On Saturday, I ran the Ted Corbitt Classic, a 15K in Central Park.
Although I do much of my training in Central Park, the route of this race is different from my usual training route. In the weeks leading up to the race, I ran several of my training runs on portions of the course; focusing on what part of the race I would be on that portion of the course, how much energy I would need to tackle that portion, and the presence of hills and other challenges.
For those familiar with Central Park, the race course consisted of the lower five-mile loop of the park followed by the middle four-mile loop of the park, beginning around 65th Street on the east side and ending on 72nd Street mid-park, passing the start at Mile 5. I usually run the full six-mile loop and bridle paths. On this course, runners had to tackle both Cat Hill and the west side’s three rolling hills twice.
Going in to this race, I was quite confident in my training. I didn’t know what my overall time would be, but I wanted to finish in less than 1:24.
Here is how it all played out:
I woke up at 6:30 after getting a respectable seven hours of sleep. I had laid out my race gear the night before, so after washing up, moisturizing and eating Larabar #1 with a tall glass of water, I put on a pair of run tights, a sports bra, a fleece lined tech shirt with thumb holes and a fleece headband. I popped two chocolate flavored Power Bar Energy Gels in to the pocket of my run tights, and clipped my race bib to my SPIbelt which held my phone, keys, some cash and Larabar #2 (to be eaten in my corral).
I had been fighting off a sore throat and had a bit of congestion; and knowing that I planned to run as hard as I could, I made the decision to take Ventolin in addition to Advair before heading out. Asthma is one of the reasons why I got back in to distance running. It has helped me learn to control my breathing. But when the plan is to “go all out”, there is a chance that I will have trouble breathing at some point along the way. I am not a medical professional, and I don’t know if taking the Ventolin was an appropriate proactive measure, but it did work for me. I didn’t struggle with my breathing until close to the finish — when I really started hustling.
At 7:30, I stopped at the bodega across the street for a water bottle and headed toward the park. When I arrived, I found a number of racers who were confused about where the race started. The race usually starts much further uptown, and New York Road Runners had only updated their site recently to let runners know of the change to the course. I sort of knew where I needed to be, but this wasn’t the best organization I have experienced in the races I’ve run with NYRR. I had completed my training presuming that the race was starting uptown, and only learned of the change when I received my confirmation email for the race, two days before race day.
There were a few things about this that were aggravating. First, the second most challenging hill in Central Park, Cat Hill, would now be in mile 1 of the race. Second, there were absolutely no restrooms near the starting line. I found my corral a bit early, so I wandered around the lower portion of the park until I found an open restroom, and then jogged back to my corral. Third, runners who had told friends or family to cheer for them in certain spots along the course, and the approximate time they would run past, had to get in touch with their cheer squad to let them know that their estimated time of arrival would now be different.
The race began at 8:30, and I was once again in the orange corral, with green ahead of me and light blue behind. Even though I’ve run my recent races with an average pace in the 8:40s, I knew that sort of pace would not be sustainable over the course of a 15K, so I went out smart. I ran Mile 1 in 9:30. I stayed in the nines until Mile 5. The only times that I made myself speed up were when I saw runners near me wearing bibs from slower corrals. Once back with the orange and green bibs, I would settle back in to my pace.
My plan was to pick up the pace at Mile 5, after running “comfortably hard” for the first five miles of the race. This actually worked out really well because runners passed the starting line again at Mile 5, which meant there was high-energy music blasting and the beats made it easy to pick up the pace. I blasted through this mile, but have no idea what my time was because the clock at Mile 6 was down. I must have settled in to a really easy pace after that because when I saw the clock at Mile 7, I was nowhere near where I needed to be to finish in my goal time. With 2.3 miles to go, I knew that I needed to – but also that I could – rally. I took down my second Power Bar gel (the first was consumed at Mile 4), finished my water bottle and took off as fast as I could.
As I got to the west side of the 102nd Street Transverse, I remembered something: the rolling hills. I was about to hit my second round at the most physically demanding portion of the course. Inside I was screaming. I forgot about the hills! I was saving my energy so that I could run like hell for the last few miles of the race, and I forgot about the hills! Part of this delusion was caused by the last minute change to race course. If we had started uptown as was previously planned, the last couple of miles of the race would have been pretty flat, which made my plan to sprint to the finish perfectly reasonable – wise, even.
But there was no turning back at this point. I put the hills out of my mind and started picking off other runners. I ran Mile 7 at approximately 8:30. The rest of the race is sort of a blur. I’m pretty sure Mile 8 is where I started whimpering everything hurts. Everything hurts. I was beginning to struggle with my breathing. But I was so close to the finish, I didn’t care. It would all be over in a matter of minutes. I went sub-8:00.
Gasping and in pain, I spotted the finish line and went right for it.
I finished in 1:23:53.
Average pace per mile: 9:02.
I. was. totally. spent.
This is the first time I ever finished a race feeling like I gave it my all. I simply had nothing more to give. I owned that finish line.
Usually, right after a race, I’m still bouncing around, working my way toward the finisher’s area. This time? Nah. I was wiped. I double fisted with dixie cups of water and grabbed an apple that I promptly bit in to. I slowly inched my way toward a fence where I could stretch out for a few minutes and finish my water and apple before
jogging slowly ambling home. I stopped at least twice to tweet about my race, but also to sit on a park bench. I could barely move.
I was home by 11 and started feeling better at that point. El Profesor was at his usual spot in front of the computer, writing something awesome that would find its way to the Forbes website on Monday morning. He asked how my race went and we high-fived when I told him how I gave it everything I had. I think EP was kind of proud. I think he was also sleepy still and hard at work, so I unrolled my yoga mat and did three sets each of reverse crunches and push-ups.
After that, I lingered for a really long time in pigeon pose, and even longer in downward dog. It felt so good to stretch.
I made a recovery smoothie that consisted of 8 ounces of unsweetened Almond Breeze almond milk, one scoop of vanilla flavored Spiru-Tein, one heaping teaspoon of PB2 (my new obsession), two giant fistfuls of baby spinach and a few chunks of frozen banana. It was the best peanut butter banana shake I’d ever had, and contained more than 19 grams of protein and less than five grams of fat. Brilliant.
I consumed most of it in straddle pose, and various other lower body stretches while sitting on my yoga mat.
When El Profesor returned from the gym, we relaxed together for a little while before getting all dressed up for dinner with his side of the E family. I had a glass of wine with dinner. I’ve been on my best behavior lately, so that was a real treat.
After dinner, we walked up Madison Avenue, admiring the holiday lights and decorations.
If not for the race, I would have said it was a lazy day. But it wasn’t a lazy day. It was a beautiful day.