Tag Archives: new york

Race Report: Washington Heights Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K, New York, March 5, 2017

by Paul Thompson (pictures by Shamala Thompson)

Today was possibly the coldest conditions I’ve ever run in. Leaving the house to drive south at 7:15am, my weather app was showing 12F (-11C), feeling like 2F (-18C). The bright sunshine was deceptive. It promised some warmth but gave none. Fortunately Urban Athletics came away with a truck load of team and individual awards, topped by first woman, enough to make it more than worth braving the cold. While some members were running in new, older, age groups, all of us felt like we were running in a new Ice Age.

When I first said to coach ‘Troopy’ that I wanted to run this for the team he suggested I run train through and not allow it to interfere with my London Marathon preparations. That’s what I did when racing the 2016 Gridiron 4M last February while building for the Greater Manchester Marathon. I’m not big on ‘training through’. I like to think I can give every race a fair shot. So I was relieved that  Troopy changed his mind. After hill repeats on Monday and 14 miles on Tuesday, he then adjusted my training to allow some tapering. I ended the week, Saturday, with 62 miles, almost 20 less than the previous week. And on Fridayt I saw DrStu who treated tightness where the glute meets the hamstring.

After parking the car at Marcus Garvey Park, Sham and I ran the 3.5 miles to the start via St. Nicholas Avenue. It was a warm-up of sorts. We arrived with barely 10 minutes to go, just enough time to squeeze in a few strides and ‘relieve’ myself behind the locked toilet block. Huddling with UA team mates in the starting corral offered some collective warmth but some face muscles were not working making for slurred conversation. It was a relief to hear the gun. Only 16 minutes until I got reunited with my warm clothing.

img_4703

Jason Lakritz, leading UA finisher

On the opening half mile climb I tucked into a group comprising team mates Javier Rodriguez, Carlo Agostinetto and Jamie Brisbois. Jason Lakritz was in a group several meters ahead of us. Several other masters runners were in close proximity including Peter Brady and John Henwood. Gradually Carlo and Javier edged away with John on their coat tails. I covered the first mile in 5:21.

The course then descends for some 500 meters into Fort Tyron Park. I was now chasing John. Carlo and Javier had gotten away. As we circled the Cloisters and started to head home – this 5K is an out and back with the Cloisters marking the lowest point of the undulating course – for the first time I can remember I snatched a view of the Hudson River.

The second mile is symmetrical – it descends for 500 meters, circles the Cloisters for 600 meters and then winds its way back up for 500 meters. I passed mile 2, the highest point of the course, in 10:43. At this point one is tempted to think one can cruise down to the finish. That’s a mistake. There’s still a steady 300 meter climb to tackle before the course drops down to the finish.  At the crest of that climb I pulled alongside John only to have him accelerate away.

In that final 800 meters of gently descending roadway I lost a few places and crossed the finish line in 16:36 per the official results, good for 33rd overall. It was a few seconds shy of my 16:30 target. My Garmin data is here but it’s mixed with my long warm-up.

img_4705

Crossing the finish line in 16:36

Javier won the masters in 16:09, John in 2nd in 16:31 and me 3rd, 1st M50 and top AG with 89.63%. UA won big. Harriott Kelly won the women’s race in 17:16 and Fiona Bayly, just shy of her 50th birthday, matched Javier by winning the women’s masters in 19:06. UA won the team races for masters men, masters women and veteran men (M50) and came 3rd overall for men and 5th overall for women.

Harriott was gushing with joy, pride and relief. Typically understated and super modest for a short while she wanted, quite rightly, to remind everyone “I won” and get the plaudits. That feeling I could tell she had was that priceless feeling that comes when all the hard work and commitment pays big dividends and you come out on top. Well done Harriott!

