NYRR SHAPE Women’s Half Marathon 2019

After Jerusalem, I realized that I had run at least one half marathon a month this year so far. As I had already previously registered for the Long Island Half in May, I decided to see whether I could keep this trend going all year, and set about looking for an April race.

I found several of them. All of which were quite expensive. So much so, in fact, the least expensive of all was the SHAPE Half Marathon, especially when you factor in that I wouldn’t have to pay tolls or for gas to do this one. I have actually run it once before — in 2016 — but I didn’t pay full price for it then. Because paying $75 to run in circles in Central Park is ridiculous. I paid it anyway.

Only after that did I discover that during the summer months, if I want to run a half marathon, I have the option of City Tri races… or City Tri races. Those are stupid expensive. If paying $75 to run in circles in Central Park is ridiculous, paying $105 to run down the Coney Island Boardwalk is even more ridiculous. I’m not so sure I want to do that. Too bad I didn’t realize this until after I had shelled out the money for this race! But since I already had, I needed to get something out of it. I ran a surprise PR here last time, but I didn’t even dream that could happen again. I had so little faith that it could, I didn’t dare bring out the magic shoes.

These have been pretty magical in their own right, but every single half marathon PR I have ever run has been in the magic shoes. Ever. (Excluding my first one, but that four-hour broken-pelvis hobble obviously doesn’t count.)

I arrived way, way, way too early. Preferable to arriving way, way, way too late, I guess. Which is what would have happened if I had turned around to go back home for the nasal strip I realized I had forgotten… when I was nearly at the subway station.

Often, I will say that I don’t have a particular goal for a race even when I sort of do. This is not because I’m sandbagging; it’s because I don’t decide whether I’m going to go after those goals until a race has actually begun. If I feel like utter shit or the conditions are just awful, they’re all out the window anyway.

But I did have those goals, because I needed to get something for the $75. So I settled on 1:33:59 as my A goal (it would qualify me for NYCM 2020, which I don’t even want to run because I hope to be retired from marathons by then, but whatever); a PR (1:34:55 or faster) as my B goal; and a course PR (under 1:37:25) as my C goal.

I couldn’t decide whether to wear long sleeves or short sleeves; I ended up going with the latter, and was glad for it, because it wound up being much warmer than I expected. Given the weather (not just the warmth, but it was also stupidly humid), and that I knew I’d be lapping people from later corrals during the second loop, I mentally prepared for a big positive split, because it just made sense to try and run a little faster before it got too hot. This strategy can work, it just doesn’t feel that great.

I was on TV! I was glad to find this on NY1 because it helps to illustrate just how hilarious the corralling was. When I ran this in 2016, I started in C, and I could see how sparsely populated the first couple of corrals were. Now I’m in B, where I will probably stay for the rest of my life, but that usually means I’m still a ways back from the start line, because in most NYRR races, the corrals are of relatively equal size. Look how tiny AA, A and B are here. There were maybe four dozen people in all of them combined.

And there was no logjam at the start! Totally didn’t feel like an NYRR race at all without the bobbing and weaving and crowding. Not that I’m saying I missed it, because I absolutely did not. It was lovely to have so much space.

The PPTC cheer squad was positioned so that I passed them in the first, seventh, and final miles. See how delightfully empty the course is during the first mile? And how I don’t yet look like I want to die?

Photo by William Ngo

Central Park is hilly. Everyone knows this. I don’t actually mind Cat Hill — it’s just a blip. Harlem Hill sucks a little more, because it’s longer and steeper, but at least once you get to the top, you know it’s done. The West Side hills, though? They always kill me. Always. There are supposedly three of them, but I counted my way over them, I had already climbed three, and yet here I am, still going uphill! That portion took way more out of me than Harlem Hill did.

At the 10K mark, I was cutting it close to 1:33:59. It was starting to get really hot (how can a park filled with trees have so little shade?!), and my ITB was not so happy with me, so I was resigned to dropping down to my B goal if things didn’t improve.

Photo by William Ngo

As is obvious from the way I look here during mile seven, they weren’t exactly improving. (I’m super proud of my arm carriage, though — I’ve been working really hard on moving my hands down to hip height instead of having them up near my chest. Halfway there! And then once I’ve got that mastered, I can learn to keep my elbows tucked in more.)

This is around the time when I started lapping people from the back corrals. Which wouldn’t be such a big deal if they weren’t five or six abreast. I’m not rude enough to go crashing through them, and for some reason the volunteers were directing everyone to the left (is it just me, or is the left supposed to be the passing lane??), so I had to do a lot more weaving than I would have liked to get around people. I had to skip the last few water stations (not the greatest idea in such weather) because there were just too many people congregating and I like to grab on the go. There were a few women from the earlier corrals still near me, but I think they were falling for the same “you’re running faster than the people around you” thing that I did last time, so I had to pay more attention to my watch than is ideal. And yet… the hills kept coming. And I wanted to run faster, but it was just too hard to do that on incessant climbs when the temperature and humidity kept climbing too. I was close to letting my B goal go, even though I hated to do it.

