January 19, 2011

Race Recap: Ted Corbitt 15k

On 12/19/2010, I ran the Ted Corbitt 15K in Central Park. As you can see, it's taken me quite some time to put together my race recap. Simply put, this race left me confused and frustrated. I've run at least 9.3 miles countless times. So why was this race so hard?

When I completed the Philadelphia Marathon on 11/21, I decided I would take a break from races for a while. I had reached my goal and felt good, but I was also exhausted and missed my short 3 or 4 mile runs for fun. Then why did I find myself signing up for a 15k three weeks later? I think it's because I needed a push to get back out there and run. My body was finally recovering from the marathon but had gotten way too comfortable recovering. My mind, on the other hand, was itching for a run. So I signed up for what I thought would be an easy 9.3 miles.

I started to stress about this race two or three days before which is disappointing because I typically don't stress about races. I anticipate but I don't stress; running is supposed to be fun and since I'm not planning on winning anything anytime soon, no need to stress, right? But this time felt different. First of all, I injured my left foot during the marathon and it was still touch or go. And second, it was going to be FREEZING. I typically enjoy running in the cold but that usually involves starting & ending my run at the door to my apartment. Standing outside freezing my tush off in Central Park is not on my list of fun ways to start my day. Also, Mr. Weatherman was predicting possible snow and I had never run in snow before. I'm a clutz; I can barely walk in snow. And what if the water stations froze over like they did at the Philly marathon a few years ago. And what would I wear? The lots of funny layers I typically wear for cold weather runs just wouldn't be cute enough for race pictures (yes, pathetic but this did cross my mind). With all of this craziness going on in my brain I stopped, took a deep breathe, and accepted the fact that I was just plain nervous for my first longish run post marathon. I meditated for a bit, closed my eyes, and reminded myself that none of these things were race stoppers. "Suck it up Erica" is what I told myself, "you're tougher than this crap."

Aside from the craziness, some valid questions did emerge. For example, did I have to think about nutrition and hydration during a 9 mile race in the cold? I had never run more than 5 or 6 miles in this kind of weather. Would I sweat just as much and need just as much water? I knew how to fuel appropriately for a 10k and for a Half Marathon. But what was my strategy for a 15k? I decided I wouldn't bring fluids but would drink at the water stations as I felt necessary. I found an old GU from marathon training and decided to bring it along just in case I needed it. My last bit of preparation was to buy foot warmers as per a fellow blogger/runner's suggestion on twitter. BIG mistake, but we'll get to that later.
Big Mistake!!!
I woke up early the morning of the race and ate one of my usual pre-run breakfasts: gluten free oats with almond milk, banana and a spoon of almond butter with a cup of coffee. I then got dressed in my many layers: running tights, running capris over running tights (my running tights are too big & fall down. Yes, I need new ones), a long sleeve dry fit shirt, a running jacket, gloves and a headband/ear warmers, running socks and my insole foot warmers which I peeled from the package and placed on the soles of my socks. I topped it all off with a really old fleece sweatshirt that I would throw away once I started the race. I headed out to the upper east side and along the way, saw lots of other runners heading to the start line. Heading towards the start with my fellow runners is always a favorite part of racing. I love the energy and camaraderie; it gets me psyched every time! Before the race, I was happy to bump into Theodora and recognized Robin @rlk_117 who I finally met for the first time. I visited the porta potties (yuckity yuck yuck ew), made my way to my corral. The race start was on the east side of the park at 102nd street. It would take us through two loops of the park, a 5 miler and a 4 miler. I stood and waited until it was time to get going, trying to stay warm and ignored my shivering body and chattering teeth. I would be warm in a few minutes, right?

Then I got going... and I sucked. I tried to keep it slow the first two miles, to warm up my legs and get my breathing right. My legs felt ok but my lungs just wouldn't cooperate in the cold. I reminded myself that the first three miles can be the toughest for me so I stayed positive and kept going. By the time I approached Cat Hill at approximately mile 4, my legs were already getting tired and I couldn't believe it. For those of you who have never run in Central Park, Cat Hill is on the east side of the park an although it's not the toughest one, it's still pretty tough. So I'm running up Cat Hill and thinking "you're already tired and this is just the first lap. You have to get up this hill again. Suck it up Erica and just keep going. You ran a marathon exactly a month ago! You can run 9.3 miles." So I kept going and began to feel better. I passed the start line and was excited that the race was more than halfway done.

And then the blisters on the soles of me feet started. You know that little rule that you should NEVER try anything new the day of a race? Well, it's a rule for a reason. Although my feet were nice and toasty, the Toastitoes foot warmers were beginning to rub my soles the wrong way and I could feel juicy blisters growing by the minute. Awesome. NOT. I did my best to ignore the blisters, headed across the 102nd St Transverse for the second loop and up that first little hill on the west side of the park. No more ignoring it, I was sucking bad and decided to just embrace the suck. It's ok to have a horrible race, right? The horrible ones just make the great ones even better. Sometimes I suck, but I never quit, so I kept on running as best as I could, ignoring my feet and my lungs and watching the miles pass by way too slowly. When I approached Cat Hill for the second time, my legs refused to keep running so I stopped to walk for a minute, remembered my GU and figured I might as well see if a little chocolate flavored ooze might help my effort. And it did! I was able to power through the last few miles of the race and complete with a 1:36:16, a respectable 10:21 pace. Certainly not my fastest or happiest race, but one during which I learned many lessons. And as a bonus, I got to meet Idiot Runner just after the finish line. There's something about meeting awesome runners after a shitty race, even if just for a brief minute, that makes it all ok, you know?

FYI, this picture is a giant lie. This was probably the only moment I actually had a smile during this race. I saw the camera, looked up & faked a big one. I was still freezing and miserable, I promise.



Now you may ask why on earth I would take the time over a month after this race to recap it if it sucked so bad. Because I'm hoping you can offer some advice on how to better approach those in between distances in the future. In case you didn't notice, I didn't write anything about pacing myself and that's because once I started running, I realized I had no idea what pacing would be for a 15k. And I obviously didn't plan on when I was going to GU it, but the GU did help and I wonder if I should've taken it earlier. So many questions.... So dear runners, I would truly appreciate any advice you can throw my way. How do you prepare for, dress for, fuel for, hydrate for, pace for, etc for those in between distances? Any comments or links to posts with advice would be greatly appreciated. I'm planning on participating in NYRR's 9+1 program again for automatic entry into NYCM 2012 and would love to add more of these longer distance races into my calendar. Let's hope my next recaps show some improvement.

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