Thursday, June 16, 2011

You Get What You Train For

Ran the JPMorganChase Corporate Challenge 3.5 mile road race in Central Park last night (with over 15,000 of my "best friends"). I've run this darned race 24 times, dating back to the early 90s. I used to like it, but it has grown to such an enormous size that's it's become difficult to enjoy.

This year, I had a plan. First, I would be honest about my potential time. That was mistake number one. They seeded runners into corrals, and I received a green bib number, putting me in the 2nd corral. Watching the dozens of people who clearly are much slower than me pile into the red corral in front me was rather frustrating. My favorite: some dude, about 195 pounds, basketball sneakers, chewing a wad of gum and talking into his cell phone as they started the race - yeah, he was at least 10 rows in front of me. What do you think, did he break 8:00 pace for the race? 9:00 pace? I doubt it. He probably walked most of the way. Yeesh.

Back to the plan: regardless of how crowded and frustrating, I was going to run slightly slower than tempo pace for the first two miles, and if I felt okay I would open up and run the final 1.5 miles harder. Aiming for 6:45, I ran the first mile in 6:37; for the second mile, I was aiming for 6:35 and ran it in 6:34. Okay, not bad. However, as I tried to increase the pace, I found I was really laboring. At the three mile mark, having run a 6:10 mile that felt much harder than I expected, it dawned on me: YOU GET WHAT YOU TRAIN FOR.

This year, in an effort to avoid injury and get back to running consistently, I have forgone almost all types of fast workouts. Oh, I do a little tempo running now and then, but mostly I do good old LSD. The result: I'm fairly strong and I can run 6:35 pace and be able to chat with those around me a bit. But drop the pace just that little tiny bit (25 seconds per mile, that's only about a 6.5% change), and I'm wheezing like an asthmatic and feeling weak in the knees. I am simply not adapted to running that pace right now. I'm not trained for it, and it shows immediately.

I wobbled the final half mile in 3:04, and finished something like 250th on the night, with my second-worst time ever for this event. Sigh.

I'm not going to complain, or at least not too much. With me leaving my current employer at the end of this month, where I've been the Corporate Challenge team captain for the past 13 years, it means that I may never have to run this race again - and frankly I welcome that. I'm not so fast anymore, but I am still aware of proper race behavior - and this race is the worst example of race behavior you will ever see. In a field dominated by hacks, wannabes, and has-beens (guys who might have been decent jocks in high school but are overweight and untrained now), what you get is a mess. I was pushed, cut off, kicked, tripped, jammed, boxed, and just about any other bad descriptive racing term you can come up with. Running with a bunch of inexperienced and overly-macho guys is a nightmare. Of course, they push and shove and zig zag all over the course in the first mile to get way ahead of me, then I have to weave back through all of them during the next mile when they seize up and slow way down. And what's really great: they are aggressively pissed at me when I pass them, often giving me a little shove and some "words of encouragement" usually referring to me in colorful-if-not-totally-original terms. Morons. Dangerous morons.

So, I bid adieu to the Corporate Challenge. Used to be fun, now it's just frustrating. When can I get back to the trails?

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