New York City Half Marathon Tips, Course Strategy and Logistics!

You know the “don’t wear anything new on race day” and all the basics… now, let’s do NYC Half Marathon as right as we can. I have done this race  5 times so far (from 2:06 in its first year, to 1:37 last year) and I keep running into people who haven’t and have lots of questions (let me know if you have any question not covered below!). And in case you want to see photos and read my race reports, go here for all of them, or here for the 2014 NYC Half  or 2013 NYC Half.

PRE RACE LOGISTICS

Make a marathon list of what you’ll need a week or two before and sort it all by stages, here is an Marathon Packing List to start with. Get everything in the list ready as soon as possible.

Plan your nutrition way ahead. You can buy gels at the expo if necessary, but get bagels/oatmeal and whatever you need the day before as there will not be a lot of delis open at 4, 5, or 6 am.

If you need any last minute thing, you can buy most stuff at the expo/bib pickup (don’t forget to bring a printed copy of your reg form -download it from your NYRR profile- and photo identification) or here is an organized list with all the running stores by area.

Gear… the weather can be anything from 40s to 20s so so prepare (aka, train in) a few options and decide the day before. Be smart, and make sure you can peel off layers comfortably. If you don’t want to carry your phone, at least carry a $20 bill, a metrocard, and an ID with you, just in case.

Prep some cheap or throwaway clothes to the start. Find a mylar blanket from your last marathon (and don’t throw away the one you’ll get at the finish here!). You will need them until the last minute in the corral (I wear one as pants with tape and one as a cape). I wear my throwaway cardigan or a sweater (cut in the front for easy peeling, kept it in place with a safety pin!) during the first mile too! Go to the dollar store and get knee-high socks, cut the foot and you’ll have throwaway arm warmers! I keep half of it on until I warm up, it can be windy and cold at the start!

Best tool to have at any race: your name on your shirt, do not even question this. If you don’t want your name, write something funny you’ll want people to scream to you all over the course. This is a big race and there will be a lot of spectators along the course and having them scream your name will make your race 100 times better. If you don’t want to ruin your gear, cut the letters our of duct tape (like I do!) and voila, they’ll peel right off!

Headphones or not? If you are used to racing with headphones, bring them. I like to leave them on, and turn them on only when necessary. The Central Park part will be CROWDED, seriously crowded, so it’s smart to keep the music off, or very low so you can hear people around you. Once you are in the West Side Highway, and it gets a little monotonous, go for it. You’ll have a lot of people cheering and you don’t want to miss it, but if you do have the music on later on, still make sure you can still hear what is happening around you!!!!

Place your spectators in spots where you’ll need encouragement (quite probably on the long stretch along the West Side Highway).  If they are not the adventurous kind, they could see you anywhere in the park, always on your right, and then head over to the finish. Otherwise, there is an insane amount of combination of spots they can see you at. Study the map with them and calculate how much time they’ll have to get from one spot to the other based on your speed. For example, the 1st spotting would usually be in Central Park, east side, around 85 st, on your left (they need to be on the inside part of the park), that would be your mile 1. After they see you, the walk across the park (it won’t be more than a 10 minute walk) around the Great Lawn to West 86th, where they can see you again at mile 4.5! They have to be on the runner’s right (the outside of the park). Elite runners will be there in 20 minutes, and you can tell them how long it’d take you to do 4.5 miles! So, they have to hurry and cross over the quarter mile in less than 20 minutes or they’ll be trapped  inside the park. Once they see you go, wave, exit the park and the B and C trains are right there at 86 and CPW. They could also do this in the 102 transverse (instead of 86) and the trains are at 103 when they exit the park but the time to cross over is a lot less, but totally doable if they zippityzip. C trains go downtown, so they can head over to 14th st, though there is a walk from 8th ave to 11th avenue, so if the C train shows up fast, I’d say yes, otherwise, just keep going to Chambers and head over to the West Side Highway. A cab would make this all a LOT easier too! Once they see you in Chambers, the can head over to meet you at the Finish (find a corner ahead of time, it’ll be CROWDED!) or at some brunch spot! Call ahead to see if they are open at 9 or 10 am so they can wait there and be warm! // It’s important to know exactly on what side of the street they’ll be so YOU can spot them (they won’t be able to spot you!). Send them with something big: a flag, a sign, balloons, huge funny hat, etc. Tell them to get comfy shoes, really warm clothes and bring food. It will be an early and long day for them too!  //  If you need an extra push, ask for help!! FORCE all your friends to come watch you. Ask them “where are you going to be?”. Then tell them a time you’ll go through there, give or take 10 minutes, and decide if they’ll be runner’s Left or Right. Then make a little-tiny list you can carry in your pocket (Example: 102nd st, John, left / 86st st, Mike, right, etc.) in order or appearance, put clear tape all over it so it won’t get sweaty and basically go from John, to Mike, to etc… Let them pull you along the course and that’ll break the course in parts, instead of think “AH, I gotta go all the way to the end of the island, ugh” you’ll think: “I am just going to 102nd st, to see John, then we’ll see!

