Sunday, March 18, 2012

NYC Half Marathon Recap: A PR is a PR Right?

Some alternative titles for this post:
NYC Half Marathon Recap: Almost Doesn't Count.
NYC Half Marathon Recap: I Hate the West Side Hills.
NYC Half Marathon Recap: Can't We Just Count my 20K Split as my HM Time and Call it a Day?

So, as you might have gathered, I did end up PRing at the NYC Half with a 2:02, but it was not quite the sub-2 time I was hoping for.  I wish I could blame on the weather (pretty perfect - high 40s, overcast and hardly any wind) or the race being over-sold (despite the race being expanded to 15,000 this year, I had my space - I was even able to run through water stations consistently) or any other factors out of my control, but that wouldn't be honest or fair.  The simple truth is, I just didn't have the fitness to hang on to my pace on this course for this particular day.


Race day started off with a lovely 5:15 am alarm at my friend Dahlia's place. The morning was pretty uneventful - until we were headed out the door, and the string on my plastic bag for baggage check broke! Luckily, I was able to stuff my warm clothes into Dahlia's bag.  The last thing I wanted to deal with was a broken bag and missing warm clothes post-race.

We headed out the door at around 6ish and grabbed a bus that dropped us fairly close to baggage area right outside the park. Since the baggage trucks closed at 6:45 am (and we didn't need to be in our corrals until 7), I was tempted to suggest skipping it. But the thought of chilly post-race temps quickly changed my mind. And then it was off to the corrals!

pre-race Central Park
We ended up in the corrals super early, but at least it gave ample time to hit the bathrooms. Dahila's number was 9xxx, and mine was 8xxx, but I decided to wait with her in her corral. We put down the same predicted time, so not sure why we were in different corrals to begin with.  We had about 45 minutes to kill before the race would start and when we would actually cross the line, so it was nice to have someone to chat with. I ended up bumping into another friend as well, so I was definitely glad I moved back.

The time passed much more quickly than if I was waiting by myself, and before I knew it, it was time to get going! I knew both my friends were going to be a bit faster than me, so I said my goodbye and planned to run my own race.

The first three miles were awesome. I was feeling great, and I was right on target. Cat Hill didn't seem to bother me at all, and I was in a groove. I hit Harlem Hill after the 5K point, and that was ok too. I felt a little more winded, but still hanging in there. Then, right after Harlem Hill came the West Side Hills right before mile 5, and that's where I started to fall off pace.  Unfortunately, right after those pesky hills, came time for my fuel break, and by the time I hit the 10K point, I was over 2 minutes behind pace.

Right after the 10K point, I got to leave the park and hit the streets of the city. I had about two miles on the city streets heading down Seventh Ave to 42nd Street, all the way to the West Side Highway.  I tried to soak up the energy, pick up the pace, and try to make up the time, but to no avail.  By the time I hit mile 8 on the West Side Highway, I kind of knew my sub-2 goal was probably not going to happen.

At this point I was starting to feel pretty dejected. After all, it's a pretty crappy feeling to know your goals aren't going to happen that day. My legs were also starting to feel heavy, too. As I passed by a water station, I was tempted to slow to walk. I felt like there was no real point in pushing the pace since I was going to miss my goal regardless.

Then, I yelled at myself to pull it together.  While I was not on pace to make sub-2, I was on pace to make a PR.  And after finishing 4 half marathons in boroughs all over the city (with insane wake-up calls) just to get a slot in the race, I was NOT in the business of giving up on this one.  And so I rallied, and continued running as hard as I could, which at that point was around a bit over a 9:20 min/mile.

Miles, 9, 10, and 11 clicked by uneventfully. I knew there would be some sort of underpass coming up, but I didn't know what to expect. Did I miss it?

A few minutes after I passed the mile 11 marker, we ran into a huge tunnel, and I thought clearly, this must be the underpass. The tunnel went on for the better part of the mile, and I found it a bit stuffy and reminiscent of the infamous Queensboro Bridge from the full marathon. But thankfully, there was less than a mile to go, not another 10!

