2016 NYC Half Marathon Race Recap

Before Sunday’s half marathon, I spent Saturday evening focusing on getting everything prepared and organized for the race. I put post-race gear such as comfortable shoes, sweatpants and a hoodie in the clear bag provided for bag check, I checked the weather no less than 20 times and consulted other running buddies to figure out the next morning’s layering tactics, I ate a simple pasta dinner, laid out all my gear and relaxed on the couch before going to sleep around 9 pm. Regardless of Sunday’s results, there is nothing I’d change with my Saturday night ritual.

NYC Half Marathon Gear

At 5:30 I woke up to quickly have a cup of coffee, make a pre-race breakfast of two pieces of toast with almond butter, honey and banana before heading to the subway. While it typically only takes 25 minutes to get from our apartment to Central Park, I didn’t want to risk missing the 6:45 bag check closure ahead of my corral’s 7:45 AM start time. Due to the cold temperatures, I decided to start the race wearing a cold weather running jacket that has rarely been worn due to it’s large size. But, on Saturday morning, I decided the fleece lining and warmth was more important than bulky fit and appearance.

I wasn’t the only one who had this idea as my subway car was packed with fellow runners and the area around 57th street was packed with runners, supporters and volunteers. I dropped my gear off at bag check and then headed to Starbucks where I hoped to use the bathroom and stay warm since it was a brisk and windy 34 degrees. Unfortunately, Starbucks decided to shut down their restroom so after getting warm for a few minutes, I decided to head through security and head towards the porta-potties.

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The security line moved far faster than I expected, even though I was surrounded by both Wave 1 and Wave 2 runners due to my early arrival. The police, staff and volunteers were all very friendly and did their best to expedite the security lines while also answering questions.  I followed the other runners in through the park enjoying the beautiful sunrise. The porta-potty line I thought I’d have to wait in was non-existent as there was a line of at least thirty lined up for runners.

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Suddenly I found myself ready to run even though it was only 7 AM.  I heard a woman near me mention that the bathrooms near the Bathesda Terrace were open and heated. Within minutes, I joined a crowd of over 50 women who were laughing, encouraging and supporting each other. Experienced runners were answering questions of first time runners, strategies were shared, we commiserated over cold weather and laughed at the fact that we were choosing to hang out in a bathroom.

At 7:35 I exited the bathroom and joined the corral for some last minute dynamic stretching before the race. I was a bundle of nerves but excited and thankful for the cool weather since my body tends to perform better in cool weather versus the Summer heat. At 7:47, just two minutes after Wave 2 started, I crossed the starting line.

The first two miles were a complete blur. I felt strong, was running by feel and was telling myself what a great day it would be. The first hill of the course, Cat Hill, felt like a breeze and I smiled as I watched spectators cheer from atop the cat and greeting people at the top.  I sipped water at the end of the second mile and saw that we were about to exit the park, a change in the course since I ran it back in 2013. The exit took us down a half mile out and back during which time I saw both Gia and Meggie, who looked strong and happy. As we turned back towards the park, passing the 5k marker (28:21/9:08 pace) I mentally prepared myself for Harlem Hill. I told myself to just put one foot in front of the other, focus on breathing and remember all the hills I’d run over the past few months.

I zoned out so much during these miles that I didn’t even see the four or five mile marker. As I was cruising past the theater, I decided it was time to lose the jacket.  Trying not to lose any time, I quickly unzipped it and flung it out towards the grass. Unfortunately, I forgot that my iPhone armband was on my OUTER layer so as I flung the jacket I saw my iPhone fling through the air. As I pivoted back I collided with another runner and over into the grass. Startled and embarrassed, it took me a few minutes to find my iPhone which had conveniently shattered as the iPhone case was one fit for an iPhone 4.  Once I put it back on I realized that Spotify and my phone refused to cooperate. I spent four minutes trying to get my iPhone, getting it to restart and then after it restarted, trying to get Spotify to cooperate. As I look back on this I have no idea what I was thinking. Why didn’t I just put it away and run? I’m not perfect and we all make mistakes. But as soon as I saw the four minutes, I knew I had to sprint if I was going to still hit a PR.  I decided to sprint towards the park exit knowing that I’d soon reach the flat stretch of Times Square and the West Side Highway. Between the lack of music, my mile sprint to make up time and some muscle soreness, I just couldn’t find my groove.  I crossed the 10k marker in 58:24/9:24 pace, a time that I knew was off target from the 9:09 average pace need to PR.

