SOS kicks off with a fizzle

Hindsight is always 20/20, isn't it? I realize now that I probably shouldn't have picked the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge as the kick off to my Summer Of Speed. For starters the race is an irregular distance: 3.5 miles. A few less tenths of a mile and it would have been a 5K (one would wonder why it they didn't do that). Then, there were the 14,000 runners. For such a short race that is a friggin nightmare. But none the less, I counted it as the official kick-off to my SOS (borrowed generously from Nitmos).

The event is a corporate charity run (and walk as I found out) benefiting the Central Park Conservancy. My office organized a team and paid for the entry fees, so when I saw the email I was one of the first to sign up. The race was also exactly one month after the Delaware Marathon, so I figured I had plenty of time to switch out my Marathon legs for 5K legs.

Lesson #1 from the JPMCCC: I have never had 5K legs. By training and by racing I am a long distance runner. For six years I have only run Half-Marathons and Marathons (except for one 5K and one 10K). So training for this race was exceptionally awkward. The biggest problem was that I would wake up to go running and then I would think "it's only a three mile run, it won't hurt if I miss it" and then went back to sleep. And then when I did run my legs were super sore. I'm not used to being sore after every single run--at least that hasn't happened in a very long time. Hopefully this means this SOS will break out some long dormant muscles.

On race day (Wednesday) me and a couple of coworkers gathered up to head uptown together. We were all dressed up in running shorts and the team t-shirt when the head of our East Coast operations (my boss's boss's boss) passes by and starts chatting us up. Since I'm the "professional" runner he singles me out and says that if I don't finish in the top five I can consider myself fired. Actually, he grabs a sharpie from a desk and writes that ultimatum on my t-shirt. Great. No pressure.

Since we're running late when we get off the train at Columbus Circle me and my coworkers decided to "warm up" with a run from Columbus Circle to Tavern on the Green.

Lesson #2 from the JPMCC: running with a backpack is difficult. Worse than running at a sprint is running at a sprint with a back pack full of work clothes. It actually wore me out pretty bad--and that was before I got to the bag drop off for my company.

We put our bags down and stretched before walking over to the massive mess that was the starting line. I didn't realize how far back we were because the starting chute wrapped around a curve. But once the crowd started moving I saw that we were waaaay far back in the non-competitive section (excuse me: non-competitive? That's a joke, right?). After we passed the non-competitive banner then came the markers for 12 minute pace, 11 minute pace, 10 minute pace, and so on. We were essentially with the walkers and knew that we would be weaving through the crowd the entire way.

Lesson #3 from the JPMCC: weaving through a entire race is like cross training in the middle of a tempo run. Weaving through the crowd the entire race felt like I was alternating between a tempo run and calisthenics. There was no way to get to my goal race pace of 7:15 and I was constantly shuffling, hopping, skipping, passing, and dodging. It was an entirely different workout than I'm used when I run.

I immediately lost my coworkers in the crowd. I was so focused on making my way through the crowd that I didn't see the first mile marker. For someone used to running long distances where there are usually sections of the race when you're all alone, this literally was a nightmare.

Lesson #4 from the JPMCC: team t-shirts should be recognizable from a distance. I work in an ad agency, and while it's not the type of ad agency that produces advertisements we nonetheless have professional designers on staff to make presentations and such look good. Apparently, no one in my office thought of tapping one of those designers for a t-shirt. Our team t-shirts were plain white t-shirts with the company logo on the front and some uninspired words on the back. Finding one of my coworkers was impossible in that crowd.

Even though our t-shirts were hard to find, I did eventually find a coworker in the distance near mile 1.5. I tried to lock-in on him but I couldn't close in because of the crowd and the weaving that had tired me out prematurely. But at least I had that goal to pass him (remember, I had to finish in the top five if I wanted to keep my job) and that kept me going through the race.

On the final downhill (cat hill) I made up a significant amount of space between me and my other coworker and finally passed him just after the boathouse. Then was the unforgiving 90 degree turn just before the finish line and the even less forgiving uphill to the finish line.

Lesson #5 from the JPMCC: that was the worst finishing chute experience ever. One of my co-workers pointed out that between my finish and his finish about 800 people crossed the finish line.  Want to guess the amount of time that passed between our finishes?  Thirty seconds.  With that many people crushing at the finish line it was like running into a wall at the end.  Actually, I did run into two people who slowed do faster than me.

I finished the race in 28:11, a pace of 8:03.  However, according to Fenny I managed to run an extra .1 miles, bringing my adjusted pace to 7:53.  While this was about 45 seconds slower than I intended on finishing, it sets an incredibly low bar for the SOS.  I can only go up from here.  Hooray for optimism!


Adam said...

I recently had someone else trying to get me to join one of these - it was 3.5 miles too...strange distance.

That SUCKS about the walkers. Hate that.

Laura said...

My company signed up for the JPMCC too late, so we're doing the 3 mile Wall Street Run/Walk tonight. I have a feeling it's going to be the same thing as your experience where I'm going to have to wade through walkers. Though hopefully in this heat they'll just skip it!