Race number 4 (3rd 2009 marathon-qualifying race and 2nd Grand Prix Half Marathon) was the BronxHalf Marathon. The course is an odd cloverleaf shape. The first loop goes out to the Moshulu Parkway from the Jerome Reservoir and back (about 6 miles). We turn just before we would cross the finish line from the wrong direction, looping around to the Grand Concourse, on which we run a 4-mile out-and-back, returning to the loop around the Moshulu Parkway, then back to the reservoir for the finish.
Goals: Because this was my 3rd half marathon in a 2-week period (well, 15 days, to be exact), I wanted to take it easy and avoid injury. I lost 3 minutes between the Manhattan Half Marathon and Surf City Half Marathon, so I hoped to not lose more than that again, which would be a 2:15 finish, but anything under 2:18:55 would be a course PR. My usual race “strategy” is to run between the water stations, but, under the circumstances, I had decided to just let my legs set the pace and try to get through the first half before taking additional walk breaks.
The forecast earlier this week was for the low to mid 20s, so I was happy to see that it was in the upper 30s when I got up. The windchill would still be in the 20s, but at least we weren’t starting from there. Instead of taking a car service, I decided to try public transportation. I am kicking myself! It took about a half hour. If I do this again, I will definitely go with public transportation. Hopstop.com had indicated that it was a 45-minute trip, but I made every connection, so I ended up arriving an hour before the race. In that hour, the temperature must have dropped 5-10 degrees. The wind was not going to be fun. I ran into Lou and he commented on how tired I looked. I’m sure he was right, because I have been very tired lately. I just needed to get through another 2+ hours and I could rest (hopefully). I thought I saw Mark before the race, too, but when I called his name, he didn’t respond.
The race started with a lame joke by a Continental Airlines representative, who wished us all an “on-time arrival.” Bleah. Continental Airlines has become the official sponsor of the Grand Prix, so I’m hoping that means something besides a patch (for finishing at least 4) and a t-shirt (for finishing all 5) for the runners who complete it, especially because we are no longer guaranteed entry to the NYC Half Marathon, thanks to runners who complained. If you don’t want to put in the time and effort to finish the Grand Prix, don’t, but don’t take away the rewards from those who do!! And, I say that as someone who did not complete it last year, so I wouldn’t have been eligible this year, anyway.
Enough ranting – back to the race. As we headed out from the start, we passed a woman walking back towards us. I thought she was in the race, until I got closer and saw that she was wearing boots, jeans and a jacket. She was also gaping at the runners, so I don’t think she realized that a race was scheduled for that morning. It was over 2 miles to the first water station, which is a little long for me. I made it, but my legs were tired and needed the break. The front runners were running back towards me in the 3rd mile. It’s crazy and inspiring to see them moving so fast, seemingly effortlessly. I made it to the 5th mile before I needed an additional break. I knew there was still another mile before the next water station, so I just stopped and walked for a minute. I picked it up again, heading towards one of the few major hills on the course. The hills on this course tend to be steep uphills and long sloping downhills in one direction and long sloping uphills with steep downhills in the other. I prefer steep uphills and steep downhills, frankly. It was in the 6th mile that I saw the dead rat. I’ve run this race 4 years in a row now and each time, there’s been a dead rat on the course somewhere. As we came back to the initial straightaway on our way to the turn before the finish line, that same woman was still walking on the street, but had lost her jacket and was now wearing only a camisole top with her jeans and boots. She must have been freezing. This time, she was unfazed by our streaming past her.
After a loop around Bronx High School for Science, we hit the Grand Concourse. This is the worst part of the course. The wind was blowing in our faces the entire time and I had to stop and use my inhaler again. I cannot breathe at all when a cold wind is blowing in my face, whether or not I’m running. The best part of this section was seeing my friend, L.K., as he was running back towards me (he’s much faster than I am). I made it to the turn-back at the 9th mile and then had the wind at my back. My legs were so tired by this point that I was walking twice every mile. I took a Powergel at the 10-mile water station and calculated that I could still hit my goal if I ran 10-minute miles to the finish, which meant no more extraneous walk breaks. So, I sucked it up, hit the pavement and ran from water station to water station. When I left the 12-mile water station, my mantra was “Less than a mile.” I repeated that over and over until I passed a spectator telling us that we only had a half-mile to go. So, I changed my mantra to “Just a half a mile.” At last, I saw the 13-mile marker and then the clock at the finish line. I had nothing left for a sprint, but tried to maintain my pace. My calves were cramping the whole last mile, so I had also promised my legs that if they just got me to the finish in under 2:15, I would go straight to the medical tent, which I did. They stretched my calves and iced my knee and then I left, running into Mark and Athina. We took pictures, then went our separate ways.
Official stats: my official time was 2:13:55 for a 10:13 pace and a course PR by over 4 minutes. My splits were 9:53, 9:34, 10:19, 10:30, 10:22, 10:20, 10:12, 10:36, 10:14, 10:29: 10:15, 10:00, 10:16, and 1:01 for the last tenth of a mile. I was 3652 out of 4989 total runners, putting me in the 19th percentile (up 5% from last year and up 17% from my first attempt at this race). It was 41°F with 67% humidity and 23 mph winds (gusting to 38 mph).
Celebratory treats: Garrett’s CheeseCorn, Dancing Deer Molasses and Clove cookies and the last of my Peeps Peppermint Stars (which I saved for today)
Next up: I haven’t signed up for anything yet, but the Al Gordon Snowflake 4-miler is scheduled for February 23rd.
Pictures are available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/7411850@N04/sets/72157603884490564/. And I’ve fixed the Surf City album, so you should be able to view the pictures now http://www.flickr.com/photos/7411850@N04/sets/72157603861918768/