Race report: 2011 Marcie Mazzola 5k

Rounding the corner — finish line ahead

Today’s run (Marcie Mazzola 5K): 27:33 (8:52 pace)

This morning I ran the Marcie Mazzola Foundation race for the third time. My family and I have a sentimental attachment to this event because the 2009 race was my very first competition. I ran well today though I didn’t come close to a PR nor did I match last year’s time. The important thing is that I did fine and had a great time running this race.

It was cold this morning and I was glad to have worn insulated sweat pants and two jacket layers to keep me warm prior to the start. Having my family at the race helps tremendously because I can wear the warmer layers and then hand them off to my wife before the start. This race is always well organized and today was no different. However, the usual on-time start was delayed 11 minutes to accommodate last minute adjustments related to routing car traffic around the race. I was chilly in my short sleeves and running shorts but not uncomfortable. I looked forward to the start so I could generate a little body heat.

Off to a good start – the big hill was still to come

The congestion at the beginning prevented a fast start but that didn’t bother me because I’ve learned to take the first mile of this race slow and steady. While it isn’t as steep or onerous as Cow Harbor’s Widow Hill, there is a steep incline that runners reach about a quarter mile in that goes on for a while. I took it a little faster than planned but still came though mile 1 with a split time of 9:36. I was alarmed at that but I figured I could make up some time on the flat and downhill portions of the race. It’s been a while since I’ve run at a sub-9:00 pace but I was ready to do that today.

I wore my new Saucony Mirages and liked them a lot. They gave me no trouble on their maiden flight and moved me along well. I wondered briefly at one point whether I should have run with the Kinvaras because they are a little more flexible but in the end I don’t think that mattered. I suspect the Mirages will loosen up a little after I put on more mileage. 

I came through the second mile at 17:58 so I’d already made up 37 seconds by then. That put my overall pace under 9 minutes. I was running well but wished I had drank a little more water prior to the start. I thought only of preserving the pace I was running and concentrated on holding off other runners that tried to pass me. I was only partially successful there. Before long we were crossing Main Street on our way to circling Heckscher Park. I knew we were near the end but the last half mile is always tough on a 5K. I took a half cup of water which I sorely needed and it helped.

I knew the last hill was coming and when I saw it my heart sank because I felt my tank emptying and dreaded a bonk just an eighth of a mile from the finish. I decided to take the hill fast, passing a few runners in the process, and suddenly I was on the last patch of road before entering the grounds near the finish. The final leg was routed up an incline with a dogleg turn to the finish line. I saw my family cheering me at that turn and my wife snapped the picture at the top of this post. I came over the line in a sprint and noted my end time. Not my greatest effort on a 5K but comfortably under 9:00/mi which was my goal today.

Post race awards and Mr. Softy near the back

During the cool down we enjoyed the generous variety of recovery foods — fruit, energy bars, bagels, cookies and chips, administered by the always helpful and cheery volunteers. It’s a really nice race with a nice small town feel. This year the race organizers had three Mr. Softy trucks parked at the race grounds who were handing out free cones to anyone with a race bib. Our big surprise was when we ran into one of my daughter’s favorite teachers who had left her school last year. Ms. M had run the race with her mother and another friend. Their reunion was sweet and it characterized the feeling we always get from this event.

I’m now setting my sights on the LI Half Marathon that’s less than a month away. I’m going back to my long base runs and thinking about strategy for the longest race I’ll run to date. But today it’s about enjoying the feeling that comes from a good run on a good day. Another Marcie Mazzola race has been run. Can’t wait for next year.

Breaking the rules on race day?

Mirage, Kinvara, Fast 2 – decisions, decisions

I really want to go for a run today but one must rest before race day. I cheated a little this morning and put on my Karhu Fast 2’s that AG and I are reviewing on Runner’s Tech Review. I wanted to reinforce my impressions by doing a few fast strides on the treadmill. We’ll be posting the review next week and I wanted one final impression. I also wanted to compare the shoe with the new Saucony Mirages. I’ll reserve comment on the Karhu’s for now.