Oh, and have them download the 2015 NYC Half mobile app (will probably be ready to download a week or two before the race) where they can track you and a few more runners at a time.

Get yourself a pace bracelet, and adjust it looking at the course profile: your first half should definitely be slower (look at the course strategy section below).

If you need a short run before the race, go to Central Park. You’ll see many of your race-buddies and get to enjoy the best place in the world as a runner.

Find a mantra, or two, you might really need them. I write them in my hand where I am sure I will see it.

RACE LOGISTICS

The will be many starts! Last year there were waves starting from 7:10 to 8:10 and in early march you will get a registration card with your bib/wave number and start time.

Getting to the start/Baggage Check. The easiest way to get there is always a cab or running there of course, but if you have to take the train, take anything to 57th or 59th streets or any of the trains that leave you close to Central Park South/59th st. You will have to enter the park through Sixth or Fifth Avenue. Before entering, check your (nyrr provided plastic) bag outside of the park (on 59th Street, between Fifth and Seventh Avenues). Give yourself ample time (as this is weekend schedule) and check  MTA for weekend alerts, or try hopstop: make sure your train is running! Also, if you are not sure, I am 100% confident that if you just head over to the closest train stop, you’ll see someone you could follow to the Start ;-) // Kiss your loved ones buh-bye, they won’t be allowed anywhere close to the Start!

The race WILL be crowded, so PLEASE, if you need to stop for a walk or move over for water, please please please signal with your arms, and look around behind you before you make any moves, DO NOT just stop or go sideways. Be considerate of your fellow runners who could trip! The good side of this is that you’ll always have someone to run with, pace of, or follow when you’re tired. Pick them up when you feel strong, encourage them when they need it, and keep your eyes peeled for anyone who might need help!!

There will be Water/Gatorade around every mile or so, so if you miss one, don’t stress. Don’t go for the first table as everyone will do that. There’s many tables: go to the last one. You’ll find the portapottties where the water is, so keep an eye out and don’t dart sideways! There will be Gels at mile 7.5, on 42nd street between 9th and 10th avenues.

RACE STRATEGY

Here is the course map: NYRR New York City Half Marathon course map

This is an easy race to figure out. Basically, you have two parts: the undulating the Central Park (first half) and the straight and flat run to the finish (the second half). Break the race in parts, device a plan, and stick to it no matter what. Plan for negative splits: keep it strong and conservative throughout the park and ram it home once you hit the West Side Highway. I am an average runner and have negative split in this race every time. Basically: you have to believe in yourself and wait for the time of your life. This is how I like to break this race down:

Part 1 – Mile 1: HOLD YOUR FREAKING HORSES!!!!

There are 2.5 hills in this race: Cat Hill as soon as you start, Harlem Hill at 3.5, and going up the Battery Park Underpass at the end. Cat Hill and the Tunnel are short and tiny but annoying because of their locations right at the start and right at the end…! People get excited at the start, and take off like maniacs; if this is going to work, we have to hold it in, climb the hill carefully and let everyone (and their grandmother) pass. Say: Yes, go ahead and go. I’ll catch you later when your quads are screaming, buh-bye.

Part 2 – Mile 2 to 6: EASY, LIGHT, SMOOTH

The park is a string of undulating hills, but after Cat Hill you have the longest flat stretch, almost a half mile (heaven…!) so, use that to get on a rhythm, find your legs and a pacer. It’ll be crowded so I doubt you’ll be able to utilize the tangents but at least avoid tripping, did I mention it’s gonna be CROWDED?

