Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Coogan's Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5K Race Report

Well, first things first . . . we actually got up when the alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday, so that was a nice change! I got up, looked out the window and rubbed my eyes in disbelief as I realized there was a thin layer of snow covering everything in sight. Fabulous. I sleepily stumbled my way to the bathroom, trying to ignore the moderate fatigue I was feeling in my legs. I took a quick shower and blow-dried my hair, then tried to figure out what to do about a strange cramping I was experiencing in my stomach. I have no idea where it came from, but it was very similar to the cramping I've had with food poisoning before--just without the being sick part. Odd . . .

I decided to put off eating for a bit, but did down a cup of coffee, thinking it might help to move things along (if you know what I mean). Luckily it worked, and the stomach cramps seemed to gradually ease up as I got myself ready to go. Oh, silly gut issues--will you never leave me alone?!

I checked my e-mail, got dressed, packed my gear bag, and off we headed (on time this time!) in the direction of the subway. We had quite a hike in store for us in order to get up to Washington Heights--according to, over an hour's worth of travel. As we waited ( . . . and waited) for the 2-train to show up, I took on the unpleasant task of forcing two chocolate chunk chewy granola bars down my throat. Now normally, I love those things . . . but I just wasn't loving the idea of food so early in the A.M. Somehow, I was able to force them down.

Our train finally showed up . . . and after a nice, long subway ride, we arrived at our final destination: the New Balance Track and Field Center at the Armory. Now, up until we got there, I had no idea this place even existed . . . but good word is it nice in there! Wilson and I thought they should hold a raffle, and the lucky winners of said raffle could run the 5K on the indoor track instead of outside in the frigid winter-y-ness! We should really be race directors, y'all . . . but I digress. Packet pick-up was a breeze, so we decided to kill the extra half-hour hanging out in the warmth of the track and field stands. I cannot begin to tell you how nice it was to have a warm place to hang out in before the race. Kudos to you NYRR--this was a lovely surprise!

With about 20 or so minutes to go, Wilson and I decided to head out into the cold and make our way to baggage check. Upon attempting to exit the Armory, however, we were met with a HUGE traffic jam. The building had just two doors--one was being used for people coming in, and one for people going out-- and this factor combined with the large number of lobby-area loiterers made it nearly impossible to get out. Finally, we somehow escaped into the frigid outdoors. I immediately turned on garmin, knowing we had been in a fight the day before and that she might need a little extra time to cool off. We dropped our bags off . . . no signal. We made our way to our starting corral . . . still no signal. 10 minutes to go . . . nothing. 5 minutes to go . . . nada. FINALLY, as they were starting the pre-race announcements, she forgave me and decided to pick up a signal. That garmin--what a crazy broad--she had me nervous there for a second (and by "a second," I mean "a full twenty minutes")!

The pre-race announcements were made, the national anthem was sung . . . and before I knew it, we were off! Almost immediately, I hit a human wall--there was somehow an endless mass of slower runners in front of me. We headed up a short hill, and I tried my best to weave around the crowd of people in front of me. But seriously? Running uphill AND trying to dodge hundreds of slower runners at the same time is kind of exhausting. I finally made the executive decision that I would just wait it out for the rest of the climb and then pick it up and start weaving once the course flattened out a bit.

I successfully crested the hill, and again commenced with the weaving. Unfortunately, it was still quite an issue . . . there were multiple times when I was literally just plain STUCK. Short of pushing and shoving (which I refuse to do), I was not going to get through the thicket of bodies. Finally, the course started downhill and I managed to sneak out of captivity . . . temporarily. I hit the 1-mile marker at a sloooow 8:16.

As I made my way down the never-ending downhill, all I could think was, "holy crap, this is an out-and-back course. we are SO going to have to run up this monster--and soon!" Sure enough, at about the 1.3-mile mark, we began a small loop which would ultimately lead us back up that ugly beast of a hill. I tried my best to power up the hill as I continued to weave around my neighbors, but again, it was just too much effort trying to do both at once. After I nearly slipped and fell on a wet sewer grate, I again gave up on the weaving and just began coasting at the pace of the runners in front of me. After what seemed like eons, we finally passed the mile-2 marker at 16:32. I wasn't looking at my garmin or thinking all that much about the clock, but in my heart, I kind of just knew that a PR was out of the question. Still, at the very least, I really wanted to finish strong and have a powerful kick at the end.

