All Things Considered, Not That Bad!

Today I ran the New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile in 6:09. Not great, but not that bad considering this intense summer of work!

Today’s race was my slowest Fifth Avenue Mile ever, but I didn’t legitimately train for it as I had hoped to do. My last time running this race was 5:51 in 2018, so this race was 18 seconds slower. However, I’m not too bummed about that, and I’m actually slightly impressed that I pulled off a 6:09 because I’ve been really pressed to get in runs and workouts amid working nearly seven days a week with early calltimes, while training for a fall marathon.  I don’t have the kind of time some people do to train!

Here are my unofficial results per my Garmin:

Like last time, I jogged from my home area to get to the starting line around E. 80th St.  That was a 1.43-mile run that I lazily did at an 8:29 pace — not too fast, and not super slow. It was cloudy, almost as if it could rain. The humidity was 70%, the dewpoint was 61, and the temperature was around 72. It didn’t feel all that humid, but they were suboptimal conditions, especially considering my lack of training.

I wasn’t sure what would happen in this race. My last run — a 10-miler on Thursday — had me running my last mile at a 2022 “record” (per Garmin) of 7:16. I had some sense that might be my upper border for this race, unless sprinting overcame me. But my training has been mostly longer runs often of 8 miles or longer, and I’ve only sporadically added in hills and sprints, pretty much in ways that unlikely had measurable impact. My calltimes have been such that I would get into Central Park often in the 5am hour, and it was a desperate race to get in my mileage before a 12-hour day on a TV show coupled with voiceover orders after. If I didn’t feel like a long run, instead of opting for a short run, I’d hit the gym, which I generally couldn’t also do on running days. It’s a wonder I didn’t end up injured after all this, because I’ve been getting by with about 4 hours or so of sleep too many nights!

My math was that hitting 71st St. at 3:00 meant I was on pace to possibly run this race in 6:00. Drilling down, my math was that at the 1/4-mile mark, that meant running a 1:30. I thought it unlikely either of these events would happen, so I also figured that a 1/4-mile 1:45 and a 71st St. 3:30 would mean I was on pace for a 7:00 mile.

After the gun went off, it actually took me about 30 seconds to cross the start line. I was surprised by that, but not unnerved — it just meant the clock wasn’t that telling about my actual pace. My watch was a bit hard to read with respect to my current pace, but I figured that somewhere vaguely around the 3/4-mile mark I was at 4:43. This was telling me that I could try to speed things up. I know I’ve powered through fierce sprints at the ends of these races, and I actually enjoy them. I ended up putting on those jets again with one of my classic “super sprints” around the sign for 200 meters to go (perhaps not as impressively as I might have liked), but it had to help. I probably ended this race was some gas still in the tank, but that I didn’t expend it all was because at the beginning, having not trained, it was difficult to mete out my energy, especially considering the first part of the race with exuberant runners is downhill, and I’ve learned not to go too fast at the start of this race.

I’m carrying more muscle than usual (not to say I’m at a fully health weight), weighing for this around 186.8 lbs at the start. (About 8 lbs heavier than last time.) This added weight probably slowed me down a little, but it’s hard to blame my weight for the slower time. Although not having trained is the most important factor, the humidity and warm temperature also played a factor, perhaps the scariest factor in the leadup to this race as I felt it would dictate how good or bad I felt running this.

As I write this recap, I’m wondering if next year I can run this race by focusing solely on it and not on any marathons. We’ll see!

Fast — But Fast Enough?

Today I ran the New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile in 5:51 — and what a race it was!

While today’s race was my slowest Fifth Avenue Mile to date, I actually trained for it, beat my goal of a sub-6:00, and felt a little disappointed that I didn’t race harder because I had a long-lasting sprinting finish!

Here are my unofficial results per my Garmin:

I jogged from my home area to get to the starting line at E. 80th St.  That was a 1.43-mile run that I lazily did at an 8:15 pace — not too fast, and not super slow. We had a surprise break in the temperature — it was about 56 degrees with a dewpoint around 51, which meant the 80% humidity didn’t do much harm. It felt like perfect race weather!

I ran on the bridal path while it rained a little and the ground was wet. I noticed after landing at the start that this meant I got a few specks of dirt in my shoes and in my socks, so I made sure to clean them out before the race began. Imagine if during the race I had to deal with a painful rock in my shoe or sock!

