Race Report: 2014 Brooklyn Half Marathon

Runsketeers represent!

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION COURTESY OF KWL

Yesterday’s run (NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon): 13.1 miles

My quads are aching this morning, no doubt due to the pounding that my legs took running down Ocean Parkway yesterday. The last five miles felt endless, but the final 200 meters along the Coney Island boardwalk made the experience all worth it. Although my performance wasn’t great (2:25), it was in line with expectations. More importantly, it was a great day spent with great friends, each of whom ran excellent races.

After the horrible attack at the 2013 Boston Marathon, security has been stepped up at most major races. Due to this, race participants were asked to arrive extra early and were restricted in terms of what could be brought to the race. As a result, I only brought things that I could carry on my run or things I could discard. I ended up not “donating” my extra layer that I wore to stay warm before the start. In retrospect, I wish I had (at least) taken it off during the race.

My day started very early. I’d set my alarm for 2:35 AM so I could be fully prepared when my friends arrived at my house at 4:20 AM. The plan was for me, TPP and Runska-buddy LS to drive to my friend KWL’s house in Queens. SIOR was to meet us there at 5:00 AM where we would then be driven by a friend to Grand Army Plaza near the race start. It was a tight squeeze in Mark’s SUV, but that all went according to plan.

Clearing security

PHOTO COURTESY OF SIOR

Walking to corrals
Crowds building prior to the start

After going through security, we walked along Eastern Parkway, past the Wave 2 corrals and made our way to check out the starting line. We took some pictures and proceeded to the baggage drop off where KWL handed off his bag that contained items belonging to members of our little crew. Soon after that, speedsters SIOR and LS headed over to the Wave 1 corrals that started 45 minutes earlier than Wave 2. KWL, also a speedster, was relegated to Wave 2 due to his bib number.

ER, LS, SIOR & TPP looking fresh and ready

PHOTO COURTESY OF KWL

TPP and KWL near the baggage drop off

TPP and I walked around and tried to stay warm in the chilly, breezy 58° weather. We found a grate in the street that was supplying a little heat and stood on it for about 15 minutes. We were soon joined by other runners who had the same idea. We decided to head to an area that’s adjacent to the Brooklyn Museum that had direct sunlight. We hoped that would keep us warm. KWL eventually came by, and we hung out a bit before going into our very crowded corral pen. People were very friendly and I enjoyed talking to other runners as we prepared for the start.

TPP and me waiting for the start

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PETITE PACER

The Brooklyn Museum was the center of the start area 

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PETITE PACER

View of KWL’s corral

PHOTO COURTESY OF KWL

TPP and I were in the 6th corral of the second wave. We made our way to the starting line and began running once we crossed over the mat. Off we went! As I made my way down Washington Ave. with TPP at my side, I thought, “This is it. I’m running Brooklyn!” I adopted a brisk but sustainable pace and moved well for the first couple of miles that wended around the Botanical Garden and Grand Army Plaza. Prospect Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux who also designed Central Park. It’s beautiful, though hilly, but much more manageable than some of CP’s challenges.

I had hopes of finishing around 2:10 and was on track to do that through my first three miles. I thought that the seven miles in and around Prospect Park would be the toughest part of the race, but the final five miles really took a toll. I was discouraged to see my split times increasing after the fifth mile and by 10K, my overall pace had increased by 30 seconds. I felt okay as I ran, but was unable to generate much speed.

Once we came out of the park and headed towards Ocean Parkway, I had hopes of making up some time. The straight run down Ocean is primarily flat, although there was a small climb as we made our way up the ramp and turned left towards the road. The park provided a lot of shade, but Ocean Parkway was lit up by the sun. I kept telling myself to remove my long sleeve top layer that I’d planned to discard. For some reason I didn’t. I’m not sure if that would that have made a difference, but had I done it, it probably would have helped.

I felt every mile, but never felt overly taxed until the end. I dutifully stopped at the Gatorade and water stations and, although I wasn’t making good time, I felt fully in control. A woman who I was chatting with in the corral told me how the cross streets along Ocean Parkway are in alphabetical order. Watching the letters change gave me a sense of progress. In my two previous half marathons, ten miles is where I began to really feel the effort. Once again that was the case. I locked into a sustainable pace and tried to hold on for the final 5K.

