Monday, May 21, 2012

Brooklyn Half-Marathon Race Recap

After training for 12 weeks, the day finally came. I ran the Brooklyn Half-Marathon, and it was awesome.

As I’ve said before, last year’s race was quite terrible, and it taught me a lot about running (like how running on a treadmill is nothing like running outside. You heard it first from me). I was undertrained and unprepared for 13.1 miles of pavement, and almost swore off running because of it. But this year’s race was a completely different experience for me.

I trained for the half using Hal Higdon’s intermediate training schedule, which had me running a lot. There were speedwork sessions, tempo runs, easy runs, pace runs and long runs. I became accustomed to running faster and longer, and really tested my legs. I felt confident that I would be able to run this year’s race faster than the debacle of 2011, but I didn’t know what race day would bring.

I spent Friday drinking a lot of water. And I mean a lot. So much I had water belly. After doing a bit of research after last year’s race, I realized I had all of the symptoms of dehydration. I didn’t want to take any chances this year.

Friday night, I headed to Jillian’s apartment, where fellow racers and I carbed up on gnocchi, penne, garlic bread and cookies. I also brought some colorful Macarons from Cookie Road in Greenpoint, which were a hit.

How can you not love macarons from a place called Cookie Road?

I followed my little routine the night before a race – pinned my bib on my shirt, put my clif shot in my running capris, threw in a change of clothes in a bag, and chugged some Gatorade. I was all ready to fall asleep and dream of happy running things… when I heard a really loud bass sound in my apartment. After some investigating, I realized the apartment below mine was having a party. Awesome.

I became nervous and mad. Of all nights! So I tried putting my headphones in to fall asleep to J.K. Rowling, and eventually dozed off around 12:30AM. And when I felt like my head had just hit the pillow, my alarm woke me up at 4:50AM.

I went the stress-free route of taking a cab to the start of the race, where I could happily munch on my breakfast and Vita Coco and not worry about getting there late. I got to the start at 6:00AM on the dot just like NYRR told me to, and the nervous knots in my stomach showed up.

Grand Army Plaza!
It's way too early for exclamation points.
This year’s race seemed to be a lot more organized – either that, or the man with the microphone by the porta potties was on a power trip. I knew exactly when I needed to drop off my bag, get in line for the toilets, and finally, when to head to the corrals. I am good at following directions.

Lotta potties.

For most of the other NYRR races I’ve done, I’m in the corrals for about five minutes max. On Saturday, it was closer to 20 minutes. I was getting a little claustrophobic as the guy stretching next to me had serious spacial-awareness issues, but it wasn’t anything a little iPod mixing couldn’t fix (no classic corral pic this time – I was a minimalist and only carried with me my clif shot, credit card, and a twenty. I roll deep). Before I knew it, we were off.

Courtesy of NYRR
I WILL make it into one of their photo albums someday 
Even though I stopped at the porta potties before the race, all the day drinking on Friday must have really filled me up. During Mile 1, I realized I already had to go again. I am cursed with a small bladder.

I clocked in Mile 1 at 8:07, and I told myself to slooow down. The first few miles of the course were completely unfamiliar to me, so I was trying to gauge my pace against the terrain as best I could. I located a string of porta potties at around mile 1.5 that didn’t have a huge line, and told myself that adding 60 seconds to my time was inconsequential to the whole race (last year, I had a full bladder around Mile 8 but I didn't stop and it was unpleasant. I learn from my mistakes). The pit stop thus explains the outlier pace at Mile 2: 9:37.

My legs didn’t feel so great between miles 3-5, which I told myself was just a result of my body warming-up. I was feeling worried and was still trying to find my stride, but I reminded myself that I had looked forward to this moment for three months. After a little self-pep talk, I started to feel really great.

We hit Prospect Park, and I was hovering around an 8:20 pace. But then I got to Mile 7, at the end of the Prospect Park loop, and I was hitting an 8:04 pace... and feeling good. What was happening??

This was when I really started to enjoy the race. I was trying to see how fast I could maintain my pace but still feel OK. I downed my vanilla clif shot as I headed out of the park, and prepared myself for the sunny and widely-dreaded straightaway to Coney Island.

This is pretty much what the entire straightaway looked like.
I loaded the end of my playlist strategically with my favorite upbeat songs (I gauge whether a race is a success based on how much I lip sync on the course). The miles seemed to fly by, and I was really enjoying myself. Before I knew it, I hit Mile 11, and I tried to pick up the pace for the last two miles. 

With a huge smile on my face, I made it to the Coney Island Boardwalk, where I spotted my parents and got a rush of happiness that carried me across the finish line. Surprisingly, I didn't feel like collapsing. I just wanted to get to my family so I could celebrate.

Splits that pleasantly surprised me.
I was really happy with my time. I PR'd by 10 minutes, and beat by goal pace by 15 seconds. I didn't stop smiling all day.

I made my way to meet my parents and Keith at Nathan's, where we laughed and downed hot dogs, fries and most importantly, beer.

How freakin' cute are they
My Keith!
Aside from wanting to be able to complete the race without being in all-consuming pain, my main reason for wanting to be hydrated and well-trained was so that I could enjoy the end of race treats that I missed out on last year. Success.


  1. YOU DID GREAT! And CONGRATS! I loved seeing your smile and pumped fist as you crossed the finish line!