Back in February, before that whole maybe-you-have-a-stress-reaction thing hit, I was feeling pretty confident in my running. I saw that registration was open for the NYRR Mini 10K and that some people were registering for it. I’d been holding off in registering for my first race after surgery, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted it to be. After being out of the racing game (and running game) for awhile, I decided it was time to get back into it, and a race in Central Park would be low pressure. Then I realized that registration would be $50, and that sounded a bit steep to run where I run every day for free! (And I don’t have an income right now, so there’s that.) A little more browsing, and I realized that NYRR has a student membership, so I got in at a discounted rate. That grad school tuition is paying off!
Then I had that little stress reaction thing and I wasn’t sure what would happen, but I got back into running and felt great. I was rebuilding my mileage but definitely staying away from any speed work. My long runs had some fast finishes, but no planned speed work. By the time I felt ready to add in some pick ups to my runs, I had started clinical and my running was limited to only a couple days per week. I don’t run Tuesday-Friday, but I am on my feet pretty much all day. However, my Saturday runs have felt pretty good – whether I’m happy to have some time to recharge or am just a little more rested from not running, who knows.
I was exhausted on Friday night, had a little wine to celebrate the end of the week, and realized I should dig out my team singlet and pin my bib on. How do you do this racing thing again?? I was also convinced that the race started at 9am, but it definitely started at 8am. Good thing I checked! I went to bed at 9:30pm because clinicals have turned me into a grandma.
My alarm went off on Saturday morning and I’ll admit I didn’t want to get up. I quickly made some coffee and drank some Nuun since it suddenly decided to be summer in NYC. My big decision of the morning was what shoe to wear – my New Balances are much lighter, but my feet are pretty tired after standing all week, so I went with my Nikes which have a little more cushion. After that life-altering decision, I jogged to the starting line since I live pretty close. I got there about fifteen minutes before the start of the race and was already sweating!
I hung out in the corral and looked around for familiar faces. Kelly showed up a couple minutes later and it was great to have someone to chat with! I also spotted an old coworker which was fun – I’ve missed running into seemingly everyone at races, so that was a fun morning. Kelly and I talked a little race strategy – mainly that we didn’t have one, ha. I really had no clue what this race would bring since my running has certainly backed off over the past few weeks and I haven’t done speed work in forever. I thought about taking it easy and just enjoying being back in the race environment, but even surgery can’t hold me back from that! My secret goal was to run faster than I did last year pre-surgery (47:44).
Some announcements and the National Anthem, and we were off!
I always forgot how crowded the start of this race is, but it is pretty fun to be running up Central Park West. I took off immediately and jockeyed around a little bit while simultaneously telling myself just to lock in where I was. A few quick glances at my watch showed low 7 minute pace and I definitely panicked but figured I’d settle in once the crowd thinned out a bit. I counted the streets until the turn into the park and scanned the spectators for people I would know. I saw Erica and Dani and yelled to them, then saw Jocelyn at the turn into the park. Beth was up next and man this was so exciting to see people!
My first mile was in 7:14, and the second mile had a little downhill in the park, hitting 7:04. I grabbed water at one of the water stops, took a sip, and dumped some down my back because it was getting toasty! I knew the hills of Harlem were up next and would be the most challenging part, so I buckled down for that.
The big debate often over which hill is harder: Harlem Hill or Cat Hill. I usually say Cat Hill because I usually run counter-clockwise, and you climb Cat Hill and then it flattens out. With Harlem Hill in that direction, you go up and then immediately get to fly down the other side. This is all reversed when you run clockwise, which is the way the race goes. The climb up the east side of Harlem Hill seems like it will never end, especially in the middle of a 10K! I told myself to stride it out goes down the hill and to keep my feet moving on the uphills. Do not walk. Do not give in. I don’t care what the pace is, just keep going. Mile 3 came in at 7:21, but mile 4 slowed to 7:44. I was definitely feeling it – those uphills were really hard!
I definitely had moments where I wondered why I was pushing so hard, what’s the point since I hadn’t done speed work anyway, who cares if I stopped and walked a little? But I wanted to see what I could do and knew it would be better if I just got to a downhill – going down Cat Hill would be so great, just had to get there!
Let the countdown begin! If I held at eight minute pace, which I was running faster than, I knew I’d run under 47 minutes. I knew I’d be upset with myself if I gave up and slowed now, so I just keep pushing and counting down the minutes. The downhill on the east side helped to fuel that, and I got back to a 7:18 mile. I saw some cheer squad again, and that put a great pep in my step! (Thanks for the pictures, Erica and Dani!)
Smiling through the pain of mile 5!
The going got tough as we rounded the south part of Central Park, and I wasn’t looking forward to the climb up to Tavern on the Green. I told myself this was so much better than the end of the NYC Marathon and that I only had four minutes left to run. Just get there! I’ve never had a kick, but I pushed the best I could. As I ran up the hill at the end of the race, a spectator yelled for The Battalion, which made me smile, and I made a final sprint to beat one woman that was right in front of me. Mile 6 was 7:36 and the last 0.2 was 7:20.
I crossed the line in 45:44, avg pace of 7:23. WINNING. (Not literally. That was Mary Keitany.)
Out of 8,480 finishers, I was 153rd, so that’s pretty cool. I was VERY excited to have a Gatorade, water, get my medal, grab a carnation, and head out. That water was so key – I was toasty! I hung out near the exit to the race and hoped to see people as they finished – quite the crowd gathered as people came out of the finisher area, and it was a great runner reunion! I had seen some people in YEARS, so it was really fun to be back in that community and run into people after the race. I’ve missed that, for sure. Everyone agreed that it was a tad warm (is the Mini ever NOT warm?) and that we’re all not too sure about the carnations, ha.
I’m VERY pleased with how the race went. I definitely didn’t think I’d see 7:23 pace overall, and my finishing time was about two minutes faster than last year. My hips felt great, my calf felt fine, my lungs didn’t hate me too much – not too shabby! My legs are definitely a little sore today, but no hip pain. Surgery feels like it was so, so long ago, but my running still has a long way to go. They say it takes about a year to get back to what you’ll “really” be after surgery, and I’m excited to see what the year mark will bring. This was a great return to racing and it was fun to run fast again. The recovery from hip arthroscopy is long and requires a lot of patience, and I feel like I did it right and it has paid off.
Here’s to many more miles!