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May 20, 2012 / fionarwbl

Brooklyn Half Marathon Recap: Win Some, Lose Some, Learn a Lot

I had high hopes for this race. I had a time goal that I wanted to meet, and I told everyone about it. I put it up here too. I wanted to hold myself accountable to hit that. I didn’t get it. I didn’t run a sub 1:50 half marathon.

There is a whole bunch of excuses I can write in here: I was jet-lagged; I was traveling last week; I slept on a plane on Thursday night; I didn’t eat enough carbs on Friday; it was hot; I got dehydrated. The simple fact is that I didn’t train enough, and I wasn’t in good enough shape to run the race I wanted to. There is no faking it in running.

Am I mad? Yes, a little. Am I mad at myself for thinking I could do it, or mad for not achieving it? More of the latter. I still believe I have a sub-1:50, and faster in me. Of course I do. I can run harder than I am right now. I can work harder. Racing today reminded me why I run; racing makes me feel strong, and reminds me when I’m not. Like I said, there is no faking it. Maybe that’s why we do it.

Race preparation started on Friday evening. I made a decent attempt at some carb loading while walking Moose in the park thanks to the Waffle Truck. I was happy with the pit stop in the park; Moose felt it detracted from some serious grass rolling.

I do not recommend this. If you want paces, write them on a bit of paper and make a bracelet. This was a poor man’s disaster. And my scribbles were meaningless by mile 10.

Thanks to making a list a couple of days ago of things I needed to do, I wasn’t really stressed on Friday night, and spent a couple of hours methodically laying out my race gear, drinking Nuun, charging things, writing my pace times on my hand, and making a playlist. Or rather, adding some songs I heard a lot in Israel to my current playlist. I made it to bed around 9.30, ready for my 4.30am alarm and slept mostly ok. It was awesome to be sleeping in my own bed with a dog leaning against my legs – I had missed that for the last week!

I woke a few minutes before my 4.30am alarm, got dressed, filled my water bottle, and headed out. Not sure what I was channeling in putting my race outfit together, but I seem to have been drawn to various shades of melancholy gray. One of the good things about the NYRR heat advisory was that it made deciding what to wear a lot easier, although hanging out at the shaded start in just a tank was freezing.

I got the subway, and just about everyone else in my carriage was also running the Half. I spent the ride chilling out, eating my Nutella bagel, drinking water, reading a magazine, and wondering if I had Nutella all over my face. When we got off at Brooklyn Museum, the subway station was completely crowded, and I had a really bad feeling about the organization of the race. I had already had concerns about increasing the size of the field to 15,000 people, and this seemed to match my concerns. However, I could not have been more wrong. The baggage drop-off took seconds, the line for portapotties was only 10 minutes (compared to nearly an hour at Nashville!), and the race never felt crowded to me. Really nice job, NYRR. I wish I could say the same for the phone networks, but it seems that 15,000 people trying to call, text, and tweet from Coney Island was just too much for the cell networks to handle, and no one was able to get a signal until at least an hour after the race.

I started the race feeling strong, fast, and happy to be running again. You can see from my splits that my first 3 miles were way, way too fast, but I didn’t feel worried then; I figured I would be putting time in the bank for the dreaded Prospect Park hills. In fact, during this time, I was also actively slowing myself down; at one point my watch read 7:47, and I had to rein my racing legs in. The course was through the lovely boulevards along Prospect Park which were wide, shady, and cool. Heaven.

Then we hit Prospect Park. Hats of to Brooklyn runners, because I am not sure I would ever run if I had to run in Prospect Park on a regular basis. I only ever run it during the Brooklyn Half, and every time I absolutely hate it. It feels claustrophobic, hilly, and I completely lose all sense of perspective and location. I just cannot figure out any of the landmarks. The hills are not as bad as the Harlem Hills, but they feel worse. I am not sure if this was where my race started to fall apart, but it was certainly where my head started to lose it. My splits in the park were all well over the 8:23 I needed to be hitting. I tried to stay calm, but ended up getting frustrated and angry at myself, the hills, the park, the race, myself again. These miles were not a race highlight, and I was ecstatic to see the park exit.

I was able to start picking up my pace again once we left the park, and I could feel my spirits rise again. Downhill to the ocean! I could maybe wrestle this back. I was about a minute behind pace time at this point, and so I just need to hit my times with a couple of faster miles, and I could get this. For a couple of miles, this felt do-able. Then, around mile 9, it all started to get very, very tough. I noticed my fingers were thick and I was cold – sure signs of dehydration. I stopped to walk at the water station, drank two cups of water, and suddenly found it very hard to start running again. Suddenly, but oh-so-quickly, everything just slipped away from me. I was a minute over pace time, my calves and legs were sore, my breathing sucked, and I was not a happy running. People were passing me left and right. My pace felt like a shuffle and I started to get very, very dejected.

The last four miles were not pretty. My time goal had slipped away, and now I was in survival mode. I was just making myself finish. Every mile was a miserable countdown. Two more songs til mile 11. Two more songs until mile 12. Of course, I have no idea now what those songs actually were. My head was filled with regret about starting out so strong, and cursing myself for thinking I could actually run a 1:50. I am not the runner I was in February and March. I’ve had minimal runs during the last two months. I’ve seen it in my slower mile and tempo paces, and by my Nashville humiliation. Who the hell was I fooling thinking I could pull a 1:50 out of the hat like that? And so on.

First miles good. Middle miles meh. Last miles ouch.

Seeing the 800M to go sign gave me hope that actually, this race would be over soon. Of course, 800 to 400 seemed to take forever. I don’t remember seeing the 200M, but the finish actually came sooner than I thought. I barely made a last 100M sprint, but finally, I was done with this race.

We did not get hot dogs. Or candy apples. Or anything but beer.

The after race was chaos, but I ran into Ali and Shaya, and we got some well deserved beers, talked travel and running while watching the last runners come in, and felt proud of our early morning achievements on a beautiful day.

Brooklyn schooled me in a different way than Nashville did. Where Nashville chewed me up and spit me out in a humbled, pathetic, miserable way, Brooklyn taught me that I was nearly good enough. Those early miles felt so good. My mid-race paces weren’t so bad. But hill training, and endurance were not there. If I want to run, I can; I just have to work at it. Brooklyn was my spring banner half-marathon race. If I didn’t get 1:50 here, I don’t have another half-marathon on the schedule until Fall. I didn’t hit it here. I can either wait until Fall, or I can look for a summer Half. Guess what I’ll be spending this evening doing?

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One Comment

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  1. Kara / May 22 2012 1:10 am

    Your race sounds similar to mine!! Those last few miles (and the last 800m) were so brutal. I still think your splits were awesome, though!! Great job!! I’m running the Staten Island Half in October…you should probably join me 🙂

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