It may be more of a burden, truth be told, to write this blog than to read it. Particularly after being labeled a Bruce-Jenner hating misanthrope, showing up at a starting line creates a level of expectation. During the race, thoughts of DNFing must be put aside; how will you justify another failure.
During the race, thoughts of what I’m going to say about this or that stretch animate the race.
In a target race, say a marathon, you embark on a five-act journey hoping that you’re one of the ones left standing, if bloodied, at the end. Sometimes you’re not.
But there is to be no Scottish Play about the Scottish 10K. I did it last year in quite different weather conditions. Last year it was cold and rainy. This year it was hot and sunny. Hence, I like to think performances were a bit slower because of the heat.
The problem with a sunny start is that one stands in the corral with the sun beating down for a good 20 minutes waiting for the horn. And enthusiasm ebbs and flows during the wait. 10-minutes to go and doubts appear about the race generally and just being there, standing in a bunch of other runners. This was a club race, but it didn’t seem as deep as other club races. We were not at full strength — PT is away — but we had a number of younger folks, including a band from Rockefeller University who are among our Saturday morning group. Warming up, I pass JT (with a red number) but in my pre-race bubble I fail to stop (sorry).
[Here comes a course description. If you've been there, you can just skip ahead.] Last week there were a number of race reports on either the Colan Cancer 4-miler or 15K. They note the varying terrain of Central Park and how it comes into play with respect to races there. I’ll give my description of the course.
The Start is about where the 26-mile mark is for the marathon. You head north, up a short hill through the Finish which is immediately followed by a downhill, which becomes a slight decline when you hit 72nd Street. The Lake is to the right and you then hit the first of three gradual uphills. This is a longish one, taking you to 85th Street (where I started and finished countless runs when I lived on West 85th).
You’ve passed the one-mile mark and then a not-so-gradual downhill, with the Reservoir to the right. That ends quickly and is followed by another up then another down then another up then another down, the last taking one to 100th Street. You hit the two-mile mark. You pass the transverse to the right, which is used in many races, and continue on the Park Drive up the first of the Harlem Hills. It’s a nice climb, but there’s a fairly steep downhill immediately at the top, a downhill that curves to the right all the way down. Slight uphill with the Harlem Meer to the left and through three.
Then the second Harlem Hill, which curves first left and then right. You appreciate the need for running the tangents. Cresting the Harlem Hills, you have a stretch of slilghtly down followed by a long stretch of slightly up, which will take one through the four-mile and all the way to the Metropolitan Museum, which is on the left if you care to notice. Slight down, slight up, then steep down on Cat Hill. Slight up through five, and then the only flat stretch of the entire lap, a quarter mile south of 72nd Street.
You’re now on the lower loop, and in the final mile. (The Marathon exits the Park here, rejoining by Columbus Circle but other races remain in the Park.) Then a nice, not-sharp downhill for half a mile, curving right then left then right, an almost flat stretch at the south end and turn right, pass 6 and the Start and just haul up the final incline through the Finish.
In short, one is constantly changing through a CP race. It’s harder to lock into a pace, but you can lock into a good rhythm.
National Anthem on backpipes, announcement that the course is clear and we’re off. I’m pretty much where I should be, although some faster guys come up pretty quickly. Stuart Calderwood of CPTC is fast and gone, and with him is one of the 50-54 places. I look left and see a “Running for Margo” shirt, and it’s Pascal (fresh from a bike crash yesterday, who’s spending most of his time now in Paris). I hear a familiar voice behind, and it’s co-captain Mike Gustella. He goes by.
First mile: 6:05. It wasn’t hard, it wasn’t easy. It kind of just was. At least I knew I hadn’t gone out too fast. Warm. Someone had a water bottle in the corral so I got something there, and I grab a cup at the first mile stop. (The race had more water stops than is normal for a 10K, because of the heat.) Just trying to hold things together, cut tangents, keep relaxed. Two, a 6:06. Who knows what that pace translate into for the race. OK, now we’re at the first Harlem Hill. Cruise past a bunch of people, many of whom cruise by me on the way down. As one goes down this hill, there are some large rocks that seem to hang over the inside lane, adding drama to the downhill.
Third mile: 6:05. Guy from CPTC cuts me off, and I tell him I’m going to have to talk to Devon about this; it seems more CPTC guys cut me off than members of any other club. He laughs and says that’s just what Devon teaches. Up the other Harlem Hill, and that guy’s gone. Pass Pascal halfway up. “Allez!” but he’s beat.
OK, here’s the deal. I said I’d cruise through 5K and then start going. This type of strategy is easier to design than to implement, though. But I give it a try. Cut the tangents — and often the only person who was, and I imagine others thinking that this Warren Street guy not only doesn’t like triathletes but cheats too — push. Yet this would be my slowest mile by far, 6:19. Must have been the hill. I can do 2 miles, I can do 2 miles.
I’m warm, but not blowing up. Down Cat Hill. Dead squirrel on the course right before the Cat. Side step the first, wave to the second. The sense is that if I can get down this hill strongly, I can leverage it for the final mile. Five, another 6:05. One to go and now it’s just going hard. Stephane on the side, urging me on. My mind now analyzing just what I’m going to write about this race. My thought is that I’m going hard, hard as I can, but my legs aren’t particularly tired. Sure, they ache. It seems I’m just not getting fuel to them. I tell a Harrier that we can do one last mile. Turn to south end, half to go. Through 6, 6:06, and thoughts of needing every second enter my brain so I push the final .2 or whatever it is up the hill. 38:01. Mary Wittenberg has taken to greeting runners at the finish, and I stop to tell her that a barricade is one the course at the six-mile mark.
Someone comes up to me after. It’s Richard Temerian, who runs for Urban Athletics. Warren Street’s rival in the 40-49 AG is UA, but Richard is 51 and was the NYRR runner-of-the-year in the 50-54 category. He ran a 36:02, so well beat me (as did Stuart, with a 36:14). Many of the other big hitters are absent, though, so I cop third for the AG, 150th over-all, with an age-grading of 82.7.
I’d not met Richard before, although he sent me a nice email some time ago. His wife, mother, and kids were with him. He asked whither Greg D, and I said I did not know, and he asked about NY, and I said I’m on the fence. “Do it,” he said. We’ll see. But he’s the type of very good club runner who helps make running in the club environment in NYC worth so much. Fight hard during the race, share the experience after.
These races have tons of runners. I don’t know the thousands of stories that get people to the Start and through the Finish, and many will be doing what I’m doing, i.e., racing. I don’t begrudge anyone else in the race. So far as I can tell, they enjoy the race for the sake of pushing themselves to complete, in this case, 6.2 miles or so. Many start way way back before the first corral. I have perhaps been too harsh on them. They engage in a different, however subtly, event than mine. In the end, they too are part of the running community. And the same of the triathlete, and I must admit that I’ve known a fair number of that breed and to a man, and woman, I’ve enjoyed their company. Just saying.
The thing about races is that you can’t complain if you’ve run as hard as you can. You can step back afterward and ponder what could be improved, but the race was well run. I say again that I need speed, and that is, I hope coming along. It is discouraging to struggle at a 6:06 pace when you did 5600 meters at 6:00 just a few days before, but that was on a track. I did not feel super tired as a struggled. I felt a lack of fuel, which I think is a deficit in the VO2max angle, which I think means intervals. Tuesday’s rain screwed up that, so it looks like either 800s or 1000s this coming Tuesday. I’m disappointed compared to last year. I think though that I’m still on track, that I am not falling over a cliff.
Next up: Scarsdale 15K next Sunday.