Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Just a brief thought

As I near the summit of the Boston Marathon training process, the taper is in sight, but the path to the downhill is not without its obstacles. This is the final grueling, 90 plus mile week.

I had planned a four mile shake-out this morning; something I do a couple of times a week just to wake myself up. I don't wear a Garmin or concern myself with the pace. The alarm went off at 4am and while I rarely pop out of bed with a spring in my step, this morning's wake up was particularly tough. I shuffled into the kitchen and ate a handful of mango gummy snacks from Trader Joes. I checked the weather. 34 degrees. Blah. As I was pulling the appropriate attire from my drawer of running garb, my body was showing no signs of being ready to exert itself. It's normally not until about a mile into the run that I am fully awake, but usually the process of adjusting to the living world has started by this point. I stood in the living room for a few seconds contemplating the pros and cons of skipping then run, then put my PJs back on and got back into bed.

Training for a marathon involves walking a fine line between pushing yourself to the limit and pushing yourself too far. It takes a lot of miles and a lot of practice to learn the difference between quitting and abstaining. My experience has led me to believe that the extra hour of sleep I got this morning will mean more than four slow miles when I get to the starting line in Hopkinton in 20 days. But I, like most of us, am still figuring out this marathon thing.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Week Recap: 4 to go

This week included more recovery than I had hoped for. I could barely walk, let alone run on Monday and Tuesday following the hard effort in the half on Sunday. My only fear is that I put too much work into the half and burned myself out a little. I only had one key workout this week, pacing Meagan to 1:17 in the AllState 13.1 in Queens. Along with all the time spent running this week, I also took two ice baths, two epsom baths, spent some painful minutes on the foam roller and kept my legs covered in Arnica cream to expedite the healing process.

Runs: 8 (two doubles)

Mileage: 72.6

Workouts: 1

Long Run: 19.6 miles (marathon pace run)

Hours: 8.44

Monday: Off completely. Feeling very sore from yesterday, so the most exercise I got was walking to Whole Foods to get some Arnica.

Tuesday: AM Miles: 4 (7:24 pace) Course: West Side Highway. I forced myself out of bed at 4am to foam roll and slap Icy Hot all over my legs, then headed out the door for a little shake out on the West Side Highway. My legs hurt like hell, but got better with each step. I thought this was an encouraging sign until I tried to run in the evening. PM Miles: 6 (on elliptical). My plan was to run over to the Urban Athletics practice and run easy, but as I started to run toward the park, the pain was so bad I had to stop and walk. I tried running again after a couple of minutes, but it was a no go. I dejectedly walked back to the gym and hopped on the elliptical.

Wednesday: Miles: 3 (7:30 pace), 6 (on elliptical). Still sore, I rested through the morning, then hit the elliptical after work. After an hour on the dreaded machine, I hopped on the adjacent treadmill to test the legs again. I started at 7:45 pace and gradually worked my way down. At first it hurt but, the pain wasn't altering my gait. When I stopped after three miles, my legs felt dramatically better. It appeared that making the soreness go away would involve running through it.

Thursday: AM Miles: 5 (7:18 pace) Course: Treadmill. Despite perfect weather, I chose to run on the treadmill at 4:20am Thursday because I could control the pace better and the surface was more forgiving. Again, I started at 7:45 pace and worked my way down. I felt even better than last night. PM Miles: 11.5 (7:17 pace) Course: Central Park. I felt terrible when I started, but that was not a surprise. Ran over to the East Side of the park where I met up with Kevin and we ran to the store. I did the warmup with the team, then took off on my own on the Bridle Path so I would have a softer surface. Half way around reservoir, I heard someone calling my name. It was Jordan, in town for the half, and we finished out the run together. I only planned to get in 10, but due to the easy pace, I didn't mind going a little longer.

Friday: Miles: 10.25 (6:49 pace) Course: Riverside Park/Chelsea Mini Track. I figured I had to pick the pace up at this point, so I picked this run to get back to my normal training pace. I did feel sore, but not nearly as sore as in previous days. At the end of the run, I stopped at the Chelsea Mini Track to do barefoot strides, buttkickers and high knees on the soccer field.