Other UA individual top 10 age group placers were as follows: Jason Lakritz 9th overall and 5th M25-29 in 15:46; Carlo Agostinetto 1st M35-39 in 16:10; James Brisbois 2nd M20-24 in 16:55; Matt Chaston 2nd M45-49 in 16:59; Aaron Mendelsohn 6th M40-44 in 17:06; Stefano Piana-Agostinetti 7th M45-49 in 17:47; Jonathan Schindel 3rd  M50-54 in 17:54; Theo Dassin 2nd M15-19 in 17:57; Adam Kuklinski 4th M50-54 in 18:44; Ellen Basile 2nd W40-44 in 19:25; Paul Wong 10th M50-54 in 19:32; Jennifer Harvey 3rd W45-49 in 20:17; Dominique Saint-Louis 1st W50-54 in 20:27; and Isobel Porteous 4th W15-19 in 23:53.

The NYRR race report, which runs a close second to this one, plus pictures are here and the full results, the format of which I’m still trying to master (!), are here.

img_4715

From left to right: Jacob Salant, me, Aaron Mendelsohn, Jamie Brisbois, Javier Rodriguez, Carlo Agostinetto, Jason Lakritz, Stefano Piana-Agostinetti, and Harriott Kelly

I won’t calculate the average age of our placers. Suffice to say we are working hard to lower it! Meantime our mature runners are the best in the New York area and look amazing.

Race Report: 2016 Gridiron 4M, New York, February 7, 2016

by Paul Thompson

Today was my first race as a M50. It was also the first time ever, or at least as far as I can remember, that I was on the start line having not adjusted my training in preparation for a race. Quite the reverse. I did a long easy, or as easy as I could make it, 18 miles the day before. And it was the first time I completed a race having wished New York Road Runners (NYRR) operated a double dipping awards program. I’ll come back to that later.

This race was not on my bucket list for 2016. The USATF Cross Country Championships in Bend, Oregon (the M50 title I coveted was won by Carl Combs) was but the logistics – 5 hour flight then 3 hour drive – together with flight and hotel costs ruled that out. So with Bend out of the reckoning I had no viable excuse when team mate Carlo Agostinetto started press ganging his Warren Street team mates into running this race in the hope of picking up some team prize money. His methods proved very effective. Pretty much the entire racing team towed the line having gone to great lengths, and no doubt great ‘cost’, to get ‘leave’ from partners.

I explained to coach Lee Troop that I’d like to do this one “for the team”. He said OK. But there was a catch. First he suggested I make it part of a long run but eventually he settled on my running at least 1:45 the day before. In the early miles I thought about not racing but imagined Carlo’s disappointment so I focused on putting as much easy into that long easy run as I could and worked on managing expectations. My slowest time for 4 miles in the part was 21:11 on a hot September’s day back in 2014. A personal worst was on the cards.

I rode the train in to Harlem 125th Street from Peekskill. My driver, manager, cheer leader, bag carrier and photographer (hence no pictures for this post except for MarathonFoto!) wife Sham was in Singapore with family seeing in the Lunar New Year following a work trip to Bangkok. I then ran over to the Upper West Side to drop my bag and collect team mate Aaron Mendelsohn. We ran to the start picking up team mates en route.

The weather was near perfect. Still, bright sunshine and a few degrees above freezing, quite unusual for early February in these parts. Standing waiting in the starting corral for the gun I tried to seek some place in the sun. I only had a vest, shorts and gloves. And then we were off.

My new Garmin got to tell the story and passed it onto Strava. Three runners stole a big lead within the first quarter of a mile. Meanwhile team mates Carlo and Sebastien Baret and I chased 4th and 5th placed Bobby Asher and Tesfaye Girma. We caught them during the undulating first mile heading south down the West Side Drive. I passed mile one with Carlo in 5:21. We traded places – we may be team mates but we typically compete hard against each other – in the gently descending second mile. We passed the second mile marker in 10:34.

As we crested the high point of the 72nd Street Transverse I opted for the Denver Broncos channel owing to my liking for Boulder (for those that did not run please see the NYRR race report for an explanation). As did Carlo. And as we ascended Cat Hill Carlo started to edge away. I was running strong but I had no gears or speed to respond with. I covered the third mile in 5:29 and Carlo stole 5 seconds. He went on to rob me of another 4 seconds by the finish line. He posted 21:15, close to a PR, while I breasted the tape in 21:24, a PW.

In the finishing channel Carlo and I waited for the team. They all followed in quick succession – Sebastien Baret (21:38), Fabio Casadio (22:20), Aaron Mendelsohn (22:23) and Alex Lorton (22:37). All six of us either won our age group or else were in the top 5. But more importantly we were top team and NYRR owed us $500.

