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You know how annoying it is when a bunch of people are strolling along on the Park Drive, perhaps with a baby carriage, completely blocking you? I imagine that’s what cyclists feel. I came upon some stuff that may explain a bit about which I wrote in my last post about users of Central Park. Turns out I’m not the only one annoyed by rude runners (“RR”s).

There’s a nice video from the cyclist’s perspective showing how dangerous it is with RRs. Perhaps seeing it from the cyclist’s perspective might raise the awareness level. (Much of the video is of the Lower Loop. There, I don’t run on the Drive but on the sidewalk when there’s traffic.)

Someone else did a whole write-up of the issue (the graphic is from that page).

Someone commented on Facebook that this is “just common sense,” but it seems readily ignored.

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).

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My friend from last week thought better, apparently, of a repeat of his performance of last Saturday and he remained absent from my jaunt around Central Park this morning. And a beautiful morning it was, temp in the high 30s/low 40s, a fair number of people running in shorts, albeit with reddened legs.

As for me, tights were the order of the day. There were but four this week, Paul, Fabio, Robbie, and your correspondent. Wondering chiefly on the bridle path, in fine condition. Lots of people going lots of paces. 1:34:10. Longest in who knows how long. And struggled the final 10 blocks, alone, from Central to Marcus Garvey Park, where I parked. 20 minutes in, 20 minutes out.

When I ran for Sound Shore, we had a regular Saturday morning 5.5 miler. Took me about 20 minutes to get there too; much closer, but no highways. Now I’m the guy holding on at the end, longing for the turn-around point on the bridle path at its southern end.

So a good stretch of running this week, very good in one respect. Yesterday’s was nice and easy. But Wednesday’s and Thursday’s were unusual in that in both cases, I simply decided as I approached home to add on another five minutes or so. So Wednesday was 55 minutes and Thursday and even hour. On Thursday, I wore my Garmin for the first time in quite a while, and the pace was where it should be, not too fast.

I should note, returning to today’s run, that it is a weekly Warren Street get-together (and Paul regularly heads to the Rockies on Sundays). It picks up folks at 5th and 90th at 9 am. Anyone interested can drop me a line. Club dues, by the way, are $0. Annually.

I’m in the City only infrequently now and I’ve perhaps lost a bit of my edge in the hustle and bustle of the place. So I was a bit taken aback when a guy almost hit me as I descended the Harlem Hills heading south on the west side of Central Park with Paul Thompson.

A foot, maybe two above me came soaring a bird too large to be a pigeon. It was, indeed, a red-tail hawk, and it soared below us to a tree by the small pond at 102nd Street. As we passed, I made out the red in its tail. (That’s not a picture of this one; it’s from Tlinn.com.)

At that point I was in desperate straits. Paul, the top local Masters runner, had taken the train from his home in Peekskill. I had driven down. I’ve been meaning to join Warren Street for its Saturday run for a while, but was unsure of the logistics. Giving myself plenty of time to meet Paul at 8:15 at the northeast corner of Marcus Garvey Park — the park around which the marathon goes as it heads south on Fifth Avenue — I found that there was plenty of parking around the park. It took about 20 minutes for me to get there.

Now, Paul is much faster than I am and by the time we hit the Harlem Meer at the entrance to Central Park, I was winded. I could still speak, but I was winded. You know you’re in trouble when that happens in the first two miles. Fortunately the uphill gave me a chance to gather myself. Paul said it was likely that Jim Stemm would meet us as we made the turn south, but he was nowhere to be seen. This was bad for me because Jim, I hoped, would have gotten the pace a tad slower. But then, after the hawk incident, we met Fabio and things got a bit more relaxed.

From that point, we stuck to the bridle path. It had stretches of iciness which required care, but it was quite a pleasant course. We picked up folks along the way, including Pascal, who had just run the NYRR five-miler, and ended up as a pack of seven.

I never ran on the bridle path when I lived in the City. I was a road and reservoir man. But it is now a fairly popular place to run, and we passed loads of other folks, alone or in groups. Lots of pretty women.

It was chilly, perhaps 25, but I was a little warm in a long-sleeve shirt with short-sleeve t-shirt over it. Conversational pace. As we headed along the 103rd Street transverse, I bid everyone adieu and headed north. Out at the Meer and up to the south tip of Marcus Garvey Park. 1:20:20. Don’t know the mileage, but I’m putting it at 12 because I’m pretty confident we kept to a sub-7 pace throughout.

I had my trusty iPod with me. When we stopped to pick up Mike G at 90th and Fifth, this is what it saw on the bridle path, by the Reservoir. It was cold and windy. That’s Paul who keeps flitting about. Pascal is wearing the race number.


Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Run for Central Park four-miler. Kind of warm, kind of humid.

