Placed in a Race … A Cupcake Run, on My Birthday!

This morning I ran the first ever NYC Cupcake Run in Astoria Park in Queens, NY. I ran it in 21:13, placing second overall!

(It was advertised as a 5K, meaning 3.1 miles, though I measured it more like 2.88 miles. No biggy! Just FYI.)

Here are my stats from Garmin:

I was excited for this race. Put together by the same person who puts together the NYC Pizza Run, this was hard to turn down because a) it happened on my birthday, making it a great birthday-cake substitute, and b) it was in Astoria, which is where I live.

Jason, the organizer, knew I did a nice amount of tweeting about the event, and from those tweets he realized it was going to be my birthday. So with incredible kindness and forethought, when I checked in Jason handed me something special: A birthday hat! I wore it the entire race.

Speaking of the race, it started a few minutes after 11am on Shore Boulevard and ran at first on the shoreline sidewalk along Astoria Park. I started with the front group of runners and eventually was leading the pack for much of that first leg, coming into the first cupcake station in first place. I did not presume this to mean I was going to win — in fact, I took this to mean that I need to pace myself else I’ll burn out and definitely get passed later. Into the first cupcake station, I plowed into a very rich cupcake, demolishing it. I had wanted to pick up water here but I actually didn’t see any! Fortunately the cupcakes were moist with very creamy frosting, making them easy to cram. A second or so after I realized it had made it into my mouth, I took off, maintaining my first-place position.

It was after halfway down Hoyt before the left turn that the other runner I was up against (John) overtook me. I had been slowed as I tried to consume the cupcake in my mouth and as I struggled to get it down without choking. I realized that maybe I should have spent more time swallowing the cupcake than just getting it into my mouth because maybe my time could have been better spent running. Oh well. John got quite a distance ahead of me and I was pretty certain I wouldn’t catch him, so I focused largely on maintaining my second-place position.

Into the second cupcake station I saw John and told him not to let me beat him! I grabbed a water and I remember virtually nothing about this cupcake, only that I lost the cap to my water bottle in trying to figure out how to wet the cupcake in my mouth. John left before I did but I watched him get about the same distance as before away from me before I shot out of the station as I think as other runners were arriving. Without the cap on my water, I plugged my index finger into the bottle and ran like that, trying to gain something on John.

I was going at a pretty decent clip. I’d had some caffeine earlier and I haven’t really been running, so I was a bit surprised that I was running at a decent clip and not really losing my breath. I hit the third cupcake station and engulfed a chocolate cupcake along with some kind of chocolate piece atop it. I don’t remember its making it into my mouth. However, there are going to be some great photos on the Facebook page for the event, for sure, as I understand I might have been one of the more rabid consumers of the race’s signature food item. I guess I was more competitive in this race than I realized!

John was long gone and while the water did help the cupcake go down, it was going to be hard to catch him. It seemed to me I didn’t have anyone behind me but I didn’t check. I basically settled in to finishing second with my birthday cap on, knowing that a second-place finish would actually win me a prize. Just as I was turning onto the last leg, my friend Jono, whom I’d told about the race just that morning and who lives around the corner, started cheering my name! It was cool to see him show up to cheer me on. I shouted that I was in second … and fortunately I held onto that position as I crossed the finish in 21:13, making for nearly 7:40s without pausing the stopwatch at the cupcake stations. Such a cool happening on my birthday!

Afterward I met several of the other runners and their friends and just hung out (hanged out?) in the park. People seemed happy and seemed to have a great time. There was no vomiting from what I could tell, and fewer people seemed to look “sick” compared to the NYC Pizza Run. I’d definitely recommend doing this run in 2014 … it’s for charity!

Darn … Missed a PR …

This morning I ran the Percy Sutton Harlem 5K. It was 74 degrees with about 85% humidity under cloudy skies. I finished in 20:40 (6:40s), which was 37 seconds off my PR for a 5K set on this course in 2009.

Here are my unofficial Garmin results, which imply I ran more around 6:33s rather than 6:40s:

This morning I did a quick measure of my prior record on this course (20:03). I resolved that I wanted to run a sub-20:00, which equated to sub-6:26s. Having only run once this week (a 10-miler) and only about 29 miles last week (after two 60+-mile weeks in a row), I figured I’d have some fitness in me but I did feel flabby and weaker. The question would be about my cardiovascular health in trying to go faster.

I decided to think this way about the race:

a) the last .1 mile would need to be run in about 45 seconds, which would probably feel fast
b) I should try to manage 6:26s or lower
c) I should avoid the temptation to go too fast in the beginning of the race
d) the first mile has some long inclines from what I remembered, so plan for those
e) the last mile of the race has some steep downhills from what I remembered, so take advantage of those
f) calculate the seconds you need to shave off in light of your prior miles in order to achieve your goal
g) and cut tangents

I tried all of that.

