(Wayne's-world dissolving flashback effect here)
Not realizing there'd be a baggage check, I went to the race with nothing but what I could carry while I ran. Which means, considering I'd be trying to go pretty fast, I carried very little. My runner's wallet in my left pocket, my number on my shirt, a bottle of water in my hand, and my Nano on my left arm. This, by the way, was the first time I attempted to run with music. More about that later.
I got off the subway at 59th street and Lex, stretched out a bit, and put in a warm-up mile running up to 80th street and over to fifth ave. Along the way, I tried out listening to music as I ran, though with the volume not too loud; I didn't want to become road-grease due to a taxi I didn't hear. The Nano turns out to be pretty easy to use in it's OEM armband holster, and very secure. I am impressed by the armband - it's not elastic, for once, but rather a soft leather-like material and has dots of velcro for adjustment. If you don't like it too tight, it won't be.
Got to the staging area and found it aswarm with runners, with the heat before mine about ready to line up at the starting line (this would be women 30-39). I chatted with a few people and kept an eye out for people I knew, but didn't see anyone. People were really curious about that Nano, tho! I had the Nano set on my running mix and was really grooving as I ran short keep-warm-keep-loose stints up fifth ave and back to the starting line.
The weather could not have been more perfect! Let me repeat that because it's so important: the weather. could NOT. have been. more perfect! Cloudless, 70-degrees, fresh air. My lungs were cooperating and the pain in my legs from my happy/disastrous Monday run had subsided. I felt I stood a good chance at reaching, maybe even cracking, that 9:00 mile. Consider that my times are usually just about double that of the winners and that the winners today would be running 4:30 miles (not counting the pro athletes, of course). So I figured a 9 wasn't asking too much of Providence.
At T-minus-5, men 30-34 lined up. It is hard to believe that I'm already reaching the upper limit of some of these arbitrary age groups, but there it is. There were a LOT of us ready to race - and a lot of local elites were in that pack. At two minutes to go, I swallowed the last of my water and added my empty to a rather organic pile that was a good start at being Fresh Kills II. One minute to go and the back of the pack was hopping with nervous energy. As usual, the starting line leaders were almost motionless, particularly at the 30-second mark - totally poised to fly into full speed the moment the hammer is dropped.
At long last, the horn sounded and off we went! With such a large pack, we couldn't all get going at once, of course, so it was a good five seconds before I got to (and over) the starting line, but I was at least able to start at a good pace. I had gotten my Nano going on a pretty good song, but before 15 seconds had passed, I reached up and hit pause - I simply wasn't able to find my rhythm with the music going - I needed to hear my own breathing. Inspire in three, expire in two.
As I ramped up my pace bit by bit, the pack ahead of me surged away and I was quickly left with some breathing room, though still with lots of runners on either side. Suddenly, a thin, very bright white line flashed by beneath my feet. What? That couldn't be a quarter-mile mark, could it? Glancing up, I saw the first split, indeed at a quarter-mile: 1:58.
WHAT?!?!?! Are they timing this thing on the fifths of a mile? Are their timers off? If that was my quarter-mile split, the clock was off. Period. How disappointing to know that.
Pound pound pound along. The only uphill of the course (and a mild one at that) is the prominent feature of the second quarter. I slowed my pace only the slightest, barest bit, choosing to maintain my breathing rhythm rather than get into the dangerous territory of 2-in, 2-out - which quickly leads to coughing, which in turn results in a more sluggish pace.
Defeating the hill, here comes the half-mile mark and another clock: 3:59. Holy shit! What's going on here?
The third quarter is a leg-stretching pleasant downhill and everyone's pace ramped up another notch. I felt my footstrike settle into a beautiful, perfect heel-toe (rare for me) and my legs felt like they were born to be right there, right then. I zipped by another clock and didn't quite see it. Something about a --:39. Whatever. I was too focused on what I could see just a quarter-mile down the road - a big arch of blue-and-white balloons!
Passed a very helpful little sign: 200 Meters To Go. Yippee, Skip, cuz I's gettin' TIR'D. There's the finish and there's the clock and...
POW!! I cross the finish line at (officially) 7:43! (Take off that first five seconds and I ran that mile in 7:38!) (Forgive the obsession with exclamation points, but I am absolutely floored by the results.)
I cannot emphasize how stunned and elated I am that not only did I achieve my 9 minute mile, I WASTED it. Not only did I crack 8, I SHATTERED it!
Now I'm thinking...what pace could I sustain for two miles? Three? Could my next 5K reace perhaps be at a 9-minute average pace?
These are the challenges that us going, right runners?
As a cool-down, I did a loop of Central Park (see today's long run entry) and feel that I really had a good workout today. As I finished up, I joined the spectators for the last heats, one of which featured my friend Crista Hartmann, a Mercury Master, who also broke a 9-minute mile. Not half bad for a 63 year old. She kicks ass!
It was very exciting watching the last four heats of invited women, invited men, professional women, and professional men. The men's pro heat was particularly astounding, as favorite Alan Webb led for most of the race, quite solidly for the middle two quarters, but was overtaken ("spanked", I think, is the word), by Australia's Craig Mottram. It was an astounding race and I had a vantage point that let me see the ESPN commentator's live motorcycle-mounted shot as the race progressed.
Next race: Staten Island Half. See you there!