Now back to the double dipping. Were NYRR to permit double dipping my net worth (can’t you tell I’m an accountant) would have increased $425 ($100 for 5th overall, $150 for 1st 40+, $75 for 1st M50 AG and $100 for my share of the $500 team prize) in 21 minutes. That’s a great hourly rate. Unfortunately NYRR applies the following rule: “Unless otherwise noted, runners with multiple eligibility will be awarded the highest prize money amount only.” So I’ll have to settle for $250 – or $150 as likely the whole team will get to blow the $500 on beer.

The big consolation of the day, after a warm down, was being treated to a slice of chocolate brioche by Aaron and his fiancee Aviva. We might spend our $500 on these.

 

Race Report: NYRR Ted Corbitt 15K, New York, December 12, 2015

by Paul Thompson

In the penultimate race of 2015, and of my 40s, I fell just shy of my goal of 50 minutes. Spring had come to New York and many of us were able to make hay. The race also marked the end of the NYRR season-long club points championship and Warren Street managed to end on a high with 3rd in the open men’s race and 2nd in the men’s masters. That was enough in the final reckoning of the 2015 season overall, to finish 4th in the open men’s competition and 3rd in the men’s masters (assuming my math holds water). We’ll take that.

IMG_6101

Runners heading towards the starting area

While I may have had a lofty target of 50 minutes I had little idea how fit I was. In my two previous races – Bronx 10 and Grete’s Half Marathon in back to back weeks in early fall – I’d hit a real high with highest ever age grade (AG) performances (us masters runners rarely get in the mix at the sharp end so AG is a nice consolation). But in the 4 week period ending November 23rd I’d logged 120 hours of flying. And I’m not a pilot.

The business travel took me to Seoul, Geneva, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur (twice!). While I enjoy traveling, and seeing new places like Seoul which was a pleasant surprise for running (see here for a sample run in Strava), my running routine that hangs around long runs and repetition workouts got bent out of shape. But somehow I got in 70 mile weeks. In a future article I’ll share how with the help of expert time management!

Lining up in the front corral it was clear that West Side Runners (WSX) and New York Athletic Club (NYAC) would be duking this one out for the top team (see the NYRR race report here). Barely 400 meters into the race I found myself in the mid teens with 5 or so runners from each of these teams ahead of me. I passed the first mile in around 5:20, the second in 10:40, and then settled into 5:25-30 miles.

IMG_6095

With the Warren Street men at the start

For most of the race I found myself isolated. From 2 through 5 miles I traded strides and places with someone new to the local running scene who I was unfamiliar. Passing  the 5 mile mark in 27:02, I got a gap on this guy and found myself running alone until John Davies of NYAC breezed passed in the 7th mile. John quickly opened up a gap on me. It was a timely kick up the backside as one often needs three quarters into a race when one is prone to losing concentration.

In the closing stages I could see a sub-50, equivalent to my Bronx 10 performance albeit that was on a flatter course (this one took in the middle 4 mile loop and the bottom 5 mile loop, missing the northern hills but still taking in Cat Hill twice) was off the charts so I reconciled on running 50:30. Which I did with 5 seconds in hand.

IMG_6134

Heading to the five mile mark

My 50:25 was good 10th overall, 1st place masters and top AG of 92.04 (once NYRR have corrected for 9th place  Michele Giangaspro, a 47 year old 23 minute 5K runner who posted 3 PRs back to back). I got to hang out in the finishers area to see team mates finish – Carlo Agostinetto (2nd M35-39 and a PR in 51:25), Sebastien Baret (3rd M35-39 in 52:03), Danny Tateo (1st M50 in 55:37), Alex Lorton (final scorer in 5 man open team with 55:48), Antonio Nebres (2nd man in 3 man masters team with 56:59) and Fabio Casadio (57:21).

IMG_6141

Sebatian B. looking good at five miles.

So with December 28 closing in fast I now have one race left as a M40-49 runner – next Saturday’s 2015 USATF New York 10 km Championships in Central Park, a place that is my second home. I will soon reach my goal of 50 – years rather than minutes.

