So, yesterday I skated my first (and last?) marathon in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. I have been doing a bit more skating recently, mostly along the North County trailway and had bought some new, faster skates over the summer (Rollerblade Crossfires - big wheels and good bearings) and wanted to really test them out. Plus, it is not very often that you can find 26 miles of uninterrupted good pavement on which to skate. It was a sponsored race, which basically meant it cost money, there were prizes and frees stuff and that I got a little timing chip to put on my ankle, giving me splits and other fun, useless information about my race. It was a bit disorganized, and I remain fairly unimpressed with the organization (when was the last time you went to a paid race which started 40 minutes late), but the race itself was a blast and I am thrilled to have done it.
The race started at 7 am on the Eastern side of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, too far from Hartsdale to drive in the morning ... so Aviva and I slept over at Ilana's place in Park Slope, eating at Fornino, a very good modernist Italian place near 5th and Union. I had braised short rib ravioli (more like pot roast ravioli), which were excellent, as was Aviva's remarkably light chicken-apricot sausage over broccoli rabe.
I got to bed a little later than I wanted to, around 1130, and slept a bit fitfully, but when I got up at 0545 I was pumped. I got dressed and drove over to the starting area, arriving, getting my timing chip and getting ready to race by 645. And then I waited, along with everyone else, until 40 minutes past the start time before the organizers finally got their shit together and the race got underway. It was a staggered start, as usual in races like this, and the Rec division, which I was in, started last, 4 minutes after the men's Pro division. The race was 8 laps around Prospect Park, each lap being a hilly 3.35 miles, with the biggest hill just after the start and a longish downhill in the middle of the backside.I think that the first lap was the hardest, as I was afraid of the hill - which I was told was 1.5 miles long and super steep. It turned out to be a reasonable hill, but not as steep as some of the ones I skate up in Westchester, so even on the 8th lap I was able to get up it without too much trouble.
I was also concerned about congestion and running into other skaters, particularly the fast moving Pro skaters (you can see the pros in conga line formation in this picture on the right, although this one is not as tight as the formation actually was). The first time the Pro Men passed me I was about 2/3 of the way through my first lap while they were on their second, and I could hear them coming even before the race marshal passed and asked me to move right. They sound like a swarm of hornets, the huge wheel making a buzzing, grinding sound that get much louder very quickly as the conga-line formation of spandex clade men whizzes by you going 15 - 20 miles an hour, much faster on the downhill. This formation broke up over the course of the race, dividing into smaller units and slowing a bit, but in the first few laps, each time they passed me it felt like I narrowly avoided getting snapped up by some large predator. Once I got used to it, it was actually very cool.
I tried to keep my pace solid, one thing I have learned running races is that I very often go out too fast and run out of energy. About 3 laps in I started to feel really comfortable and began to crouch on the downhills like the pros were doing, which got me going a lot faster and left my feet, knees and teeth shaking a little as I stood up at the bottom of each hill.
While I was definitely getting tired as the race went on, I managed to keep my lap time to about 16 minutes per lap, or about 11-12 miles an hour ... with my fastest lap being the last one. I guess that means I had a little more in the tank and could have gone a bit faster, but as it was I thoroughly enjoyed the race, taking in the pro skaters, enjoying the scenery and the people watching (or people whizzing as I went by) and generally enjoying the feeling of my body working efficiently under me as I cruised along. I finished the race in 2 hours and 12 minutes, which felt pretty respectable to me, particularly later on that afternoon as my body started to protest my continuing state of wakefulness and forced me into an extremely rare mid-afternoon nap.
First skate marathon ... fantastic exercise ... tons of fun. Check. Check. Check.