I knew going into it that no matter what, I was going to PR. Apart from a major blowout that would cause me to walk miles of the Ted Corbitt 15k race, I was going to finish stronger than I did the last time I ran a 15k (NYRR’s Hot Chocolate 15k on December 1, 2007 in 1:40:01). Even untrained, I’d have PR’ed; I’m not being arrogant, that’s just how much I’ve improved in the interim. Based on my last few long runs, though, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to hit my A-goal, which was a two-minute per mile improvement over the pace from the Hot Chocolate (10:44). Could I pull out 8:44’s for 9.3 miles? Probably, but I wasn’t sure.
Last night, for shits & giggles, I played with the McMillan Running Calculator, plugging in my 8k time to see what would come back as a potential 15k time.* 1:17:58 at an 8:22 average pace. Yeah, right! Well, that was a useless exercise, I thought, even though a running partner did say he believed I was faster than even McMillan said.
So, the race. Walking there I met Leo, an 80 year-old man who placed second in his age group at the NYC Marathon this year. I liked the idea of racing alongside the running heritage of my city, especially since Ted Corbitt is such an important part of that. Yes, it was fucking cold, but so what. Not that my non-running friends and family need further proof of how crazy I am, but I still love to accumulate these stories. I ran at 5:30 AM in the driving rain! I ran a 9.3-mile race in 25 degrees! I ran a 200-mile relay and didn’t sleep for two days!
I skipped shivering into my corral and made a general announcement: Group hug for body heat! I got a few chuckles. Then EN appeared! EN Baby! It’s been far far too long but there he was, all smiles and long lashes, wrapping me up in one of his famous bear hugs. He was two corrals forward but waited with me since he was planning on taking it easy. We made plans to meet for brunch afterwards.
So, now I’m racing. I’m jazzed, I’m ready, I’m feeling that special kind of awake that only comes around on race days. The first mile was very crowded–thus my split of 8:52. The second mile felt interminable, I wondered how I’d make it through the race without dying of boredom. But then something kicked in during Mile 3, my thoughts settled down onto one constant thought, and I just simply knew I could sustain the effort (8:12 split).
The course took us up Cat Hill twice, and because of Joe’s admonishments I was careful to wave both times. But honestly, it wasn’t until the second ascent that I actually realized I was running up a hill. I know I adjusted my effort for the park’s hills, but they didn’t bother me as much as I’d thought they would. The water stations were tricky, since the spilled water froze to ice and made the areas dangerous to negotiate. I lost proabably about a total of 30-45 seconds hydrating safely; by the time I wanted to ingest my Espresso-flavored Hammer gel around Mile 7, the thing was congealed from the cold making it nearly impossible to squeeze into my mouth. I pushed out a few blobs, which I had to chew! Lesson learned: on frigid days, run with gels tucked into my gloves so they stay soft.
I thought about Meb Keflezighi, running in the opposite direction on his way to victory earlier this year. I thought of Ryan Shay, a hero who fell during the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2007. I thought of DT, my friend and colleague who was surely ahead of me on the course. I ran with TT, a relay teammate, for a few paces as we discussed if it was this year or next that actually ended the decade (I said 2010). I recalled how crappy I felt when I ran the Hot Chocolate 15k as the middle 9 miles of a 20-miler, training for the Disney World Marathon. I compared November & December 2008 to November & December of 2009 (I feel much stronger now). I ran; and I kept my splits well below 8:30’s.
By the seventh mile I knew I’d had this one in the bag, but if anything that’s a reason to go faster. Mile 9 (my favorite, always) took me just 7:44. I pressed myself; I impressed myself. I repeated to myself Stay Relaxed Hold Form. And then there I was on the 102n Street Transverse, crossing the finish line with an official D-tag time of 1:16:51, with an 8:15 pace. I spent the next ten minutes catching my breath and muttering to myself, Well would you look at that, since I was still in a bit of shock. Once it sunk in though? Oh London’s going to be rich. Bring it!
*Interestingly, my marathon time came back as a 1:56:06, just a little over a minute shy of my PR.