2012 New Hyde Park 8K race report

Crossing the line later than I’d hoped

Today’s run (New Hyde Park 8K): 45:30

I ran the New Hyde Park 8K this morning for the fourth consecutive time. It wasn’t a disaster, but it could have gone better. No PR today.

I’d done all the right things to prepare — steady training, speed work last weekend, and two days rest prior to race day.  I wasn’t feeling 100% yesterday, but I did some light upper body work followed by some core work that seemed to help. I didn’t have a great night’s sleep but I felt fine this morning. More rest would have been good.

The weather was perfect when we arrived at the Denton Ave. school where the race begins and ends. There was a little miscue with my registration and they couldn’t find my race package. Fortunately, they did have my proper tag and bib number. The crowd seemed smaller than last year, but a quick comparison with last year’s results shows there were slightly more people running today. But the feel of the race was different this year, lacking its usual excitement and energy.

Feeling okay after the start

We assembled for the start under sunny skies, I took a position about 20 feet behind the line. After one false start, we were on our way. I was looking forward to running this course and I felt fine for the first few minutes. I started feeling the effort soon after that, far too early in the race. Still, I had little trouble keeping up with the crowd. I was concerned about sustaining my present pace over five miles.

I came through mile 1 at 8:32 and struggled with a couple of small hills before the route spilled onto New Hyde Park Road. I wasn’t even near the 2 mile mark when I began to struggle. New Hyde Park Road rises for a while before dropping ahead of the turn onto the service road for the Long Island Expressway. I stopped at the first water station and took water. Usually I’ll slow down but keep moving, but in this case, I came to a standstill. That cost me at least 30 seconds, but I’m glad I did it.

The stretch along the service road was tough, but I held my pace for the most part. The shaded stretches were a godsend, but after coming up the hill leading to Shelter Rock Road, it was all sun. I had filled my gel flask with two Roctanes that I took between miles 3 and 4 and I believe they helped get me through the end of the course without a bonk. At mile four I was disappointed to see that my cumulative time was far behind my goal time. I was hoping I might (at least) come close to my prior finish times.

The last part of the course routes through a neighborhood leading to the field behind the Denton Ave. school. By the time I turned off Shelter Rock Road I was ready for the end and was visualizing the green field where the finish line is located. I wasn’t struggling by the last mile, but I knew that this race would not go down as a great performance. I was disappointed to see the clock showing 45 minutes when I finally reached the field, and crossed the line at 45:30.

I’m not sure why today’s run was so difficult, but I definitely wasn’t on my game this morning. I averaged a 9:10 pace which I’d consider good on a training run, but I missed my target of running sub-9:00 race.

Rather than settling the score in 2013, I’m thinking that I might look for a different race next June. I don’t have the same affection for this event that I have for some other races, and I’m primed for a new challenge. Still, I got a great workout and I was able to share the experience with my wife and kids. Every race can’t be a personal best and I accept my performance without complaint. Racing is about challenging yourself, and today, it was a struggle. But at least I tried and I toughed it out. I win.

A lack of time but no lack of heat

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

After all the rest and downtime that I got during last week’s vacation, I’ve returned to an especially busy time at the office. All day off-sites and industry events will keep me busy throughout the week. That said, I wasn’t even able to post yesterday, and I’m probably not going to be able to post again until Friday.

This morning I decided to do my workout indoors to save a little time. We’ve had a heatwave in the NY area and, after a few minutes on the treadmill, I was regretting my decision to stay inside. I didn’t want to push too much since I’d run hard during Sunday’s race, so I kept the pace moderate and ran solely for time.

I was glad I got a workout in today, as I may skip tomorrow due to a tough schedule. I’m looking forward to a weekend free of work frenzy. 12 miles is planned, I hope the heatwave will be gone by then.

Race report: 2012 Marcie Mazzola 5K

The big finish
Today’s run (Marcie Mazzola 5K): 3.1 miles
26:48 (8:38 pace)

Once again, Team Emerging Runner headed out early on a Sunday morning (6:55 AM) for my fourth running of the Marcie Mazzola 5K. Although the race starts at 8:30, we like to get there before the crowds, because the parking lot gets filled quickly. We arrived to see things in full swing with dozens of volunteers dressed in the race’s signature purple shirts. 

