Last year, I did this because of the mile. As I’ve given up on that particular carrot for the moment (it’s just too frustrating), never mind that it’s a sucky course… I’m not really sure why I wanted to do it. But I did. Partly because in 2016, it was a week after these races that I stress fractured my ankle, and I feel all paranoid and superstitious, so why not make it worse?
The price of a good race is high, if you’re me. Which is why my PR on Thanksgiving was followed by debilitating right knee pain that came from out of nowhere during a weekend trail run. Naturally, this happened at the farthest possible point from the car, and that’s not even counting the extra distance we covered because we got lost.
This was my good knee. Which was my “bad” knee prior to 2014, because it’s the one that’s more prone to ITBS, but that wasn’t the issue here. No, it felt exactly like my left knee felt three and a half years ago, and the only advice my doctor offered was, “It’s fine to run so long as you can stand the pain.” I stood it for four months before getting a cortisone shot, the effects of which were miraculous and only lasted ten days. Cortisone is more effective before a problem becomes chronic. Even Dathan Ritzenhein says so, and he’d know. So I got a cortisone shot the very next day. And then I waited.
I tried running on the AlterG on Thursday. It went okay. I tried running outside on Friday. It started to hurt a little after a few miles, but after I was done running, it didn’t feel too terrible, so I registered for these races. For no discernible reason.
Shockingly, despite the road construction, I didn’t get lost once on my way to Flushing Meadows Park. And I even managed to park on the right side of the lake this time, so that I was literally right next to the finish line area. Quite convenient!
I kept my warmup short — if there are only a few miles in my knee per run, I don’t want to waste them on a warmup rather than the race. And the one-mile was first, which I didn’t plan on racing anyway, so it isn’t like it mattered, right?
Lined up to race this lovely (um, not) course.
I used my mile race watch settings so that I’d have quarter mile splits, but I didn’t look at it once because I did not care at all about my pace. I knew I wasn’t going to PR, and a PR is the only reason I’d bother to pay attention.
Except that there was a woman next to me, and I spent the first quarter shaking her off, so there was that.
Finished in 6:23 (10/69 OA), eight seconds slower than last year, but still first female. I guess it’s supposed to be somewhat encouraging that I knew I wasn’t running hard enough for a mile race, whereas last year, it felt like more of an effort. Meh.
After dumping my medal in the car (I thought I was only meant to get one, after the second race), I stood around for a bit until we were called to the start for the second race.
The course is a little different. Which turned out to be a good thing for me, since last year, I missed a PR by a couple of seconds, and my watch measured over a tenth of a mile long.
None of which should have mattered to me, since I didn’t actually intend to attempt a PR. I just wanted to finish in one piece and be done with it.
Except that the same woman who was on my tail at the start of the mile race was there. Along with a second one. Who ran next to me for the first couple of miles, once I caught up to her after not blasting out way too fast. This time, I did look at my watch — because even though she hadn’t run the mile race, and I could still win the 1+4 Challenge if she finished ahead of me, I would rather cross first. It made it easier to tell myself I could do that if I looked at my watch and saw that I had, in fact, previously run that pace for a longer distance.
I didn’t let myself start trying to drop her until we had nearly completed the first two-mile loop — right around the Unisphere. I passed her, and then a guy ahead of both of us, and for the rest of the race, I heard his footsteps behind me. I refused to look over my shoulder to verify that it was really him, and not her; it didn’t sound like her, and I just had to trust that.
And thanks to that, I did PR — by twelve seconds. 28:04, 7:01/mi; 6/93 OA, and first female.
Which, of course, means I was also first female in the 1+4 Challenge, with a combined time of 34:27 — that’s faster than my combined time last year, so yay? 6/43 OA for the Challenge.
I did get a second medal, but I gave one back, because I was right — I wasn’t supposed to get two, and there were people from the four-mile race who didn’t get any.
Before the awards ceremony, I wanted to get in a couple of cooldown miles… except my knee started to bark a bit after one, so I stopped there instead of pushing my luck.
I really, really, really hope the cortisone lasts longer this time.
And that I could stop being so scared of history repeating itself. Because I am a crazy person, and this is terrifying me.