It was a bold move to say I wanted more after the New Jersey half. Brooklyn and New Jersey were exactly 20 days apart and New Jersey was a respectable sized PR, on a flat course, with beautiful weather. Who was I to say, I can do it again and better despite hills and heat?
My splits for New Jersey were damn near perfect, I have a metronome like consistency. I had one slower mile due to a pit stop but other than that, I saw no room to shave off time. There was nowhere that I faltered or slowed or bonked; I had run my strongest race.
I buckled down and reminded myself that I was entitled to nothing. Just work hard for the sake of working hard; it would pay off in someway, somehow, sometime.
The week after New Jersey was peak week. Navigating this was tricky, but I knew with easy miles and “tempo” efforts, I’d be doing the best mix of intensity and volume possible without getting hurt. Tuesday I did a longer hill workout with some faster miles mixed in where I was feeling good (aka the downhills and then a little stretch in between bridges), then Thursday I did a shorter but more intense track workout. I skipped the 6 mile threshold run, attempted to move it to Saturday but by the time I got out to run it was far too hot so I split up the mileage slowed the pace a bit. I finished the longest training run I’d ever done for a half while cheering on my friends running the 5k. Four days of training later it was time to taper.
I haven’t tapered for a half, ever. This gave me a bit of confidence that I could chip off some time from my recent PR. My legs would be fresh for once.
The taper was rough. I went out for my dress rehearsal on Tuesday and it was a massive blow to my confidence. I barely managed a mile and a half at the pace I wanted to run a whole 13.1 miles at and it was a struggle. The proceeding half mile was even harder but the strides felt strong. I wasn’t sure what to think. I wasn’t sure if I needed to scrap my goal or what. Wednesday was a short, easy run; completely unmemorable. Thursday, I rested and Friday I did a hot hot hot shake out run in the middle of the day with a few strides.
Wednesday my mom flew in, she was also running but as a fun run. After work we went to the expo to grab our bibs, take a few photos and then get dinner with Joe. The expo was small and crowded but the location was amazing and I appreciate them removing all temptation for me to put extra steps on my feet. As per usual, my last best pace with NYRR was not my actual last best pace so with a recent race result I was able to be moved up a corral. This was super easy to do and I very much appreciated that they did this; now I was in the corral with a pacer for my moonshot goal time. I grabbed a pace band, I’m not sure why I felt so bold as to grab the 1:30 band but I did.
After enjoying the breeze off the river and views for a bit we headed out to dinner then home to sleep. I got up early, had coffee then off to work. After work we hung out at a patio on the river, got dinner then went home. I sat in the compression boots until I almost fell asleep.
Thursday night I was excited to get some quality sleep pre-race and have zero things to do the day before.
After a shake out, we attempted to get our nails done (apparently you need an appointment to do this on a Friday), decided that was not going to happen so we went to a boat bar on the river to kill some time before dinner.
This was the best choice and I want to make it a pre-race ritual to go there. Sitting on the deck with the boat gently rocking and in the sunshine was relaxing and a great way to de-stress. We got home around 7-7:30 and I spent the next 3 hours rolling out, relaxing, and getting my stuff together. I wasn’t worried that I wouldn’t be getting to bed fairly late since I knew I wouldn’t sleep much anyways. I spent about half an hour scrolling through my Instagram feed then shut it off and fell asleep.
I woke up frequently which I expected but I got 10 hours of sleep the night before so I felt fine. I had coffee plus a clif bar and rolled out a little. We left in an Uber for Brooklyn around 5 and got to the start around 5:30 AM. Knowing race day weather was looking quite toasty for racing, I hydrated a lot prior to race day and that morning. I got out of the car once we got close to the start and made a bee line for where I assumed there would be port-a-potties. I had hydrated a LOT. There were none before security/the starting corrals and I wasn’t ready to ditch my bag yet so I hunted down a semi-secluded tree.
I managed to find Joe and my mom again near the bag check, I changed shoes, grabbed my bag of food, gels, and biofreeze and checked my larger bag.
