Today I finished my 5th half marathon.
I woke up around 6:15am after a decent night’s sleep. I’m still recovering from last weekend’s trip to Disney and have been fighting the beginnings of a cold all week. I did my usual pre-race routine – shower and dress. Obsess over the weather. Debate endlessly over the appropriateness of race day clothing (in terms of weather). Pack Spibelt with gels and fuel. Prepare water bottle. Then pace until departure time.
The early morning temperature was 45F – the coldest morning this season. There were threats of rain to add to the worry about race day clothing. Ultimately I choose a short-sleeved tech shirt with arm warmers, compressions shorts, and calf sleeves. I skipped my running hat because it looked like the rain would hold off. It was about a 10 min drive to the starts although the line to get into the parking lot was as long as my drive over. By 7:40am I was ready to go to the start.
I walked around the starting area a few times and quickly realized that I was cold. I crossed the street to the County Center where I could wait inside in the warm. While standing around I met a sweet young lady running her first distance race. She was curious if they lined us up by speed. Not at this race! She is an 8 min/mile runner and seemed to do well. At 8:15 she and I walked over to the starting area where we met up with 2 of my former residents. When the gun went off I hung out and waited until the back of the pack before crossing the start line.
My plan, as per Jeff Galloway, was run 40sec/walk 20sec at 11:45 min/mile pace for 4 miles. I, of course buoyed by adrenaline and cool temperatures, went too fast. Mile 1 was my slowest of the race but still 11:35. When you take into account the gap between Garmin distance and race distance I was probably about on target. The next 2 miles were both 11:31 pace and then mile 4 was 11:23.
The course is an out-and-back. It starts at the Westchester County Center and travels South on the Bronx River Parkway until Scarsdale Road in Yonkers. At that point you make a U-turn and head back on the Northbound side. Just before the County Center is another U-turn (at, like, mile 13.05) and then a short sprint to the finish. The first half meanders downhill (there are rolling hills in both directions) and the second half gradually works uphill. On course support is great, especially for a small race. (Official results won’t be available until tomorrow but last year there were about 700 runners.) The water stops were staffed by high school kids – I’m guessing sports teams but I saw a bus labeled Boys and Girls Club so I’m not 100% sure. Every stop had water, Gatorade, and Hammer gels, as well as a port-a-potty. Some stops also had food – I remember bananas at one of the later stops – and one stop in the second half had Vaseline for chafing or blisters. The kids were blaring upbeat music and were quite enthusiastic. It was really refreshing! They did a good job both of handing out stuff and cleaning up the garbage. I was impressed.
After 4 mile I had permission to speed up to 11:30 pace and the option of increasing the run interval. I was worried about going to fast so I stuck with 40/20. Mile 5 was 11:17 and then I tried to slow down a bit. Next few were 11:20, 11:30, and 11:19. I knew at Mile 9 I could speed up and increase the interval. My legs were feeling it by the turn-around but I was passing people from there to the finish. And I mean leaving them in the dust. Mile 9 was 11:13.
One issue with this race – for me, at least – is that it seems to attract “real” runners. My 2:42 (ish) finish last year put me in the bottom 20 for the race. The same finish time at a runDisney event puts me solidly mid-pack. With my finish pace around 11:13 (unofficial), I ran most of the race towards the back. Or, more accurately, AT the back. From beginning to end. There were times, before the top runners made the turn around, that I could only see one or two other runners. Luckily it’s a pretty course, right along the Bronx River with its waterfalls and wooded area surrounding. The leaves are starting to change and the rain didn’t start until mile 13. During the second half my run/walk strategy paid off and I passed at least 20 runners but I was still well behind any of the “pack.”
I started picking up speed. I knew I could probably PR but I really wanted to break 2:30. I don’t know why I picked that number except it’s the nearest interval of ten. And I knew I probably could if I pushed. Mile 10 was 11:13. I timed myself as I crossed the actual mile marker (as opposed to Garmin mile 10) and I did it in 1:55:20. A lot faster than last weekend’s 2:11:58! And then I turned it up a notch. 5K left. Mile 11 was 11:00 even. Mile 12 at 10:44 and Mile 13 at 10:29. I sprinted across the finish line – passing 2 more people at the end – and my Garmin says I went 13.28 miles in 2:28:54. The last 0.1 was at 9:30 pace. For good measure.
Thoughts from the race: I probably should have started a bit slower but my splits were great and I never really needed to walk extra (there was one steep hill in the last few miles where I started my walk break 5 sec early). I had enough to really sprint the end. I feel sore but not so bad that I can’t do stairs. I’ll take some easy runs this week but don’t think this will set me back too much in terms of Goofy training. Most of all I believe in my training because it’s working. Almost an 8 min PR. The weather definitely helped me. Nice cool temps with some clouds to prevent overheating, finish temp was around 57F and it was raining at the finish line.
I’m very happy with my overall performance. I think I really did what I wanted and I wonder if I’ll be even faster if I do this race again next year?