After my surprisingly awesome acupuncture appointment the night before, I woke up at 3:50AM on the morning of the NYRR Joe Kleinerman 10K feeling refreshed, calm, and energized, even on 5 hours of sleep. This was a HUGE difference from pretty much every other early-morning race day wake up, where I usually feel anxious and exhausted. My calm was even tested when the jar of peanut butter slipped out of my hand while I was making breakfast and completely shattered the dish below it. Where I’d usually freak out and get angry or upset over my own clumsiness, I simply laughed and swept up the million pieces of ceramic and pulled out another dish. Score another point for acupuncture!
The forecast called for overcast skies and a temp of about 44, but since we were driving into Manhattan, walking/cabbing the 3+ miles to the start, and waiting in Central Park for a total of almost 4 hours outdoors in 30-ish degrees, the word of the day was LAYERS. I went with a light longsleeve shirt under a Brooks lined jacket/windbreaker, along with Nike brushed interior full length tights with Pro Compression socks layered on top of them. And because I’m a maniac, I also wore a Brooks skull cap with a fun printed Greecie Girl headband over it. Because, matching.
My cousin Heather had offered to drive us all in (thanks, Heck!) and so me, Mike, Meredith and Damian all piled into the newly-christened Kleinerman Kab a little after 5AM (nice naming, Mer!) for a quick ride into Manhattan. Traffic was light and we arrived at around 6AM, then started walking. It was COLD – thankfully because the guys came along, we got to wear winter coats over everything that they’d hold while we ran, but that wind was NO JOKE. After what felt like about 3 miles of warm-up walking, we finally caved and took a few cabs to the start at 102nd Street to spare another few miles. After our cab driver misunderstood me and we took a slight detour, we all arrived at packet pickup at about 7, still with a good hour to go before the start. More wind, more cold, but finally the sky grew lighter and the park got more and more crowded.
After doing our own pre-race potty breaks, lace-tightening, and other random stuff, we said our goodbyes and headed to the corrals. The New York Road Runners recently switched from a color-coded bib assignment system (sayonara, “slow as crap” Brown bibs!) to an alphabet-based system. And of course that means that Heather and I were in Corral L. For Loser. Or Last.
The corrals started filling up and we prepped for the start – it was a good sized race of around 5,000 people, which looked really cool at the back of the pack and the top of a hill:
Once the gun went off and we started shuffling through the corrals, it took us about 6 minutes to get to the starting line, but once we did it cleared out nicely. I started by rocking out to a new mix of music I had just downloaded a few days before – not my usual techno/rock/pop, but some fun differently paced stuff that actually helped take my mind off things and kept me entertained.
I’ll be honest: the only word I can use to describe miles 1-3 (or the whole race for that matter) is Bliss. For real. I just ran. I smiled, took in the sights, got lost in the feeling of just pounding the pavement, and rolled up and down the hills of Central Park (mostly downhills too, what a great route this was!). Given that I’d just come out of a pretty dark place the past month or two (and hadn’t run that much AT ALL because of it), I was worried that I might be miserable. Those hills aren’t nothing, after all. I’m guessing the acupuncture the night before had something to do with my newfound peace, but who’s to say.
My average running pace was around 11:55, but with walk/water breaks at every aid station I managed to keep a pace of around 12:30 which was A-OK in my book. The total absence of running from my life in the week or two prior to the race wiped any time goals from my plan – I was in it for the experience. And that experience was the best. I took time to admire the skyscrapers that lined the park, focused on the ornate balconies at the very top, imagined hanging out there with a bottle of champagne and watching the race from above. The crowds around me stayed pretty thick (I love the great range of abilities and paces in NYRR races), and the park was starting to get crowded too, which made for good people watching.
That’s not to say I didn’t experience the usual mid-race issues: at Mile 2 I realized one lace was too tight because my foot was numb and cold so I stopped and loosened it. I also realized I’d overdressed by Mile 4 and had to roll my sleeves up. But I just kept on truckin’! By around mile 5 I started to feel a slight fatigue in my ankles and calves, so I took short walk breaks here and there, stretched, got water and took a gel, and felt a new surge of energy for the final mile and change. At 5.75 my new favorite power song randomly clicked on my iPod and I decided to go for it from there.
Who knew Adele could rock so hard??
I lip synced and fist pumped, rocking out with the tune up the final hill and past where we started, actually sad that the race was over. Where I’m usually dying in the final sprint of every race, this one had me legitimately sad that it was ending! Madness, I tell you.
But I pushed through, smiled at all the people cheering us on, coasted down the last hill and into the finish chute at a respectable 1:18:19 (avg 12:37/mile)!
After finishing I walked through the chute and grabbed an apple from a super enthusiastic volunteer (just another reason I love NYRR races: the people are the best), and chomped on it as I scanned the crowd for my people.
With one earbud still in my ear, I jammed out to my tunes and ate my apple, stretching out my legs and even doing a little dance here and there just because I felt so great. I smiled at the folks who walked past, they smiled back – one even did a little shimmy with me when he caught me dancing! – and I snapped a quick selfie to remember that moment:
Finally after not seeing my group I texted them and we all met up shortly after, congratulated each other on our finishes, and started the long journey back to the car, talking and laughing and taking in more sights along the way!
All in all it was one of my favorite race experiences yet, in terms of how my mood affected everything and made it all better. The usual pre-race anxiety, mid-race “I suck at this” regret, and post-race rush to go go go just wasn’t there, and made me realize just how much my own mood affects my experiences from start to finish. While it’s easier said than done, I’m going to work harder at being more aware of my mindset, because it makes a huge difference!
Also, I am TOTALLY going back to Central Park to run that same loop just for fun – it was beautiful! 🙂