We went through security and we were in the corral area area by 6 AM-ish. We wanted to find a place to warm up but there was no room on the other side of the security area. I went straight for the porta potty; the coffee finally had kicked in. Afterwards I took half a dose of Imodium and sat on the curb with Joe for a bit. They had water just outside the corrals so I continued to hydrate. I finished munching on the cereal I brought and we attempted to warm up outside the corral a bit. There was not enough space for it and it was a little frustrating. I estimate that we got in about a mile in total. We hopped back in the porta potty lines and then squished up to the front as much as possible. By this point they had collapsed the corrals and I lost sight of the 1:30 pacer. I managed to squeeze up to the front a little further in my search for an open porta potty again. I had hydrated maybe a bit too much.
I started the race knowing I would have to make a quick pit stop. It wasn’t worth starting late and having to dodge too many people or not hydrating more given the temps. I spent around 20 seconds stopped between running over the porta potty and jumping back into the race. I also was in such a hurry that I didn’t quite get my shorts up before dashing out. Oh well, it saved 5 seconds.
I pushed a bit too hard trying to catch back up, my watch read 6:00-6:05 for longer than it should. I quickly reigned myself back in to reality. I had almost caught up to the pack from where I dropped off. Catching up took a lot of energy and once we entered the park and began climbing the hills, I could feel it. I could also feel the heat and humidity setting in a bit. I knew I’d need to grab water at every stop and even though this broke my pace a bit and required exerting a bit extra effort, had I not I would have bonked from the heat. I alternated Gatorade and water, being conscious of not taking in too much sugar to avoid any stomach cramping.
The first 5 miles really zoomed by. I couldn’t believe we were nearing the halfway point, the last and worst hill but also the last hill. This hill was rough. I focused on keeping pace with other people and not my watch. The girls around me looked competitive and so I assumed, correctly, that they’d be making efforts to hold on strong. As we exited the park, I saw a couple of friends and shouted out to them when they called my name. Seeing people I know always makes me so happy and gives me a massive boost. This was my fastest mile and it felt the best.
At this point I knew we were entering Ocean Parkway. Everyone complains about this section, it’s exposed, lonely and boring. It’s also flat so it was very welcome. There was a small incline, a good downhill and then we were on the steady stretch. Holding a steady and even pace is my strong suit. I am an absolute metronome and once I settle into a pace – I can and will hold it.
I started counting down the avenue blocks as check in points, every few letters I’d check in on my pace and how I was feeling. If I was feeling good, I’d reel in someone in front of me otherwise I’d focus on my form and maintaining what I was doing. At one point I felt like sub-90 was completely out and I decided I’d be fine with a New York City Marathon qualifying time but once I got to the 15k mark, I redid the math in my head and realized it was definitely not out of the question and I just needed to stay strong.
I kept counting down the avenues, I knew that once we got to Z we weren’t done, but we were in the home stretch and my friends were nearby at the cheer station! By mile 11 I was feeling amazing, I knew that the time I wanted was very much in reach and seeing them was that final boost I needed to keep it up.
Around mile 12, I was fading a little but the energy here was incredible. I saw the Strava final mile sign. I had clocked a 6:28 on a downhill mile earlier in the race so I knew this wasn’t really possible but I could maybe beat my 6:36 last mile from NJ. I focused on reeling people in. Once a pace felt comfortable, I pushed it a little more.
We turned a corner and I saw 800m to go. The first thing I did was check my watch. My best ever 800m was a 2:58 and not at the end of a half. I needed 3:30 or less to hit my goal. 3:15 was reasonable given some of my previous workouts and factoring in adrenaline.
By 400m I was feeling fired up, but so was my stomach. Either the heat or Gatorade was getting to me and I started to cough up a bit like I was going to lose my lunch so I did some quick mental math and reigned it in a bit.
At 200m, I don’t remember much except that I floored it. I knew my goal was within striking distance. I crossed the line in 1:29:46.
Somehow in the past 7 months, I’ve taken 11 minutes off of my half time. I worked hard through the winter, kept showing up, did whatever I could and had zero expectations. A lot of the workouts I did intimidated me or made me feel nervous about not being able to do them but at least trying made a difference. There was no special or fancy diet (though I did eat a LOT of beets, olives, hummus and nuts). Maybe one day I’ll cut back on my sugar intake but probably not any time soon.