Race Recap: NYC Half
In a “this really sucks” preface, my water bottle and my iPhone were both in my recovery bag after the race, and the water leaked. My phone is currently sitting under a pile of rice leaving me without access to any and all pictures from today. My fingers and toes are also crossed in hopes that I didn’t fry said phone. Hopefully I’ll be able to update this post in the next day or so with pictures, but I wanted to get it written while it was all fresh in my mind.
I really had no idea what to expect going into the NYC Half, despite having set some ambitious time goals. Destination races are tricky in general, especially in a place like New York because there is so much to do and take in; knowing that, I tried to be cognizant of how much time I was spending on my feet, essentially not being overly touristy. I did total geek out when I was in Times Square for a show on Saturday afternoon and saw an ad for the race on one of the gigantic billboards.
My alarm went off at 5:45 which is early to begin with, but I slept terribly as I couldn’t shut my brain off and once I finally fell asleep, I woke up every hour or so. So, not the best, but such is life. I hit the snooze button once and ultimately got up shortly after 6:00, and was out the door by 6:30. I had about a 30ish minute commute into the city which gave me time to eat my CLIF bar and get hydrated with some NUUN. I listened to a Pop Culture Happy Hour episode for a distraction. Once I got off the train in Central Park, it was time to get through the security screening, make a quick bathroom stop, a little stretching, and head toward the corrals. My number had me right in the middle of my wave which felt like a really perfect place to be. While we waited for the start, I said some prayers for a good race and a healthy IT band (which was honestly my biggest concern for the day), and worked on spotting the 2:15 pacers. Next thing I knew, we were moving and I was crossing the starting line!
Miles 1-6: the first part of the race was almost entirely in Central Park, including a small hill right away, with the exception of heading out of the park and onto the streets of Harlem for about a half mile-ish out and back section. Once we turned back into the park, it was time to take on the two largest hills of the course. Although it’s been a few weeks since I’ve done any hill work, I was feeling particularly thankful for what I had done up to this point because I didn’t find the hills too terrible. In fact, I felt pretty strong climbing them! I tried really hard to not go too fast on the downhills, in part to conserve energy, but more importantly, to conserve form. While we were in the park, my music randomly stopped and my phone was ringing! I ended the call, but a few minutes later it happened again! I’m not sure if I was calling (it ended up being one of my sisters) or she was calling me, but I was pretty sure it was on my end, so I pulled off to the side to make sure my phone screen was off. I lost a little time dealing with that, which caught up to me in the end.
Miles 6-8: perhaps the most epic part of the entire race, and what will probably go down as one of my favorite running memories ever: Times Square! We came out of the park onto 7th Avenue and immediately, I could see the lights! A few blocks later, right around 53rd Street, we crested a small hill and I could see thousands of runners making their way through Times Square and I immediately had the biggest smile. It was such a cool sight! The crowds were starting to grow at that point, so I paused my music, took out my headphones, and just soaked up everything I could. There was a kids race that was running the same time, so watching them run was so fun – what a cool opportunity for those little ones! At 42nd Street, we turned off to head towards West Side Highway, and it was in this stretch that I saw Jen just up ahead, so I ran to catch up to her! How awesome that in a race with almost 20,000 other runners, I could find someone I know. Love it.
Miles 8-12: we hit West Side Highway just before eight miles, and did a two block out and back before heading south. This was a tough stretch of the course. At times, we had a headwind, particularly in the first bit. I didn’t notice that nearly as much the further south we got. Although there were patches of spectators here and there, it was also a long stretch of just runners and people were definitely starting to struggle at this point, which made me have to work that much harder mentally to know I had more in me and I could keep going. At one point, I saw a spectator wearing a Michigan State t-shirt, so we had a nice little “Go green! Go white” exchange which made me happy. I love seeing the Spartan pride in Manhattan! The closer we got to the Freedom Tower (the new skyscraper at the World Trade Center), I stopped to take a selfie because why not (again, this caught up to me in the end). I definitely started to lose a little steam here, particularly around the 10 mile mark. Knowing there was only a 5k left at that point, I kept reminding myself that the end is near, I run this distance on a regular basis, and just keep going.
