Friday, June 8, 2012

Recapping the Brooklyn Half-Marathon

It was a long winter (cold by my standards but apparently not by many others) and my training resolve was thoroughly tested. I trained through a variety of weather I had forgotten existed during my time in Miami and eagerly awaited warmer weather and the chance to "race" again.  A couple of weeks ago was my first event in months; I forgot how much I missed the "night before jitters" and the super-early race-day wake-up routine.  

As I answered the many questions of my first time half-marathoner friend I must have repeated a dozen times what my mentors told me, "don't do anything different before the race."  Why then did I think sleeping at my parents house rather than the comfy confines of my apt and my Tempurpedic was a good idea?  Don't get me wrong, the logistics made perfect sense (they live closer to the race site) and it was great to see my parents the night before, but let's just say my night's sleep was less than ideal.  I tossed and turned all night and had one of the worst night's sleep I can recall.  As I rose from bed in the morning I put it behind me, abandoned my morning schedule, and hopped into an unplanned shower.  The warm water reawakened my senses and the sleepless night was history.

After some breakfast and gearing up it was time to head on over. My friend (who also slept at my folks' house), her brother and his girlfriend (who met us to drive together in the AM), my wife (who had no reason to be up so early other than further cementing her position as #1 cheerleader), and I hit the road and began making our way to Prospect Park in Brooklyn.  Luckily for me, this morning I was surrounded by people who actually knew where they were going.  As if I knew the "normal" way to get there, they instructed me we'd be taking a different route.  Sure.  Just tell me when to turn, and then tell me again, and again.  I've been known to forget to pay attention to where I need to go and just drive straight on until someone else looks up: "weren't we supposed to exit back there?"  Whoops.

As we neared the race sight traffic started to snarl up; it was time to pull over and hop out.  My wife would drive down to the race finish and wait for us to meet her on foot. We made our final preparations at the car and in an oddly eager way we sought out some port-a-johns.  Another joy of race day!

I split off from the group to go through my typical warmup and then found corral #4 (out of about 16) to take my spot for the start.  There were tons of people: over 16,000 to be semi-precise and the corral was packed a bit tight for my comfort.  With my headphones on I ignored the thousands surrounding me and found my happy place.  Some good tunes helped me get my breathing in check and I focused on bringing my heart-rate back down before the starting gun.  Announcements, more announcements, then some more, and finally the national anthem.  The race began soon after and the swarm begin shifting towards the start line.

It took about 4 minutes for my corral to make it to the start.  This was my first race with a running start (the corral narrowed as it approached the start and allowed people to begin running about 50-75 feet in front of the start line); I'm convinced every large race should have this.  I set about trying to find my pace; usually this means easing off the gas as the excitement takes over.  I looked down and I had taken off at about 7min/mile; WAY TOO FAST.  I slowed down to a more comfortable pace and readied myself for the rest of the morning. 

The early part of the course was great.  We ran in and around Prospect Park, and because of a small loop back I could see runners who had begun earlier (and were faster) and then those who had started after me.  It was the first time I've ever had a chance to watch the lead pack which was an awesome sight.  After I made my turn I kept my eyes peeled for my friend.  It wouldn't be easy with that many runners, but by watching the race numbers (which corresponded to the corrals) I would eventually spot her and scream out her name.  When I asked her about it, she didn't know it was me, but definitely heard someone yell "JODI!"   Success!

As I continued to run I stayed in my zone and stuck pretty close to my race pacing plan.  I was running fast and couldn't help but wonder if I'd be able to hold my pace for 13.1 miles.  But...I trained hard, felt strong, and was committed to crushing my previous 1/2-mary time.  At about mile 7 I began to feel some hotspots on my feet and knew blisters were on the way.  Despite a variety of prevention tactics including body glide and Blistop (a spray-on foot protector) this issue is becoming all too common for me.  There was no turning back now, I'd be running the rest of race on these blisters and there wasn't a chance I'd let them hurt my chances at running what was shaping up to be an awesome time for me.

By now I was on the straight stretch of the course running down Ocean Parkway towards Coney Island.  It was a long way on this road; over 5 miles straight as an arrow, with the ferris wheel
beckoning me the whole way.  I couldn't believe it but as I approached the final miles my pace began to quicken.  My last mile was my fastest and I ran the final .2 (I clocked the race at 13.2, as did many others) faster than I'd run all day.  I finished the race with a time of 1:41:17.

Prior to the race I was shooting for a 1:45 or better.  About halfway through I knew I had a chance at blowing that out of the water.  My wife, eagerly (I suspected) awaiting my arrival at the finish line knew my goal and kept a steady eye on the clock.  What she didn't know was that I was four minutes off the actual race clock.  Amazingly I finished at 1:45 on the race clock, good for a chip time of 1:41:17.  I knew she'd assumed I'd just reached my goal and couldn't wait to tell her my real time.

This was my first experience with Age Graded results.  It took me a while to understand how my "AG Gender Place" could be below my actual "Gender Place" but after a few Google searches I think I get it now.

After an all-too brief respite, I began to swim upstream to find my cheerleader and offer up a patented post-race sweaty kiss and hug.  Did I mention it was crowded? 

After celebrating my newest accomplishment with my wife it was off to the medical tent for some preventive ice.  Then back to the finish line; it was my time to become a cheerleader.  We watched intently alternating between the runners coming down the shoot and the clock time.  Knowing that my friend had started in corral 16 made it hard to estimate how long it actually took for her to make it to the starting line.  Each time I spectate I appreciate more and more what my wife goes through each time I race.  Even though I really enjoy cheering on the runners completing their race looking out for someone is exhausting.  Our focus payed off when we spotted Jodi coming down the shoot; she looked strong and I couldn't wait to hear about her day.  Not only did she put in a great time, but she did it easily.

After wading through the sea of finishers and their supporters, my wife and I finally met up with the rest of our bunch.  It was great to hear their reactions to their first half-marathon.  Everyone had a great day and relished in the experience of their first race.

In case I’d forgotten what I’d done the previous weekend, the lingering aches, soreness, and hobbled walk remind me of my race.  In the past I’ve only experienced mild soreness after a race (I wasn’t even in terrible shape after the Miami 70.3), but I really felt this one. I didn't go for a run until the Thursday after the race and my legs were as sore as they have ever been in my life. I felt as if I had done the mother of all leg workouts in the gym and it took days for it to subside.  Only recently did I learn from Coach that the rule of recovery is about 1 day for each mile of the race.

To finally cap off this all-too-long post, I'd say that if you are considering your first half-marathon or more specifically the Brooklyn Half-Marathon: DO IT.


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