Daylight finally broke through the tunnel. I climbed a rather uncomfortable incline (really? one more hill at this point in the race?), and sure enough, I was almost done. I passed the 800 meters to go sign, then 400, then 200, and the finally...the finish!

As I crossed the finish line, I thought "please God, let me at least have beaten my PR from last year!" When I saw my text with my 2:02 time, I just felt relief.

I made my way through an extremely crowded finisher chute to grab my heat sheet, medal and snack pouch and found Dahlia waiting for me. We walked down until we found a spot to change into our warm clothes.  I have never been so happy to have a warm fleece jacket and sweatpants waiting for me!
Post-race smiles...and medals!

After taking approximately 150 years to make it out of the packed downtown area and onto a subway to get back to the Upper East Side, we quickly showered and changed into normal-people clothing for a celebration brunch. After all, what's the point of racing if you can't celebrate with cocktails?

Cheers!
While I wish I ran a bit faster and broke 2 hours, at the end of the day, this race was a step in the right direction. After all, my previous 2:03 hm time was set in New Orleans (aka on a super flat course.) This PR is hopefully just a stepping stone.  And, I also have to take into account that I was pretty injured post-marathon and was out for a fair amount of weeks, too.

Now it's time to step up my game, work a little harder, and try to meet my goals at the next one!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Final Prep for NYC Half Marathon

Tomorrow is the big day! After months of hard work, the New York City Half Marathon is finally almost here. Now, all that's left to do is to sit back, rest up - and figure out what to wear!

The weather is throwing me for a bit of a loop.  It looks like great conditions - not too hot, but not too cold.  If this was a long, slow training run I would probably wear capris and and a light long-sleeved shirt. But this isn't a training run, it's a race! I know I will warm up much faster running at race pace than I would at training pace.
The latest weather.com predictions

I'm pretty sure I will go with shorts. But do I go with no sleeves/shorts (and show off my Gator pride during March Madness!)....

Gotta support my Gators in their March Madness run!

Or go with a very light weight long sleeved shirt, and shorts?
Outfit option #2

I'll bring both options with me - along with a pair of tights and capris.  Because you just never really know.

But at least my staples are consistent. Shoes, bras, socks - those never change and easy to pack.  I'm a huge fan of  Moving Comfort's "Fiona" bra lately. The straps are completely adjustable, and the back has a hook closure like a real bra. It has way more support than the standard compression bra. And we all know how much I love my Asics 2170s by now.



And of course, accessories! I love my number belt because it gives a place to stick my fuel, and I don't have to worry about safety pins leaving holes in my favorite shirt or shorts.  I also can't live without my trusty Garmin 610, sunglasses (on a sunny day), iPod, or fuel. I guess I'm not a very "minimalist" runner. C'est la vie.

All my accessories.
I'm also trying something new for this race.  As much as I love and depend on my Garmin for pacing, I also remember how I lost the signal when I was running in Manhattan during the full marathon.  I figure if I had trouble getting a signal running up First Ave, there is no way I'll get a signal on Seventh Ave in the middle of Times Square! So, I'm going to go old school with an old-fashioned pace band.

I found this great company, Races to Remember, who offers pace bands specific to your strategy/course.  Since we knock out most of the hills on this course before mile 6, I went with a negative split plan.  It will probably be tough to hit the exact paces on the band, but I figure it will be good way to gauge my pace overall by using the elapsed time.  I plan on using the 1:59 band, but my friend talked me into making a 1:57 band and a 1:55 band too just in case I end up feeling really good. We'll see!
Sub-2 looks so doable on paper...
I know I'm not the only one racing this weekend since there are so many other great races going on around the country.  I hope everyone who is racing has amazing races,  and I hope to report back with a great race report myself!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Visit to the NYC Half Marathon Expo

It's officially race week! As a concerned very anxious runner, I headed into the city the first day the expo opened. After all, I just feel better when I have my bib in my possession.

