After almost fifty years of competitive running, I have learned and now forgotten (apparently) that feeling good at the start of the race should not mean that it is OK to run faster than planned. The trick to a fast race is to start off more slowly than you feel capable of for the first part and then accelerate through the rest. But, this morning I was feeling far too frisky at the start of the Percy Sutton Harlem 5K Run and thought, “Oh, I can hold this for 5K.” Nope.
Citibike makes getting around Manhattan, particularly to running events and subway stations below 60th Street, really simple. First part of the morning was a short ride across town to Columbus Circle. Obviously, from the map, the GPS signal in Midtown bounces off of tall buildings, giving the impression that I veered suddenly, like a wild man, towards downtown at Park Avenue and then sliced my way through five blocks of tall steel and concrete buildings back to the 55th bike lane cross town. It didn’t happen that way… just a non-eventful ride to the subway and then the A train to 135th Street in Harlem.
It was a cool and humid morning, not too bad until while running near the red line… and then it was still a summer morning in August. But, considering how it can be this time of year in New York, no one was complaining.
So, what does this picture have to do with running in Harlem this morning?
My former Israeli yoga teacher, Noam, posted a great picture on Facebook of herself this morning doing Trikonasana by the pool in Crete and I was sufficiently motivated by the photo to spend some time actually stretching, something I don’t usually do. There are no pictures of me doing Adho Mukha Svanasana or Virabhadrasana and Noam looks much nicer, so .. well, there is Noam in a Greek triangle. Picture me in Harlem, on the sidewalk, without the pool, or the sunshine or the good form, doing something similar.
We lined up for the start:
Feeling somewhat frisky, following the stretching, I started off running too fast. You can see from the cadence graph below that bump at the beginning, which is me starting off at 4:30 min/km. The dip is not me getting smart and then stupid again, but a big hill right at the start.
Back in 1979, my fastest marathon was the Dallas White Rock, where I ran 2:48. On that day, I was smart and started running the first 8K at about 4:14 min/km and then took the pace down to 3:44 min/km. Start slow and then accelerate. It works.. and I know that. I just got swept up by the crowd and the fact that my legs feel great these days. Mistake.
By about the end of the first km today I was feeling sufficiently crappy and so slowed down to let my body catch up to my brain, which had written a check that my legs and lungs could not cash. And, for about fifteen minutes I paid for that quick start as runners streamed past. That is not the best feeling, psychologically, to have people going around you like water around an island in the stream.
The last km and a half were great, as I had finally started feeling better. However, that surge into the purple should have started at about halfway through and the first part (in the circle) should have been in the slower green.
My new Garmin 620 running watch has some interesting features, including the ability to track both vertical oscillation and ground contact time, measures of running efficiency.
What I can see here is that I had a spike in vertical oscillation (bouncing up and down) at about 19 minutes while descending from St. Nicholas Terrace, but that final push to the finish in the last kilometer was really good form: little bouncing, short ground contact time and fast leg turnover (from the cadence graph above). That is the speed where my body is the most efficient at running. And, if I was pounding the pavement at 72 kilos rather than 81 kilos, I’m sure that this would be my pace again… good evidence that losing these last pounds will be the fastest way to get back to being faster and running a lot more efficiently.
Here is the Garmin Connect data on the race.
Heart rate, despite the fast start, was about what I had wanted for the day. I held steady at about 160 bpm, which is my threshold, up until the last km and then pushed it up to my top at 173, just a few beats below my max at 178 or so. A strong finish.
Splits were about expected, with the first two km far too fast (the first and second km included the big hill up West 145th Street and Edgecombe Ave along Jackie Robinson Park.) Those might have been around 4:45 on the flat… way too fast. The last km was excellent at 4:41.
Thanks to Luiza Negrão Silva from the New York Flyers for this shot at the finish. Go Flyers!
My Run Smart training schedule for today was supposed to be an easy 11 km run, so I jumped on the subway back down closer to Central Park, and ran back through the Park to Columbus Circle to get the rest of the prescribed mileage. The subway heading south was packed with runners:
Here was the rest of the workout, running along the West Drive.
So, the lesson relearned is start slow, give your body time to adjust to the pace at a comfortable speed and then accelerate into the uncomfortable zone, rather than the other way around.
And now to spend the day fairly horizontal, resting for tomorrow’s long run of 16 km at a easy pace of 6:43 min/km.