Sunday, March 6, 2011

RACE REPORT: 2011 Coogan's Salsa, Blues & Shamrock 5k

RACE: Coogan's Salsa, Blues & Shamrocks
DATE: Sunday, March 6, 2011
TIME: 9am
LOCATION: Washington Heights, NY
WEATHER:  50F, Rain

Sometimes when you do a race that’s nasty, it makes you appreciate your home more.  The weather was nasty.  Nothing that an ailing back should have to deal with.  Even if the bagels at the finish line are green!

This was my 7th running of the Coogan’s Salsa, Blues & Shamrocks. Every year I’ve been running it, I’ve been able to acquire a time better than the previous. Of course, nursing a back injury and not having trained much, my goal wasn’t to continue this tradition, or even break 8 minutes per mile. Last year, my pace was 7:14. This year, my goal was to finish somewhere under 9 minutes per mile, which would have been my slowest outing ever at this race. But you know what? I’m still rehabbing, so a miracle I race at all.

I saw Tom, Pauline S and Pauline T there, but in all we were 11 strong for Forest Park today. 
We stayed inside the Track & Field Armory for as long as we could, to avoid the rawness of the rain outside.  The weather wouldn't make matters much worse for me as I wasn't looking for time, just a finish today.

Still, I knew how competitive I get. And while I was in the sub-elite (RED) corral, I decided NOT to line up with my peers, but instead at the back of the pack. I did this because I didn’t want to disregard my rehab, my health, and possible set myself back. Heck, this is only a 5K anyway.

It was about 50 degrees outside, easily the warmest Coogan’s race (by 15 degrees) I’ve ever run. However, the rain was hard and steady, and with a slippery hills all along the way, I had to run even more cautious. Plus, this race has a large contingency of minors and most of them are pretty reckless when they run. So, as you can see, I wasn’t about to be taking any chances at a better time, with all of these obstacles.

Here was a video review of the race, courtesy of the New York Road Runner's Club;

Lining up at the back of the pack, made sure that I would prevent myself from going too fast.  Sure enough there were some slow but dedicated runners ahead of me, that I had to pass like the woman with the word "GRANDMA" on her back.  But the one nice thing about running slower, was that I finally got to just enjoy a race for all the fun stuff that comes with it.  I didn't have to focus on doing a great time.  Just making sure that I didn't slip on the wet roads, or get cut off by a 14-year old, was about the extent of the hazards that I did have to focus on.  I even got to enjoy some of the live entertainment along the course, such as the drummers along the way, or even the Mexican Mariachi band playing under the bus stop so as not to get wet.

The race has "SALSA" which is predominantly a Puerto Rican style of music, and the area we ran through is heavily populated by Dominicans, so I didn't see the relevance of having a Mexican Mariachi band play, but what the

I did my first mile in 8:58, and considering the huddled mass of people I was stacked with, I was actually happy with the split. As we headed into Fort Tryon park, I saw Karen. She had lined up far ahead of me, and I had just passed her. I kinda stopped, and went back to tell her that it would be all downhill after 184th street.

My back was starting to sing, but it wasn’t any kind of praise. It was more like, ‘Dude, I feel like I ran a half-marathon already’. As I passed the 2 mile mark, I had garnered a time of 8:38.36, which was a little better. Of course, we then had a nice, juicy uphill to contend with next before the downhill sprint from 184th to the end. As I went up that hill, I saw someone holding a sign up. It read “Run faster…..Charlie Sheen is winning!!!”. This was obviously in response to all of his psychotic banter over the air waves the last few weeks, and how he is ‘winning’ while everyone has no clue about what he is doing.
(Bonnie is portraying Natalie Portman portraying the Black Swan with her fuschia and FPRR singlet...)
I did pick up the pace considerably after I passed the 184th street mark.  It truly was all downhill from there.  My only concern was not slipping from overstriding, but my back was still too sore from being able to do long strides anyway.  As I passed under the I-95 overpass, I held my arm out with a big thumbs up to the Brightroom photographer, but it was Bonnie (see above) who got the prize winning maniac photo!

Just like the guy in the right of this photo, I was feeling pretty good too, as I finished damn strong with a finish time of 26:43.  And even though I finished in the lower third of my age category, and slightly above the 50 percentile overall, and 2nd worst ever finish at Coogan’s, I was happy that I finished without any added pain to my back.  It was my first race finish since the New York City Marathon last year. The last 3 months have been an ordeal. Here’s hoping this is the start, albeit subtle, to something good!
In addition, this year's race featured medals to all children finishing the race.  This might have been done in prior years, but all I kept thinking about was WHY are my children not running yet?!?!?!
After the race, I saw Bonnie and Eric.  Eric started taking photos of Charles Rangel, who was onhand for the race. 

Afterwards, our team got together for breakfast at the place made famous by Seinfeld, Tom's Diner @ 2880 Broadway (near 112th).  Service was initially less than stellar, but it got better by the end, and the food was good too.  See photos below.

The turn out we had in our team was great. Wilson also ran, so in actuality we fielded 12 people!

There are a lot of local races coming up.  April is always a crazy month for racing.  Let's see how I fare over the next few weeks as I broke 20 miles this past week for the first since my sledding accident.