Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Yonkers Half Marathon Race Report - and some advise/input needed

...or, more accurately, the Yonkers Marathon Pace Trial Report. I wasn't originally going to write a report on this since I wasn't really treating it as a race, but I realized that my week 9 report was long enough as it was, and shortening this would not do this wonderful experience justice. 

Since I will be asking for some reader input at the end, here are a few things to keep in mind: In the year before I started marathon training, I averaged 30.4 miles per week. My best HM time of 1:52:28 is from March of this year. Since I started marathon training, I have averaged 44.56 miles per week, including this MP trial, and my peak week was 51 miles up until that point. 

I rushed to packet pickup a couple of days before - I had to go quickly in between errands, but it was the only day there was packet pickup in the city. I got a pretty women's pink tech shirt, and a bib that had the timing device attached to it. 

The race started at 8am on Sunday. Unfortunately, the train schedule wasn't an ideal one - I had the option of getting there at either 6:51 or 7:51. Although I didn't want to get there over an hour early, I was not going to have a repeat of the Staten Island debacle, so the 6:30 train was the obvious choice. At least I had ten extra minutes to get the train since I ended up going to the Harlem station instead of Grand Central. Why go downtown to go uptown?

I arrived in Yonkers on schedule, and figured that I would have time to use the porta-potty at least twice. Not so. Here is where I will list the one complaint that I had about this fantastically organized race: not enough bathrooms. I felt like I waited on line forever. 

After I used the facilities, I found my friend James, who volunteered for the race. We hung out for a few minutes, and he told me that he was confident that I would be able to finish in under two hours, something which I appreciated.

After that, I dropped off my bag at baggage check. Afterward, Barbara pointed out to me on Facebook that I was in New York City Run's picture in which their description was bragging about how beautiful the view from baggage claim was. They were not wrong. 

Shortly after, I did some stretching, and hung around the start for a while. I ended up talking with a multi-national group of people. The marathon and half started at the same time, so we all lined up together. I had heard that this course was hilly, so I was impressed that anyone would be doing two loops of this course. 

After about a ten minute porta-potty production delay, the national anthem was sung, and we were off! It took a couple of minutes to get into the groove, but people started to spread out not too long after the start. 

I really enjoyed running through the town of Yonkers, and there were so many beautiful views of the water. The business districts were also fun to look at. I think these views helped to keep me in line in terms of pacing. I also kept telling myself not to be upset when lots of people started passing me - I had a goal, and I would stick to it! 

Although this course had a reputation for being hilly, I didn't really have a hard time with it. I guess training in Central Park helped, but I was expecting hills more like the ones I faced in Southern Connecticut. So a part of me went through the race expecting the other shoe to drop so to speak. Although I was feeling great most of the time, I was expecting some giant hill to ruin things any minute. I didn't stop feeling that way until sometime in the second half, when I was told by someone who actually studied the map that the worst was over. 

The first few miles passed without a hitch, and I was feeling good. The first mile was a 9:01, but the next few miles were under 9mm and it felt easy. More importantly, it felt good. Then late in mile four / early mile five, I faced the steepest hill of the race. The top part felt so steep that I almost was tempted to walk it, but I didn't. I was slightly upset to see a 9:09 for mile 5, but told myself to relax. If you see the elevation chart below, you'll understand why this was by far the slowest split of the race.

There was also a minor hill around mile 11 which surprised me after hearing that it would be all easy from a certain point, but after a moment of shock, I got through it and didn't find it to be a problem at all. 

At the 10K point, I saw James again. He told me that he would be there, so that wasn't a surprise, but to my delight, he took out his phone to take a picture of me. I tried to slow down, but my body wouldn't have it. Thankfully, he still got a good one. Thanks James!

I don't remember too many other specific details other than enjoying the scenery, but I thought that the aid stations for the most part were well run. There was one small station with only one volunteer, but I was able to grab a cup that was full and get past it quickly. I ended up taking two shot bloks every 5 miles or so, and I think that worked out fairly well for me. I thought that the kid volunteers were really cute. There were also some locals standing on the side of the road cheering us on, and even some drivers across the way from us smiled and waved. I drank water every couple of miles at first, then increased to every mile towards the end as it got sunnier with the exception of mile 12. 

I ended up doing a back and forth passing with two women who were running together. One of them was pacing the other one towards her first HM, and when we were on pace with each other, we talked a bit and enjoyed the nice weather. As much as I could have and wanted to stay with them, I had my own goals for the day, and over the last few miles, I let them go, and ultimately, they finished a couple of minutes ahead of me. A 1:53:xx is an amazing time for someones first marathon in my opinion. 

During the last 1/2 mile, I decided to do a finishing kick and push it towards the end. To my delight, my official time was 1:55:25, which wasn't too far off my Cape Cod time last fall. The difference was that last year, the 1:54:xx felt like race pace, while this felt almost like a long run. I met up with the two girls again after and they said I didn't look remotely tired or worn out, which made me happy.

I ended up stretching and looking at the water, and while I did so, someone who I ran with a bit close to the end of the race (I think his name was Alex) came up to me and said that the two girls and myself were pacing him even though we didn't realize it, and said that I inspired him to have a finishing kick. Also, the race organizers posted finishing pictures - and NYC Runs is even more awesome because I didn't have to pay for it!!!! (Also, my splits are below)

Here are a few more pictures of the waterfront / festivities, including my view from the train platform. I can't overstate how pretty the town of Yonkers is. I'll post these pictures and more on Facebook when I get a chance

So this is the part where I ask for some input. I have my indicator half on October 7th. Based on this MP trial, do I have a chance at a sub-4 hour marathon? Or should I wait and see how the Staten Island half goes? Although this may be painful for me to hear, I appreciate your honest feedback in advance. Even though I had a great experience, I know that as a first time marathoner, I will be going into the unknown on November 4th. 

Thanks for reading!!!!!

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