Given my lack of speedwork, I went into this as a good way to get some. I knew I wasn’t needed for the Club (it’s a team-scoring race), so that took pressure off. Got there in plenty of time, but the sun was beating down on the start, so held off until about 8:47 to get into corral 1. Stayed farther back than normal.

The course: start on the East Drive south of 72nd, up Cat Hill. Mile 1 at the start of the straight between 87th and 93rd. Left on 102nd transverse, where hit mile 2. South down west side, with mile 3 at about 87th Street. Finish with a left turn onto 72nd Street transverse.

Race began at 9, and it took me quite a while to start moving. I probably was too far back as I had to fight my way through for a while. But I didn’t feel great, didn’t feel fast. Up Cat Hill (with a wave to Cat) and grabbed water before the Mile 1 mark. Past the mark: Clock read 6:17, although my watch had it at 6:11. This is slow, even with Cat Hill.

But I started to feel OK. Cutting the tangents like crazy (and virtually alone in doing so) and into a groove. Not super-fast, but feeling solid, good form. 2 at about 12:10. Grab water. A solid mile 3, which has three slight ups. Picking off plenty of people. See Lara of NYFlyGirl, who I met at the recent get-together, but she doesn’t recognize me; I recognize her because she cheers for a NY Flyer right ahead of me.

Final mile is largely downhill, but it still always hurts. I see a couple of older-looking guys ahead and don’t think I can catch them. But I start picking it up a bit, and I get them both. Sharp left — one of the two cuts me off a little so I give him a chop. Finish is not as deep into the transverse as it used to be, and I’m grateful for that. Run all the way through. Final time: 24:09. 161st overall, 6th AG, 81.0% age-graded, the lowest age-grading I’ve ever had in a road race. (Some, but decidedly not all, of my clubmates also ran poorly.)

Jogged up to 125th Street Metro-North station with a bunch of clubmates, which was fun. WSSAC’s Masters, though, only finished second (although it remains in the lead).

I’m not surprised by this since I’m working things through and have only done one speedworkout recently. So get in a solid Tempo run this coming week and regular speed after that and I should be fine.

Next race: Club Champs. Aug. 8.

It wasn’t raining when I woke up.  But a quick check of the radar showed that it shortly would be and indeed the first drops hit my windshield as I drove to the train at about 8:15.

Today’s race was the Scottish 10K in Central Park. It started a bit south of Tavern on the Green so it could finish at the big-race finish line by Tavern. One full lap of the Park plus a wee bit more. I elected to drive to the train, take the train and subway, and jog to the start, having picked up my number, etc., yesterday. A number of other runners got on the train at Fleetwood.

The Great Lawn, April 11, 2009

The Great Lawn, April 11, 2009

The thing about NYRR races is that they are crowded. The crowd on the course doesn’t matter so much but there are thousands of people wandering around. One of the etc. above was a race parka, and they were in abundance near the finish. (During the race, I saw a woman and her black Lab wearing one (not in the race mind you).) NYRR has instituted a coral system, and numbers are assigned based on prior race performance. So I get a blue number, which gives me entry to the 1-999 coral at the front. It gets crowded in there, but nowhere near like it used to be. And you can walk up as far as you want because everyone respects everyone else and knows that guys don’t go to the front unless they belong there. There are exceptions, of course, but it works pretty well. [Edited to add: Apparently things are not so peachy behind us, per Cowboy Hazel]

But unlike the suburban races that spoil us, where you can put your stuff in your car five minutes before the start, for NYRR you have to get your stuff into the baggage area 10-15 mins. ahead of time and then head to the start, which in this case was 1/4 mile away. Which meant a slow walk in a crowd heading south until the freedom of the coral — and they check numbers — where you wait for 10 or 15 mins. Jack Daniels suggested that a good pre-race warm-up is 1-2 minute hard run 20 mins. before the start, so I try to do that and don’t worry about standing around waiting for the horn.

And it is a horn. After the murder of John Lennon in 1980, NYRR switched from a gun to an air horn. It still uses a Howitzer for the Marathon start, but otherwise it’s a horn, and when I hear a gun at track races it’s always a bit of a shock.

Pre-Start Shelter

Pre-Start Shelter

I see Jim Stemm right before we get to the coral. I met Jim at my very first Warren Street race, the New Rochelle half-marathon in 1983. He was 4th and I was 5th, as I recall. Our team jerseys then said “Manufacturers Hanover” on the front — it was a major bank known as Manny Hanny that sponsored the Marathon for years but was taken over by Chemical which was taken over by Chase. It’s president while I was in high school was the father of Sean McGillicuddy, a teammate in HS, and I stayed at their house when a fire left mine uninhabitable for a bit while I was in HS. When we were seniors at Iona Prep, we decided to get jerseys with our names on the back, but the cheap ones were blue with a white field and red lettering. The team colors were maroon and gold, so we didn’t quite fit. Nor did Sean’s last name, so on the back of his he simply had “Sean.” I still have mine, the oldest piece of running gear I have, from 1973.

