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October 1, 2011 / fionarwbl

Grete’s Gallop Half Marathon Race Recap – New PR!!

To say that I was excited about Grete’s Gallop would have been a complete understatement. I’ve been counting down to this race for weeks. First, it’s my race-versary. This time last year I lined up for my very first road race, feeling incredible nervous and having no idea whether I would even make it to the finish line. This year, I’ve run 12 races, improved my bib time, and am now in the last stages of running the ING New York Marathon in 36 days. I’m a different runner when I lined up today. With all the marathon training, I seen significant (to me!) improvements in my speed, so I’ve been looking forward to seeing just how much of an improvement I would see.

I was also incredibly exited about this race because a good friend who started running this year was making her half marathon début. Knowing exactly how that feels, I was so thrilled for her, and excited to be with her at the starting line.

Before all this though, I managed to have a week from hell. Between moving on Monday, failed sofa deliveries on Tuesday, shin splints which caused me to limp home 20 blocks on Tuesday and bailing on a run on Wednesday. Even on Friday evening, I was still feeling some pain and inflammation when I walked. I ended up running to Duane Reade at 10pm last night to get some Bengay topical pain relief. Yup. Desperate measures. I also had some bad news on Friday morning, and have been feeling nervous about starting my new job on Monday, so I really needed this race to go well for me to shake me out of my negative space.

Last night was a fueling dinner of pasta with a couple of other girls who were running the race. Don’t you love having friends who run and will carb-load with you? I had a pretty good pork ragu parppadelle as well as some honey marscapone crostini which was like having breakfast and dinner (brinner!). We headed home early to get our sleep on for today’s race.

Racing at 9am seemed like a complete luxury this morning. I got up, changed my clothes twice (crops! shorts! t! tank!), played on twitter a little, had a HoneyStinger Waffle (the best pre-exercise food EVER) and a banana, and headed over to Central Park. Now that I’m an Upper West Sider, the race commute is so stress free! However, we still managed to nearly miss the start by being stuck in the line for bathrooms. Every time! The lines were insanely long, and the race seemed to be absolutely huge this year. Last year I had a pink bib and was a lot slower. This year my bib number was 7 something and I had a purple bib. So much bigger. So many more people. Not enough bathrooms.

I kind of had a race plan in my head which was to run at approximately 9 min/miles for the first 9 miles, and 8:30-8:45 for the last 4. The first mile was slow (and had a fake mile sign at 0.5!) and I ended up putting in a 9:20. Luckily I started to find my rhythm after the first mile, and I started to put in 9 min miles. My iPhone busted out some good tunes a little early giving me Born to Run 3 songs in, which I thought was peaking early (I just shuffle), but luckily didn’t through in any random slow and / or depressing tunes. My shin did hurt through the entire race, but it never became more than a dull ache, and did not feel like it was slowly me down or hindering my movement. For the first half of the race, I was feeling quietly confident, knowing that I was building a decent buffer zone to beat my 2hr goal time. I took a Blackberry Jet Gu (my favorite) at mile 5 and walked through my water breaks. Thank you to the guy who poured water all the way down my back, shorts, legs, and socks at the second water break. Was that really necessary? And no apology? Lovely.

While finishing up my first lap I noticed a couple of cyclists clearing a path, and suddenly the leading men were lapping us heading into their finishing couple of miles. Those guys seriously book it. And also looked like they were in serious pain. I don’t mean that in a bad way, more in a “I couldn’t make myself hurt that much to run that fast”. I remember reading somewhere that the difference between elites and the rest of us is the ability to push ourselves and our bodies to that point of discomfort and pain, and for us mere mortals, we just are not able to get ourselves there. On a sidebar, I have felt some serious discomfort, pain, and illness from excessive alcohol consumption.So I think it possible. Maybe. When my decision-making is compromised.

Talking of discomfort, despite the fact that I had essentially run the fastest hour of my life, I was still feeling good and strong. I was slightly nervous though that I might have not saved enough gas in my tank for the last half, so during mile 7 I deliberately eased off a little, putting in a 9:08. I then had a panic at the water at around mile 8 whether I wanted a Gu or not. I did, but only had half (Gu Just Plain – neither love nor loathe it) and choked down some water. It was at about this point I realized that not only was I going to make my sub 2hr time goal, but I could actually make a sub 2hr clock goal (as in the clock would read 1:59 when I crossed the finish line, regardless of the fact that it read about 04:00 when we started). This was a very random goal that I just invented, but whatever, I like it. However, between me and my pace increase lay the Harlem Hills, and I just did not want to start trying to increase my pace while running uphill. I might be a wuss, but I’m calling it energy conservation. So I had to wait until after I finished the hills, which was at about mile 9.5 to start booking it. And everyone around me had the same idea. I guess this is what happens when you get faster and everyone around you are stronger runners. Go figure.

Increasing the pace had an immediate impact on how strong my legs felt and my breathing. As in not at all and I wasn’t. I was pretty much instantly struggling at this point to maintain the pace goal I had set myself, and in fact, my last 4 miles were 8:37, 8:54 (dying!), 8:24, and 8:44. The last 2 miles were tough, and I definitely felt myself struggle to keep up with the surges that my fellow runners around me were making.

The mile 11 timer clock read 1:42. In my woozy head of calculation, I figured I could still push for my sub 2 on the clock. Of course, I forgot about that fecking 0.1. At mile 13, the clock read 1:59:15. I hauled ass, I really did, but it was clear that I wasn’t going to make it over in sub 2. I think it ended up being around 2:01, but I’m not sure. I do know that I totally sprinted the last 10 yards. Yes, 10 yards baby. That made all the difference. I knew instantly I had PR’d, but I wasn’t sure by how much. I’m pretty pleased with my 1:56:39 – a full 6 minutes faster than my previous half PR, and 15 minutes faster than this time last year. It turns out that marathon training is making me faster. I like it.

Straight away my other sub 2 friend and I found each other and went back to the finish line to cheer on our buddy. She smiled at the finish line! And looked so strong! Very proud indeed.

The morning finished with a trip to Le Pain Quotidien to eat unlimited nutella and bread around rustic tables. Amazing.

Oh, and now I have to add-on another 6 miles this afternoon for marathon training. All I want to do is nap. Ugh.


One Comment

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  1. ellen / Oct 1 2011 10:00 pm

    so happy for you! that’s pretty rad – esp on the anniversary. awesome that you were able to pass it along to a first-timer. nice job 🙂

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