Sunday’s race was truly one of the best racing experiences of my life. Of course a part of that is obviously because I PR’d (and set unofficial PRs in the 10k, 15k and 10 miles enroute). But a large part of it is because I followed the race plan and was able to negative split – for the first time ever! I was patient in the beginning of the race and then still had energy to fight hard the last few miles.
THESE are the races you dream of having. Not the ones where it feels like a death march the last few miles. But instead, where you are tired but still have that little bit of fight left. That last gear that you’ve been saving to shift to when it’s the right moment.
For me, that is the definition of a successful race. Paces won’t always be there. You can’t control weather. But having the strength (mentally) to keep fighting and pushing when you are getting tired is the way I dream about racing.
Sunday started off at 4am for my husband and I. He and the boys were dropping me off at the start and then after breakfast would be at the finish! The NYC Half is a point to point race – starting in Central Park and then after a loop, heading south through Times Square then over to the West Side Highway all the way to downtown NYC.
We had a relaxing cup of coffee on the couch and then finished prepping for the morning. We had to wake the boys up – but they knew we would be – and were excited that they were going to “watch mommy run”. By 5:40am, the four of us were piled in the car on our way to the city.
By 6:35am, I was kissing my little loves goodbye. I am incredibly grateful that my husband recommended I wear my NYC Marathon poncho to the start. I had planned on only a pair of sweatpants/shirt but when I stepped out of car to say goodbye, I felt chilly. An hour is a LONG time to wait around feeling cold, so I threw on the poncho and stayed toasty warm until 5 minutes before the start. Tip: it’s much better to be too warm while you are waiting around for a race to start then too cold. You can always ditch layers at that point. But if you are freezing and shaking when the gun goes off, it will take you several miles to warm up. And that could slow you down.
The security area was a breeze. Virtually no lines at 6:45am and I flew through. By 7am, I started a short shakeout run. No watch or garmin – just ran until I felt like I was pretty well warmed up – probably about 10-12 minutes, total. I kept everything on as well – sweats and poncho.
I spent the next 20 or so minutes in my corral, stretching and just getting antsy to start.
The race started at 7:32am. Just prior, I squeezed my way further ahead in the corrals. I saw the 1:30 pacer way ahead and wanted to be as close to him and that group as possible (not necessarily to run with but just so I could start with runners who were looking to run similar paces).
Coach and I broke this race into two segments: Central Park and the rest. Goal for Central Park was low 6:50s to 7:00, letting the course dictate the pace. I kept my garmin on total time so I couldn’t see current pace, but would get the mile beeps, so had an idea of how I was doing each mile.
I love that cat hill is immediately at the start. You are never in a rhythm when you first start a race anyway, so why not get one of the big hills out of the way? Once I made my way to the top, I focused on finding a good, steady rhythm. Nothing too fast or hard. Mile 1: 6:46
Mile two is mostly flat to start with some big downhills towards the end. When I saw my garmin beep with a 6:38, I panicked a bit. I was annoyed with myself for speeding up so much during this mile and was worried that that mile could cost me a good race. Mile 2: 6:38
Mile three was a new mile for me. It’s an out and back portion outside of the park that was added to allow a wave-start. In previous years, we would do just over one full loop of the park – which required the last runner to have started and be out of the way in time for the lead runners as they came through at mile 6. Adding this 1 mile stretch allows NYRR to cut out that overlap and allow a more spread out start. That mile was a slight uphill for the first half and then downhill for the second half. Mile 3: 6:47.
Then it was time to tackle Harlem Hill. It’s one long gradual climb – I think it’s about .5 miles in length (someone correct me if I’m wrong here!). I tried to keep the effort constant but was definitely huffing and puffing by the time we reached the top. I was momentarily alarmed when I saw my split for mile 4. Negative thoughts popped in my head. I started too fast. I’m already dropping to 7 min/miles. This is going to be a painful 9 miles. Mile 4: 7:00.
I fought to get those thoughts out of my head. I knew I had a few more climbs left – but the worst two were over with already. I recovered from Harlem Hill and worked to find that rhythm again, while starting some more climbing. Mile 5 was a huge confidence booster. My pace dropped back to where it was pre-hills and I started to feel that pop in my legs again. I also knew we were getting ready to leave the park – and I had nothing but flat running ahead of me! Mile 5-6: 6:45, 6:44.
Time Square/42nd street. Things got surreal the next few miles. I was so pumped up and energized from the crowds and especially seeing some of my friends. I ran over for some high “5s” and screams and felt like my batteries had been recharged. This was when I knew it was my day. I could feel it. I was running paces I had not even dreamed of seeing – and it felt comfortable and FUN. Miles 7-8: 6:32, 6:30.
