The race I have a love-hate relationship with…

That would be NYRR’s Coogan’s Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K!

It’s a chance to get outside of Central Park (or Prospect Park) and race on the streets (read: hills) of Washington Heights and up around The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park…and back to the start.

And when I say “read: hills” I mean, HILLS. There is barely a flat section to the course. You start up an incline, go down a little, have a small bit of flat and then it’s uphill, downhill, uphill into the park, a little down and maybe some flat around The Cloisters, then it’s uphill out of the park, a tiny flat then downhill before a tiny flat and uphill before going downhill to the finish. And with it being on the city streets, you have to keep an eye out for potential potholes, uneven pavement, etc. It’s also a course where they have members of the Young Runners participating en masse, and they are mixed into the various corrals. Add fun music of all varying types all along the course, and you’ve got a fun little race – with the challenge of hills thrown in.

See? Love-Hate relationship perfection there!

I’ve done this race every year since I’ve been running, and I’ll likely continue to take the abuse every year that I’m able. It’s that fun. It’s been my PR course in spite of the hills – honestly, the downhill at the end really does help with that. Beautiful views as you round The Cloisters – including the George Washington Bridge (GWB), which I’ve somehow missed the past two years but made a point to look for today. And then there’s the bonus of brunch hosted by a couple from my running club whose apartment is right along the race course. Lots of reasons to run it every year. This year it was also a Club Points Race in the NYRR series, so participation was great for FRNY as well because even if you’re not fast (I’m not…we all know that), the team has to have a certain number simply participate. So I was definitely doing it.

I have added the fact that I’m now a member of Team Tough Chik, which is women from all over. We haven’t gotten our kits yet – really ok today as it was cold, and I got the singlet kit – but I want to show those colors as well. (I have a way I’m going to do it on a – ahem – more permanent basis, but that’s not happening quite yet.) I’ve got a skirt that’s in the team colors, so today I combined my FRNY colors with my Team Tough Chik colors:

I got up and made my “shamrock smoothie” (which turned out to be way too minty as I sort of spilled extra extract into the blender…but I got most of it down), then got dressed and headed to the subway to head to the Heights. It’s always fun on race mornings to see runners waiting for the train and on the train. And there were a lot of us waiting on the A at Hoyt-Schermerhorn and then we all but took over the A from that point on. At the 168th St station it was a wall of gym bags, running shoes, and D-tags heading up and out. LOL. I’d debated going up to the brunch locale early to drop off my bag, but opted to do bag drop at “race central”so that I’d have my sweatshirt to put on after the race and heading to brunch. So I joined the mass-o-runners exiting.

I was going to hit Starbucks for some pre-race caffeine, but a lot of others had the same idea. So I got some diet Coke from a bodega next door. Headed to the Armory for a potty stop (hint: go down the hall to the second area of bathrooms…it was virtually empty!). On my way out, ran into FRNY teammate Blossom, so we chatted for a little while, then I headed out to drop off my bag and head to my purple corral. Chatted with a couple of women – one a Mercury Masters runner and one with another club which I forget right now – then connected up with other FRNY teammates Stacey and Patty so we chatted for a while. Waved to Elyse across the way, and then we were moving up slowly but surely.

Being on city streets AND being a lollipop course, it’s automatically narrow. And for some reason the past two years they haven’t required that cars be moved off the course, so we lose an extra “lane” per side. That’s where the addition of the kids makes it interesting. I’m all for having the kids participate in things, but I think this year proved it may be time to give them their own corral (in the back) and possibly even their own start as it’s painfully obvious that not many of them are being taught race etiquette, particularly when it comes to moving and stopping or switching to a walk. About a mile in, I decided to lead by example and make even more of a production of switching to walking than I usually do (I always move to the side safely, raise my hand, and say “walking” but today I pretty much screamed it…and put my hand up even higher than usual). I don’t know if it will help or not, but it was worth a try.

I didn’t really have any time goal in mind when I went in. I more wanted to do more running on the hills than I have before. Ideally I’d like to have done all my running intervals, but I would be happy with just doing more than last year. And I succeeded in doing that! I did drop to a walk at the steepest one, but I was over halfway into the interval. It’s always a tough call…keep going and risk not having the control to fly downhill to the finish or walk a little and fly to the finish. I opted for the second today, and I’m ok with it. I also wanted to focus on just generally running the best race I could. I succeeded in that as well as Dahlia said she saw me as I was entering the park and she was leaving, but I was very focused and didn’t see her. Oops! But yay for focus!

It’s always nice to pass the corner where the brunch apartment is as FRNY always has a cheer squad set up, and that’s always encouraging. More teammates were further down cheering, and that gave me the final boost.

As I hit the 3 mile marker, I started the mental game of time just to see and knew that a PR was going to be close, so I gunned it. Apparently my “focused going for it at the end” face can be mistaken for “pain” because when I got to brunch, Blossom said that they’d seen me at the end and their first reaction was “Uh oh…is she hurt?” Hmm…must work on not looking pained. Or maybe that’s how you’re supposed to look at the end of a 5K?

Anyway…I just went for it and hit the garmin (while looking up I might add!) as I hit the finish line. I knew that whatever happened, I was happy with my race. I really couldn’t have asked any more of my body and stayed upright today. As I walked towards baggage, I stopped my runtastic app – yes, I opted to listen to my running playlist, so that could have helped with the pace as well – and grabbed a bagel, sadly plain by the time i got there, so I only took a couple of bites. Grabbed my bag and headed up to brunch. I could have taken the subway, but I opted to walk as a cool down.

We all had a great time at brunch. It took a little while for results to be posted, but when they were you could tell as there was a buzz all through the apartment as people looked up their times.

My PR, set at Coogan’s 2011 was 35:37 with an AG percentage of 42.7

Today’s time and AG? 34:56 and 44.06%. Both personal bests!!!!

I was so excited at the shiny new PR and the AG percentage best it took me until I was home and in the shower to realize something else.

I went sub-35 in a 5K for the first time EVER!!!!!

So yeah…this is the race I have a total love-hate relationship with…and I’ll always do it as long as I’m able.

It’s that kind of fun!

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