Name of the race: NYRR Al Gordon 4M
Where: Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY
Date: Feb 25, 2017
Time: 8:00 am
Distance: 4 Miles
Terrain: Rolling hills of Prospect Park
Entry fee: $18-25 for NYRR members (I paid $23)
Swag: Gender specific long-sleeve tech shirt
Post-race Food: Bagels, apples, and water
Performance: Overall 1089/5258; Gender 187/2539; Age (35-39) 31/418
Weather: 52 degrees, 94% humidity
It was shorts and singlet weather in New York! I usually don’t do winter races, but the weather has been so mild that I’ve been taking advantage of it by racing more than usual for this time of year.
Some weeks ago I found out about Prospect Park Alliance’s giveaway for free entries to the Al Gordon 4M if you signed up for their newsletter. I persuaded Ben to sign up and enter (as did I). He reluctantly did and as usual, he won a free race entry. I don’t know how this always happens to him. He truly leads a charmed life.
As we were about to head out for the race, I discovered that Bandit chewed through the laces of my favorite pair of shoes, Adidas Takumi Sen, that my dear friend Shan gave me. Bandit is an a-hole sometimes (but I still love her). Bandit is not a dog that chews our belongings. She has her toys and she knows to only chew on those things, not our stuff. I’m pretty sure she did this when Ben and I left her home alone for a little longer than she would have liked, so she chewed the laces to punish me. I freaked out, but Ben calmly took charge and rearranged the laces, so I could still lace up the left shoe. I then spent the next ten minutes telling Ben in good humor what an a-hole Bandit was while driving to Prospect Park.
A gray mist hung heavy over the hills. Michael Capiraso, President and CEO of NYRR, joked that he was welcoming us to the Scotland moors. Despite the frequent visits I make to Prospect Park, the fog transformed the familiar landscape into something other-worldly.
Ben and I found some of our teammates. We chatted about our goals and eventually, we made our way to our respective corrals. NYRR seeds you based on your best 10K (or best calculated 10K) pace from one of their races and that time is good for one rolling year. Because we don’t actually do many NYRR races, we’re seeded in slightly slower corrals. Ben was in the B corral and I was in the E corral. When Ben ran the NYRR races more frequently, he usually had the blue bib (now the A bib).
For an NYRR race, Al Gordon 4M has a small field, but Prospect Park is a far smaller park than Central Park, so a few thousand people is a huge crowd. I approve of the new NYRR seeding system, but I still don’t see any improvement in terms of easing congestion at the start of the race. I spent the first mile of the race dodging people left and right in an effort to find some clear space so I could run forward instead of laterally.
The loop around Prospect Park is 3.3 miles long. In order to get 4 miles, we start about halfway through Center Drive. We run down Center Drive and make a left to run the loop in the usual counter-clockwise direction. Aside from the initial downhill on Center Drive, the first mile is all uphill because of Zoo Hill, the steepest hill in Prospect Park. My initial plan for this race was to run the first mile in 8:00 and then 7:45 for the other three miles. As much as I hate congestion, I was kinda glad that people were around me because it prevented me from going out too fast.
I crossed the start line with 2 minutes and change on the start clock. With all the people around me, I almost failed to recognize parts of the course because many of the usual landmarks that I used were covered by people. So instead of looking down at the ground, I looked up to mark where I was along the hill. When I’m training, running Zoo Hill is tough work, but on race day, I charge up the hill as if it’s nothing. As I girded myself for the steepest section of the hill (I was thinking to myself, “The hard part is about to come.”), I was astonished to see that I was actually all done with the hill and I was about to start running down. Man, adrenaline is one powerful hormone.
I saw the first time clock, it marked the time as ten minutes having passed. I was pleased because it meant that I completed the first mile in 8 minutes as I had planned (I found out later from Garmin that it was a 7:50 pace). Now it was race time! I eagerly tried to speed up, but two guys were running side by side and in my way. I don’t think they were running together, but they happened to be running at the same pace next to each other. I yelled, “Coming through!” several times to encourage them to move aside or move apart, but they steadfastly ran together like a pair of guards marching to a metronome. I finally lost it, screamed, “Coming through” at their ears, and pushed my way through between them. Then before they could say anything to me, I sprinted away. My only regret was that I wasn’t wearing a tutu.
For the second mile, I wanted to run comfortably hard. I didn’t want to blow up during the last mile. I settled into a pace that I felt I could sustain for the next three miles. Much to my surprise, I ran the second mile in 7:30. Much faster than I had originally planned, but the pace felt good, not too difficult, so I went with it.
The third mile is the easiest mile because of the long decline. I enjoyed this mile very much because I love running down to the lake. I ran this in 7:27. I got excited when I saw the time clock because I realized that I had a very good shot at coming in under 31 minutes.
The last mile I knew would be tough because I was tired, plus the finish line ends uphill. The first half was on flat ground, so I concentrated on sustaining as my pace. The second half was uphill, so I focused on not losing too much speed. I was happy when I made the final left turn back to Center Drive. When I saw the finish time clock, I made one last final push because I knew it was close. I couldn’t slow down if I wanted to come in under 31 minutes.
I held my breath and just ran. Breathing took too much energy and I had to pour everything into flying across the finish line. I stopped my Garmin and gasped in happiness when I saw 30:56 (my official time was 30:50). I earned a new 4-mile PR! I asked Ben if I should thank Bandit for chewing the shoelace because thanks to her the shoes were .01 oz lighter. Perhaps she was the key to my success.
My last 4-mile race was the Bayonne Bridge run in 2013. Since that was was 4 years ago, I knew short of a complete meltdown I was going to get a PR at this race. But I took just over a minute off my old 4-mile time. I’m supremely happy that I got a solid PR. Last racing season wasn’t my best running year, so getting an early PR means a lot to me. I ran well and I got a time that I’m really proud of. It’s always wonderful to get a time that reflects the work and effort that you’ve been putting in. It doesn’t always come out in races, but when it does, I’m flying high.
Ben had a good race too. He’s been training quite a bit on the treadmill in an effort to get ready for the Brooklyn Half.
After the race, Emily of Sturdy Ankles invited members of PPTC to go over to her home for a bagel and hot cider party. New Yorkers are pretty picky about bagels and NYRR never has good bagels. They’re okay at best, but otherwise, they’re like tasteless cardboard. We only take them because after a race, we’re starving and need to consume something. Emily had good bagels (thumbs up!), various spreads (cream cheese, hummus, Nutella for sure, and I think there was peanut butter too), and very tasty hot cider. It was fun hanging out with our teammates and talking about all things running.
Have you ever won anything in a lottery or a giveaway? I hardly ever do and the last time I won something, it was a gift card to Wendy’s, which was more useful to Ben than it was to me. So in essence, Ben still won (but through me).