Sunday, October 9, 2011

Note to self: Never run a half marathon the day after fasting

This last week was a significant week for a couple of reasons:

 1. I got my 4/5 borough halves needed for guaranteed entry to the NYC half next year - Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx (credit) and Staten Island (more on the Staten Island race below)
2. I hit the 1,000 mile mark for the year this past Friday

Staten Island was a tough race for me, but I only anticipated one of the following obstacles
1. I had a bad cold a few days before
2. The day before was Yom Kippur - that meant 27 hours of complete fasting that's hard to recover from in less than 12 hours (this I anticipated)
3. Hills! Whoever said this course was mostly flat was clearly mistaken
4. The heat - isn't this supposed to be a FALL race?

Last night, I had a major headache and my stomach was upset from breakfast, so I was extremely nervous going to sleep. Thankfully, I had taken theraflu the day before and my cold had gone away, but I still felt under the weather from fasting.

I woke up the next morning, and felt ok, so I got ready to head to the terminal. Rachel had stayed over, so we split a cab to get there by 7am. We get there by 7am to find an already crowded terminal. We met up with my friends Nicole and Abbey, and we met Nicole's sister in law Kelly and her friend. In hindsight, it probably would have been smarter to go for the 6:30am ferry, but I had been told that runners had always managed to get on in the past. Also, at the time, I just was not in the mood to spend an extra hour and a half on Staten Island. Because my friends and I were close to the doors when the ferry loaded, we got on, but there was a large group of runners who had been waiting for almost half an hour that weren't nearly as lucky. I would end up seeing much faster runners pass me during the race since they got such a late start.

The ferry left late, so it was already 8:10 when we got to Staten Island. I knew that I needed to use the restroom before we started, so Abbey, Rachel and I stopped while the others made their way towards the race. Once we left, Abbey rushed ahead while Rachel and I made our way to baggage. I checked my bag, and as we went towards the corrals they started to collapse. Thankfully we were still able to get into my corral just in time for the national anthem. This was definitely the closest I have come to being late to a race, and I have no plans on cutting it that close again.

This was never meant to be a goal race. That is still about 20 days away at this point. In fact, due to timing, I almost did not attempt the 4/5, but that ended up being the only reason why I showed up at the starting line. Therefore, I used this as a long training run instead.

The first five to six miles were honestly just awful. Despite eating an entire bagel with cream cheese before hand (I usually only eat half), I just had no energy on the course and I had to force myself to keep going. If I hadn't been going for my 4/5, I could have easily just walked off that course with no regrets. By the way, where did those HILLS come from? I was told that this course was "fast and flat"! At least we were treated to some nice views of the bay. Too bad it was far too warm outside for a fall race to enjoy it.

There was music all along the first part of the course, and it made things slightly more bearable for me. This was the second time I ended up listening to Lady Gaga songs during a race. I carried a water bottle, something I wouldn't usually do for a fall race, but it was a much warmer day than it should be in October and I knew I had a hydration deficit from the day before.

Just before mile 5, we saw the leaders heading back towards us and they looked very strong. The first place male finisher was far ahead of the pack at this point. We ran towards the halfway point, and I slowly but surely started to feel better after walking through a water stop.

As we headed back, we saw our friend Gary looking strong out there as he made his way towards the halfway point. We looked for Nicole as well - she saw us but we missed her. Then we approached the one hill we actually got warned about - it was steep, but no worse than facing Harlem Hill, and after that, the rest of the race didn't seem so bad. I think that drinking lots of water on the course and taking my usual shot bloks halfway probably contributed to a better second half.

I took off in the last minute or so of the race and had a fast finish, but overall my time was 2:12:33 (10:08mm) - you can see my splits here. Clearly this was not a PR, but considering how I felt going into the race, I consider this a victory, especially when I put things in perspective: in the New Years race, I did 4 miles at a 10:08 pace, and that was my PR. Now, I'm doing that for a half marathon, and that's not even close to being my best time. In fact, I probably should not have gone faster than 10:15 per mile, but thankfully I was close enough that I could still count this as an easy training run.

All of us met up at the end for a bit, then Abbey, Rachel and I rushed to make the 11:30 ferry out since we were all completely exhausted from the race. We sat on the top deck this time, and had a nice view of the ride home (see pic above for a view of the Statue of Liberty). I enjoyed the race overall, but I'm not sure I would do it next year, especially since the ferry on Sundays is a big pain to deal with.

To summarize, here is what I learned today:
1. Never do a half marathon the day after a fast (I can't imagine doing Chicago after Yom Kippur - I wonder how those people did it)
2. Take the earlier ferry, even if it means getting there ridiculously early
3. The Staten Island course is not flat nor does it have any shade

Only 19 more days until I'm in Cape Cod getting ready for my goal race!

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