I took a 2 month break from running in December and January. The reason for that would be a different post for a different day, but long story short is that once the calendar flipped over to February, I felt I was ready to run again. It is officially the start of training for my next goal race, which is 11 months away – The Mississippi Blues Marathon, which will fall on my 45th birthday, assuming they continue with the same race weekend as in years past. That will be my only firm goal for this next year, and I’m laser focused on that. I’ll continue doing other races and tri’s, and perhaps even another marathon beforehand, but my eye is firmly on that particular prize.
Anyway, I absolutely love running in races, and in fact races are what keeps my training going. The need to run in the weeks leading to a race, and the hard race effort itself are important for general training, at least for me. Since running NYRR races is not really my thing anymore (my last one was May 2011), and the only other race I could find in Manhattan was the NYCRuns 5k in Riverside Park, which I’ve done several times before and find quite boring and annoying, I casted a bit of a wider net, and found the 4 mile snowflake run, at Long Beach. I know my car gives me the luxury to drive out of the city for a race, and I love to take advantage of that.
As usual, I made it out to the race very early, and got myself a nice parking spot right in front of the school that was holding the registration. It was nice that I could walk up and register/pay on race day. The indoor space was big and the bathrooms in the school easily accommodated the crowd. I felt like I had a really smooth race prep, and 5 minutes before start time I made my way up to the boardwalk for the start of the race. I learned that the race was a simple out and back on the boardwalk, 2 miles out and 2 miles back. The boardwalk itself was very nice – newly rebuilt after it was destroyed by Sandy 2 years ago. I also learned that there would be a tailwind in the first half and a headwind in the 2nd half. This was very exciting for me because I knew I could take it a little easy in the first half and keep a good pace, saving energy to really push the 2nd half.
At 9am exactly, the race got started! In fact, the clock above the start line showed the actual time, and then at 9am they waved everyone to get started. This would be a good point to share that this was my first running race since December 2013. I raced twice in 2014, but they were both triathlons. It felt really great to be racing again, and running in a short race where I could push the pace. As I said, there was a tailwind in the first half and so I fell into a comfortable groove, but pushed harder than I have in typical training runs. To start the race I didn’t have any goals other than to run a good hard pace, and have enough in the tank to finish strong. Under 40 minutes would have been fine with me.
What happened in reality though was that in the first quarter mile of the race I got passed by 2 pretty large guys who were carrying on a pretty loud conversation that I found annoying. We were running at a similar pace, but they were slightly faster than me. My goal then became to beat those guys. I know I’m a pretty big guy myself but I feel like these guys were bigger than me, so it became my mission to beat them. On my side I had experience, and so I knew that if I just stayed within myself in the first half, then when it became a headwind in the 2nd half, I’d blow them away.
I was pleasantly surprised to see 9:18 for mile 1, and then kept it nice and consistent with 9:23 for mile 2. My large competitors had pulled ahead a bit but I was able to see them easily, so they were maybe .1 miles ahead of me. Until 1.75 miles when large guy #2 pulled off the course to stretch. I was happy to know at that point I had him beat. Once we hit the turnaround, I could feel the headwind blowing, but it wasn’t too terrible. At that point I definitely upped the effort, and started playing the game where you find someone ahead of you and pass them. I’m sure I passed dozens of people in the 2nd half, people who were not mentally prepared for the tailwind/headwind configuration, and I really don’t think I was passed by anyone in the 2nd half. Large guy #1 remained about .1 ahead of me until we approached mile 3, and finally he started slowing down. I was able to get past him and was comfortable in knowing my goal was met. With the straight boardwalk, I could see the mile distance to the finish and count the lampposts remaining. So counting them down, and picking more people off was my goal, and I kept a nice hard effort all the way into the finish. Mile 3 was 9:02 and mile 4 was 9:03. In the last .1 miles I could see the clock counting up to 37 minutes, and I was happy that I was able to beat that. All the stats you’d ever want to see are here on my Runmeter capture page.
Suffice to say, I was extremely pleased with my effort. It was only the 17th 4 mile race in my history, and this one ranked 11th out of 17, so far from my worst. And if I had been a few seconds faster, it would have been 9th! It was also nice to see that the hard effort didn’t cause any ill effects with my foot, which recovered nicely after a couple of days. It also felt great to run a hard effort – well over a year since I did any run faster than 9:11 pace.
Looking forward to more races to come!