A few photos from the NYC Half Marathon…
A few photos from the NYC Half Marathon…
So here is the problem with doing a destination race. When it is all done you are hit with a double whammy. One – the race you have been so focused on for so long is finished. Two – your vacation is over and you have to join the real world again. How can you not feel a little deflated when it is all done?
Combine this with a difficult scenario we had to deal with when we came home; our most senior horse, Dylan, was clearly at the end. While not in distress or in pain, his body was saying it was time to be done. As hard as it is to lose an animal, it was remarkable to see how calm he was. I truly believe he knew what was happening and was comfortable with it being the end. He was still himself; he still wanted to have the top of his tail scratched and he was good with the kids as they pet him and said good bye. On his last day the wind died away and the sun came out, the perfect day for a horse. We chose not to be there when he was put down but our friend who euthanized him said he gave out one last quiet nicker before the drugs were used. Strangely, my horse George, who would normally panic if his best buddy left the paddock, was also calm when watching Dylan walk away from the field. I firmly believe that he too knew Dylan wasn’t coming back and accepted that fact. There was something so dignified about his death. Animals seem to accept death as the natural process it is. They can remove themselves from this world more easily than we can, as if knowing their life here is only one stage of their existence. For all the times we think we are the superior species on earth, perhaps we are not always the wisest. I know I can still be humbled by looking into the eyes of a creature who is approaching death. We can all only hope for such dignity at the end.
This post is going to be about splits, pace, age placing… in other words things that may only be of interest to me. So if you are looking for a general review of the NYC Half, feel free to skip this and read the previous post. On the other hand, if you like numbers, or if you just like to see if your numbers are better than my numbers (and since according to my race results I was in the 56th percentile for my age group, you actually have a very reasonable chance of having better numbers than me) please read on.
First – my evaluation of how I ran the race and how I felt. The NYC Half was only my third half marathon but I do feel it was my smartest race. My first race I just went out and did it without too much of a plan. My second race I went too fast for the first 15 or more kms, only to lose all drive by the end. So this race I went into more cautiously. After a slow first mile because of the crowd, I allowed myself to really pick up the pace to get an average speed I was happy with. Once I achieved that I made myself slow down. That wasn’t easy and in hindsight I have a feeling I could have let myself be a little faster and still finish strong. But at the time I did not want to risk it, so I kept my pace controlled. Clearly my pace was a comfortable one for me as the only time I remember feeling like I was breathing a little heavy was at the top of Harlem Hill and in the last 500 m. I’m not sure if having steady, relaxed breathing throughout a half marathon is a sign of good training or a sign that you should really be pushing yourself harder. For the moment I am going with the first theory. I felt great after the race, was able to spend the rest of the day exploring Manhattan and then spent the following day on my feet at the C.P Zoo and at the Museum of Natural History. So all said, I really couldn’t be happier with the way my body responded to the challenge. I do think though that for my next half I should aim for a little more speed and see if I can get closer to that magic 2 hour mark.
As for numbers:
NET TIME: 2:03:38
DISTANCE ACCORDING TO MY GARMIN: 21.36K
OFFICIAL RACE PACE: 9:27/mile
GARMIN RACE PACE:5:47/km…. but when I uploaded my results from my watch to SportTracks the final distance came to 21.49k with an avg pace of 5:45…I like the sound of that!
5K SPLIT: 29:48
10k SPLIT: 59:44
15k SPLIT: 1:29:05
20k SPLIT: 1:57:35
GENDER PLACE: 3373/7607
AGE PLACE: 415/1003
And this is the part I find interesting and is new to me. NYRR records your age graded time. They do some kind of bizarre math thing that apparently levels the playing field. For those of us getting a little older this means our times are knocked down. So my age graded time was 1:57:11 (does this mean I can claim I ran a sub 2 hour race???) and my age graded percentile was 56. 18 (does this mean I get to call this a blog for an ever-so-slightly-better-than-average runner???).
So there they are, the numbers I need to beat next time. I am pretty sure my next half will be the Day Before Mother’s Day race. We’ll see then if I am ready for the challenge.
So what is the NYC Half like? I know 21.1 km of running and the word fun shouldn’t always go together but in this race they certainly do. The race was fun from beginning to end (with the exception of standing in a corral for an hour in a freezing and dark Central Park) and it is honestly hard to pick a favourite part of the race. Here’s a recap:
I headed out from the hotel at 6:20 and admit was a little unsure about hitting the streets on my own while it was still dark. Again, I’ve seen too many NY crime shows. By the time I hit the first intersection I started to see other runners heading to the park. By the time I reached the park hundreds of runners were making their way up Fifth Ave. Just before I turned up Fifth, I was able to look at Central Park from the south end. Now, anybody who knows me knows I have no interest in seeing anything before sunrise, but if you ever have the chance to see C.P. on a quiet early morning you will be struck by the beauty of the park before the city really comes alive. It is an image that will stay with me for a long time.
I didn’t use the baggage check, but walking past the trucks that would carry people’s bags to the finish line it looked as though it was running smoothly and easily. I entered the park at 72 street and headed to my start corral. Now here’s the organizational detail that I liked the best. It may not seem like a big deal to anyone who hasn’t run a race but for those who have you’ll see the importance. The all important porta potties were located in each corral section. You did not have to leave your corral and line up somewhere else, and the lines weren’t ridiculously long. It completely relieved the stress of wondering if you were going to make it back to your corral in time. Mind you, the line I ended up in led to a porta potty that was more like those little weeble wobble characters kids play with. Every time a person entered or exited the whole thing rocked precariously forwards and backwards and we all wondered if we would be victim to a nasty porta potty accident. Imagine if you couldn’t run your race due to a porta potty injury!