And then I decided that if I missed by a second or two, I’d be furious with myself, so I was going to do my damnedest to make it happen. Especially once I passed the 20K point, and I saw that my elapsed time was 1:29:xx — because I know that a kilometer in five minutes is roughly 8:00 pace, and I could do that. (Turns out that 1.1K in five minutes is actually 7:18 pace, but it’s a good thing I did not know that then.)

I thought that with one kilometer to go, it made sense to move over to the left to make the final turn to the finish. Except that there were still crowds of people there; they weren’t directed to the right until basically just before the turnoff. That was a bit irritating. But okay.

The turnoff was before mile 13. I looked at my watch when I passed that marker, and I remember thinking that I had a PR in the bag because it was just another tenth of a mile, and I had enough time to make it. But that tenth of a mile? It seemed to go on forever. It was like I had slowed down (I hadn’t) and the clock had sped up (it hadn’t), because I could see the numbers ticking down toward 1:34:55, and it was excruciating. I even forgot about my poor abraded big toes. (Seriously, what was that all about?!)

Photo by William Ngo

I have never in my life been more grateful that I have a decent finishing kick. Because otherwise, this could not have happened.

It’s a tiny one, but…

I ran a HM PR. For the first time since 2016. Without the magic shoes. In icky weather. And on a course that I find rather brutal. To say that I am astonished would be an understatement.

I mean, I missed my A goal, but given how I didn’t wear the magic shoes, I don’t think I really believed I could hit either that or my B goal.

As predicted, I positive split like a champ. I actually negative split this race the last time I did it, but the weather was better then, so that probably helped. And if it’s a positive split that got me a PR this year, well… I don’t much care how it happened.

Garmin recorded 13.25 miles in 1:34:42, 7:09/mi.

Officially, 13.1 miles in 1:34:40, 7:14/mi; 30/6139 OA, 8/970 F30-34. I just realized that my last HM PR was also at a women’s race. Maybe I should just stick to those!

A PR is a PR. But no need to look at McMillan predictions, since I’m “supposed” to be able to run a faster half than this! Which I maybe will. One day.


Brandeis 5K 2019

After running my fastest 5K in a year and a half last week, I wanted another chance at a flat race to see if I could pull off a PR in the absence of a headwind. That’s the beauty of race day registration: if conditions are crappy, you don’t have to show up. (Of course, some people do that anyway, but I’m not one of them. If I’ve registered for a race, I’m going to run it unless I am physically incapable of doing so.)

I did not want to drive a terribly long distance again, so I settled on the Brandeis 5K. It was an inaugural event — “first annual,” as they called it, which always drives me insane because there is no such thing — and those are always risky. The course wasn’t certified, which tends not to bother me so long as the distance is at least what it should be, and when I mapped it out on RideWithGPS, it seemed like it was.

Upon further thought, I decided that I was not going to rely on first-time race organizers to know that course marshals are a good thing to have, and plotted out the route on Garmin Connect to send to my watch so that I could run a warm-up on the race course and know where I was going during the actual event. That route measured 3.06 miles, which raised little alarm bells, but I really wasn’t entirely sure of where the start/finish would be, so I tried to convince myself it would be okay.

Sunday morning brought perfect weather conditions. What it did not bring was a perfect mental state for me. My brain is really not a very good one. And even as I got out of bed and prepared to leave, I kept thinking, It’s not too late, you haven’t registered, you don’t have to do this. I thought this throughout my drive to Lawrence, up until the moment I actually did register, because I felt like there was no way I’d be able to run even close to what I had the previous week, and then I’d just hate myself even more.

It was supposed to be overcast. Does this look overcast to you?

But by then I was committed, having already paid my registration fee, so I had no choice but to give it the best shot that I possibly could.

I’ve run a lot of PRs in the 1400 — either these or the v5 — so I was hoping to manage a 5K PR in them, too. Some leftover Jerusalem dirt for luck, I guess.

As planned, I used the navigation feature on my Garmin to run the course. My sense of direction is pretty pathetic, but what little of it there is is more landmark-based than anything… it’s easier to remember to turn left at the golf course, say. That circled spot was one I pinpointed as potentially giving me trouble during the race because there were several turns in and out of little curving streets. (Foreshadowing!) There were no directional signs or cones or anything, so it would really be up to me, and I didn’t want to use the navigation feature during the race because leaving my watch on the map screen meant I wouldn’t be able to see my pace and distance.

I did manage to get my warmup to total 3.1 miles, but I had to run a little past where the start line would be (having begun from the finish), so I was fairly certain the course was actually short. This made me feel like an all-out effort would be wasted, since I don’t think a PR on a short course counts. But I guess it would still help me gain a bit of sorely needed self-confidence if I could run it well, so there was that to consider.

And yet when a woman at the start line asked me what pace I was planning to run, I said probably around 6:40. Because I knew from last week that I could do it, and I really did not feel like I could improve on that when it wouldn’t even count.

There was no timing mat at the start, which I didn’t even notice at the time. In which case, I really wish we would have started at the northeast corner of the school lot instead of the southeast corner, because then the course would have been long enough, but oh well.

