Race 10 was the More Half Marathon (my 9th marathon qualifier – I’m now guaranteed entry to the 2008 NYC Marathon). The Half Marathon and the Marathon both started at the same time. The Half Marathon was twice around the big loop clockwise, plus a mile or so to finish at Tavern on the Green. The Marathon Course was a bit of a nightmare (the half marathon course but continuing on to the 102nd Transverse, then twice the middle loop, then down around the bottom of the Park to finish at Tavern on the Green), so I’m glad I was only running the Half! The races were sponsored by More magazine, which is geared towards women 40 years of age or older, so this was a women’s only race and, in order to run the marathon, you had to be at least 40, and to run the half marathon, you had to be at least 40 or teamed with someone who is at least 40.
Goals: I wanted to run between water stations and not further damage my knee (I was diagnosed with bursitis this week and am limited to running 3 days a week with only swimming as a possible cross-training option). I deliberately did not look up my previous Grand Prix half marathon times to keep myself from working too hard, but I know that my distance PR is 2:03:55 from the Disneyland Half Marathon in flat-as-a-pancake Anaheim and that my New York PR is 2:08:49 (the NYC Half).
This event started, for me, at the expo. I went down at lunchtime on Friday, making sure to get there for the Meet-and-Greet with Katherine Switzer, Lynn Jennings, and Grete Waitz. I made my way around the expo, gathering the essentials (my race gear) and the goodies, then found myself at the More magazine booth. I got a 5-minute head, neck and shoulder massage (nice) and then met Katherine Switzer. She was sooooo nice!!! I told her that I wanted to thank her for what she did, because if she hadn’t, then we wouldn’t be here now and she hugged me and signed my bib. Then she called over Lynn Jennings to sign my bib and the three of us stood around chatting about the relative difficulties of the course, including which direction is more difficult. Then she introduced me to Grete Waitz and had her sign my bib as well. What a great experience!!
On race morning, it had been 2 days since I’d run or done any sort of exercise and I was worried about my legs. I got to the race about a half hour early and wandered around the booths. There was a stretch booth, but I decided to wait until after the race. I dropped my bag and headed over to the start. I stretched a little, then lined up by the 9-minute-mile marker. After some initial chatter and the National Anthem, we were off. Despite Peter Ciacia (sp?) announcing that walkers were to stay to the right to allow runners to pass on the left and to avoid walking two abreast, I was passing groups of walkers well into the first mile. I wasn’t sure what to expect from my knee, so I wanted to take it easy, especially knowing that we were going to be going up the rolling hills of the West Side within a couple of miles. The park is still pretty barren, but the difference between last week and this was incredible. Aside from a few patches of old snow up in the North hills, the snow and ice were all gone. Coming down the East side, I was happy to see that the cherry trees were budding, even blossoming, giving me hope that next week (if I run the Scotland 10k), the trees would be in full bloom and we’d have even lovelier scenery to run through. After the first couple of miles, I started to feel a bit better, though my legs were still a bit cranky. When I hit the rolling hills, I decided to give them all I have and take it all back on the downhill at the top of the Park. And that’s exactly what I did. When I came around to the East Side, I ran strong all the way down, stopping at the water station in the 6th mile to stretch a pinging Achilles tendon in my right heel. The stretching did a world of good – I didn’t feel my Achilles again for the rest of the race. I did a lot of math in my head this race, trying to figure out about what my time could be. When I hit the 6-mile marker, I was beginning to believe that I might actually set not only a course PR, but a New York half marathon PR as well. I swooped (9:05 pace) down around the bottom of the Park and headed back up past the finish-line, where I saw Katherine Switzer cheering us on. I called her name and she mid-fived me as I ran past. There were crowds of people cheering us on at almost every point along the course. It was really encouraging and I even saw my favorite cheerleader, the ex-Marine power-walker 3 times, getting a mid-five from him on my first loop around. At the water station in the 7th mile, my knee started screaming. It didn’t