Monday, September 23, 2013

A 5th Avenue Mile Race Report

This weekend I had my final long run before my Chicago taper; I also had a race...on the same day. or the past four years, I've run NYRR's 5th Avenue Mile. It's always a ton of fun, getting to sprint down 5th Ave and then watching your teammates and pro runners to the same. Unfortunately, the race always falls during fall marathon training which means there's always a long run to do on the same weekend. Some years--like this year--it's doubly unfortunate because the mile falls on a Sunday.

Last year, with the race on Saturday, I was able to do my long run the following day. This year, I opted against going into the race with tired legs so I took Saturday off.* Of course, last week was my peak week of training, so one measly day of rest didn't mean all that much. I even had two weekdays last week with over 15 miles--not exactly a recipe for a solid mile time.

I knew going into the race that I wasn't in the best shape for short speed. While last year I practiced the mile several times leading up the race, this year I hadn't done any speedwork at faster than half marathon pace in over a month.

Also going against me was the fact that I raced the previous two weekends. Knowing all of this, I set a modest goal for myself of running a sub-5:30 mile. (Four years ago, I ran this race massively hungover and still managed to eek out a 5:25 so I figured sub-5:30 was realistic).

I didn't get to do my usual warm-up because I didn't get back into the city until an hour before the race and had to cab to the start. I did manage a couple strides and a couple form drills, but that's a far cry from the 2 to 3 easy miles I usually like to do first.

Feeling less than warm-up, I made my way to the packed starting area for the Men 15-29 heat. I managed to get relatively close to the front but didn't seen any teammates.

When the gun went off, I took off, trying to avoid slower runners in front of me while not tripping up faster runners trying to pass me. The race is market every quarter mile and the first 400m are downhill. I looked at my watch--1:17--I could have been pleased, but instead I was concerned. I was sure I needed to slow down in order to finish standing upright. 

The second 400 contains the only real uphill on the course. The combination of the incline and my worry about my pace meant I reached the 1/2 mile at 2:45. This was a little too close for comfort if I wanted to break 5:30.

I got my legs to move a little fast, but not much. With no real recent speedwork, I simply couldn't find a higher gear to shift into. My team was cheering at the 3/4 mark, which helped mentally but didn't give my legs a boost. I ran the third 400 and the final 400 1:22 a piece, meaning my finishing time was 5:29. It was my slowest time on 5th Avenue, but given my lack of specific training I feel pretty good about it.

The hard part came after the mile when it was time to run 19 more miles. Thankfully, several of my teammates also had long runs to do so I had company the entire way. I actually finished feeling pretty strong, but I am definitely ready for my taper!

*Full disclosure: I spent Saturday helping my girlfriend's parents move, so while I didn't run, it's hard to count that as a total rest day.

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