Before I get into this race, I think it would be helpful to provide a little background.
My original goal for the summer was to focus on short distances (i.e. not the marathon distance) all through the summer and fall. The plan was to run a bunch of 5k, 5 mile, 1 mile races, culminating with a half marathon in September. If you follow this blog, you’ll know that things didn’t go according to plan.
After I had to nix all my summer racing plans due to injury, I was just starting to build back up in August and I was feeling good when the head of my running team sent out an email asking if anyone else could run the Bronx 10-miler. We were within striking distance of 3rd place in the New York Road Runners Club Points competition, and he was hoping we’d have a deeper field. I volunteered – sounded like a good opportunity for me to get back out there.
Then I went on vacation, and my injury problems reemerged. Ugh. I did everything I could to get myself back on my feet by the time of the race – I didn’t want to let my team down. In the week leading up to the race, I was running slow miles fine, but any time I pushed the pace my Achilles’ tendon would tighten back up. Still, race day I decided I would give it a go.
My fiancé and I moved in May and got a car shortly thereafter. This was a big deal. It may seem strange to many, but when you live in New York City you just don’t have a car. It’s expensive and traffic sucks. But when you live out in New Jersey suddenly a car makes sense.
This is a big change for us and opens up a whole new world of possibilities for weekend adventures, and I’m particularly excited about how it opens up the opportunity to run new races!
The Bronx 10-Miler isn’t a new race, but it certainly wouldn’t have been in the cards for me living in New Jersey if I didn’t have a car. Anyway, long story short, I’m still adjusting to the whole drive-to-a-race process.
It was actually really nice. The interstate, perhaps unsurprisingly, has no traffic that early on a Sunday morning. I was able to listen to some music, munch on banana bread and relax on the way to the start. When I got to the Bronx, though, that relaxation disappeared. I got there at about 7:20 for the 8 a.m. start, but then I learned that they changed a lot of things since I last ran this race in 2013 and it took me forever to find bag check. (Lesson learned…just suck it up and leave your warm up shirt in the car.)
I wasn’t alone though. There was mass confusion. No one knew where to go and there were quite simply way too many people there. As I mentioned, I last ran this race in 2013, and at that time there were about 6,500 finishers. This year, there were about 11,765 finishers in the 10 miler, plus another 2,270 finishers in a new 5k component. That’s more than twice as many runners as there were just three years prior.
After I managed to find bag check, it was a struggle to find my way back to the start. The new bag check location was further away, and there were literally thousands of people I had to weave between to get to my corral. When I got there, I could barely fit in.
I thought I signed up for a fun, local 10-mile race. Instead, what I got felt as messy and crowded as the start of a big-city marathon. Honestly, getting to the corrals for the Chicago Marathon in 2013 was easier.
The goal for this race was to go out as hard as my bum Achilles’ tendon would allow. As I mentioned, in the week prior slow running felt fine, but speed was a problem. Before the Achilles’ problem reemerged, I was hoping to run about 65:00 – about my PR half marathon pace. I knew I wasn’t in the best shape, but that seemed attainable. With the Achilles’ problem, I decided to dial it back to about 67:30 – a 6:45 pace.
The first three miles felt good. I was able to establish my position in the field, which quickly opened up after about a half mile from the start.
I know some people don’t like this course, but I love it. It’s shaped like a T, with the first 3.5 miles or so forming the stem. This section is slightly uphill, but since it’s the beginning of the race, and you don’t really notice it with the exception of one portion that’s pretty steep coming up after an underpass.
This part of the race felt especially good since I was keeping it reined in. While my Achilles’ was nagging, my breathing was nice and easy.
6:48 – 6:46 – 6:53
The next three miles brought you first to the left to the first out-and-back and then to the left to the second out-and-back before heading back to Grand Concourse and the final 4 miles of the race. The first out-and-back was fine. The turn isn’t too sharp, so you can maintain speed around the turn. It’s a great opportunity to get an idea for who is running around you.
Shortly after the fourth mile mark I ran into a friend from my running team and book club. I had meant to find him in the corral, but it was so crowded that didn’t end up happening. He had been looking for me, however, and succeeded. He just ran the Lehigh Valley Marathon and missed out on a BQ because of a train stopping him mid-race! He handled the whole situation so gracefully, I respect him tremendously.
Since he was still recovering after Lehigh, he decided to be my official pace buddy to get me across the finish line. At book club earlier in the week, he had even promised to carry me across the finish line should my Achilles’ give out on my before we got there. Anyway, it was great to have company for the rest of the race.
We kept on pace through the next mile, making it to the second out-and-back. This one was nowhere near as nice as the first. This turn was sharp, turn-on-a-dime sharp. There’s nothing like a turn like that to ruin your momentum.
With my friend at my side, though, I pushed on and up the last major hill of the course, turning left back onto Grand Concourse and the “stem” part of the T-shaped course.
6:44- 6:66 – 6:50 – 6:36
At this point, I’m really starting to feel my Achilles’ during any portion of downhill. That meant I couldn’t quite push it in these final miles as I had hopped. I begged my Achilles’ to stay strong and not give out, even if it was for my friend’s sake. I didn’t want to have to make him make good on that promise to carry me 🙂
As I entered the final 5k of the race, it started to feel like work. While I had eaten some banana bread in the car on the drive over, in my rush to find bag check I accidentally checked the Hammer gel I had brought with me to eat in the corral. Without that extra fuel, and with such light mileage of late, I was tiring.
With my friend at my side, I would have felt bad slowing down, so I kept trucking. He helped me out by grabbing me some water from the aid stops so I wouldn’t have to work through the crowd to get over and slow down to grab it myself. I’ve never had assistance like that and it was really nice!
One of the biggest changes to the course was that they moved the finish so it ended with a steep downhill. Usually, I would have loved a finish like that, but with my Achilles’ issue, I was just glad that it was at the very end, because I knew I’d be toast with the extra forces the tendon would have to endure from the hard, steep downhill effort. I was probably the only person on that course not pumped by the downhill finish.
6:40 – 6:41 – 6:22
It wasn’t the race I originally hoped for it didn’t turn out too bad. I finished in 1:07:22, with a 52-second negative split on the back half. At the end of the day, it was a 4:32 personal best, even though it was slower than my half marathon PR pace. That’s what you get when you go three years without running a distance! It was a competitive race, though, and my time was only 22nd in my age group and 56th female.
While I didn’t contribute to the team score, since I came in 8th for the team, we still managed to score third in this race to move up and become tied for third place overall.
After hobbling around a bit immediately after the race, I realized a cool down wasn’t in the cards since walking alone was hard enough.For the rest of the day, walking remained difficult, and my Achilles’ remained painful to touch.
That’s when I decided I needed to take some serious time off and to focus on healing up. I “successfully” ran 2 miles last Thursday and 3 miles on Saturday. This week, I’ll continue to test the water and hope to put this spate of injuries behind me.