Your goal for the first half of the race is to exit the park in one piece, feeling strong to let it all go in the second part of the race. Exercise all your patience here and keep yourself in good checks to not let yourself go. If you are running hard-comfortable, you are doing it right.

Part 3 – Mile 7 to 10: IT’S ON!

This is where I like to stretch out my legs: the race starts here. From now on it’s flat and steady. When you exit the park you’ll have a lot of space, cheering and excitement to carry you on, and as soon as you turn right on 42nd, you’ll be rolling down. Hit the gas.

Note: Something about Times Square can make you or your gps go crazy. Ooops.

this is my elevation course profile from 2014, which had the same exact course they’ll have in 2015:

nyc half course elevation

Part 4 –  Mile 11 to 13.1: YOLO

ALL. HELL. BREAKS. LOOSE.

That is all. Go Crazy. Bring it in. Drop the Hammer.

… then… 

Walk, get your medal, take pictures, get your stuff, find your friends/family, go get brunch (there are many good places downtown), enjoy, stretch, ice bath, rest, eat more, sleeeeeep! Tell everyone about your race, plan your next race, have a congratulatory donut. Or at least that’s what I am planning to do, even if this might be my slowest half!!

Questions?? Anything to add? Anything you want to go over?

NYRR New York City Half Marathon course map

The official New York City Half Marathon website.

Photos race reports, go here for all of them, or here for the 2014 NYC Half  or 2013 NYC Half.

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Giveaway: 20 Tickets to Running Movie “MCFARLAND, USA”

Did you hear about Walt Disney Studios’ new film MCFARLAND, USA starring Kevin Costner? The film is based on the true story of high school cross country coach Jim White – watch the trailer!! It looks aaaaamazing (and funny!).

mcfarland

IN THEATERS FEBRUARY 20
Synopsis: Inspired by the 1987 true story, “McFarland, USA” follows novice runners from McFarland, an economically  challenged town in California’s farm-rich Central Valley, as they give their all to build a cross-country team under the direction of Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner), a newcomer to their predominantly Latino high school. Coach White and the McFarland students have a lot to learn about each other but when White starts to realize the boys’ exceptional running ability, things begin to change. Soon something beyond their physical gifts becomes apparent—the power of family relationships, their unwavering commitment to one another and their incredible work ethic. With grit and determination, the unlikely band of runners eventually overcomes the odds to forge not only a championship cross-country team but an enduring legacy as well. Along the way, Coach White realizes that his family finally found a place to call home and both he and his team achieve their own kind of American dream.

Here is the movie’s website

Disney is holding free advance screenings of the film in NYC for the running community and I would love to invite you to attend! We’ll raffle 10 tickets with a plus one! The screening is on Wednesday, February 18th at the Regal E-Walk (42nd st and 8th Ave) at 7 pm. Make sure you are free that day!

To enter to win two tickets, just comment below what is your favorite running movie, one entry per person, we’ll choose randomly, on February 11th, please share this giveaway!

Go for it! Good Luck!

Rockefeller State Park Preserve RUN. Oh My.

I had been there once before for another run, it was summer, it was amazing, long time ago. It’s a 30-40 minutes drive north of the city which for me is impossible or requires planning. Which, I don’t drive, UGH, no. But Kettia suggested we go, and there we were all 4 of us, in a bright zipcar, at 7:45 am (SO early on a Saturday) that was 17 degrees with a feels like of 8. OUCH.

too cold

Getting dressed is always the hardest part, mostly because everything is too many layers. I had my subzero tights, legwarmers, pants over that, 4 layers on top, including a vest and a jacket, plus two hats, two layers of gloves, all of it. Being sweaty in all those layers later is no joke, so we all brought an extra change of clothes for brunch

anyway, the drive was uneventful and we were there in a jiffy!! The trails are not really trails. It’s mostly really nicely manicured dirt paths, so nothing too technical to worry about. And there were COWS.

Rockefeller State Park NY trails running run (5) Rockefeller State Park NY trails running run (6) Rockefeller State Park NY trails running run (7) Rockefeller State Park NY trails running run (8) Rockefeller State Park NY trails running run (9) Rockefeller State Park NY trails running run (11) Rockefeller State Park NY trails running run (10) Rockefeller State Park NY trails running run (12) Rockefeller State Park NY trails running run (15) Rockefeller State Park NY trails running run (2) Rockefeller State Park NY trails running run (1)

OMG, two things:

1- the oxygen. SO MUCH OF IT.

