So, here we are one year later. I signed up for the 2011 New York City Half Marathon when I found myself at the very bottom of a hole and needed to climb my way out of it. It ended up being the greatest thing I could have done for myself for it forced me into getting healthy, pushing myself the extra mile (pun very much intended), and meeting new people.
Last year was brutal for I had I ran all 13.1 miles on a pulled groin. I ran it in 2:14. This year I intended on going out and having fun, and hopefully crushing that time as well as my brutal PR of 2:13 that I set at Queens four months later.
I have to say I’ve found myself rather emotional as of late. And getting emotional close to a race is no picnic. I mean, it’s just annoying—stress on top of stress and it becomes a vicious cycle. In an effort to calm that down, I had a quiet Friday evening including pizza and wine. Oh, and my cat. And because I was quite stunned that Claire had never heard of Sandra Lee’s infamous Kwanzaa cake, I watched that video (and cringed) for the umpteenth time. And thus was my Friday night.
I awoke on Saturday feeling energized and refreshed from my Friday night slumber, making waffles for breakfast and reviewing what I needed to get done before Sunday.
Half Mary Expo.
All things easy. The expo was just as I expected it to be—hoards of people picking up bibs, trying on SPIbelts, and doing last minute shopping. I heard my name shouted and saw that Vee was there picking her things up as well! Always nice to see a familiar face.
After the expo I decided to head to Union Square in search of compression sleeves. As I tweeted not long ago, my Zensah sleeves have become somewhat like my socks—I’m always losing one if not both. Ah, c’est la vie. Between Paragon and Jack Rabbit, no one had the sleeves I was in search for, so I began to walk in the direction of my apartment. That’s when I looked up at the mannequins at the Lululemon store.
Way. On the mannequins were printouts of His Lordship’s bib from last year’s half marathon. Well that’s a weird omen.
An easy lunch was soon prepared followed by the inaugural Galway Bay Gallop, hosted by yours truly, the New York Rogue Runners. I was a ref as I had a very important race the following morning, and I wished everyone well who was running their out and back four mile run complete with three beverages attached to it.
We celebrated with beers after (it was St. Patricks Day, and Tracy won) and I gave a lovely speech on how I spent way too much time worrying about what I was doing the day before a race. This year I wanted to be less stressed. And the formula became simple: drink beers with friends, go home, make pasta, sleep. And I did just that.
5:30 AM. Sunday. Redemption Day was here. Coffee was made promptly, and Maura’s Irish soda bread that I obtained from the GBG was eaten. I felt the ol’ nerves setting in. That’s when I got a lovely text from Claire:
“GOOOOOOOOOOOOD LUCK!” followed by a very funny story about her morning which I will not go into as to preserve the privacy of her roommate. But it made me more settled. And that’s when I decided to take her other words into action. Do not worry about my bib number. I can still PR even if I’m in the back of the pack.
I also realized (and really, it had to do with a post I read the day before from the lovely Erica Sara), that I would be my own worst enemy in this race. If I put bad things into my head, those things would soon become a reality.
Own it. You’ve trained. You’re no pro. Just do it. Be the best you can be at this moment.
That’s when I made my way out to the park. And it was a shit show. Seriously. The course changed from the year prior (and really, I was okay with that) thus leaving the corrals to be mayhem. They were quite narrow and close together, leaving people slamming into each other.
‘This will be fun,’ I thought so sarcastically in my head. And moments later the guns were off. I knew I would be standing for awhile (this is not my first rodeo being in the last few corrals). And 20 minutes later (give or take), I crossed the start. My plan was simple: stay to the outside. I knew this would lead me to pick up some distance, but I had a goal of sub-2 in mind, and I had some ground to cover. I needed to take that added distance to keep a solid pace.
His Lordship was with the Runner Army cheer squad at the Engineer’s Gate around mile 2. I faintly heard the screams of my name while passing, but did not see, for I was on a mission and was a little aggravated at the time.
“I saw you at Engineer’s! You looked pissed.”
Correct, Ali. I was. I’m sorry I didn’t yell back at you. In fact, I wish I saw your bright and shiny face at 90th street. Twould have been twerrific. However, I knew I needed to make up some time for my first mile of the race which my Garmin said I ran a 8:06 pace.
This was also the first time I would be tackling Harlem Hill since my training for Chicago. Luckily, I knew I wouldn’t mind it as much since we were running the park counter-clockwise, which is my most favorite way to run Harlem as it is only one hill to handle instead of two. As I started reaching the top I felt the turn of my stomach.
‘What the hell. No way, Lewis. You’re not yaking on the hills today.’
I kept my cool. And I felt oh so delighted to be finished with the steepest part of the course as I made my way down to the West Side rollers. As I passed through mile 4, my Garmin made it’s notation that my pace had been 7:48. I’ll take that on a hill I had not ventured to in many moons.
