Race Review Of The New United NYC Half Marathon

Hi everyone! Hope everyone is having a fantastic start to the spring! Even though the calendar says its spring, it hasn’t felt too warm in New York City. At the time of the writing of this post, New York City is in the midst of yet another Nor’easter!

Thankfully, sub 30 degree temperatures did not stop the almost 22,000 participants that ran the United NYC Half Marathon this past Sunday! For those who have followed my blog, you know that I am a huge fan of this race and I was very skeptical of the new course lay out. I did a trial run of the course about a month ago (read about that here) and thought that the course was a lot more challenging than the previous one. However now that I have actually run the race here’s what I actually thought of the course, along with my personal feelings during that day!

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Runners near the start of the race by Grand Army Plaza (photo credit New York Road Runners Club)

The course aimed to be more inclusive of other parts of New York City, so they decided to start the race in Brooklyn, Grand Army Plaza in Central Park to be exact. Let’s stop right there.

In the past, the start of the race was in Central Park with the finish being near downtown, Wall Street. This year’s course required more planning ahead. For those coming in from out of town, the big question became ‘Do I stay close to the start or close to the finish’? To make life easier for some of the followers of this blog as well as my United NYC Half Marathon Facebook group, we actually hired two coach buses to meet us in midtown Manhattan and take us to the start line. While that was a quick fix for about 110 people, there were several others who had to navigate the subway system enroute to the start line, very early on a Sunday morning. For the most part it seems that folks that left early, got to the start line on time. There seemed to be a crowding problem on the train for those that boarded trains close to the start line in Brooklyn. You would think the MTA would put more trains on the lines given 22,000 extra people heading to Brooklyn at this time!

Crowded Subways Photo Credit Peter Eher

The crowds on the subways enroute to the United NYC Half – Photo Credit Peter Ehler

Once you arrived at the course, the race organizer, New York Road Runners, was on the ball in terms of getting everyone lined up for the race. Prior to the race, they instructed everyone to specifically go to the start of the corrals which was on the opposite side of the park from the actual start line. I think the entry point was perfect. It was convenient from subway stations and close to a major intersection which made it easy for taxi and Uber/Lyft dropoffs to allow passengers to get off quickly and be close to the corral entries. Once there, an abundance of security awaited runners as they would pass a full set of security measures such as metal detectors, clear bags only and the restriction of liquids greater than 1 liter. This year, NYRR put portable bathrooms right in the corrals to make it easy for someone “to go” right before the start of the race. As a matter of fact, with the staggered starts, there were people going to the bathroom even though the race had started because they knew they had time before the stagger reached them! Good move on the part of NYRR to do this!

Porta Potty Village - Ericka Gee

Portable bathrooms right in the corrals! – Photo Credit: Ericka Gee

One the race stated, racing down Flatbush Avenue was chilly but exhilarating, mostly due to the fact that the first two miles were down hill. The crowds weren’t what I expected but I think it has a lot to do with the fact that it was 7:30am when we were flying down Flatbush Avenue and it was under 30 degrees. Downtown Brooklyn gets a pass for the thin crowds on this one. For the most part, all you could see were the thousands of runners that were taking off with you! I told myself going into this race to take these first two miles easily. Clearly I didn’t listen as I clocked a 7:23 and a 7:27 respectively for the first two miles – so much for that game plan!

