Brooklyn Half Marathon and Spring Training
Last I wrote, you read (anyone listen to Doug Loves Movies?), I was training hard for the Brooklyn Half. Which was yesterday. And my goal was 1:44:xx. Yes—I ran. No—I did not reach my goal. Sigh.
So what has been going on between my last post and now? Well, I trained my tush off. When I said I was going to focus hard on speed this spring, I really did. I tried to do some type of focused workout twice a week, be it mile repeats, a tempo run, or repeats of the Bridle Path loop (FUN), and I kept up my hill work and did race pace miles during almost every one of my long runs. I had a huge 10K PR, and am sure I would have PR’d if I had run other race distances. If you asked me three weeks ago, I would have said I would have no problem reaching my goal time. Things were going swimmingly, and I had just finished a 14 miler with the last three miles at 7:30 pace, feeling awesome. I was, without a doubt, the fastest I’ve ever been. And then…I don’t know…my legs stopped working correctly. My fall injury was acting up again, my right upper IT was being a brat, and in general my right leg, knee to hip, was all kinds of angry. And because of all that, I just couldn’t run as fast anymore. So, I had to rethink my expectations for the race, and my goal was 1:49:xx. Just a PR, not a huge PR.
And how about race day? I met running bestie Megan at 5:20am (omg…so early), and we grabbed a cab to Brooklyn. We got to Grand Army Plaza a little after 6, and started the march to the staging area, along with every single other runner in NYC. Seriously…it was crowded. The only other time I’ve ever seen runners swarm like that is the walk from the buses at Fort Wadsworth at the start of NYCM. Considering they increased the race size from 5k to 15k this year, the swarm wasn’t surprising. I was nervous, however, that because of the size increase, some of the race logistics would go wrong, but things seemed pretty smooth (although I do think the race was too big…). We stashed our bags behind the Brooklyn Museum and BBG, ran into familiar faces galore (even among the 15k others, I still run into lots of runner friends), used the port-a-potties and headed to the corrals. I hoped there would be port-a-potties in the corrals, considering the size of the race (any other NYRR race this size, and sometimes smaller, have had them in the corrals), but no dice.
I got on my corral around 6:30 (supposedly they closed at 6:40), and spent the next 30 minutes starting to panic slowly. I’m not the calmest person, and can get pretty anxious pretty easily. I would have loved to have a friend in my corral to talk to, which would have helped calm my nerves, but I didn’t see anyone I knew. Therefore, for the 30 minutes before the start, I went over every scenario that would cause me to get a terrible time or have to drop out. I thought of all the pain I had been having in my legs over the past two weeks, was sure things were going to get so severe I would have a DNF. Also…I had to pee. It was warm, so I had been hydrating all morning, and could have really used a corral port-a-potty. This was not my favorite 30 minutes.
Finally, the gun went off, and I had one focus: find a port-a-potty. I had to cross that need off my list to see if I could focus on my running. I found one a little after one mile, and got right in line. Looks like many other runners were unhappy with the lack of port-a-potties at the corral, as there was quite a line. But, I found out soon enough that there was no tp. And…I needed it. So, I got back to running, and went looking for another one. However, in that first mile, when I was distracted and not focused on my running, my legs totally loosened up, and I felt great. I had energy, little pain, and was able to bring my pace down to goal race pace, which was about 8m/m. I was still looking, though, and finally found another port-a-potty around mile 3.5. Between the two, I lost about 4 minutes (LINES!), and once that was taken care of, felt like I could finally start my race—I wasn’t distracted by anything, and could really run. And for the next 4 miles or so, I kept feeling great. My pace was around 8:05, and felt good, cruising along, sipping Nuun regularly, seeing friends on the sidelines, enjoying the shade of Prospect Park. But then, pretty much the second we turned out of the park onto Ocean Parkway, I was done. Seeing all of the runners in front of me, in the hot sun, looked miserable and I just didn’t want to keep going. I am not a summer runner, and run much better in the cold. It was getting warm, the shaded park was behind us and a long, sunny straight road was in front. I always forget how Brooklyn Half is not my favorite course…
Miles 7-11 were a struggle. My legs were starting to hurt a lot, and I was feeling exhausted and hot. My pace rose, and I gave up any chance of reaching my goal. I had to keep talking myself out of taking breaks, and ended up taking a walk break for about 2 minutes at mile 10. Starting again was difficult (of course…which is why it’s never a good idea for me to take walk breaks in races), and everything that had been hurting in the past weeks hurt like never before. Running was not fun. But, seeing the mile 11 marker was a welcome sight, and I found a second wind to finish out the race, keeping my last 2+ miles at about 8:10 pace.
As with every other Brooklyn half, finishing on the boardwalk was exhilarating, with the ocean breeze from the left, and the ferris wheel up ahead. I don’t actually know what my official finish time was (I haven’t quite gotten the nerve to look it up yet…), but my time sans-port-a-potty time (I stopped my watch during those breaks, because I wanted to see what my actual running time was) was 1:49:35. An unofficial PR for sure, but not what I wanted (official time is not a PR. bummer).
No matter what, I actually had a fantastic time training for this race. Watching myself get noticeably faster was amazing, and was proof to myself that consistent speedwork…works! I had so many more wonderful runs this cycle than I can remember. Two great races: Urban Environmental Challenge 10K and Scotland 10K; lovely early morning runs around Central Park; and peaceful runs when I was in Cleveland last week.
Actually, I contracted a pretty horrid case of poison ivy from the Urban Environmental Challenge in the beginning of April, all over my legs. I’ve never had it before, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. During those horrible weeks, the only time I wasn’t in misery was when I was in shorts, and hence spent more time running than I ever have; I only felt relief running: no fabric touching, the breeze keeping the itching at bay, no noticeable oozing. And it was during those poison ivy-fueled runs that I feel in love with training. I always loved racing, but training was a bit of a pain. I truly learned to enjoy training during these past few months, and I can’t wait to train hard for future races.
So I didn’t PR and reach my goal. But I think I learned a lot about myself as a runner this spring, and am a better and smarter runner, and I really know how to train. I didn’t reach the goal I had been focusing on; I reached a goal I never knew I needed to achieve, thus making this as successful a training cycle as I’ve ever had.