Tangents weren’t that important in this race–I hugged the curb and generally cut diagonals where I could.

The first mile I held back on my pace (it’s downhill from the beginning and the excitement can make you push your speed, only to encounter a steep uphill around the .5-mile mark and drain you), which allowed me better push up the hill (a trick I learned in my last 10K in Central Park).

My Garmin said my first mile was run in 6:33, which was a good sign for what I thought would be my slowest mile, but my slowest mile was actually my second mile, which showed me unnoticeably “sluggisher” and unable to really push my speed much, and which had some unfriendly uphill climbs at least two, maybe three times. (I lost about 5 seconds on the second mile.)

I took advantage of the downhills, but I found that I really couldn’t push myself much. Part of it was mental, brought on by my inexperience training these last couple weeks: I was relatively afraid of what sprinting a bit would mean to the rest of my race. I only gained about 4 seconds relative to my first mile, which surprised me because I thought I would end up with considerably more seconds banked here.

I did do the math. At one point I realized I needed to shave off 18 seconds to match my record, which seemed like just an insurmountable task for me at this pace unless I could capitalize on the hills. When I saw I wasn’t shaving off these seconds on them, I realized pretty close to the end of the race I wouldn’t achieve a PR. I pushed myself as best I could to the end, not even able to do my usual sprint finish (suggesting I put my all into this race). All in all, I think this ended up being my second-fastest 5K (I haven’t run many 5K races), though I may have run faster 5Ks inside longer races in my life.

Before the race, I warmed my legs up with a jog for about 5 blocks to the race start. After getting my bib and checking my baggage, I also stretched then ran a couple sprints up a steep park hill next to the start of the race. Things seemed pretty good in my legs, and I was happy to warm them up. The humidity didn’t seem to be too much of a factor, though it was more humid-feeling than I was expecting. I don’t recall the exact weather from my 2009 PR, but I do remember it as humid and cloudy, perhaps more humid than today was.

The prior day’s caffeine intake led to a very dehydrated body and dry mouth at the beginning of the race. Knowing this would be the case ahead of time, I took in some water right out of bed. I had a 2x caffeine PowerGel just before 7am, then about 10 minutes before the race I had an uncaffeinated PowerGel for some extra help. I took in a couple cups of water before the race and I felt fine. I wasn’t affected by the caffeinated PowerGel during this race (shallow breathing, heart palpitations, etc.), so that was a good thing, and my breathing was relatively measured (though I tried to quicken it to quicken my pace at times).

Anyway, shows to go ya. This race is a good measure of my fitness level and my marathon training goals, especially relative to my banner 2009 year. It implies what kind of focus I need in my next training, both nutritionally and physically. Specifically, I think I need to work some speedwork in more. I still wrestle with doing that, especially considering that I’ve fallen in love with LSD running (“long, slow distance running”). It quickened me for the Boomer’s Run to Breathe PR, but probably not enough for these shorter races. I need to really focus on the Fifth Avenue Mile, which is another favorite race of mine and where it would be incredible if I PR’d this year. Can I do it?

Not Bad for about 87 Degrees

Today I ran the Help Fight Drug Abuse 5K Run/Walk sponsored by the Federation of Italian American Organizations of Queens. While I had the goal of running it under 20 minutes, it was quite warm and humid out and I didn’t quite make my goal. No matter, though: I felt pretty good and pretty strong for where I am in my training. Per my Garmin, I finished in 21:17, managing 6:49s. Official results are posted on the FIAO website, which say I finished in 21:10.

Elizabeth ran with her boyfriend Chris, too. Elizabeth actually came in 2nd overall for women! While I overtook her in the beginning and thought she wouldn’t catch up given an injury she’s been dealing with, she officially “spanked” me (literally and figuratively) just after the 1-mile mark before the turnaround in Astoria Park. I never caught her. I think she ran about 10-seconds per mile faster than me, whose cardiovascular system currently isn’t as developed as hers. Hopefully later this summer I’ll get my chance to “spank” her!

It was a small, fun, and even funny race. Beside the entertaining announcer, the race just suddenly started out of nowhere when we were lazily chatting. And we were off! I didn’t know the course so it was a bit like running in the dark, but it was a short race so that wasn’t too daunting. The opening hill seemed to have a longer downhill, which spelled a long uphill on the turnaround toward the end. The heat was about 87 degrees with 60% humidity maybe–thick but not impossible, especially for this distance.

Below are the unofficial Garmin stats.