Approacing Manhattan Bridge - Gail Miranda.jpg

The approach to the Manhattan Bridge – Photo Credit: Gail Miranda

As expected, once on the Manhattan Bridge there were no spectators in sight due to security reasons. Going over the bridge was actually very peaceful. After getting over the adrenalin of the start and the first two miles being mostly downhill, this is where the race really started for me. With the rising sun hitting runners from the east, it was a chance to take in the views of the east river and settle in for another 10 miles. For me it was a time to make a decision on how I would run the remainder of race. I wanted to PR, which meant go under 1:50. 1:45 would have been a great day. As I crossed the Manhattan Bridge, the pace group for the 1:40 goal time passed me. I saw them and thought to myself, ‘maybe I could keep up with them?’. To do so would require a pace much faster than than what I was shooting for. As we approached the end of the Manhattan Bridge, they settled in 10 yards in front of me. Keeping them in sight, I was distracted for some time by what I saw as I was coming off the Manhattan Bridge. The bridge left us in the heart of Chinatown. The crowds coming off of the bridge were terrific. I have to be honest, before the race, I didn’t think there would be many spectators in Chinatown but boy was I wrong. The crowds there along with the first Huma gel of the day that I popped provided a nice boost for the next mile as we headed towards the FDR Drive!

Manhattan Bridge Rose Ormillo

Views Of The Manhattan Bridge Portion – Photo By Rose Ormilo

One of the stretches of the race that I was looking forward to was the stretch along the FDR Drive. When I ran a trial run of the course a few weeks back, I was obviously not allowed to go on the FDR drive as there was no way onto it with moving traffic. During my trial run, I noticed that there was some significant elevations on the FDR drive and I wondered how that would feel on race day considering we would be 5 miles into the race by the time we reached the elevations of the FDR Drive. In looking back at the race, the FDR drive was just the beginning of several climbs that we would have to endure from that point on until the end of the race. Also looking back on the race, I enjoyed the scenery of running on the FDR Drive and actually being in the middle of it. It felt almost surreal as you knew that no one actually ever walks or runs on the FDR drive itself.

FDR Drive Photo By Lourdes Lawrence

Running on the FDR Drive – Photo Credit: Lourdes Lawrence

Depending on your pace, most runners would exit the FDR Drive at 42nd street exit ramp just as a car would that was exiting the FDR. The FDR drive however was a topic of debate for runners who started at the back of wave 2. According to some runner’s accounts, some of the late starters were not even allowed on the FDR Drive because they had to re-open it to vehicular traffic. Instead they were asked to run along the promenade that runs parallel to the FDR Drive. For the most part this works as a good alternative however there weren’t race officials to tell runners were to get off of the promenade. The promenade comes to a dead end at some point north of 34th street and never makes it all the way to 42nd street. Runners were under the impression that they could go all the way up to 42nd street on the promenade and then continue east along the remainder of the race course. Unfortunately, this was not the case and frustrated runners encountered the dead end and had to reverse back to 34th street to exit the promenade and make their way to 42nd street to pick up the official race course. This was a major miscue on the part of NYRR! Hopefully something they will learn for future races that run this course!

TimesSquare Rose Ormillo.jpg

Running Thru Times Square – Photo Credit: Rose Ormillo

Regardless of how you made it to 42nd street, the race continued west along the wide stretch which included an uphill until you ran past Fifth Avenue. Much to my dismay, there weren’t as many spectators on 42nd street. Most of them seemed to be tourists who were uninterested in the runners passing by them. One thing that I noticed on 42nd. street was the way that NYRR handled the power gel distribution. Just after mile 7, NYRR decided to distribute Power Bar gels to all of the runners. In my opinion the way they were distributed was horrible. They simply placed the gel packets on the table for runners to grab. Runners however seemed to have been grabbing one and knocking one off of the table as well because by the time I got to the table, there were several gel packets already on the floor, most of them which had been stepped on and exploded making the path to the gel table a dicey and treacherous one. If NYRR wants to give out gel packets, bravo! But how about you drop one in the bag along with the race shirt when you distribute them at the expo? The way it was done on Sunday was a mess and I am sure that several runners in the back of the pack may not have been able to get one.  While I did grab one, I tossed it just after I got to Central Park. The packet weighed a ton compared to the Huma ones I had. I regret even grabbing it off of the table on 42nd street.