Miles 12-13.38: this last mile included about a half mile stretch in the Battery Park Underpass (aka a long tunnel) – although the West Side Highway stretch wasn’t my favorite thing ever, this was hands down my least favorite part of the course. The road through here was pretty cambered (angled), so I tried hard to stay as far off to the side as possible in hopes that it would be at least a little closer to flat, although it wasn’t perfect by any means. My IT band started to get a bit angry through here because of the camber. I lost the signal for my Garmin and I had no idea how long we had left, but thankfully just as the claustrophobia was starting to set in, I saw the literal light at the end of the tunnel. There was a pretty steep hill and then a glorious sign proclaiming we had only 800 meters (a half mile) to go! My A goal of a 2:15 finish was out of reach, but there was still hope for a PR! I started to pick up the pace a little, and I was excited to see the Brooklyn Bridge come into view – what a beautiful piece of architecture!
I gave it a little more of a push at the 400 meter sign, being careful not to overdo it and lose my last bit of energy by the end. By this point, the crowds were big and loud and awesome! When we made the last turn and the finish line was in sight, that’s when I gave it everything I had left with a finish time of 2:17:59. I ended up running more than a quarter mile extra, but I’m not sure how much of this was due to actually running extra distance and how much was due to the limited GPS signal in the city throwing my Garmin stats off; perhaps a little of both, but probably more of the latter. At the finish, I stopped by the med tent to get ice on my knee; my IT band was feeling pretty decent overall (yay!), but I figured it would be a worthwhile precautionary step to avoid later pain and tightness.
Hydration and fuel strategy: I played it a little by ear with the hydration, but for the first half, I alternated Gatorade and water at every other aid station. They were located about every mile, so I knew that over-hydration was just as much a risk, if not more so, than dehydration, especially since I had 20 ounces of water on the commute in. After that point, I think I hit every aid station and tried to maintain the 50/50 balance, but I think I ended up taking in a bit more Gatorade. For fuel, I took a salted caramel Gu around 4.75 miles, a double latte Power Bar gel (the NYRR gel of choice – I was not a fan) around 7.5 miles, and a vanilla Gu around 10.5 miles. I planned to take the first Gu a little sooner, but lost track of where I was at distance wise.
Mile 1: 10:12 (the course was incredibly congested here, so I was surprised at this pace – I anticipated closer to 11:00)
Mile 2: 9:43 (yeah buddy!)
Mile 3: 10:17
Mile 4: 10:32 (I think this is when I stopped to deal with my phone)
Mile 5: 10:21
Mile 6: 10:35
Mile 7: 9:48 (again, yeah!)
Mile 8: 9:13 (what?! Seriously amazing.)
Mile 9: 10:10
Mile 10: 10:21
Mile 11: 11:18 (selfie time! Also, starting to struggle a bit.)
Mile 12: 10:07
Mile 13: 11:43 (that damn tunnel and hill…)
Mile 0.38: 3:35 (9:32 pace)
Total time: 2:17:59 (per Garmin and chip)
Overall place: 14,322/19,455
Gender place: 6,565/10,150
Age place: 1,431/2,099
Final thoughts: based on my chip time, I was only 20 seconds away from a PR, which at first glance seems disappointing, especially knowing that I could have PRed if weren’t for those couple quick stops along the way. Would I have loved a new personal best? Absolutely. Would I have done things differently had I known? Maybe, but who’s to say that I would have PRed without the stops? Something else may have kept me from it. The thing is, though, for my first post-injury half, I am just so proud of how far I’ve come since my PT cleared me to start running again last August – from not being able to run a mile (based on my return to running plan), to being seconds away from a PR in about seven months? That feels huge. More importantly, I ran a smart and consistent race; I felt stronger than I have in any other half marathon I’ve run – the only times I walked were through a few of the water stations near the end of the course, and a little up that very last hill, which is a major accomplishment for me. Beyond all of that, I had so much fun! Don’t get me wrong, some points were definitely more fun than others, but I ultimately ran the vast majority of the race feeling happy and really great. That in and of itself is a huge thing.
Would I do this race again?: 100% yes (assuming the lottery gods are on my side). What a fun morning and tour through Manhattan. A huge thanks to the New York Road Runners for a wonderful and extraordinarily well-run race, and to the amazing volunteers!