I post this race report of the Staten Island Half-Marathon concerned that you are all going to roll your eyes and say, “Here she goes again, we’ve heard this song before.” Granted, my nearly uninterrupted stream of PR’s could seem a bit repetitive. But isn’t that the kind of repetition we all want in our running?
Two hours before my alarm was set to go off, I was wide awake, fretting over the challenge which lay before me. How on earth was I going to break 1:53:34 today? It was a Charlie Brown Argh Moment, if ever there was one.
Finally, finally 6 AM came and I could leap up with purpose, distract myself with race preparations. I cabbed it to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, where I was meeting EN and his girlfriend AG (who was there to cheer) at 7:15. The terminal was full of runners, which was a pretty [cool] sight. I also ran into one of my TNT coaches, SH, and we all trooped onto the ferry en masse. I ate my breakfast (whole wheat English muffin with almond butter and apple jam) and drank my coffee and became decidedly non-chatty. I am a nervous talker, but apparently I’d entered a whole new realm of pre-race jitters.
After we’d gotten our bibs and joined the TNT base camp (EN is mentor captain), we went for a very easy 10 minute warm-up run, then stretched. I’ve never done this before a race before, always figuring it was better to conserve my energy for the course, but today I decided to move the warm up out of Mile 1, since I needed to run strong from the start if I was to PR again–my first mile pace couldn’t lag more than 15 seconds.
As EN and I stood in our corral, he generously offered an alternative race goal: let’s just run it as we feel it, have fun, and not try to PR. Even though this was an unacceptable plan for me, simply having him put it out there without judgment relaxed me enough so I could focus on what I needed to do to hold our goal pace of between 8:33 and 8:38 per mile, which would bring us in just under 1:53. Modest improvement: it’s all I dared ask.
And, we were off, as luck would (not) have it, I somehow brushed the wrong button on my Garmin and didn’t end up starting my watch until about 30 seconds or so into the race. Another Charlie Brown Argh Moment, as I was totally looking forward to recording my first race on little G exactly. But finally I got him going, and just hit the lap button at each mile marker to record my splits, knowing Mile 1 would be the only one off.
Even though conditions were much more hospitable than at the Queens Half (60 degrees and 65% humidity compared with 73 degrees and 83% humidity), nevertheless the bright sun beating down, coupled with the late 9:40 AM start, bothered me the first five miles or so–I even came away with sunburned shoulders and nose, despite applying sun block (wrinkles, no thanks). I was also a little dehydrated, and a little hungry–I ate breakfast too early. Gatorade didn’t show up on this course until Mile 4, which felt late. (This season I’ve been insistent on “Gatorade only” during my long runs and half-marathons. I think it actually maintains my hydration more effectively because I’m not diluting the electrolytes.) After I drank that first 8 ounces of Gatorade, though, I felt much better, and was much less affected by the sun, although we did run in the shade at every opportunity. If I do say so myself, I’ve developed quite an efficient water station technique over the years, and lose very little time drinking and eating. EN, on the other hand, slowed down every time to drink his water, and had to burst his speed to meet me up ahead. I felt for him, surely that uneven pace was exhausting. He commented later via email, specifically for Pigtails Flying:
I have to learn how to drink water while running. At every water station, I would deftly maneuver around the crowds, grab the water and slow down while hydrating. All the while, TK maintained her aggressive pace, forcing me to sprint to catch up; the uneven tempo finally took its toll around Mile 9, where I could feel exhaustion creeping in.
The miles seemed to zip by. Part of that impression is surely due to what I remember of the course, which I ran two years ago in 2:22:27. At that race, I simply spent more time at each mile. The segments along the water, through the warehouses, and the out and back all loomed as endless in my mind, when in actuality EN and I handily picked the middle miles off, 8:00, 8:02, 8:04, etc. Mile 8 to 9 was one massive hill, and I motivated my way up it by looking for someone attractive in front of me to ogle. (I think I found the only hot guy on the course, but I can’t be sure as he powered up the hill and I never saw his face. He did have fine arms, however.) That was our slowest mile, at 8:46.
Mile 10: I sang a little “chicka bow bow” (split–7:57). It’s at this point I quickly did the math and pondered how fast we’d have to run to break 1:50, instead of just breaking 1:53. Mile 11: picking up the pace as much as EN will let me, still feeling like I’ve got plenty to give. EN was hurting at the pace I set, but it was time to reverse our roles from Brooklyn. I urged him on, reminding him that his girlfriend, AG, was waiting at the finish line to give him a big kiss and a homemade banana walnut muffin. Mile 12: ready to go! I’d been steadily picking it up, but when we made the final turn into the straightaway, I though of my declining ladders at 6:40 pace and knew I had it. It was definitely a Hells yeah! kind of moment. EN and I played our How Many game from the Bronx Half, and passed about 36 runners in the last half-mile, but I couldn’t be sure because we both stopped counting. I think we ran the last mile in about 7 minutes, because when I looked at my watch at Mile 12, I thought, there was no way we were going to finish sub 1:50 unless we really laid the hammer down. (Which, apparently we did.)
EN and I crossed the finish line together, per tradition. It’s possible I knocked into a couple of runners, which is bad manners, I know. (In my defense, a pet peeve elaboration: runners who pull up before they cross the finish line. Don’t they understand that every second counts? If not, then A: Why are you here? and B: Get out of my way!) No swells of emotion for me this time, I just was feeling like a bad ass tough chick. Gave a few hollers of “whoo hoo,” EN and I gave each other a big sweaty hug of congratulations–for running a strong race, for completing the Grand Prix cycle, for running dozens and dozens of miles together. The next time we run a half together, we’ve decided, it will be to break his PR, which I think is 1:44-something. I really like EN’s take on the event, again from his comments written for this post:
TK later told me I bitched like a little girl but nevertheless, I’m proud of the effort…we set out with a challenging goal and kicked its posterior. We executed our race plan perfectly, had a ball along the way and started our finishing kick with 1/2 a mile to go. We completed the Grand Prix with panache and now 26.2 awaits.
In two shakes we were flopped out on the grass overlooking the water, two cold beers cracked open, toasting all of the above. AG showed up with her banana nut muffins and bubbly personality, and after a good stretching-out we were on our way back to the ferry. It took me nearly two hours to get home, but it was good chill out time, I even napped for a second, my head on AG’s shoulder as we headed uptown on the 1 train.
It wasn’t until I turned on the home computer and checked my results on nyrr.org that I knew my official time – 1:48:50 (averaging 8:18 minutes per mile). Not only did I break another personal record by nearly 5 minutes, I broke 1:50 (which seemed so far-fetched 24 hours earlier it hadn’t even been suggested as a goal), I came in 24th out of 218 women in my age group, and 176th out of 1429 women overall (not quite in the top 10%, but darn near close to it).
Oh yeah, and I can check off another one of my Five Worthy Goals.