hurt at all while I was running, but when I stopped to walk through the water stations, the pain was unbelievable. Regardless, it didn’t hurt when I ran, so I just shortened my walk breaks. Coming up the West Side again, I decided to stick with my original plan, giving the hills all I had and taking back again on the way down. I tore down Harlem Hill, stopping for water and a caramel PowerBar gel on my way back up to the East side. I continued calculating in my head and when I hit the 10-mile marker, I knew that I had an excellent chance of breaking my New York PR and a faint chance of actually hitting a distance PR, which really surprised me. It was going to be a hard slog, though, if I was going to manage it. And lapping the walkers became a real problem here. Even though the volunteers were telling them to walk single file so the runners could pass, they were walking in groups of 3 and 4 abreast, forcing runners to pass them outside the rec. lane. The rest of the course was mostly flat and downhill, with just a few small hills (including the final hill up to Tavern on the Green), so I could push it a bit if I wanted. I hit the 11-mile marker in 8:34 and calculated that even if I slowed to a 10-minute mile, I could probably still break the distance PR. I hit the 12-mile marker in 8:53, and realized that running at my current pace would probably get me there in time, if I could get around the walkers. There were several points along this final mile where the walkers were taking up the entire rec. lane and the runners were either boxed in behind them or running outside the rec. lane to get around them. I ran around them, trying to maintain my pace. As I came up to the 13-mile marker, I realized that I was going to do it. I was beside myself! I had nothing left for a final sprint, but I didn’t need it. All I wanted to do was finish in under 2:05:55 on the official clock (I had started about 2 minutes after the race did, so if I finished in under 2:05:55, then my net time would be a PR) and I finished in 2:04:48. YAY!!!! I had to go to the medical tent afterwards, because my knee was completely wonky after the finish, but it was worth it!
Random Quotes (I’m putting the statements in quotes, but they’re almost definitely just the gist of what I heard):
“Walkers! Stay to the right and let runners pass on the left. Do not walk two abreast!” - Peter Ciacia (sp?) starting off the race
“Less gabbing and more running!” – one of the volunteers helping us stay within the rec. lane and cheering us on
“Enjoy the hill, ladies!” – the volunteer at the 102nd Street Transverse, which marks the start of the long, steep Harlem Hill
“You’re the best cheerleader!” – one of the racers to the ex-Marine on our third sighting of him along the course
Official stats: I finished in 2:02:42 for a 9:21 pace over the 13.1 miles, setting a distance PR by over a minute, an NYC PR by over 6 minutes, and a course PR by over 13 minutes!!!!! I was 700 out of 4200 runners, all female, putting me in the 83rd percentile (this isn’t as impressive as it looks – there were thousands of walkers) and 195th in my age group, putting me in the 80th percentile (or in the 74th percentile of the runners who finished in under 3 hours). It was 48°F (3°C) with 56% humidity and 7 mph winds. My mile splits from my watch were: 10:13, 10:01, 9:46, 9:28, 9:28, 9:43, 9:05, 9:41, 9:12, 9:19, 8:34, 8:53, 8:26, and :58 for the final tenth of a mile (9:40 pace).
Celebratory treats: I was caught unprepared for this one! I had no expectation of doing anything close to this time. I went to Whole Foods after the race, but, again, the treats I had eyed previously were not available. So, I decided to put something together from my (considerable) stash of chocolate at home. I drank Lorina Orangeade with lunch (yes, I tried to slush it up, but it wasn’t a particularly successful endeavor). My chocolate treats were my Cinnamon Kit Kat, which I’ve been hoarding since my friend Lisa gave it to m, and some dark-chocolate-covered hazelnut English toffee.
Next up: The Brooklyn Half Marathon on April 14th. I’m considering the Scotland 10k on April 1st, but haven’t committed yet. I’ll see how I feel after the next couple of days. It’ll depend on how well my knee has recovered. ‘Cuz you know I’ll be gunning for that 58:06 PR that I set in Irvine last year – another flat course!
Thank you for all your support!
Here is a link to some random pictures, including my race picture, some pictures from the expo and some food shots: http://new.photos.yahoo.com/album?c=mytripsandraces&aid=576460762394981700&pid=&wtok=T7myU8YpnZ_vS1mNpgzZ6A--&ts=1174862742&.src=ph (as always, there’s commentary in the slideshow).