hot mess on ocean parkway (brooklyn half 2011 report)

Damn.  Gotta face the music I guess.

Well, as I mentioned previously-the Brooklyn Half definitely did not go well.  Even though I was not expecting a PR (thanks to my actual half-marathon PR being a complete and total outlier) I thought maybe I can salvage a halfway decent race.  Not sure if last year’s 1:42 would be in reach, but did feel that 1:45 was a reasonable goal.  And I was ready to take the race on.

So I don’t know, even the morning of felt “off” in a way.  Thankfully, I didn’t have too much trouble waking up (before 4 AM!) since I did go to sleep reasonably early the night before.  Even though I’m in midtown now instead of the UWS, I still elected to take the Flyers‘ bus from the UWS, as we all know how unpredictible the MTA is on weekends, especially early mornings on weekends, especially in Brooklyn.  And that also meant I would be cabbin’ it uptown.  But it didn’t help that seemingly every cab was off-duty and of course I got nervous.  One off-duty cab stopped but after I told him my destination, said he couldn’t go to the UWS.  Eventually there was one who figured it wouldn’t kill him to drive 30 blocks!  So I did get to the bus in time.  However, once the bus was en route to Brooklyn…more nerves and unsettledness.  Instead of taking the West Side Highway to the tunnel as has been done in the past, the bus decided to trek through the city streets to the Manhattan Bridge, just adding more travel time.  As we were advised to check our bags by 6:20 and be in our corrals by 6:40 (race start was 7), we were really cutting it close.  Finally we got to Prospect Park, but it seemed like the driver had no clue where to let us off…I think everyone wanted off the bus by that time.  Figured it out, and once we we got off the bus I made a mad dash for the baggage area.  Seemed like I barely had enough time to check my bag and get to my corral (thank god I didn’t have to take care of other business…may have been no time for that!)  So yeah, waitin’ for the start…

And it began.  Knowing mile 1 would be a little downhill, I tried to keep it cool, and not get caught up with what others were doing, given there were quite a few miles worth of hills for me to deal with.  And as my mile 1 split was only 1 second off from last year’s race, I felt it was off to a good start.  And then mile 2 and evil hill, part 1 happened.  Looks like my long run of 4 trips up that hill didn’t work this time, as this mile was about 15 seconds slower than last year, and I had a feeling that it was going to be a tough day.  Just figured I could make up the time on the downhills…and bide my time til Ocean Parkway.  And once again, I decided it was gonna be a 2-gel day, as the humdity was deadly (close to 100%?  not sure if i quite believe that though…)  So all in all, I was through 7 miles in 56:06…7 seconds behind goal, but I could make that up in the remaining 6.1 miles right?

Ocean Parkway. shoot me now.

Or…not.  Mile 8 included the on-ramp to Ocean Parkway (which definitely felt more uphill this year) and that was 8:15…OK, now 22 seconds behind schedule.  I’d have to do 7:55’s or better for the remainder in order to get 1:45.  Given that I negative split this race last year, I thought it could have been doable, but not today.  I don’t know why or how, but my legs just went dead.  Nothing I could say or do could wake them up.  No water, Gatorade or PowerGel.  They were just stuck in that one slow gear and couldn’t seem to shift gears and go faster.  I was roadkill on Ocean Parkway with everyone and their mother passing me and I just wanted this to be over…but it couldn’t be over fast enough, as every single mile split was getting slower.

evil on-ramp to the boardwalk. and not smiling.

Thankfully, somewhere in mile 12, Flyer JA caught up to me and as I kinda had signs I wasn’t doing too well, he kept me company for a mile, was encouraging while just letting me run (though I was somewhat amused when he told me at mile 12 that it was just “4 1/2 laps of the track to go” 🙂  OK, maybe that may make the last 1.1 go by faster!)  It did help, as I was able to speed up a little bit for miles 12 and 13, though sub-8’s were definitely out by that point.  Finally, Ocean Parkway came to an end and we were able to turn right onto Surf Avenue, then up an evil on-ramp to the boardwalk (which again, definitely felt steeper this year…or maybe my legs were just shot by that point!)  Dr. Evil was taking pictures and had to comment afterwards that I wasn’t smiling whereas others would…um if you were feeling as crappy as I was, you wouldn’t be smiling. 

on the boardwalk...so close, yet so far away...

