To make it short, I had a horrible race + amazing run through Brooklyn to Coney Island. You need any more than that?
My leg had gotten a crazy painful bout of ITBS at the Bear Mountain 50K two weeks before… I let it rest for 10 days and when I retested in on a run on Tuesday it started really hurting after just two miles… I hadn’t run since then so by end of week I was just hoping my leg would hold out… and on my way to the race I kept thinking how “ignorance is bliss” and if I was crazy to even show up there when I was still in a lot of pain 4 days before. I would know way too soon how my leg was feeling… Ugh.
The start of the Brooklyn Half is an early one: 7 am. It starts in Prospect Park, we lap it twice (3.2 miles each lap), and then we take on Ocean Parkway all the way to scenic Coney Island for a finish on the boardwalk with beer and Nathan’s hot dogs. Though, for me, it was all about the funnel cake and the shore! We had plans to have a picnic/beach party and I had cleared the rest of the day to nap in the sand, and face plant on powdered sugar!!!
Some trains were out of commission so getting to the start early required a 4 am wake up time for me. Ugh. SHOULD I EVEN BOTHER???? Still undeterred, we got to the race start on time, and caught up with the team. Soon we had to drop our bags (as the trucks had to get out of the park before we started lapping), and head for our corrals. It was a “hi”, “hello!”, “have a good race” type of walk to the corral: I think I knew around 5000 people (out of 12K runners, I think) doing the race. My best friends among them!
Blaise, Patricia C (who I went to cheer in Boston!) and lots more team members lined up in the red corral (the second one) and waited while we got satellite. We are off, Patricia stays with me and we take it easy. At 0.5 mile she asks about my knee again, “seems fine for now”. At 0.8 I feel it, all of a sudden, and it’s unbearable. I know it’s over.
I try to keep going but every second it’s a “should I get out now?” or “should I keep trying?”. I was not enjoying running with all this doubt about what would happen in 10 minutes, in one hour, in the downhills… Isn’t it wiser to drop now instead of fighting the inevitable and get more injured? Or should I still try? And why would I? No way I can PR like this. WHAT ON EARTH DO I DO????
So much thinking… and I like to follow my instincts: they are never wrong.
Mile 1: 7:54. Right on pace! My average pace for my last half was 7:52. But there was no way I could not suffer at that pace.
By the time we got to the first hill (there’s just two, and it’s the same one), I told Patricia to go. I knew Greg (he was probably the only person I know that was not racing that morning…!!) would be at mile 2 and then 5, so I had a solid Exit Strategy; so glad I knew he’d be there! I wouldn’t have to worry about what to do; we’d take the train to the finish, and I could get my stuff and still get my funnel cake! I knew I could not keep going at that pace without a lot of pain, and I just couldn’t see why to do it all over again, two weeks after the 50K, and wait a lot longer to recover. No. The decision was final. But I had had so many cupcakes the day before, and run so little in the last two weeks, that I figured I could keep jogging until I saw him (instead of walking). Going up the hill, I decided to wait for my friend F who was a few corrals back, and keep her company until I saw Greg and I’d drop out.
I had to repeat to myself a few times ”I CAN drop out”, “I CAN drop out”, “I CAN drop out”. Not your regular mantra, but still as hard to get done!!!! A decision was made, the plan was in motion now. I waited for her at the top of the hill so it’d be easier to see her. I saw lots of people who looked at me confused. Cheered for them, lots of friends and team-mates looked scared and asked what happened… I am fine! Just some pain, see you at the finish! Have a great race! Keep pushing on! You look great! Still, it was not easy to be standing there… it was pretty horrible. And I felt a bit of shame too, like a failure.
I waited, and waited, and waited. Every second (with lots of runners going by…) felt like an hour. 15 minutes later F comes by and screams at me all shocked, I hadn’t even seen her!!! I explained, while I told her to shut up and save her energy. But who are we kidding, we chatted and chatted up and down prospect park…. She was doing very uneven 8s or 9s minute miles (8:40, then 9:40!). At that pace, my leg did NOT hurt… Maybe I’ll do a few more miles, one more lap of the park with her, to keep her company, enjoy a bit of run time with my friend, and burn a bit more cupcake! I spotted Greg and shouted “I am dropping out on the next lap, so stay here and I’ll go with you!!!”. He looked at me like I was mental, he shouted something about me not getting more injured, I said yeah yeah, but what’s 3 more miles now at this pace??? Riiiiiiight?
F and I kept bopping along. I said I’d pace her, but she wouldn’t tell me what the pace should have been so I let her do whatever she wanted, I’d just keep her company. ITBS/LegShowdown was quiet at this pace, so weird…
By the time the second lap was over, I changed my mind: I knew I could do 5 more miles at 9mm pace! And even if I messed my leg a bit more, I was having fun now, I was not really hurting much, I was running with my friend, on her 4th half and I knew I could help her to a big PR. I decided to stick with her. I shouted at Greg again on my way out of the park and I am sure he thought I was mental!!!! (sorry!!!!)
Off the park and I was on a mission to pace her well. Our splits started getting really consistent. They were all 8:50s. She looked strong, I knew she had it; I kept talking to her, and pretty much everyone around me. We kep right on perfect pace with every mile, getting faster instead of fading: we were passing people left and right. And I was picking people up for my unofficial pace group, even if that meant that I had to go get them, or even walk with them a bit to get them to start running. It was SO much fun to be helping people out at the end of a race when they’re just dead tired… I was really loving it. And my leg was bopping along, there was a bit of pain but nothing unmanageable! Did I mention I had taken two motrins and two aleves in the morning??
By Mile 12, I was pushing her pace a bit more. I’d tell her to focus on my back and sprint with her arms, to just throw it all in, to focus on her breath, to take out whatever she had. Every quarter mile I pushed the pace up a bit more. She was keeping up every time. When we hit the boardwalk, with a bit less than a half mile, she was huffing and throwing down. It was a cookout around me! I was screaming at everyone, how close the finish line was (no clue, I couldn’t see it!!!), how strong they all looked, to go for it, all that!!
We got to the finish line and we lifted our arms together. I avoided a DNF, had a two-hour half, burned some cupcakes and had an amazing time with my best friend. She had a fabulous effort and a massive PR. I couldn’t have been happier. HUGS. Soon we were both destroyed and could barely stand. My knee and hip flexor hurt like hell as soon as I stopped, but whatever.
We met up with Steph, hugged and bopped (!!!), had some of her amazing cookies, jumped a bit on the beach, met up with the rest of my team, ate more amazing stuff and enjoyed the first sunny day we had in a while. I just couldn’t walk though. But who cares, riiiiiight?