IMG_6172

Race Report: NYRR Five-Borough Series – Bronx 10-Mile, New York, September 27, 2015

by Paul Thompson

This race came as a timely shot in the arm. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all I’d put in a good few months training with many 70 mile training weeks and spent last weekend training in Boulder. But confidence was low on back of some mediocre performances at distances below my bandwidth, like the Fifth Avenue Mile. I’d also not raced at a distance of 10 miles or more since November 2013 so I was in uncharted waters. But an ‘easy’ opening mile in 5:18 put all my concerns to rest: the engine room had plenty of horsepower. I ended the day with my best ever age-graded (AG) performance.

It's been 3 years since Paul last raced in this borough

It’s been 3 years since Paul last raced in this borough

The Bronx 10-Mile is a classic race. Classic in distance – a rarely run imperial distance that harks back to Chariots of Fire days. And classic in venue – much of the out and back course (Download Course Map (PDF)), gently undulating with a 600 meter steady incline just after the 10k mark, is on the Grand Concourse, the borough’s main artery. A record field of over 9,300 toed the line and, thanks in part to prize money and being a part of the NYRR Club Championship series, was loaded with talent. So it was no surprise that course records would tumble – Ayele Megersa Feisa setting a new mark for men in 48:18 and Salome Koskei for the women’s in 56:57.

They're off and some really mean business

They’re off and some really mean business

The course record looked vulnerable barely a mile into the race. As I passed the mile mark in 5:18 the leading two, sporting bright yellow tops, were over 100 meters ahead of me. In the early miles I settled into running 5:18-22 pace and by three miles I was running in a 5 main pack pack including Michael Cassidy, Brent Frissora and Bobby Asher.

While running relaxed, strong and confident I was in the company of guys that, in recent years at least, typically beat me. That left me wondering whether I was out of my depth. Turns out I was not. During the approximately 2.5 mile section that’s not run on the Grand Concourse, I emerged as the driving force of the pack. I passed 5 miles in 26:57, an average of 5:24 mpm. By the time we got back onto the Grand Concourse at around 6.5 miles I  was edging away from the pack. Unfortunately I had no one to chase: I could barely see the runner ahead.

The route back was slightly net downhill and we had a tail wind filling our sails. The roadway on the other side was full of runners headed out, many cheering us on. As I reached 8 miles I realized I had stepped up the pace to 5:20 mpm. I seemed to be clear of my chasers. I was wrong. Soon after Michael Cassidy came cruising past and went on the open a big gap.  With the finishing line in sight I dug deep and found that long lost sprint finish. I crossed the line in 53:36, 40 seconds faster than my last Bronx 10 in 2012. The pictures capture the finale.

Sprinting hard for the finish line

Sprinting hard for the finish line

This was my best race performance for sometime. I was first masters, 13th overall (lucky for some), first age grade on 93.26% and ranks me second on the UK rankings in 2015 for M45-49. But more importantly the Warren Street team boasted PRs for Sam Lynch (5th overall in 50:40), Carlo Agostinetto (54:57), Aaron Mendelsohn (56:17), Alex Lorton (58:10), Paul Sorace (64:17) and Michael Watling (67:14) and secured 3rd open team (Sam, Carlo, Aaron, Alex and I) and 1st masters (Aaron, Peter Heimgartner (60:07) and I). I was in the minority without a PR! How’s that?

Warren Street, and friend Christopher Stewart (UA), team photo

Warren Street and friends team photo (clockwise from top left – Christopher Stewart (Urban Athletics), Aaron, me, Alex, Fabio Casadio and Carlo

For my post race warm down I ran down the Grand Concourse with Aaron to Marcus Garvey Park where Sham had parked the car. There I waited for Sham and her running buddy Kelly Gould to run / walk their way back. As they came into view Kelly’s smile was as wide as Madison Avenue. And she had good reason, running 1:23:22, a 7 minute PR!

Kelly Gould was ecstatic with a 7 minute PR

Kelly Gould was ecstatic thanks to a 7 minute PR

Back home Sham – coach, manager, driver, camera woman – turned chef. She whisked up a brunch of egg and sausage on home-baked bread washed down with mimosas.