Saturday: Miles: 19.6 (half marathon in 1:17:20) Course: Flushing-Corona City Park, Queens. Got to the race at Flushing Meadows a little late, so only got 2.5 miles in before heading to starting line with Josh. Met up with Meagan and Jordan at the line and plan was to get her to 1:17. We ran in a pack the entire race with Jordan, Josh and me blocking wind and pumping up the crowd. Pretty significant wind and lots of turns on this course which was entirely in the park. We narrowly missed 1:17, but Meagan did get to break the tape and get a significant PR. Besides that, it was a good marathon pace run for Josh and me. While the effort wasn't as easy as it should of been thanks to some residual soreness in the legs, I knew it would be much easier to maintain that pace when I am rested. Splits: 5:58, 5:56, 5:53, 5:53, 5:53, 5:54, 5:58, 5:50, 5:58, 5:57, 5:57, 5:58, 5:39, :29

Sunday: AM Miles: 15 (7:15 pace) Course: Brooklyn Bridge Run. I wanted to start this run a little early to beat the crowds on the Brooklyn Bridge. Billy and I set out down the West Side Highway at a fairly conservative pace and kept it that way for the duration of the run. It was a good chance to show Billy the sites as we ran through Brooklyn Bridge Park before heading back over the Manhattan Bridge. I felt Ok the first 9 miles, but the last 6 miles were a real challenge. Legs were just feeling dead. PM Miles: 4.4 (6:44 pace) Course: West Side Highway. After sitting around all afternoon in recovery tights and drinking water, I wanted to get a few more miles in. My legs felt surprisingly better on this shakeout, although I was really hungry the whole time.

While the last two weeks have the lowest mileage volume of this cycle, they have produced the hardest efforts thus far. The plan is to ramp up the mileage this week before a two week taper.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Week Recap: 5 to go

As hard as it was to back off the gas, I dialed back the mileage and the intensity this week in order to be fresh for the New York City Half Marathon. Although it isn't the goal race, a solid effort and a PR was necessary as a fitness indicator and a confidence booster.

Runs: 7 (no doubles)

Mileage: 69.3 miles

Workouts: 2

Long Run: 21.1 miles (half marathon in 1:11:19)

Hours: 7.62

Monday --Miles: 9 (6:38 pace) Course: West Side Highway. Felt fantastic on this run. Beautiful weather in the mid 60s. It was like I was floating up the West Side Highway to Riverside Park and back.

Tuesday -- Miles: 9 (6:19 pace - Fartlek) Course: West Side Highway. With a massage in Brooklyn immediately following work, I had no choice but to start this one at 4:05am. Jerry had me doing 1000, 800, 600, 600, 400 , 400 with full rest at VO2 max pace, but since it was too early to get to a track, I did 2 miles warmup, 3:10 hard (1:30), 1:50 (1:10), 1:50 (1:10), 1:15 (:45), 1:15 (:45), then I did 6X :30 on :30 off. Workout was done totally on feel and felt pretty good for how early it was.

Wednesday -- Miles: 9 (6:44 pace) Course: West Side Highway. I definitely felt the soreness from last night's massage on this one. Still, another awesome night. I ran to South Ferry and back.

Thursday -- Miles: 8 (7:07 pace) Course: Chelsea Mini Track. Lauren finished up her midterms today, so I wanted to bang out my workout then take her on a date night. Since the plan was to do 12-14X200, I decided I could do that in my neighborhood. Got in four miles easy on the West Side Highway and then headed over to the little 250 meter, three lane track on 27th and 10th. Did 14 X what I think was 200 all in 34 seconds. Jogged about 50 meters as recovery between each one. Then, took off my shoes and did barefoot drills on the soccer field.

Friday -- Miles: 7 (7:10 pace) Course: West Side Highway. Time to ease off. Went very easy down the West Side Highway with Heidi. It was good to catch up with her.

