Headline of this entire post: I didn’t realize how strong I was until I raced this weekend. (And I’ve never had so much fun racing a half.)
This little confidence boost feels like it’s been a long time coming especially considering the following: a) the last time I raced (ahem…attempted to race) a half marathon, I bonked …hard. b) I suffered through a weird injury last fall and struggled to maintain an easy pace toward the end of that cycle. The last time I truly felt confident during a race was a 5k last July.
Going into the weekend, my goal was really conservative. To anyone that asked, I told them that I knew a PR was in the cards, but I didn’t want to race it all out, because Boston is definitely the priority. I would have been happy with anything near 1:32:xx. If I ran on the lower end, that would be a nearly 2-minute PR. And hey, chipping away at PR’s has been my M.O. in the past. When I told Corey what my goal was, she wasn’t having it and abruptly told me, “No way. 1:30:00 is happening.”
Corey and I flew in early on Saturday morning, which meant that I woke up at 4:30 that morning to shower, cab to the airport, and plan for time through security. We arrived at our hotel early where we dropped our bags before grabbing a quick snack and heading to the expo to pick up our bibs. We said helloooooo to Jocelyn at the Nuun booth and grabbed some extra Gu — in and out of the expo!
By the time we finished there, the hotel had our room ready to check-in. We chilled at the hotel for a little bit (hellooooo 4:30 am alarm!) before taking the subway to Central Park for a quick shakeout. The park was absolutely GORGEOUS that afternoon.
It was in the 40s but it felt much warmer in the sunshine. I ran an easy 4 miles and did some strides while Corey finished up her 5.5. We grabbed coffee with Megan (#ReNUUNion!) and chatted for a few hours about (what else?) running. Then back to the hotel to rest and change for dinner!
We went to Ovest Pizzeria in Chelsea with Jocelyn and Laura. It was delicious (arugula and prosciutto pizza FTW!) and before we knew it, it was already past 10 pm. Back to the hotel to prep our race outfits, take some final sips of Nuun before lights out.
I was nervous about logistics on Saturday but everything about Sunday was so easy. I didn’t check a bag, but decided to carry my phone with me so that I could meet up with friends afterward. I’ve never raced with my phone in my Spi-Belt and I thought it would be annoying but it wasn’t so bad (and this might actually be a good test-run for Boston if I choose to carry my phone then).
I did a “long” caffeine fast before the half. I’ve done a 2-3 day fast before but my dependency on caffeine at exactly 8 am every day of the week is mighty, so I decided to extend it (likely wouldn’t have been worth it to fast for just 2-3 days). On Monday and Tuesday, I gradually cut down on caffeine by drinking one cup of black tea in the morning. By Thursday, I was down to non-caffeinated tea and zero coffee. Let’s just say Thursday and Friday were not my best days. I was pretty irritable despite a lot of really good sleep the entire week and a lot of water. It took a LOT of willpower not to reach for the coffee pot on Friday– I even tried to trick myself into a caffeinated state by sipping on a decaf Americano (I know, I don’t really recognize myself anymore, either.)
So…..it comes as no surprise to myself that the very first thing I did when I woke up on race day was hit BREW on that tiny hotel room coffeemaker. Even a shitty cup of coffee can taste like heaven when you’re truly addicted and that cup surely did. Corey had 6-7 miles to run before the race to get to her 20 miles for the day so she left early. I left the hotel at 6:45 am with a 7:30 am start time. The start line was almost exactly 2 miles from our hotel, which meant that I was doing leg swings and dynamic stretches in Central Park by 7:10 am. (At which point, Mary tapped me on the shoulder and introduced herself! Nice to finally meet you!) I stayed warm by lightly jogging around near the corral in my throwaway sweatshirt. I really didn’t get cold until I threw the sweatshirt to the side 5 minutes before the race start. Note: wearing capris, gloves, and a hat was a really good decision).
I wasn’t really nervous. I was just excited. I had that ‘quiet confidence’ you have before a race you know you can PR. But I still wasn’t let myself dream.
I took an ‘espresso love’ Gu right before the start (helloooo more caffeine!). The plan was to take the first 5-6 miles at effort. Because CP has rolling hills, I knew it was going to be good Boston prep. If I could stay comfortable at or near goal marathon pace, I would let my legs fly once we came out onto 7th avenue.
Within 15 seconds of the race, a dude lost his….wait for it….shoe! I saw the shoe on the pavement first and then I looked up to see a dude walking my direction through the swarm of runners. I’m lucky I was able to dodge to the right quickly or I would have run right into him. I laughed with several people around me and wondered how his shoe could have fallen off so quickly in the race.
