On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fifth Avenue Mile: Race report

Things I learned at the 5th Avenue Mile:
  • I can run a mile in 7:52, including a 1:45 uphill 400m right out the gate in a thick crowd.  (That may not seem fast to you, but consider my slow-ass race times otherwise.)
  • My sister might know what she's doing with my training.
  • There is something to the whole "warm-up" thing.  Who knew?
  • Fifth Avenue is deceptively hilly. Looking down the course from the 400m mark, all I could think was "Holy #!$#@. That's UP."
  • I'm better at short distances than long distances.  My middle-distance times are consistently better than my long-distance times.
  • No matter how short the race, there will be etiquette violations.  Including: getting to the corral mere moments before the start and pushing your way up front (get there earlier if you belong up front!), starting up front even though your times can't support it (I am not fast, and yet I was consistently passing people for literally half the race), stopping DEAD to walk in the middle of the course at the halfway point. In a mile race.
Overall, I'm pleased with this race.  I honestly had no idea how I'd do: no matter what race times I plugged into different calculators, the predictions were in the mid-8s.  I loved the thought of going sub-8, but I haven't been focusing on (track) speedwork lately and frankly, I didn't think it was tenable.  8:xx just didn't sound sexy to me, but I was resigned to that - especially when I saw how thick the crowds at the start were for my wave (women 30-39).

But there was drama even before I got to the start!  When I got to the subway, I realized that my bib had fallen out of the pocket of my skirt.  I had already swiped my subway card, which means that if I left the subway to run back home and get the number, I couldn't swipe my card again for 18 minutes.  I had my D-Tag on my shoe, so I decided to deal with it later.  I'd look like a bandit, but I wasn't one.  (Sure enough, this posed no problem.)

The course was straight down Fifth Avenue, with a slight incline for the first half and a slight downhill for the second half.  I caught my 400m split (1:45 - too fast) and my 800m split (3:52 - slowing down as the hill got bad).  I saw the 1200m signs, but I didn't check my time - I was too focused on just finishing the race.  Also, by that point I could see the finish and I just kept thinking "Hold on Hold on Hold on Hold on."  I wasted too much speed going out quickly and weaving around people, and I was afraid I had nothing left for the finish.

Once I passed the sign for 1500m, I could see the finish clock and I realized I'd finish sub-8, so I didn't push for a final kick.  There wasn't anything left for a kick, anyway.  I finished the race, grabbed some water, and very nearly fell onto another girl waiting to exit the chute.  I grabbed her shoulder, grunted an apology, and got a very sympathetic smile in return.

My cool down was brutal, but needed.  My calves were screaming in pain.  After 2m, I got on the subway and headed home - and there, on the sidewalk three doors away, I saw my forlorn looking bib.  I could see it from a distance, sitting on the ground and waiting patiently for me to return.  (Now that I've personalized the bib I'll confess that I promptly threw it in the garbage. I rarely save bibs.)

I truly thought I'd hate this race.  I expected it to be a depressing slog for me; I expected to finish at the very back.  Instead I was toward the middle.  There's a lot of room for improvement, and I wouldn't say that it was the most fun I've ever had in a race, but I liked it.


  1. A 7.52 mile is great, congratulations :) I am glad you enjoyed the race since you thought you'd loathe it.

    I laughed out loud at you getting there just in time then pushing your way to the front :D

    Every thing you write about sounds so amazing because its in New ayork! I am Jealous!

  2. Awesome! I was out cheering and NOT jealous of that second quarter uphill. Warmups, although they feel like garbage, do tend to make things a little easier. And it must be a pleasant surprise to demolish your goal time, right?

  3. Awesome awesome time!! Good Job!

  4. Hell, yeah, it felt awesome!

    Warming up is a weird thing for me. Intellectually I obviously completely understand it, and when I saw how long it took me to get my heart rate up during my last 5k, I felt like a chump for not having warmed up. For some reason, though, despite how long I've been running, I'm still in this novice/marathon mentality of "can I really run that distance? I can't run *farther* than that, for sure!" Like how most beginner programs only have you run 5m to train for a 10k. I know I can run 6m (I know I can run hella more than that, obvs), but somehow my laziness has always overridden my logic and convinced me that running BEFORE the race was counter-productive. NO MORE.

  5. woohoo nice job, Tracy! The race sounds so fun - I definitely want to sign up next year. It must have felt like a nice change from training and stuff, no? I hope you're not feelin' too sore today. :)

  6. I'll admit, I was actually THRILLED to see the uphill. I always make up time on uphills, and for some reason can charge up them really hard. But I got foiled - I was stuck behind a lady running slower than me, and I really did not want to go around her and waste energy that could have been pushing me up the hill.
    In the end, I did, but I know I could've gone faster than my 7:01 if I'd just gone around her at the base of the hill. Ugh.

  7. Nice job - I've run this race twice and both during marathon training. Watching yesterday made me want to do this next year!

  8. i remember when i couldnt run even a mile! but i certainly wouldnt run in a race if i couldnt.

    uhm 7:52 is a-mazing!!!

  9. Very nicely done. The bib would have just weighed you down.