I DID IT!
The short version:
I finally ran a sub-two half marathon in my 10th half. (About 5 years ago I ran my first half in 2:38.) I’m beyond proud of myself. It was the best day ever. The end.
The long version (I feel a little silly assuming you guys want to read all this, but I’m going to write it anyway):
I woke up at 4:15 AM and with coffee in hand, was out the door by 4:30.
I easily got to the finish line on Coney Island, where I parked at the New York Aquarium and met Kim to hop on the Q train to take us to the start line. (Get off at the Prospect Park stop, if you’re wondering for next year!) The ride was way quicker than I thought it would be (maybe 20 minutes?) and we were to the start with plenty of time to get through security and walk to the corrals. (They had port-a-potties IN the corrals, which I’ve never had before. Saves so much time and energy!) It was the most gorgeous morning – beautiful sunshine, not much humidity, and temps in the 50s. Such perfect running weather.
We were in the corrals for awhile – I think we got in around 6:40-ish but didn’t cross the start line until about 7:25. After a slow shuffle, we were off!
Kim and I both were on a mission to run a 1:59:59 or faster; a 9:09 pace. It was so motivating to have a partner-in-crime and be working toward the same goal! We planned to start off conservatively at around 9:15 – 9:20 for the first couple miles, then down to 9:10-9:05, and then just go as hard as we could.
After the first mile we clocked in at 9:14, which was a little faster than planned but not by much. We kept saying out loud “too fast!” at random points and then adjusting, but the second mile was an even faster 9:05. When we saw mile 3 flash an 8:52, we both looked at each other and I’m pretty sure we both laughed out loud. Whoops! I was feeling good, but a little nervous that I wouldn’t be able to keep it up. I was happy to have those seconds “in the bank”, even though I know that’s not the best strategy!
By mile 5 we were in Prospect Park and as Kim crushed the big hill, I, well, did not. She dominated it as I wheezed up, just trying to keep her in my sights. I ate 3 ShotBloks at this point to give me a boost. I’m so glad I didn’t see my mile 5 and 6 splits flash on my Garmin (9:21, 9:20) because even though they included a decent hill, I’m pretty sure I would have freaked out that I had two miles in a row that were much slower than my goal pace. Although I did look down and notice I PRd the 10K…in my half. Hmm…wasn’t sure if that was good or so, so bad!
And then came a glorious downhill around mile 7, as you can see by the 8:32/mile! I was so surpised to see that number…and again, laughed at myself. I know it was a downhill, but how come I can easily run this pace in a half marathon, but not in a 6 mile tempo run?
Around mile 8, as we were running down Ocean Parkway, was when it started feeling tougher. After I saw my friend Anna (thank you for being out there cheering, friend!) I reminded myself to just “hang on”. That mile clocked in at 8:54. (No downhill, so I was super excited to see I was still in the 8s!) I took a salt pill here because it was really warming up at this point. Thankfully there was shade under the trees on the left side of the road if it was needed.
My friends Tommy and Sam had sent me this inspirational video the night before, and I listened to it around this time. (They’re the same ones who sent me the basically life-saving video that I constantly thought about throughout the Ironman!) It made such a HUGE difference in this race, too. (Thank you guys!) Miles 8-13.1 were so hard, and listening to the inspirational clips in the video made me so emotional. You would have thought I was saving the entire world by running this race, with the amount of emotion I was feeling. At this point I thought I could realistically go sub-2, and I just kept telling myself to be my own hero. I don’t even know what that means. I was delirious, I think. I also took a Roctane Gu (with caffeine!) around this time which helped. (I fueled more than normal in this race – typically I would only have taken one Gu. Maybe that was the key?!)
Miles 9 and 10 passed and I was STILL running 8-something minute miles, much to my bewilderment: 8:56 for mile 9 and 8:54 for mile 10. (Hey, I was consistent for once!) I was even thinking, hey, maybe I can run a 1:57 or 1:58! #Overzealous. My left shoulder randomly starting getting this sharp pain out of nowhere, so I tried to relax, take deep breaths, and stretch it out by pulling my elbow over my head. It was hard to run with the pain so I started wondering if my stupid shoulder would deter me from reaching my goal. It randomly stopped after a few minutes, so I’m not sure what that was about.
