Sunday, March 1, 2009

RACE REPORT: Coogan's Salsa & Blues

Despite the Clint Eastwood advertisement touting my need to break 23:36, my previous course record in Washington Heights, I never thought of it during the race. In fact, I had even forgotten what my best pace had been. I figured it was around 7:40 or so, and that was after the race had ended. My concerns lay more with the weather, for who even the guy manning the PA lamented "Maybe ONE year we'll actually see some sun at this race!"

The temperature was about 30, and to me this is not cold. The humidity however was at 74% at race time. Between that and the wind which was whipping around 20mph, this was very bone-chilling event for me. Cold and dry is acceptable, but cold, wet and windy? Very undesireable indeed.

They moved the start of the race, from Fort Washington Avenue and 168th Street (at the corner of the US Track & Field Hall of Fame/Armory), 4 blocks north to 172nd. Knowing how difficult this race is for parking, I made my way up there and left very early. Fortunately, I found a mint spot on 168th near Broadway at around 7:20am which gave me enough time to get my race number.

The indoor track was very beautiful. Instead of being flat though, it actually sloped looking more like a velodrome for cycling, than anything else. I went and got my number. Ahhhh. I was official again for the 4th time this year.

NYRR expected big things from me apparently. The race number I got had me in the Red corral (second only to the Blue "Elite" corral). Normally the race number you get also has to do somewhat with your expected placement too. A runner who gets something like 4000, is expected to finish around that place, while an elite runner who gets 25, is ranked 25th for this race. My number was "1218" so basically, another goal was for me to place ahead of that.

Too cold for my own good, I left my patagonia jacket on. I've never actually worn this for racing before, but due to its lightweight, wind breaking material, it turned out to be a lifesaver, really. In fact, I wasn't even hot at the finish line, which reconfirmed my decision to wearing that extra layer of fabric.

Right up to the final minutes before the race began, I had realized that I over hydrated. About 30 minutes prior I had consumed 16 ounces of G2 (Diet Gatorade) followed by another 16 of Sugar Free Red Bull. Even though I relieved my bladder about 5 minutes later, I knew that what I had just taken in wouldn't hit until later on. I had to go so bad I was even thinking of temporarily jumping out of my corral and looking for a place to pee, like against a building. Some runners were coming out of buildings, and I was getting delirious thinking there were bathrooms inside. Of course, they were just staying in the lobbies and keeping warm. One of the runners caught my attention. It wasn't because his shirt said "Fuck You Fucking Fuckers", it was because he was in the Elite group and his race number was "70". LOL. I never knew runners that good had a sense of humor!

My bladder was aching, and I realized that I was going to have a problem on my hand (or rather somewhere else). I did everything to not focus on it. As soon as the gun went off, I was no longer thinking about it.

Instead, I started thinking of last years' run. That was the run where I got beat by a 7-year old kid (blog for that is here -> I GOT BEATEN BY A 7-YEAR OLD). However, it was also the race where I had broken my previous course PR with a time of 23:36 too.

As usual, the race boasted it's variety of live bands playing celtic, jazz and latin music (hence the name Coogan's Salsa & Blues). We ran under the overpass of the George Washington bridge to thunderous applause. There was even a mariachi band to our right, near 185th street. I had my iPod shuffle loaded with only the most energetic metal and techno music I could find. Despite the glut of people, I was running fairly quickly from the beginning. There were a few minor incidents of people barreling past me. Shockingly, they were all women. Looks like they had something to prove that day alright.

My stopwatch had been giving me problems, so unfortunately I do not have mile splits. I think I had done the first mile in about 7:30 though. As I've blogged in the past, Coogan's is a race of downhills and uphills. I focused on using my arms to pump me through only when needed and breathe in the same matter as well. I never stopped for water at all throughout the race, and not that it would have helped anyway. The ground around the water tables were skating rinks, and the cups themselves had ice cubes where once water was. And of course, there was that piss rock stuck inside my groin too....

Since the race started a few blocks north from years past, it also meant we would also go a little deeper into Fort Tryon park as well. Despite how we were in the "dead" of winter, I was imagining what a beautiful park it must be during the rest of the year. This, as I was running counter-clockwise around the circle with 4700 other runners.

The course remains as an out-n-back course, and as I was marching back up the hill to exit the park, I got an extra booster seeing how many people were still entering the park. "Not bad for a 43-year old" I kept thinking to myself.

Of course, the toughest part of the course for me every year is not only running back up and out of Fort Tryon, but the stretch of roadway between Fort Tryon and Bennett Park. Well, at least there were no 7-year olds passing me this time.

It was psychologically soothing to see the finish line placed in a closer spot than it had been in recent years past. After sprinting past the finish line, I looked at my watch 23:23. Even then, I wasn't sure whether I had broken my record or not, but I had a good feeling, and kept refreshing my iPhone's web browser to see when the results posted up.

My official time would turn out to be 23:24, good enough for a 7:32 pace. I broke my course record by 5 full seconds per mile. And I did it under adverse conditions (over-weight, over-bladdered, and over-cold. Among Males, I came in 875th out of 2604, and in my age group for males, I came in 123 out of 310 runners. Most importantly however, was that thing about my race number. Remember? My race number was "1218".....but I came in 1055!

My next adventure is the Colon Cancer Challenge in Central Park on March 22.
It is a 15K (9.3 mile run), or triple the length of this race. I've only run a 15K twice before, with last year's "colon", being my fastest at 1:17:30, (a pace of 8:20). I should be able to beat it, however, Central Park is a bitch. I better start reading my race report from last year ( 2008 Colon Cancer Challenge ) to best prepare of this run!


Anonymous said...

Way to go! At least the short distance meant you didn't have to hold it in as long...

I was glad the snow and sleet was not as originally predicted.

Alex Gonzalez said...

Yes! Especially when going downhill into Fort Tryon.

DGA said...

Funny, you can wear a T-Shirt fit for The Sopranos, but you cannot say the word "shit" on public television! How's that for hypocrisy?
No, this time you were not passed by any 7-year old...because from the gunshot start two of them took off like Maseratis and neverlooked back. Check all the statistics.
Nevertheless, you did great breaking your own personal record, especially being overweight and after indulging the night prior to the event in two bottles of wine, a dozen raw clams, and 6 halfback baby ribs, with lots of garlic bread!
I know, it is all bullshit, but it makes for a good comment.

DebbieJRT said...

Congrats! I was about 3 minutes behind you. I had a good time - the weather was fantastic, especially considering I almost stayed in bed and missed the race altogether.

I think you need to come and do the hills in Alley Pond. Great preparation for this race. :-}