Speaking of 42nd street, the race turned north once we approached 7th avenue. The crowds were vibrant and loud when we got to this part of the race. As I was running along 42nd street, I could see the 1:40 pace group turning north on 7th avenue. Trying to keep them in sight, I was motivated and sped up when I myself reached 7th avenue despite the fact that the stretch on 7th avenue was another uphill until we reached Central Park. My mile split for this mile was the fastest of the race – 7:00 and that 1:40 pace group was still in sight! As we approached Central Park I spotted Tana, one of our We Run NYC Running Club members who didn’t get to run the race.  She was holding up a cheer sign for us! God Bless her because 7th avenue was a wind tunnel and yet she remained out there supporting us! The motivation worked because I entered Central Park feeling strong and ready to conquer the hills that awaited.

Tana Supporting We Run NYC Running Club! Photo Credit: Maritza Santos

Even though I have trained in Central Park, it still had its way with me. With 4 miles left to go as we entered Central Park, I went in strong and positive but that quickly wore off as we approached Cat Hill. This tells me that I was purely running off of adrenalin on 7th avenue. I’ve run Cat Hill hill before and never had issues with it but on this day, I think I might have expended too much energy in the parts leading up to here as I was chasing the 1:40 pace group. Approaching the end of mile 11 just before the 102nd street traverse, I finally lost the 1:40 pace group and never saw them the rest of the race. I was tired and I knew I still had 2 more miles to go. At this point I was just thinking to myself, ‘You ran 8 miles over your head with the 1:40 pace group at roughly 7:37 per mile, just hold it together and get thru these last two miles!’.

Making the turn onto the 102nd street traverse we came upon a water stop. I took one last shot of Gatorade at this water station in hopes that it would get me to the finish strong. Next came the turn off of the 102nd street traverse and onto Central Park west. We were met with a long uphill right away. I was familiar with this uphill and knew that it was a long one. Mentally I was shot. I felt my legs buckle as I tried to push forward. Other than early on in the 3rd mile where we climbed the Manhattan Bridge, mile 12 would be my slowest mile at 8:13. I thought to myself, you ran too fast this whole race to give it all back now. Knowing the worst was behind me hill wise, except for maybe one more small hill, the 13th mile was all guts and glory. If I could personally thank all of the spectators that lined that last mile I would because they got me thru that last mile. From running an 8:13 mile in mile 12 to finishing with a 7:21 mile in mile 13, it’s been a while since I was so happy to see a finish line! I saw the 800m marker and forgot about the fatigue and just went for it. Final time 1:41:41. That’s a full 10 minutes knocked off of my previous personal record. Finishing in Central Park was tough, but I liked it. Actually in looking back, the whole race from the FDR drive til the end was tough , but it was a good scenic and challenging course and I can’t wait to do it again.

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My official results from NYRR!

Overall, I enjoyed this course more than the previous version. I came across a lot of people that ran personal records on this course and all of them thought it would be a harder course. Is it actually an easier course? I can tell you there are a lot of hills. Did the scenery make tit all go by faster? Was it the cold?

If you ran the race, what do you think? How was your United NYC Half experience – share in the comments below!

United NYC Half Complete – New course gets a thumbs up!

Trial Run Of The United NYC Half Course

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to tackle the United NYC Half Marathon course with members of my We Run NYC Running Club. Minus the nasty cold rainy weather I have to say that I was ecstatic about our run!
Grand Army Plaza

Picture of the start area for the United NYC Half!

As for the course itself, as many know, the NYC Half Marathon course has changed from previous years. For the first time this year the course starts in Prospect Park Brooklyn and ends in Central Park. Based on our run, here is my analysis of the course followed by my advice on how to tackle this course.
The course starts off heading north on Flatbush Avenue with a nice, long, steady gradual downhill. The downhill itself is about one mile long. Strava measured this mile to be a decrease in elevation of about 96 feet. I have to admit, this is a nice wide road with lots of local shops. I am 99% positive that this stretch of the course is going to be filled with spectators on race day. With that said, these spectators, along with the 20,000 plus runners that just started around you are going to give you one hell of a boost of adrenalin! The temptation to unleash a fast mile is going to be huge! I will say, it is very important to resist that temptation because you have a long way to go and some challenges ahead.
The second mile has a very small but short incline. It’s a relaxed mile that will lead you right onto the Manhattan Bridge. This is where your work and challenges will start.
east_manhattan