It was the usual sort of start with lots of kids on the line, involving a bit more weaving and nearly tripping than I’d like. One woman was ahead of me, and I reeled her in pretty quickly; the field spread out within the first half mile, and I found myself running alone with a pack of three men ahead of me, right behind the cyclist. They were running much faster than I was, so I lost sight of them within the first mile.

Actual course run during the race. See that little deviation where I’d predicted I would mess up? And by the time the race started, there were course marshals of a sort: police cars were blocking some of the outlets so we wouldn’t run off course, but not every street had one. The frustrating part is that where I went wrong, there was a police car… with one officer leaning into the driver’s window and chatting with a second officer inside the car. It wasn’t until I ran past him that he told me I had gone too far and was supposed to be running the other way, and I needed to double back.

By the time I turned onto the last long straight stretch, I had already been running all by myself for about two miles. From my warmup, I knew roughly how much farther I had to go, and I really did not think I’d reach 3.1 miles, even with my wrong turn. (Not that a wrong turn that adds distance makes a short course an accurate one, but at least I would have run 3.1 miles!) The closer I got to the finish, the more certain of that I became, but then… I knew this would probably happen.

There was a little curb to get into the lot with the finish line, and I was terrified I was going to trip over it, and I was so focused on that, I didn’t even notice until I was past it that there was a finish line tape!

The time on the clock would have both pleased me (because it would be a PR) and annoyed me (because it was a bit slower than I would ideally have wanted to run), except all of that is a moot point since the course really did measure short. For some reason, there’s sound in the finish line video, which is how I learned that the lead cyclist made a wrong turn too, only his shortened the course instead of extended it. I guess I did a better job of navigating on my own after all, which, trust me, is truly an anomaly.

Distance aside, that is five seconds per mile faster than a week ago, so that’s a nice takeaway, I suppose. If I extrapolate that 5:43 lap pace to another .03 mile… well, it would have been a really close call whether I PRed by a second or two, or missed by a second or two. But then, had I trusted the accuracy of the course, I might have run harder from the outset. There is really no way to know.

Garmin: 3.07 miles in 20:17, 6:37/mi.

Officially, 3.1 miles (ha, I wish) in 20:15, 6:31/mi; 4/142 OA, 1/82 F.

I went to my car to get my phone to run a few additional miles (I’d need it in case I got lost), and that’s when I noticed this.

I was not amused. It couldn’t have happened in the lot, as I had pulled in to the left of a car that was still there. I didn’t notice it before I left for the race, because I didn’t approach my car from the passenger side. I am now instituting a policy of doing a walk-around of my car every time I use it, so that I will at least know right away when something like this happens.

As far as car damage goes, I guess this is the best sort, because I managed to fix most of it myself. But that happened much later in the day, and I was so riled up about this that by the time I made it back to the finish line, I wasn’t sure I’d have enough time to run a few miles and still not miss the awards ceremony, so I waited. And waited and waited. But it’s a good thing I did, because evidently I won an Amazon gift card. In pretty much the right amount to buy the touch-up paint to fix the scrapes left on my bumper after I popped out the dent.

I’m not going to look at McMillan predictions, because I didn’t really run a 20:15 5K. And I probably won’t have another chance to race a 5K before it gets hot out, so… this will have to satisfy me for now.

Side note: it’s pretty common knowledge that “race day magic” often helps people to perform better. I always assumed this was due to having competition out there on the course with you, and it’s true that a hard effort can feel a little easier when you’re not running alone. So why is it that so many of my PRs are from races that I ran mostly alone? Even if I don’t count this one (the person directly ahead of me ran nearly two minutes faster, and the two directly behind me ran nearly two minutes slower), there’s the 10K from two weeks ago, my HM, 30K, and marathon PRs … it’s really kind of bizarre.

The Mixed Bag Prediction Run 5K 2019

It occurred to me that at the Run from Winter 10K, I essentially ran a 10K at pretty much 5K pace, which means I should be able to run a much faster 5K than that. Ignoring the part where I’ve always been better at maintaining a given pace for a longer distance than running faster than that for a shorter one, of course, but ignorance is bliss. I decided to run a 5K just to see what would happen, and I explored a couple of options. Both were at least an hour’s drive, which is a ridiculously long way to travel for a 5K, but after that 10K, I think I’m operating under the theory that having come so far makes me less willing to stand for running a bad race.

So off I went, in the Zante v4 because the top of my foot had been bugging me for a few days, and I don’t know if it’s the roomy midfoot or the upper itself, but the pressure is greatly alleviated in these shoes.

I chose the Mixed Bag Prediction Run. I wasn’t going to predict, obviously, because I need to wear a watch so there is evidence that this happened!

The weather actually looked decent. Though when I got out of the car, I was regretting the shorts because it felt much colder, and I was glad I had tossed a pair of gloves in my bag at the last minute; I was going to need them.

This part… not so much. Too much wind, too humid. Given my nonexistent sense of direction, I really had no idea how the wind would affect the race, especially since I didn’t know where the course was going to go. But I did affirm during my warmup that there was a nasty headwind in one direction.

