hey hey, so I did the NJ Half this weekend! I had never done it before so it was a brand new race experience for me, given 90% of my races are NYRR races. I mostly signed up because Kettia, Khris and Tracey were going, and because it’s a flat flat flat course. I don’t think I’ve ever done a flat half. So, maybe I could turn my 1:36:04 into a sub 1:36 in NJ…?? I signed up, assuming that was a given. NYC is just so much harder and I’d have two more months of training, all that, plus fun weekend (more like 24 hours!).
All 4 of us packed in a car, and drove Saturday noonish to NJ, we went straight to the expo!
Did I tell you Kettia wasn’t running? She had just done Boston 10 days before so we excused her. She’d be moral support, cheerleader and the hungriest of all of us, for some strange reason.
Expo was ok, obviously smaller than the expos I am used to but enough stuff to look at. We took some pictures, tried some new products, said hello to a few friends and set to the hotel to check in. MMM, we were at the LUXURIOUS Holiday Inn Express, which at a $250 a night for each single room (just one double bed!) plus taxes was the only choice. Apparently, everything else was sold out. I’d describe it as SAD (mostly for that price) but whatever.
We went to the shore and had a lovely dinner at Sirena. Pasta and bread and pasta. You’d think we were all doing a marathon!!! The place was great actuall. We were so full after, we had to skip dessert and be happy with some Reese’s cups later in the hotel. Wild times at the Holiday Inn.
After a stooopid Erin Andrews type nightmare, I was up at 5:20 on Sunday morning. We all were. In different rooms but texting about the weather and coffee in the lobby. it was going to start raining midway through the race and picking an outfit was impossible. Which is why I packed EVERY SINGLE RUNNING GEAR I HAD. Of course, as usual, I picked the tiniest option. Rain makes clothes heavy and I’d rather have less of that. I decided to bring a hat. I hate running with a hat and if it didn’t rain I was to be upset BUT if it’d rain I’ve be even MORE UPSET. Hat it is. the trickiest part is the shoes. I had brought my solid option #1 for halfs: Under Armour Geminis, which I love (not sure I love the new Geminis 2 thought!) but they’d get soooo soggy in the rain…. I’d also brought my super light Saucony Type A5, the upper is super thin and the bottom has draining holes, perfect for rain! But… I am not sure my legs can handle 13 miles in those… 13 miles is a long way to run in such thin shoes… it was tricky. I just went with the Geminis and hoped it all would hold. Of course I had a tube of bodyglide on me (but hey, zero chafing!).
The start is close to the track, so before the track you can hang out indoors, as soon as we got there, about 7 am (race starts at 7:30) we lined up for the bathrooms. 7:17 we were still in the line, with about 60 meters to go. A MESS. We managed to find some other bathrooms but it wasn’t easy…
I got to the start right at 7:30, with barely any time to take my layers off. Luckily, the race is super chill and you can just walk into your corall at the (literally!) last minute or any corral after that. They also release one corral at a time, which I love!
And just like that, I get GPS signal and we’re off. SO QUICK.
About 1 minute in I see Tommy leading the 3 something marathon pace group, I saw it was 7:26 pace. I chit chat with him for a bit, but that pace was a bit too quick for me. My goal was to do beat my 1:36:04 NYC half PR, so I was shooting for 1:35:59 at least! Given this was a flatter course, I was 100% sure I could PR… so the goal was an average 7:18 pace (NYC Half was 7:20 pace). I wanted to start with some 7:35s for at least 3 miles, the drop it to 7:20 and then more if I could. At least, that was the plan.
Mile 1: 7:39 Soon, I found myself at the back of the 1:40 group. It was too crowded and chatty. I dropped them. Mile 2: 7:31. Then I was running with a Brian I had just met for about a mile or two. Mile 3: 7:29. I saw a Whippet and I went up to him, his name was Louis and was doing the full. Then I spotted Keith up ahead, he wasn’t doing so well, so we said goodbye and I kept going. Mile 4: 7:13
About here is when I started feeling a bit better. I have been experimenting with drinking coffee before a race and I’ve had cases where I’ve overdone it. Like, Staten Island Half back in October for example. I start and I am SO HYPER that I can’t control my pace. In this race, I hadn’t had that much (just a cup and a half) but I did feel my heart beat jumping like crazy as soon as I started. It was hard to manage and though I was able to control the pace, it was a struggle and I felt I was wasting SO much energy. Check my heart rate in the first 2 miles:
By Mile 4 (which is 5 up there because the first mile marker was a bit off and had to manually lap it) things were getting under control but I already felt exhausted. My legs were fine but I felt like I needed to sit down, have a lot of water and calm down.
Problem was, I was racing a half marathon, I wanted to PR and… what else could I do? Get it under control and chop at it!
From mile 4 on, I was basically running with the same group for the rest of the race, we’d pass each other at times, but it was basically the same 10 people.
