This is my third year doing the CC 15K in Central Park and it is a cause near and dear to my heart. In 2008 my cousin Ted died after a 5 year battle with Colon Cancer at the age of 39 with no family history and a healthy lifestyle. Raising awareness of the devastating effects of CC is a really worthy cause that can save lives, and I'm not being hyperbolic one bit. So if you're over 50 and reading this- get your ass checked. There is a lot of good info on the Colon Cancer Challenge Foundation website too.
The race Sunday was unusual in a couple of ways as far as NYRR races go, there were 3 events scheduled including a 4 mile run, a 1.7 mile walk and the 15K. Also, the race didn't even start until 11:15 because a biathlon run by NY Tri happened that same morning and the racers needed time to get out of the park. I will admit that the 11:15 start was a mixed blessing, on one hand I enjoyed not waking up in the dark but on the other hand I wasn't sure how to structure my morning. In the end I think it was fun but I'd rather not have NYRR make a habit of late races. I met up with a neighbor and friend @mwaldman for the ride down to Central Park and we left ourselves plenty of time to get there, it being Sunday and all. Of course we arrived in record time and spent nearly an hour freezing our toes off in the park! At least it was sunny and I had good company.
On Saturday night I peeked at my old 15K time from 2009 to try to establish a goal for the race and I decided trying to beat my previous record of 1:10 was lofty but I was going to shoot for it anyway. I had no idea if I'd be able to hold a sub-7:35 pace for 9.3 miles, but I was willing to try. I snuck in a pre-race warm up with fellow Inwood Hill Runner Jonathan who was racing for the first time in his shiny new VCTC singlet. We lined up together in the blue corral (the first one, eee!) for my first time in that corral. I assumed this meant there were about 35 people running the race, but the announcer told us that the runners were lined up all the way to the bottom of the park! It was really a bit of a rush to be in the front corral and I took it as a good sign but also as a challenge. I was going to have to step it up and prove that I belong there.
Mile 2 is that nice flat portion on the east side of the park where life is good and I clocked a 7:15, hmm. I was feeling really great, but that little voice reminded me that the east side is the EASY side and I should save a little for the west side hills. "okay, okay" I told myself. I literally felt like I had to pull in my own reins to slow myself down but I knew it was a good move. Mile 3 came in at 7:29 and I was happy. That mile FLEW by, I couldn't believe when I turned the corner and saw the mile 3 sign. As we made our way down the west side I set my sights on a woman that I'd left pass me in mile 3, she was wearing a Hell Gate singlet and I wanted to let her go ahead but I had plans to catch her later. I just got the sense that she was going out too hard and I wanted to run a smarter race than that. I let myself enjoy the downhills of mile 4 and brought it in at 7:12. Oops, that was probably too fast but it felt really good. I couldn't believe how easy and steady the sub-7:30's were feeling. I knew I had to really keep holding back until at least mile 6 or so, so I clocked mile 5 at 7:26 and mile 6 at a 7:33. I took a GU at the water stop before the mile 6 marker, right at the top of Cat Hill, and I spotted my friend in the Hell Gate singlet again. Ahhh, I'd caught her without even trying. For the next half mile or so we actually ran shoulder to shoulder (ok, shoulder to tricep because she was pretty tall) and as we made our way towards the 102nd St transverse again I looked over at her and said "deja vu, huh?" All I got in return was a confused look mixed with some strain. I knew that if I was able to chat at that pace I could totally beat her, my new nemesis. I pulled away slowly at first, not wanting to blow it too early in the race, but I could tell that she was fading quickly. I peeked back at one point as we made the turn back to the West Drive and she wasn't in sight. Excellent. Mile 7 in 7:20. I needed a little motivation to stay strong as we hit the hills again and I noticed a guy in a fleece vest next to me who I'd seen back when Hell Gate and I were side by side. We pushed each other up the west side hills as I thought more and more about Ted. At some point I felt a blister on my left foot swell up like a water balloon, ouch. It could have slowed me down as I finished mile 8 (7:31) but I kept telling myself "you may have a blister, but Ted had chemo. Many, many rounds of chemo and he NEVER slowed down." It worked, I let myself pick it up and pick off a few runners around me as I reeled in mile 9 in 7:08. Many thanks to the guys around me who decided they wanted to race that last mile. Booya, that was for you Ted.
I'm stoked with the results, especially because this race was the last race I trained for before making the switch over to swim training for the Great Bay swim in June. Way to go out with a bang! Of course in the back of my mind now is a voice saying "think how fast you could run a half marathon at that pace...." Someday legs, someday.