Name of the race: Superfund Super Run 10K
Where: Greenpoint Playground, Brooklyn, NY
Date: Sept 7, 2017
Time: 10:00 pm
Distance: ~ 6 miles
Entry fee: $15
Post-race Food: Beer
Performance: Overall: 72/unknown number
Weather: 66 degrees, 56% humidity
Normally runners are incredibly picky about measured distances in races (unless you’re a trail runner), but in an alley cat style race, what you want in the end is a distance shorter than the supposed race distance. South Brooklyn Running Club (SBRC), another BK running club, hosts the Superfund Super Run, which is a fundraiser for the Gowanus Park Conservatory, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cleaning the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site. You can read more about the clean up and revival of this area in Brooklyn here.
Ben and I did the race last year and had a lot of fun, so it was a no-brainer to sign up again. Unlike last year, the weather cooperated by provided us with cooler temperatures. I shivered in the night air while waiting for the start.
An alley cat race means that there are start and finish lines, but it’s up to the runner to determine the route between the two points. SBRC provided a map of a recommended route, but there was no obligation to follow it. In fact, if you were deadly serious about this race, you definitely did not follow it.
Last year, Ben ran with me and was my navigator. He used Google Maps on my phone to lead the way. This year we decided to race against each other. I was on my own. While Ben was away at work, I carefully studied the map to see where I could slice off a .1 here, a .05 mile there. Google Maps must have changed their walking algorithm from last year because the recommended route took advantage of walking paths that they definitely did not include last year. I did my best to memorize the turns because I didn’t want to write the turns and give away my secrets to Ben. We’re competitive like that. When it comes to games and races, all’s fair in love and war.
Because the end point was at Pig Beach, which has a lovely huge outdoor patio, we brought Bandit with us. Ben was going to run with her. We didn’t get Bandit a bib, so Bandit was banditting the alley cat race. Whenever people asked us about her, I answered, “Bandit thought there would be cats here.”
Finally we took off. As usual, Bandit was a hysterical flying fury of fur trash-barking at all the other runners. A couple of the PPTC members were appreciative of it because they ran faster because of Bandit’s craziness. Runners of other clubs came up to us after the race to tell us that they used Bandit in the beginning to pace themselves and they were impressed with how fast she was. The only that limits Bandit’s speed right now is our own slowness. She’s much faster than us.
Jay, as usual, took off too fast. He and a few other PPTC members were going to run together, so they desperately ran after him. KD’s salty words burned our ears as she cursed him out loudly for anyone to hear that he was going out much too fast. I couldn’t help but laugh.
My plan was to use this race as a tempo run. I would start the first three miles at just under 8:00 pace and then pick up the pace to something between 7:35 and 7:45 pace for the last half. The first two miles went fine. Disaster rolled in at Mile 3.
My lower abdomen started to hurt around Mile 2.5, but the pain and cramping got unbearable at some point during Mile 3. I just had to stop. Until that point, I was trying to ignore it and fight it the best I could, but there’s only so much mental gymnastics you can do about physical pain. I rarely suffer from GI distress during runs. The handful of times it’s happened to me in the last five years has always been during training runs. This was my first time for a race. If it happens in a training run, it’s no big deal. I stop and then I try again later in the day. I don’t have that option in a race.
I walked off into a side street and crouched in pain. I even stopped my Garmin because I thought I was done. I figured I would just take the subway to the finish line. After a minute or so, the pain subsided enough for me to stand again and move. I was still uncomfortable, but not overwhelmingly so. I decided to finish the race the best I could. The tempo run was out, but I could still shuffle to the end.
While the discomfort never went away that night, it slowly got better during the course of the race. As the discomfort eased, I ran a little faster. Looking at the splits the next day, I saw that I ran the last two miles between 8:50-9:00. Not fast for me, but those miles felt a LOT harder than that.
When I started the race again, Jay and his crew past me earlier. I eventually saw them and slowly caught up to them. Jay was surprised to see me because I passed him at Mile 1 and he hadn’t seen me when he passed me. I briefly explained what happened and started to pull away again. “Go get ’em!” were his words to me.
Once again, I heard KD’s curses to Jay because he decided to pick the pace to try to use me as their guide for the course. I cracked a smile. I later learned that they followed me until they lost me.
The first three miles or so, everyone uses the same route. It’s the route you take AFTER you pass the freeway underpass that separates the fast and clever from the rest of the field. While the recommended route takes you through more traditional and better-lit streets, the shorter route forces you to take shortcuts through dark parks and less-traveled side streets — all places I don’t usually go by myself at night. But for this race, I ran boldly through undetermined by my imagination’s boogeymen.
After the planned shortcut through Fort Greene’s Park, I couldn’t remember where I should go exactly. I made a left turn when I should have gone straight, so I ended up tacking on a little extra distance. The streets in this part of Brooklyn don’t run in perpendicular lines, so one wrong move and it’s very easy to end up in a labyrinth. It wasn’t unrecoverable and I ended up running 5.9 miles. Had I done the planned route correctly, I would have ended up with 5.8 miles.
Ben’s strategy for this race was to use the leaders as his guide, figuring that they would be competitive and already did their homework in finding the shortest route. He was right. They did have the shortest route. What he didn’t count on was that they would be faster than him and eventually he would lose them and get lost himself. LOL. He found his way to finish line at Pig Beach having run 6 miles.
Because it’s an alley cat race, there are stretches of time when you’re running alone and make one turn, and all of a sudden a swarm of runners come together. After the race, we all compared our routes (you can an animated depiction of our routes here thanks to my great friend, Andy). Another PPTC teammate, Crystal, actually did a reconnaissance mission and scouted her route during the day, so she knew exactly where to go. This was not a bad idea because someone who wanted to run the same route missed the small side street in the dark.
I wish I could say that I enjoyed the afterparty, but I was uncomfortable the entire time because my stomach wasn’t feeling quite right. Which was a real pity because the venue was great, everyone was in a good mood, and I love hanging out with my teammates. As soon as Ben finished drinking his [and my] beer, we left.
Thanks to SBRC for organizing this fantastic race that supports a great organization! It’s one that PPTC looks forward to every year. See you next year!