I couldn’t resist following my Karhu sprint with a similar session with the Mirages. I think I’m in love. While I appreciated the feel of the Mirages out of the box it wasn’t until I stepped on the treadmill and hit the 8 MPH button that I totally understood what Saucony did with the design of these shoes. I love the Kinvaras but the Mirage is an improvement on that platform. I’ll stop the effusive praise for now as I still haven’t put the shoe to pavement, but I’m feeling optimistic about its potential.

This morning’s experience has me rethinking which shoe I should wear on race day. On one hand, it would be a great opportunity to try the Karhu’s in competition and determine if the Fast 2 lives up to its name.  I’ve assumed to this point that I’d wear the venerable Kinvaras that I consider the finest running shoes I’ve ever worn. Despite the unwritten rule that you should never compete in new shoes I’m seriously tempted to race the Marie Mazzola 5K in the Mirages. It’s a short enough distance that it probably doesn’t matter. Smart money is on the Mirages but we’ll see what makes sense tomorrow morning.

Finally – I’m rooting for my friend FS who is racing tomorrow morning in the NYRR Scotland 10K in Central Park. With luck we’ll both have decent weather as we line up for our respective starts.

Turning my attention to Sunday’s 5K

I thought about doing an out-of-schedule run this morning because I’ll be tapering this week for Sunday’s Marcie Mazzola 5K race. As usual for a Sunday race, I plan to rest two days prior so a run today would have provided four days of running before hiatus. Although yesterday’s trail run was difficult, I believe it was a step forward in terms of strength building and I didn’t want to mess that up today by over-training. I’ll run Tue-Thu, swapping my usual cross-training day for an additional running workout.

I’m curious to see how I do on Sunday. I haven’t competed since February’s Snowflake Race and most of my road training since then has focused on base and form. I have fallen short in my intention to run intervals to activate my fast twitch fibers so I’m probably not in the best shape for a speedy race. I think my long base runs will support me well during the 5K but you never really know until you’re out there. I’m going to try to throw in some “speed play” segments over the next three runs. It’s not a substitute for intervals but it’s the best I can do at this point.

I blame the burger

Today’s run (treadmill): 2.3 miles

I’m a little more than a week away from my next race. It’s a 5K, a distance I’ve raced a number of times over the last couple of years. I’ve come to prefer 10K’s for their combination of speed and distance but the Marcie Mazzola Memorial Run is special to me because it was my very first race as “The Emerging Runner.” That year the race was 4 miles in length and it has since been shortened to a 5K to increase participation. I know the course fairly well having run it a couple of times. I have great respect for the big hill that runners encounter just minutes after the start. I haven’t been training for speed or hills but my base runs at Bethpage have brought up my level of conditioning. Perhaps some speed work is in order for this weekend.

You were no help

I used the treadmill today even though the great storm predicted to pass through this morning turned out to be more April Fools than April showers. Yesterday’s elliptical session was uncharacteristically difficult, due perhaps to my blood donation on Wednesday. I thought I was back to full strength and even had a burger at lunch with an old friend yesterday to top off my iron level (sure – that’s why!) so I thought I’d have a fairly easy time today. I can’t complain specifically about the way I felt, only that the effort felt hard even at the beginning when I was pacing around 6 MPH. The effort didn’t get easier but not noticeably more difficult as I blipped up the speed throughout my workout. I ended up with a respectable (albeit short) run and afterward felt like I’d expended some good effort. Besides the speed work I’m aiming to get back to the 8+ base runs I’ve been doing on the weekends. I’m hoping that those April showers keep holding off until next week.

Ready for Marcie again

A good weekend of running was capped off by an evening of fierce winds and rain that knocked out power to our house. The bleeping sounds from our house alarm and UPS power unit got me up and interrupted my very much needed sleep. I woke up tired but happy to remember that Mondays are rest days. After covering 12 miles over the weekend I am feeling optimistic about my training for the big race. Before the half marathon I’m planning to run (for the third time) the Marcie Mazzola Foundation race in April. This used to be a 4 mile race but last year it was switched to a 5K to make it more appealing to participants.