Saturday -- Miles: 6.23 (6:38 pace) Course: West Side Highway. Absolutely fantastic weather, but I hope it's a little cooler than this tomorrow. Ran to the marina and back, then did 6 strides on 21st Street. I think I spent too much time on the West Side Highway this week. I took an ice bath immediately following the run.

Sunday -- Miles: 21.1 Course: 8th Avenue, NYC Half Marathon Course, West Side Highway. Run and day detailed here . 5k - 16:40, 10k - 33:31 (three second pr), 15k - 50:27 (50 second pr). 20k - 1:07:36.

As of this writing, I am very sore. I need to make sure I don't forget there are four more weeks left of training. Sunday's race was beyond my expectations. Now, it's time to capitalize on the fitness, put in two more solid weeks and then taper for Boston.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Long race = long recap

I spent Saturday night in that semi-conscious stage of being half-awake and half-asleep. Every couple of hours, I would lean forward and look at the clock, then calculate in my head how many hours of sleep I would get if I fell asleep at that very moment. Of course, that only makes it worse. It’s classic insomnia. You can’t sleep because you are too busy worrying about not being able to sleep. I had spent all day Saturday slightly nervous about the half marathon, but when I got into bed and all the distractions were gone, I started to panic. What if I hadn’t run enough hard tempos? What if I ran too many miles last week? I had only run two races in 2012, and the longest one was four miles. This was 13.1! I thought about my last half-marathon which was a disaster. Before I knew it, it was 5:30am.

I got up, downed a banana, an English muffin with peanut butter and a glass of water. Then, I laced up my shoes, and headed out the door to run to Central Park. Over a delicious pasta dinner the night before, Lauren and I had determined that the best way to go about getting to the race was for me to go on foot and for her to take the trains with my bag. Since the corrals closed 30 minutes before the race went off, my options for a warm up were limited. The three mile trip to the park would have to do. Then, I’d have to stand still for a half-an-hour. Lauren and I met at 6:45 as planned. I changed into my flats, put on my singlet, rubbed on some Body Glide and then went to the entrance to the corral which is actually on the opposite side of the park from the actual corral.

I got to the corral just before 7:00am and immediately ran into Val Matena who had travelled up from Charlotte. She pointed me in the direction of her husband Dan who would be starting near me. On the line, I passed the time calming nerves by talking with Dan, and two friends from the Front Runners team, Thomas and Josh. We watched the elites warm up, envious of their ability to get in striders and then listened to the starting line announcer introducer Kara Goucher by pronouncing her name wrong. (Seriously!?!)

When the horn finally went off, there was a bit of bottle-necking up front and then we were off. About 300 meters into the race, my Urban Athletics teammate, Jason, jumped in to click off some miles with me. I ran past Charlotte’s Alana Hadley and Stephanie Pezzullo and wished them luck and then started executing my race plan. The first 10k of the course is a full lap around Central Park. It is much more challenging than the second half of the course, but the race is made in the first half. In my head, I knew I had to be out of the park between 33 and 34 minutes to have a shot at my goal which was 1:12 or faster.

About ½ mile into the park, Jason and I settled in with Olympic marathoner Desiree Davila who was running a comfortable pace. The added bonus was that Desi’s fame meant a lot of people were cheering for her, so I was happy to benefit from some of that positive energy. We went back and forth with me leading on the hills and her coming back when the course descended or flattened out. There was a huge sense of relief after conquering the Harlem Hills because even though it was early in the race, it was the part I feared the most. We hit the 5K in 16:40. Right on target.

Coming back to the starting area, it was amazing how many people weren’t even close to beginning their race when we were nearly 6 miles in. The huge crowd of runners was super supportive, giving us the loudest cheers we’d heard so far. Again, it didn’t hurt that I was right near Desi who everyone recognized. Leaving the park, I saw and heard Lauren cheering which gave me a little boost as we crossed the 10k in 33:31 (which is a three second PR).