I hit the West Side highway just before mile 8 and knew I still had a long way to go before I could celebrate, but also was pumped for the challenge that was ahead of me. I was ready to fight. I focused on each mile. Keeping my breathing under control, maintaining a good stride and rhythm and running happy. The west side highway is a long stretch, but I was thankful to feel a tailwind at points and used that to help push me forward. I started repeating “FIGHT” “FIGHT” “FIGHT” to myself around mile 10 when I felt myself slowing down.
THIS is the moment you train for.
Don’t be a wimp and give up.
What would Laura do? (I say this a lot to myself in workouts when I get tired and think about stopping. Laura is my running idol and a constant source of inspiration and motivation.)
With each mile, I knew that I was gaining ground on the sub-1:30, then sub-1:29 finish time. It was surreal. Miles 9-12: 6:32, 6:39, 6:40, 6:23
I entered the tunnel knowing if I pushed and ran my fastest split of the day, I could maybe come in under 1:28. Entering the tunnel was brutal because of a headwind but once we were in, it was calm. I was cautious to push too hard here because I knew that one final hill awaited. 1/2 mile later, it was time to attack it. But that hill sucked the life out of me again. I felt like I was barely moving up that little hill. Brutal.
Made the left, then the right and could see the 400m sign. I was at 26:30. I needed to run 6:00 or so to finish under 1:28. I tried and pushed but when I turned the corner and saw the finish knew I wouldn’t break 1:28, so I tried to enjoy that last stretch of the race before the finish! Miles 13-13.1: 6:45, 7:00
1st 10k: 6:48 pace; 2nd 10k: 6:38.5 pace
Garmin average: 6:41
19th female / 10,550
719th overall / 21,000
5k: 21:01 – 6:47
10k: 42:10 (21:09) – 6:49
15k: 1:02:39 (20:29) – 6:36
20k: 1:23:23 (20:46) – 6:41
Official pace: 6:44
I started the morning with a cup of coffee at 4/4:15am. Ate a very large bagel at 5am. Sipped on ~16 oz of water mixed with two scoops of Gen Ucan starting at 6am and continuing until I started my warmup (~6:45am).
During the race, I grabbed a cup of water at miles 2.5 and 5.5 and that was it. No other fuel or water.
I typically don’t fuel on any training run under 14-16 miles, so I didn’t think I would need anything on Sunday, especially since the generation Ucan is a slow-release energy (rather than all at once). I had a gel tucked in to my sports bra as a “just in case” but never felt like I needed it.
I kept my diet the same as usual in the days leading up to the race. The day before, I skipped my usual chicken/steak with potatoes and veggies for dinner and opted for chicken with a whole plate of spaghetti. I don’t eat much pasta these days but wanted to have some carbs in me for the later miles! We ate early (5pm) and then I nibbled on a bagel later in the night.
It was chilly, but it could have been SO much worse. The forecast looked awful but we actually had sun during the race, which made the temps feel much more manageable. At the start, it was low 30s with the windchill in the mid 20s (24-26). Winds were mostly out of the ENE/NE, so it ended up being a bit of tailwind for the stretch down the West Side Highway.
For the first time in for as long as I can remember, I had a REALLY hard time deciding what to wear. I often opt for the less is more approach on race day, but I know how chilly it can feel running through times square and then along the water. I think part of it was also that I had gotten used to warmer temps the last few weeks, so the thought of 20s again just sounded SO cold!
At the last minute, I went with shorts + compression socks rather than pants and long sleeve shirt over tank/arm warmers. It was a “we are leaving in 20 minutes, I need to make a decision” decision. My legs were chilly at the start but once I warmed up, they were fine.
One of best decisions of day was to put hand warmers inside my gloves. My hands are always freezing – numb, actually – and I didn’t want anything to distract me from running. I put them on my palms – anytime I started to feel them getting cold, I’d clench my fist and they would warm up almost instantly.
I jogged through the finish area to get to where my husband and boys would be! They had warm clothes and big hugs! We walked to our car and quickly got out of downtown before it got really crowded! And went straight to my mom’s – warm shower, strong coffee, delicious brunch and good company was the perfect way to end an already perfect day! <3
HUGE thank you to all who were volunteering along the course and/or cheering. The crowds and cheering seemed so much more intense this year than I ever remember!
Thank you all so much for your kind and supportive comments on Instagram and Facebook. Sunday was a great day and even more importantly, it has given me so much confidence for Boston in just a few weeks. I believe with all my heart that I am in shape to have a good race.
And then post-Boston, I’m ready to go after some shorter-distance PRs – I set a bunch of unofficial PRs on Sunday (below is based on garmin, not official splits):