2- the light. SO MUCH OF IT.

I know what you’re thinking “poor little city girl“, and yes, it’s quite sad. The sunlight was blinding, no buildings to protect me in the shade. Yes. Sad.

Love-and-Other-Drugs

I really wish I lived in a place like this some times. So quiet, and relaxing, and naturishly, and zen and all that. Most times, I really don’t. I love the city, who are we kidding.

But it’s fun to have a little weekend escapade once in a while to see how other people live. Strange.

We managed 12 miles (my gps was short or distracted), one gel, and a half frozen bottle. Plus, there were some hills. Major Hills.

Rockefeller State Park NY trails running run (3)

I changed in the car, yes I did, I was soaking wet, uh, sweat and so many layers people is no joke, then ridiculous brunch action and back home. Get out there if you can (official site here). It’ll make your weekend 50 times better. Oh, and don’t forget to pay the $6 dollar fee as soon as you park the car!

I have 422 friends, yet I am lonely

This video is about 10 months old and it just haunts me. It’s simple and so heart-breaking too… just watch it. I promise the 4 minutes are worth it.

We’re alive to make Connections. With everyone. With everything. That is the purpose of our finite life. Be engaged. There’s so much I could say about this. About how I actually too met my husband when we crossed paths like that too, in a second. About how Running helps me to stay engaged, to have emotions, to share them with whoever is around, or to just be bored and have the randomest thoughts. About how when I moved to the US I realized I couldn’t share my life with my family and friends anymore but barely keep them informed. About how happy I was when two weeks ago we booked a trip where we won’t have phone service.

What does it make you feel? How do you feel it applies to you? Would you change anything?

I don’t do new years’ resolutions, but I am really going to try to look up and engage a lot more. Every single day. I am just going to walk home after work today. No headphones.

10 Things I wish I knew before I ran my first Marathon…

emaiuolo:

Great, great post for first time marathoners!! Enjoy!!!

Originally posted on Girl Running Crazy:

1. It will hurt

Obvious? Maybe. But what I didn’t know was how much it was going to hurt long before race day.

Running more miles than you ever have before hurts.  Speed sessions hurt, long runs hurt, short runs hurt, even rest days hurt…when you  go to bed, when you wake up, when your alarm goes off at 7am at the weekend. It all hurts.

But trumping them all is when your friends stay in the pub for a late one on the jagerbombs, and you trundle off home with your tail between your legs because you need to knock out 9 miles in the morning.  Nothing hurts quite like that.

It’s gonna hurt. Get used to it.

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2. You will have bad days

There will probably be quite a few, marathon training is never plain sailing.  When I was training for Paris I attempted a 15 mile run…

View original 870 more words

NYC Marathon 2015: yey or nay?

The NYC Marathon was MA-THING… But then, I think i run it way to many times… In 2011, after my 3:27 Berlin Marathon, I thought I’d have a great NYCM. Enter Sandy and the megamesscancellation in 2012. Then the stooopid ulcer in 2013, so I barely trained and had an awful race. And last year, 2014, I trained but… I have no idea what the problem was. I just didn’t feel like racing and it was another slow doozy.

2014 was my 6th in a row (taking out Sandy’s 2011 mess). I haven’t skipped one NYCM since I started… But the truth is, I am a bit bored of it. I struggled the last two years to get myself there, even when I run Boston last year, I just didn’t want to be there. I think I might be done with the marathon overall. Maybe it’s because I don’t think I can do better than my PR, maybe it’s because I haven’t found a constant-long-term long run training partner…  I don’t know. I just don’t want to do more long runs.

I think I am giving up on the marathon. Maybe it’s temporary, maybe not. I just find it really hard to not sign up for NYCM. It’s like it’s my race, part of my identity… ugh. But it’s been so many years doing it, maybe I just need one year off…?

As I have guaranteed entry, I have January 15 to February 15 to sign up. What would you do?????  Help!

2014: numbers don’t lie. Any thoughts?

I’ve kept the last few years for comparison purposes… and my comments in Italics. I expect your comments and reviews below. What do YOU think are the wins and fails? what about your wins and fails? What is the most important factor for you? Mileage, PRs, races..??

