As some of you may know, I ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon on May 18th. It’s been a while since the big day but I wanted to give you a full update on how the race panned out – from bib pickup to finish line (and Nathan’s Famous hotdogs post-finish, naturally).
If you recall, I signed up for the Brooklyn Half when NYRR re-opened registration for the event – this gave me about a month to train for race day. While I did do a fair bit of running, I definitely relied heavily on my training at CrossFit to help prepare me to run 13.1 – quite daunting mileage for someone who had little to no experience with distance running. Thankfully I trusted my training and things worked out pretty well.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Since everything is cooler in Brooklyn, New Balance sponsored a half marathon “pre-party” in the old cigar warehouse by the East River in DUMBO. Tres Hipster. Music, beer, and instagram pictures galore, but the most important part was picking up the always-essential bib number. Of course I arrived completely unprepared without my bib number Friday evening about 2 hours before the party shut down, but thankfully looking up my number and picking up my bib and t-shirt was an easily-accomplished task – despite the crowd of people and bumping music.
I stayed at the pre-party for a bit and checked out what the various vendors were hawking. After a bit of wandering (ha) I decided to buy a Strawberry Clif Shot Bloks pack (tested them on a long training run a few weeks earlier and loved them) as well as a new, teal Sparkly Soul headband to add a bit of flair to my racing attire. With my bib number, rocket fuel, and a bit of sparkle in hand I made the trek back to Manhattan to carbo-load and get a good night’s sleep.
Fast-forward to 4:45AM Saturday morning.
A hot shower and a Clifbar were the only things on the menu for breakfast, in addition to a healthy dose of coffee and water of course. I ate a ton of whole-wheat pasta and steamed veggies the night before (one of my tried-and-true pre-race dinners – thankfully gluten doesn’t bother my stomach), so my light breakfast was all I needed. Plus running on a full stomach is THE WORST.
I’d like to mention that my superstar sister Mary once again made her way to the big city to cheer me on in the wee hours of the morning. The majority of the photos you’ll see throughout the rest of this post are her handiwork. I saw her a total of 3 times while running and it definitely gave me a boost of positive energy to pass by her smiling face (even if her smile was hidden behind the camera most of the time).
After a pretty uneventful subway ride on the F train full of my fellow runners, we arrived at Prospect Park around 6:25AM. Unfortunately nature was calling, so instead of doing a full warm-up I mostly just stood in the extremely long line for the porta potties. Thankfully NYRR is no novice when it comes to organizing races — the porta potties were actually on opposite sides of the pace corrals so I didn’t have to worry about missing the start. That would have stunk – literally.
Here we all are at the start – packed like sardines. Amped up, adrenaline-filled sardines.
The race started promptly at 7AM with the elite runners at the start of the pack. As the crowd continued to shuffle forward I knew it was almost my turn to pick up the pace and cross the starting line. Sure enough, within seconds I found myself beginning to trot forward and before I knew it, I was running mile 0/13.1 of my first half marathon.
The funny thing was that…I felt good. Too good. I was running nice and relaxed and looked down at my watch…7:00min/mile pace?! This was not part of the plan. I initially went into the race with a loose plan to finish sub-2 hours with about a 9:00min/mile pace. But at the same time, I felt like I was barely pushing myself and the time on my watch swung between 7:00 and 7:15min/mile. Adrenaline truly is a wonderful thing. Thankfully my brain soon took over and I starting running smart, settling into a comfortable 8:30min/mile pace.
The first part of the race was approximately 1.5 miles up Flatbush Avenue, around the Grand Army Plaza loop, and 1.5 miles back to the Prospect Park entrance. This part of the race was a bit intimidating because halfway into the first mile I could see all of the other “fast” runners running parallel to me coming back up Flatbush Avenue the other way, many of whom were out of breath and trotting along in pain.
