As Sunday approached I checked the weather forecast regularly, expecting to see the usual rain and wind for this annual race. You may remember my drying rack from last year or in 2009! I was dubious, surely the weather would change at the last minute and I'd get soaked again, but no. There wasn't a cloud in the sky on Sunday as I drove up to the Bronx with some of the other Inwood Hill Runners crew.
We arrived just in time to register ($10 for a NYRR race? You can't beat it) and get a tongue lashing from the nasty woman from packet pickup at NYRR. Yeah, you know who I'm talking about.
The race went off in the usual cross-country fashion, a herd trampling across the grass. It is always fun to start that way instead of shuffling along in a tight corral. I hadn't raced since my last tri in July, so I took off like a novice. I usually have the same approach to this race every year, push the hills as much as I can without dying and run the flats fast to make up for time lost on the nasty uphills. I pushed pretty hard on the first set of hills and my running buddy, Charlie, suggested that he was going to scale back a bit once we hit the back hills. I decided that might be a good idea too, but still went a bit ahead. We met again on the way back down and stayed together for most of the race until I waved him on in the final miles. It was great to have company even though I was too winded to talk unless we were on the flats.
Lap 1 went by really quickly once we got off of the squishy,uneven grass, that stuff was killing my ankle and knee. The hills were just the way I remember them from the 5K summer series- relentless and steep. I saw a handful of people I know, including Hilary who won her age group. I passed some folks going up the hills who had gone out fast but couldn't keep up the momentum. By the time we hit the flats again, Charlie and I were both holding our gloves and wishing we'd tossed them at Jonathan to hold as he cheered us on with his daughter.
Lap 2 is a bit of a blur, I remember my lungs being my biggest obstacle on the hills. My legs still had plenty of life in them, but by the time we reached the highest hill I was gasping and wishing I'd taken a hit of my inhaler before the race. Charlie and I also figured out that if we made it to the start of the final lap without getting lapped, we'd be safe. Somehow the math made sense in our oxygen deprived heads. I gagged down a Gu as we passed the finish line for the 3rd time (of 4) and we began lap 3.
From the start of it, I knew lap 3 was going to hurt. I felt like I was on pace for a possible course PR (2009 1:17:57) and I was hoping I could keep it up. I kept up the pace for the first mile, but began to slow just a bit in mile 2 (the toughest of the 3) and told Charlie to go ahead. I knew I'd make it, but didn't want to slow him down. The nature of the course lends itself to lots of passing in the 3rd loop and I found it to be a mixed blessing. I like passing people as much as the next guy, but it is less fun and motivating when the people ahead are a full lap behind you. I prefer the stalk and kill type of passing, so I simply wished them luck when I went by and many of them offered words of encouragement. It was nice. If I couldn't have cutthroat competition, I'd settle for nice. I glanced at my watch and saw that I was at 8.38 miles and had about a mile left to go with 8 minutes to PR. Parts of the final mile are still uphill so I pushed ad hard as I could and let myself fly on the downhill (my quads can confirm this, even today). I played the "go get a PR!"/"Nevermind, it hurts too much and I don't care about the PR!"/"Yes I do, it would be stupid to miss it by a few seconds!" game in my head for a bit until I saw Jonathan again and snapped out of it. It helped that he was on the last downhill and I was flying. I hauled ass onto the flats and pushed as hard as I could to the finish and saw it turn to 1:17:00 as I closed in. Woohoo, now where do they keep the oxygen around here?
I had a weird conversation with a woman who congratulated me and asked what time I arrived to register. I was in no state to chat about that, but I remember her saying she arrived too late and couldn't run. Ok, thanks for sharing. (And you're welcome.)
I managed to place 7th in my age group, 26th female overall and something like 136th overall out of maybe 360. Cut me some slack, I'm writing this on the train and there's no Internet to look up the exact numbers. Who cares anyway?Best of all, I ran my ass off and had a lot of fun and at the end of the day the numbers mean nothing if I had a shitty time.
Afterwards we stuffed our faces with pancakes and hash browns from the Garden Café in Inwood and I spent most of the rest of the day whining about how much my legs hurt already. I guess I have a way to go before I'm back to my old running self. This Saturday is my next try at the same distance, but on the road and a comparatively flat course in Central Park. I hope I'm not still sore.