Around this time, I was trying to do a lot of math. It didn’t work out well for me, per usual. But, I did know that I was going to over-run the course. My Garmin was beeping about .15 before the mile markers, so I stopped trying to calculate based on my watch. I waited until I reached the actual mile marker before trying to figure out if I could run the remainder in X amount of time. (Normal people probably do this already but evidently I JUST learned this.) I started getting nervous because I knew my overall pace would need to average lower than 9:09 since it was looking like I would be running about 13.3 miles instead of 13.1.
What helped the most: I kept telling myself that I didn’t want to go through this pain again, so I better go sub-2 today. I would be so angry if I was suffering this much for “nothing”.
Around mile 11 I calculated that I needed to run 9:30s to cross the finish line before the clock read 2:00:00, and was so scared that I couldn’t keep up the paces I was running. What if I crashed?! I was hovering around 9:05 at that point.
At this point, it was ALL mental. 100%. I started wondering if sub-2 mattered…I knew I would PR at the very least. But thankfully I didn’t give in to this crazy talk and stayed the course. (Literally and figuratively!) I pushed any thoughts of crashing out of my head and thought about how it would feel to cross the finish line and tell everyone I reached my goal. I thought about the people who were tracking my splits. I thought about the ice cream Brendan always takes me out for if I PR. (Yep.) I thought about Kim who I could still see about 100 yards ahead, and how motivating it was that she was absolutely dominating this race.
NYRR had a sign for the 20K mark, which I KNOW is 12.4 miles, but at the time I thought that I just had a half-mile left. When I realized I had a little more, I got SO nervous and tried to kick it into my highest gear possible. I was NOT going to cross the line at 2:00:01. That would have devastated me. I literally pushed as hard as I possibly could to get there. As I went up that
stupid, final little hill and turned onto the boardwalk, the finish line looked so far away. I couldn’t smile or high-five all the spectators or do anything but will my legs to move as fast as possible. And to not throw up. I was terrified as I watched my Garmin tick to 1:59:30. But…
I FREAKING DID IT!
The final numbers:
A little close for comfort, but it doesn’t matter because I FINALLY reached my goal and achieved a 3 minute, 24 second PR.
I saw Kim as soon as I crossed the finish line and I think we both had the same look of sheer exhaustion. After a few minutes (and some water) we perked up and went into the Brooklyn Cyclones stadium to sit on the turf and chat. After wandering around for awhile (they make it really hard to get back to the boardwalk…all the entrances but a couple were closed!) and some cheering, we finally made it to Nathan’s where we enjoyed big cups of Coney Island Lager and soft pretezels that were most certainly dipped in lots of butter. And it felt like the best “meal” I’ve ever had.
Even though we finished around 9:20 AM, we didn’t leave Coney Island until 1-ish, I think. Sitting outside, soaking up the sun, and reveling in our success was SO much fun. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. My body was tired but amazingly I had no blisters, no chafing, and I felt fantastic. (Unlike after my last half in which I felt like death the entire day.) It was basically a miracle.
Also, I offically think that a terrible “last week” before a big race is a great sign.
That night, Brendan took me out for Mexican food (with sangria!) to end the most perfect day. I couldn’t be happier.
Kim – I couldn’t have done this without you. I definitely pushed harder to keep up with you, and I’m sure I would have been a little more conservative if I was on my own. Thank you for being so badass and for motivating me not only on raceday, but all throughout this training cycle!
Also, thank you to everyone who sent me congratulations and supported me in the weeks leading up to this as I continuously freaked out. It’s so, so much appreciated. It made me so happy to see texts coming through immediately after finishing! You made it that much more wonderful.
Now…you guys know me…1:55?
What was your most favorite race experience EVER?! Tell me all the details!