Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Return of Ocean Parkway: My Redemption HM

Actual PR: 1:48:16 (Staten Island HM 2012)

Overall Place: 7088 / 21318
Gender Place: 1884 / 10563  
    adjusted for AG %: 2339 / 10563
Age Group Place: 614 / 3170 
AG %: 59.12% 


I went into this race expecting very little. When I registered for this race on February 15th, I hadn't run a single mile in the previous month, and wasn't 100% sure when I would run again. After I completed the Coogan's 5K in early March, I started an HM training schedule that had much lower mileage than I was used to. Once I hit the 10 mile mark again, I felt a little more confident, but was still worried about embarrassing myself. At the time, I would have been very happy with a sub-2 finish.

Although the location of the expo wasn't really that convenient to me, getting there wasn't as difficult as I expected it to be. Thankfully, NYRR put up signs from the train stations to the expo, which was held in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), a neighborhood situated right in between the Brooklyn & Manhattan bridges on the Brooklyn side. I got my number and tech shirt pretty quickly, and hung around a little to say hi to a friend. The pre-party did look fun, but I didn't hang out long since I had work the next day. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to get back to the nearest train station, but I managed to figure it out with some help and my IPhone. 

The funny thing is that because of the increasing race size across the years, my race bib number kept getting bigger, not smaller as I got faster. 

Race Day

A day and a half later, I woke up bright and early at 4am so that I had plenty of time to get dressed, eat breakfast and pack my clear plastic bag in time to get a 5am train to Prospect Park. Last year, the 4 train wasn't running to Brooklyn, but this year, it did, so I didn't have to transfer. By 6am, I had arrived, and got through baggage check pretty quickly. 

The corrals were jam packed, even though only half of the field was actually starting at 7am - wave 2 would start 35 minutes later. I wasn't happy about the lack of corral enforcement, but I lined up accurately, hoping that it wouldn't make too much of a difference. I had agreed to start the race with my friend Barbara, but I couldn't find her. I ended up chatting with some former co-workers before the race began, and before I knew it, we all were heading towards the start line. 

After a very beautiful, operatic rendition of the National Anthem, the gun went off. However, I waited 5-6 minutes before actually crossing the start, but once I began running, I didn't experience any crowding problems. I started off by trying to do what I thought felt like HM pace. I was a little surprised to see that my pace was below an 8mm - but I just assumed that my Garmin was being a little wonky. The first 5K was on the streets of Brooklyn, and it was very enjoyable. I got to see both the leaders and the very back of the first wave. The first 5K was done in 25:49 @ 8:18 pace. I didn't see any timing devices, but there must have been something there as all of my 5K splits showed up on the tracking website.

Shortly after that, I entered Prospect Park just as the leaders were exiting. I knew that there would be a major hill, but since I rarely run there, I didn't know exactly where it would be, so I spent most of my time in the park anticipating the hill. Not long after I entered the park, I looked ahead of me and spotted someone familiar. When I caught up to her, I realized that it was Barbara, and we chatted for a moment before she told me to go catch up to Kathy. I kept my eye out for a red singlet and a streak of pink hair, and a couple of miles later, there she was! I caught up to her as we were going up the biggest hill in the park (I think) and we ended up sticking together for the next few miles. I was flattered when she told me that she was using me as a pacer. I had taken two shot bloks and was feeling pretty good at this point. 

At the 10K mark, I was going at a 8:21mm pace, and it occurred to me that even if I didn't PR, perhaps a sub-1:50 finish was a possibility if I didn't slow down. It was a risk, but at that point, I decided to go for it, with the understanding that I would back off if my body signalled that I couldn't do it. 

After leaving the park, we went straight onto Ocean Parkway, which was just as boring as I remembered it. Many people cut into the middle of the course in order to get across the highway, and despite my best efforts, I managed to run face first into someone who was on their way to temple. Sigh. 

At this point, I was stopping for water every mile, but felt pretty good up to the 15K mark. I had slowed down, but was still close to the 8:23mm pace required to make a sub-1:50 time. I did my best to keep the pace, and ate one more shot blok, but shortly after the mile 10 marker, I knew that I was not in sub-1:50 shape. After walking through the water station at mile 11, I slowed down, but remained determined not to go above a 9mm despite the pain in my left rib. The last mile seemed to stretch on forever, but eventually I got up onto the boardwalk and was thrilled when I saw the finish line up ahead. My 5K splits from the race are below:

Kathy crossed shortly afterwards, and we saw Barbara again in luggage. After waiting on a long line, we got our bags and went to party on the beach with her running club, the awesome Prospect Park Track Club. If I lived in Brooklyn, I would definitely be a member. Wallis was also there, and I got to meet a couple of Facebook running friends for the first time. 

Post-Race Analysis

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with my result. Looking back, I realized that this race was similar to my first Brooklyn Half - the wheels started falling off around the 15K point and I missed sub-1:50 by the same amount that I missed sub-2 in 2011. Despite this, I was thrilled to only be about 3 minutes off my PR despite barely running the last few months. 

Despite poor communication regarding the race logistics, I thought that NYRR did an amazing job on race day, and I enjoyed the overall experience. However, I think that this will be my last Brooklyn half for a while. These large races are getting too big for my taste, and I just don't feel like the target audience for these events, or for NYRR anymore for that matter. I would go into detail about this, but this race is already War and Peace length long enough. 

In the end, this race gave me a much needed confidence booster. I had lost faith in my running abilities, and didn't think that I would be able to do sub-2, much less get within 3 minutes of my PR. Now, I feel that I have a shot an an amazing fall season, and look forward to seeing what I am capable at the Yonkers HM and at NYCM. 

.... will be posted on Facebook eventually. I look forward to seeing whether I look good in any of them. Spoiler alert: I'll probably look as awkward as always :-)

Thanks for reading!