One of the athletes I am coaching, Erin (who is also a coach), told me about this Valentines Day relay race in Van Cortlandt Park. Abbe and I immediately signed up with the team name ‘BakerBaker 2 by 4.’
Abbe and I had also decided to run from our place on the Upper East Side to the race, which would be around 9-10 miles. Run your legs out before a race? Why not.
After discussing the course we were to take she set off. I was running 10 minute late and would have to catch her.
As I stepped outside I was like ‘Hey, it’s pretty nice out!’ It was a sunny morning hovering around 40 degrees, perfect running conditions. I stopped down at my local bodega and grabbed a banana to-go and then blasted off into The Central Park. I felt really good, very fluid. Knowing that Abbe had a 10 minute lead on me I booked it, hovering around a 7 minute pace.
At the top of the Park I saw two familiar faces coming my way. It was Rowland and D getting in their long run! We high-fived and went our ways. We are all running Boston in a few weeks and will most likely run together ‘Flying V’ style. I’m very excited.
I ran across 110th Street toward Riverside and couldn’t see Abbe. She had really put some ground between us. Therefore, instead of sticking to the plan (always stick to the plan) and enter at 108th street, I just went north anticipating a way to get into the park. It urns out that as you head north on Riverside Drive, you have very minimal and limited access points. After a quick phone call to Abbe I told her to keep going and I would find a way to get into the park further north. She was currently at 125th street.
Barreling ahead, I found a set of stairs that would take me down toward Dinosaur BBQ and the running path, perfect! I was at 125th Street, so Abbe must only be 3-5 minutes ahead of me now. I took off, my Mile 5 split was like a 6:25, I was clearly in the hunt. As I got nearer to The Little Red Lighthouse I started thinking to myself, ‘I should have definitely caught up to her by now. Oh snap, what is she is behind me and this whole time I had been putting more distance between us.’
That’s exactly what happened.
I stopped and ran back a bit and waited, finally she came around the corner. We gave each other a huge hug and then went along on our way. I also had breakfast (the banana I had been carrying).
At the end of Riverside, just past the Cloisters, we exited onto Dyckman Street and then made a left on Broadway. From here it would be a straight shot up to Van Cortlandt Park. We were bother tired and very thirsty.
We finally arrived at VCP’s Tortoise and Hare Statue which is where the bib pickup was. We saw Chris, Mary, Eric, Andrew, Chris, Bojana and Brian. We grabbed our bib and prepared, we had made it there with 10 minutes to spare… not bad.
Abbe was first and so she and the lead wave made their way to the start. The gun went off and some 35 people or so blasted off. It was pretty cool to look all the way across VC Park and see the little dots of runners making their way. The anchor wave was starting to get cold.
The first couple runners returning were crushing it! Abbe came through in maybe 10th position or so. She high-fived me and I took off.
Boy were my legs tired! Great idea, run 10 miles up to the start of a race…
As I rounded the first turn a familiar face was headed my way. It was my friend (and Battalion Teammate) Noah who just happened to be out for his morning run! He gave me a fist bump and then turned my way running along side of me. I explained what was going on and suggested he pace me since I was wiped. Not a problem…
Barreling through the mud we made our way onto the trails. We were about to go up Cemetery Hill, which evidently was supposed to be rough. Noah confirmed the roughness. It’s not that it’s a big hill really, it’s that the incline is very steep and winding and it’s on gravel. Our pace slowed by a minute per mile as we made our way to the top. My heart was racing and my legs were burning.
On the decent a runner in a red shirt flew past us! He was jamming and as we flattened out Noah said “We can take that guy.” And so we did, although I was fading fast.
We soon saw Abbe and Bojana cheering and taking pictures.
On the final straightaway to the finish I heard someone approaching… it was red shirt guy and he was blasting it. I tried really hard to fend him off and I can honestly say I gave everything I had, but it wasn’t enough. He caught me right at the finish line and beat me by a few meters!
As I came out of warp speed I high-fived red shirt runner as he passed going the other way. I also found some much needed water. As I was sipping it Noah came over as well as red shirt runner. He introduced himself as Shane and we chatted about the race fe or a second. He was a great guy and a very noble competitor. Abbe soon found us as well and joined in on the race talk.
We headed out shortly after that for some much needed food! It was one hell of a race and running day in general. Thanks to Noah for the supreme pacing.
Great seeing everyone too!