I got my race number and we settled in for an hour’s wait until the start. I’ve participated in this race for the last four years and my wife and I recognize many of the people from prior years. This race attracts runners across the spectrum, from the very young, to those in their 80’s. There are always lots of people from running clubs and corporate teams, but the total number of participants was still a manageable 440.

Colorful crowd prior to race start

We were concerned about the weather, because conditions were dark and cloudy when we left the house. The news stations were reporting light showers throughout the morning. By race time, things had brightened up and we lined up to the start under partly sunny skies. I chatted with the runner next to me while we waited. He asked me if my Hattori’s (yep, decided to go with a reliable favorite) hurt my knees. I told him, with a mid-foot strike, that they are actually kinder to my knees than cushioned shoes.

Seconds after the horn, we turned onto Woodhull, which the race announcer described as being 5/8ths of a mile in distance. I ran it more aggressively than last year and expected my first mile split to be better than the 9:17 that was called out by the race volunteer. But it is a big long hill and last year I spent 9:35 covering the same distance. Once we crested, the road began its downward slope and I pushed hard to make up some time.

I ran well over the second mile and passed a good number of runners. I do believe all the long runs I’ve been doing are helping my speed. My 2 mile split was 17:30, which brought my overall pace down to 8:45 at that point, a half minute per mile improvement. With that progress and the feeling that I had sufficient energy to sustain my pace, I thought I was in for a PR-challenging run.

Once I crossed West Main Street and reached Prime Avenue that borders Heckscher Park, I knew I’d soon be challenged on the turnaround that leads to the final streets toward the finish line. About an eighth of a mile before the end sits a short steep hill that I always dread. I wanted to preserve whatever I had left for my final sprint, but I needed to spend precious energy getting past this hill.

Hard charge around the final dogleg

With no choice but to charge up the hill, I poured it on and hoped for the best. Seconds later I passed mile 3 and made my way up a less challenging hill, past the cheering crowds, where I saw my family waiting along the final dogleg leading to the finish chute. I had given it everything I had, running a 7:40 pace as I crossed the line.

Road ID – It wasn’t for performance but I won!

We hung out after the race to watch the award ceremony and then waited for the results of the raffle. My kids always hold out hope of winning one of the prize baskets, but it didn’t happen this year. There’s a raffle just for the runners, and I was fortunate to win a gift certificate for a Road ID. Timing is everything, because I just got one a couple of weeks ago! But this one will be put to good use.

Long line for Mr. Softy

Like last year, the race organizers hired a Mr. Softy truck to hand out soft serve cones to race participants. It was a welcome treat again this year, and that one cone made its way through the entire Emerging Runner team.

It was another great Marcie Mazzola race, my second race of the year, and a good break from my weekend long runs. I would have liked to break 26 minutes and I thought I was on track to do that, but it didn’t happen. Still, I improved on last year’s time by 44 seconds – not too bad.

Tomorrow it’s back to the office and next weekend I’m back to long base running. I’m happy with this morning’s race and now it’s all about the LI Half in May.

Teaching your body to go fast

Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles

“The idea is to teach your body to go faster than it wants to.” That was a comment from Emerging Runner friend Paul regarding interval training. I reread that sentence three times because I thought it was a perfect way to describe the concept of speed work. It sounds simple, but it’s not. Making your body go faster than it wants to go is hard. But when you do, it (almost) always pays off.

I thought about Paul’s comment during my run this morning. Usually at 4:00 AM I feel heroic, simply because I’ve dragged myself out of bed and hit the road in the darkness and the cold. Performance is secondary and my expectations are low, because I’m usually half asleep through the first mile. Today I played a little with my speed once I felt fully alert. I’d pick a spot a few hundred feet ahead and increase my pace until I reached my target. I was curious to see if these fartleks would translate into a performance improvement.

It turned out they did. Today’s run finished 1: 10 sooner than Tuesday’s although I followed the same route at the exact same time in the morning. It was a difference of 26 seconds per mile. I’ll take half minute per mile improvements any day, but my overall pace was still in the low 9:00’s. That sleepy first mile always throws me off. I guess that’s as fast as my body was willing to go this morning.

The week that won’t end

Today’s workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

I’ve always thought that busy weeks go by quicker than slow ones but that isn’t true for this week. Yesterday’s schedule was too tight to fit in a workout because I needed to be on a 5:50 AM train. I’m facing similar pressures today but on a normal schedule, so at least I had time for my weekly elliptical session this morning.