I made it back to the start with a few minutes to spare and lined up pretty close to the front of a rather small field. I probably went out a little too fast, but I eventually wound up as second female, with the first so far ahead of me that I wouldn’t even entertain the thought of catching her. And then the third place woman passed me, so I just paced off of her for the rest of the first mile.

Just after the mile marker, we made a right turn into the wind. The buffeting wind. It was not pleasant, but I did use the opportunity to overtake the second place position, because I knew the wind was causing me to run slower than I wanted to, so it became more of a battle of placement.

My warmup did not venture toward the water the way the race course did. Wind is always worse along the water, so the 20MPH headwind was really not appreciated. But I did know that might be the case, so I can’t say it was surprising.

It was a relief to finally get somewhat out of the wind; I had stopped looking at my watch at that point because I knew a PR was not going to happen. But once I made that turn back onto the fitness trail, I saw that I could finish in under 21:00, which was great because it would have been quite pathetic to run a 5K at the same pace as, or slower than, the 10K from a week prior, so I tried to pick it up a bit.

It was faster than the 10K. So at least there’s that.

Garmin recorded 3.1 miles in 20:41, 6:41/mi.

Officially, 3.1 miles in 20:39, 6:39/mi. 6/124 OA, 2/71 F, and 1/9 F30-34. Fifteen seconds off my PR, but it’s also as close to that as I’ve gotten since I ran it in the summer of 2017.

Am I annoyed that after driving all that way, I didn’t get a PR? Sure. But I do feel like I have the fitness to run faster without these windy conditions, so it’s not as if this race didn’t go quite the way I would have liked only because I suck. I need to find a good course on a day with decent weather in order to make that determination.

I asked for that bib number. Because I’m a weirdo like that.

Run from Winter 10K 2019

It’s not that unusual for me to drive to New Jersey for a race, but I generally stick to places that are still pretty close to New York. Bridgewater doesn’t really qualify, but I reasoned that it’s “not that far” from Princeton, and the New Balance Princeton store is open on Sundays, so I’d be able to redeem the gift certificate from the Passaic Chanukah 5K. Which I didn’t actually do, because I left it at home, having decided that driving an additional twenty miles was not something that interested me.

But I still went out there to do this 10K, because my PR from 2017 was a time that I should easily be able to beat, despite how terrible I am at the 10K, as demonstrated by my abysmal failure to PR in August.

Of course, I checked out the results from previous years. Based on those, I thought I could potentially place. Maybe not win, but top three AG for sure. Though, of course, my primarily goal here was to PR. I’d be really annoyed if I drove all that way only to run yet another crappy race. The course seemed good, the weather looked cooperative, and so off I went to register on race day. The 10 AM start time was particularly appealing, because it meant I didn’t have to wake up at some insane hour.

I decided to do this even though my knee had been pretty unhappy for a couple of days, and the cold that’s been bugging me since the Washington Heights 5K appears uninterested in going anywhere. It’s only a 10K, after all, and my PR was soft. All the same, I decided against wearing the magic shoes because I was scared to kill that magic, so I went with these instead.

I arrived at Duke Island Park around 9:15. I had planned on a twenty-minute warmup, but naturally my digestive system had other ideas, which left me enough time for a single mile and a couple of strides before making my way to the start line with a few minutes to spare. At which point there was an announcement that due to a tree having fallen on the course, the start would be delayed by about fifteen minutes. I took the opportunity for another bathroom trip, and to be glad that my knee didn’t feel too terrible. And to scout out possible competition, since I have some weird second sense about these things.

It definitely felt a little windier than that, at least in the second half of the race!

I was lined up pretty close to the front, but there wasn’t much fanfare about the start; I think they were using an air gun that was out of air, so we all basically just stood there for a couple of seconds after the clock had started to run, which explains the disparity between my chip time and gun time.

There were three women in the initial lead pack (and yes, one of them was the one I’d pegged as someone who could beat me). Given my nonexistent level of self-confidence, I wanted to let them get ahead of me, but then I decided that I didn’t come all this way just to roll over and play dead, so I’d go with the more aggressive end of my plan, which had been to stick between 6:50-7:10 pace, since anything in that range would get me a PR. I had the lead to myself within the first half mile, and I refused to look behind me to see how close those women were. I also refused to look at the average pace on my watch, choosing instead to focus on lap pace, because the only way I was going to be able to do this was if I took it one mile at a time. Not that I was so sure that meant I could do it, but I was being handed a good course and great weather on a silver platter, so I had to try and take advantage of that.

I don’t remember whether there was a lead bike, but as tends to happen, the super fast people pull away, and then there are a bunch of people behind me, and I end up running alone. I didn’t know where the hell I was going, so I had to keep contact with at least one person. Luckily, the guy at the tail end of that lead pack was wearing a bright yellow shirt, so I was able to get glimpses of him through the trees.

There was a hairpin turn just before the third mile marker, and someone was there calling splits. Evidently, I passed her at twenty minutes, but I think she must have been rounding down, because when I looked down at my watch around what I thought would be the 5K point (and was, in fact, 3.16 miles), my elapsed time was 21:16. I found that a little funny because it was far faster than the actual 5K race through which I’d struggled just three weeks prior, and while I definitely didn’t feel like I was just taking a walk in the park, I felt way better than I did that day.

