Race Report: NYRR Team Champs

Name of the race: NYRR Team Championships

Where: Central Park, Manhattan, NY

Date: July 27, 2019

Time: 7:00 am for women and 8:15 am for men

Distance: 5 miles

Terrain: Rolling hills of Central Park (no Harlem Hills, only Cat Hill)

Entry fee: $20

Swag: A child-sized (or puppy-sized) backpack

Post-race Food: Bagels, apples, bananas, and water

Time: 37:56

Performance: Overall: 987/2197; Gender: 256/1003; Age (40-44): 28/142

Weather: 73 degrees, 69% humidity

IMG_20190727_165114_056.jpgI ran a bunch of races in between the Petersburg Half and this one, but I’m lagging on blogging. I hope to eventually write the race reports for those because I really do enjoy going back to reread races and it’s a nice way of keeping track of some of the fun things I do.

NYRR Team Championships is an annual race that is exclusive to the local running clubs in the NYC metropolitan area. The only way to participate is if you’re a member of a running club that is registered with NYRR, so you can’t just make up a club. The draw for this race is that the top 10 runners, instead of the top 5 for most club races, in each club can score points for the club in the Open Division. The club points is for the year long NYRR competition for the top running club in NYC.

Team Champs is a popular race because the clubs use the race to drum up team spirit. NYRR runs the women’s division and men’s division separately. Usually the order of who goes first alternates, but this year the women got to start first for the second year in a row. We were happy because the temperature was easier to bear at 7 am. The men show up to cheer. Then at 8:15 the men’s race starts and the women cheer. Afterward clubs either have a picnic in the park or a gathering elsewhere to celebrate. Of course, all the clubs are really nice about cheering for all the runners, but when they see their own member running, then the cheering teammates go nuts. With so many clubs, there are screaming people for most of the course. The race has a very festive atmosphere because we’re all out having so much fun.

This is the first year I got to participate as a runner. I’ve cheered previously, but last year I was on vacation when Team Champs was happening. I warmed up and then ran into Carla, who now lives in Chicago. Carla and I chatted about our race plans. Because of the warm and humid weather and the fact that I haven’t had the best training for the last three weeks or so, I told Carla that I planned on running an 8 min mile and then slowly speed up from there.

Well, I was accidentally the biggest douchebag sandbagger ever. I did mean what I said, but I ran a whole heckuva lot faster. Sorry, Carla. #notsorryabouthavingagoodracethough

In the first mile, I dealt with the usual NYRR congestion. I figured the congestion would slow me down, so I didn’t worry about pace, but simply making my way forward and not running into people (very difficult because at every NYRR race, there are people who insist on running perpendicular to the direction of the course – and no, I’m not talking about spectators trying to cross to the other side – or they refuse to hold the line and meander left and right like a lazy river). Imagine my surprise when Garmin beeped 7:33. “Oops, too fast,” I thought, “I need to slow down for the second mile.”

The second mile has some rolling hills, but it’s a net decline, so I ended up going 7:23. “Aw, shit,” I cursed to myself. I was sure I just blew the race. I was sure that I started waaaaaaayyyyy tooooooo fast and was about to blow up and crawl to the finish line. Facing that prospect, I decided to hang on to the current pace the best I could and enjoy the ride for as long as it lasted. The third mile came in at 7:29.

When I saw the pace for the third mile, I began revising my race plan. I thought that maybe I could pull it off and hang on for dear life for the next two miles. The last mile will be painful, but it’s only a mile, and my mantra is, “I can do anything for a mile.”

The fourth mile has Cat Hill, which is my least favorite hill in Central Park. I know most NY runners hate the Harlem Hills, but I never find them that bad. Maybe it’s because we generally do them early in the race when we still feel fresh and Cat Hill comes later when we feel tired? I dunno, but I hate Cat Hill. I deliberately eased up going up Cat Hill because I didn’t want to overexert myself in the warm weather condition. That mile ended up being 7:54, which meant a I took it a little *too* easy.

Now it was the last mile. I charged a head attacking this mile with all I had. I was eager to see my teammates cheering on the sidelines. I knew once I saw them and ran through, the finish line would be around the corner.

I saw a couple of my teammates running ahead of me. I figured I wouldn’t be able to catch the one that was farther ahead, but I thought I could catch the closer one. I can’t remember if I passed AK once or if we traded places a few times, but I do know I was ahead of her when I reached our PPTC cheer tunnel.

Can I just say what a great club PPTC is? I swear (and this is not merely bias on my part), we had the best club presence! We brought out the second largest contingent of runners of all the clubs and we were the only club (based on what I and several other runners saw) that had a cheer/scream tunnel. All the other clubs lined up only on one side of the course to cheer, but we lined up on both sides. As PPTC’ers ran though, we doubled down on the screaming and cowbelling! It was utterly deafening. NYRR loved us and had several IG photos and stories with us in it.

IMG_20190727_193149_175.jpgI got so excited about seeing my teammates that I sprinted down. I started the kick to the finish line too early. While the cheer tunnel was close to the finish line, it was still a tad too far away to start the kick then. After I left the cheer tunnel and made the left hand turn, I immediately felt awful and thought I was going to throw up from the sheer effort. When I feel like this in a race, I do a quick calculation: 1) How close am I to the finish line?, 2) How likely am I to throw up?, and 3) Is the race worth it?

The answers were: A little too far away, very, and absolutely not. With that I decided to slow down, which gave AK the opening she needed to motor past me. But even with easing up on the pace, I still finished the last mile in 7:15. My total time was 37:56 (the mile splits and total time don’t quite add up because Garmin came in at 5.05 miles). I was excited and happy about my time because it’s 19 secs off my PR in much worse weather conditions.

I stayed to cheer for the men and to eat snacks. Then I drove home to shower and nap. Ben and I went to the PPTC after party that was at a local bar in Brooklyn. I totally loved the freshly baked warm soft pretzels. So good!

IMG_20190729_133436_012.jpgBefore I picked up my bib, I was really excited about the swag because in the pictures, it looked like NYRR was giving away a full-sized backpack. I was disappointed when I saw the tiny backpacks that were given out instead. I made Bandit wear it, which she did reluctantly.

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