Manhattan Bridge Awaits!@

Once you get on the Manhattan Bridge there is a long steady climb onto the bridge until you get to the middle. Your total climb will be around 90 feet. This slow steady climb is given back as you come off the bridge and make a right onto Canal Street. The decline in elevation continues until you go east thru Chinatown and to the FDR drive.
Full disclosure, today for this next stretch, we had to alter our route from the official route because the official route will take you onto the FDR drive. Obviously, we couldn’t get the FDR drive closed, so we chose to run over the overpass on Delancey Street to the other side of the FDR and ran along the water via the promenade up until 35th street. Distance wise this was the same as running on the FDR however where we ran on Sunday it was completely flat along the water. As we were running however we noticed that there were some steep elevations on the FDR drive in particular around the 10th street. This elevation essentially makes the FDR Drive go from street level to an elevated roadway. I wish I had the elevation measurements on this but just be prepared for an climb during this stretch on the FDR drive!
FDR42nd street

There are several increases in elevation on the FDR Drive stretch!

I believe that we are scheduled to get off of the FDR at 42nd St. Going west on 42nd street, we started out flat until we got to 3rd avenue. I can tell you that once again you will be begin a climb of about 40 feet until you get past 5th avenue. Here you will begin a small gradual run downhill that will take you around the corner onto 7th and up to around 45th street – that’s about a half mile of gradual downhill. Enjoy that stretch as much as possible because there is more work ahead! Once you approach 45th street on 7th Avenue, you begin an approximate one mile climb up that will take you up another 40 feet in elevation and will leave you right at the entrance to Central Park.
This should prepare you nicely for what awaits you in Central Park. You will enter Central Park after completing 9 miles. Once you enter the park, a series of small uphills and downhills will await. Nothing too drastic. That is until you get to around 72nd street on the East side. This is where Cat Hill awaits you. You will climb over 50 feet in elevation over a span of a little over a half mile. For our trial run on Sunday we were not that winded when going up Cat hill. I think it was adrenaline from entering the park and knowing that we were not that far away from the finish. After Cat hill you will enjoy close to a mile of rolling down hills which includes a turn onto the 102nd street traverse to head to the West Side of the park. Choose your effort here wisely because when you come back around on the West side, you will have more uphills awaiting you!
cat hill Central Park

Make sure to “smile” at the Cat as you go up her hill!

When you turn off of the traverse and onto Central Park West, you will have a little over a mile left. How you tackle that mile will be tricky. As soon as you turn onto West Drive you will be met with another long uphill. This one will take you up another 60 feet in the span of about a half of a mile. Once you get to the top of that hill, you will have a small down hill rest and then you will climb a short hill again. Coming into the 70’s on the west side you will be headed down hill one last time and this time, into the finish line!
Our total elevation today according to Strava, was about 450 feet and I think on race day it will be more because of the FDR drive span that I mentioned above. This United NYC Half marathon is nothing like the previous version of it. A personal record is not impossible on this course, but its also not easy! How you attack this course will be key. Go out hard too early and you will pay the price on the many hills. If you wait too long to attack Central Park, your pace leading up to that may be too slow.
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Be inspired by Grand Central as you run by on 42nd street!