The second half was harder than the first, of course. I was running in the opposite direction of the people behind me, and the path is pretty narrow, and there were way more of them, so it got a little crowded. Still, I do always like races where you can see the rest of the field. And it meant that I just had to keep running opposite them, and I wouldn’t get lost.

One guy told me that I was the second place female. I knew for a fact that this wasn’t true, but it still felt a little discouraging, because what if I was losing my mind and it was true? Enough people after that let me know that I was actually first, but the last couple of miles were not easy. Particularly since I knew that I could slow down quite a bit and still PR… it just meant that I might have to sacrifice the win.

There was a little out-and-back about a quarter of a mile before the finish. Just as I was making the turn back onto the main road, the second place female was turning into the side road. I was fairly certain there was little chance that she could catch me at that point, but you never know, some people have an awesome finishing kick, so that lit a fire under my ass, and I picked it up as much as I could to ensure I made it to the finish line before she did.

Where, much to my dismay, there was no finish line tape. But I was the first female to cross, and in a time I never would have thought I could actually run.

That’s mind-boggling especially because of how terribly I’ve historically executed 10Ks. Not only was this one my fastest to date, it wasn’t a tactical disaster.

Garmin recorded 6.18 miles in 42:07, 6:49/mi. I’m not bothered that it measured the course short, because it is USATF certified, and that’s what really matters to me when it comes to the legitimacy of a PR.

Officially, 42:05, 6:46/mi. 11/216, first female. And a PR by 2:40. This was a long, long time coming!

I had time to run some more miles before the awards ceremony, so I did that. And then noticed this:

Hillsborough is not exactly close by for me. It is, however, just a short hop from Princeton. So I guess it’s okay that I still have that gift certificate to redeem!

Because it’s super exciting and I rarely get to do this anymore, some McMillan predictions. It’s a little bizarre because the 10 mile prediction is my actual PR, down to the second. Does that mean that the rest of them are totally realistic?! (Yeah, people often tell me how hilarious I am. I know.)

1mi — 5:50.3
5K — 20:16 (6:31/mi)
4mi — 26:20 (6:35/mi)
5mi — 33:36 (6:43/mi)
15K — 1:05:12 (7:00/mi)
10mi — 1:10:20 (7:02/mi)
HM — 1:33:49 (7:10/mi)
30K — 2:17:04 (7:21/mi)
FM — 3:17:27 (7:32/mi)

My drive home was rather terrifying. It seems that either my cold hasn’t gone away, or else I have a new one, because I have never sneezed so much in my life as I have in the past twenty-four hours. Driving on a highway while sneezing is really  not my favorite thing to do.

But at least this time, feeling like crap didn’t make me run like it.

Jerusalem Half Marathon 2019

Three years ago, I came tantalizingly close to breaking 1:40 at the Jerusalem Half Marathon.  My watch measured the course short that year, so I didn’t realize what was happening until it was much too late to do anything about it.  I was looking forward to redeeming myself in 2017, but that was the year a stress fracture forced me to drop down to the 5K.  And last year, obviously, was just a general disaster.

I was determined to finally get this done… and even though I’ve been determined to do lots of things over the past year that never happened, I figured there were a couple of things that were in my favor here.  Namely, every single crappy half marathon I’ve run recently was in the same 1:37-1:38 range, regardless of the course; and I did run the Washington Heights 5K faster than in 2016.  And this is the first year since then that I’ve been relatively healthy for Jerusalem.  (Physically, I mean.  Mentally, well, that’s a story for another day. Though I’ve also been chronically under-fueled for three months running [no pun intended].)

To aid in my efforts, I printed out a pace band.  For 1:39, not 1:40.  And also calculated that assuming my watch measured 13.25 miles, my average pace on that would need to be 7:31.

But then I realized that I wouldn’t be able to compare my elapsed time against the pace band using the mile markers for reference, because there aren’t any mile markers, just kilometer markers.  And I didn’t want to run in kilometers because a pace of x:xx per kilometer doesn’t really mean anything to me; so instead I scribbled the 5K splits on my hand, figuring that would be close enough to give me an idea of how things were going.

Before race day, though, I had to be as stressed out as possible.  I had intended to attempt diving in Israel (again), but that never happened, so I went bouldering on Thursday instead.  Which was just as well, I suppose, since it was an absolutely nasty day — just like the Spring Forward 10 & 5 Miler.  And the Lebow Half.  And Boston 2018.  Cold and wet and windy and raw, and I was just so incredibly thankful that at least the forecast for Friday was dry.

I sure had a lot of time to be actively thankful about it, because I went to bed at 9 PM so that I could get eight hours of sleep.  That sleep didn’t happen until after 2 AM.  Sleep is overrated, anyway, isn’t it?  Three hours is just way too much.  (It helped me a bit to know that I slept absolutely terribly the night before I finally ran a sub-6:00 mile.  But I still would have liked to be unconscious.)

