This past weekend I was supposed to be golfing in Hilton Head South Carolina. When that fell through, I was supposed to be lounging on the beach in Atlantic City. Instead, I was waking up at 6am on Saturday to drag my butt up to Harlem to run the Percy Sutton Harlem 5K. Nevermind that I hadn't raced since May 3rd (the New Jersey Marathon). I hadn't raced in so long that I missed the change over to the new disposable chip timers that NYRR has instituted. While they seem more efficient, I'm not sure if the effect is "greener" or not. I mean, on one hand you aren't wasting that little plastic bag and the red ties, but on the other it seems like there is the electronic waste from the chip timer.
I was staying at my brother's place in Queens, so I did not have access to my standard coffee, toast, peanut butter, banana breakfast. I foraged through some drawers and found an old box of Maple and Brown sugar Instant Oatmeal. I could do worse. I wolfed it down, grabbed my race stuff and headed out the door. I made it in time to do a quick half-mile warm up (actually, I was late and ran from the 125th street stop to the starting line at 135tb street...sounds better the first way though, right?). It was unbelievably muggy and I was still battling a nagging cough from a few weeks ago. Needless to say, inhaling in 98% humidity with a slight drag of mucus (ew. I know.) in your lungs feels similar to what I can only imagine inhaling paint feels like. Now do that while running. Uncomfortable, to say the least.
It was a smaller race, around 2,000 people, so I didn't feel like I was tripping over anyone to get into my run zone. There were some pretty steep hills on the way up, and I clocked my first mile at around 7:59. Good, but not great, since I was already inhaling Benjamin Moore and my first mile is generally the fastest (because I go out fast and then have to pull back toward the end). However, I didn't take into account the fact that BECAUSE the first mile was largely uphill, a good amount on the back half was downhill. I really didn't think I was going anywhere near fast (because I wasn't calculating my mile splits, only my overall time) and didn't expect a very fast finish. That was, until I got to the 3rd mile marker and the clock read around 24 minutes. I was shocked. I was about 30 seconds from the gun time, which meant that at my current pace, I was definitely under 8 minute miles. That has never happened to me. I crossed the finish at 24:07, averaging 7:46 minute miles.
I'm still on a runner's high about this. After running races for 6 months from Spring 2008 - Winter 2008/2009, I happily watched my times drop dramatically. But all my spring races I paced around the same: 8:15 minute miles, 8:00 minute miles, 8:30 minute miles. I just wanted to elusive "sub-8 minute mile". I ran the New Jersey marathon, took some time off, traveled a bunch, and effectively stopped racing. But my marathon training has effectively put me in better shape -- upping my mileage, combining hill and speed work, doing longer and longer runs. The result has been shaving FOURTEEN SECONDS off my 5K pace.
I'm running a marathon in 3 weeks and I am hoping to run it sub-4 hours. Until the Percy Sutton 5K, I thought it would be tight, but now I'm way more optimistic. Who would have thought that such a terrible weekend for making plans would turn into one of my best racing weekends ever?!