Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Manhattan Grand Prix Race Report
I ran the Manhattan Grand Prix this past Sunday. It was hard. First of all, I don't do well in such cold weather. The temperature registered at 15º at the start, and by the end only warmed up to 18º. (Don't even get me started with the wind chill factor.)
I woke up at 4:30am to get ready. Got about 4-5 layers on and got my gear to go. Realized I forgot to get any bread for toast, so I had to make do without eating anything. Downed a glass of orange juice to wake me up. That would come back to haunt me later.
Made my way out the door at 5:30. The race started at 8:00am, but since I didn't have any time prior to pick up my race pack, I had to head to Road Runners to pick it up before heading to the start. And because it was Sunday, I knew I had to get out earlier in case there was any train trouble. Thankfully I left at that time because due to the track work and weekend schedules, I had to take 4 trains to get to the start!
By the time I got to Central Park it was about 7:30am. Just in time to check my bag and head to the start. I was a bit nervous since I haven't done any hills in a long time, and Central Park is notorious for it's Harlem Hill. As usual, I started all the way in the back. It was so cold, that the layers I intended to take off stayed on. No way I would've been able to run with what I was wearing underneath!
The first 3 miles were fine. I was running along at my usual slow pace and warmed up somewhat. Then mile 4. Harlem Hill. For those that have never run Central Park, let me tell you about Harlem Hill. After a flat and straight path up the east side of Manhattan, the course slowly curves in then down into a twisty snake of a path. It flattens out for about 100 yards or so before another snake-like turn, this time curving upwards. The elevation difference between the start and finish is about 100ft. And while running it in the summertime is not so unbearable, running it in the wintertime was utterly painful. (Did I mention I haven't done hills in a while?)
That took a lot out of me. Somewhere around mile 5 I took my first water and a gel for good measure. When I passed by the water table and picked up a cup, I tried to drink and realized that the water was frozen over on top! I had to use a knuckle to knock a hole in the middle. This would repeat the rest of the water stops I stopped at. I found it a bit amusing.
Mile 6 was probably my fastest mile. I might have broken my 10k PR, which I was a bit psyched about. (I clocked in at 1:18ish) Only thing is there's no way to tell since the time allowance for the back of the pack. Everyone's time started with the clock.
Around mile 7 I realized I was starting to get cold. As much as I ran already, I couldn't warm up. Even with gloves my hands were really cold. I kept my hands in a closed fist almost all the way, and the insides of my wrists were starting to feel cramped up. I was starting to feel drained. Earlier that morning I made the decision not to take my fuel belt and to rely on the water stations for water. And of course, being as slow as I was, it became a race to get to the stations before they broke down. This happened at mile 8 when I was hoping to take in another gel. By the time I reached them there was no water available. I took half a gel without water, but I knew it was too little too late. The only thing I hoped for at this point was that the next water station would be open so I can at least get some liquids. Thankfully, after the down loop on Harlem Hill mid-mile 9, there was one lone water table left and I took another frozen cup, this time just running with it until past mile 10 near the reservoir.
By the time I reached mile 11 I was all out freezing. My legs felt like bricks as I willed them to move forward. Let me just say that from that point on, it was a physical battle to make it to the finish. Mentally I was fine. I knew this course fairly well. But between the biting cold and now wind, my whole body was threatening to seize up. I didn't wear my knee brace and my right knee started hurting with each step. I was aware that I was one of the very few left because the orange cones that marked the race course disappeared. There were a lot of people out. Mile 12 was a welcomed sight as I passed the start line for the second time. I knew the end was near. Mile 13 I couldn't feel my legs and my entire body was just heavy. My back was hurting also and I wasn't sure why. But once I made that final turn into the finish I was relieved more than anything else. I found my way to the bagels and scarfed it down. (Isn't it funny how stuff tastes soooo good after a race?)
Running in such cold weather is humbling. It really made me think twice about doing it again. I thought I was prepared with all the layers I had on, but even with a technical base layer, a dri-fit over that, a wind layer, and a sweatshirt (!) and two bottom layers (!) I was not prepared. Then add on the fact that I started running without eating, I knew I was going to have a hard time.
I ran with my Sportband, but for some reason I can't upload it to my Nike page, so I can't analyze what I did. After writing to the Road Runners to inquire about my score, they added it into the official results. 3:02:04, about 2 minutes off my last half and 17 off my best, but hey, I'll take it for what it's worth.