The Course was great, very very flat. Just one tiny little bridge and a cute overpass. That’s it. No hills, no climbs, nothing to slow you down. Well, the rain. It started drizzling about 2 miles in and raining about 5 miles in. It was fine. I actually liked it. It kept me cool and I was happy I wasn’t wearing any more layers. But I was definitely under-dressed compared to EVERYONE else. There were some spectators in some areas but not a lot. I am sure it was the weather though. There were enough turns (32?) to keep it interesting.
Mile 5 I decided to get going, as I was feeling well, Mile 5: 7:17. I wanted to have a gel early but the water stations were spread out about 1.5 miles away and I missed one because I couldn’t open the gel on time, crap. I did manage to grab water and drink without stopping, though sometimes I missed my mouth or face entirely, but it’s a good start! Mile 6: 7:28, the heaviness of the shoes was getting to me… this was a rough patch. Around here, or at some point, there were these awesome signs on the road, with great quotes, stole this picture from Instagram:
There was one that stuck with me:
You’re faster than this. Don’t think you are, know you are.- Morpheus, the Matrix
I’ve watched the Matrix so many times (two times alone in the last month) and I could hear Morpheus in my head saying it. I repeated that over and over for a bit.
Mile 7: 23, I managed to find my groove and decided to start pushing. Mile 8: 7:25 finally had the gel, so late! Mile 9: 7:20 okay guys, we need to start the last 5K soon, where throwdown happens, but the truth is, I was getting bored… Mile 10: 7:21 Okay, just 3 miles, I actually hoped I had music by now. By now, I sorta knew there was no way I’d PR. I was already pissed but decided to fight for every single second. Sometimes, like in the Staten Island half, it comes to just 3-4 seconds… I knew it’d be tight so I pushed hard, really hard. Mile 11: 7:06. I am going to insert these sample pictures here because I have no clue what mile this was at. Everything but the last two miles looks pretty much like this:
Everyone around me had it and I felt a bit bored. People were scarce, and soon, half the people left me. They made the right turn for the marathon and I saw some of my pack leave. I couldn’t really imagine running 13 more in that rain. I realized why I stopped doing marathon, ugh, I felt really bad for them all. 26.2 seems SO long… Mile 12: 7:25 Just a straightaway to the finish that couldn’t get here soon enough. My head was a constant battle: “don’t loose ONE second” and “who gives a shit?”. It was rough. I finally saw a friendly face! Ben Ko, from the the Whippets was there, and I was just so happy to see him. Other than Ramon Bermo on mile… 5?… 7?? I hadn’t seen anyone on the course that I knew, which is SO strange… I always spend my races just waving at people. This was crazy lonely for me!
I knew Kettia would be in the last half mile somewhere but this was the slowest/longest mile ever. I felt ok, but was just tired of it, my shoes were soaked and heavy and I just wanted it to stop. I did see Kettia, here’s the pictures!
Mile 13: 7:07. I really tried my best to not loose it. I knew I wouldn’t PR. Last mile I gave it my all. I was breathing like a maniac. Last Point one: :0:41 (6:49) pace.
In this chart you can see my heart rate, pace and even cadence for each mile:
Anyway, I was quite a bit upset with myself. I finished in an official 1:36:28. Missed a PR by 25 seconds. UGH.
Well, that’s done. So as “undressed” as I was, I went back the half mile to join Kettia. I hadn’t checked post race gear as Kettia was going to have it, but they didn’t let her cheer with any bag so she had nothing. UGH. Found her, we cheered for Khris and Tracey, and went back to the finish to grab them. I was FREEZING. It was 50 something, I was soaking wet and it was still raining. HOW DO THEY NOT HAVE MYLAR BLANKETS????????????????????????? I was in complete shock, but more frozen and shaking than shock. About 35 minutes after I finished we got to the car. back to the hotel, a boiling shower that was hard to end, and back to the shore to brunch. We were actually at Avenue, on Ocean Avenue and we saw all the runners that finished the marathon from 3:30 to 5:30. It was amazing, they were just running past us, though we were dry, and warm and sitting down and eating. I just felt so bad for them.
Should I have stopped pushing and save my legs for the Brooklyn Half in 3 weeks? Maybe. But I just didn’t want to give up… sometimes things CAN turn around. It didn’t. At least I didn’t crash in the last miles, but I really need to rethink this whole coffee thing because it really kills my early miles and I get to the second half all spent. Hopefully I learn the lesson. And you know, that’s why I started writing this blog 7 years ago, because I kept making the same mistakes; now it’s on paper and I am going to set an alarm on my calendar to remind myself to read this and not be stoopid again. Caffeine is not for me. I need to start with the chillest heart rate and ease into it. Yes, I tend to start way too slow (my half pace used to start in the 9s… I am not even joking) but that’s better than this. Lesson learned? we’ll see!
and the finish-time winner is….
Please email me your choice of prize (from the post), postal address in the US, and name and will ship it ASAP!! And no worries y’all losers, I will be doing many races in the next weeks (there’s actually one this weekend but not sure there’s enough time to post…!) so you’ll have another go at playing soon!
what did you race this weekend? how did it go???