By the time I hit mile 7 in Times Square, where I saw Beth, Leticia and the rest of the amazing cheer squad, I was in tears. There was no way that today was going to be my day for a sub-2 hour race. If we’re going to be honest, which I always am on this blog, I yelled at myself internally for a good few minutes.

Why did you share your PR attempt on the blog or social media? 

Why didn’t you invest in a running arm band for an iPhone 6?

Why didn’t you put the armband inside the jacket instead of outside the jacket?

Why’d you try to make up the time in one mile versus slowly across all the miles?

By the time I hit mile 8 I knew that there was no way I could survive beating myself up for five more miles. I saw a Team Achilles runner near me and realized that I needed to focus on the important aspects of the day. I needed to freaking RUN HAPPY. Here I was, lucky enough to have a bib for the NYC Half marathon and run through my city with 20,000 other runners. The weather was perfect, the spectators were amazing and the excitement was contagious. As soon as I made this mental change, the next five miles improved drastically. My pace didn’t improve but I enjoyed the miles. I gave just about child spectating a high five, I hugged friends who I saw along the course, I shared my fuel with runners who needed it more and even let a woman who was crying on the sidelines use my phone.

2016 NYC Half Marathon West Side Highway Views

After running through the downtown tunnel and up the small incline, I finally crossed the finish line in 2:11:23. This time is a far cry from my half marathon PR and recent races. My legs are stronger but yesterday proved that I still have a lot to learn when it comes to racing. In hindsight, the only two things I’d change are having a few long training runs beyond the 10 mile distance to build stamina and invest either an iPod shuffle or use a waistband or armband intended for an iPhone 6.

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Yesterday reminded me that running is something I love. Ten years ago when I started running, I did it solely for weight loss and now I’ve come to realize that it is so much more than that.  I am not a professional runner nor am I an accomplished runner. I am someone who runs for the camaraderie and friendships it has allowed me to developed over the years. I run for my health and for the sanity those solo runs bring on the worst of days. Any day that my body is able to run 13.1 miles is a good day.

There are people out there that will say this was just another failed sub-2 hour attempt by me and you know what, they are right. But guess what? I’ll never stop trying and I’ll never stop learning. The haters are going to hate but yesterday, the supporters far outweighed the haters. If my failed attempts can help inspire or teach just one person a lesson, then I’ve succeeded. Thank you to each and every person who commented, supported, tracked and messaged me yesterday! Your vibes mean the world and inspire me to keep going and keep sharing!

Huge congratulations to EVERYONE who ran whether you completed your first half marathon, set a PR or ran for fun. Keep on moving and hopefully you guys will stick around for the running adventures because they aren’t going to stop anytime soon. But, what I can promise you, is that running will remain fun for me. It isn’t my career and therefore I can’t put too much pressure on myself. I have four races in the next few months – Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, Flying Pig Half Marathon, Japan Run 4 Miler and Brooklyn Half Marathon. While I will train for each of those, my primary goal is to run happy and run strong. What happens along the way will be up to my body and mind.

Your turn: Why do you keep running? 

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My 2016 NYC Half Marathon Training Plan

NYC Half Marathon training plan

Sunday morning, I spent a few hours developing my half marathon training schedule in preparation for the NYC Half on March 20th.  Instead of working with a formal coach, I decided to invest the time and research to create my own training plan, leveraging the knowledge I’ve gained over the years.  I found the experience to be very enlightening and also served as a good confidence builder, as it allowed me to reflect on how much I’ve grown as a runner.  I spent time comparing my half marathon and marathon plans from the past few years along with training recaps from the recent months when I felt my strongest.  Who knows whether I’ll be thankful for this choice in a few weeks, but for now, I’m happy that I took the time and effort to personally create the plan. Even though I am not working with a formal run group or coach, I know that there is plenty of support thanks to the social media community.

