an early birthday present

Yes…with the Philadelphia Distance Run falling 5 days before my birthday…what better birthday present can there be than a new half-marathon PR (not to mention getting the half-marathon monkey off my back? 🙂 )

I’ll start this race report off with the stats and the splits…

Mile splits (unofficial):

Mile 1-8:10
Mile 2-7:31
Mile 3-7:46
Mile 4-7:45
Mile 5-6:45 (short!)
Mile 6-8:59 (long!)
Mile 7-7:53 (sports drink)
Mile 8-7:52 (gel)
Mile 9-7:54 (hill!)
Mile 10-7:47
Mile 11-7:41
Mile 12-7:41
Mile 13-7:46 (another hill!)
last .1-0:50

And now-for the story behind the numbers.

As most of you may know, the half-marathon distance has been sort of a monkey I’ve had on my back for a few years. I set my PR of 1:43 in January 2005, and have not come close since (my next best time being 4 1/2 minutes slower!) Hoping my marathon training 2 years ago may fix that, but both halfs I tried to race were cursed with downpours. But I had a feeling this could be my year…I was patient and decided to save my half-marathon attempt for a good course at a more ideal time of year (read: hopefully no heat and humidity!) And Philly was already good to me with the Broad Street Run…

So the plan was as follows-train it to Philly on Saturday, stay overnight, train it back to NYC on Sunday. And shocker-NJ Transit did its NJ Transit thing…as my train left Penn 15 minutes late with no explanation. (and once again, I was sitting by a bunch of annoying kids who just yapped away the entire time. Why does this always happen to me?) I thought I was gonna miss my SEPTA connection in Trenton, thankfully they held it!! Took it as a good sign 🙂 Dropped my stuff off in the hotel, went over to the expo, got my bib (with a very cool number-#4444!!) and browsed around. I didn’t really do much damage to the credit card, there was nothing I really wanted to buy-though this “Will Run For Wine” singlet was very tempting!! Only thing I bought was a coupla pairs of throwaway gloves, as I will need for the NYC start and I remember they werent at last year’s expo. I ran a coupla more errands, then back to the hotel to rest til dinner…my legs were tired and I was a little worried about that. I met up with Flyer VV for dinner at Buca di Beppo-hey if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…my pre-race meal did me good for Broad Street so of course I duplicated it-right down to the glass of merlot. VV was running not just his first half, but his first race ever so I gave him plenty of pointers. 🙂 I wound up crashing mad early…needed my beauty sleep for the next day!!

Race day…the usual routine!! Woke up too early as usual-had my usual cup of coffee, bagel with white chocolate peanut butter, got dressed, stretched, hydrated…listened to pre-run music…and yes, “Pocketful of Sunshine” was one of the songs as it was at Broad Street, and another one has been added to the list-“Viva La Vida” by Coldplay. I left my room around 6:30 and stopped by Starbucks to get my “magic” concoction-coffee with a shot of vanilla syrup. Drank that and then it was time to warm up…and how perfect was it that the start was a mile away? There’s my warmup 🙂 Hit up the porto-johns…and from what I heard it was perfect timing, as I only waited a few minutes and I heard there were half-hour waits at times. I dropped off my bag at gear check, stretched a little more, and by that time, the corrals were open. I was in corral 4, which looked like it was pretty close to the front. However, these corrals weren’t being completely policed, as there were people who belonged in corrals further back walking forward, and no one was really stopping them…whatever. I saw Uptown Girl-she was in corral 3, so she hung in the back of that corral, and me in the front of 4 so we chit-chatted a little while waiting for the start. Her TRD teammate, AH joined us…he was going for around the same time I was so we figured we could try and work together. Once again, I was pretty calm before the start…gonna be a good thing!! The singing of the national anthem signaled that it was almost start time-oh, but the person singing either botched the lyrics or came up with his own…needless to say there were a lot of “WTFs?” around. The wheelchairs were off, and then so were we!! “Beautiful Day” by U2 was playing as we crossed the start…and boy, I hoped that would be true!! 🙂

There was a little bit of maneuvering in mile 1…definitely a lot of people not lined up right, but maybe a good thing so it could hold me back a little. AH and I stuck together for the first half-mile but then he pulled ahead and I let him go…we’ll each run our own race. Saw Flyer CD and his fiancee (and former Flyer) EB cheering…I smiled and waved to them, was good to see some support on the sidelines. At mile 1…hmmm. I knew I wanted to be conservative, but thought that was a little slow…picked up the pace a little bit as we headed past City Hall and onto Market Street. As for the 2nd split, I don’t know if that was too fast, or was mile 1 long and 2 short? Either way, I was right on pace, and my mission for the next few miles was to just maintain 7:50s or better. I was so glad to make the turn and head west, as we were running directly into the sun and now the sun would be behind us for at least a few miles. Saw CD and EB again near where I saw them previously (the out and back on Benjamin Franklin Parkway)…and through mile 4, all was well…time to leave the city streets behind for a bit and run along MLK Drive.

And this part was much shadier, which was a relief…even though the temps were in the high 50s, the sun was strong which made it feel a little hotter. Was still feeling decent-this definitely was no cakewalk (and as I was telling myself “this is a goal race, you gotta work for it!”) but I felt a helluva lot better than I did at this point in…last year’s Queens Half for example 🙂 I concentrated on just staying relaxed (yeah, some yoga thinking got into me…the word “flow” went through my head several times along that stretch!) I saw singlets from other NYC teams…CPTC, Warren St, NY Harriers…and passed on by em 🙂 When I saw the mile 5 split I said “No eff-ing way…” we were all in consensus that it was short. Confirmed by the long mile 6. Was trying to do the math in my head to average the 2 but the brain wasn’t having it 🙂 Grabbed some Cytomax (which I actually do like!) past the 10K point but spilled part of it on myself…thought “great, now i’m hot, sticky and sweet.” It’s crazy the things that run through your mind during races!

