Monday, October 15, 2012

Race Recap: Grete's Great Gallop Half-Marathon

I cannot believe that my half-marathon is over! Even while running it, I couldn't quite believe that I was setting out to run 13.1 miles. Last night and this morning, it feels like the race was a week ago. It's only my aching feet and sore legs that are telling me it actually happened yesterday!

trying to be excited, but really I'm just nervous...
It was hard for me to get to sleep the night before, but then I surprisingly slept well until my alarm went off at 8:00 AM. The race didn't start until 10:30 AM so I didn't have to hop out of bed at the crack of dawn, which was nice.  I ate my half of a cinnamon raisin bagel with almond butter and apple butter and tried not to freak out, but I was definitely feeling nervous in a way I haven't felt in a long time.

There's nothing to compare to nervousness over having to physically push yourself as opposed to taking an exam or being interviewed for a job. Even with plenty of study preparation or researching a firm, you figure that if things go horribly awry, you can sort of B.S. your way through an exam answer or answer an interview question with a stock answer. There's no B.S.-ing running 13 miles, though. There's only one way it can happen -- running the 13 miles.

But like I'd posted about on Saturday, I was ready. I prepared for the race and I knew it. I think my nerves were mostly about fear of the hills in Central Park! I've run there a lot, but never two whole loops.

Luckily I had a distraction:

my cheering section!
Sourabh and our dog, Mason, were my cheer squad and came along so that I didn't sit there freaking out before the race. Nothing like a warm cuddly dog to keep you feeling happy! Even better, because the race was a loop, they could go from one side to the other so I got to see them three times while I was running. Every time I saw them it pushed me to go just a bit faster.

Sourabh snapped another picture of me right before I hopped into my corral:
right before hopping into my corral, feeling more excited!
(still pointing to my number, I guess I've seen "real racers" do that so I thought I should, too) 

I was starting to feel less anxious and more ready to get going! While the runners started walking up toward the front, I noticed a man in a jacket having his picture taken, which I thought was odd.
I was shocked when I read the New York Times article on Christian Hesch this morning and saw the guy I'd seen having his picture taken! Turns out that he's coming forward about doping in running and the NY Times decided to use Grete's Gallop as a backdrop.

I started freaking out, thinking that I had to use the bathroom before the race, and hopped out of my corral to get in line for the port-a-potties. But then I heard the announcer saying that the time tracking mat would be turned off in 2 minutes and I told myself not to freak out, that if necessary I could take a break partway through the race. And it turned out that I was just feeling nervous because I had no issues whatsoever during the entire race. Good lesson for the future -- don't let myself freak out before a race!

I hopped back on the loop and crossed over the timing mat, starting at the back of the race. I think starting at the back was both good and bad. I felt like I was going really fast because I kept passing people, so it gave me confidence early on. However, I also think I might have pushed myself a bit too fast to get back up to the middle (which is obviously not smart!) and tired myself out too much on the first lap.

I'm not sure what's wrong with my feet, but they hurt almost the entire run. Luckily it wasn't so much pain that I couldn't push through and ignore it, but the run definitely would have been more pleasant without the pain in my feet.

The first loop felt good, though, besides the pain in my feet. I felt fresh, I knew I was doing a decent time, and it was such perfect running weather (60s and not too sunny). The course went up the west side and down the east, which I thought would be easier because it's an easier approach to Harlem Hill and you don't go up Cat Hill. What I didn't realize was how many other hills there are in Central Park -- you don't realize you're going downhill until you're forced to run UP that hill, and areas I had always thought were flat-ish were suddenly revealed to be hills to me.

halfway done!!
Despite the hilly surprises, I was able to run the entire way and only walk when grabbing water from the aid stations. I had a Clif gel 15 minutes before my run, and then tried to swallow down another one at the 7 mile mark. I only got about 3/4 of it, though, because the gel was just so sweet and thick, I had a hard time gulping it down. I'm going to try chews on the next long run I do and see if I like those better! I also avoided the Gatorade being handed out because I hadn't tried it before and didn't want to shock my body with anything new (besides, y'know, all those extra hills I didn't know were there...).

