Monday, September 23, 2013

Race Report: Cow Harbor 10K 2013

I'd heard nothing but positive things about the Cow Harbor 10K, which is widely regarded as one of the most popular races on Long Island.  Saturday's race lived up to its reputation and I know this a race that I'll try to include on the calendar each year. 

The race took place in Northport (a town I had been to only once); Northport is located on the north side of Long Island and the course features some amazing views of Northport Harbor and Northport Bay.  The race was large (especially for a local race), with 4,578 listed finishers, but was run so smoothly and efficiently from start to finish that (for me) it never felt uncomfortable.  One of the best things about the race had to be the crowd support; the race is in its 36th year and the town really gets into it.  If there were three official water stops, there were at least a dozen more resident-supported stations. The cheers across all ten kilometers were encouraging and the crowds of people surrounding the home stretch on Main Street made for a memorable finish.

Having never run in (let alone really been to) Northport I relied on the verbal course description I was given by some fellow GLIRC runners, a couple of friends, and a glance or two at a Strava profile of the course.  The recurring advice was not to fall into the trap set by the initial downhill and take off too fast. 

When I registered I estimated my finish time to be 44 minutes which placed me in the third wave.  My group started 3 minutes after the initial gun and most folks took off much faster than I did. It would have been easy to get ahead of myself, particularly with the first mile being mostly downhill, but I resisted the urge.  One thing that I have learned is that you have to run your race: for all I knew some of those people who shot out of the cannon would run the first lap fastest and then fade for the next 5+ miles. 

For the first mile it seemed as though I was standing still; lots of runners (mostly from my corral) were passing me while I deliberately held back.  Just as I've done in other races I picked out a few runners who I vowed to see again. 

The first (and most significant) set of hills began at the 1.75 mile mark. I'm a much stronger uphill runner than I am downhill and I settled into a steady groove on the climb.  It wasn’t long before I was starting pass some of those who ran by me as their paces began to drop.  
Pace (in blue) Heart Rate (in red) Elevation down below
After the big hill, the next mile and a half was mostly flat and downhill.  I used that time to pick up my pace and find a steady stride for the middle third of the race.  I tend to gauge my race efforts in segments and continually “check my tank” to see how much gas is left.  I was feeling very comfortable and my confidence was boosted by the fact that virtually no one was passing me at this point. 

Mile four was a long, curvy stretch at a very mild grade.  The incline was just enough to make you feel it but not so much that I couldn’t sustain my pace.  I pressed on harder yet knowing that I had just more than a mile to the finish.  At the fifth mile marker I thought I was home free but I’d completely forgotten that there was more decent size hill to scale. 

As I turned the corner and saw the last obstacle in my way I summoned the energy to charge up the hill and put the hammer down for the last mile.  Once I cleared the hill it was a gradual descent towards the finish line.  As I neared the final few hundred feet I did my best to finish with a sprint just as I’ve done at most of my other races.  I finished with a time of 44:48 good for 45/277 (approximately the upper 16%) of my Age Group.
That's total clock time, not chip time!
Cow Harbor was my first 10K that wasn't at the end of a triathlon; it's really a fun distance that allowed me to use a combination of strategy, strength, and endurance.  Going into the race I didn't have a specific pacing plan; as always I just wanted to be smart and disciplined early on so that I could go hard on the second half.  Given the loose goals I’d set for the race I am pretty happy with my performance and look forward to seeing what I can do next year.

There were plenty of post-race festivities at Northport Park and I spent awhile hanging around and enjoying the scene.  After that it was off to the nearest pub for a well-deserved pitcher of Guinness.  Brilliant!

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