So, on the boardwalk I did remember one thing I learned from last year, and stayed on the straight boards as long as possible, as they were much, much more stable than the slanted ones.  I looked down at Mr. Garmin at the mile 13 marker and saw that I may possibly be able to get under 1:47, but I’d have to hustle…so I did the best I could given the boardwalk surface…but missed by 2 seconds.  1:47:01, 8:10 pace.  So glad this was over.   But I guess there’s nothing like a Coney Island beach party to drown my sorrows…which may or may not have included dipping my legs in the ocean several times, eating Nathan’s hot dogs, hanging out at Beer Island (which didn’t open til 11 AM this year!), riding the Cyclone (which was scary but less torturous than running the race, lol!), chilling out on the beach, not getting back to Manhattan until it was about time for the much-rumored Rapture….

…and given it was a long day, I crashed mad early for a Saturday night and slept like a baby.  But Sunday, and the day after, and the day after that, the disappointment of the day just came back to me.  If I had to have a bad race, I would have liked for there to be a fixable reason.  But this time?  There was no excuse for my legs to have just gone dead as they did.  And even though it was humid, it wasn’t brutally hot, therefore I most likely can’t blame the weather.  Plus, I was hearing stories of people who PR’ed without really training, or not putting in any double-digit runs…dammit, I put in the work.  Compared to last March/April/May, my mileage was higher this year.  Long runs?  All there-10 miles, 11, 12, 13-even 14 and 15 miles.  And since March, I had been doing speedwork twice a week.  Torrential storms with lightning?  Hit the dreadmill for intervals (and I never do speedwork on the dreadmill!)  Can’t make the workout for whatever reason?   Get the plan B to do in the morning (thankfully this time around it’s not quite pulling teeth to get that info!)  Despite the struggles this winter, once I got over the hump I wasn’t slacking off-little discouraging to be “rewarded” with my slowest half-marathon time in a few years (not counting the ones that were strictly training/MP runs)

But I really wanted a race that would have shown that I’m not kidding myself thinking I can BQ this fall…to BQ means I would have to run the pace for this half-marathon for a full (I really don’t think 3:40 is going to cut it for me, i’m gonna need 3:35 or better)  So not exactly a confidence booster…

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hello brooklyn 2.0

I know I said 4 years ago that Brooklyn would “never be my borough”  Well, I can admit when I’ve been wrong, because the Brooklyn Half course version 2.0…well as I said in my previous post-reverse the course=reverse the curse?  It did indeed.  My 3rd time running this race, 1st time on the new course-I finally had both a race performance and time I was happy with.  (Not to mention a great post-race party!)

So with all intentions of getting to sleep early on Friday nite…ah that didn’t happen-no not because of friends IMing me 😉 …but more because I was sucked in by the Yanks-Mutts game, dammit!  But I did eventually get to sleep and actually did wake up an hour before my alarm and went back to sleep…alarm went off at 4 am and I actually got up without a problem…went through the normal pre-race routine and then headed out the door to catch the Flyers bus…listening to some cool songs on the iPod on the walk over (yes, “Tik Tok” was one of them…lol)

The bus was a coupla minutes late getting to the UWS, but still made it to Prospect Park with plenty of time to spare and with no directional issues or getting lost.  Found the baggage trucks to drop our mini-plastic bags off (yep, had to sorta pack light this time…) and then me and Flyer EG wanted to head to the start in order to get a good starting position in our respective corrals…though there were no signs indicating where the start was!!  After originally walking in the wrong direction and back-tracking, we saw lotsa people walking south and figured that was where the start was…saw the corrals in the distance so that was right 🙂  So by the time we got there, the corrals were almost empty…hmmm so much for everyone having to be lined up by 6:30 (yeah, the “checklist” says 6:50 now, but I could swear it originally said 6:30!)  And honestly, the corrals were not really being policed…like I walked right in to the yellow corral and no one checked my number.  And I bet my teammate who was a coupla corrals back could have lined up with me and nobody would check.  Saw and chatted with Moz for a few minutes (and he would go on to run a great race!) and Maria was lined up with me-she was just doing this as a long run to practice for kicking some Vermont City a$$ next weekend 🙂  And of course, other familiar faces…other Flyers, AU from the Rez Dogs…was like a little party in the corrals 🙂  But before we could race, we had to, of course, listen to all the speeches…Mary Wittenberg, Brooklyn president Marty Markowitz…and oh yeah the singing of the National Anthem (with the lyrics flubbed again!!)  And a coupla minutes later “on your marks” and the sound of the horn…about 50 secs later, cross the start and hoping for the best today…