No better way to follow a race with brunch

No better way to follow a race with brunch thanks to Sham

Race Report: Washington Heights Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K, New York, March 1, 2015

by Paul Thompson

In my last race, a cross country race in Boulder CO., I got sunburnt and almost complained of it being too hot. Today it was right back to reality. The sun didn’t show up and I joined the cacophony of runners complaining aybout the cold. But at least we got some warmth care of the sights and sounds of Washington Heights.

Like last year I rode the train to Harlem-125th Street Metro North station and from there ran the 3.5 miles to the starting area. I then added a few more miles of warm-up with clubmate Danny Tateo, a newly minted 50 year-old who looks more 25 at a glance and who had a shot at first M50-54.

This race starts with a long progressive climb in the first mile – a bit like a ski jump with a steeper incline near the top. Unlike last year there was no photographer blocking our way at 50 metres in so we were saved the mass pile up of 2014. I got to the one mile mark in a shade under 5:20, some 13 seconds behind last year’s split.

I hoped to claw back some seconds in the second mile, looping around Fort Tyron Park, and get back on target to match last year’s 16:10 time. But passing the band clambering up the incline towards the mile two mark, appropriately playing a “A Hard Day’s Night” (they seem to every year as I pass ’em), I was sensing I had not accelerated in the second mile. And sure enough I had not. The clock at mile two showed 10:40. For the last mile, essentially the first mile in reverse and as such a long descent, I tried to stay in contact with Bobby Asher of VCTC but he stole two seconds from me as I closed in 16:29.

I was a bit dismayed to be 19 seconds off 2014. But I was first masters. In the finishing area I caught up with team mates: Warren Street had finished 5th men’s open and 1st men’s masters.  A great start to the year. And something for the team to savor over food and drinks at Thursday’s NYRR Club Night. And for me a great end to a week in which I learned at my annual medical check that my ‘body age’ was 29.

As I warmed down, with Antony Scott and Carlo Agostinetto,  I reflected on what a weird but wonderful crowd runners are. Who in their right minds would be out running, let alone racing, on a bitterly cold Sunday morning. Over 5,700 New Yorkers did just that today.  NYRR’s full report and pictures are here.

 

Race Report: Autism Speaks, 4 Miles of Hope, New York, September 6

by Paul Thompson

Sham and I left Singapore to take up residence here in New York almost ten years ago to this day. And today it felt like I was back in South East Asia. The 77F and 85% humidity at the 8am start, possibly the worst conditions of all my NYRR races from 2005-2014, were almost as high as what I used to contend with every day one degree north of the Equator.

By the time the starter’s gun went off I was more than warmed up. My Warren Street running vest was a darker blue. Sham and I had run from Marcus Garvey Park in central Harlem where we’d parked the car (we usually ride Metro North to Harlem 125th Street or Grand Central Terminal and then run to the start but train times were unfavorable this time so Sham drove us in).

IMG_0074

A bit of pre-race banter.

The opening mile took us up Cat Hill. I started out faster than my last race and passing the one mile mark in 5:02 confirmed it was perhaps too fast. I was trading strides with Roberto Puente of West Side Runners (he went on to edge me at the finish). I adjusted my pace (aka slowed down) on seeing the clock.

The second mile of this race is fast. It takes in the long flat straight by Engineer’s Gate, descends from 94th St. through 98th St., flattens out and then descends the first half of the 102nd St. Transverse. The clock at 2 miles read 10:13. I was on track for running around 20:45, a 90% age graded performance and under my projected 21:00, but feared mile 3 could be my undoing. It would be.

The third mile, heading south down the West Drive, takes in a few small inclines and a long steady incline approaching the reservoir. That long incline is ‘disguised’ as it slowly swings to the west. By now my body was seriously complaining. A few runners sailed passed me including Matthew Lacey. Passing 3 miles in 15:43 left me needing to run mile 4 in sub-5:20 to squeak under 21:00. It was not to be.