I picked the pace up a bit over the last mile, but I was REALLY starting to tire. Plus, I was STILL having to weave around a lot of runners. I know it's ridiculous, but once again, I was having some serious urges to walk . . . especially considering I knew my PR was shot. Luckily, I also knew that quitting was absolutely positively NOT an option. I hadn't gotten up at 5 a.m. and hiked all the way up to Washington Heights just to QUIT! I WOULD finish the race, and strong!

With maybe a half mile to go, we crested that crazy hill and started to descend downhill towards the finish-line. I could see it! We were almost there! I started passing people left and right . . . I pushed it with everything I had left and kicked it until I reached the finish line. I stopped my garmin and looked down at my unofficial time . . . 25:29. My heart sank. I had known there was virtually no way I had PR'd, but for some reason, seeing the actual proof really stung me.

Head down and pout planted firmly on my face, I made my way forward. I heard someone calling my name, and looked up to see Wilson standing in front of me. I probably wouldn't have seen him if he hadn't called out at me . . . that's how absorbed I was in my own little world of defeat. I told him I hadn't PR'd and then asked how he'd done . . . "I think it was somewhere around 21:06," he reported. WHAT?! That was a PR for him by THREE FREAKING MINUTES! Well, at least one of us had had a good day! This kind of brightened my mood (although, I must admit, I was a little jealous!). Then, all of a sudden, I remembered the prospect of free beer, and I couldn't help but crack a smile (we all know this is the way to Irish's heart!).

We grabbed our bags, threw on our sweats and headed over to Coogan's for some delicious brunch (scrambled eggs and shepherd's pie--yummy!), and the beers I'd been so looking forward to. Once there, we met up with the Running Laminator, and had a grand old time eating, drinking and storytelling (and also, trying to avoid being crushed by lots of thirsty runners!). All in all, it was a pretty great day despite my lack of a PR.

Thinking about the race now, I feel a little better about it than I did initially. There was a lot working against me--the crowds, the hills, the fact that my legs were tired from my long run the day before. I'm still a little disappointed, but I'm thinking I'll just bottle that disappointment up and use it as motivation. I'm still wondering what was up with the corrals on Sunday, though. Either people are being dishonest when registering for these races or the corrals just aren't being enforced very well. I guess it's probably a combination of the two. I seriously have to get out of NYC for some races this season. I would kill to see how I could really do without the crowds! Anyone have any suggestions for smaller, local races close-ish to NYC? I would LOVE to hear about them, if so!

Anyway, here were my splits for the race:

Mile-1: 8:16
Mile-2: 8:16
Mile-3: 8:03
Last .1: 7:03/pace


The Laminator said...

Hey Irish - Don't be disappointed by your you said, there were ALOT of factors working against you. Too many people, too narrow streets, too hilly a course...yeah, the fact that you negative split that baby despite the large 2nd mile hill is an achievement in itself. Great job!

As for smaller races, I'd recommend looking at Jersey. I know you're signed up for Long Branch Half already, but over the summer/fall, they have nice races that are not too far from the city and accessible by PATH train.

Anyway, I like your report and would definitely hire you as my race director if I was Mary Wittenberg.

Take care. It was so great meeting up.

Spike said...

it is never about whether you pr or not, it is how you respond to the adversity each race presents. and it seems like you responded well to hills, lots o'people, and you fought against the desire to give up. all positive things equaling a positive race.

Meg said...

Great job!! I like the way you personify Garmin. :)

Marathonman101108 said...

Great job despite the "obstacles" as I call slow "mooving: runners. Loved your detailed race report. If you ever decide to run in Connecticut, let me know. Best post race beer party is in December at Christopher Martin's Run For the Children. 5 kegs of FREE beer after the race. It's a completely flat course and an easy 5K race.

DebbieJRT said...

Hey, nice report. I enjoyed Coogan's even without any chance at a PR (who am I kidding, I have to actually get out and run if I expect to get a new PR)
Anyway, if you're looking to do a fun race outside Manhattan, I have to plug my club's race, the Alley Pond 5 Mile Challenge. It's not an easy course, with a couple of pretty good hills, but it's fun and pretty. If you're interested, our site is

EmLit said...

Great race report. To be honest, this is one of the reasons why I have sort of stopped running NYRR races--although they are very well-organized overall, there are SO MANY people at all of them, and it always seems like you are using more energy fighting through the crowds instead of actually running. That said, we should try to meet up at a race at some point! It would be fun to try and hang out :)