Of course I woke up before my alarm, as tends to happen when one is much too fretful about oversleeping.  It seemed dumb to try and go back to sleep for fifteen minutes, so I got up and took a very hot shower; I still felt chilled from walking around in wet shoes and socks all day on Thursday.  And it was cold out.  Dry, but cold.  I decided to wear my sun sleeves after all, even though I hadn’t really had any intention of using those when I packed them.  This is why it’s a good idea to be prepared for all sorts of weather conditions.  I wore gloves to the park, too, but decided I’d be too warm running with them.

A fresh pre-race Holy bagel!  Always a lovely novelty here.

The half marathon was set to begin at 6:45.  For reasons unbeknownst to me, since I did provide an anticipated finish time, my bib had me in corral C.  They don’t really police that very well here, and I had every intention of moving up to A so that I could stay in the general range of the 1:40 pacer.  Except that for all their telling everyone to come early… when I arrived at Sacher Park around 6 AM, they hadn’t even let anyone in yet.


Okay then.  By the time I finally got into the park and made a bathroom stop, it was after 6:15, and I had wanted to be at the start by 6:30… it’s half a mile away.  Good luck running toward it, because the park itself is a mud pit like Hopkinton before Boston 2018, and the walking paths are generally clogged with people. 

I gingerly picked my way through the muddy field to drop my bag at the OneFamily tent, except that said tent was staffed by one person who insisted we couldn’t leave our bags there.  I’ve always left my bag there, in all the years I’ve been doing this, but he didn’t speak English and I didn’t have time to argue, so I just went to general bag drop, which was in the opposite direction from the start and involved waiting in another line.

The plus side of this is that I didn’t have time to freak out before the race began, because once I made it through all the various barricades, the gun had already sounded.  I looked at my watch just before I started to run, and it was 6:47.  And I was behind a pacer.  The 2:15 pacer.  Oh, this was going to be fun.

Okay, it was not fun.  It was incredibly frustrating.  I guess it kept me from going out too fast, but it was kind of ridiculous.  I did a fair bit of weaving, which really was my only option because it’s not like it was going to get any faster once we spread out a bit.  I passed the 2:15 pacer in the first mile, the 2:00 pacer in the second, and the 1:50 pacer in the third.  And, much to my surprise, I passed a 1:45 pacer too — there wasn’t supposed to be one of those.

Things got a little less irritating after the first 5K.  I do love the Old City portion of the race because it’s beautiful and historical and everything, but I do not love running on cobblestones that are thousands of years old, as they are very slippery.  Especially when the ground is all wet from the previous day’s monsoon.  So I was glad to get that over with.  I never did see the 5K marker, though.

According to the pace band, the hill in mile five is harder than the one in mile twelve.  I’ve never felt that way; maybe because it’s earlier in the race, or maybe because it’s not quite as long.  I made it through that and to the 10K point without losing much time, and as a reward, I passed the 1:40 pacer around then.  I was really trying very hard to just take it one mile at a time, and when the hill doesn’t comprise the entire mile, I find it much easier to focus on my pace rather than on how very much I feel like dying.

The 15K marker is near the turnaround point of an out-and-back that plays with my mind because it’s made up of a bunch of rolling hills.  You can’t ever look at the people running in the opposite direction and envy them for running downhill while you’re running uphill and know that you’ll be there soon, because it keeps changing.  The views on that run out are top-notch, though.  And of course my watch hit 9.3 miles way before I got to the turnaround, which didn’t really thrill me, but that’s why I had given myself some wiggle room; I knew something like this was most likely going to happen.

That mile twelve mountain was every bit as awful as I’d remembered.  I ran that mile nearly thirty seconds slower than my pace band indicated, and before the ground had finally leveled out, it was nearly a minute slower.  I really am a weak hill runner.  It is not a joke.

While I can’t do all the math involved in figuring out how long it will take me to run a kilometer at X pace, I do know that 8:00/mi is roughly 5:00/km, so from the 17K point or so, I was calculating whether I would be able to make it if I just kept my current pace under that.  Of course, all of this was unnecessary because so long as the 1:40 pacer stayed behind me — since he had started a minute or two ahead — I didn’t need to worry.

But I excel at worrying, and so worry I did, to the point that I managed to throw down a sub-7:00 final mile.  And then for that last .1, which is cruelly, sadistically uphill and seems never-ending, well… I knew I had it.  So I may have eased up just a teeny tiny bit to allow myself more room for improvement in the future.  As you do.

I never get a good finish line photo from this race.  There weren’t even that many people finishing at the same time as me, but in case they were blocking me, I didn’t stop my watch until I passed the last camera, which was about fifty feet from the last mat.  The finish line clock isn’t visible to you when you run under the finish arch, so I didn’t know what I had actually run until I looked down.

I am vindicated.

Garmin: 13.29 miles in 1:38:37, 7:25/mi.