The second loop got a lot tougher. By the 9 mile mark I was feeling really tired, but a few things kept me going. One was thinking of one of my best friends who has beaten cancer twice and she's only 24. When going up hills, I'd keep thinking to myself "she beat cancer, you can run up a hill." I can't emphasize enough how much that kept me going.

Well, and I also may have engaged in some mental cursing at the hills, especially the one that appears after you've gone up then down Harlem Hill, the one by the skating rink and Harlem Meer. Come ON, that hill is a total d-bag, it just keeps going and going after you've just gone up Harlem Hill!!

Finally, I gave in to my true dork-ness, and I just mouthed the words to my race playlist. I basically had a mix of dance tracks, Kelly Clarkson and Katy Perry, and a little bit of old school (Fat Boy Slim, Destiny's Child, Eminem's "Lose Yourself"). Oh, yes, and "Gangnam Style." Twice. Don't judge me, especially not if one of my race pictures involves me doing that horseback riding dance move from the music video.

I swear I listen to better music when I'm not working out.
And I'm definitely not listening to Nicki Minaj as I write this. 
So yes, I was a dance party while running, but it got me through those 13 miles that felt really hard at times. It never felt as hard when I was grooving to a song. To me, music and running are strongly linked. I can never run as fast as I can when I have a great beat in my ear.

approaching the finish line!
Once I hit the 10 mile mark, I felt like yes, this is really going to happen. That said, the final mile seemed to go on forever and ever and ever. How is the lower loop of Central Park so long? I swear it's half that distance when I run it in normal times....

nearly there...
But I made it!!! I was pretty sure I'd made it in under 10 minute miles, but I wasn't sure until race times were posted later on Sunday.

2:09:34. For a 9:54 pace. At the time, I was just happy to have finished, but now I'm psyched. I feel like it's such a great start point for what I'm hoping will be a nice long career of half-marathons (or, who knows, maybe a full marathon one day?). If I can break a 10:00 pace with all of those hills, I think I can definitely break 2 hours on the next half-marathon I decide to run if it's a flatter course.
ecstatic post-race!!
(boob sweat cropped for the good of humanity)

I know, I just finished my first half-marathon and I'm already thinking about the next one? I certainly wasn't doing that during the race, but the sense of accomplishment after running that race was just so awesome.

It is so exciting to push your body so hard and find out its limits. I am so, so excited about my first half-marathon and I cannot wait to get another one on the calendar and keep going!!!


  1. Congrats on your first half marathon!!! SO exciting! I rode that runner's high for at least a week after my first half! Enjoy it! You deserve it!

    We'll do speedwork soon so you can break 2 hours on the Central Park hills, too! :)

    Congrats again, and great to meet you tonight!

    1. Thanks so much!! And if by "runner's high" you mean "I deserve this running gear!" then I'll definitely be enjoying that high for at least a week :)

  2. Congrats!!! You ran a really strong first half marathon. Mine was much more brutal but it was still such an amazing accomplishment! Yes, there are so many rolling hills in Central Park, particularly on the west side. The good thing about Grete's is that you run down the worst part of Harlem Hill (although the way up still sucks) and of course you run down Cat Hill, which is glorious! Grete's is such a fun race too, I did it last year as part of a longer training run. I also agree that the lower part of the loop goes on forever. What the hell!

    Very sweet that your boyfriend and pup were there to support you, it must have been so nice seeing them and given you a great boost!

    Btw, add the Name/URL option in for commenters!

  3. Wow, that's a wonderful finish time for a first-time half-marathon! Congrats!

    I too had the urge to use the restroom prior to the start but had to hold it, then it went away somehow. Fast runners would take some time out of the race for bathroom breaks and maybe feel stomach pain etc but would still finish half an hour or so faster than me, groan. Slow runners like me cannot afford bathroom breaks.

    1. Haha yep some of us have to hold it if necessary!