Around mile 7.5, I took my gel and tried to grab some water at the mile 8 station to wash it down…but grabbed another cup of Cytomax instead. Oops!! Hopefully that won’t do damage (it didn’t.) And in this mile this guy, DK ran beside me-one that was a wannabe Flyer and was contacting those what were doing the race to see if anyone wanted to run together…I had said at the time thanks but no thanks, as his plan was to take it easy-and I reminded him of that :-p The response-it’s hard to hold back when you’re in the race atmosphere…anyway, DK asked if he could stick by me so he wouldn’t be tempted to go any faster and I said sure. Actually-it was good for me to have a pacing buddy for the last few miles.

Mile 9 included the Falls Bridge…and the first hill of the course!! Granted, its nothing compared to Central Park, but still, a hill is never welcome 🙂 I said “where the hell did that come from”? 🙂 It was short, crossed over the bridge where there was a bagpiper playing…reminded me of PD playing at mile 20 of the NYC Marathon :)…then a little downhill to come off the bridge and onto Kelly Drive…where there was still a bit of shade, but we were running into the sun once again, so it was definitely heating up. There was no chip mat at the 15K marker, but I looked at my watch quickly and saw it was at 1:13:xx…hmm, guess that 15K PR is kinda soft. At the 10-mile split…I tried to do some quick math to figure out if I was on pace or not…I had sped up a little in mile 10, but was it enough? Whatever the case, time to get to work for the last 5K.

Make no mistake. It was tough. It was hot, my legs were tired. DK was a great pacing partner though, just letting me stay quiet and just run, but being encouraging too. At the mile 11 and 12 splits, I said “nice…” I think I had it. (DK had started 20 seconds ahead of me, so he thought we were cutting it closer than we actually were…may have been a good thing though!!)

My god, mile 13 was evil. The 2nd hill of the course, but at the point where you definitely do NOT want one (reminds me of the last 1.1 miles of the Brooklyn Half!) I was so tired. After mile 12…it looked like I could just coast along at an 8 minute pace and still make it in under 1:43…but why take that chance. This was the defining moment of this race…the point where I told myself the most influential thing…“You did not come this far to have another ‘so close’ moment.” Not just far in terms of traveling, but the fact that I was on PR pace for so long…no effin way was I gonna lose it in the last mile, just suck it up…almost there!!! The mile 13 marker was a relief…it was all downhill from there to the finish-literally!!! My sprint at the end of halfs is never my strength, and it wasnt today, but at that point I did not care!! I crossed the finish line with a huge smile and the first thought that went through my head-GOODBYE, 3 1/2 year old PR!!! 🙂

Got my medal, my picture taken (and several comments about my very cool bib number!!) some water and sports drink-and more Starbucks coffee!…didn’t take food, as once again I really didn’t feel like eating (normally the case after a hard effort like this). I got my bag and walked around the finish area…partially to walk off the effort and partially to look for people. I saw Flyers JB, JA and FR…i saw Uptown Girl who was happy with her MP effort. I walked the mile back to the hotel which I really needed…got cleaned up, checked out, then me and VV (who had a great first half with a 1:52…i told him he’d be able to run under 2 hours!) celebrated our efforts with burgers and beer. Then off to the train station for me, and thankfully a drama-free train trip home!!

I was very pleased with this race!! Unlike the Vegas half-which even though it was a PR, was kinda anti-climactic…this one was very memorable. Plus, the pacing in that race wasn’t my best (only thing that saved me in the last 5k was a tailwind), whereas this one I feel I paced a lot better. I was glad to finally run the half-marathon that I thought I had in me, but was never able to produce…especially since I wasn’t completely tapered for this, wonder what I’d be capable of on fresher legs!! But like I said before-the monkey is off my back, no longer does the half-marathon PR need to be asterisked!!

And as for my NYCM goals? The McMillan calculator predicts a 3:35:49 marathon…add 10 minutes for the hills, still on target for an under-3:50 goal!! Not gonna be drastically altering my goals (maybe be a little more flexible, like hit between 3:45 and 3:49). But next year, maybe next year…

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9 thoughts on “an early birthday present

  1. Awesome race! I’m so happy for you!! Can’t wait to celebrate this weekend 😉

  2. Congratulations!!! And wow, if you can get close to that new McMillan prediction for a full, you’ll even qualify for Boston!

  3. HEY!!!! that is so phenomenal! congratulations! i remember when i first met you and you were still getting over that injury, said something gloomy about how you “used to be fast”… well, used to no more babe! What a great race! And yeah, what about a 3:40 Boston Qualifier now, huh???

  4. thanks everyone!! this one is gonna be hard to top… :)as for trying for a BQ-still not going for that in NYC, as I gotta allow time for the hills (which is why i added 10 minutes to that prediction) but possibly next fall…but i think i need to get through NYC in one piece first 🙂

  5. Yay! Congrats on your great race. Awesome birthday present. Really really cool race report too. Feel so inspired for my own half effort this weekend just reading it!

  6. Amazing what a couple years will bring! Congrats on a great race:) Keep up the hard work and you will see those benefits in November.

  7. Great race! You have really got the half marathon dialed in. The NYCM is going to be a blast!

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