In my first race as a pregnant chick, I wore racing flats. I also over-dressed because NYRR put the porta-potties way too far from the starting line and the Parks Department locked the previously reliable bathrooms that are just off the starting line. Thanks Parks Department! In case you were wondering, the negative result of locking the bathrooms and putting the porta-potties too far away from the start was the endless stream of runners peeing behind a dumpster next to an apartment building. Probably not what they were going for. Also, don’t mess with a pregnant chick’s bladder.
Now, if you haven’t experienced the starting line of a co-ed NYRR race, then you have never really raced. Ok, I take that back, I wish everyone could go their entire lives without having to experience a co-ed NYRR starting line. It really brings out the worst in people. It’s kind of like being on the subway during rush hour. If you mostly run NYRR races, then when you go to race anywhere else it’s a very strange feeling, not having someone shoving you to get into position. What’s funny about this is that NYRR uses chip timing in results, as opposed to the much more conventional “first person across the line” method, so where you start doesn’t really mean much. In fact, there is an advantage to starting further back because someone who started further up from you can think they are out-kicking you, when they are actually 15 seconds back.
One thing that leads to these overly aggressive and unpleasant starting lines is that NYRR does it’s best to carve out a section for women. Props to NYRR for not diminishing the value of the women’s race. The downside that results, though, are the evil glares that the men shoot the women who are lining up near the front. Fine, there were 50 men at Coogans who had the right to not want to stand behind any women. However, there are much more than 50 men who think they have the right to stand in front of the women just because they are women.
The second thing that makes these starting lines unpleasant is the 15-minute pre-load time and the refusal to let anyone front-load. NYRR created a top-100 bib # process for the purpose of further sectioning off the front corral. That’s great. However, at this race they somehow forget to section off the top-100, and they don’t let those top-100 front load, which means that the top-100 have to either get in the corral 15-minutes early or worm their way to the front through a huge mob. Well, most of these top-100 bib runners choose to instead jump the fence. Then they get yelled at by volunteers and screaming matches ensue, and a bunch of bodies then have to shove their way to the front through the already awkwardly crowded corral. Seriously NYRR, what is so wrong with front-loading for the top-100? And why must the volunteer’s yell?
So, I lined myself up in the pack of women, but not at the front like I usually would. Also, not as far back as I should have, probably because I am in some sort of denial that I am not Superwoman. The gun went off and I started my awkward tempo through Washington Heights.
Quick background: my insistence on running this race was only partly to participate in a team race and partly to keep myself entertained during my voluntary slow time. The real basis for this need is my streak of having run every Coogan’s 5k since I moved to New York. This year was to be #11, and nothing would be getting in the way of that. While my progression in the race has not been linear, my first Coogan’s was my slowest (18:38) and 2012 was my fastest (17:11). So, one year ago: 5:33 pace.
This year I was happy to go out in 6:30. This is how it felt: you know those bad dreams where you are trying to run, but can’t? Yep, that’s what running pregnant feels like. I have read that it has something to do with the increase in blood volume. I have a hard time wrapping my brain around this, based on the effectiveness of blood doping and the allegations of “abortion doping” by East German athletes in the 70s and 80s. More believably, I have read that progesterone causes muscles to relax to prevent the uterus from going into contractions, and also changes the body’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide, causing your body to feel like it needs to breath harder to expel the same carbon dioxide that it was dealing with fine before. I will also wager that being 15 lbs above my preferred racing weight isn’t helping with the hills. Combining all those elements = running through jello.
I also faced the slight inconvenience of having to stop and tie my shoe halfway through the race. I was really starting to move when this happened. Apparently the increased weight is an advantage on the downhills. I have run a handful of races in my life with my shoe untied, and normally would do so for half of a 5k, but not stopping to tie my shoe in this situation would be the one thing I am trying not to do: taking myself too seriously. I am still cursing that shoelace, though, because I am pretty sure it’s the one thing that came between me and breaking 20-minutes. Wait, the second thing (the first being the minion).
So, there you have it. I ran negative splits of 6:30-6:27(including shoe tying time)-6:17(mostly downhill). I watched two women duel it out in front of me, nearly tripping over each other to finish 55th and 56th, unwilling to participate because I am not letting myself switch to that one other gear. It was frustrating, humbling and I am still so glad I did it. I am considering it Minion’s first race and I know that (s)he really enjoyed it.