Officially, 1:38:39 … which would be, I guess, 7:32/mi.  I will never, ever understand why my official time in Israeli races is always longer than the time on my watch, when I start it before the first mat and stop it after the last.  212/5053 OA, 13/1422 F, and 2/134 F35-39 (the results were updated after I took that screenshot).  Yes, I know I’m not yet 35, but apparently they decided I am, and since I never got the awards I was owed for the past two years, I’m pretty sure I’ll never see this one either so it doesn’t even matter.

It has been so, so, so long since I’ve set a specific goal and achieved it.  I’d forgotten what it feels like.  It should take some of the shine away, knowing that this is nowhere close to a PR for me, and that I’ve been running similar times for aeons.  But this course is a killer; it might be my favorite race in the world, but it’s also the hardest for me, and so I’m glad that it happened here.

Not a bad way to celebrate half marathon #35!  (Yes, that’s what running three half marathons on consecutive weeks was all about … I wanted this one to be the thirty-fifth.)

Spring Forward 10 & 5 Miler 2019

As it turns out, there was a reason why I felt so miserably cold last week — I was getting sick.  I’m fairly certain I would have run a disappointing race even if that weren’t true, because I’m unable to do anything else anymore, but at least this time there was another explanation for it other than the usual “I suck.”

Which really makes it all the more ridiculous for me to have shown up for this, especially when you consider that I opted for race day registration!  It was supposed to be my chance to avenge the short course at the QDR Toy Drive 5 Miler, but after being sick all week and under-fueled since that latter race (yes, I know this; knowing it is much easier than doing something about it), I didn’t think a PR was very likely.  And then when I saw that I was going to be treated to yet another weather iteration of Boston 2018, I decided to not even try.  But I did show up, because running a five-mile race meant I’d just run five miles, whereas if left to my own devices I’d end up going long.  Which is a stupid thing to do with Jerusalem coming up this Friday.

Don’t I just look so elite?  More like so congested.  Breathing is essential when you’re trying to run, and I am currently unable to do that very well.  (I can’t run very well either nowadays, but there’s no need for me to make an already pathetic situation even worse.)

The indoor bathroom at Forest Park was nice… except it was just that, a bathroom.  One stall.  At least there weren’t too many crazy people willing to come out and run in these conditions, so the line wasn’t very long.

This is my type of course, topographically.  Gentle rolling hills are my favorite.  Well, not really my favorite, I’d rather just roll perpetually downhill, but I do think I can run better on something like this.  Of course, “better” is not hard when everything you’ve done lately leaves so much room for improvement.

It was so cold and wet that I decided to run in a rain jacket.  Sure, waterproof jackets don’t breathe at all, but since the same temperature felt so freezing to me last week and I’m not totally over this cold yet, I really wasn’t worried about overheating.  And I’m so tired of running in wet, cold, windy conditions.  This is only the second time that I’ve ever run a race in a jacket; the first was so long ago, I wasn’t even blogging then.  (Coogan’s 2012, in case you’re curious.)

I had looked up the results of last year’s race, so I knew that if nobody faster showed up, I had a shot at coming in first place.  Which I really only want to do because it would be awesome to break the tape for once, and which is also why I was pretty sure that at least one woman would show up and run faster than me.

These are my shoes after the race.  You can’t tell how wet they are, though you can see the mud.  There was a huge puddle about half a mile in, and there were volunteers directing runners up onto the sidewalk to circumvent the puddle… but there were piles of snow along the curb, so I figured that if my feet were going to get cold(er) and wet(ter) anyway by stamping through the snow, I would just keep running straight.

The puddle was very cold and very deep.

At that point, I was the third place female.  Tied for third, really, with a woman who always seems to run the same races I do, and even though I am not generally that competitive with other people, since I wasn’t running for time, I decided that instead, I just did not want to let her beat me.  She was literally on my heels at the turnaround, and oh, how I hate hairpin turns!  I think I dropped her when we passed that big puddle again.  This time I went up on the sidewalk.

Completing the first lap, I saw the clock read 18:10.  So I decided that I was going to set a goal of finishing in under 36:20, aiming for a negative split.  To help me do that, I started trying to chase down the two women ahead of me.  I had never lost sight of them… it just hadn’t seemed worth the effort of catching them.

I moved into second place a mile and a half or so from the finish.  Since I was already convinced that I wouldn’t be coming in first, I probably didn’t try as hard as I could or should have to catch the lead female.  It didn’t help matters that on my final skirting around the big puddle, I skidded on the mud between the sidewalk and the road, scaring myself half to death.  The very last thing I need is to fall and break something!  So I lost a couple of seconds there, and then a couple more thanks to an exaggerated urge to exercise extreme caution.  Which I do not regret in the slightest.

Coming in to the finish.  The woman in the background is the fourth place female finisher — the course passed the mat and then we made another hairpin turn to have a sprint finish.  The third place female is somewhere behind me and ahead of her.

An unsurprisingly mediocre time.  Though I guess I can’t say I was trying to run a particular pace and wasn’t able to, because I didn’t really look at my watch very much; there were too many raindrops for me to see the face clearly anyway.

Garmin recorded 5.05 miles in 35:57, 7:07/mi.

Officially, 5 miles in 35:56, 7:11/mi; 5/41 OA, 2/19 F, and 1/8 F30-39.  (I would have won by a huge margin had I run the ten miler instead.  Naturally.)