Shirt, bib, and d-tag










The expo was being held at the Metropolitan Pavilion, which is in a much more convenient location than where the full marathon expo is usually held. As I walked toward the site, I noticed a huge line outside. Really?  I didn't expect the crowds to be so heavy on the first day! Luckily, the line was for another event that was going on next door to the expo, and I was able to walk right in hassle-free.
 
Walking into the expo










The expo was pretty dead, and it only took about 5 minutes to grab my bib, and then my t-shirt and goodie bag. There were plenty of shirts in xs (yay!) but sadly, the shirt still looked a little big for me.

I couldn't believe how empty the booths were. 



After I picked up my stuff, I did a quick spin around to see the rest of the booths. Of course there was an official merch booth and a handful of other vendors as well. Although I was tempted by a pink 26.2  car sticker (I'm a sucker for anything pink), I behaved and didn't buy anything.

Race merchandise

 Two more days to go race day....bring it!









Monday, March 12, 2012

One Week to Go Until the NYC Half

I'm now just one week away from the New York City Half Marathon. After waiting a year to run this race, I'm very excited to have a chance to participate. So far the weather.com forecast is looking pretty good, too. I'm keeping my fingers crossed the weather report sticks!
(I know weather.com stalking a week a way is pretty pointless, but I can't help it)



All that's left now is to rest up and have a little faith in my training. I know I've worked pretty hard for this training cycle, especially considering how badly I was injured back in November.  My weeks consisted mostly of once-a-week tempo/speed intervals, a long run, and lots of easy miles.  I ended up peaking at 45 miles/week (well 44 and change - thanks dailymile for rounding up) and averaging about 36 miles/week for the cycle.
 
Mileage for the training cycle from dailymile.Don't ask me why the last week in Dec./first week in Jan. were split into two weeks.
I know some prefer to do their final long run one week out, but I'm definitely a fan of running my longest run two weeks out and starting to cut back my mileage from there.  Luckily,  there was a local racing series that was holding a 25K about 10 minutes from my front door.  A long run with built in support and company? Count me in!


I knew it was going to be a tough run when I realized a portion of the course was going to run through some of the roads where my marathon training group met over the summer.  I recruited my friend Dahlia from the city to come out and join me, and I knew it wasn't just me when she told me she would never complain about the hills in Central Park again!

But despite the tough course, I did feel stronger and faster than when I ran in the area over the summer. I was even able to pick it up for the last few miles at goal race pace.
Finishing the 25K. Clearly I had no idea there was going to be a camera.


I know all of this should be evidence that I am strong and ready-to-go for race day next weekend, but I am still so nervous. The last time I tried for a sub-2 half was last May, and that turned out to be an epic fail. I just hope all my hard work this training cycles pays off!

Any last minute tips leading up to race day (or cures for race day anxiety)?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Doubling Up

One of my big resolutions this year was to learn to swim, since I committed to this little race called the New York Triathlon.  I mean it's not that I don't know how to swim at all (I can get across the pool and all), but I'm not very efficient. Or fast.  I had a little taste of where I stood with my swimming abilities when I attended the Hartford Marathon Foundation's free mini swim clinic last spring during their open house. I knew I needed help.

I found a local tri group by me in CT, TriFitness, that offered group swimming lessons at a reasonable price. I was a little nervous to be in class full of seasoned triathletes and was worried about falling behind.

The first class was tough. I felt like it took me three times as long to get across the pool as anyone else, and I had no idea what any of the drills meant!  Since then, I've been getting the hang of it, and I feel like I am slowly making progress.  I won't be winning any age group awards, but I just might be able to finish the swim portion of the tri with a smile on my face!

In order to make room in my workout schedule for these swim sessions, I've had to commit to morning runs so I can swim in the evenings.  The New York City Half Marathon is only a few weeks away, and I so badly want to cross that sub-2 hour half barrier.  I've been running 5-6 days a week and upping my mileage to at least 40 miles/week for the past month or so, with long runs ranging from 12-16 miles.

It's exhausting to get two workouts done in one day, and I know it will get a little crazier when I have to add biking to the mix, too. But hopefully all of this hard work will pay off!