My training has been mostly focused on this race for about a month. I had been running mostly single loops around Central Park before I entered, and after I entered, I decided to start putting sprints into my schedule. I used the 102nd Street Transverse as my nearby location to do those sprints. My first couple times were doing .12-mile sprints (roughly 200 meters), and eventually I did .25-mile sprints (roughly 400 meters). The latter distance was basically the entire distance of the transverse. The 200s I’d do were largely flat, but the 400s had hill that affected my times going back and forth.

Closer to the race, I finally decided to bring in the hill work using what I call “Great Hill” — from the south, running up it, then going back down it. These turned out to be short but really decent workouts, especially in the persistent heat and humidity that stalked most of my training during this period. I regularly dealt with temperatures in the upper 70s but with high humidity and high dewpoints, making for not-so-enjoyable but that-much-more-effective workouts. I would run up Great Hill from the overpass, finishing at the pedestrian landing near the stoplight at the top. All in all, the distance was about .25 miles, so it was considerable.

Outside of running sprints, I did my loops of the park, and I started to notice that my speed had been improving even despite the humidity. I was getting some paces down to around 7:40s over 6 miles, even when it was gross out. This was also probably because I incorporated weight training into my training as well — namely, doing squats with heavy weights — at my prime, up to about 160 lbs. of weight plus the heavy bar, in reps of 10. Only weeks ago was I complaining that my legs were lacking the shape I remember they used to have, and now they are starting to look to my eye much better and much stronger. Performancewise, they started to deliver.

This training was good, but the main thing it lacked as a true understanding of what kind of mile I was capable of! I was essentially going into this race not really clear what I was capable of in terms of running a mile. Because of that, and because of my experiences running this race, I decided to keep it conservative. I decided I’d lay off the speed in the beginning 1/4 mile, which is tempting because it is downhill. I wanted to spare myself from melting down when hitting the hill at E. 74th St. Well, because of my training, I got up that hill ending at E. 70th St. without much issue! So next year, if I’ve done my hill training, I should keep in mind that I can probably pick up the pace in the beginning because the hill starting at 74th Street won’t be so bad!

My quick math was that I want to cross the 1/2-mile marker by 3:00, because that would mean I’d be primed to finish (if my splits were consistent) at 6:00. I started about 6 seconds after the gun, and crossing the 1/2-mile marker right around 3:06 meant two things: a) I’m on pace for finishing in 6 minutes, and b) if I am able to pick up the pace in this second half, I am a candidate for finishing in less than 6 minutes. With the slight downhill that was the second half of the race, I wanted to see if I could manage a sub-6:00 finish

After mounting the hill at the half-mile mark, I pushed myself to go fast, but not so fast that I wiped out. I recalled from prior experience that when I finally see the finish line, it still takes maybe 20 seconds to cross it. The advice to myself was to lay back when I saw the finish line — but I was feeling so good at this point, I decided to go into what I call a “super sprint”: pumping my arms and extending my legs, running full speed like a machine. Bearing to the west side of 5th Avenue, I had a clear route to the finish. And when I got to the finish, I had to cross the finish line while slowing a bit because it narrowed and there was a man finishing right beside me, blocking my path over the finish line. What I did manage with my long ending sprint was to blow a lot of the men in this heat (40-49) away by a second or few.

But immediately after finishing, having had all that gas in the tank, I started to regret not having pushed myself harder. It seems my training was good enough to allow me to run faster than the 5:51 that I pulled off. I’m not sure how much faster I could have done, but I would have guessed that maybe I could have pulled off maybe 10 seconds faster? Who knows. I will only have to try again in the future, hopefully training even better for this race. It only took about a month of more concentrated training to get here. Just remember to do some time tests, Ben!

Some last stats: My weight was around 178 lbs. for this race, and I was carrying more muscle than maybe I usually do. I could have been leaner but I am happy with my physique. I felt strong and it was great to see my legs really work for me.

After my race, I met my wife who had my bag because I had to walk to work and wear a suit at Last Week Tonight for a relatively early 10am calltime. My overall feelings were positive about this race. Given that this was my slowest race, that made me cringe a bit, but that I was so well trained for it, some 5 years after having raced it before, I felt happy. Plus, I beat my goal!

I Surprised Myself!

