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 unofficial5k 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 timeto 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 goingover 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 Iran a PERSONAL RECORDby 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!