Saturday, February 7, 2009

New Balance Invitational

1st run: ~5 min. shakeout run
Race: 2 mile w/u + strides, stretching
Target: 5k race in 17:30
Actual: 5k race in 17:27
2.5 mile c/d
Total: 8 miles

When I woke up this morning in my 10x10 "room" I was still feeling pretty under the weather. Despite pounding cold meds for the previous 24 hours, I was still very congested and runny and sneezy and otherwise not attractive. I was frustrated, but what can you do? I crossed my fingers that I could feel decent for the 20-minute segment of the day when I would be racing but wasn't too optimistic.

Jeff and Jilane had already gone over to the Armory with Matt (who was running the earliest race), so the rest of us had until 8am to pack our things and get in a quick shakeout. Jess, Tanya and I used the shakeout as an opportunity to run back over to Central Park and take some pics (all of which were on Tanya's camera so I'll post them when I get them). The day was cold but clear and would've been beautiful weather for an outdoor race or perhaps a leisurely jaunt through the park. With the way my stomach was tossi
ng and turning with nerves, I would've preferred either of those options to the race I was actually about to participate in.

Once we arrived at the Armory there wasn't much time to sit around before it was time to warm up. The girls and I jogged around the nearby streets, which aren't exactly in the trendiest part of town and are probably exactly what you think of when you picture the dirty an
d crowded streets of this city. Checking in for our race took forever, which meant a truncated warmup, and by the time the race approached I wasn't feeling as loose or prepared as I'd liked. Unlike in Tennessee, when the track was fair game for strides and stretching between races, at this meet you weren't allowed on the track at all until you were lining up for your race. Makes things more professional, I suppose, but also more nerve-wracking for the competitors (or at least for me).

Me at the starting line, third from left. Photo credit Owen Washburn
and the "screen capture" feature

Before I knew it we were toeing the line, and then the race was off. I tried to push all thoughts of nervousness and sickness aside and just compete in my race. I was able to locate Jeff and Jilane almost immediately by the sound of their voices as I rounded the first curve, and I told myself to tune everyone else out and just listen to their splits and instructions each time I went around. As an aside here, I cannot tell you how amazing it was to have Jilane there cheering me on at the meet. She helped calm me down and kept me encouraged throughout the race, and I couldn't have been happier to have her there on the sidelines (I suggested that she run unattached and help pace me, but that didn't go over too well).

Back in the race, the first mile passed almost before I knew it. I was supposed to go through around 5:35 and I was just a few seconds faster at 5:33. This was only 3-4 seconds slower than I went through the mile during last weekend's 3k, but today it felt much more comfortable and relaxed. After hearing Jeff and Jilane's instructions to "tuck in," I was fortunate enough to latch onto a group of two girls (one was from BYU, possibly both) who were running remarkably even splits. I decided to just sit on them for as long as possible and harness their energy. At this point we weren't passing many people but weren't being passed either, but I knew from Jilane and Jeff's comments that the pacing was dead on what I was supposed to run so I continued with my plan. I still felt comfortable through the second mile and knew I really needed to dig in and start competing all the way to the finish line.

I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but somewhere around there I got lapped by the leaders. According to Owen and Jordan, who were both watching the race online, it looked as though I adopted their pace and started running with them for a bit, which is how they both knew I could probably run faster than the pace I was actually maintaining. I don't really remember that, but at any rate I knew the pace was finally starting to feel a bit difficult and my breathing a bit labored, and I was ready to wrap things up. With one lap to go I took off and passed several girls immediately, then tried to maintain the pace toward the end. Unfortunately one of the girl I passed totally snuck up on my on the final straight and ended up passing me back, but nonetheless I finished strong and clocked an official 17:27 as my time.

Needless to say, when Jilane showed me the stopwatch (the official clock stopped after the winner crossed the line, so I wasn't really sure what I'd run), I was pretty ecstatic. This was my first 5k ever indoors (or outdoors, for that matter), and I was pleased to run faster than I'd expected while feeling comfortable doing it. Granted, this track is super fast (as my friend and former Princeton runner Ben Stern said later that night, "It feels like you're running downhill the entire time!"), and the surface combined with the way it was banked felt awesome. But regardless, I know I can run faster. This time is already a provisional qualifier for the DII Indoor National meet, and both Jeff and Scott are 100% confident I will get in, so that's another goal checked off the list. This means that for the rest of the indoor season I can just focus on training and improving fitness rather than preparing for a specific race (until nationals, of course), so I hope to make some quantifiable fitness gains within the next month.

As with most race recaps, this post is already way too long, but I hope it conveys my general excitement and eagerness to get back on the track again. I would be remiss to not give Tanya and Jess shoutouts, as both PRed. Tanya ran an NCAA auto qualifier of 16:54 and Jess set a 15-second PR of 18:28. Overall this was a great race for us and an amazing experience at one of the best indoor track meets in the US.