As I mentioned, the park is the hard part. Once the course goes onto 7th Avenue, it flattens out. The problem is, you’ve trashed your legs on the hills. As we headed toward Times Square, I was temporarily distracted by the site of one of the world’s most famous places completely shut down to traffic. Have you seen Vanilla Sky? It was sort of like that. There was supposed to be bands lining this stretch of the course, but most were still setting up when we went by. I took my first sip of water before heading toward the West Side Highway.

Miles 8 and 9 were the hardest points of the race for me. I had been holding 5:20-5:30 pace the entire time, but with 5 miles still in front of me, I started to think about how much was left and briefly doubted my ability to hang on. Ahead of me, the West Side Highway looked endless. Fortunately, around this time, Jason and I joined in with a solid pack. I decided to settle in the middle and let them carry me while I regained my confidence and strength. We went through the 15k together in 50:27, a 50 second PR.

Now, I was doing the math in my head. If I could run the last 3.8 miles in 22 minutes, I would hit my goal. I was feeling good again, still clicking off 5:28-5:30 and coming into the home stretch. Miles 10 and 11 were uneventful and by mile 12, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel…literally. Mile 12 is almost entirely in a tunnel. My Garmin lost its signal, the crowd noise disappeared and all you could hear was the sound of flats hitting the asphalt. Knowing that I could hang on for a mile no matter what happened, I moved to the front of the pack and took control of the race. Around this point, Jason bailed, although much later than planned, and I was solo carrying the Urban Athletics colors. We passed the 20K in 1:07:36 and I knew I could run 8/10ths of a mile in 4:24. The goal was going to happen.

Exiting the tunnel we climbed the last hill of the course and passed the "800 meters to go" sign. I could hear the screaming crowd. We turned on to Water Street and I could see the clock. 200 meters to go and I was not only going to break 1:12, I was going to shatter it. The adrenaline rush accelerated me over the line and I did no fewer than three fist pumps when I saw my finishing time was 1:11:19. I thanked Desi for allowing me to steal some of her fans and high-fived Meb Keflezighi who remembered me from an interview we did in the park on Thursday. Granted, this was only my third half-marathon and the two previous had included a solo victory in Charlotte and a humid, tired disaster in Jersey City, but it was still a 4 plus minute personal best and more importantly, a huge confidence booster and indicator of my fitness.

But fitness only gets you so far. I had the benefit of running in one of the largest half-marathons in the world surrounded by some of the best runners in the world. I have an incredibly talented teammate (who has a 1:07 under his belt) who kept me sane and steady. I have a coach who not only has given me workouts that work, but also is more confident in my ability than I am. I have a team that holds me accountable on every run. I heard Desi say it on the pre-race show, “you can’t cheat at running. You can only cheat yourself.” I have friends like Tara and Heidi who came out on the course to cheer me on in multiple locations. Most importantly, I have a wife who comes to every race to carry my bag and cheer for me at every point she can. During this particular race, she had to mow down an old lady just to get to the finish. But her support extends far beyond race day. She waits for me to eat dinner when I am out running until 9pm. She deals with my alarm when it goes off before 4am. If that’s not love, well…

Three races in 2012. Three PRs. But they mean nothing if I don’t nail the next one in Boston. Back to work.

Race Stats:
Time: 1:11:19
Pace: 5:26
Runners: 15,331
Place: 59th
Age Group: 23rd
Age Grade: 83.05%
Weather: 47 degrees, 90% humidity, 3mph wind

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Week Recap: 6 to go

With last week’s training marking six weeks to Boston, I am thought I would chronicle the countdown to the big race by doing weekly recaps. After the race is over, we will know whether it is a guide to what to do, or a guide to what NOT to do when preparing for a PR.

Runs: 10

Mileage: 95.4

Workouts: 2

Long Run: 17 miles

Hours: 11.01

Monday – Miles: 12 (6:55), Course: West Side Highway. I ran four on my own before running into Josh and heading back in the opposite direction. Wind from the North was strong and slowed down the pace. The legs felt good despite running a 15:51 5K the day before. Doing an 8 mile recovery run in the afternoon after the race was probably a good move.

