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Ted Corbitt 15k

True confidence is a rare thing. I’ve motored through most of my life gassed up with bravado, pep talks, and blind fear and (sometimes) liquid courage. I’m good at acting spunky, brash, and judgemental–these are all qualities, when combined with how I wear my heart on my sleeve, that combine to confuse the viewer into thinking I’m a confident woman.

Rarely my confidence is actually so, though more and more often I have a realistic grip on my strengths and weaknesses, so I can at least be patchily confident.

Rarer still is when I head into a race feeling confident about being able to meet time goals. It’s a tricky thing, connecting the dots between training (I should be faster in my intervals, I shouldn’t get side cramps, my legs should feel springy, etc) and racing (every step I’ve taken up until this moment will carry me through to the finish line). It’s been so long since I’ve trained with serious intent (January to April 2010), that I’ve forgotten the way all those workouts fit together to form a viable race performance. So, I was nervous. Also: this 15k was the fitness test for Houston. So if I failed to perform in Central Park, then I would have even less hope of breaking 1:45 in my half-marathon a month later. My PR would be a PR, but it would also be a fortune-teller.

Granted, I wasn’t so nervous that I skipped The National concert at the Beacon that Friday night. I went with my best friend, CB, and it was cathartic. Their music is like opera, except sung in mumbles by a self-aware hottie. Also, no one dies, gets married, or goes to war. And there are multiple electric guitars. Amen.

As a nonsequitor for my Twitter followers: Damn you, Hot Cabinetmaker!

Back to the race report.

It was cold, but not nearly as cold as the last time I ran the Ted Corbitt 15k. Rereading that race report now, I realize that I was a lot more reflective during that race than I was this time around. I would be lying if I told you I thought of anything beyond constant system checks (can I keep this pace up without bonking or puking?) and how many women in my age group might be in front of me (less than 50? is that good or bad?). I focused on running the tangents, because I didn’t want to run any further than I absolutely had to (I think I ran about .15 of a mile extra). I focused on my breathing, and my heartbeat–was I relaxed or was I deseprately pushing? And I obsessed over my splits. Mile 1 was quite slow at 8:17 due to the crowding (damn NYRR races) and on Mile 3 I took the hills easy (8:01), hoping to save myself for the final miles. Yet according to my Little G, apart from those two, I didn’t run another mile slower than 7:49.

Every now and then I’d snap out of my self-absorption and try to pass someone. Somewhere around Mile 7 a woman pulled up next to me, practically wheezing, and it was clear she was trying to pass me. Hey, I understand the need to pick people off as a way to maximize personal performance–I do it all the time, and went on to do it a few times in this very race–but there was absolutely NO WAY I was letting this lady pass me. Hell, I was breathing easy! I thought, Find someone else to pass, bitch, sped up and left her in the dust.

There were two women with whom I’d been taking turns leading or following for the bulk of the race. In Mile 7, I decided I’d had enough. I needed to know if I could pass them for good, or if they really did have it all over me. I picked the first one, a woman too skinny for her tights (they sagged around her ass. NO FAIR.). Passed her, and she stayed passed. I was surprised. Then, the second one, she was a little blonde sprite. Shit, I may have tried to catch her in other races, too–she had that archetypal look going on. I thought, I’d like to pass her for good, too. I nearly burned out my lungs doing it, but I passed her and never had the pleasure of seeing her tushy again.

For context, I was trying to beat a PR of 1:16:51. But also, I was hoping to be able to run at least 7:55’s, because if I couldn’t sustain that pace for a 15k now, there’s no way I’d be able to do it for a 13.1 mile race a month later (that’s the slowest I hope to run in Houston). So simply PRing wasn’t enough for me, which is why I wasn’t feeling very confident. My training had been going well, but I wasn’t sure if it was enough to get me to 7:55’s.

Somewhere around halfway through, I was suspiciously confident that I could carry on with the sub-8 minute pace through to the finish line. It came on gradually. It wasn’t cockiness, it wasn’t shock. Simply, I knew I was locked in, that my body was on the case. I knew had it. Did that knowledge make the race any easier? Fuck no–it made it harder. Because once I was sure I’d average 7:55’s, I wanted something more than that. I wanted faster! I wanted quicker! I wanted more speed, more fleetness, I wanted to feel powerful and postpone the gasping as long as possible. My confidence begat my ambitions…en route to them.

This was the proper response to the knowing; I need confidence and ambition to grab a sub 1:45 (and I mean: as SUB AS POSSIBLE) on January 15, 2012.

No doubt there will be a Superskinny and a Sprite there for me to chase in Miles 11, 12 and 13 in Houston. Do Texan women race in full make-up and with teased hair? I hope so.

Official race time: 1:13:07, 7:52 pace. I placed 30th out of 364 in my gender age group, and I PRed by 3:44 (a 24 second per mile improvement).

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Ted Corbitt 15k

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.

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