The week of the race, this guy Mike, a member of my local Facebook running group page whom I've never met asked if anyone else was running Kings Park. I replied, as well as a couple of others. Mike then offered to pick up anyone's race bib. Sure! This race is a hike out east, and if you can avoid making the trek two days in a row unnecessarily, then by all means. He was nice enough to drop it off at my house Friday afternoon. I actually was out with Sanibel running the campus of SUNY Old Westbury as a last minute attempt to get some hill work in. I told Mike I would be happy to drive to the race the next morning as a token of reciprocity. When I arrived home, I discovered my "adorable" puppy wanted to see how the bib would look in her stomach. It wasn't destroyed, but there were prominent teeth marks all over, particularly on the electronic chip. One of a racer's worst nightmares is to run a race with all of your heart in the hopes of a Personal Record (PR) only to discover your chip malfunctioned and the whole damn thing might as well have never happened. It would be your own sad secret. Another nightmare, perhaps worse, might be pooping your pants. I had that covered with a brand new box of Imodium.
Race morning arrived. I picked up Mike and we headed east. He turned out to be super nice, a lifelong runner who was very familiar with the Long Island race scene. We found relatively close parking to the start. Since we were early, the first thing I did was check with the timing company that the chip on my bib still worked. It did (Lucky dog). Mike and I decided to hang out in the elementary school where the pre- and post-race activities were taking place. The temperature was in the high 30s. I wore shorts and my official 2014 Boston Marathon race shirt. The sun was out and there hadn't been snow on the ground in weeks. I knew I would warm up once I started running, but for the time being, my teeth were actually chattering. I felt like the WHO zombie from World War Z.
"I wish I had a Brad burger right about now..."
photo courtesy of Ed Grenzig
I ran at a comfortably fast pace by feel, one that I hoped I could sustain. I hit the Mile 1 marker in 7:16. A little faster than I planned, but I felt good and I knew I would be maybe a full minute slower on the big hill coming up. There were very slight ups and downs in these first couple of miles, fun and nothing of any consequence. The Mile 2 clock read 7:27 which was closer to my goal pace. I didn't have to wait long for the ascent. We climbed 218 steep feet that seemed to go on forever. I was so psyched when we crested because I knew this was the only real big hill in the race. The rest would be cake...not nearly as close to any oceans as I would have liked. I finished Mile 3 in 8:17, surprisingly quicker than I expected. Mile 4 was run in 7:26, Mile 5 in 7:13, Mile 6 in 7:36... I hit the 10k mark in 47:xx, around my 10k PR from a couple of years ago. The deceivingly challenging part of this race comes at Mile 7. It is the long, slow, gradual incline on Kings Park Boulevard. It's a straight shot and people tend to run faster than they should here. I knew this ahead of time so I held back a bit. I finished this mile in 8:17, the exact same split as the earlier killer hill. There is a turn around at this end of this road and then you run back slightly downhill. Mile 8 in 7:38. Finally, I was on the home stretch. Whoo hoo! Up a little hill and then another not-so-little hill...after the multiple hills I just ran over. Ugh. I actually considered walking at this point. I really wanted to be done. I knew, however, if I stopped and finished just a minute or seconds slower than my PR on this course, I'd be kicking myself. I put the punk back in my pocket and finished the race. I forgot to turn my Garmin off immediately so it recorded 9.4 miles in 1:12:08, a 7:40 pace. I think my official time is 1:11:47, 5th in my age group and top 17% overall. A PR for the course (over 600 feet of elevation and descent) and the distance. I'm very happy considering this race is one of the harder ones on the island. Perfect conditions, after all.