said...

On behalf of the Lam clan, I thank you all for the positive feedback =)

@Lisa - Thanks. It was brutally cold, but we drew warmth from each other...Haha!

@marathonmaiden - Yep, I wouldn't recommend racing in wind/ least not for a PR!

@susan - if it was a little chilly to you, that's sayin' something. Thanks =)

@Meg - yeah, this race served as the introduction to winter training. But if this was a course, i'd be failing =(

@Alan - You better get faster or you'll be bringing up the rear pretty soon. LOL!

@Nicki - Thanks. I think about a lot when i run/'s just remembering all the details that makes it hard.

@Jov - Thanks Cuz...when are you joining us?

@runner26 - Can't wait for the Gagnon clan run too =P

@J - was awesome running with the fam!

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Nikki Strother said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nikki Strother said...

Thank you for posting this. I have been running about a year now and had a few bad races in early Feb. I feel better today after reading this! Even though we have never met, this is not the first time I have been inspired by something that you have written!

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