2015 NYRR 60K (Knickerbocker 60K)

Overall Time: 4:41:09
Pace: 7:33
Overall Place: 7 of 350
Age Group Place: 2nd
AG%: N/A

I’m not sure exactly what this was. It wasn’t an “A” race, nor was it simply a fun run. It was a solid effort without taxing my reserves, and most importantly it was an easy way to claim a Front Runner NY record.

In 2009 Front Runner legend Patrick Guilfoyle ran the 60K, probably with the intent of running it faster than any Front Runner had previously done. I’m told that Tim Guscott mentioned Peter McGrane’s then-club record (5:15:55) to Patrick, which may have provided motivation and a target to run. It was no surprise when Patrick ran a 4:50:26 (7:48 pace) and re-set the FRNY club record.

Having dabbled in some ultramarathons before, I thought that 7:48 pace was a bit soft for a club record. I figured that I could run faster and without going for broke. And so that’s how I found myself in Central Park at the start line to the NYRR NYC 60K (formerly “Knickerbocker”) on a cold Saturday morning in November. Ego had driven me to sign up to claim the record, but self-restraint was keeping me from racing all-out. I still had a much more important race on my calendar — the Lookout Mountain 50 Miler — and this would be a good tune-up long distance race.

The course this year was modified and simplified. Instead of the historical out-and-back 1.3-mile section along the 102nd street transverse followed by 9 clockwise loops around the inner 4-mile loop of Central Park, this year’s 60K not only changed direction (we would run counter-clockwise with the flow of most foot traffic), but omitted the opening out-and-back section in favor of a 5-mile loop followed by eight 4-mile loops.

I was happy to change the direction of the race; running upstream for almost 5 hours and fighting through joggers and tourists wasn’t my ideal Saturday morning race scenario. Unfortunately it also meant running up Cat Hill 9 times, which didn’t thrill me. But it’s a loop course, which means an uphill at one section means a downhill on another. I didn’t care that much.

The gun went off and Peter Ciaccia was there to wish everyone a great race. My friend Gen ran the first 2 loops with me, I suppose as his final long run before the Philadelphia Marathon the following weekend (he would go on to run his first sub-3!). I was happy for the company and my pacing was spot-on at 7:30. Unfortunately after the first two loops he had to call it a day, and so it would be just me and the 4-mile loop of Central Park.

There’s not a whole lot you can say about this race. It’s just the 4-mile loop on repeat. The hills get a bit taxing, especially going up Cat Hill 9 times. There is a water station on the east side and the west side of the course so you’re never more than 2 miles from aid. There are lots of people running in the park, not because of the race but just because it’s a lovely Saturday morning, so it feels as if you have plenty of company even if most of the runners are just going for their morning 5K jog.

I can at least mention the crowds. Because of the loop format, if you’re lucky enough to be in a large running club that supports you then there’s a good chance they’ll send out a crew to cheer you on. All they have to do is stay put and they’ll see you as many times as they wish. Better yet, some will run the opposite direction to see and cheer you along twice as many times. And inevitably there are those who will also run with you for support and to break up the monotony of the course. I had all three of these things. Front Runners had a great cheer zone at the bottom of the west side at 72nd Street. In addition, a number of them ran the opposite direction of the course and cheered me on from multiple points. And Richard White was nice enough to run me through the final loop of the course when I was starting to hurt.

If you run in the top 10 or 15 positions, you’ll be lapping people beginning halfway through the race. This was my only sense of accomplishment other than maintaining a steady pace. Otherwise I just set my legs to cruise control and tried to check out mentally. I wouldn’t even pay attention to the number of laps I had left because you start to forget silly things like that (“Was that lap 6, or 7?”). Instead I knew my finishing time would be around 4 hours and 40 minutes, so I just focused on running until I had an hour left to go and then I could start counting down.

In the end I managed fairly even splits — some miles were faster than others, but then were slowed down by bathroom breaks or stops to get fuel and hydration. I crossed in 4:41:09 (7:33 pace), to set a new record for FRNY and place 7th overall for the race. I was happy. I waited around to see the other Front Runners finish (Connor, Manja, Kurt), and called it a day. Within a half hour I was back home, showered, and ready for a nap. Ah, the benefits of an ultramarathon in your city’s back yard!

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