Monday, March 24, 2014

Michelob 13.1 Half-Marathon Recap!

Soooo. I notoriously psych myself out on all sorts of occasions, but for whatever reason, I was in such a good mental space for this one. It may have helped that I didn't feel like I actually had a half marathon to run—even while I was in the middle of it!

The weather reports all week said Saturday would be a high of 63 degrees, and with that number stuck in my head I only put on a tank top in the morning.  But after locking the door to my apartment, I had the thought that maybe I should go back in and grab a long sleeve shirt to wear under my jacket until I got to gear check, and then I'd get rid of them both. Man, was I glad I did because it was SO COLD.

There were two other people on the train platform with me clearly headed to the race, and with every transfer the number grew until it didn't feel so unimportant—the NYC Half really seemed to cast a shadow over this one until I got to Corona Park. I stopped to use the actual bathroom near the entrance to avoid the port-a-potties, and it was so warm in there I almost didn't want to leave. I've never seen so many people hanging out in/around a bathroom just for fun.

Next I headed over to gear check, but it was still too cold to ditch my long sleeve shirt so I just pinned my bib on my pants instead and decide to run with it. I usually also pin my headphones to the back of the shirt so they don't yank out of my ears, which I guessed would be a problem later on, but whatever. 

I joined the steady stream of runners heading over to the start line, which was not at all crowded so I was pretty close to the front, and after some corny jokes by the announcer and the National Anthem we were off! My playlist was impeccable, starting with this:

The first half:
I tried to get my pace steady in the first mile and kept telling myself that I trained well and shouldn't even think about the first half (and really I shouldn't even think about the first 11 miles because I'd already run them). Overall, the race course was nothing like the NYRR course for the Queens Half—it was totally convoluted (to me) and even though I looked at the map I had no idea where it was taking me. It also had way more hills/bridges, but that was actually really nice because I love hills and my muscles truly appreciate the change-up from flats. It's always annoying on courses that repeat to see the mile markers for the second half of the race when you're only at mile 4, but I was feeling pretty good so it didn't bum me out too badly. The first half was also exceptionally windy at times, and there was some flooding in one section that had us detouring over some questionable terrain so that they needed a volunteer standing there telling us not to trip over a protruding piece of curb.  I wonder if we actually ran 13.2 because of this...

The second half:
The wind suddenly stopped and I got really warm and so while I was running I unpinned the headphones from the back of my neck on the long sleeve shirt, and re-pinned them to the tanktop. Then took off my armband and held it in my mouth so I could take off the long sleeve shirt and tie it around my waist. And then put the armband back on. It was pretty dexterous, if you ask me. I had some PowerGel somewhere around mile 8, which was at a pretty unpleasant temperature from being in my back pocket for an hour already, but it did the trick. Back over the hills, through the mud, around the flood. Roly-poly, pell-mell, tumble-bumble. 

The end:
At each mile I did the math to see when I should reach the next one if I was running a 9:30. Which I was. Meticulously. Like so eerily accurate. This is probably not that unusual or surprising, but I was pretty impressed with my legs anyway. From around mile 8 I knew that I was gonna PR for sure, and that if I kept it up I should come in at 2:04:00. Not gonna lie, I also convinced myself that every manhole cover I had to run over was like a little speed boost. I don't play video games, but this aspect should really apply to real life.

The crowds were pretty good considering it was not a huge race—and it was in Queens—and I definitely appreciated the cheers of strangers. When I passed mile 12 I decided to call my mom for some home-stretch moral support, but she didn't answer. Which was annoying because I wasted precious seconds trying to fiddle with my dumb phone to do it! So instead of a little inter-borough cheer, I convinced myself that I was actually stronger for doing these damn races on my own without anyone supporting me and that the best person I can count on is myself. Which is a little depressing. But also true. And it did make me speed up, so who cares? In the home stretch I went out of my way to high-five a row of excited kids to make up for it, and crossed the finished in 2:03:52 (beating my best time by 6:08). 

The medals were huge and heavy, but considering they also function as a bottle opener I'm not complaining. And I will probably buy a lot more beer now just to use it. The Queens Museum served as the "beer garden" and the security guard letting us in kindly feigned disbelief that I was nearly 30. 

