Meaningless Numbers

This Sunday I’m running the Ed Erichson 5 miler in my old home town of Poughkeepsie, NY.  Back in November I ran my 5 mile PR of 27:06 at in that same town, and I hope to better it by 7 seconds this weekend to run 26:59.  All I have to do is run this race 1.4 seconds per mile faster and presto a PR.  My training has been going well and I feel like I am in much better shape now than I was 3 months ago so this should be a slam dunk right?  Of course not.  So many things have to go right on race day, many of which such as weather and competition are completely out of your control. 

My current 5 mile PR was run on a 45 degree day in November with no wind, and I had someone to battle with for first place the whole race.  The weather should be fairly benign and the course is as flat as any 5 mile course in Dutchess County can be, so the main uncontrolable will be who else is in the race.  The key too good competition is to face runners just slightly better than you who on a really good day you can just squeek out a win over.  If they are too fast they either leave you in the dust from the start, or you blow up your racing trying to stay with them early on.  If they are too slow you may end up with a win, which is always nice, but it is hard to run your best time when you don’t really have to.  I know there are a few Poughkeepsie runners who can run just north or south of 27 minutes for 5 miles, the question is will any of them show up at this particular race?

All this writing about PR’s got me thinking about the nature of our running goals.  where do these times come from?  It always seems like we want to get just faster than the nearest even number for me that comes out to 4:29 for the mile, 15:59 for 5k, 26:59 for 5 mile, 33:59 for 10k 1:17:59 for half marathon, luckly I’ve already run just under 3 hours for a marathon so I can leave that one be for now.  Is it because we want to say “Yeah I’m a 15 minute 5k runner” or “Oh the mile? I run sub 4:30 for the mile.”  Never mind that we ran a 15:59… it is in the 15’s and that is good enough for us, who cares if we are putting ourselves in the same boat as guys who run 15:04 and are just hoping to shave those last 5 seconds so they can tell people they are 14 minute 5k runners.

When it comes right down to it, our PR’s are really only important to us (although our wives, or girlfriends may amuse us by faining interest).  We could just as easily pick times that corresond with signifigant numbers in our lives.  I could set my 10k pr at 32:54 because I was born in 1974 and 1974 seconds in 32:54.  As I look at my racing time goals for the year taped up on the all of my cubical at work I wonder if I shouldn’t change all those 9’s at the end to 4’s or 6’s just to mix things up a bit.

A Mighty Wind

Spring has yet to arrive in Rochester, and even though it wasn’t snowing during todays workout it was only about 25 degrees and the wind was at a steady 20 mph with gusts well over 30 mph out of the wnw.  Mike and I had a 4×1 mile workout planned on a 1 mile stretch of the Erie Canal trail which just happens to run east-west.  We knew from doing our warm up strides into the wind that it was going to be rough, but we had no idea how rough it was going to be.

We ran the first one with the wind and were flying along nicely until the final 100 meters when we hit a pack of ice and snow that had blown onto the trail forcing us onto a small rocky patch along the canal that had some traction.  Despite that little set back we managed a fairly easy 5:14 which we both agreed was really a 5:12 because of the slow down on the snow.  Our return trip took 30 seconds longer and that was with us switching every 400 meters to share the burden of breaking the wind.  I was not surprised by the slow time, but I was surprised at how hard it felt.

The next rep we really got moving and ran a 5:06 with the wind pushing us along.  You know it is windy when you are running 5 minute pace and you can feel the wind still shoving you along.  Even though we were just taking 90 seconds rest I was feeling pretty good as we turned to face the wind one last time.  The first 800 meters went nicely in 2:50 but then things took a horrible turn for the worst.  The next 3 minutes the wind was howling the kind of wind that just stands you straight up.  I felt like was I at a dead sprint the last 400 meters and we ran it in over 1:40.  When we finally finished I felt like I just ran up 100 flights of stairs.  I am certain had we run that hard with no wind it would have been well under 5 minute pace.

All this has left me dreaming of a warm calm day in May when I can get on a track!

Freezeroo #6 10K in the snow

Proper Racing Gear.

