Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Race Report: Fit For All 5k 2014

Sally and I ran the "Fit For All" 5k in Riverside Park, Manhattan, on Saturday.  The race was organized by Manhattan's West Side YMCA, but we ran as part of my company's corporate team.  Sally works for the YMCA in Milford, CT, so this particular race offered us a chance to both support an organization we believe in and make use of our various corporate connections for a day in New York.  After the race, we grabbed showers at the West Side YMCA and then took the kids to the American Museum of Natural History, where my company is a corporate sponsor.  All told, it was a pretty great day.

The race was scheduled for a 9:00 am start.  I wanted to get there around 7:30 in order to give us time to find parking--always a challenge in New York--and get our packets/warm-up.  I decided to get us up at 5:30, but we got the car loaded fairly quickly and then made excellent time into the City.  We even managed to find a parking space right on the street on Riverside Drive.  We wound up parking on Riverside near 100th Street, giving us maybe a half-mile walk up to the race's starting point.  That was much better than I'd anticipated us doing.  We were amongst the first competitors to show up, getting to the starting point at around 7:15.  This didn't bother me at all, but I could tell that Sally was annoyed we'd gotten up as early as we did.
This was a Halloween-themed family race, and as part of the attraction, the YMCA set up a "Boo Zone" kids area.  Sally and I picked up our packets, let the kids run around like maniacs for a while, and then we banished them to the "Boo Zone" for most of the next hour.  We both spent a long time stretching, had a brief discussion about how to dress for the race, and eventually dropped our bags at bag-check.  After that, we went out for about a mile warm-up run.
Hannah & Emma in the "Boo Zone"
Face-painting was a hit
We got back and found a mess at race registration/packet pick-up.  The race wound up having 665 finishers, and as it happened, many of them showed up right before the race's start time.  Race start was pushed back as a result, leaving me sitting on a park bench while Sally went to hang out with the kids.  Eventually, I decided to drop the long sleeved t-shirt I was wearing under my RWB team shirt, so I guess it all worked out, but in the moment, I was quite annoyed.  After all that backwards planning and prep work to be on time, we wound up standing around because the race's start time was postponed.  
It wasn't that bad.  We lined up around 9:10, and I'll bet we actually started at 9:15.  All things considered, it could have been much, much worse.
The Race
The girls under the arch over race start.
They lined us up in a long shoot for the start.  There were three waves.  Wave A was for those running 7:00/mile or faster.  Wave B was for those running 8:00/mile or faster.  Wave C was for those running somewhere around 10:00/mile.  Sally and I run a lot, and as I said last week, my goal time for this race was an average of about 8:00/mile.  We therefore lined up right at the start of Wave B.
They blew the whistle, and we were off.  I lost Sally in the first fifty feet of the race--we run together a lot but rarely race together--and started trying to move up.  I'd not have expected that, but I realized in that first half-mile that many of our fellow racers had lined up far to the front of where their actual pace should have placed them in the waves.  I passed people aggressively for the first half mile or so--until we hit the first hill.  After that I sort of ran with the flow, although I think I was still generally moving forward through the press for the next mile or so.  My watch reported a pace of just over 7:30/mile for the first half of that first mile, but my pace fell off up the first hill, and I wound up averaging right at 8:00/mile over the course of Mile 1.
If you've never been to Riverside Park, it's a long, surprisingly green brick-lined park running up the West Side of Manhattan from about the mid-60s to somewhere north of 125th Street.  The entire park offers excellent tree-lined views of the Hudson River, and there are long lines of benches running down many of the park’s promenades.  It's mostly flat if you’re running from north-to-south, but it's a steep climb up from the river towards Riverside Drive, and there are paved trails that wind freely up and down the incline.  I'd therefore expected the race to be flat, but instead the course made good use of the park's side-trails, leading to a generally rolling course, especially over the first half.  We ran an easy half-mile north, turned right, went straight up the side of a hill, rolled south for almost a mile, turned right, and then dropped all the way down to the water's edge for maybe another half-mile.  I was at 7:47/mile for this second mile over generally flat and/or declining terrain, and I felt good.  I felt like I was running fast but loose and managing the effort relatively well.
We turned again at around 1.75-miles and headed north once more.  There was a short, sharp climb back up to the park’s promenade level, followed by a short loop back to the south before a relatively straight shot back in towards home.  That last hill took something out of me, though, and I felt my pace start to slack.  I still felt like I was successfully controlling my effort level, but in a longer race, I’d have backed it down.  As this was only a 5k, I tried to keep leaning into it in order to hold what speed I could.  That strategy was bound to leave me feeling like a puddle of jelly after the finish, but what can you do?
I could see the finish from almost a mile back, but as we approached, I saw that there was one last turn--up an unexpected incline in the last quarter-mile!  Ugh.  The actual terrain didn’t hurt as badly as it might have, but seeing it on the approach was disheartening as Hell.  I finished as strongly as I could, but it was hardly a sprint to the line.
I crossed at 24:48, having averaged exactly 8:00/mile.  That is not blazing fast by any means, but it’s not bad considering where I am in the season, and indeed, it is right on the goal pace I set before the race.  My actual splits were something like 8:00, 7:47, and 8:13, but the variations there were mostly down to terrain.  It didn’t feel like a particularly evenly split effort, but as a matter or reality, my pacing was good.  I finished 5/18 in my age group and 71/665 overall.  That’s quite a bit better than I’d expected to do based on my finish time.
Me, Sally, and the girls after the race.
Sally averaged 8:59/mile, for a total time of 27:50.  That was good for 6/47 in her age group and 158/665 overall.  Considering that she’s run exactly one other time in the past year, that’s not too bad.  Granted, she is in amazing shape from all of the fitness classes that she teaches, but still… it’s not like she’s actually been running.
Looking Forward
I was pleased with this effort overall.  I initially wanted to run under 24:00, and that’s not an unrealistic time for later in the seaon, but for right now--nine weeks after being in the hospital with a leg infection that kept me laid up for most of a month--I’ll take what I can get.  I feel like this race gives me and Sally both something to build on as we look to close out the offseason and start thinking about other races to come.
Right now, my race calendar looks something like this:
 -- 2/7 - Stratford YMCA Sweetheart Run (4 miles)
Woodruff YMCA Tri Cup Challenge:
 -- 4/19 - Indoor Y-Tri (300 yds/11 miles/5K)
 -- 6/14 - Sprint Tri in Stratford (tentative)
 -- 8/9 - Charles Island Sprint Tri
 -- 7/19 - Litchfield Hills Olympic Triathlon
 -- 8/16 - West Point Triathlon (sprint)
 -- 10/10 - Hartford Half-Marathon
We’ll see how it goes.


  1. Congrats! You broke 25:00 like you wanted.

    1. Thanks. Yeah, I'm happy enough. Not as fast as I want to be but satisfied that I performed according to reasonable expectations. That's not glorious or anything, but it's a step in the right direction.