Part I-Prospect Park, Loop 1
Mile 1-7:54
Mile 2-7:58
Mile 3-7:39

So I didn’t want to get too caught up in the downhill first mile…but I figured if I do that under 8, I’m off to a good start.  My teammates DM and JJ were running with me for the first few minutes and DM even joked that I was gonna pace them…but they both eventually pulled ahead and I let them go-didn’t want to take any chances with the hills early on.  So I was happy with both the mile 1 and the mile 2 split, as mile 2 had the evil hill and I just wanted to get that mile under 8.  But unfortunately in mile 2, I saw my teammate DC and Lam (who was supposed to be pacing her to a 1:30) by the side of the road and it looked like there was something wrong with her.  I yelled out “are you guys OK?” and Lam said they were fine…though eventually I found out that DC had to take a DNF 😦  Anyway, got through the evil hill and knew I’d only have to deal with it one more time, and enjoyed the downhill reward…things were looking very good so far.  One loop down, one to go.  And let me say-I was very pleasantly surprised by the amount of people out in Prospect Park cheering-it was a great boost, and it really shows the support for this race, that so many people were out before 8 am spectating!!  So to all the spectators and cheerleaders-thank you! 🙂

Part II-Prospect Park, Loop 2
Mile 4-7:40
Mile 5-8:06
Mile 6-8:03
Mile 7-7:32

So even though the temps were pretty decent (around 60) and it was cloudy, the humidity was deadly and I felt it.  After 2 miles that were over 8 minutes, I decided to not wait til mile 8 and take a gel now.  Luckily, I had brought 2 gels with me in case I lost one and it may have been good fortune that I did…I felt with the humidity being what it was, it may have to be a 2-gel day.  And I felt better in mile 7 (as the mile split showed!)   May have been because of the downhill or because I knew I was a mile away from exiting the park!!  We were starting to lap slower runners and I will say that the crowd control was excellent-the course marshalls really did a good job in keeping those starting their second loop and those exiting the park separate.  Mile 7 was on the road heading out of the park and I was through 7 miles in 54:52 (7:50 pace)…ok, awesome.  My plan was to get through Prospect Park under 8’s, then pick up the pace on Ocean Parkway…and so far I was right on track.  Maybe I can get under 7:45s?

(Note-even though it may look like my pacing in the park was all over the place, the splits were very terrain-specific.  And yes, that long run I did with 4 trips up the evil Prospect Park hill did help!)

Part III-Ocean Parkway
Mile 8-7:44
Mile 9-7:43
Mile 10-7:50
Mile 11-7:48
Mile 12-7:49

Ah crap, I forgot about that ramp to get onto Ocean Parkway.  And just when I thought I was done with hills! 🙂  But still was nothing compared to the “evil hill” 😉  Coach DC from Urban was out riding his bike and cheered me on.  Off the ramp and onto the Parkway…one that we don’t have to pay tolls on…just run down 😛  Just 5 and change miles of open road ahead of me til I get to the boardwalk.  Even though a lot of the street signs had letters on them, I tried to avoid looking at them and playing the “alphabet game” (sorta “counting down” how many to go)…just run.

Cruising down the (Ocean) Parkway

Even though Prospect Park was filled with spectators, Ocean Parkway was actually pretty quiet.  Though it was good to see some familiar faces from Manhattan cheering.  RB (aka Dr. Evil) was around mile 8 taking pictures…yes, I actually smiled for the camera 🙂  Not too long after, I saw LG and GA from Urban, and that was actually a nice surprise to see them.  And LG told me later that I “really looked comfortable”…ah looks are deceiving!!  Or I can’t resist smiling for my fans.

Yeah, Ocean Parkway was tougher than I thought!!  It actually felt slightly uphill…funny, I thought going the other direction felt slightly uphill too!!  Or maybe it was the elements getting to me, or maybe the fact this was the longest race I’ve done in a long time.  But I just kept going.  Barring a disaster, I had 1:45, now it’s just how far under can I go.  Took my 2nd gel and did some quick math at the 10-mile mark (1:18:09)…hmmm unless I can signficantly pick it up for the last 5K, 7:45s may be out.  Let’s see what happens…well after the legs could only crank out a 7:48 and 7:49 for miles 11 and 12, I thought, well maybe I can beat my 2008 Philly Distance Run time of 1:42:20…it’s gonna be close though!!