Total Miles:
2009- 678
2010- 1217
2011- 886
2012- 1241
2013- 1109
2014- 1081
—Sad, but still pretty good considering I struggled with motivation all year!

Races:
2009- 10 (9 in NYC, 1 in Nashville) 1 marathon, 2 halfs, one 18 miler, one 10k, one 5M, two 4M, one 3 miler and a Mile.
2010- 19 (13 in NYC, 1 in Boston, 1 in Boulder, 2 in NJ, 1 in Philly, and 1 in Buenos Aires)
2011- 12 (10 in NYC, 1 in DC, and 1 in NJ)
2012- 16 (13 in NYC, 1 in PA, 1 in Germany, 1 in Argentina)
2013- 11 (10 in NYC, one in NJ)
2014- 15 (12 in NYC, one in NJ, one in MA, and one in Argentina)
—wow, that’s enough!

PRs:
2009- Six! (Out of 10 races)
2010- Thirteen! (Out of 19 races)
2011- Six + 1 automatic one (Out of 12 races)
2012- Three (marathon, 5K, mile) + 1 automatic (out of 16 races)
2013- Three (half mary, 4 miler, and 10K).
2014- ZERO!
—I need one soon. I am past the withdrawal symptoms & going into “giving up”.

Highest Age Grading:
2009- 60%
2010- 69%
2011- 68.5%
2012- 71:29%
2013- 70.23%
2013- 70.20%
—This is really how I measure success in a race. Only hit it 70%once this past year and it was in my last race. Which might mean things are looking up…

Injuries:
2009- 2 — retrocalcaneal bursitis (5 months out), piriformis syndrome (10 weeks out)
2010- ITBS (three weeks out right before the Boston Marahton!)
2011- broken shoulder, 2 broken ribs, torn rotator cuff (2 weeks before NYCM!)
2012- NOT ONE!
2013- NOT ONE RUNNING INJURY! WOHOOO
2014- just my will to run…?!?! So, yey, good!?!?!
—I fell a bunch of times but that really didn’t keep me from running. The lack of interest was my big problem this year.

Races Cancelled or DNFed:
2009- none
2010- One DNF, a 50K where I fell twice.
2011- Chicago, DNS because of 2 stress fractures.
2012- ONE DNS (snow storm!), plus the NYC Marathon cancellation.
2013- none
2014- none
—yey I guess.

Highest/Average Weekly Mileage:
2009- Highest: 40. Average: 13
2010- Highest: 40. Average: 23
2011- Highest: 36. Average: 17
2012- Highest: 40. Average: 25
2013- Highest: 43. Average 21.
2014- Highest: 43. Average 20.
—Hilarious. Barely one week down from last year.

Marathons:
2009- One (NYC). PR: 3:45:22
2010- Two (NYC and Boston). PR: 3:42:33
2011- Two (National and NYC). PR: 3:37:57. DNS in Chicago for injury.
2012- One (Berlin). PR: 3:27:44
2013- One (NYC). A MegaMESS
2014- Two (Boston and NYC), two awfully-slow-fun experiences. Not even close to a PR.
— Just like in 2013, I didn’t train for Boston and I shouldn’t have done it. I wasn’t there physically or mentally and crumbled early. I was quite trained for but made a rookie mistake. I did the Tune Up 18 miler WAY too fast. And then I just didn’t recover in time. This really bothers me because I tell everyone every year “make sure you don’t peak at the Tune up!” and then I go and do it. UGH.

Half Marathons:
2009- Two. PR was 1:45:55
2010- Six. PR is 1:42:47
2011- Two. No PR.
2012- Two. No PR. (though there was an unofficial half marathon PR in the second half of the Berlin marathon)
2013- Three. A 1:37:35 PR and two I did for training (1:45 and 1:42).
2014: FOUR! NYC Half, Brooklyn, Gretes’ Great Gallop and Staten Island. Not ONE PR!
—The half is where it’s at. I want to do more. I can see myself really getting more and more excited about getting better at this distance.

Balance: Not Great! I struggled a lot during the winter months and had motivation issues all the way from mid-2013. Eventually I stopped and it helped a lot. When I picked it up, in July, it was all great but I still have a long way to catch up to where I was and things turned out great by the end of the year. I am really considering to skip the NYC Marathon this year. I just can’t find the long runs appealing anymore. 2015 is the year of the half. yeah?