I’m on vacation next week and I couldn’t be more ready. I’m planning to get some distance runs in during that time and also continue to work on overall speed. I’m hoping that the storm that’s predicted on Sunday won’t involve snow. I’d be disappointed to have to do vacation runs on the treadmill.

Race report: Long Beach Snowflake Run

Pouring it on for the finish (center, in black)
Today’s race (Long Beach Snowflake 4 Mile Run): 33:50 (8:28 pace)

For the second year in row, the snow has forced Snowflake Run participants off of the boardwalk. Last year it was an issue of volume, there was so much snow and ice on the boardwalk that it became both dangerous and impassible. This year it was a steady but light snowfall that would have been too slippery for fast running. So, once again, we found ourselves lining up on Broadway for this four mile race.

Last weekend I ran intervals on the treadmill in the hope of being ready to go out hard this weekend. That must have helped because I achieved a new 4 mile PR this morning and beat my prior PR by over a minute. Team Emerging Runner accompanied me this year and, aside from some difficulties finding a parking spot, the event went very well.

We arrived about 30 minutes from start time and when I walked into the gym to pick up my race number, I was surprised to see so many people milling around. The room smelled strongly of perspiration and adrenaline and against one wall was a slide show accompanied by blaring music. I headed to the rest room after visiting registration and saw a long line of of women waiting patiently. The men’s room line went quickly and soon I was back to my family in the gym.

My fuel of choice for the race was GU Roctane and as it got closer to race time, I had some Ghiradelli 72% cocoa dark chocolate to top me off. I’d just run into my friend Steve who was running with me and I gave him some chocolate for a pre-race boost. Steve had his wife and their two little ones at the race and everyone was in good spirits despite the cold, wet weather.

We lined up fairly close to the start line to get a good take-off position. Steve and I learned a lesson last year when we were forced into a narrow path between the snow and parked cars. That situation produced so much crowding that we could barely exceed a trot for the first couple of minutes.

A fast start as the snow came down

Before too long, we were off and running. My Garmin had gone into energy saver mode so I wasn’t able to start my timing until I’d run a few hundred feet. Once that was resolved, I focused on staying with a fast crowd of front runners who I’d hoped would sweep me up and carry me along.

My friend Steve disappeared into the crowd almost immediately and I figured I’d see him at the turnaround or at the finish line. The group surrounding me was running at a faster pace than I could sustain, but I did my best and hoped to pass the first mile one under 8:20. When I saw the timing clock I was amazed to see that I’d actually clocked 7:54 for mile one.

I must have passed Steve just before that point because he told me later that he came through around 8:05. My goal was to preserve as much of that first mile pace as I could, and I settled into a rhythm that I thought I could maintain throughout the race. My splits were 7:54, 8:43, 8:34 and 8:39. I bounced around a little, but I didn’t suffer from progressively positive splits as I’ve done in the past.

It’s a nice crowd of runners who participate in these Long Beach races. None of that obnoxious posturing I’ve seen other places. That isn’t to say this crowd is any less competitive. If anything, I think this race fields a deeper pool of speedy runners than I’ve seen elsewhere.

Having run this course last year, I knew what to expect in terms of progress and effort. I ran hard but I probably could have pushed more into the middle miles. I wanted to make sure I had enough energy to finish strongly and I’m pleased with the way things turned out.

Once I passed two miles, I reminded myself that I had less than half the distance to go. The rate of people who passed me had slowed down to the point where I was running mostly with those who ran about my pace. I used the guy in front of me as a pacer through most of the last mile. Once I saw the finish chute, about three blocks in the distance, I dropped a gear and gave it my best of the day.

As I approached the finish line I could see my wife and kids cheering me on, but the clock atop the chute was reading 16:00, so I feared that the timing system wasn’t working. My Garmin showed that I’d come in under 34 minutes, so I knew I’d done well. It turned out that the actual race clock was positioned low and to the left, so I’d missed it.

I assumed Steve had already finished, but discovered that he hadn’t yet come through. He came crossed the line about a minute later – an impressive effort for someone who hadn’t really run much over the prior few months. We went back to the gym to see our results posted and I saw that I’d crossed the line in 33:50, for a pace of 8:28 and a new PR.