Back to the race. In addition to Jim, I saw Paul Thompson, a Brit who is the best Masters runner in the NYC area and the rock on which our Masters team is built. He just flew in from a trip to Singapore. That was two, but Stéphane said he’d be running, so although I didn’t see him, I assumed he was there, which was important because it meant that I was at best our 4th Master, and only 3 score, so the pressure was off me.

This was my first mass race since my accident and I was nervous about being jostled. I’ve never fallen in a road race, but they can get pretty hairy, especially early on. For a moment, I started to panic that I was going to fall and break something and the masses would trample over me. Perhaps I should get off the course, but I was hemmed in with no place to go. And the moment passed.

Now it is raining, although not too hard. I had just my standard uniform, having elected not to wear arm warmers since it wasn’t that cold. I also had a hat on, brim turned back to prevent it from flying off, from a wind, not my speed. We have a number of speakers from Scotland, all noting that they had brought Scottish weather with them. The national anthem on bagpipes, leaving my head uncovered in the rain, and Mary W. telling us how wonderful running in the rain can be. Finally the order, “Runners Set,” and the horn.

Early Going. I didn’t know what to expect, and my plan was to go out easily, and that’s what I did, although dodging people left and right, always trying to make sure it was clear for me to change lanes. Greg D. came up to me after a race and said I was the politest runner he’d ever seen because I look and actually signal my lane changes in races. Hence I get pissed, and sometimes vocal, when people cut in front of me, especially when there’s no reason to.

The first mile passed in 5:51, a little quick. Stuart Calderwood of CPTC passes easily, and there goes first in 50-54. Stéphane also flies by early. He taps me as he passes and I call out, “Allez, Allez” and he waves. So I’m in the clear on team scoring. Relax a bit. That’s a hilly mile (which passes very close to where I lived for many years, at 23 West 85th Street). Recover a little on the down hill and up again. The crowd is thinning a bit and although I’m moving left and right to keep to the tangents, it’s pretty open. Mile 2 in 6:04. Now that’s a little too easy. It’s hard but comfortable. But 4+ miles to go.

Middle. Now it’s up the first Harlem Hill. Breathing hard, but moving well. Crest and head down, and people pass. 3rd mile at bottom of second Harlem Hill, 5:56. Just about half-way. Work up the hill, pass more folks. We’re now in the mode where most of the people around me will be around me for the duration, some increasing their leads or passing me, some falling back. Over the hill, and with 3 miles or so to go, the tough part of the course is gone. Get to 4 and it’ll be fine. Hit that, right at 90th Street, in 6:08, but it felt faster than that. That nice straight between 95th and 86th gives a chance to relax. [Edited to add: I saw several other race reports, and they all have a particularly slow mile 4. I think it was long and mile 3 a little short.]

Final Third. OK, once this next mile is done, I’m good. I’ve run many lower loops — we called the lower loops “death loops” in the old days and would do full laps at sub-5 pace three times with a full recovery — and there’s a nice downhill to get there. This is Cat Hill, and I wave to the Cat, as always. Hit 5 at 72nd Street, a 5:47. Feeling better, knowing I’ll finish, but still some doubts. I can see the markings every 1/8 mile on the lower loop now. 3/4 mile, not to the finish, but almost. 880 yards, by the Carousel but I’m beginning to wonder whether, in fact, I’ll make the final K.

Hit the bottom of the Park and head west, telling someone I pass and is struggling that we’re almost home. The sound of bagpipes, but it’s not the finish line, but along that westerly stretch. Damn. Turn north again, and now I know I’ll make it. Pass 6 miles, a 5:49, and ask a CPTC runner not to cut in front of me. Enough of that, I pass him and pick it up. I can see the finish and drive home. I hear the announcer say, “Warren Street, No. 227, well done.” Cross the finish.

It’s Over. I see Jim and Paul and head to get my baggage and some dry clothes. First I go to the last pair of folks who clip off the chip, and then Bill Allen of Urban Athletics says hello, and wonders why he hadn’t seen me at a Van Cortlandt race, and I tell him. I put on a relatively dry shirt, check my watch. If I hurry, perhaps I’ll catch an early train, but then I realize I’m too late, so I jog to Grand Central, through hordes of tourists on Fifth Avenue, and take a nice train home.

Stats: 36:47. 131 overall, 116th male. Age-graded: 84.8. Fifth in 50-54. Fifth for Warren Street (which means that I scored for the big club, but all scorers for the big club were Masters). Masters team (I didn’t score) first, and big club sixth.

Post-Mortem: A year ago I’d have been thrilled with this result, particularly the AG. Now I think it’s a good start and proof that I’m still in the early days of the season. My target race is Park-to-Park on June 13. That’s time enough to get the mix of mileage and speed I need.

The End.

Edited to add: Photos.

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