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Off-Topic: Race Report
NYC Half Marathon
I have spent plenty of time reading other runners' versions of race reports and decided I wanted to do my own.
This year - the NYC Half Marathon had a slightly new course. I have run this race twice before the most recent attempt on Sunday (March 19th, 2023).
Leading up to race week
The block of training I had been doing with my coach was a generalized build toward a future marathon without any specific race on the calendar. After the disaster at the NYC marathon and (what I believe) was a sub-par performance at the Philadelphia redemption marathon two weeks later - I took some time off of racing outside of a small 5km race in December of 2022.
I could build a sizeable block of quality training with no race on the calendar. The training had my Sunday runs being 16 miles, with the last 4 of those 16 being at marathon pace (6:18). Early on in the training block, I failed the runs consecutively. Frustrated - I decided to double down on the "trust the process" mantra and kept giving them a full effort. Around 4 weeks out from the NYC Half Marathon (a race I still was not officially entered into), I started to consistently hit those long-run efforts. This note is important because it gave me confidence going into the half marathon.
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I told myself to treat the NYC Half Marathon as a (shorter) hard training run. Doing so alleviated a certain stress level I imposed upon myself to perform. A few key points that I went into the race changing:
Limit the number of times I check my watch for my pace
Limit (or try and eliminate) looking at my heart rate and run-on feel
Run an even strong effort with a push in the last 2-3 miles
No headphones - listen to my breathing and control my heart rate that way
No early pushes on any of the hills/inclines
On top of this, I did not change my weekly routine much (outside of trying to get more sleep). I hit all 4 lifting days and had a strong leg day the Tuesday before the race. Mentally I knew that I was having strong Sunday training runs by following that routine, so I felt no need to change it up.
Shawn and I woke up around 3:30am. Admittedly I got around 3 - 4 hours of restless sleep, but I never expect to sleep well before races anyway. I ate my typical breakfast:
30g protein powder
NuuN tablet in 12oz water
I looked at the weather (we had been tracking the wind/temperature forecast for the entire week leading up to the race, trying to monitor how the wind would hit us). I tried my best to remain optimistic about the wind situation. While not ideal - it was totally out of our control, and I told Shawn that we would have strong performances regardless.
We arrived at the start line around an hour and fifteen minutes before the race, got the restroom situation figured out, and then tried to huddle and stay out of the wind. I had 3 different sweatshirts and 2 different sweatpants on. The last thing that I wanted was to have cold legs on the start line.
45 minutes before the start, we went for a jog and did some dynamic warmup to get the blood flowing and generate heat. At this point, I still had on all of my layers and felt adequately warm.
Onto the start line, we wait as the wheelchair and men's / women's elites take off.
Finally, it was our turn to go. Shawn and I went to different parts of the wave since we knew we were trying to run different times. It's incredible to share these experiences alongside Shawn, and it always hits a little bit harder at the race line, as I know we are both getting ready to put forth a total effort.
Miles 1 & 2
I tend to get out of the gate a bit too fast. It was not possible with how the course was laid out this year. It is normal to have some crowding but trying to get going faster than a 6:30 pace felt near impossible, and I wanted to avoid running the risk of doing too much speeding up and slowing down. I picked and chose places to speed up and return to my original goal pace of 6:10 through the first 2 miles. Mile 2 featured a 100-ish foot climb in Prospect Park, and while I thought it would be more noticeable when I looked at the course map pre-race, I hardly noticed the increased effort during the race.
Miles 3 - 6
Coming off mile two featured an excellent downhill section as you prepare for the beginning of the Manhattan bridge. This is where I made up some time from the first two miles. I opened up my stride on the decline and let my body weight carry me through a faster pace. My heart rate was sitting around 155 as I entered the Manhattan bridge. The leadup + bridge climb was MUCH longer than I remembered in the previous 2 years that I had run the race. I tried to keep my lean slightly forward and keep my eyes about 6 feet in front of me, making sure to not look up at the crux of the bridge. I had to remind myself to not speed up and keep the effort even as I saw the pack I was running with pull away from me on the climb. This was important in success down the stretch of the race. My heart rate peaked at 158 during this climb, right where I wanted it. I took my first gel at 30 minutes here - brought my legs right back and had juice for the downhill.
Miles 7 - 10
A relatively uneventful stretch of the race. I caught the pack that I started the climb on the Manhattan bridge while on the back slope of the bridge, and as I rounded the corner on the FDR drive, the sun was shining nice and bright. This gave me a nice boost to my pace running a 5:48 on mile 6 and 5:58 on mile 7. I had a flashback to the first time I ran this race and how bad I had felt during this same block; a much different (and better) feeling now. I caught up to the back of a pack running together (3 guys) and stayed with them through mile 10. I took my second gel as we came to mile 10, knowing I would start pushing on the incline at 42nd street. I needed to get a bit faster here and most certainly… not lose pace.
Mile 11 - Finish
I remembered the 42nd street climb being much worse in previous years. I credit the training block and emphasis on hills for the ease of climbing here. I started to push hard in this segment running in the 5:50s and feeling quite good. Somewhere around mile 11.5 - 11.8, I got hit with a wave of sheer panic that I cannot describe well. I was worried I could not hold the pace and finish the race. It drastically affected my heart rate and mental state for about a quarter mile. I had to take a few deep breaths and break the segments into 400m parts, telling myself that it was just a training run and I had 6 laps of solid work ahead of me. This calmed the nerves and allowed a strong push through the finish line.
Overall, I am happy with how things turned out. Upon looking back - an even strong effort was given. The only minor (and trivial) thing I wish I did differently was running a sub 6:00 average (6:02 was the final) because I have a long history with sub 6:00 paces (a story for another time).
Congratulations to everyone that ran! The city's energy was beautiful, and I am glad we shared the course and experience together.
Questions or Comments?