This morning I ran the Brooklyn Half-Marathon. I ran it in 1:35:50, amounting to running 7:19s. That’s considerably better than I thought I’d do today!

Here are my Unofficial Garmin Stats:

I didn’t really realize the weather for today’s run until after I finished. It was gorgeous! The temperature was unnoticeable–somewhere in the upper 50s to low 60s–and the skies were clear and cloudless. While I tend to run better in temperatures about 5 to 10 degrees cooler than this, there was nothing to complain about because the weather didn’t seem to play a factor in my race.

I set out this morning thinking I’d hope to do 1:38, or at least a sub-1:40. Not that fast for me but it seemed about where my training was right now. Actually, I was a little slower in training but I figured the race would by its nature pick up my pace, which it did. But also what picked it up was the downhills! A lot of this race was slightly downhill or even explicitly downhill, and I told myself early on in this race to capitalize on the downhills …

Actually, that’s not entirely true. I started this race with a low-expectations mindset. I was doing it more for the fun of it, maybe even the obligation for 9+1, so it was a low-pressure situation. I realized soon after I started I had to pee, and while I could have held it, at the first mile I saw toilets and thought, what the heck. I did the same in the Surf City Marathon at the first mile, and it only consumed about a minute of time. Sure enough, it took me maybe a minute or two.

It was after then that I thought, Heck, let’s see if I can capitalize on the downhills. I used the first time as a way to catch up on some of the time I lost, and it wasn’t long before my average pace was something that was still ahead of what I thought I could do. I told myself to keep a steady pace, but these slight downhills were telling me, Go ahead, push it while you have it.

When I entered Prospect Park, I knew that this was an unknown territory for me. I’d never run it, only biked it, and while I remembered hills, I didn’t know where they’d be and I couldn’t recall how they’d be. It was the first half of my time in the park that was the toughest–and by “toughest” I mean that it wasn’t really that tough. Most of the hills at that point were unsurprising and very low grade. The second half was awesomely downhill.

Up this this point (that is, up to the 10K mark), I’d been running with a pins-and-needles sensation in my left foot. I figured this was because my shoe was probably tied too tightly, though nothing about it seemed extraordinarily tight. Whatever the case, my foot was presumably inflamed in the shoe and it felt as if I had a thick pancake underneath the ball of my foot on top of having the sensation. Just after the 10K mark I pulled over to loosen the laces on my shoe. I set out again only to pull off again because it hadn’t seemed to help, and I loosened the laces some more. It still didn’t seem to work, and I just carried on. I ran some wonderful downhills then and really picked up my pace while I was rolling down the hills.

It wasn’t until around mile 11 that the pins-and-needles sensation cleared. I could even feel it clearly suddenly! I had forgotten about it since the 10K. We were on Ocean Parkway now, a very long stretch of flat, generally slightly downhill roadway that takes you about 5.5 miles to Coney Island. I used numerous stoplights there as motivation to pick up my pace from one to another–nothing too much, but just something to keep me engaged. I was really measuring my breathing, trying to keep up with a guy in Vibrams just ahead of me whom I didn’t want to beat me. I was doing a pretty good job, though I didn’t pass him until about mile 12.

Fortunately I looked at the course map ahead of time, so I knew not to spaz when I hit the 13th mile marker. Usually .1 mile doesn’t seem like a lot, but the map had a couple turns and I knew there would probably be a ramp uphill. There was. I got up it, and the finish was just ahead, only so far away that I could basically do the kind of sprinting I tend to do on the 72nd Street Transverse in Central Park for races that finish there. When a challenger looked as if he was trying to finish in a sprint, I kicked it up another notch and was able to finish in a clearance with no other finishers. I remember slowing down minutely just before the mat, which if I could do over I would just for the sake of discipline. I was relieved that I did so well in this race, both timewise and pacewise, not to mention given my health in the last few days, which has felt dismal in light of what I’ve consumed while I stare at a computer screen doing the copyedit of my book. I have to say, it was nice to get out, even if I was up at 4:15am on 5 hours of sleep!

I consumed 2, 1x caffeine chocolate PowerGels about 10-15 minutes before the race, then had 1, 2x caffeine tangerine PowerGel at mile 9. I had some pretty great splits in this race, and my first mile could have been one of those but I intentionally held myself back after seeing how fast I was going. That was the last time I really held myself back this race!

P.S. I saw Ming!