May 23, 2012

LI Half Marathon Recap

My performance at the LI Half Marathon on May 6th could be best summarized with “I gave it my all.” It was my first half in over a year, and I had pretty high hopes and big, yet attainable, goals. I was aiming for my first sub 2 hour Half Marathon. So why am I not disappointed that I missed my goal by just over a minute?

Race weekend began Saturday morning when Melissa & I hopped onto a train to Long Island. Since her folks live 15 minutes away from the start, we headed out to spend the night there.  After quickly picking up our bibs at the expo and grabbing lunch, we spent the afternoon with her family and then headed to home to get ready for our big day, aka our RUNber party. You know, a slumber party minus the typical girl stuff, replaced with foam rollers, yoga straps, lots of water & a horrible movie to bore us to death so we could fall asleep.
The makings of a good RUNber party

 We woke up bright and early Sunday morning, I ate a bowl of oatmeal with a banana and chugged a cup of coffee and then headed to the shower where I proceeded to break a toe on my right foot. It seems that trying to shower at 5am when you're still half asleep isn't the best idea. I dropped a giant bottle of body wash on my second toe and within seconds it was a fugly purple color. And all I could do was laugh. Got dressed, pinned on my bib, taped up my toe and headed to Eisenhower Park with Melissa.

We got there about an hour before the start and headed to the lone bathroom in the parking lot since we weren't sure what the situation would be closer to the start. The line was crazy long and I decided to be that obnoxious girl who reminded everyone that there were a gazillion of us waiting so could you please hurry it up…. only to find that there was only one stall. And I had to GO. So we booked it to the start line and Melissa held our spots on porta potty lines while I dropped off our baggage and then returned. Dear people who organized the LI Half/Full Marathon, next year, MORE PORTA POTTIES.

We finished our business less than a minute before the fun went off, headed to the start, started our Garmins & hugged each other good luck. And then we were off. It was as crowded as could be expected at the start line but I did my best to stick with my plan. Aim for 9:05-9:10 pace for the first half, then pick it up to 8:50-9:00 for the remainder of the race. I was confident this wouldn't be a problem since many of my longer runs had been in the high 8 minute/low 9 minute mile ranges lately. I maintained around a 9:05 pace for the first 4 miles and by mile 5, my throbbing in my right foot from the broken toe stopped and it was pretty numb. Yes, I considered that a good thing.

Mile 5 is where I ran into some problems and made some poor decisions. It was the first water/gatorade station that I had planned on using and I headed to the gatorade side only to find that the volunteers were pouring cups as we approached which meant that I had to wait a good 10 seconds before I could get anything. I watched my pace slow substantially and then in an effort to make up for it, sprinted ahead trying to gain back time. That was probably a mistake. My legs were already pretty sore from the hot figure 4 class I took Friday night (oops. I forgot to mention that STUPID mistake too) and I started to feel them during mile 5. If my legs are well rested, I typically don't start to feel them until mile 8 or 9 of a half or longer run so this was a bad sign. But I pushed on and reduced my pace back to the low 9's. At mile 7, I took a Shot Blok and washed it down with some water at another station and the same problem… had to stop to wait for water… my pace slowed substantially… I pushed to make up for it. And it was all downhill from there.

The crazy thing about this race was that until the very end, I was always still within reach of my sub 2 goal so I continued to push towards it no matter how difficult it felt. I had given myself enough padding so that even as I watched my pace slow to 9:25, I calculated that if I just gained a little speed, I could still make my goal. Each time I realized this, I was able to kick it up and add some speed for a few minutes before my legs started giving up on me again.

Entering the park for the final mile felt like torture as I watched my pace continue to slow down no matter how hard I pushed. The park was full of turns and turns and I felt like I was in a never ending maze with no finish line in sight. About a quarter of a mile before the finish, I realized that my sub 2 race just wasn't happening and I almost had nothing left to finish. My legs felt like tree trunks and I honestly imagined that I might be one of those people who would collapse right before the finish line. So I closed my eyes and just kept going.
Ah yes, gorgeous smiles at the finish line.
Channeling Abbe Lew with the finish line fist pump!
Why can they never take pics from a flattering angle???
 I completed the race in 2:01:20 which was still a 10 minute PR for me. And although I was disappointed for a split second, once I took some time to really think, I realized I was looking at it all wrong. First of all, I can't expect to make stupid decisions and not have them affect me. Taking a hot figure 4 class the Friday night before a race was STUPID and the soreness I felt in my legs as a result & leading up to that race should've alerted me that I needed to modify my plan. Second, I still need to work out my nutrition & hydration plans instead of just winging it on race day. Maybe I should've brought that hand held water bottle after all. I could've chucked it if it got annoying but I wouldn't have had to deal with the water stations. And finally, maybe I just wasn't ready for a sub 2 Half this time around. I feel like it's really easy to throw out a goal and to try to train towards it but that doesn't mean I'll actually accomplish it. So I'm not disappointed and just have more motivation to keep working towards it. And like I said, I honestly gave it my all. My legs had nothing left to give that day so how can I be disappointed with that? As of now, my next Half isn't until September so I've got all summer to kick it up and get that sub 2. Who knows, maybe I'll even blow it out of the water?
Me & Melissa after the race. All smiles :)
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