In looking back on the course after digesting it on Sunday, my suggestion is to definitely hold back in the first two miles and start working a bit as you start your climb over the Manhattan Bridge. Keep working the exit off of the bridge as well as your time in China Town. Once onto the FDR you can hold back again in my opinion as this stretch of the run may be a little draining. Remember the elevation of the FDR, it goes from street level, to elevated road way. The pivotal part of the race for me will be the stretch from the FDR on 42nd street until you enter the Park, which is a little bit over 2 miles. This stretch, while it does have some uphills, presents slow gradual uphills, that are definitely ones that you could run at a good clip without getting drained, especially since there are downhills here as well. Further the adrenalin of running by the United Nations (42nd street & FDR drive), Grand Central Terminal (42nd street & Lexington Ave) and of course Times Square, should carry you strongly thru a solid two miles. This will set you up for the final four miles in the park where you will have to tough it out and give it all of you have on the uphills. Keep in mind, you will also enjoy those down hills and the crowds will undoubtedly push you to the finish line.
Again, this course is in no way impossible but it’s nothing compared to the previous version of the United NYC Half Marathon. It is definitely more challenging. Has anyone else run the course out there? What was your take on it? Less than three weeks remain til the big race. Are you ready?
We organized this race through the online Facebook group that I coordinated specifically for the United NYC Half. If you would like to join that page you can find it here. Hope this was somewhat helpful in your preparation for the race!
I wanted to take the opportunity to thank those folks that came along for the run. Originally we had 28 confirmed but the weather rightfully causesd some cancellations so kudos to the 12 that did come out! (pictured below)
Good luck to all running the United NYC Half Marathon on 3/18!

Race Report – Gridiron 4 Mile Run

Hi everyone! I have been away from this blog for a few days. Apologies about that but this thing they called a job, kind of got in the way! I also have been working on some other running related things that kind of some how fell into my lap. I will likely be a little forthcoming on that in the next week or two!

Lost in my absence, was the fact that I ran a race finally! I tell you, it has felt like forever since I have run a race. While I did do an unofficial 5k on New Year’s Day with my gym and I also managed to do a virtual 5k with New York Road Runners, nothing compares to the feeling of an actual race, particularly one at Central Park! Add the fact that I got shut out of the Fred Lebow half marathon and that they cancelled the Joe Kleinerman 10k and I was really itching to get a race in. Well finally the day to race came!

RACE:  NYRR Gridiron 4 Mile Race & Longest Football Throw

DATE:   Sunday, February 4, 2018 9:00am

LOCATION:   Central Park

DISTANCE:   4 Miles

WEATHER: Cloudy, 34 degrees w/ 5mph winds.

GETTING TO THE RACE & PRE-RACE:

I like to document this because the time leading up to a race can dictate the outcome of your race. This was my first race in a while and I was anxious as all hell. With the race being started on the upper easy side (102nd street traverse), I thought I had a good chance of finding some street parking if I got there early enough. I got to the area around 7:30am- Mind you the race didn’t start til 9:00am. After circling for about 15 minutes, I decided to look for a parking garage close to the park. Found one right on 102nd street just east of 5th avenue but it had a line waiting to get into the garage. That was ok, I was early. I was waiting on that line, I noticed a guy walking to a parked car down the block. I bolted off of the line and followed the guy. Sure enough he was pulling out. Free parking was scored!

Meeting up with some members of the United NYC Half Group

 

Adding to the excitement of the pre-race was the fact that I was meeting up with some members of our United NYC Half Facebook community. Close to 30 of us in the group had signed up for this race and several were eager to meet before the race. It was great to meet up with several of them before the race! The cold weather had us a bit frozen, but I think it was safe to say that we all made some new running friends and we likely started a new trend that could carry over to other local races leading up to the United NYC Half Marathon on March 18th!

THE FIRST HALF:

I usually start out in D corral for NYRR races, but this time I started in E corral to run along side one of the members from our online group who had never run a NYRR road race. Knowing this runner, I don’t think she belonged in E corral as I’ve seen her pace and it is definitely faster than E corral. However NYRR has a policy that they  will only move you up once you have recorded a time with them. At the start of the race, it was very crowded and I found myself dodging a lot of slower runners and even walkers. The first mile ran along the 102nd street traverse from the east side of the park to the west side. Once we turned onto the west drive of the park, there was some up hills to overcome. I was taking it easy during this first mile because the crowds just did allow me to stretch out my stride. My first mile was clocked at roughly 7:36. Not bad for the first mile of any of my runs, since I am usually slow in that first mile!

