RACE: United Airlines NYC HALF
TIME: 1:28:54 / 6:47 pace
Adjusted by NYRR later in the day from the original 1:29:00, I'm somehow even MORE pleased with myself after this result. A sub 1:30 (never mind a sub 1:29) was something I had on the agenda for NEXT year. I went into the race with goal A being PR (sub 1:34:09), goal B being sub-1:33m, and goal C being a 7:00 pace (1:31+). I surprised even myself. I had no idea I was capable of this kind of performance and it's making me re-adjust a lot of my goals.
SET: Training has been going super well. I've been back in the gym doing squats, I get a nice variation of workouts every week (Speed, Easy, Tempo, Hills, Long), and consistency, nutrition and sleep have been on point. My intention was to use this race as a gague of my fitness for what I figured was the more favorable course, the Brooklyn Half, in May. I had a good taper week, including a fantastic run on Wednesday, and felt very prepared. My goal was to go out at 7:10 for the park miles and then pick it up on the flat miles through Times Square and the West Side Highway. Got a good night's sleep and had a banana and cup of water in the morning, packed two gels, and set out at 6:25 for a slow jog up to the park.
SETTING: 32 degrees, clear, slight wind. The park was nuts. Had to jog down close to 5th Ave to drop off my bag, and then jog back to 6th to enter the park. Security was slowly moving everyone through metal detectors. It was extremely crowded but traffic was moving steadily. Once in the park I jogged up to the toilets, and then again to the corrals. Here's where I felt the cold for the first time. Standing in the corrals with 20 minutes to go, there's nothing to do. No room to do warmups. Just kind of bouncing from foot to foot waiting to start. And then, you do.
THE RACE: Hit the first mile in 6:47, which, fine, ok, was not completely unexpected. Kind of jabbed myself up Cat Hill to try and get warm quick. The second mile was the back end of the reservoir and the big downhill leading to 110th street which I hit in 6:36. The race then leaves the park and does a quick in and out down 110th before re-entering the park for the major challenge of the race, the Harlem Hill and the subsequent three rollers. 5K split: 20:45
By now I was aware I was going faster than I wanted but was pretty confident that I could keep it up, especially if I got out of the park without losing too much momentum. Took Harlem Hill easy-ish but still ended up with a 6:55 for mile 4. By this time I'd fallen into a group that took turns pacing off each other, which was extremely helpful. The back end of the park is easy, mostly downhill, so we picked it up a little. 6:30s. I had a gel at mile 5 and some water and Gatorade before leaving the park. I remembered to take my glove off my right hand this time. Everything was working. A slight uphill as we leave the park and the course opens up on to 7th Avenue. 10K split: 42:05
Strangely enough, once we were out of the park I felt like I was slagging a little. The crowds were awesome though. A straight shot down 7th avenue: the pack I was running with was starting to pull away from me a little. I decided to stop pushing for a moment to regain my composure - perhaps I had spent a little too much on the downhills. So I just lay back and kept up without worrying too much about where I was. We were only at the halfway point after all. My watch was pretty much useless at this point, with the tall buildings scrambling the GPS, but since my goal now was 7s or less, as I passed the mile markers I was thinking in multiples of 7: 49:00, 56:00, 1:03, etc. I started to feel a little better once we were on 42nd and got closer to the river, and even caught back up with a couple people from the original park pace group. I remained pretty consistent through this whole stretch, but the bands along the course were playing pretty terrible music. Thankfully the first band at the river was doing a faithful version of Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty", one of my favorite songs. This was incredibly welcome, and I kept this in my head for the remainder of the race. The TMIRCE cheer squad at Mile 9 further raised my spirits and I began to think about the home stretch as I realized I was on pace to smash my PR. 15K split: 1:03:04
The home stretch was challenging. The wind had picked up and was coming from the south and really pushing against us. The pace group I'd caught up with was pulling away. I started getting passed by a lot of people. But as I looked at my watch (which was more accurate away from midtown) and the Mile markers I realized I wasn't losing any time. When I hit 11.5 I told myself, "ok" and dug down and found a little more. I hit a new gear and started keeping up with the crowd instead of letting them pass me. I'd slack for a second, then push back. Slack, then push. Crowd was still pretty great down here, including a guy with a megaphone shouting out for people to watch their form and Push. Not many specifics here. Everything is about holding on and pushing. Some guy near me saw some people he knew on the side of the road and exclaimed "It's a beautiful day". I guess it was. 20K split: 1:24:16
Down into the tunnel. Now you know it. I started to kick. Passed some people. Stalled - but you know it's near. The tunnel is maybe 1000m long? A slight incline as we emerge back into the day elicits grunts and groans. I expect the sign ahead to say 800m to go but as I make my way closer I see it says 400m. BOOM. One last lap. Kick. Kick. Kick. Finish: 1:28:54
Brutal wind swirls around the oldest part of the city and people huddle around and find each other. Pictures, medals. I find a Dunkin Donuts and make my way back to the finish to cheer. Still not sure how I did it, but there's plenty of time to find that out, should I choose to want to.