A Hilly Start to March

March has finally arrived!

I am so happy to bid adios to the cold, dark and inclement month of February.  While the beginning of March is often characterized as coming in like a lamb or lion, with the Washington Heights Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K, it would be more accurate to describe the month’s beginning as hilly.  Very hilly.

The 5K distance can certainly be deceiving, as this road race through the streets of Upper Manhattan leading into and around Fort Tryon Park provides a scenic parade of never-ending hills.  With a “let no hill go unforgotten” policy, the retracing of the route to the finish ensures that for every downhill enjoyed during the rolling ascent, an uphill climb awaits on the return.  Mercifully, the last half-mile is mostly downhill.

After braving the difficult terrain, the post-race green-colored bagels brought a childlike smile to my parched lips.  Though a much needed shot of water was quickly chased by the realization that my training regimen needs more hillwork.  I was spent!

I had remembered from last year’s effort that this particular course was hilly, but the intervening twelve months must have clouded my memory as to just how challenging.  Though I managed a 25:20 finish, equating to an 8:11 pace per mile, not achieving the still elusive sub-8 pace was a tad disappointing.  Especially since today’s pace was a second slower than the 4-miler I ran last month.

Then I started looking at the bigger picture.

Last year I ran this course in 26:48; over the course of the year I successfully shaved close to thirty seconds off my pace.  Looking inside the numbers, however, revealed more encouraging signs of progress.  A year ago, my splits were really all over the place, 9:14, 8:36 and 8:12, compared to today’s 8:11, 8:12 and 7:53.  (Note that these are unofficial splits via my Garmin.)  I had dramatically improved my consistency, suggesting genuine progress from a fitness perspective.  Just as motivating: slowly but surely I’m beginning to see some sub-8:00 splits emerge.

With today’s performance considered in the proper perspective, I’m willing to overlook the snow that’s the in the forecast and toast an ice cold Shamrock shake to March’s hilly arrival.

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