“Is that what I have to look forward to?” bounced around in my head a few times. Instead of getting freaked out, I stuck with my easy pace that swung between 8:20-8:30min/mile and kept things loose – there were way too many miles ahead to spin my wheels at that point.
After the first three miles, I felt a bit more settled since my body was adjusted to the running and I was staying on pace pretty easily. As I entered Prospect Park I felt a wave of relief to be done with the first quarter of the race but also mentally braced myself for the next hilly chunk of mileage ahead of me.
Just in case you were wondering, I took my first Clif shot blok around the 30 minute mark and continued to refuel with 1 blok every 20-25 minutes or so. It was unbelievable how much these little shots of sugar helped – they definitely gave me a bit of a boost and kept me running strong throughout the race.
I primarily stuck right on my 8:30min/mile pace during the loop inside Prospect Park but definitely was starting to feel the fatigue around Mile 5. Thankfully, for some reason the hills were much more manageable than when I ran the Brooklyn Rock ‘n Roll 10K in October (Yet another wonderful side-effect of CrossFit, I’m assuming). One downside of running in the park was that there were fewer race fans cheering which probably attributed to my pace jumping up a bit during this stretch of running. Cheering fans make such a mental difference!
While I was starting to feel the burn inside Prospect Park, my sister was happily snapping away and captured shots of some of the more relaxed runners on the course that day. Check out the guy above – can you imagine running in that getup? I for one cannot – but more power to him. Yet another reason why I love race day – lots of the runners are not only out on the course kicking butt, but they are also having a ton of fun while doing so.
The Blues Brothers also made it on the race course that day – I’m assuming they stopped to dance every mile or so.
Here I am finally busting out of Prospect Park halfway through Mile 7 – so happy to have half of the Half completed! Obviously the runner’s high was starting to kick in at this point, otherwise I don’t know how else I could possibly be smiling.
Keeping things strong and loose and clinging to my Clif shot bloks in my left hand like my life depended on it.
The last third of the race lay ahead of me and for one reason or another I got a second wind and started to pick up my pace for each mile remaining. These last few miles were a straight shot down Ocean Parkway, aptly named since this road led to Coney Island.
Check out the sea of color on Ocean Parkway. The view from the overpass above was much prettier than the one on the ground – blood, sweat, and
tears empty gel packs were vast and abundant (and made the road quite sticky at parts…bleh).
I was hurting a bit but my mental resolve stayed strong and I continued to run faster each mile. It was pretty weird to think that the road I was running mile after mile on was usually packed with cars.
Pretty soon I saw the 12 mile marker and knew the finish was close. I tapped into the last bit of energy I had left in the tank and surged onward onto Surf Avenue. Soon the amusement rides of Coney Island were in sight, as well as the 13 mile marker!
My favorite part of the entire race had to be the last 400 meters or so. I ran up the ramp onto the Coney Island Boardwalk and sprinted as fast as I could for the remainder of the race – the cheering crowd and booming loudspeaker were deafening as I pushed past every last person I could with the finish line in sight.
And with that final sprint – I. Was. Done. I slowed to a brisk walk, grabbed a cup of gatorade, and smiled. I survived my first half marathon, in “record” time:
Average Pace: 8:13min/mile
Final Time: 1:47:37
Here are my splits below. If you told me that I would negative split the second half of the race, I wouldn’t have believed you:
Exhausted yet enthused, it was time to shake off the 13.1 miles and explore Coney Island a bit.
It took about 45 minutes to find my sister after the race since for some reason I had absolutely no cell service, but once we reunited we had an even more important mission – devouring an infamous Nathan’s Famous hotdog.
This counts as recovery food, right?
Mission accomplished. This may have been the previous 13.1 miles talking, but this was probably one of the best hotdogs I’ve ever eaten.
Overall, I am very happy with my results for my first half marathon. I would recommend the Brooklyn Half to anyone and everyone – the event was well organized and a ton of fun to run. I will definitely be running more half marathons in the future, but of course have lots of work to do before running the NYC Marathon in 2014.