This was my second time running this race. Last year I had a great time and finished in 31:51. This year I was hoping to run an official sub-30 5K. Doing so would be at least an almost 2 minute improvement and would bump me into a faster corral for all NYRR races.
Race week: The best intentions
I planned to lower my mileage this week by 25-30% and to do a 2.5 day taper. I ended up running back-to-backs on Tuesday and Wednesday because I was a bit fatigued from my weekend trip so I skipped my Monday run. Both weekday runs went well–even if I did push more than I had planned on Wednesday’s shakeout run with Bart Yasso–and I felt confident for the race. On Thursday, my right knee was sore and I could tell it wasn’t a muscle or tendon issue it was overtraining. I RICEd and tried to stay off it as much as possible, but commuting into work and back doesn’t make that easy. My commute home ended up being longer than usual and with weight, too. On Friday morning, I was hopeful as my knee seemed okay. But that afternoon as I made my way to the Javits Center for my 6 hour volunteer shift, I knew it was probably going to be an issue. After standing for 6 hours and the long commute back home, I RICEd and headed to bed.
Race morning: This is not how I planned it
Race morning I overslept by 10 minutes which was just enough to throw off my schedule. I got to the train late and ended up getting off a stop early for bag check to try to make up time as I didn’t want to wait for the transfer for one stop. Got to bag check a little before 8, dropped my bag, used the facilities, and started towards the start line which was almost two miles away a little after 8. I had intended to run to the start as a warm-up and had I been able to I would have arrived well before the 8:30 start. However, at this point it was obvious that my knee was pissed. It was painful to walk, much less run. I walked a mile then jogged the last .75 to the start.
When I got to the start, they were already collapsing corrals. Since I knew there would be a lot of walkers, I tried to get as close to the front as possible. I ended up next to a very tall Norwegian gentleman during the wait for the gun. He gave me updates about what was happening at the start as I happily answered questions about the race for him. At this point it had started to rain and without moving, it felt very cold in the 45º. We were all ready to get this thing started.
The Race: Mile 1
As I crossed through the start, my plan was to still try for my sub-30, but to be okay with letting it go if I needed to. The start was very, very congested so staying conservative wasn’t an issue. There were already many people walking and lots of slower runners. There were plenty of faster runners trying to cut around everyone and being a little dickish. I tried to stay to the outside and pass without cutting off too many people. By the time we were heading under the Grand Central viaduct, I was running as “free” as I would the entire race. My Garmin was clocking me right around 9:35mm which was on pace for sub-30. My knee hurt, but I felt like I was okay to push through.
It wasn’t until my Garmin buzzed with my mile 1 time that I realized how off it was from the course. I thought it strange that my pace had jumped to 8:41mm, but figured it was just because of the downhill. It was actually because the watch was off by about .2 miles. When I looked at my time when I hit the mile 1 course marker, I was just over a 10mm pace. Time to pick it up.
The Race: Mile 2
By this point I had started playing some pretty serious frogger with walkers, slower runners, and people stopped in the middle of the course to take selfies. Many runners were running five and six abreast and some were carrying flags stretched across multiple people. My shoes were pretty much soaked at this point, not because of me running through puddles, but from nearby runners tromping and splashing through them. I hoped my wool socks would protect me from blisters. By this point, I wasn’t noticing my knee as I was too busy trying to get around people and keep my pace while playing frogger. Around mile 1.25, I made my way around some flag runners and one had an untied shoe. I tapped him and let him know. As I turned back to the course, I literally hit a wall. It was a pedestrian wall. Some jerk had actually walked across the course and I ran right into him, full body, at ~9mm pace. I was having a hard time navigating the course while running with the flow, I am not sure how he got across it walking. I rolled off him, thought about yelling something obscene, but turned my focus back to the course.
As I got to the park, the crowd really started to thicken. I was racing with my NBR jersey so I was very aware of my behavior and tried not to bump anyone. Inevitably people would drift over into me as I passed, though. My Garmin ticked off two miles and another sub-9mm, but mile 2 was still a ways off. I glanced at my watch just passed the mile 2 course marker and it was 19 something. I couldn’t do the math to figure out my actual pace as I tried to focus on frogger, but I knew I would have to pick up the pace through the park–through the hills. As I turned the corner into the park, I got tangled up with a few runners and when I finally got clearance I was almost elbowed in the face. “Turn Down for What” started to play as I hit the Central Park loop and got some space. Game face engaged.
The Race: Mile 3 and The Finish
The Central Park portion was tough. By this time my heart rate was in zone 5 (+90% of max) and my knee was starting to hurt pretty badly again because of the hills and my speed. My legs were also becoming heavy because I was running in zone 5. I just kept pushing. By the time I got to the mile 26 marathon marker, I knew I only had .2 miles to go to the finish. But I was in pain. So much pain that I was fighting tears. I pushed. At some point I looked at my Garmin and it said 29 something. I looked at the finish. I looked at my watch. 29:49. Just 10 seconds to make my goal. It hurt. There were people in the way. I couldn’t just let it go, though. I pushed harder. I felt like crying, but didn’t let myself. I sucked it up. I finally crossed the finish. I checked my watch. 29:55. It was going to be close.
The Race: Statistics
Official finish: 29:49
Weather: Light rain, 45º, 76% humidity, 6mph wind
Unofficial splits (based on comparing course map to Garmin):
-Mile 1: 10:07
-Mile 2: 8:50
-Mile 3: 8:57
-Last .11: 8:10
Garmin distance: 3.37
2013 Official Finish: 31:51
2014 Improvement: 2:02!
Post Race: Sub-30 meetup and heading home
After the race, I headed straight to bag check. Grabbed my bag and changed out of my wet singlet and arm warmers. My socks were so wet that they were going squish squish when I walked, but I didn’t want to change into dry socks until I got out of the park. Two of my teammates a few minutes to make it over so I stretched. We waited awhile for a third, but didn’t hear anything. He had crossed the finish just before me so not hearing from him was strange. We wondered if maybe he decided to just head home. We were cold and it was raining so we decided to start walking to find food. He ended up texting and caught up with us in the park. I slipped on my warm-ups over my tights, but was still cold. We ended up at a diner at 55th and Broadway. I finally got to use the bathroom and change into dry socks. Steak and eggs and home fries and coffee. NOM NOM NOM. It was great catching up with my online teammates. After breakfast we headed down to the train together. I was limping along and ended up slipping on some stairs down to the train. Luckily I caught myself and just ended up in a pistol squat. The commute home was slow, but brightened by all of the supportive posts on FB that I finally got a chance to read. It is incredible to me just how supportive my friends are of my running. I know many runners who deal with lots of friends being annoyed by their running. I feel truly blessed.