The hardest part of the race was the waiting, not because of nerves or excitement but because of the sub zero temperatures. Everyone, men and women, was quite literally vibrating, even with lots of extra layers on. NYRR had set up clothing donation bins and once people were ready to shed layers they could toss them and volunteers collected them to throw into the bins. Love that idea.
About 20 minutes after the official start I made it to the start line, not quite as long as I thought it would take. While the first mile was crowded, and therefore slow it really didn’t take as long as I thought it would for everyone to spread out. I have to say, if I compare it to the 10k I did at last Ottawa Race Weekend, the crowd was much less overwhelming, despite having more runners, and I was not elbowed or run into once. There were still plenty of times I had to weave may way through runners (hence the final distance on my Garmin showing more than 21.1k) but it was never claustrophobic.
The 10k loop around Central Park was not as difficult as I thought it would be. Cat Hill really wasn’t much of a hill and the dreaded Harlem Hill, while long, was not as steep as I would have expected. Basically, if you have done hill training you can run Central Park. I have done a lot of running on the Terry Fox extension in Ottawa’s west end and I think the grade changes there, along with specific hill training on Young Rd. in Kanata, set me up perfectly for the race.
Next came the run down 7th Ave. It started with me being able to say hi to my cheering kids and husband at 7th and 57th, then I headed on to Times Square. There were so many cheering spectators, bands, d.j’s and kareokee (I have no idea how to spell that but it was there) that I honestly forgot I was running and just felt like I was at one giant street party. The only time I felt slightly incapable was when I realized there was a man running at my pace who was probably 15 years older than me and was juggling while he ran. Seriously, the man was running and juggling at the same time. I don’t even try to chew gum when I run.
There were more bands to greet us when we turned west on 42nd St and then we headed south towards lower Manhattan and the Seaport. I had been told that this was a quieter part of the race so was surprised to find plenty of people cheering us on, including a man with a sign saying “If it was easy I would be doing it!” Around this stage I also realized how much I like having mile markers, with km only being marked every 5km. Going back to that running and juggling thing, I don’t do math and run. So I am only good at doing mileage conversions until about, oh… the one mile marker. After that the miles are another language to me so I just don’t pay attention to them. I loved being surprised when I realized I had finished another 5k rather than watching each km be counted down.
Then came the next part that is up there as one of my favourite parts of the race; running through the Battery Park Tunnel. You couldn’t have spectators in the tunnel, but the runners made up for it with lots of echoing shouts and cheers. Who knew that a long, dark tunnel, probably still full of exhaust fumes, could be such a fun place to run. Mind you, to get into a tunnel means going down, and what goes down must come up and when you are at the 20k mark that last hill can be a little tough. But once you are up you have an amazing view of the Brooklyn Bridge and you know there is only a few hundred meters to go.
And finally the finish. This is perhaps the weak point of this race since I don’t think there was much room for spectators to see (I know my crew couldn’t see the finish) and the runners who have finished are sort of trapped on the street for quite a distance before being able to get off the road and relax. I will say this part made me appreciate the finish area for Ottawa Race Weekend with the spacious park area to sit and enjoy a post race recovery treat. But this is a minor complaint for an otherwise well organized race. I’ve been following the comments on the NYRR facebook page and I know there are lots of mixed feelings about this running organization at the moment. But I will say from my view they put together an excellent race in a city that must have its challenges when planning something on this scale. Their information prior to the race was a little slow in coming: the course was published late and the confirmation that you supposedly needed to print to get your race kit was sent out only days before the race. That said, I had no problem picking up my kit with just my ID. As for the late course information, I have to assume that some of this was due to Hurricane Sandy. Between the organizational disaster of sorting out last fall’s marathon cancellation and trying to plan a race through an area of the city that has not yet recovered from the storm (I was amazed at how many buildings still are closed as a result of Sandy) I think the NYRR has its hands full. All that said, this is a race I would definitely do again!
Forgot to mention the other reason I think I am ready for a marathon…
After the race yesterday I quickly got changed into dry clothes (not an easy task when done in a finish line porta potty in 2 degree temperatures) and then spent six hours exploring Manhattan. I figure if I can do that, I should be able to run a couple of extra hours, right??
There are so many things I should write about while the details are still fresh, but have to admit I am ready to crash. So a detailed post will have to wait. But here are the two things I learned about me today:
1. I have a sub 2 hour half in me, it may still take a while to achieve, but it will happen … Only three and a half minutes to lose,
2. I am ready to start working on a marathon. I did today’s race comfortably, only briefly breathing hard at the top of Harlem Hill. I didn’t take a walk break and I kept a steady pace. At no time did I question my sanity or start making plans to change my hobby to something like say, extreme t.v. watching or professional napping. Honestly, each km was enjoyable and worth every minute of training through a cold winter. The only question now is do I wait until the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, for which I am already registered, or do I try my first marathon sooner????
Still hanging out at the seaport after a great race. New p.b with a time of 2:03:38. More details to follow.