The Marcie Mazzola 4 miler was my first race since I’d restarted my running in 2008. I ran it in 2009 and learned much of my competitive strategy that day. Most races have their iconic characteristic and, for this race, it’s the hill on Woodhull Rd. that goes on for almost half a mile near the beginning of the race. This hill is not as steep as Cow Harbor’s James St. but attacking it too hard can have a negative effect on your stamina. Like last year, I’ll take it easy and spend my energy later.

I’m looking forward to next weekend’s long runs, unencumbered by snow and ice. But, with the weather this year, I don’t know if I can fully count on that.

Reflections on my first race

My daughter has her first cross country meet today. She’s a bit apprehensive about it. I understand that completely, recalling how I was both excited and nervous about my first race. It was the Marcie Mazzola Memorial, a 4 miler held on April 19, 2009. Although I had read a lot about racing prior to the event I didn’t know how things would look or feel when I was a participant. How soon before the start does one line up? Is the front of the line reserved for the fastest runners? Do you talk to other racers while waiting for the gun? What if I finish last?

I remember being confounded by the water station. How do you drink water while you’re running? Should I even take water for a short race that’s happening on a cool spring morning? I was confused by the others on the road with me, some flying by and others well off to the side, practically walking. I do remember thinking, “Should I be passing people so early in the race?”

By the time I’d reached the other side of Main Street I had figured out most of my questions. The large hill that one encounters soon after the start of this race had taken a lot out of me and I was concerned that I’d have enough energy for a big finish. Even though I came upon another hill at the end I managed to push hard enough to finish with a decent time. I had my first experience crossing the line and seeing my family cheering at the side. I must have liked that because I’ve run ten more races since then. My daughter will experience the same anxiety that I did, followed by the exhilaration that comes from finishing a race. I said to her the same thing I’ve said to many others, “You only have one first race. Pay attention to every detail.”

Marcie Mazzola was 5K of fun, hills nonwithstanding

Today’s run: 5K (race) at 8:41 per mile

Sometimes you do everything right and things still don’t go quite the way you’d hoped – no 5K PR today. All the same, I ran the Marcie Mazzola Foundation 5K at a decent clip and had a far better experience with the hills than I did last year. Compared to 2009, I did a little better in terms of pace (8:41 vs. 8:50) but the shorter length gave me an advantage there. In terms of other 5Ks, I ran my slowest one today (prior 5K’s were at 8:28 and 8:19 respectively). Some of that can be explained by the fact that the large crowd (600 starters) was squeezed into a fairly narrow starting area and being that far back probably cost me 20 seconds overall. I can’t use that as an excuse because most races have that issue. I can blame myself for a slow start though. Knowing that the big hill would be coming quickly after the gun, I maintained a fairly modest pace for the first quarter mile and held that pace until I crested the hill. My first mile split was “officially” 9:29 (9:09 really, because I started recording with the Garmin when I reached the starting line, not at the gun). I picked up speed after the hill and did my second mile at 8:21 and my third at 8:28. Along the way the FR60 was chirping constantly telling me that I was behind my target pace or that my pace was in range. It also chirped at the mile splits. It was all helpful but a little noisy!

The race itself went by quickly and before I knew it we were crossing Main Street and running around Heckscher Park on our way to the end. The routing was a little different than last year but the final hill remained. I didn’t love seeing it but I knew I could handle it and still have the energy to finish strong. The finish line was located perpendicular to last year’s and the final approach was downhill. I crossed the line at 26:55, happy to see my wife and kids clapping and cheering. It was my eighth race in less than one year (Marcie Mazzola was held on April 19th last year) and my third 5K. I felt like a ran a pretty good race, ending up in the top quarter of registrants and the top third of finishers. However, I didn’t place in my age division. I ran into a neighbor who also ran today. He’s getting back into running after many years away and he beat 30 minutes which was his goal.