I could see the Belt Parkway overpass in the far distance and I focused on that. Soon after, I saw the 20K sign and did the math in my head that I only had half a mile to go. We turned onto Surf Avenue where the roaring crowd of spectators provided a huge wall of sound. I spotted the Cyclone and the sign saying 800 meters to go, beginning the longest half mile of the race. We turned left toward the boardwalk and I saw the 400 meter sign. I was so ready to finish. When I saw the chute in the distance, I gave it everything I had.

The finish line, a sight for sore eyes and legs

PHOTO COURTESY OF KWL

I crossed the line and collected my medal, feeling completely drained. I downed a cup of Gatorade and grabbed a banana and made my way through the crowd. KWL found me and I sat down feeling overwhelmed. As in previous long runs and races, I felt a little light headed. KWL got me a space blanket and TPP gave me her cup of water. LS got me more water and I took a GU gel to try to get more electrolytes into my system.

LS, SIOR and TPP relaxing post-race

PHOTO COURTESY OF KWL

I was still light-headed even after taking fluids and electrolytes. My friends decided that I should visit the medical tent and I walked over with SIOR, TPP, LS and KWL. TPP spoke with one of the medical workers who allowed me to bypass the line and brought me right in. They put me on a cot, made me swallow two salt packets, drink Gatorade and eat a banana.

The EMT took my blood pressure which was a little low. The doctor said that the pounding my legs had taken had pooled blood below my waist and that lying down would help. It was feeling back to normal soon, but they insisted on running an EKG (I guess they had to run these tests due to liability concerns).

They eventually retook my pulse which had returned to normal and released me. Once I reunited with my friends we walked over to the street on our way to the F train that would get us back to Queens. We quickly realized that the F train back would take us over an hour, KWL suggested we take a car back to his house. He flagged down a limo, negotiated a great price, and we were soon on our way.

After we arrived at KWL’s we collected our race bags, gave each other hugs and said our goodbyes. SIOR had driven her own car and headed off to LI while LS and TPP rode back with me. The LIE was like a parking lot, but chatting with LS and TPP made the time go by quickly. We arrived at my house and said our goodbyes.

It was only around 1:00 PM, but it already felt like a very long day. Despite my side trip to the medical tent, it was a great experience. I so appreciate the generosity and support of my friends. They happen to be extremely fun and interesting people and that made a good race great. I don’t care a bit about my time and finishing when I did was not a great surprise. My race performance has definitely declined over the past two years and I’m planning to get a checkup to make sure everything is on track.

Half Marathon training, your opinion is requested!

 

Today’s workout (elliptical): 40 minutes

According to Athlinks, I’ve run thirteen 10K’s, eleven 5K’s, four 4 milers, four 8K’s, two half marathons and a 5 mile race. There are a couple of other races that Athlinks doesn’t list, but for the most part, that’s my racing history. 10K is my favorite race distance because it requires both speed and stamina. Unlike 5K’s that allow me to go all-out because I know that it will be over inside of 30 minutes, 10K’s require a much more strategic approach.

10K, or 6.2 miles is also a friendly distance. Even if I’ve slacked off on my base training runs (likely), I can generally get through a 10K without much race specific training. In those cases, I don’t come close to PR’ing, but I can manage through the distance. Half marathons are a different story. There’s something about double digit distance running that requires me to really focus on my training. The toughest run I ever had was my first half marathon. It was so bad, a race volunteer offered to call a doctor as I crossed the line.

That experience taught me a lesson about being prepared. I’d thought I’d be okay running my usual 6 miles or so on Sundays, then upping that distance to eight and nine miles the two weekends before the half. It didn’t help that I’d also acquired a knee problem at that time, but I blame my poor race performance on my failure to plan.

My Plan

I fared much better the next time. I realized that building a proper base was the key, so I dutifully headed to Bethpage every weekend and ran increasingly longer distances. I ended up improving my time by 15 minutes the second time I ran a half. The chart above shows the Sunday long run distance plan I created and followed. I updated the schedule to coincide with this year’s dates leading up to the Brooklyn Half.

NYRR “Moderate” Plan

NYRR’s does a good job sending updates about the Brooklyn Half to people who are registered for the race. The last email redirected me to their site where they’d posted three free half marathon training plans. The categories are Conservative, Moderate and Advanced. I’m not apt to follow a plan that prescribes training through the week, but I was interested in the weekly long run distances. I created a second schedule around the Moderate guide to compare it with my current plan (see above).