Steve and I went back out and watched the runners streaming across the line while the snow continued to fall. I had been concerned that the wet surface would be too slippery for my Hattori’s, but that wasn’t an issue. However, the shoe’s lack of insulation was a big issue and I couldn’t feel my toes for most of the race. I’ll have to remember that the next time I wear them in cold, wet conditions.

So, my first race of 2012 went very well and I’m enjoying the great feeling that comes from a sustained effort like a race. I’ll probably go out for a very easy run tomorrow and start thinking about my strategy for my next two races, one short (5K) and the other long (13.1 miles). In the meantime, I’ll enjoy all the moments from today’s events.

60 minutes going nowhere

Almost there!

Today’s run (treadmill): 40 minutes@ 2% incline, 10 mins@ 1%, 10 mins level

It was another 18 degree morning and I just didn’t feel like running outside. I normally rest on Mondays, but with the holiday I couldn’t resist a workout with no time constraint. I hopped aboard the treadmill as soon as my wife had finished her daily run. My goal was to run an hour because I’ve been remiss about pushing my base training. I really needed to focus on that.

When I start my runs outside, I usually get to speed within the first ten seconds. No metaphoric dipping my toe in the pool to get used to the water. But the treadmill is different, probably because I find it odd to have so much motion contained within such a small area. A misstep would be bad. I’ll admit that I’m a little afraid of the machine, especially when going full speed.

I started at a moderate pace but set the incline to 2%. I maintained that combination for the first 10 minutes at which point I began my steady increase of speed in .1 MPH increments. By the 20 minute mark I was sweating and at 40 minutes I took the incline down to 1%. It’s amazing what a difference that made, but I traded off by increasing the speed a little more.

At 50 minutes I dropped the incline entirely and blipped up the speed every minute so that I was running about an 8 minute pace by the end. I wore my Thrive running shirt that is made with cotton and bamboo and it was completely soaked by the time I finished. I was glad to get through a longer run today and pleased that I still had plenty left in the tank when I finished.

I’m concerned that my original Hattori’s are beginning to wear out and the left shoe of my replacement pair doesn’t fit very well. After much research, I’m hoping to replace the Hattori’s with either the Kinvara 3 or the New Balance MR00 when they hit the stores in March. Since I haven’t tried either model I’m concerned that I might be disappointed (like when I finally tried the Brooks Pure Project models). If that’s the case, I’ll need to start my search once again.

Indecision leads to a workout choice

Today’s run (treadmill): 23 minutes

Sometimes, if you wait long enough, your decisions will be made for you. I had an 8:00 AM doctor’s appointment this morning and got up at 6:00. I thought I had plenty of time to run, shower and then get to my destination. I knew that the weather was due to change today, with driving rains expected this afternoon. Given that possibility, I figured I’d get in a neighborhood run while I could. 

Two hours is a deceptive time span. It seems like all the time in the world until there’s no time left. I had a leisurely cup of coffee while I watched the news. I checked the time and felt I was on track. Suddenly it was 6:30 and I realized I needed at least 10 minutes to get my outside running gear prepared. That would leave me only 45 minutes to run, shower and dress in order to get to my doctor’s office by 8:00.

It was clear that the window for an an outside run had closed, so I ran upstairs and quickly dressed for an indoor workout. With limited time I cranked up the speed, averaging about 7 MPH, per the display. By the time I was done, I was ready for rest, but there was no time left to do that. A quick shower followed and off I went. I walked into the office at 7:58.

I regret missing out on an outside run today and next time I’ll be more aware of just how short two hours can be. Still, I had a vigorous (if short) workout and may not have gone as hard as that if I’d had more time. Did I make to right decision? Or was the right one made for me?

Race report: 2011 Cow Harbor 10K

Hooray, I beat my predicted finish time!

Today’s run (Great Cow Harbor 10K): 6.2 miles – 9:13 pace

The 34st running of the Great Cow Harbor 10K was a great experience and I was thrilled to have beaten last year’s time by three minutes and 43 seconds. But as great as it was to improve on finish time, the story of the day (for me) was running the race feeling strong the entire way through. This experience, unlike last year when I was tunnel-visioned toward just finishing, allowed me the opportunity to take in the details that make this such a great race.

Cow Harbor actually started for me last night with numbers pick-up, when I did the long drive to the Laurel Avenue school where the race begins. I arrived earlier than last year and found parking right away. As I walked the grounds of the school and went in to pick up my race bib, I was reminded again of the scale of this event. I had predicted a finish time of 57:30 and was surprised to see that I was assigned an 8000 series number that meant I would be starting in the 9th Wave.

