Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Staten Island Half: A Redemption & Wake-Up Call Rolled Into One

Short Version:

Overall Place: 3,344 / 8,868 (top 38%)
Gender Place: 807 / 3,967 (top 21%)
Adjusted Gender Place: 1073 / 3,967 (top 27%)
Age Group Place: 227 / 1,031 (top 22%)

Long Version:

This past weekend, I ran the Staten Island Half Marathon. Although I didn't have a time goal attached, I was still very nervous going into it. I knew that my mileage and training going into this wasn't nearly good enough, and it was time to face the music. 

Usually, going into a half, I would do a twelve week training plan of sorts. This ideal training plan would have several long runs and weekly mileage consistently reaching the thirties. This is what actually happened:


After carb loading with Rachel & Diana the night before, I met Leiba at the Staten Island ferry and we made the 7am boat. We got there in good time, did the standard wait in the bathroom line at least twice, and checked our stuff into baggage. 

This year they had the finish line as well as race day central in the stadium of the Staten Island Yankees. In fact, the finish line would be right where home plate usually sits. It was kind of cool to see the runners take over the arena for the day. 

We then headed towards the corral. Initially Leiba and I were good NYRR citizens and stood at the borders of our respective corrals - her at the back of the 2xxxx yellow corral and me at the front of the 3xxx green corral - but when we saw the volunteer let someone with a 7xxx bib go through due to being a pretty female batting her eyes (as I rolled MY eyes) I decided to ignore that rule as well. 

It was chilly out so for once I was grateful that the corral was crowded enough for us to get body warmth. After the national anthem, we started the race, and within a couple of minutes we crossed the start line.  Unsurprisingly, Leiba shot out ahead of me and I was left to my own devices (I hope that someday I will be able to keep up, but today was clearly not that day). 

I decided not to look at my Garmin and do the entire race by feel. I had planned to fuel every five miles and drink water every two or so.  I had to make a quick change in strategy when I dropped one of my GUs early in the race. I tried to turn around, but after nearly running into someone, realized it was a lost cause and kept going. I knew that I would have to wait until half way through the race to eat my one remaining one.  Oh well!

For those first few miles, I felt like I was going really slowly, and figured that there was no way I was keeping a sub-2 hour pace. To my pleasant surprise however, the first couple of miles passed by more quickly than expected, and I realized that I was keeping up with a gun time of a 9mm pace. My new goal was to keep a 9mm gun pace and barring that, not get more than a minute or two behind that. Since I started a couple of minutes after the gun went off, I knew I had that cushion. 

The nice thing about an out and back course was the ability to see both the front and back of the pack. Somewhere during mile six I saw the lead men on the other side, and not long after that, I saw the lead female. I cheered for a while, but then saved my energy for my own race. Unfortunately, around the same time there was a runner down on the ground. Thanks to two fellow doctor runners and the medics, the guy made it, but it was still very scary to see. 

As I passed the 10K mat I was surprised that there wasn't a clock there so I looked at my Garmin just this once to see 53:23. Not bad!

On the way to the turn-around I saw one of my faster running friends, Karen, and on the way back I waved to Rachel & Meaghan. I knew plenty of other people on the course, Leiba included, but it's never possible to catch everyone with so many runners around. 

Although I was having a good time, my lack of training started to catch up to me around mile 9. To make matters worse, the big hill that had been at mile 7/8 in previous years was moved back to mile 10, and as I approached it, I had this feeling of dread. Although I powered through it took a few minutes to catch my breath as I ran downhill.

I had the energy to cheer on the back of the pack people, but I felt a little awkward doing it - it was hard to tell sometimes whether they were appreciative, or thought that we were somehow looking down on them. I hope they didn't think the worst! I felt particularly bad for those who were barely at mile 2 when I was past the mile 10 marker as they would have a long day ahead of them.

I definitely had to put more work into the last few miles to make sure I didn't slow down too much in the remaining leg of the race, but it definitely wasn't easy. My Garmin had been beeping way before the mile markers, so when I heard it when it thought I had hit mile 13 I felt relieved that I was getting closer. Despite being very tired, I was able to enjoy running into the stadium toward the finish. 

As I hit the mile 13 marker I was surprised to see that the clock read 1:56:xx. As I neared the finish line, I saw someone accidentally get tripped, so I ran with her a bit to make sure she was alright. As we approached the finish line, I told her to smile and hold her arms up. I followed my own advise and was gratefully relieved that it was FINALLY over. I stopped my Garmin and was pleasantly surprised to see that my time was approximately 1:54. 

Here are my Garmin splits. As usual, they were not completely accurate since I kept hitting the mile marker way earlier than the actual ones on the course. Considering I didn't look at my watch, my splits were surprisingly even other than miles 6 and 10, which covered running down and back up the same hill. I slowed down a little towards the end, but not as badly as I feared I would.

My baggage pick-up line was initially long as many people in my corral finished about the same time, but thankfully some volunteers were re-routed and I got out of there relatively quickly. After a bit of wandering around aimlessly, snacking, and saying hi to people, Leiba and I were able to make the 11am ferry and headed back. 

Race Experience Evaluation:

I thought that NYRR did an amazing job putting on this event. The longer I work for NYCRuns, the more I appreciate the amount of work that goes into what to a runner may seem like a deceptively simple thing to do. My one complaint would be that the race shirt needed to be gender specific - it's hardly accurate to call something "small" when two of me could fit into it. I ended up grabbing a medium at packet pick-up and passing it along to my boyfriend. 

My Running Performance:

Although I went into the race with the thought of running it easy, I should have known that there was a part of me that wouldn't allow that to happen. Race day adrenaline combined with internal pressure really motivated me to RACE this event, and not just do this for fun like I originally planned.  

My base fitness may have allowed me to garner a decent time, but despite this, I know I have a LOT of work to do in the coming year. If I want to get another sub-1:50 half marathon time, much less get a sub-4 hour marathon at NYCM 2015, I will have to put in a lot of time on my feet. The thought of running another marathon is definitely daunting, even more so than it was the first time now that I know what lies ahead, but this race only increased my determination to get the sub-4 marathon of my dreams. 

Thanks for reading!!!!