As I approached the second mile, you could tell that the crowds were starting to thin out a bit. I remember seeing a nice area of space and darted for that. It coincided with a down hill and I remember just flying down the hill for about a good 200 meters. Truth be told, that whole second mile felt like a down hill. The mile time was reflective of that. 6:38 was my split for mile 2. What the hell was that? Pretty fast by my standards.

A nice loop in Central Park on Super Bowl Sunday

 

THE SECOND HALF:

Mile 3 was an upward climb as we crossed over from the west side and back to the east side of the park . Up “Cat hill” we went and I was definitely feeling some tired legs up this hill especially after a 6:38 second mile. As we started the climb I could feel my legs getting heavy and my breathing starting to get rapid. There was a brief point where I got distracted. There was a purposely made up division in the road. If you went left it meant you were rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl. Going right mean you were rooting for the Patriots. At that moment, I felt like stopping and turning around because I hate both teams. But if you need to know – I went right (lol) .

After that distraction, I focused on controlling my breathing and just taking relaxed strides. Once my breathing was under control I tried to pump my arms and my legs a bit more to get up the rolling hills a bit stronger. Mile 3 definitely wasn’t the fastest mile of the race, but I prevented myself from burning out. In fact, I was actually pleased with my mile split considering that 3rd mile was filled with hills, 7:12 pace!

Once I got past the 3rd mile, it dawned on me that there was only a mile left. This is what I hate about short races, its like you are alway churning a rapid pace each mile. You can’t take a mile off! I know myself, I can always churn out a fast final mile. But like I said, in a short race, all of them had been fast this was going to be a bit of a struggle. I locked my mind into a sustainable rapid pace and told myself just to stay at this pace until the finish line came into sight and then let it all hang out. That’s what definitely happened. My final mile, 6:40. I have never put two sub 7:00 minute miles together in a race before! Hey I’ll take it!

My analysis:

My final time was 28:42 for an average pace of 7:11. This was good enough for a PR at the 4 mile distance. For my first race of the year, I was very pleased with this. If that first mile wasn’t as crowded, I may have run that mile a bit faster. All in all this was a great way to start Super Bowl Sunday!

PR for the 4 mile distance!

Got My Fill Of Turkey Trot

Its the Friday after Thanksgiving and I hope that everyone got their fill of turkey, pie and family! I know I got my full of all of those, but I also got my fill of “Turkey Trot”. As I referred to in one of my previous posts, “Turkey Trots” have been popping up in so many towns here in New York that it has become pretty easy to find one and to participate in one. The one that I ran, the Garden City Turkey Trot, took entries pretty much right up until the 10:00AM start of the race. When they were all said and done, close to 4,000 participants took part in the 5 mile race thru the streets of Garden City. A big salute to the committee that organized the race as they not only put on  successful race, but they also gathered food for the local food pantry so that no one went hungry on this special day!

For me, this was the second year in a row that I participated in the race. Last year I ran the race and ran my fastest race pace wise that I had ran in 2016. In 2016 I completed the course in 38:39 (roughly 7:35 pace). What would this year have in store? I went into the race not being sure how I would do. I had not run a road race since the Staten Island Marathon back in the beginning of October. Since then I had cut back my running a bit. In turn, I have been increasing the amount of weights that I have been lifting at the gym. I’ve been strengthening my quads a bit more and my hamstrings and of course my upper body as well. Also adding to my uncertainty about my results Thursday was that my pace on my training runs had not been faster than 8:00 per mile in weeks. Lastly, it was a pretty frigid morning with the mercury barely getting above 32 degrees but the show must go on!

At the Start Line Of The Garden City Turkey Trot!

My first mile was a bit congested traffic wise. A lot of folks were up at the front of the start that probably didn’t belong there but its Thanksgiving, everyone is just thankful for running today! First mile was not bad. Clocked a 7:13 for the first mile. I vaguely remember my first mile in my previous year’s run being around 7:15 and I thought that was pretty fast. I did go onto slow down my mile pace over the next few miles. This year was going to be a bit different.