Last year my number was in the 11000 series and I started in the 12th Wave. I worried that I had overestimated my performance potential but I figured, at worst, that my Wave mates would leave me in the dust. Happily, that wasn’t the case.

I headed to Northport this morning at about 6:30 AM and arrived at Northport HS at 7:00. I took one of the shuttle buses that delivers runners close to the starting area. I decided not to carry a bag (although they do have UPS trucks that transport gear from the start to the finish area) so I left my extra layers, smartphone and towel in my car. I made my way indoors because the temperature, helpfully cool during the race, was a little too chilly for standing around.

Many others had the same thought and as I looked around I noticed many very fit looking runners with race numbers starting with 9, 10, 11 and on. Again I worried that I’d planned incorrectly. I chatted with a few other runners to pass the time and around 8:20 I made my way to the Wave area. I ran into Paul and Beth who were standing nearby, getting ready to move into position. Paul reminded me to subtract nine minutes from the quoted split times, which was a good thing to know. We bade each other good luck and I’m guessing that they both did well today.

I saw Brian a few rows ahead of me but I couldn’t get his attention. I thought I’d catch up to Brian on Scudder Avenue but he took off faster than I was willing to run. I held my speed in check for the first mile, resisting the temptation to fly down the mostly downhill section. My split on mile 1 was 8:53 – brisk but not too fast. Last year I was feeling draggy almost from the start but this morning I felt like a V-8 with a tank full of gas. I prepared myself for the rise near the end of Woodbine and the big hill on James Street.

I was stunned by how quickly we’d passed through the cheering crowds by the harbor even though the running pack had yet to thin out in a noticeable way. I paced myself behind four giant bananas who were having a great time running the race, and before I knew it, I was taking my first steps onto Widow Hill. I knew from last year to be wary of hill walkers who stay in the middle of the road and obstruct those who are running. I didn’t love the uphill effort but I felt far stronger through that span than I did last year.

At the top of the hill I focused on my breathing and used the more level roadway to recover my aerobic rhythm. It took a few minutes, but soon I was back in race mode. I passed mile three feeling remarkably good. I remembered that at the three mile point last year I was desperate for water and feeling very weak from the heat and humidity. The dry, cool weather helped greatly today and I’d brought a hand bottle with a mix of G2 and water to ensure ready hydration.

Near mile 4 the course goes steadily uphill along Waterside Drive. I moved along well, focusing on form, breathing and stride and I still felt strong through mile 5. Shortly after this split we turned toward Main Street and sped up Pumpernickel Hill which, on balance, is far less intimidating than the James Street monster. The top of this hill signals the beginning of the end and the start of a mostly downhill stretch leading to the finish line.

Usually at this point in a race (certainly the case at last year’s Cow Harbor) I’m in survival mode, just holding on until the end. When I began the descent towards the finish I said to myself, “All it takes is all you got” and called upon whatever I had left. I came through the finish in 57:12 feeling great about the race I’d run.

I’m really pleased that this year I’ve achieved PB times on the NHP 8K, the Dirty Sock 10K and, today, the Great Cow Harbor 10K. The weather certainly helped, but I feel really good about my margin of improvement. I ran into Brian at the post-race festival and he was happy to have made it through another Cow Harbor race.

This a great race and spectator event, and with so many elite runners on the course, it feels special to participate. The race volunteers are universally kind and patient and the organizers don’t miss a trick. I guess after 34 years they’ve figured out how to make it all work. Can’t wait to do it next year.

When the little hand is on the 2, go back to bed

Today’s workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

This morning started an hour earlier than planned because I woke up and misread the clock. It took me a minute to realize the error but I caught myself before heading downstairs for coffee. I’d felt exhausted by the thought of going out for a run but as soon as I realized the clock said 2:50, and not 3:50, I felt wide awake. So awake, in fact, that I barely fell back to sleep. After an hour’s tossing and turning, I needed to face my workout for real.

Given my tired state, I decided to stay indoors so I wouldn’t need to deal with all my running, reflective and illumination gear. I looked back and forth between the treadmill and the elliptical and chose the latter because it’s a quieter piece of machinery and quiet was preferable. I was significantly more alert by the end of the session and I’d worked up quite a sweat in the process. I’m hoping that this energy boost will carry me through the day.