Categories
Races Running

Brooklyn is the New Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Half Marathon didn’t start until 7 a.m. last Saturday, but in the hours leading up to it, my mind was already racing:

  • Am I going to make it to the Prospect Park starting line before bag check closes at the ungodly hour of 6:10 a.m.?
  • Is it going to start pouring mid-race like this ominous cloud cover suggests?
  • Is a 9 a.m. hot dog on Coney Island a socially acceptable recovery snack?
Spoiler Alert: It was.
Spoiler Alert: It was.

But for all the pre-race thoughts and anxieties filling my head, there was one question notably absent from my stream of conscious in the days and hours leading up to my second half marathon of the year:

Will I PR?

For every past race, I’d always checked my previous PR — or personal record — before the starting gun so I’d know just how fast I’d have to run in order to beat my earlier efforts. As a middle of the pack runner, I’m rarely going to beat the other participants, but if I can shave off a few seconds from a previous race time of the same distance, it shows my hard work is paying off. A new PR isn’t the only sign of a good race, but it’s certainly a rewarding one.

For the Brooklyn Half, however, I didn’t even bother looking up my previous half marathon PR before entering my corral. Why not, you ask? Plenty of reasons. I knew I logged it in 2013 when I was in better shape. I remembered it happened when I was running with my fast friend Adam. I recalled it was a sub 1:50 time, which is at least three minutes faster than my performance in the MORE/FITNESS/SHAPE Women’s Half Marathon just one month ago, and my training since then has been anything but stellar.

The odds of PRing weren’t in my favor.

Flash forward to race day. I was up at 4 a.m. to meet my friends Z-Z and Leigh-Ann (and Leigh-Ann’s brilliant hired van) at 5:15 a.m. to get to bag check before 6:10 a.m. to get in corrals by 6:40 a.m. before the 7:00 a.m. start. Thank god I’m a morning person.

Who needs coffee? (Just kidding. We both do.)
Who needs coffee? (Just kidding. We both do.)

I started to talk with my corral mates to pass the time, and I quickly discovered I was surrounded by some really fast individuals. “I’m trying for a 1:30,” said Kevin, the chatty stretcher by the railing. “I’m taking it easy after qualifying for Boston last week,” said approachable Alan in line for the john. “I am Meb Keflezighi,” said Meb Keflezighi as he smacked me with his Olympic silver. I could be exaggerating on that last point, but I can’t be sure. I was clearly in the wrong corral.

Knowing I was surrounded by greats, I made an important decision as the starting gun went off: I wasn’t going to go out sprinting with them. I was going to run my own race.

So I did. Miles 1-4, I kept myself at a steady 8:30 pace, even though my legs were itching to keep up. Mile 5, I was passed by a speedy friend who I decided not to chase down because I wasn’t yet ready to drop the hammer. Mile 7, we exited Prospect Park and even though the crowds were roaring, I simply maintained.

And then we hit Ocean Parkway — the 6.1-mile stretch that would take us due south to the finish line — and I let it have it.

Sure, my quads were starting to ache and my calloused feet were barking, but with more than half of the race under my belt, I felt like I still had more gas in the tank, so I started to push my speed. For the next few miles, I threw back every cup of Gatorade I could get my hands on, ate my Honey Stinger energy chews and counted down the alphabetical avenues from A to Z. At mile 11, the sky opened up to a torrential downpour, so I put my head down and cranked up the effort. As I approached mile 12, I started to do the math and realized that if I could maintain an 8 minute mile for just 8 more minutes, I might be able to finish under the 1:50 mark. So I squared my shoulders, widened by stride and tore my way down the boardwalk and over that finish line at 1:49:12.

I collected my medal and heat sheet, gathered my baggage, unabashedly stripped out of my wet clothes in the minor league baseball parking lot (sorry, mom), and met my friends for a beer and dog at Nathan’s. It was only when I was in the van headed home that I got the idea to check my existing half marathon PR just for hell of it.

And what do you know? It was a 1:49:47. With no expectation whatsoever, I’d just knocked 35 seconds off.

And who says Brooklyn is all played out?

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Thanks, Brooklyn!

I was just one of 26,482 finishers, so I know some of you did it do. How’d your race go?

Categories
Running

Like Night and Day

There are several core truths about myself I hold to be true. I’m right handed. I’m a dog person. I’m afraid of ET. I’m team Peeta, team Jacob and team embarrassed to have read so many novels originally written for 12-year-old girls.

One more core truth: I am a morning runner.

For as long as I can remember, fitness has been a morning activity for me. I mostly chalk it up to my disciplined mother’s standing 5:30 a.m. date with the YMCA, but even without her good influence, I understand the appeal of daybreak workouts: I’m well rested, I don’t have a full stomach, I’m not exhausted from a day at the office, and the roads before sun-up are mine alone.

Setting a pre-dawn alarm clock isn’t always fun, but it’s rewarding to finish a workout before your first cup of coffee.

That’s why this week has been so darn challenging: because of a shift in my work schedule, I haven’t been able to work out at my usual hour. For the first time in Lord knows how many years, I’ve discarded the core tenet of my fitness routine and logged my miles at night.

And you know what? It wasn’t that bad.

I had been bracing for the worst situation imaginable, from being so full from a day’s worth of eating that I’d cramp up at mile 3 to being so hungry before dinner that I’d pass out mid-loop. (Yes, most of the scenarios I pictured involved me being carted out of the park on a stretcher. Another core truth: I have an overactive imagination.)

Now I’m not going to lie: it wasn’t easy coming home from an 11-hour workday and changing into Spandex instead of sweatpants. Every single day this week, I tried to come up with excuses to take a last-minute rest day, from it being too dark out to run safely to my Netflix being too lonely if I delayed our New Girl date an hour.

But once I got myself out the door, putting one leg in front of the other wasn’t actually all that different at 7 p.m. vs. 7 a.m. The biggest roadblock was my own mindset, and once I got past that, I was grateful to have gotten those miles in after all. They say the only workout you regret is the one you didn’t do, and even though I wouldn’t have chosen the timing, I’m glad I got those evening miles in.

I guess you can teach a dog new tricks. (Let’s be honest: you were all waiting for this.)

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