Part IV-Coney Island Boardwalk to the finish line
Mile 13-7:52
last .1 mile-:49

At the 12-mile mark, I could start to feel the finish line calling my name.  One more mile.  Less than 10 minutes.  I can do that.  Finally the turn onto Surf Ave and then another left, up the ramp, onto the boardwalk…heard “Nothing But a Good Time” by Poison playing and that actually made me smile.

The boardwalk.  2 years in a row, it tore up my calves and left me in pain for a good part of the race.  This year, none of that (of course it helped there was less than a mile on the boardwalk and I had an almost 12-mile warmup and it was warmer out!)  I did feel the boards moving (though I tried to stay on the part where the boards were straight instead of slanted for as long as I could)…normally I can really gun those last 1.1 miles, but I think I had to step off the accelerator a little bit to prevent from wiping out.  And even though the crowds were great here (thx AP for cheering!), the scenery was very nice…this mile just seemed to last forever!!  I think my legs were tired of the boardwalk 😛  Finally, the Mile 13 sign and I can see the finish line!!  Did the best I could for a finishing kick while staying vertical at the same time…finished!!

Final time-1:42:27 (7:49 pace)-just missing my 2008 PDR time (I blame the boardwalk…thats where I left those 7-8 seconds! 😛 )  But much more important-3rd best half time ever AND first time breaking 1:45 on a hilly course.  I’ve only done it on a flat course (PDR) or net downhill (the old Vegas course)  And to do it on a course that caused me such grief and pain in the past?  Revenge is sweet!

Part V-The Post-Race Party

Everybody was in really good spirits afterwards and ready to have some Coney Island fun.  First off, me and Flyers EG, CN, KM and JR headed over to the ocean…while a couple of them had a desire to go swimming, I just wanted to dip my legs in the Atlantic to give them a nice ice bath 🙂  While it was eventually deemed that the water was too cold for swimming, it felt absolutely awesome on my legs.

Beer Island!!

But the best was yet to come-a lot of Flyers (and other teams, I saw) congregated at Beer Island to toast ourselves and our races.  And I saw they had Honey Moon (the summer seasonal Blue Moon variety) on draft…score!!!  Just a lot of fun kicking back, having a few beers by the beach in the morning with a bunch of friends…love it!!  A few of us were saying how we may need to make this an ending point for some long runs this summer 🙂  Anyway, once done drinking, a few of us wanted to partake in some Coney Island cuisine…originally wanted some Totonno’s pizza but the wait there was gonna be ridiculous.  No worries…next best thing-Nathan’s hot dogs!!  After some dogs and fries, we were all ready to make the trek back to Manhattan and ready for some well-deserved naps.

As for the race itself, although I missed that time goal (PDR 2008) by seconds, I do think it was a much better performance, as that previous one was on a flat course and after 2 1/2 months of marathon training (for NYCM 2008.)  This at least shows that I’m in decent shape heading into Chicago training, and I may not have to train as crazy hard as I thought.  Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be easy.  But I don’t think I have to train as hard as I did last year and just may be able to escape injury this time around.  Only thing I might have liked was the miles along Ocean Parkway to be a little faster…but I know I left it all out there.  Gotta be satisfied with that.

And I give a huge thumbs up to the Brooklyn half, version 2.0.  The curse has been broken, and I am looking forward to running this one again next year!

happy Flyers after the Brooklyn Half

it never was my borough

today? i took on Brooklyn and Brooklyn won-the ghosts from last year still had not been erased.

little recrap about the ghosts from last year…basically going into last year’s Brooklyn half…i was hoping for a sub-1:45 yet dreaming of a sub-1:43 (PR.) That scenario looked like it would not happen in the early going…the boardwalk felt like it tore up my legs/calves and I was in a lot of pain during the Ocean Parkway part of the race. By Prospect Park, I felt a little better and was able to pick it up a little bit…thinking I could possibly salvage a sub-1:50, but missed that by 8 bloody seconds. so for this year, I didn’t have a time goal in mind at all, but just didn’t want to feel the same pain again.

so my day started pretty early today…had to catch a bus on the Upper West Side by 5:45 am. yep, one of the perks of belonging to a cool club like the Flyers (besides the cool people) are things like…a private bus to Coney Island with plush seats and a bathroom on board (yay no portapotties!) And since i’m just too nice, I volunteered to help check everyone in before we had to go crosstown to get the UES contingent, then off to Brooklyn. That was a little bit of an adventure. First off, the bus driver had no clue where he was going and relied on us to guide him. Which worked fine up til Brooklyn and the exit for the BQE…my teammate mistakenly told the driver to get on the BQE going towards the Triboro Bridge…though I said that was not right. One thing I have to say about myself, is that I have great navigational skills (comes from the years of driving to/from Long Island and coming up with tons of alternate routes to beat the traffic!) so if I say that it’s the wrong way, you listen. And sure enough, I was right :-p

