Saturday, January 28, 2012

"Dashing" Through the Snow: The Manhattan Half RR

Originally, when I signed up for this race, I didn't intend to break my Cape Cod PR (1:54), but I wanted to complete it in under two hours. Since the first half of the course was identical to the course of my March goal half (the NYC Half), I figured it would be a good practice run.

Then reality came crashing down in the form of an impending snowstorm. Since one of our borough halves was cancelled by a hurricane in August, I figured that either the race would be cancelled, downgraded to a fun run, or moved to the next day. When it wasn't moved to the next day (Sunday) by Friday, I was secretly hoping it would be cancelled so that I could sleep in.

The race had been sold out for some time, so when I picked up my bib the night before, it didn't surprise me that I was moved back from the green 3xxx corral. I asked them what the status of the race was, and they said that a decision would be made by 5am in order to give those coming from further away enough time to react.

After having pizza for dinner, I had an early night and set my alarm for 6am. When I woke up, I looked at NYRR and realized that they had downgraded the race to a fun run, meaning that not only wouldn't we be scored, but that there wouldn't be timing mats along the course.

I was supposed to meet some friends at the race, but since they lived further away, they understandably decided not to come in. After considering my options for a few minutes, I knew that I would regret not going, so I got dressed and left my apartment. Here are some pictures as I walked into the park.

Since it was a fun run, the usual corral system was not in effect, so everyone just lined up randomly at the start line. In hindsight, I probably should have used the bathroom before the race started, but oh well. It started to get very chilly waiting around for the race to start, so I was almost relieved when the race started right on schedule at 8am.

I decided early on to go at my easy pace, but I underestimated how difficult that would feel. I never ran in snow before, and each step took far more effort than I could have imagined. As I finished Cat Hill for the first time, I saw a couple of dog walkers yelling at a poor course volunteer because she was preventing them from crossing in the middle of a race. As if being a course marshal for this race wasn't difficult enough. Despite feeling like a turtle and seeing lots of people pass me, I managed to average a 10:15 pace over the first three miles, which is the slower end of my easy pace per McMillan.

Then I faced Harlem Hill, which is one of the toughest hills of the park. Although I run this hill almost daily, and have done it in under 9mm, this time around, I felt like the hill would never end. It felt like it went on forever, so when I realized I finished that mile in close to 11 minutes, I wasn't really too surprised.

Also, by that point, my bladder was ready to kill me, and although I tried avoiding stopping at a place with a long line, just before the mile 5 marker, I gave up and waited in line for about 5-6 minutes, knowing that it was an un-scored fun run anyways. I felt much better after that, and to my relief, I still wasn't dead last after the wait. At the next water station, I had to grab a cup of water and hold it for the next quarter mile as I realized my shot bloks were much harder to chew than they should have been.

As we passed the start line for our second loop, one of the course marshals yelled "who's on the second loop?" and I raised my hand, and he said, "good, you're almost near mile 12!" and then I immediately corrected him, saying I was at the beginning of the second loop. Too bad.

After going around the bottom of the park again, I just finished mile 7 when I saw Mary Wittenberg, CEO of NYRR, standing there and encouraging people to cut the course short by turning onto the transverse towards the finish instead of completing the second loop. I was afraid that they would force us to cut the race short, but thankfully, we were allowed to continue. (Unfortunately, I found out later that after a certain point, they started breaking down the aid stations in the northern end of the park, effectively cutting the race short for people). Even if people did decide that 7 miles (or 3, or however many miles they ran) were enough, they still deserved a ton of respect for coming out in that weather. 

I caught a spark of defiance fueled energy and sped up slightly, only to be faced with Cat Hill for the second time. I immediately regretted not stopping at mile 7, but I was far too stubborn to admit it, so I kept going. Conditions had gotten worse, the course was emptier, and it felt much harder to keep going. I couldn't even imagine how the volunteers must have felt at this point.

The mile after Cat Hill was relatively flat, and I ended up having my first mile that was under 10 minutes. I enjoyed the downhill going into Harlem Hill, but the second attempt at Harlem Hill during mile 11 felt even worse than the first one (but was somehow slightly faster).

After doing the rolling hills of the West side for the second time, I knew that all of the hard hills were out of the way, and I felt much better. I had less than a couple of miles to go, so I sped up, wanting to finish strong. After passing some of the course volunteers for a third time ("You again!" I said to one of the more cheerful ones) I finished my last two full miles in 9:42 and 9:24. I sped up even further thinking that I could beat 2:15 on my watch, but my garmin time ended up being 2:15:03 (and with the long wait for the bathroom, my official time really would have been 2:20:xx)

After crossing the finish, I see a Brightroom photographer standing right there, so I walked up to him and posed. He took my picture, and told me that he recognized me from the New Year's Eve run. My parents liked the photo so much that I bought a digital version for them - a first for me. The picture on the left of that is me hanging around in the t-shirt that I earned the right to wear (along with the couple of thousand other crazy people).

When I first looked at my garmin splits below, I thought I had a huge negative split, but when I added everything up I realized that I only ran the second half faster by about a minute. Although this would have probably been my worst official time in a half, I felt proud of myself for getting out there and not giving up. I felt extremely emotional, and almost cried out of relief that I was finally done.

I also want to thank all of the volunteers who stayed out there for as long as they did. It really meant a lot to all of the runners, and we couldn't have had this race without you guys! 

Now that I'm done writing this race report, it's time for me to get moving and do my long run. Thankfully this time, the 13 miles will not be in the snow. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

My Year so Far

First, I have to apologize for a lack of updates. I've been incredibly busy so far, but when I realized that I have a race tomorrow, it also occurred to me that I have to write a double race report before beginning to process tomorrow's race.

To start off the New Year, I ran a 4 mile fun run with some friends.

It was my friend Zahava's first NYRR race, and after taking it easy for the first three miles, we sped up to complete an under 9 minute last mile. I think that someday I will get her to join the cult. Hmmm....

The next weekend, I did the Joe Kleinerman 10K, which used to take place in December. Honestly, I wasn't even going to sign up for this race, but peer pressure can be a tough thing to resist (thanks Rachel!)  She wanted me to pace her, and I happily agreed.

You can read her account here - although we did not get her "A" goal of under 55 minutes, she earned a new 10K PR, and I'm very proud of her for it. She was on pace for the first three miles though, and considering she was just recovering from a marathon induced injury, the signs are very promising for not only a sub-55 minute 10k, but a sub-2 hour half as well.

As usual, I got some "flattering" pictures from Brightroom, that is if you think napping, pissed off, and tired are attractive. 

Training for the New York City Half is going well, but I have been slacking off slightly on quality for various reasons. I had shin pains and I was under the weather this week, but hopefully next week I'll be back on target completely. At least I'm hitting my target mileage at any rate - I have lots of firsts to look forward to, such as my first 15 and 16 mile runs.

Next up: The Manhattan Half, assuming it's not cancelled due to the impending snow storm. We'll see what happens.