Mile 2 had its share of uphills after mile 1 had included down hills. As such when my split for mile 2 came in, I knew this was going to be a different day. My split was 7:12 for mile 2 with uphills! Mile 3 included the longest uphill of the race. My split for mile 3 was 7:13. That 3rd mile drained me a bit and I was eager to see how I would be after the 4th mile. A water station was set up in mile 4 but I declined it because I tend to splash when I take water at water stations and it was too cold to be wet!

In that mile, we passed by a large group of spectators that naturally gave us a boost. They accomplished their job. My split for mile 4 was 7:07. When I looked at the cumulative race clock as I passed by the 4th mile marker it was under 29 minutes and that was the race clock which meant my time was likely faster since I started a little bit behind the start line. At this point I thought to myself, unless I took a bullet in the last mile or collapsed, this was going to be a PR!

Then I set my eyes on a woman who was in front of me the whole race. The distance between her and I was consistently between 10-15 yards. She likely never saw me but some how every time I sped up, so did she. With about a half a mile left, I decided to end the song and dance between this lady and I. I blew past her but with a half mile left, I can tell you that the weight training I have been doing kicked in. I was afraid that I started my kick too early but my arms believe it or not helped to increase my strides. My quads helped keep my stride steady. With about a hundred yards left, my GPS mile split was announced in my head phones. 6:59! Damn – broke 7 minute on my lat mile split! Cumulative time was 36:12, more than two minutes better than last year! I couldn’t believe it!  I was exhausted after this race but I felt great! I didn’t envision running this fast at all but I will tell you that the weight training indeed helped. The legs felt stronger and pumping the arms led to longer strides down the stretch which undoubtedly led to a fast final two miles. I’ll say one final thing about this performance – it was fast for the distance but it was also fast period. My 5k split and my 4 mile split were both faster than I had ever run all out for either of those distances. Crazy right?

This race was not just special because of my time but also because of a couple of other factors. First, if you see my Under Armour Map My Fitness stats up above, I burned 723 calories. Guess who was having pie Thanksgiving night with zero guilt! Haha! But what really makes this race special is that my wife ran it. My wife is new to running and admittedly is not ready to tackle the distances that I do. As such, we don’t run together as she would rather I run ahead. I would want nothing more than to run with her but as I always tell lot of folks, run your race, not anyone else’s. Further my wife is an asthmatic, but let me tell you, that being an asthmatic does not stop her from running. As I have mention so many times, she has set out a goal to increase her mileage while controlling her asthma. She did a 5 k earlier this year and then we did a 4 mile run together in June. On Thursday she had signed up for the shorter version of the 5 mile race which was available, the 1.5 mile fun run. She was going to do this with my youngest daughter but when the weather was too cold, my daughter bailed and opted for staying in a warm bed on thanksgiving morning. This gave my wife the chance to take on the 5 mile race. An opportunity had presented itself and she seized the moment and crushed it. This is an amazing feat for her and I was ecstatic about being there to witness it. In a year she ran a 5 k, a 4 miler and a 5 miler. I had mentioned to her running a 10k earlier in the year and she gave me the look of “No way”. After Thursday I mentioned to her that she is just over one mile away in distance from that 10k and she couldn’t believe it. Her progress this year is truly an inspiration for people that say “I can’t run”. Oh yes you can!

Now that Thanksgiving is over and you know that the holidays are looming in December. Resolve for the next few weeks to get up and get out and burn some calories. Go for a run. If not start with a walk with a light jog. Remember, something is always better than nothing!

A Frigid Day At Vanny!

My view as I walked into Vanny once again!