When I reached Tavern on the Green (situated on mile 6 and also one full loop of the park), I felt good. Really good. I started smiling. A lot. I realized this was the first time in my history of races that I had smiled whilst running full speed ahead! I also realized I was hungry and needed to pull out my mint chocolatey Gu at a water stop in Times Square. As I exited the park onto 7th Avenue, the cheer crowds grew thick, much thicker than last year. And with that my smile grew wider.
At the next water stop, I ate half the Gu, as Coach Baker said to, with 4 oz. of water. It’s quite a good trick that he learned from Coach Sonja, and as I have found in training runs really helps the ol’ stomach and it’s digesting process. I threw the cup/remaining Gu on the ground, and knowing that I had to pick up some time I barreled toward 42nd street, where I knew I would be making my right turn toward the West Side Highway.
I soon found everyone funneling into 42nd street, and I was right back to where I started in the park. This was MUCH more narrow than last year’s race, and we were not spread out anymore. I saw Lady Southpaw between 8th and 9th Avenues, pointed (although was not spotted), and continued onward. I knew that the Highway would be my challenge of the day.
Anyone who runs the West Side Highway will tell you that it’s flat and lovely with breezes coming off the Hudson. There is so much to look at blah blah blah.
I am the one that differs. It sucks in a race. Really, it does. It’s never ending. Sure, the flat part is great. But those giant buildings nestled in lower Manhattan don’t get any closer for a long shot—many moons, even. As Chelsea Piers started getting closer to me, and I felt a glimmer of hope. I knew I had a cheer squad there consisting of Matt and Steph. My arm shot out and I pointed in glee—there they were at 23rd street! I high fived Matt shouting, “SUP, GUYS?!” and continued on. I knew the Army from Engineer’s Gate was going to be up next.
But I didn’t know when. And that’s when things started setting in my cranium. My legs started to hurt and my pace slowed. I wanted to be done. I hated this part of the race and I knew that my finish line was not at the Trade Center. In fact, it was almost two miles past that.
That’s when I heard a familiar voice. “Hey, Abbe.” It was Joe running right along side of me! I high-fived him and quickly said, “I need water!” and picked some up at a nearby stop while keeping him in my sights. Joe didn’t know, but he was my motivation to keep moving. For some reason when my body knows that I’m only two miles out, it wants to quit. That’s what it does. I didn’t want to do this today. I knew I had reached my goal of sub 2:00, and now I wanted the stakes higher—sub 8:00 pace. I kept running towards Joe.
Then we passed Tower 1. The Memorial is a beautiful thing. It’s even more so when people running around you start saluting and taking off their hats. I got a little misty. A giant troop of NYPD was standing at the corner of West & Liberty. I saluted them. And that’s when I caught up with Joe. It was now mile 12.
“Let’s go,” I said. And that’s when we took a downward stampede into the tunnel.
Oh, by the way, I’m claustrophobic. Lotsies. So naturally, I freaked out in the tunnel. A wise Matt Six said just the day before, “Don’t worry, Abs. It’s not bad. You go in with the light shining on your back and then when you turn, you see the light at the end of the tunnel. You’re in and out in like 30 seconds.”
Liar. Bold-faced, even. That was a solid half mile underground. I freaked out. I also tripped. I wanted out. Lots of beeps started going off as everyone lost their Garmin satellites. Then I saw the light. And also a hill. Yuck, seriously? At the end of a half marathon? I had waves of nausea as I was reminded of that ONE tiny hill at mile 26 in Chicago.
Up I went, and saw the most glorious sign: 800 M. Sweet Jesus, a half mile to the finish. One more narrow spot and I rounded the turn to Old Slip. I saw the crowds thicken, and that’s when I saw the cheer squad. I shouted obscenities at them about going sub-2. I started to cry again. And then I finished with my fist in the air.
I found Joe (who also PR’d!) and I finally stopped my Garmin. “I did 1:45… or something! HOORAY!” I was secretly superstitious as I had lost satellites and didn’t know my pace or my finish time. I also forgot to stop my watch. I wondered if I stopped it prematurely? I wasn’t sure.
We met up with our cheer squad and made our way to brunch on the Upper West Side where we all feasted on eggs (not I in fear of regurgitation), granola, bacon, and french fries.
It wasn’t until the cab ride home when I saw the results.
1:44:08 (7:57 pace).
Balls. I PR’d by 29 minutes. I screamed with glee and scared both Chris and our cab driver. I was elated and knew I had conquered what I set out to do.
Many thanks to all who came out in support of the 15,000 people running in Manhattan. Now it’s off to complete my training for Kentucky. Get ready. I’m out for redemption round two.