Wasn’t too bad, we still made it Coney Island in plenty of time (about an hour to spare!) So, took the time to stretch, warm up a little, wait as long as possible before shedding my other layers and checking my bag (and yes, I did go with shorts-while it was cold at the beginning, was perfect while running-I knew since it was sunny, it’d warm things up a little.) usual pre-race routine…find teammates and line up (this time between 8 and 9) and chat a little while waiting for the starting horn…and we were off!! I’m sorta dividing this race into 3 parts, and will report on them as so…

Part I-The Coney Island Boardwalk
Mile 1-8:00
Mile 2-8:46
Mile 3-9:43


As usual, lining up “honestly” costs me as I had to dodge so many people in the early going just to sorta get into a relaxed groove. The boards are moving under my feet and I do everything to make sure I don’t wipe out. Mile 1 seemed a little fast, but I remember that mile seemed short last year so I wasn’t worried. The turnaround was in mile 2 and I get to see everyone going back the other way (I think I did see Uptown Girl, but not entirely sure) Mile 2 seemed a little more realistic but what worried me more was that my calves and shins were beginning to really hurt…again. Mile 3 pretty much showcased how much I was hurting (though I think Chelle may have been right about that mile being long too!) I could not wait to get off that boardwalk…

Part II-Ocean Parkway
Mile 4-8:54
Mile 5-8:56
Mile 6-9:10
Mile 7-8:56
Mile 8-8:57
Mile 9-8:47


So, at that point it was pretty much deja vu from last year and I wasn’t looking forward to the 6 miles along Ocean Parkway. At that point, just try and keep it together as much as possible (I slowed in mile 6 for Gatorade and mile 7 for gel.) And the headwind was not exactly helping matters much either. Honestly…a DNF was actually on the mind, was thinking of just calling it quits after 9 or 10 but…got a little too much pride for something like that to happen. So figured, just bide my time til the park, maybe the hills will actually help (as well as the best part of my playlist!)

Part III-Prospect Park
Mile 10-8:57
Mile 11-8:54
Mile 12-8:13
Mile 13-8:19
last .1 mile-:52


We enter the park and not too long after we do, I see Brooklyn cheering for us (thanks!) I hold back a little in mile 10, wanting to save my legs for the climb in mile 11…yeesh, that was a bitch. More so than Harlem Hill…seemed like we just kept climbing and climbing and climbing with not quite enough downhill. Miles 12 and 13, I thought “the faster I run, the faster I finish”…though mile 13 was a tough one. Saw Derek was cheering near the finish line…thanks!! That last .1 mile is evil-along the lines of races that end at Tavern on the Green, but tried the best I could to kick it hard.

Final result-1:55:24, 8:48 pace. Unfortunately a PW by 19 seconds (previous worst in the Bronx last year) but it is what it is (a glorified training run) and I’ll take it.

After the race a big group of Flyers headed to a brunch that a coupla members were hosting-they had just bought a place near Prospect Park and wanted to host something for us. It’s funny, on the way walking over it was so cold, I think all anyone wanted was a spiked hot beverage. We got rum-spiked hot cider…yum. In addition to some other yummy food and a nice warm place to hang out for a coupla hours. But man, everyone looked as beat as i felt.

As for the race:
I’m not as disappointed with my time as I could have been. I mean, this is the first time running 13.1 since the injury and while it’s always nice to hope for miracles, gotta respect the distance, and just be glad that I *can* run 13.1 again. And this one wasn’t even a goal race for me anyway. What I wish had been different however, was the deja vu of the aches and pains from last year. I’m really convinced now that for distance, my legs need a nice rolling course and not so much flatness-and that the boardwalk surface really kills my legs. And that I am not going to run my best times when the mercury dips below 40-50 (will it *ever* be spring?)

So plain and simple-Brooklyn never was, and never will be, my borough.
However…once a Queen, always a Queen.
Yep. The Queens Half at the end of April…that *will* be my race, as it was last year.

And taking a much needed coupla weeks off from the races…c-ya next at the Labrecque 4-miler.

now i desperately need another nap…