I felt really strong and consistent through Central Park. I focused on my form on each hill and took the downhills. I remember jostling a bit through mile 4 but tried to save energy after that. Cat Hill felt like a roller compared to the hills I’ve been running on Morton Arboretum. Harlem Hill was definitely tough but there wasn’t really a moment where I felt like my pace really dropped or I would make it to the top too winded. I took my first sip of water around Mile 5 (I think?). I have yet to master drinking on the run (yes, I know to pinch the cup and sip slowly) and I actually walked for 10-15 seconds through 4 water stops at Boston last year. But this time, there was no time to waste. I was feeling so strong that the last thing I wanted to do was waste time walking when it really wasn’t necessary. And because it was such a perfect day weather-wise, I just went with it. I’ll likely try to sip on the run at Boston this year after doing it somewhat successfully here.
We climbed that short hill coming out of Central Park and flew onto 7th avenue when I heard Tim and Chanthana call my name. I didn’t know where they’d be spectating and was so happy to see them. Cue a fun surge into Times Square! About a half mile later, I saw Leticia and surged again. :) I think this is the “run happy” section.
(Jocelyn’s mad race photography skillz)
(Turns out my form is pretty strong–thanks Leticia!)
I was halfway and felt like I could keep running for DAYS. The legs had so much pep in the them and I didn’t feel like I was going to drop my pace (quite the contrary). I was warned that the GPS would be wonky through this section so I tried not to look at my watch.
My Garmin clocked Mile 8 at 1.63 miles (see above) ….not sure how that’s even possible. Yeah, didn’t run a 4:13 mile there, Mr. Garmin! At this point, running west toward the river, we had a pretty intense headwind to deal with. I remember thinking “damn, this feels like the Chicago wind!”. I guess training through that wind has its advantages. Once we made the turn onto the West Side Highway, it was time to surge. One quick water stop and half of a Gu (didn’t feel like I needed it) around mile 8.5.
There was just no way that my legs were going to slow down. I knew that I could push the pace in the last 4 miles. My form felt stronger than it has in a long time and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so strong in half marathon before. Running down the West Side Highway was awesome, mostly because no turning was involved and you knew you just had to run straight toward Freedom Tower. I felt like I was running by myself. There were plenty of people around me but we were all spread out across the road.
Whenever I looked down at my watch, I saw a lap pace between 6:35-6:45. In any other race, I would have started to calculate my finish time once I was 3-4 miles out. But I didn’t do that this time around. I stayed within each mile and didn’t show the total race time on my Garmin. I think I’ll definitely do that in future races. I didn’t get ahead of myself. I surged during mile 12 because I felt strong. (6:16 mile?! Wut.)
Running through the Brooklyn Tunnel was weird and exciting — I appreciated a small break from the swirly wind (even though we supposedly had a tailwind, the winds felt swirly). That uphill stretch coming out of the tunnel felt pretty tough but then I spotted the “800 m to go” sign. I’m not sure I had much of a finishing kick.
I didn’t even know I was close to 1:30 until I was 5 seconds away from the finish line. I crossed in 1:30:13 with gas left in the tank.
When I entered my goal time this past winter, I thought I was being aggressive with entering 1:30:00. It’s amazing what you can do when you just put in the work and avoid getting too ahead of yourself (mentally, mostly). My previous half marathon PR was 1:33:51. I PR’d by 3 minutes and 38 seconds.
How fitness works:
Train train train with no signs of progress.
One day,without warning or reason, you wake up fit.
Today was that day.—
Phoebe Wright (@Phe800) March 18, 2014
This tweet says it all. I’ve felt like I’ve had a pretty strong Boston cycle this time around but nothing mind-blowing. If I raced NYC all-out, there’s no doubt in my mind I would have run a 1:28-1:29. And if I let myself dream a little bit, an even faster time might be in these legs. Prior to Sunday, I was excited to race Boston because of the entire experience. It’s going to be a special experience no matter what. But now I’m excited to RACE BOSTON. I think deep down I was waiting for a good race experience before I left myself admit that Boston training is going well and that Boston itself will be a true race. (Because, guess what? My body isn’t breaking down like it did last year!)
The rest of the weekend was so much fun. Words likely couldn’t do it justice.
We drank beer and met Twitter friends IRL….
And then we drank more beer…
I wouldn’t change a thing about this past weekend. It was fun to spend literally the entire 3 days with Corey and to spend time with people that have so much fun with the sport. The running family is strong!
Thanks for the congratulatory texts and tweets the past few days! You all really know how to make a girl feel special.
Now, just a few more weeks of strong training and I’ll be racing again. This time to Boston.