Name of the race: Al Goldstein Summer Series #5
Where: Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY
Date: July 19, 2017
Time: 7:10 pm
Distance: 3.1 miles
Terrain: Rolling hills
Entry fee: $7.50
Post-race Food: Cold water
Performance: Overall: 160/392; Gender: 32/148; Age (35-39): 7/22
Weather: 90 degrees, 43% humidity
Of course, the one and only Al Goldstein Summer Series 5K I sign up for would be the hottest one of the year. I had to do this one. Ever since we moved to Brooklyn, we’ve always run AGSS 5K, usually a few of them. There was no way I was letting a summer go by without running at least one. Since I’m going out of the country next week, last week’s AGSS was my only chance at doing this race for this summer. So despite the heat advisory and all, I went. Ben wisely stayed at home.
My right knee has been feeling slightly wonky the last few months. No pain. Just a little stiff until I get moving and then it feels perfectly fine. Because of my wonky knee, I’ve been doing more warm ups because I can’t jump straight into my fast miles the way I had been in the past. I jogged to the bib pick-up in Prospect Park. I almost choked on the thick smoggy air. It wasn’t boding well for me. I have asthma and most of the time, my asthma is a non-issue. But with the heat and smoggy air, I could feel the constriction of the bronchial tube as I ran. I went to a nearby cafe to get a small ice coffee. Cooling down and some caffeine help.
At the bib pick up, I saw a bunch of my friends from PPTC discussing race plans. Leibar of Running Break kindly offered to pace me because she planned on taking it easy. One of the nicest things about being in PPTC is that there is a bevy of teammates ready to pace you. Because of our large size, there’s always someone who wants to take it easy.
“What do you want to do?” she asked.
“Sub-24” I automatically responded without thinking. For the past two years, I’ve had a goal of running a sub-24 on this particular course. While it’s not the most difficult 5K course, it’s not known for being PR-friendly either because of the steepness of Zoo Hill/Battle Pass Hill (the hill has two names) in the first mile. The closest I’ve come to my goal was 24:06 two years ago. Last year was a complete disaster in terms of 5Ks, and my best was a pitiful 24:24.
“Okay,” she said, “What pace is that? 7:40? We can do that.”
At hearing 7:40, I immediately backed off. In this heat, I felt there was no way I could pull off a 7:40 pace. I decided to decline Leibar’s offer to pace me because I thought I should run a more conservative race considering the oppressive heat.
This year for the first time, the AGSS 5Ks have a timing mat at the start line. Previous years, only gun time was available, so if you were fast or gunning for a PR, you had to be aggressive and go as close to the start as possible. Knowing that there was a timing mat, I didn’t feel the need to be so close to the start, so I placed myself farther back so that I wouldn’t get swept up by the fast runners and start too fast. Another strategy was to constantly hydrate myself throughout the run. I usually only take a slug of water from my Simple Hydration bottle at the halfway point (and maybe again a little later after Mile 2 if it’s really hot) during a 5K, but because of the heat, I took constant little sips of ice cold water throughout the race. After I took a sip of water, I sprayed a bit of water on my head. Thanks to the Simple Hydration bottle, I never felt overheated during the race.
I decided to do the first mile in 8 minutes because of the hill and heat. Depending on how I felt after that, I would decide my other splits. Race time endorphins beat out heat when it came to deciding how I felt going up the hill. It felt surprisingly easy – like I was coasting. First mile split was 8:03. I was pleased.
Because I felt so good, I decided to go a little faster and do the second mile in 7:50. The second mile is the easiest mile on this course because this is where all the downhills are. It’s usually my fastest mile because I usually let go and fly. This time, I held back and took it easy. So while I was running faster than the first mile, it felt much easier because of all the downhill help. The second mile split was 7:48.
I finished the second mile still feeling great. Usually in a 5K, by the end of the second mile, I’m feeling it and just counting down til the end. This time, I felt relaxed and still as if I hadn’t worked. I knew better than to think that all was going to fine. Last year pretty much at every AGSS 5K, I ran just fine until about the 2.5 mile mark where I would then feel awful (e.g., cramps, nausea). Still, because I was feeling so good, I decided to push the pace to 7:30. If I felt awful, I would dial it back, otherwise I was going to try to hang on for dear life. The 7:30 pace felt fine. Once I reached 2.5 miles, I let go of the fear that I was going to come down with something. At this point, I knew I was in the clear and it was time to fly!
I pushed myself. The ever familiar 5K pain train didn’t hit me until Mile 2.9. The third mile split was 7:27. When I heard the beep, I told myself, “There’s only .1 mile left to go. At this point there’s not much difference in terms of pain in going faster, so you might as well GO! GO! GO!!!!” (6:35 pace! Woohoo!)
The pain was exquisite, but not as exquisite as my overwhelming joy when I realized that despite my disbelief at the start of the race, I had done it. I broke 24 minutes on the course. I was absolutely beyond thrilled with myself in setting a course PR. This isn’t my fastest 5K time, but this is what I consider to be one of my finest 5K races. I ran a super smart race with a fantastic negative split. I’m really glad that I decided to take this conservative approach because I think if I had tried to do even splits, doing 7:40 up the hill in the heat would have been a disaster. Plus the strategy of drinking cold water and spraying it over my head also greatly helped in preventing me from feeling overheated. Also, I was happy to see that Leibar got 2nd AG award, which she wouldn’t have gotten had she paced me.
I’m utterly chuffed with this 5K performance. It bodes well for fall racing. Fingers crossed.