It was kind of funny to see an art museum full of sweaty runners sitting on the steps and stretching on the floor. After my complementary can of Michelob and a bit more stretching I headed back to the train to go home, where a hot shower and sports massage were waiting. 

So, now I have 2 months until the Brooklyn Half and I'd really like to break two hours, which means I'm going to have to actually work harder at cross training and speed drills and stretching. I'm also going to work harder at attending group runs because having no one to celebrate with after these things is getting pretty lame. Even so, I'm still really proud of myself and I guess that's what counts the most :) 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Dangers of a Runner's High

Here I sit on the floor of my overly warm apartment, alternating between bites of my breakfast sandwich and rolling out bits and pieces of my legs. I can relate, in the happiest prose, that I had a good run. I also need to start running with a tape recorder because I have all my best thoughts out there, but no way to stop and write them down. 

I woke up with a salt hangover after eating an horrific amount of Chinese food the night before. (I cannot ever remember that it's never worth it!) After a few glasses of water I tucked myself back into bed to watch The Spirit of the Marathon, again, for  little pre-run inspiration. After 102 minutes and sobbing out all the water I just drank, I put on my gear and headed to the park while the sun was still shining and I was still motivated. 

Things wen't well until about a mile in when I started to feel bad. BAD. Body check: legs and arms felt good, breathing fine, not nauseous...which meant there was only reason I was experiencing the pressure of both a heart attack and stomach ache somewhere in between those two organs; there was an air bubble trapped somewhere in there and I had to burp. Now. (This has been happening to me a lot lately, actually. I don't think I'm eating at a different-than-normal speed, but somehow I am sucking air to places it doesn't belong.) So I started to run with an exaggerated bounce, shake myself from side to side, pound myself on the back, but in the end I had to stop off on the side of the road to wiggle and stretch it out of me. Aaaahhhh.

Baaaack on track, I headed down the east side of Central Park and left it at the bottom to run across 60th Street to my old friend, the Queensborough Bridge. It is almost never sunny when I run this bridge. Somehow it is always cloudy or rainy or dark (in fact when I left my apartment in the sun I thought there was no way it would hold up because we both knew where I was headed). But I pranced up that first side in sunshiney goodness. 

I also remembered running this bridge once when a homeless couple yelled at me as I was passing them. The man seemed kind of crazy and I wondered if he'd yell at me again on the way back. Or what if I was murdered on the QB bridge? Which was kind crazy on my part. But remembering this today made me think what we all do from time to time, "Could I die happy right now?" For a split second I thought "No." I haven't climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro or seen **. But then I decided that those things were just bonuses; not the things that make up a good life. I have loved others and they have loved me. I have done nice things for people and experienced kindness myself. There are certainly more risks I could be taking to make my life more complete, and my bucket list isn't getting any smaller, but if I died right then in the middle of running—my passion—I could be okay with that. 

Anyway, off the bridge and heading back to the park I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a store front and thought to myself I didn't look so lumbering in my stride. My running rights had been a little looser this morning (even though I've gained about ten pounds back during and after vacation) and overall I am in the best shape I've been in for a long while. Almost immediately after this pleasant thought I stopped at a light on the corner and stretched while waiting, and a woman also at the cross walk gave me a smile and said "Good for you!" For a minute it registered as "Oh, why because I'm a little chubby?" but then I figured she must've been referring to the below-freezing temperature. Sometimes my brain is an asshole. 

I finished up on the west side of the park and had a little stretch before taking the subway home. Because I keep putting off grocery shopping, I had to stop for a cup of coffee and the barista asked how far I ran. Fact: I need to start hanging with more people who do not repeat, with emphasis, "Only nine miles?" back at me when I say how far I've run. Yes. ONLY. Sheesh.

This good mood just might be enough for me to hop on over to the NYRR website and claim my 2014 NYC marathon entry. I've been going back and forth on whether to run it this year. I've been good about stretching and taking care of my muscles. I've been (mostly) good about dropping some lbs. I think if I put in the work I could have a good marathon. Better than my others. I'd look forward to joining a training program and meeting new running friends. I guess the only things holding me back are knowing what a time-suck it is, and worrying that I will get injured, which are both expensive prospects in time and money. 

But it's still gnawing at me. I don't have an injury to hide behind this season. No excuses. Okay. Oh shit, I'M IN.