The temperature was in the high 40’s and I dressed appropriately, keeping sweats and a warm-up jacket on until close to the start. I’m thinking that my next race will be the LI Marathon 10K that happens in early May. There are a number of other local races happening in April, May and June so I’ll consider those as well before I commit. It was a pretty good way to spend a sunny spring Sunday morning with my family and a good workout after two days of rest.

Goody (bag) to go for the Marcie Mazzola 5K

Today’s workout: Rest day, again

Well I’m down to just hours before the Marcie Mazzola Foundation 5K race on Sunday and I’m ready to run. The idea of taking two rest days prior to a race is sound but I miss running, especially on a sunny spring day like today. This morning Team Emerging Runner headed to Northport, NY to pick up the race t-shirt and gift bag. Like last year, the Cow Harbor Running and Fitness store hands out the bags the day before. Although I could have just picked it up tomorrow when I get my race number we decided to go today, primarily because it was an excuse to visit this pretty town on the water. In addition, Cow Harbor Running is a very nice running store and I LIKE running stores!

When we arrived, Nancy Mazzola, who runs the Foundation and manages the race, was there chatting with Lauren, one of the store owners.  We talked with them about the race, the expected turnout, the big hill, and why the length of the race has changed. The new route avoids some traffic control difficulties and the 5K length may attract more runners than a 4 mile race. We stayed for a while looking at shoes and gear. The store sells Etonic, Pearl Izumi, Newton and Zoot shoes. They have a much broader line of the PI’s than I’ve seen elsewhere and I’ve always been interested in trying their stability models but you don’t see them much in stores. Perhaps I’ll try them out the next time I need to replace my road shoes. Of course it would take a lot to move me away from Brooks!

I’m ready as I’m going to be for tomorrow. People can still sign up tomorrow at the race location. It’s a great event for a good cause.  

16 hours and 50 minutes and counting…

Strategic thinking for Sunday’s 5K

Today’s workout: Resting for 4/11 race

My new PDO armband

What a difference a week makes in terms of running gear. I now have a fully functional running watch (Garmin FR60) that’s a real improvement over the 50 that it replaced. I bought a new PDO iPhone armband that seems much more durable than the iLUV model that fell apart after only being used a few dozen times. Most importantly, our Sole treadmill belt slip issue has been fixed so I can now run at faster speeds without worrying about straying too far right on the belt tread. Ironically, I’ll need to wait until after Sunday to try out the repaired machine because I’m not planning on doing any running until 8:30 AM on Sunday.

I’ve been thinking about my racing strategy and I looked to my post about last year’s event to help prepare me for the conditions. The thing I worry about most is THE BIG HILL. It took me by surprise last year and I clearly had not done the right amount of training to prepare me for the length of this monster (1/2 mile). I’ve done a fair number of hill runs over the last month and I’m hoping this conditioning has prepared me for what’s to come. In the six races I have have run since last year’s Marcie Mazzola race I have learned to moderate my pace for the first mile and not get sucked into the stream of fast moving early starters. I expect to be fatigued somewhat from the hill so I’ll conserve more energy than the last time I did this race. This year the race distance is 5K, not 4 miles, so I’m hoping to push the speed a little more near the end. I anticipate that temperatures will be in the high 40’s to low 50’s at start time so I’m planning to run in short sleeves and racing shorts. Heat is my (and most people’s) kryptonite so I’ll do everything I can to minimize that issue.

Am I over thinking my strategy? Should I just get out there and run and figure it out as I go? It’s hard to say whether a defined strategy makes big difference. I know that in business, when I do a public presentation, the work I do to prepare always pays off and things sometimes go badly when I wing it. I’ve had more negative racing experiences when I failed to think through the the various elements: weather, course, pacing, etc. I prefer to error on the side of over-strategizing and I’ll know soon enough whether it made a difference.