Tuesday – Miles: 12.4, Course: Harlem Hills. This was a hill repeat workout with the Urban Athletic team. We started at the base of the Harlem Hills section of the park loop at the traverse, ran 1.13 miles to the other side of the traverse, then jogged a quarter mile back as a rest. Times for the repeats were 6:02 (5:27 mile), 6:02 (5:27 mile) and 5:50 (5:14 mile). Going into this workout, I wasn’t expecting to work hard, but it ended up being much tougher and therefore much more satisfying than I anticipated. The Harlem Hills are no joke and I’ll need to tackle them in the upcoming NYC Half Marathon.

Wednesday – AM Miles: 9 (7:15) Course: West Side Highway. The only thing notable about this run was the size of the moon and the noticeable lack of other people on this popular running spot at 4:20 in the morning. Also, the SXSW Preview Show on “All Songs Considered” introduced me to some awesome new bands. My legs felt surprisingly good despite the hard workout just hours before. PM Miles: 5 (7:00) Course: West Side Highway. This was just an easy shakeout. The weather was beautiful, but my stomach was not enjoying my lunch choice.

Thursday – AM Miles: 5 (7:16) Course: West Side Highway. All I wrote in my log for this one was “ugh”. I think the 4:25am start was a little harder to handle than yesterdays. PM Miles: 13.5 (6:52) Course: Central Park Big Loop. With a workout planned for Saturday, I skipped the team workout and just did a medium long run with Josh and Kevin for a few miles before he split for the workout. My quads were pretty torn up from the hills, but that was to be expected.

Friday – Miles: 5.0 (7:11) Course: West Side Highway. This was my third straight day of running during the 4am hour. Fortunately, it was planned to be a much deserved easy day. With a flight to Charlotte in the evening, this would be my only miles of the day.

Saturday -- CHARLOTTE! AM Miles: 11. Course: McAlpine Creek Greenway. This was the much anticipated and already recapped workout with Paul. The workout called for 2 miles @ 10:30, 4x400 @ 75, 2 miles at 10:30. Although it was billed by some as the battle between USA and Britain, we really worked together to hit the prescribed times. The results were right on target. We ran 10:26, 73, 72, 72, 75 (running into the wind) and then 10:27. The effort was draining, but always good to share some tough miles with Paul. PM Miles: 5.5 (7:32) Course: Providence Road Area. Afternoon shakeout run with Paul and Aaron. It was so awesome out. The run was very easy and more for catching up than anything else.

Sunday – CHARLOTTE Miles: 17 (7:17) Course: McAlpine Creek Greenway. This kind of run is what I miss most about Charlotte. There was a huge group at McAlpine at 8am on a Sunday morning, ready to run. I was able to back Caitlin into a corner on this one. She wanted to run at 9, but since she was my ride and I wanted to run at 8, she had to get up earlier. This long run was a little slower and a little shorter than previous weeks because of the upcoming half marathon.

On deck: A down week capped with the NYC Half Marathon!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Come downstairs and say, "Hello"

Home is a place you can go to after a prolonged absence and feel like you never left. I am lucky enough to have two places that fit that descriptions.

I set an alarm for Saturday morning, but I didn’t need one. Shortly after it went off, I was eased into alertness with the sounds of birds chirping. I am not trying to sound cliché, but the sound of the birds truly was soothing and comforting. It’s one of those things you don’t notice until it is replaced with a buzzing air conditioner fan that’s meant to dull the noise of traffic and drunk people outside your window, no matter what hour of the day. Suddenly, the stress of Friday night was gone. The bumper-to-bumper traffic from the Upper West Side to Laguardia, the delayed departure, the tiny plane so small that every sound and worse, every smell was amplified; all of that was worth it to be waking up in Charlotte.

