4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Salsa, Blues, Shamrocks and … PRs!

with 3 comments

Ran the Coogan’s Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5k race yesterday morning. 

Actually, almost didn’t run it, because I forgot to pre-register.  I really enjoy this race – 5k’s are very rare and this race is a special challenge because of the hills – and have had this on my radar since the 2009 calendar went up.  However, I realized late in the week that I didn’t receive the customary email NYRR sends out prior to races, and sure enough, I figured out that I never registered.  I’m cheap (I know, and can freely admit it!) and hate to sign up for races last minute, due to the extra charges.  Since I missed the pre-registration, I’d need to drag my butt to NYRR to register in person.   Not only was that a hassle, but my 7 year old daughter had a sleepover with a friend at my apartment Sat night, and my wife had a work commitment at 10am Sunday morning.  I could get my 13 year old to babysit for a couple of hours, but that is not ideal, so I sort of resigned not to run the race.  The forecast was also a bit messy, and I really didn’t want to run if they would turn it into a fun run.  But, on Saturday morning, I found out my wife’s appointment was pushed to 12:30, and the forecast for Sunday morning was looking better, and I made it into the city with time to get to NYRR to register, so I decided to run.

As usual, got to the race 2 hours early to secure a good parking spot.  The armory is a cool place to hang out before the race, but it gets insanely crowded.  This year the race was a club points race, which meant it would be even more crowded than in years past.  So, I decided to hang in my car till about 20 minutes before the race and then line up.  The start, finish, and course was slightly different from years past.  Historically, it started and finished right in front of the armory at 168th St.  But this year, they moved the start to 173rd St, to provide enough headway for start and finish staging.  This meant that the course itself would be extended.  Instead of a turn around partway through Fort Tryon Park, we would run all the way around the end of the park.  I think the change was effective.  The start and finish was well organized, and the run to the end of the park yielded spectacular views of the Hudson River and upper Manhattan.

My goal for the race was 25 minutes, but I’d be happy with anything up to 25:33, the PR I set at this race 2 years ago.  I’ve always done well on this course, but it is challenging due to the hills.  The advantage of the course is that the last half mile is a nice strong downhill, making for a strong finish.  

I was in the 3000 corral, and got through the start in about 56 seconds.  I was able to get right into a good hard pace.  I was frustrated by trying to pass slower people in the first half mile going up the hill, and had to do some weaving and dodging.  Second half of the mile tends downhill.  Pushing a hard pace, mile 1 went by in 7:55.  Very good, a little faster than my goal pace, but, could I sustain it?  

Mile 2 is comprised of a long downhill into Fort Tryon Park, and then a long uphill out of the park.  I definitely held back on the downhill, saving my energy for the uphill.  This seems to be opposite the strategy of most people.  A lot of people passed me on the downhill, and then I passed a lot of people on the uphill.  At 1.5 miles, after a good mile of downhill, my shins were hurting.  I sometimes get shin pains, and for me, they get worse on downhills and abate on uphills.  I was not concerned as the next mile was uphill, which I figured would loosen the muscle.  Luckly, that turned out to be the case.  Mile 2 was completed in 8:14, as I held back on the downhill and was a little conservative on the uphill out of the park.  

I was still under PR pace, but not quite at 25 minute pace.  Would need to push hard in mile 3.  First half of mile 3 is uphill and the crest of the hill is very steep.  I had just enough energy to push that hill hard.  I pushed as hard as possible and focused on good form and swinging my arms.  Once we crested the hill at 2.5 miles, I felt completely spent, so I allowed myself a half a minute of recovery on the downhill before pushing hard into the finish.  Mile 3 was completed in 7:53, and the last .1 was in 45 seconds, for a final time of 24:48, a new PR, and an 8 min per mile pace.

I was very happy with the effort and results.  Floated on cloud 9 back to my car and down the FDR drive home.  Was suprised how hungry I was the rest of the day, and at how sore I am today, after only running 3 miles.  The hard effort really takes its toll, even on short distances.

Anyway, with my marathons behind me now, I feel like I will focus on shorter distances and speed in the next few months, while I also bike and swim in my triathlon training.  I’m thinking about targeting a good hard 4 miler next, and trying to best my PR of 33:22.  Colon Cancer 4 miler is filled up, so my next shots will be Run for the Park on 4/5 or Run as One on 4/19.  Then, perhaps, go for a 10k PR at the Healthy Kidney race in May, which is 52:39.

As I said, I’ve had great results in this race.  My Coogan’s Salsa Blues and Shamrocks 5k history:

  • 3/5/2000 – 26:03
  • 3/4/2001 – 26:23
  • 3/4/3007 – 25:33
  • 3/1/2009 – 24:47

Went back in the NYRR results archives, and see that only 1022 runners finished in 2000.  This year, there were a lot more, at 4700.  I finished in 1476, an amazing 31st percentile.


Written by SCL

March 2, 2009 at 11:18 pm

Posted in Race Report, running

Tagged with ,

3 Responses

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  1. awesome 🙂 congrats on your pr and thanks for your continuted support!


    March 3, 2009 at 2:39 pm

  2. […] the marathon that was great.  On Jan 10, I PR’d Fred Lebow 5M in 41:24 and on Mar 1, set a 5k PR at Coogans in 24:49.  Not only did I set 3 PR’s in the first 60 days of the year, but I am really proud […]

  3. […] Last year, I set a PR, finishing in 24:47.  In fact, I also set one on this course in 2007, 25:34.  The reality is that I don’t have many 5k opportunities, and so this being really the only non cross country 5k course I’ve run since 2001, I am able to PR it even though it is very challenging. […]

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