June 10, 2011

Celebrate Israel Race Recap

Saturday I hiked. Sunday I raced... and I kicked ass. I really didn't expect to kick ass, I expected to suck bad and possibly DNF (did not finish). I should probably back up a bit and explain.

When I first heard about this race, I knew I had to participate no matter what. The minute the race was open for registration, I was online signing up.  I LOVE Israel. "LOVE" is probably an understatement and if I could think of a word that could express my feelings for the country, I would use it. When I'm there, I feel something I've never felt anywhere else. It's a beautiful thing.
Me & My Family in Israel. Please ignore the ugly hair clip. Thanks.
But as the race approached, I realized it was more likely that I would be running this one instead of racing it, if even that. For one, I had planned a hike the day before with Jess and was looking forward to tackling some steep rocks. I'd also made plans for the night before and ended up going to a birthday party on the pier at 70th street and then to a party downtown with a friend. I hydrated with water at the pier, but with watermelon and vodka at the party. Not exactly gatorade!

I woke up Sunday morning and to say my legs felt tight would be an understatement. My calves were cramped as I limped out of bed for some water, to make coffee and to eat a banana. I wasn't that hungry, ate only half the banana and forgot to eat the other half as I got ready for the race. As per my typical pre-race routine, I drank my coffee in the shower, talked to my stomach begging it to digest but no such luck in that department. I ended up heading to the start line with sore legs, an empty growling stomach, not much water, and no luck in the bathroom (TMI perhaps but if you run, you understand).

My friend G and I met up with Melissa and headed towards Central Park for what I was sure would be an epic failure. Did I mention this was only a 4 mile race? Such a short one, and I still thought I might have to walk... you could imagine just how crappy I was feeling. When we got there, I bumped into Robin who I like to pretend is my little sister, and who just returned from a trip to Israel. The girl was still glowing from the experience and I was so happy to wish her luck on her race! G went off to meet up with a friend, Melissa and I headed to drop off baggage and I bumped into another friend Jeannie, who was excited to run her first race. So awesome to see her & encourage her! We then headed to the corrals, I said goodbye to Melissa who would start in a faster one, and headed to the grass for a minute of pigeon pose on each leg as someone sang the Hatikva. I then entered my packed corral and waited for the race to begin.

Once we began, I was shocked at how good I felt. My calves weren't cramping and my legs no longer felt very heavy. My stomach was growling but I reminded myself that I could handle 4 miles without lots of fuel. I hit mile one, which included the infamous Cat Hill, at exactly 9 minutes and just tried to keep my pace steady for mile 2. It seems that I succeeded because I hit mile 2 almost exactly 9 minutes later. That's when I realized I might actually have a great race after all and decided to go all out and see what I could do.

Mile 3 was a bit more difficult as it included the rolling hills along the west side of the park. By the end of the mile, my legs began to feel heavy and I was getting tired. I approached the water station and decided to walk through it to give myself 30 seconds of recovery in the hope that I might finish strong. And then I was off trying to kick mile 4's butt. I spotted a friend cheering as I approached 72nd street, turned the corner and then saw G and heard him call my name as I headed towards the finish line. I completed the race with a time of 35:38 or an 8:54 pace, almost a 3 minute PR! As you can tell from the picture, I was spent!
It would have been lovely to get a finish line picture of me actually crossing but just as I approached, one of the runners got on his knee and proposed to his running partner, who I assumed was his girlfriend. She said yes, they started making out right before the finish line and the cameras were all focused on the big romantic event. Way to ruin it for the rest of us buddy! Just kidding ;) Mazel Tov to the happy couple but why he didn't wait until after they crossed the finish line so they would have a better finish time, I'll never understand.

So, that's my race recap for the race that was almost just a crappy run. Who knows... maybe I had religion on my side that day... or maybe I just rock. Whatever the case, it felt great and I had a giant smile on my face for the rest of the day. Next up is the NYRR Mini 10k in Central Park this weekend. Stay tuned....
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