After taking it all in, I was off to do what I did nearly every Saturday morning when I lived in Charlotte; meet Paul for a run at McAlpine. I had put in another tough training week, all of it centered around a workout we had planned when I booked the trip earlier in the month. I was excited to run with Paul again as his tenacity always makes the work challenging. I wanted to hit the target times he had set for the intervals and be a worthy training partner for the fit Brit.

We did a light three mile jog to the starting point and rolled into the first two mile interval. The goal was to run 10:30. We went out a little fast, which was surely my doing, but evened it out before it could impact the rest of the workout. My Garmin clicked off 5:12, then 5:15 for 10:27. Next up was four 400s. With the lack of foot speed I have talked of often, I knew I’d be sucking wind. I struggled to hang on to Paul as we did each one in the low 70s. Then came the real challenge of the workout. We needed to do two miles again in the same pace or faster, but this time on tired legs. As we started out, the impact of the 400s was immediate. After running at sub 5:00 pace, 5:10 pace felt very easy. That lasted for roughly three-quarters of a mile and then it was back to reality. The final 1.25 miles of the workout was a challenge. Paul and I ran stride for stride, holding pace and finished in another 10:27. This was a hands on the knees, no words for a couple of seconds kind of workout. Those are both indicators of success.

Since I don’t get to Charlotte often, Lauren and I tried not to waste a single minute. I got back to Sloan and Jamie’s house following the workout and finally got to meet the beautiful Ruth Ann in person. (We had previously only met on Skype). Add another baby crush to my list. She’s a five-month-old heartbreaker! Then, it was off to Toast where we met Caitlin and devoured three of the restaurant’s most delicious/sweet/unhealthy entrees and I saw Caitlin’s engagement ring for the first time (Nice work, Garrett!). We stopped by the local bookstore and the outdoor store before meeting up with Paul, Lisa and the girls for more food, this time frozen yogurt.

In my brief visit, it was really important for me to see the Norman family. Earlier in the week, Aimee passed away following a long battle with cancer. Her life touched a lot of others, as evidenced by a memorial service that was standing room only, and signs around the city thanking God for her time on this earth. Our trip to their house was quick, but it was good to see them and more importantly, see them smile. It’s proof that Aimee’s presence is permanent.

The afternoon was filled with a recovery run with Aaron and Paul (we spent a lot of time together on Saturday), a beautiful “memorial party” for Milton, who also passed away earlier in the week and then a laid-back evening of beers and stories at Selwyn Pub with Caitlin, Paul, Lisa, Aaron, Barb, Billy, Mike, Allen, Lori, Ashley and Michael Jordan. Ok, so Michael Jordan didn’t sit with us, but he was at the bar and I did see him as he watched the team he owns, arguably the worst team in professional sports, lose yet another game.

Lauren left for Manhattan Sunday and I spent the entire day with Caitlin. Since we only see each other once every couple of months, we tried to cram all of our catching up into a 10 hour hang-out marathon. It started with a big group long run at McAlpine. 17 miles with more than a dozen friends never feels like 17 miles. Then it was breakfast at Panera, a stroll down East Boulevard, coffee at Dilworth Coffee and the drive to Aaron’s to chill on his couch watching the UNC game and Saturday Night Live on DVR. All of it before the all-too-soon return to the airport where I would board a plane and be thrust back into the fast-paced world of New York City.

Something about being in Charlotte with Lauren feels, for lack of a better word, right. We met there. We became friends there. We fell in love there. Many of our best friends are there. We got married there. I wish we had the opportunity to see everyone during our visit, but we’ll never be too far away from home.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Capturing the white whale

There are two reasons to run fast at the Coogan's Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5K. The first is to stay with the lead pack and not get dropped. The second is to get a seat and a first shot at the free hot breakfast, beer and coffee served at Coogan's Pub immediately following the race.

Those factors in mind, I knew going into Sunday's race that I was fit. In the weeks prior to the event, I had put in three solid weeks of high mileage and hard workouts before dropping the mileage by about 30% for race week. But, despite feeling like breaking 16 was entirely possible, I was sure this would not be the course where it would happen.