In my last post I detailed my obsession with the cross country course at Van Cortlandt Park. Year after year, even after many years of being away, I can drive up to Broadway and 242nd street and see the same scene. Nothing has changed over the years. It beautiful that with so much technology and with New York City constantly developing park space, that they have left Vannie alone. But one thing I don’t ever remember, is being at Van Cortlandt Park in such cold weather in early November Man was it cold on Saturday. It was 32 degrees when I arrived and thank God the winds decided to calm down otherwise it would have been colder! I arrived to my race with about 30 minutes before the start of the race. That was just enough time to check in, stretch and say hi to alot of former coaches and other alumni from my school that I knew were there. Needless to say, there wasn’t alot of time to do all of this but I made the best of it.

xc alumni champs 2017

The Alumni From Archbishop Molloy That Ran Vanny on Saturday!

Surprisingly at the starting line, I felt good. I am sure it was the adrenalin. Once the race started I resisted the temptation to go out faster than I should. There were guys in this race that had graduated high school last May and were pretty much still in great shape. They took the pace out fast! Going over the flats and into the cow path, I could tell the cold weather was going to play a factor. I wasn’t going fast and my breathing was accelerated. Oh boy this was going to be an adventure. Once we entered the “cow path” or the woods, my breathing started to normalize some what. That is until we got to what some call” freshman hill”. This was the first of many hills to overcome. This is also where I started to pass people. Many alumni that casually run on their spare time, aren’t ready for hills. Getting over freshman hill gave me a little pep in my step. Next up, was going over the bridge and into the “back woods”!

Let me just say once again, these back woods are just brutal. You enter them making a slow gradual climb. As I completed that slow gradual climb, my first mile split came into my ears from my running app. Mile 1 came in at 7:35. Not bad considering I didn’t have time to stretch and it was taking me a while to get going! Unlike many of the races I ran this year however, this race was only 2.5 miles and I had zero time to get going because this race was going to be over soon!

Continuing in the back hills, the uphill climbs continue. It seemed like the few down hills that existed were short and steep but the uphills seemed longer. It continued like this for the next half mile. As I got into the second half of the back hills there were longer down hills and I felt myself just flying down these hills. Some of these were winding down hills and I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t worried about crashing and falling. In my high school days, I would wear spikes on this course. Today I had my typical road running sneakers with now spikes! Flying down these hills I will say that I passed a number of people during this portion of the race. As I came to the final portion of the back hills my second mile split came in and it was a 7:33. I was hoping it would have been faster but oh well- I’ll blame those uphills for that!

Layers and head gear for a frigid day!

When I finally came back across the runners bridge, there was a little less than a half mile left in the race which included a very long flat straight away many folks like to just kick in all the way to the finish line. But before that straight there is one massive down hill that can propel you into the start of that straight away. I let it all hang out on that down hill. I literally went arms out to help keep my balance and just let the down hill take me and pray I didn’t go down. By the time I turned onto the final straight away I could see a 3-4 runners in front of me. Knowing the straight away was about 400-500 meters in length, I didn’t want to start kicking too early. More important than catching those 3-4 runners in front of my was not letting anyone pass me on that straight away. My “kick” kicked in once I could see the finish line which was with about 200 meters left. I could see the clock was in “18s”. I thought to myself “I would love to finish under 19 minutes!”. The mind went blank after that and those next 200 or so meters were a forced sprint because I was toast. I thought it was a sprint but to spectators it probably looked like a jog! At the end, no one passed me on that final straight, so I was pumped about that. I didn’t catch those 4 runners in front of me but when I crossed the finish line, my time was 18:55. That means my final half mile was 3:47. At the end I ran a pretty steady pace throughout and I ran a PERSONAL RECORD by 35 seconds from my previous best!

In looking back, I wish I did more hill work in my workouts leading up to this race. I need to find a place however close to where I live that has hills to work on. I know that the key to running even faster on this course, is mastering the hills. That has always been the secret. For now, I will walk away with a faster time but I look forward to running Vanny once again in the near future. One side note on the day, in the alumni race, my school took the team title. Not bad for a bunch of old guys!

Until next time Vanny!