But I did get my negative splits, so mission accomplished there.

Photos can’t do this justice, but I tried… the puddles in the background were supposed to show the pattering raindrops.  “Pattering” is far too mild a word for what was actually happening.  I tried to withstand it as much as I could, but it wasn’t very long before I hightailed it back to my car.  Being cold and wet are really not my favorite things.

Though I got a medal.  So there is that.

And now the pre-Jerusalem freaking out can begin in earnest.

NYRR Washington Heights Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K 2019

I last ran this race in 2016, figuring it was a good idea to run a hillier 5K a couple of weeks before Jerusalem.  That was the year I came unexpectedly close to breaking 1:40 there, which I’ve been chasing ever since.  So while I knew that there was no way I would PR here, because I am a worthless shit and I can’t even buy a PR these days, if I could manage a course PR, that might give me an idea of what to expect in Jerusalem.

Or not, because knowing me, I’ll probably end up running 1:40:01.  But whatever.  I can think of no other reason to subject myself to the torture of running races that make me feel even more futile than I already do.

I’m pretty sure I wore the Hyperions in my 5K PR… in 2017.  Yeah.  That was before I started running like utter shit.  Obviously.  That PR was in the summer, and it was great because these shoes are so breathable.  It is far less great when it’s freezing outside and my feet go numb.  Along with the rest of me, because as is old news around these parts, I do not handle cold well.

Thank goodness for the Armory — it was nice and warm in there, and I even stumbled across a women’s bathroom that was inexplicably not in much use.  I don’t know why, because it was clean and had toilet paper and everything, but okay, I’m not going to complain about being able to make three bathroom trips within fifteen minutes in decent facilities!

Then I had to go outside.  It was dreadful, but a good thing I left when I did, because the line for bag check was really long.  And then I had a bit of a trek to get to my corral, in which I stood and shivered, evidently quite a lot because the guy behind me said, “I’m so sorry, you look miserable!”  Not miserable, per se.  Just very, very cold.  It’s not such an issue in a longer race when I have a couple of miles to warm up, but in a 5K, by the time I warm up enough to be able to run fast, the race is already over.  That’s the good thing about smaller races; you can warm up and arrive at the start line two minutes before the gun so that you don’t get cold all over again.  It doesn’t really work so well at NYRR races.

Adam, Missy, Brian, and Claire were behind me in the corral, and I jumped back a bit so I would be behind them and not get passed by everyone; life is demoralizing enough without adding that to it.  But then I decided that if I just followed Missy, I could PR without having to look at my watch.

37° doesn’t sound that cold.  I don’t know why it felt so terrible.  I didn’t really remember this course beyond the fact that there were hills, somewhere, and that it finished on a downhill.  I stuck with my “follow Missy” plan for maybe the first half mile (which was probably midway through the first hill) before I realized that I was too cold to breathe.  Which is ridiculous.  I do not know what is wrong with me.

But then I looked at my watch and realized how slowly I was running, and that was demoralizing, so I stopped trying very hard.  Besides, breathing hurt.  And I was getting a side stitch, so it was a regular party.

It took a couple of miles before I was even able to attempt to speed up.  At that point, it was a fruitless endeavor.  Having a pedestrian decide to cross the street right in front of me at the downhill starting around mile 2.5 didn’t help — I’m lucky I managed to stay upright.

Photo by Kfong Ong

Just before the three-mile mark.  I knew it was going to be another pathetic showing on my part (as if I ever do anything else), but I did want to finish in under 21:40, because at least that would net me a sub-7:00 average pace.  I know this because that was my 5K goal four and a half years ago.

Mission accomplished, I guess?

And perfectly negative splits, too.  What an achievement.  (Can you sense the sarcasm?)  Garmin recorded 3.13 miles in 21:40, 6:55/mi.

Officially, 21:36, 6:57/mi.  665/5127 OA, 97/2528 F, and 35/429 F30-34.  And it’s too bad for PPTC that only four women faster than me ran today, because I was the final scorer for this team points race.  More than ninety seconds behind number four.  Yay, me.  Sorry, team.  I tried.

However, back to the original reason (I suppose) I ran this race:

I did run a course PR by more than thirty seconds.  And it corresponds to a sub-1:40 half marathon, when my 2016 finish indicated 1:42.  So I should really be able to do that in Jerusalem this year.  “Should” being the key word, of course.  The last year and a half has been an endless stream of my failures to do what I should have been able to do, so I’m not feeling too great in the self-confidence department.

After a post-race team photo (or two or three), some of us ran some cool-down miles.  I wound up doing eleven more with the unwelcome company of more nasty side stitches, ending at City Hall to take the train the rest of the way.  This meant running through midtown and Chelsea, which always makes my GPS go crazy, so this happened.

Thanks a lot.  I feel all better now!

As a side note, I would like to point out that this proves that lighter does not always equal faster.  Sure, I’ve been running shitty 5Ks since the middle of 2018, but I’m fairly certain I was heavier for those, and this is among the slowest of them all.