Saturday morning dawned sunny and cool. Cold enough for a debate about how many layers I would need instead of the expected long-sleeves vs. short sleeves with arm warmers debate. At least Friday’s rain had given way to clear, sunny skies. A typical pre-race breakfast including one pop tart, one travel mug of coffee, and one shaker of General UCan and then a drive into NYC. (Ucan is a powder that I mix with water before any long run. It contains a super starch that helps keep blood sugar levels pretty even for about 2-3 hours. It’s one of many types of runner’s fuel. For runs over an hour, I generally need some sort of fuel or I end up feeling light headed.)

The Central Park Spring Classic 10k is put on by New York Road Runner’s (NYRR), the same organization that puts on the NYC Marathon. This race was billed as a throw-back race. No race shirt. No finisher’s medal. But at a throw-back price of $10. For comparison runDisney has recently opened early registration for the new Wine & Dine 10K race. The privilege of running a 10k at Disney costs $120 and includes a long-sleeve technical shirt, on-course entertainment with Disney characters,  and an elaborate medal. That price does not include park entry after the race…or any travel expenses associated with a Disney trip.

Rich and I found parking on 5th Avenue, just a few blocks north of the 102nd Street transverse – which is where the race headquarters was located. Same day bib pick-up was quick and easy. Our confirmation email had a QR code which was scanned at any of several stations. The bibs were not pre-assigned so you got whatever the next bib number was. A corral letter was affixed to the bib, although corrals seemed to be more “suggestions” than assignments. The last several corrals seemed to be mixed together. There were plenty of port-a-potties near the start line. The national anthem was sung and then we were off.

Central Park is hilly. I must have a selective memory because, despite having run several races in the Park – including my half marathon PR, I seemed to have forgotten the hills. The biggest hills were in the first two miles which included Harlem Hill. I probably started too conservatively as I planned the first 2 miles in heart rate Zone 3 and the rest in Zone 4. Since my heart rate seems to skyrocket with hills, I ended up walking a lot of the Harlem Hill to keep my heart rate in Zone 3. I averaged about 12 min/mile for the first 2 miles before switching to Zone 4.

I love running races in Central Park. I think it’s beautiful and I love seeing bits of Manhattan outside the protected green space of the park. This was a sunny, lovely day. I was slightly overdressed by mile 2 but not so much so as to cause a major impact. There were more than enough water stops. And it just felt good to run outside.

I’ve had a difficult time trying to figure out how to translate heart rate training into race performance. I haven’t found a formula that says, “run a 10K in Zone 4” or “run a half marathon mostly in Zone 3.” So it’s a work in progress. My training has recently stabilized after 18 months of sporadic running where I lost some speed (and gained some weight). I’ve seen some improvement in pace on my training runs this year so I was hopeful for a decent finish time. I was pretty satisfied with my finish of 1:11:39 (which translates to 11:32 min/mile). I was hoping that I could compete with my 10K PR (1:07-ish) but that will wait for another day. At least I’m getting myself back to where I was. And I definitely could have run the whole race in Zone 4 as I had enough juice at the end to know I could go faster.

Next training stop will be a pair of half marathons on my way to the NYC Marathon…. If you want to contribute to the Children’s Hospital please click the link below…