What you’ll notice over the next three months, is that I am only going to run three days per week. Since my body has reacted positively to the mix of running, yoga and strength training I’ve incorporated into my routine thanks to ClassPass, I want to continue this even during half marathon training.

Over the next eleven weeks, my calendar includes the following workouts each week:

  • 3 runs (1 speed/hills, 1 long, 1 mid-distance with hills)
  • 2 strength training workouts
  • 1-2 yoga/Pilates/barre classes

If you do the quick math, this equals 6-7 workouts each week.  The number of workouts a person can manage and tolerate is very personal. I perform best as an employee, friend, wife, daughter and blogger when I have the positive endorphins and energy that workouts provide. However, even though this shows 6-7 workouts each week, my goal is to still have one day each week that is a complete rest day. Therefore, there will likely be one day per week, most likely a run day, where I finish the day with an evening yoga class. My body and mind both respond very well to yoga and therefore I don’t want to limit the number of classes I can take per week. However, I will limit the number of power yoga classes and ensure that I include restorative classes in my practice as well.

My weekly speed/hill runs will primarily take place at Mile High Run Club. The seven classes I’ve taken at Mile High have convinced me that the treadmill can be a powerful training tool and not a dreadmill, when used properly. The upbeat music, neon lights, inspiring and motivating run coaches like Jes Woods as well as the diverse and challenging workouts have helped me realize the potential I have as a runner when I can push through the mental barriers. If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit one of Mile High’s two locations in New York City, you can bring their workout to your own treadmill using this exclusive workout which was created for Shape Magazine.

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My mid-distance runs and long runs will primarily take place in Prospect Park as it is only a mile from our apartment and the 3.68 mile loop includes plenty of rolling hills as well as gorgeous scenery and perfect dog watching. If any of my running friends want to head out to Prospect Park for a run and brunch, let me know. It can provide a nice change of scenery if you’re tired of Central Park loops or running down the West Side Highway.

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Your turn: What are your thoughts or input? Like I said, I created the plan myself but am always open to suggestions or input! 

*As I mentioned, I am not a personal trainer nor a certified run coach. Therefore, I am providing this information to you based on my experience and suggest that you consult and expert before starting any new training plan. 

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2015 Savannah Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon Recap – The Short Version

Going into Saturday’s half marathon, my goals were simple: leave everything on the course in hopes of breaking the elusive sub-2 hour half marathon and help my mom and aunt finish their first and second half marathons.

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I spent the week leading up to the Rock’n’Roll Savannah Half Marathon tapering like a seasoned pro. I slept an average of eight hours each night, I hydrated, I ate well, I practiced some gentle yoga, I put together a great pump-up playlist, and I prepared my mind for a great race.

If you want the abbreviated, short version of how the race went down, here is what you need to know as well as a few pictures:

  • The temperatures during the race hovered around 80 degrees with 99% humidity.
  • Due to conditions, I abandon my PR goal at mile 5.7 when my pace went from a solid 9:01 avg to 9:40 due to conditions.
  • My dad and brother were incredible cheerleaders, along with what felt like most of Savannah, and supported us five times along the course! 
  • My mom, aunt and I all finished the half marathon together while Bo pushed forward and ran the 13.1 miles.
  • The race organization and experience was wonderful and Rock’n’Roll continues to impress me though only half the course was in what I’d consider “gorgeous, downtown Savannah.”
  • Due to conditions, the marathon course was closed if you had not reached a certain point by 9:35 AM.
  • This was a smart decision as there were two deaths and hundreds of medical issues for both the half and full marathon. (News articles can be found here and here
  • The word that best describes this year’s running journey is FRIENDS. The majority of this year’s races have become more about spending time with friends (Yes, I consider my mom and aunt to be friends, just ask anyone who knows me well!) and helping others complete a race than toeing the starting line and pushing for a number on the clock. I do not regret this decision and am thankful for the experiences I’ve had. There is always another day for that number on the clock but how often can you run with friends in multiple countries, states and races?

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Now, if you want to read the longer version, come back later. Between work and life, this recap has taken longer to type than expected!

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