Sunday, January 27, 2008

the manhattan 1/2 marathon

i just got back from the first 1/2 marathon of the season. as you will remember, i was debating if i was going to do this whole race given the injury and 10.5 to 13.1 miles is a decent jump in miles. so i opted to treat the race as just-another-run-with-free-water-and-more-bathrooms.

swede made me pasta and we had a chill night. why is it that when you need to go to bed early you are never tired? i finally hit the bed around midnight, planning to get up at 6 to scarf down some pre-made oatmeal in a thermos, back to sleep for another hour or so, and out the door by 7:30 to get to road runners to get my number by 8.

all of that went as it should (although the pre-made oatmeal is going to take some finessing) and i was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't quite as cold as i thought it was going to be. there also was no line at road runners, and i'm not sure if that was a function of the cold, the distance or the arrival time, but it was a pleasant surprise. i grabbed my number, skipped the tee shirt and headed to race start. i knew there was a bunch or tnters racing, but i couldn't remember where they were going to be so i was on my own for the morning.

i intended to get in the porta potty line, just in case, but like most of the other 1/2 marathons, the line was out of control. i'm talking at *least* 30 people per line, probably more, because there was only about 20 portapotties for over 6000 people. since i had peed twice before i left, i decided it was just nerves and that i could wait until a more reasonable time.

i lined up pretty much directly behind the met, where there is a little crop of rocks and trees and shrubberies - perfect coverage for peeing al fresco. i was not so desperate, but many were. there are risks, besides the usual prickers and poison ivy - if you are caught by road runners, you can lose your membership which means no nyc marathon for you. to deter folks from peeing on/near/behind the met, a volunteer with a bullhord heckled the rouge pe-ers, much to our amusement:

"don't do it sir! don't even think about it!"
"if you pee up there you're going to find your picture on the internet!"
"ma'am - stop, stop right now, there's a good girl."
"sir, you, in the blue, yes, yes you stop there...oh, don't...oh man...oh now. someone get that gentleman's number and nobody shake his hand!"

i decided to go with a little arcade fire to begin, and sooner than i thought, we were off.

so i knew i would do at least 12 miles, 2 full loops. then if i was feeling alright i would push it for the last. i would take the first 4 or so real slow, breaking the miles up into 3 parts - gradually getting a little faster if i was feeling good. our coaches say that 75% of people in races go out too fast, and are always reminding us to hold back. i did, and you could tell i was. people were passing me left and right, but i did my best to think "just a long run, not a race" and do my own thing.

we had started at 84th on the east side which meant harlem hill would be the first challenge. the uphills don't really bother me so much, and although it is harder, i was extra careful to stay very steady and in control on the downhills to take care of my quad and all my joints.

so the first 4 miles were good and slow and steady. around the 2nd mile i passed larry the lighthouse - the guy that runs with a big wooden lighthouse over his head and 1/2 his body. i was, despite myself pleased that i was passing him. my ego can take many many blows in this sport - i don't think coming in after someone sporting a lighthouse is one of them.

around the 4th mile was when i got lapped by the first elite runner. sigh. even though i consciously know i am no where close to the level of those athletes, and with all likelihood, never will be, there is still a small wince when that happens. but man, were they flying, and it wasn't a bad distraction to have.

i continued with my pace down around the lower loop, up stinky slope (my new nickname for the lower east part of the park where all the horse carraiges ambling along) and soon i was back at 84th street. 6 miles down. i mentally checked in - no pains, only a little tired, water intake good. i decided that once i got up to 102nd, which would mark mile 7, i would try to push it a little bit.

i also had it in my head, that once i was done with the rolling hills of the west side, the run would practically be in the bag. the west side is far more demanding than the east, and by my calculations, that would be mile 10 or so - i'd have a good indication if i could make the full race or not.

from there on in, i ran 11 minute (or so miles). i'm getting pretty good at recognizing what pace i'm going at, which is kind of cool. i had my 2nd goo somewhere around mile 8 and it was officially the worst one i ever had. i don't know if it was because of the cold or what, but it had kind of thickened at the bottom so part of it was the consistency of very very very thick gel, or a soft gummy bear. it was really really gross, but i choked it down. i hoped it would not attack my stomack and plugged on.

i kept remembering i kinda had to pee, and then would push it to the back of my consciousness again. lines were too long...i could make it. mile 9 on the west side, check. mile 10 - drink water. don't spill. too cold for spilling. up stinky slope, here's mile 11.

i knew then i had 2 more miles in me and decided to pick it up as much as i could. after cat hill, it would be cake from there, so i just had to be smart and know how hard to push. mile 11 was not so bad at all - i kinda kicked a little too much ass on cat hill, and felt a little tired at the top, but when i got to mile 12 i grabbed some water and instantly felt better. also knowing there is just about a mile left mentally is so attainable, i couldn't help but get the dumb grin.

i decided to dedicate this mile to anthony. i thought about channeling the runner thats stuck in his body, and how happy he would be to be out running right now. and i smiled because sometime soon, we're going to run a 4 mile race together and it is just going to be so freaking great.

i kid you not, right around then the clouds parted a little and i got some sunbeams which made me all the more smily, and i was able to use that last little bit of energy to finish strong and happy with my 1/2 marathon that almost wasn't.

today's mileage: 13.1
mileage to date: 93.8

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