After all my worrying and complaining, the weather turned out to be not so bad.  At race time the temps were right around 20 degrees and there was a melted patch cleared down most of the center of the road.  I was impressed by the turnout of about 200 people for this the last in the Greater Rochester Track Clubs Freezeroo Series.  I didn’t run any of the previous 5 so i was not in the running for the series title, but I did think I had a shot at winning this particular race.

Hot new Shoes

This race was also to be the debut of my new adiZERO Gebrselassie Special Edition shoes.  I was even welcomed to the starting line bu a whispered “Who’s the guy in the bright shoes?”  I am happy to report that the shoes felt great, and even at 3 oz heavier than my Asic Pirhanas I didn’t feel them on my feet at all.

The Competition

I got the run down on the current series standings from Matt Roberts (above in the yellow shirt) he was the current series leader beating Josh Harter by 1 point.  The first 4 people in the standings were all on the line so it looked like everyone was really going to be fighting for every place.

400 meters in

I took a quick lead from the gun, but was soon passed by by Keith, who gave me a good run for my money over the next 400 meters until eventually fading off the pace.  Josh H, Matt R, and a guy I don’t know in blue hat and white singlet stayed in tight pack right behind me for the next few miles.  My plan was to get out quick but relaxed and hopefully open up a bit of a gap during the first mile.  The sound of foot steps never faded as I hit the first mile in 5:35.

The Snowy Road

This picture above gives you an idea of what the roads were like.  Up front it wasn’t much of an issue but I imagine that passing was tough in the middle of the pack.  This shot also gives you a nice look at what the hills were like.  None of them were terrible, but the whole course just kind of rolled.  I ran the next 2 miles in 5:44 and 5:41, which was slower than I wanted but the sound of foot steps had started fading and I was having trouble finding the motivation to really push the pace.  I hit the turn around at 5k and for the first time got a look at my lead which seemed to be about 10 seconds on a pack of 3 runners.

Matt Roberts and the chase pack.


Between Mile 3-4


This picture makes it look like I was really suffering, but in fact I was feeling pretty good.  I was just thinking I had to make up this hill just before the 4 mile mark and then I could make a strong push for the finish.  I apparently took it a bit too easy and clocked my worst split of the race 5:55.  I knew I had run that mile slower but I was annoyed to have run it that slow and started to make a strong effort for the first time in the race.

Long and rolling road.

We got spaced out by this point in the run but I hadn’t looked back and didn’t really know how close anyone was.

The Chase.


After my 5:55 mile I thought they might be on my tail. I mentally told the chase pack to “eat my shorts,” and I picked up the pace (or at least that is what Lisa typed I was thinking when I stepped away from the computer for a minute).  I put in a 5:42 4th mile.

Mile 5

There was one last big hill at mile 5 then a nice long gradual downhill until a very un-fun 200 hill the last .2 miles.  I finished with a 35:25 splitting the last mile in 5:32 with a 74 final .2.  This was a 50 second PR and although this was not as fast as I was hoping to run I can’t complain about any PR and a first place finish. Race Results Here

I’d like to thank the guys at Rochester Runner Pics for the great photos!  They are at lots of the area races and do a great job.

so much for zen and dealing with snow.

It was just a month or so ago when I was proclaiming how nice it was to just let winter wash over me and embrace it as it part of running in Western NY. Well now it is the end of February and my good will toward the snow is gone. Last week Lisa reproached me for loudly proclaiming “This is Bullshit!” when I saw the weather called for snow on my long run day. Now as another storm rages outside I don’t even have the heart to curse it anymore. I’m just worn out by it, in January we had 3 days with no measureable snow. A few weeks ago we actually warmed up for a few days and 90% of the snow was gone until we got hit by a fresh 10 inches. Yesterday I saw a few patches of grass but after this latest storm and projected temps in the 20’s for most of the next 10 days it will likely be sometime before the ground makes a reappearance.
Tomorrow I’m running the last of the Freezeroo races. A flat out and back 10K course that I was hoping to set a PR on. It is probably going to be about 19 degrees at the gun and who knows what the roads will be like. The crazy thing is I still have a good shot at a PR since my old one is so bad. For awhile I was debating whether or not to run the race depending on the weather. I finally decided I was going to run no matter what. Not because of some inner peace about the weather, but more to spite it. It is my way of saying screw off winter, I’m done with you.