That final mile was one to survive and then forget. While mainly downhill I was laboring much of the way. The only comfort was knowing that another 5,000 plus runners were in the same boat. A pain shared is a pain halved. On the small rise up to the finish the clock came into view and was already reading 21 something. The results had me at 21:11 (23rd place, 1st masters and 2nd men’s AG with 89.56%). My Garmin disagreed: it read 20:57. Did I veer off course somewhere? Either way a PW, my slowest 4 mile race ever!

IMG_0106

Almost at the finish – finally.

This one hurt more than most. I was bent double on the finish line for a few seconds. Screaming volunteers urging me to move got me mobilized. I waited in the finish area to see in team members. Sebastien B, Aaron Mendelsohn, Ryan Korby, Danny Tateo and I made up Warren Street’s 5th place open men’s team while Aaron, Danny and I won the masters, beating CPTC and closing down their lead to a few points in the 2014 NYRR club standings.

IMG_0117

Aaron looking strong at the finish in spite of the heat.

For a few moments I wondered the sense in it all. I was exhausted, soaked in sweat, and had gotten up at 5:30am. But idle small talk with team mates and rivals soon reminded me why. It’s about being part of New York’s great running community, in particular team mates and fellow masters runners. I hope they, like me, are getting in some well earned rest this afternoon. In an ice bath.

IMG_0129

Warren Street women runners were still smiling post-race.

Race Report: Washington Heights Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K, New York, March 2, 2014

by Paul Thompson

While “Coogan’s” has been dropped from the race title there is no doubt this race will live on in the minds of New York runners as Coogan’s. And judging by today’s spectacle it lives on as a colorful, talent packed race with an edge over New York Road Runners (NYRR)’s bread and butter offerings. One of a handful of NYRR races held outside of Central Park, it takes in the hills of the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights. Once again it was the opening race in the NYRR club race series that ends in December 2014.

IMG_7472

It’s been two years since I last did this race. Injury left me spectating in 2013 – a much overrrated occupation in the cold wintry months, as Sham will testify. With my 50s on the horizon my main objective was the usual damage limitation – to run as close to the 16:02 I ran in 2012 as possible. Well I ran 16:10. I was pleased with that, no mean feat given how hard I am to please.

Sham and I usually get to this race by picking up the subway at Marble Hill, in The Bronx, after the Metro North train from Peekskill. This time we decided to stay on the train until Harlem-125th Street and then run the 3 miles to the start. 5K is so short I figured it needed supplementing to make the train ride worth it and this way Sham would get a run in.

The race was full of incident and entertainment. First incident – soon after the start a dozen runners were piled up on the road in front of me. A scrappy hurdle got me out of trouble. Then entertainment – descending the hill in Fort Tyron Park “A Hard Day’s Night” (how apt) blared out from a band on the sidewalk just as it did in 2012.

This out and back course is perhaps the toughest of all NYRR races. It takes in the hills, and the highest point, of the northern tip of Manhattan. There are two hills to climb on the way out and two to claw up on the way home. But at least after cresting the last hill at 2.5 miles it’s then a long downhill straight into the finish. My Garmin recorded it all including the several minutes until I remembered to stop it.

For most of the race I traded positions with team mate Sebastien B. (one of Warren Street’s NYRR Club Night nominees) but he edged me in the last few metres. My 16:10 finish time was good for 23rd place, of 6,182 finishers, first masters and 2nd age grade with 89.78%.

IMG_7511

Close to the finish with Seb hot on my heels.

But more importantly, after a mediocre 2013, Warren Street Social and Athletic Club to be first men’s masters team (Danny Tateo, John Nelson and me) and third men’s open team (Robert Dugger, Sebastien B., Carlo Agostinetto, Ryan Korby and me). See here for NYRR pictures, story, results and more.

IMG_7503

Robert was the first Warren Street Runner to cross the finish line.

IMG_7527

John and Mike Guastella running hard to the finish.

IMG_7522

Danny in good form just before the finish line.

This year Sham and I missed what truly defines Coogan’s – hundreds of sweaty runners squeezing into Coogan’s Restaurant to enjoy free beer and pub grub with intoxicating post race analysis. Instead we ran the 3 miles back to Harlem 125th Street and treated ourselves to a $1.75 toasted bagel with butter and coffee combo from my traditional post long Saturday run deli. Long live austerity.