March is here, and the time is right, for going racing in the street.

Coogan’s 5K: Club Series Race No. 1

This morning’s weather was not bad. I feared a steady rain, and if there was any it was light and largely gone by race time. Temp in the 50s. Singlet and shorts for the Coogan’s 5K.

This is the first in NYRR’s Club Series and a goodly portion of the club runners were out. 5K up Fort Washington Avenue, around the Cloisters, and back. Although the course has no big hills, it has a bunch of middling ones. And the road surface left something to be desired, and required constant vigilance.

I felt worse, in fact, for the musicians. This is quite nice, as small groups of musicians line the course so you’re never far from hearing a different tune. My favorite was the guy with an electric guitar way up a hill on the approach to the Cloisters, but they all made for a nice atmosphere.

But down to business. I was in blue, the first corral. (NYRR Complaint: At some races, presumably for photos, they make the men move to give a separate lane in the Blue for women. This was done here. It’s not a big deal, but it violates the you-stand-based-upon-your-speed principle.) Mary Wittenberg said something that could not be heard over the PA, and then a runner sang a slow rendition of the National Anthem, which was troubling because it was still raining a bit. Plus he sang “still” instead of “yet” in the “yet wave” part (although someone thought it necessary to shout “yet,” which I thought misguided).

The Race

The horn sounded. We were off. A bit crowded initially, but it pretty well cleared up, as I concentrated on my footing. Then a nice uphill after we passed over the Cross-Bronx Expressway (I-95) approach to the George Washington Bridge. No problem there, but I was then passed by lots and lots of people on the downhill that immediately followed. (Note to self: I must work on my downhill technique.)

It’s a 5K so we should be going at a good clip, but my legs were not cooperating. So at the mile in 6:11. It was not too hard. It was not too easy. It was.

Down the biggest hill and around the Cloisters. As we turned, briefly, west, a nice if overcast view across the Hudson and to the Palisades. I had a decent rhythm at this point and I got up that big hill easily, cresting it just past the 2 mile mark, in 12:22. The brain starts saying, “just over a mile.” Tons of people heading north.

When we pass I-95, it’s slightly down to the end, and I decide to pick it up, which leads me to search for the 3 Mile clock and the finish banner. I see the former and realize that there’s no latter. Past 3 at about 18:30 and trying to figure “just how far is .1?” Everyone’s in the same mode as the blocks pass and I see the line. Through in 19:02.

Post-Race

I chatted briefly with Pascal, back from Paris full-time, and Charlie Bailey, both Warren Streeters. Robert, another WSSACer, and his friend Antonio, to whom he’d introduced me before the race. All of these guys finished ahead of me. Then came Ari at the baggage check, who was happy running 30 seconds off his PR on a tough course early in the season. Finally with Rich Temerian of Urban Athletcs. Rich’s won the 50-54 Runner of the Year award twice now. But he was bested today by VCTC’s Kevin Shelton-Smith (ominously wearing No. 666) who has really raised his game in the last few years. He used to race all the time, crazy stuff, but may be focusing more. More to the point, both Kevin and Rich would have placed second in the 45-49 age-group (albeit well behind our own Paul Thompson (a 5-time AG Runner of the Year)), with 17:14 and 17:28, respectively. Wow. I can’t wait until October and I can get into a new age-group.

Rich introduced me to CPTC’s Mike Rennock, another 50+er, and Rich and I agreed that it would be great for another team to at least displace CPTC’s 50+ mens team, which swept each race in 2010. Just as the competition is heightened in the 40+ mens with WSSAC going against UA to the last race the last two years (for the record, UA was first, WSSAC third at Coogan’s), it would be nice to have more competition teamwise in the 50+. We have four guys, myself included, who could perform well (the others being Jim Stemm, John Nelson, and Jonathan Sumpter) but Jonathan is recovering from foot surgery (we gave a drive to Julie T and she was NY Harrier’s second 40+ woman) and I don’t know about the others. Thus while CPTC has a deep bench, we don’t.

It’s good though to see and chat with other Club runners, and it’s one of the highlights of the season. Someone recently commented that I was being passively aggressive as to CPTC and I decided not to respond directly. In short, though, the WSSAC-CPTC rivalry has been extant from my first day with the former, in 1983, and so it is a love-hate thing that’s going on, heightened by the fact that CPTC is the big dog in 50+. As Lee Ann Womack said, “I really hate her. I’ll think of a reason later.”

Unfortunately, although I knew a number of others who were racing, I didn’t see them. The post-race chaos was not conducive, though, to finding people.

Assessment

After a bit of communications issues, I’m getting my structured training. In the past month or so I’ve been getting long things in, but each week has brought something that has prevented any speedwork. This past Wednesday, though, I did a 400, 400, 800, 1000, 800, 400, 400 ladder. It was a bit of a shock, since I’d not been on a track in months, and the only fast stuff I’ve done has been on the treadmill. The pace was a bit slower than I’d like, but my focus was on running “fast” in a relative sense, i.e., I wasn’t busting it but just trying to make the hard, consistent effort. And I did that.

Today’s race is evidence of a lack of any speed. As I say, it wasn’t too hard, it wasn’t too easy. It kind of was. An age-grade of 80.0. What’s important is that I put on a number and raced. I hadn’t done that since December. I think I’ve a decent base from these past, snowy months. Having raced, mentally I think I’m set up for continuing to build on that base.

I have the Sleepy Hollow HM in three weeks and the Scotland Run two weeks after that. In between is the Scarsdale 15K, but I don’t know if I’ll do that, given the other races.

Bruce

A note about the following. I listened to this Springsteen concert in my apartment on West 85th Street when I was a first-year student in law school. He issued a recent collection of songs — called “The Promise” — recorded in the pre-Darkness On The Edge of Town period, and a version of this is among them. I well recall the build-up to that album, as he was kept from issuing an album by a litigation. I’m working on this song on the piano, and it’s inspirational to me. “Summer’s here and the time is right/for going racing in the streets.” It seemed appropriate for this road race, the first of the year.

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