I did well the last time by increasing my long run distance about a mile a week, topping out at 12 miles the weekend before the race. The NYRR plan steps up and down, with a decided taper near the end. I assume NYRR knows a lot more than I do about this stuff, so there must be a reason for reducing the long run distances near the end. I’m reluctant to change from what worked for me last time, but maybe I should consider following the Moderate plan.

I will take advice on this, so please share your opinion.

No Ho Ho Holiday run

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I’m not exactly sure why I’ve veered away from racing for the time being, but I’ve decided against running in tomorrow’s Ho Ho Ho Holiday 5K in Bethpage. Good thing I didn’t prepay that $20, huh? I know if I did choose to participate, I would enjoy the race a lot. Racing provides many layers of experience: the chill of the morning air, the throngs of runners gathered for the start, the exciting first steps of the race and the combination of relief and exhilaration you feel after (finally) crossing the finish line.

Of course the time spent between the start and finish of any race is the reason why you are there. My experience during that time has ranged between sheer joy and sheer will. I’ve had at least two experiences when running 5K’s, when I actually wished the race was longer because I was enjoying the experience so much. On the other hand, my first time running a half marathon (plagued by injury) and my second time running Cow Harbor (with oppressive heat and humidity) could be best described as voluntary torture.

Another event that happens tomorrow is the NYRR Ted Corbitt Classic 15K that’s run in Central Park. Friends FS, CG and KWL will be running this 9.3 mile race that’s almost two times around a loop that goes between 61st to 104th Streets. The course this year avoids the Harlem Hills, but that doesn’t mean runners will have an easy time. There’s still Cat Hill and they have to climb that twice. I’m rooting for my colleagues and hope they have a blast.

I still need to decide where I’ll run tomorrow. I may try to get onto the Bethpage bike path from one of the connecting roads if the park entrance is still closed. I know I’ll be missing the excitement of tomorrow’s race and the feeling of accomplishment that comes at the end of a competitive run. On the other hand, choosing my own venue allows me to set my own pace and distance and I can sleep in a little later in the morning. Right now, that seems to be the better choice.

A weekend for racing

This is a racing weekend, not only for me but for my colleagues FS and MO who participated in the NYRR Mini-10K this morning. No word on how they did, but I’m hoping they both had a good time. It was cool and dry this morning on LI and I hope that was true for NYC when the Mini-10K started. According to weather.com, at the start of tomorrow’s race temperatures should be in the low 70’s with a 40% chance of precipitation and 81% humidity. Not exactly ideal for a fast run but you can’t pick your weather. Clouds and light rain surely beats having the hot sun bearing down on you.

I’ve been feeling slightly guilty for not running on Friday because I took an extra rest day on Wednesday. There’s a lot happening with work so getting some additional rest was appreciated. Tapering is a valid method of preparing for a race and I need to keep that in mind. Tomorrow will be a busy day so I’ll be doing the race without Team Emerging Runner. It doesn’t matter, I just need to get there early so I can park close and stow my gear while I’m running. I’m really looking forward to the run. After a busy and demanding week of work and a tougher one to follow, I can briefly forget everything except for my goal of covering 8K as quickly as I can.

Racing season

I’ll start this post with a shout out to Adventure Girl who ran the NYRR 10K Scotland Run in Central Park on Saturday. Despite the driving rain and cold temperature she ran a strong race at an impressive pace. She told me that the energy that came from running with such a big crowd (over 7,600 finishers) helped her performance. Considering that (until recently) she was away from running for months recovering for a soccer injury I think this is a great return to competition.

I’m in my final week leading up to my 4 mile race and I’ve tried to get some mileage in before the work week. This week will be mostly travel so I’m not sure how much street running I’ll get to do. Yesterday afternoon my wife and I decided to do a second workout. Although I did some tempo runs that morning I didn’t feel as though I had taken enough time to work on endurance. My wife did a second elliptical workout as I ran on the treadmill. I didn’t want to overdo it so I kept it to two miles with an overall pace of 8:51.

Today we all went to the track. It was busier than I would have expected since it’s Easter Sunday. My kids did a little running and a lot of playing. There were a few serious runner types doing tempo runs and they all passed me very quickly. A number of runners came and went while I did my 4 miles. I may not have matched their pace but I outlasted them all. My intention was not to run fast and I paid no attention to my pace. I ended up running 4 miles at a mid-9 pace and I felt good that I could cruise at that speed even with stiff headwinds over half the track.

I am planning to do a light elliptical workout tomorrow and then possibly one more long run before my race. 6 days and 17 hours to go.