Race 12 was the Brooklyn Half Marathon. The course starts on the boardwalk at Coney Island near Ocean Parkway, heading west to the end of the boardwalk, where we turn around, run back along the boardwalk, turn off onto the street, just before the 3-mile marker, head east to Ocean Parkway, run north along Ocean Parkway to Prospect Park, which we loop before heading into the middle to finish on Center Drive. Along the boardwalk and up Ocean Parkway, the course is relatively flat, but Prospect Park is hilly, somehow, mostly uphill – especially the finish. This was my fourth running of the Brooklyn Half Marathon and my 21st half marathon, just shy of my 3rd anniversary of racing (I missed noting my 3rd anniversary of running, which was back in February).
Goals: As you know, my knees have been a bit cranky. I took a lot of time off to give them some rest, running fewer than 12 miles in the week before the race and none at all the prior weekend. I wanted to run between all water stations, not blow out my knees, and possibly set a course PR. A distance PR and a sub-2 half marathon were distant goals, but I didn’t think I could manage either without further damage to my knees.
My friend, Laura, was kind enough to let me stay at her apartment in Park Slope Friday night, so I was able to get sleep a little longer than if I’d stayed at home. In fact, I was so tired that I went to bed at 9 and stayed in bed until 6. I met up with Bonnie (who also lives in Park Slope) and we took the train to Coney Island together. We got there a little early, so I took some pictures on the boardwalk and showed Bonnie the treacherousness of the boardwalk (in the forms of broken boards, bolts sticking up, uneven planking . . .). We lined up at the 9-minute marker, where I was supposed to meet up with Fabian, but I didn’t see him anywhere. I knew that if I didn’t see him before the race, I wouldn’t see him at all. He finished much faster than I did! Bonnie and I ran together for the first 5 miles. We both rolled our ankles on the boardwalk while cheering on the front runners as they sped past us. That’s why I always try to pay attention to the boardwalk – it’s scary! We managed to keep from falling, but I heard later about a woman who completely wiped out – I hope she’s okay. We looped around the end of the boardwalk and on our way to the turn-off onto the road (yay!), we saw a guy completely wipe out because he ran into a garbage can. He must have really been in the zone, because this was not a little desk garbage can. It was an oil-barrel-sized garbage can! I saw him later on the course and then after the race and he seemed to be fine. We continued on, running a little too fast, but I wasn’t feeling uncomfortable and knew that if I ran with Bonnie, I could keep myself from trying to go all out. At a certain point, though, I kept finding myself several feet ahead of her and knew I would have to focus a lot more to pull back than to just let my legs go, so we agreed to meet up at the finish, wished each other luck, and I gave control over to my legs. I was moving pretty well, but the longer I ran, the more I felt my knees. It started at about mile 4.5 (which is about where it started in my two training runs this week) – nothing too bad, but a definite sensation of pressure. Coming up Ocean Parkway, we were running straight into the Nor’easter, which was blowing pretty fiercely at times. I stopped for Gatorade and water at most of the stations, but I did skip a couple in the beginning. I also took a PowerGel at the water station in the 8th mile. I also did a lot of stretching to see if I could get my knees to calm down a bit. I wanted to get into the park in under 1:30 and I managed it in 1:27:20. With all the calculations I was doing in my head, I knew that I couldn’t set a distance PR at this point, but I thought I might manage a course PR. The difficulty would be the hills, but, at least, we weren’t facing the wind anymore. There is a long curving hill up the East side of the park that leads to rolling hills along the north. There are several more hills as we circle the park and the finish is almost entirely uphill. When I got to the water station at the 10-mile marker, my left knee hurt so badly that I could barely walk. I drank as much as I could, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to stop again until the finish. I didn’t think my knees could manage another walk break. My hips were aching by this point, too, and, when I did get to the next water station, I couldn’t not stop, because my hips needed the break. My knees were both screaming as I walked through that station, but I kept it short and got myself running again as quickly as I could. I don’t know why, but my knees didn’t really hurt while I was running. As I rounded the turn onto Center Drive, I couldn’t see the 13-mile marker and wasn’t sure that I could keep running. It felt like the mile was going on forever and I would still have another tenth of a mile when I got there. All of a sudden, I hear people screaming my name and it’s my friend, Emily, who had come to cheer on her boyfriend. They were already leaving (I think he probably finished in 1:30 or so), but their cheers gave me the final push I needed. There was no finishing sprint, but I did run to the finish (I have a personal rule that I do not walk in the final mile of a race). I don’t know why, but my knees did not hurt after I finished, except when I had to walk uphill to get out of the park.+ I tried to cheer Bonnie at her finish, but I got cold and had to get my coat. I missed her by about 2 minutes. She did a great job on her first half marathon in years!!
Official stats: I finished in 2:06:56 for a 9:41 pace over the 13.1 miles, setting a course PR by almost 4 minutes! I was 3358 out of 4847 finishers, putting me in the 31st percentile. It was 41°F (5°C) with 49% humidity and 17 mph winds for a wind chill of 31°F (-1°C). My mile splits from my watch were: 9:47, 9:48, 10:33, 9:42, 9:55, 9:42, 8:54, 9:59, 9:00, 10:02, 9:34, 9:44, 9:18, and :59 for the final tenth of a mile (9:50 pace).
Celebratory treats: I stopped at the Cocoa Bar (www.cocoabarnyc.com) on my way to the subway and picked up a slice of red velvet cake (a particular favorite – theirs is made with a cinnamon buttercream frosting mmm). It was a bit squashed and stuck to the paper by the time I got it home, so I don’t have a picture, but you can see their cakes at www.cocoabarnyc.com/menupopupcakes.htm. I’m glad they had the red velvet cake, because the rest of their cakes look delicious, too, and I would have had a tough time picking an alternate.* I also had a Cassia from DeBrand (www.debrand.com) and a slushy Dr Pepper.
Next up: I’m taking next weekend off to give my knees more time to heal, but I’m seriously considering the Giants Stadium Draft Day 5k on April 28th.
Thank you for all your support!
Here is a link to some random pictures, including pictures from the race: http://new.photos.yahoo.com/album?c=mytripsandraces&aid=576460762398089332&pid=&wtok=IrwIT2nrJdPXVeKImIJOhg--&ts=1176683712&.src=ph (as always, there’s commentary in the slideshow).
*I also bought myself a mint hot chocolate to drink on the way home, a chocolate cloud cookie, a homemade marshmallow, a chocolate caramel, a chocolate mint caramel, and a Tall, Dark & Nutty bar (dark chocolate with almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios). I haven’t tried the chocolate bar yet, but everything else was delicious.
+Post-race update – I crashed as soon as I got home. I’ve been fighting something all week (I think that’s why I was so tired Friday night). I felt fine during the race, but gave in when I got home. My hips ached the rest of the day, but were fine when I got up this morning (Sunday). My knees were okay, too, but they kneeling in church was a bit painful. My quads, however, are very sore. I’m feeling a little better today, but my throat is still sore and I’ve got a slight fever. I think a wisdom tooth might be coming in. No inflammation in my knees, as far as I can tell.