Sunday, April 15, 2012

Race report: 2012 Marcie Mazzola 5K

The big finish
Today's run (Marcie Mazzola 5K): 3.1 miles
26:48 (8:38 pace)

Once again, Team Emerging Runner headed out early on a Sunday morning (6:55 AM) for my fourth running of the Marcie Mazzola 5K. Although the race starts at 8:30, we like to get there before the crowds, because the parking lot gets filled quickly. We arrived to see things in full swing with dozens of volunteers dressed in the race's signature purple shirts. 

I got my race number and we settled in for an hour's wait until the start. I've participated in this race for the last four years and my wife and I recognize many of the people from prior years. This race attracts runners across the spectrum, from the very young, to those in their 80's. There are always lots of people from running clubs and corporate teams, but the total number of participants was still a manageable 440.

Colorful crowd prior to race start
We were concerned about the weather, because conditions were dark and cloudy when we left the house. The news stations were reporting light showers throughout the morning. By race time, things had brightened up and we lined up to the start under partly sunny skies. I chatted with the runner next to me while we waited. He asked me if my Hattori's (yep, decided to go with a reliable favorite) hurt my knees. I told him, with a mid-foot strike, that they are actually kinder to my knees than cushioned shoes.

Seconds after the horn, we turned onto Woodhull, which the race announcer described as being 5/8ths of a mile in distance. I ran it more aggressively than last year and expected my first mile split to be better than the 9:17 that was called out by the race volunteer. But it is a big long hill and last year I spent 9:35 covering the same distance. Once we crested, the road began its downward slope and I pushed hard to make up some time.

I ran well over the second mile and passed a good number of runners. I do believe all the long runs I've been doing are helping my speed. My 2 mile split was 17:30, which brought my overall pace down to 8:45 at that point, a half minute per mile improvement. With that progress and the feeling that I had sufficient energy to sustain my pace, I thought I was in for a PR-challenging run.

Once I crossed West Main Street and reached Prime Avenue that borders Heckscher Park, I knew I'd soon be challenged on the turnaround that leads to the final streets toward the finish line. About an eighth of a mile before the end sits a short steep hill that I always dread. I wanted to preserve whatever I had left for my final sprint, but I needed to spend precious energy getting past this hill.

Hard charge around the final dogleg
With no choice but to charge up the hill, I poured it on and hoped for the best. Seconds later I passed mile 3 and made my way up a less challenging hill, past the cheering crowds, where I saw my family waiting along the final dogleg leading to the finish chute. I had given it everything I had, running a 7:40 pace as I crossed the line.

Road ID - It wasn't for performance but I won!
We hung out after the race to watch the award ceremony and then waited for the results of the raffle. My kids always hold out hope of winning one of the prize baskets, but it didn't happen this year. There's a raffle just for the runners, and I was fortunate to win a gift certificate for a Road ID. Timing is everything, because I just got one a couple of weeks ago! But this one will be put to good use.

Long line for Mr. Softy
Like last year, the race organizers hired a Mr. Softy truck to hand out soft serve cones to race participants. It was a welcome treat again this year, and that one cone made its way through the entire Emerging Runner team.

It was another great Marcie Mazzola race, my second race of the year, and a good break from my weekend long runs. I would have liked to break 26 minutes and I thought I was on track to do that, but it didn't happen. Still, I improved on last year's time by 44 seconds - not too bad.

Tomorrow it's back to the office and next weekend I'm back to long base running. I'm happy with this morning's race and now it's all about the LI Half in May.

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