As the first team race of the season, this 5K generally boasts big crowds but not fast times. The race takes place in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, starting and ending at the Armory. It begins with a climb under the George Washington Bridge. That's followed with a generous reprieve into the Cloisters and descent to the river, then another climb out of the park, a flat stretch and then the pièce de résistance, a steep climb for the first 1/4 mile of the final mile of the race.

I met teammate and training partner Josh at the Armory shortly after 8am. Following a decent stretch, we headed out into the sea of people gathered outside for an easy two mile warm-up. The weather was shaping up to be perfect. With the temperature somewhere between freezing and forty, it would be just warm enough to wear my preferred racing outfit of a simple singlet and shorts.

Following bag check, we made our way to the line where I was frustrated to find that my bib number did not get me into the "competitive runner corral". The reason for this, and it is a legitimate one, is that I don't have a long enough history of NYRR races to get me into the corral, so even though I had a seed time in the low 5's, I wasn't recognized as one of the top 100 runners in the race. I asked a volunteer to make an exception, but he turned me down. So, I took my place in corral one. Truth be told, the difference between the two corrals is negligible. For me, it was more of a mental thing than anything else. Growing more and more annoyed, I attempted to sneak under the thin paper barrier that divided the two corrals just minutes before the race. As I did so, I snapped the tape thus, turning the two corrals into one big one. Fortunately, the officials didn't notice.

At the horn, there was a traffic jam in the front. It felt like a high school cross country race, as I bumped my way past people who were not concerned with a fast start. My plan was to run the race with Josh since we have been training together well, but less than 1/10th of a mile into the race, I was struggling through the crowd to catch up with him. Well before the 1/4 mile mark, we were shoulder to shoulder in our red Urban Athletics singlets and right on pace. Even though we both thought today wouldn't be the day to break 16, we had calculated what we had to do to make it happen just in case the stars aligned. We went through the first mile in 5:05. I felt pretty good and was relieved that I hadn't gone out too fast.

At the beginning of mile two, I threw in a mini-surge to get through a group of runners. The second mile is the fastest mile on the course and knowing this, I wanted to take advantage. As we went through the Cloisters and passed by several of the bands lining the course, I did my best to make this mile faster than the first, but not so fast that I had an empty tank by mile three. My Garmin registered a 4:56 for this mile, but the course clock said 5:07. Either way, I had gained some ground and with just under six minutes of wiggle room to break 16, I started to think that if I could maintain form and attack the upcoming hills, today might be the day after all.

I attacked mile three with gusto. I knew I'd have to run in the low 5's, then kick it in if I wanted to finish under 16 with room to spare. The beginning of the mile is flat and fast, but in the distance I could see what appeared to be a wall of asphalt. A steep climb was quickly approaching, but I had time to mentally prepare for it and convince myself I could maintain my pace on the ascent. I would conquer the hill. It would not conquer me. When we hit the hill, I kept it in gear, running at a steady 5:02 pace. Josh was still right next to me, and we worked together to stay motivated and not fall apart. At the top, there was just about 500 meters to go and it was all downhill. I was tired, but not winded. I could see the finish line in the distance. Josh was able to open a small gap on me while I did everything I could to stay on pace. I went through mile three at 15:12, a 5:00 mile according to the course clock. 48 seconds to spare. This was going to be it.

The feeling of elation when I crossed the line in 15:51 was one I haven't felt in a 5K in a long time. 16 minutes has been my white whale since I started running competitively again in 2008. I ran 16:07 on a fast course in China Grove, NC in June of 2010 and hadn't run a 5K I've been happy with since. Of course, no race is the perfect race. I learned a lot from this one, mainly, I need to continue to work on my finish speed. But, I was happy enough to feel like the celebratory Guinness at 9:45am was well-deserved.

Race Stats:
Time: 15:51
Pace: 5:05
Place: 18th
Age Group: 10th
Age Grade: 81.46%
Team Position: Urban Athletics Open Men, 4th Place