You know you are a runner when a race is part of your birthday weekend festivities!
For the past two years I have wanted to run a race on my birthday weekend. Last year I was injured so it didn’t happen, but this year, everything fell in to place – I was able to run the More/Fitness Women’s Half Marathon in NYC!
Saturday night I laid out all my gear, took the mandatory ‘flat runner’ photo, taped my neck, climbed in to bed to get a good nights sleep as my alarm was set to go off at 5:15am.
Well, that sort of backfired on me when I woke up at 3:12am, then tossed and turned for another hour before giving up any hope of falling back to sleep around 4:20am. I chilled, I relaxed, I made sure I was decompressed, then around 5:15 I got up, taped my IT Band with some KT Tape, got dressed, gathered my ‘gear’, got in my car and drove in to Manhattan to run 2 laps around Central Park.
I opted to drive in to the city instead of dealing with the train and subway. It bought me another 15-20 minutes of sleep (well, it would have if I slept until my alarm was ready to go off). I used the best parking website to map out what street parking would be available as well as what garages would be best/cheapest. This prep made the morning even easier for me once I came over the Queensboro Bridge, I exited on 63rd street, drove toward the park and found an amazing street spot on 64th street and 5th avenue.
From there I wandered in to the park eventually locating the starting area on the west side of Central Park at 63rd street. As I stated from my running of the United NYC Half, I have lived in the NYC area most of my life but had never be in to Central Park, so I knew I had to head west and just kept my eyes peeled for tents, porta-pottys, crowds, anything to note I had reached the start. The best way to accomplish this, just follow all the other women roaming the park.
I located the start and I was ready. I was calm, cool, collected and not at all missing the nerves and stressed that has plagued me in the past at the start of a race. I felt free, I was invigorated and ready to smash this race!
Going in I was assuming that this was just a race, I wasn’t going for a PR, I was simply running to finish, I was running for another shiny race medal.
I planned the hills a bit more. I was going to run up some of them this race and walk down some of them instead of walking UP all of them and running DOWN all of them. I pushed up the hills, I lengthened my strides down the hills.
As we were running I kept wishing inside the park they told us more what streets we were running by, I felt a little lost at times as we were running, where was I with regards to the city itself, how much further up to the top of the park, how far back down. The mileage and kilometer markers just told me how far I had still to run, or how far I have come, they don’t tell me location within the park itself.
I had my Garmin of course, but I used it simply to tell me my time, where I was for my 5k, 10k, 10 mile, ect. As we all know, the clock at each mile only tells us how much time as passed since the gun, not since I crossed the start line.
I felt strong during most of the run. My first 5k was just slightly off pace from my training, but that gets chalked up to hills as I train on flat roads. As I was coming up on the 3 mile mark, I got lapped by only one of the most amazing people to lap you: Deena Kastor!
Coming around the top of the park between miles 3 and 4 I was settling in, yet coming up was probably the most intimidating part of this race: Harlem Hill! It was most likely the one moment during the United NYC Half that set me off course, and here, I was going to have to overcome it TWICE.
However, I persevered, stuck with my plan and I ran up parts of this. Maybe because the weather was better, my mood was better, who knows, but the hill did not seem nearly as daunting as it did a month ago.
Coming up on the 10k mark, per the garmin, I realized, that I might be on pace to break the 3 hour mark for my half marathon time. It energized me a bit, at least to get around the little rolling hills in the south west side of the park.
This was the second loop of the park, the time where the mind games start, where the race becomes much more mental then physical. It’s the time where your energy levels, your legs, your lungs, all of it starts to get heavy. The questions start. This is where you have to dig deep to keep going.
Again, I stuck with my plan for this loop. I concentrated on trying to limit my walking vs. running spans. I fueled. I zoned out, I sang along to my music, I ran my own race.
I tackled Harlem Hill a second time. This time my legs were heavier, my lungs were more tired, I just wanted to reach the top.
I have since realized that between miles 9-11.5 is my downfall. This is where I really walk a majority of the time, I battle my mental strength, I contemplate if I can actually finish, or what time I will finish in.
Low and behold, during a downhill portion sometime around mile 11, I found some energy. I put a smile on my face and I ran or walked as best I could. I think part of it was the songs that came on the iPod – namely Christina Aguilera’s Fighter. Perfect song at the perfect time.
I picked up my pace, I played with my mental strength, I ate up the spectators cheers and smiles.
I tried to do some math in my head trying to calculate what the difference was in time between what my garmin said and the mileage clocks said. I tried to see if I could figure out how far after the gun I had started. I was at a loss.
I did some mental calculations and figured I’d just go according to garmin. I was hoping to finish under 3 hours even with the additional .1 or .2 I had to run on the course over what garmin said. I was so close! As you can see here, according to my garmin I ran 13.1 miles in UNDER 3 hours!
However, as I said above, garmin was about .1 to .2 ahead of the route mileage so I still had a bit go. I knew it would be close. At least at this point I knew it would be close.
Then I doubted myself and thought the difference between the gun and this was to great, that I would be maybe 2-4 minutes OVER 3 hours.
I passed the mile 13 marker, I knew where the finish line was, I tried to pace myself to get there as fast as possible. I failed. I ran, then I had to walk just a bit as I was coming in to the finish gates. I ran again, I tried to sprint, I had no idea what my time was.
I was mad at myself after the finish. Of course in hindsight, I could have done a zillion things differently so I came in just under 3 hours instead of 4 seconds over 3 hours.
But, it the scheme of my racing, this was a fantastic race. I challenged myself and won. I realized new potentials with hills. I shaved 5:52 off my race time from the United NYC Half last month! It was a good race, I was thrilled with how I ran, with what I achieved. Now I search for a rather flat half marathon to run to see that elusive sub-3 hour half marathon time as my result!