The Brooklyn Half was my second half marathon, and my big spring goal race. I had big plans to PR, and (spoiler alert) I did!
I had major nerves before this race. It’s been on my mind since I registered in February, and I was thinking of it on every winter morning that I woke up and piled on the layers to run before the sun came up. I trained really hard for 12 weeks, and wanted to not just PR by a little but by a lot. At my first half marathon last fall, I had been very intimidated by the distance and didn’t want to burn out. This time around, I thought that I had it in me to go a lot faster since I had (smartly) run so cautiously last time.
I spent the night before the race with two of my college friends who live less than a mile from the start line and were also running, and woke up on Saturday morning to a beautiful pink Brooklyn sky.
Actually, I first woke up at 3am wide awake and ready to go, and finally got back to sleep an hour later, when I dreamed about oversleeping and missing the race start until my alarm went off at 5:15am. Nervous much?
I ate a waffle “sandwich” with peanut butter and banana, and an espresso with almond milk, a full two hours before the race start. I had brought my one-shot stove-top espresso maker to Brooklyn with me, even though my friends were brewing drip coffee for themselves. I felt a little crazy doing that, but nothing new on race day! Brewed coffee is more acidic and doesn’t sit as well in my stomach as espresso, and I knew I’d need the caffeine to wake me up, so no coffee wasn’t an option.
We left the apartment at 6:15am and leisurely walked to the start, passing the Wave 1 corrals on our way. (My friends decided to drop back to Wave 2 with me for an extra half hour of sleep, and were even able to get into the front of their wave that way!)
I hung around in the corral for about a half hour by myself (and several thousand other runners), during which I realized I hadn’t synced the music playlist I’d so carefully compiled. Oops. Luckily I had a long workout mix loaded, and quickly added a few extra songs to it before the race started.
I put the playlist on shuffle, but I started with a race-specific pump-up song: Brooklyn’s Here from Newsies. (Bonus points for being a musical theater song.)
My coach had told me to first and foremost enjoy the race, and to try to hold back in the beginning so that I would be able to run the second half faster than the first. She suggested running easy for the first 5 miles, picking up the pace for the next 5 miles, and then if I felt like I had enough left in the tank, racing the final 5K.
New York Road Runners set up an awesome tracking website for this race, where friends and family could track runners on a map, view their splits every 5K, and get their predicted finish time. I knew that my coach would be tracking me to see if I was negative-splitting, and that helped give me a push at the end when I felt like my motivation was fading and everything hurt!
I ran the second 5K slower than the first 5K, but after that I picked it up again, and successfully negative split the race!
Although I’m very happy with my splits and how I executed my race plan, I think I was too fixated on my pace. The course itself was not terribly exciting; there were intersections of cheering crowds but there were long stretches with no spectators at all, and I ended up listening to music the whole time (pausing it now and then to get an energy boost from cheering spectators). I had heard that once we were through the park, after mile 6, we would enjoy a long downhill all the way down Ocean Parkway to Coney Island. It did not, however, feel like a downhill, and was also pretty boring. It was mentally challenging to see runners several miles ahead and know how far I had left to go, since it was a straight shot for the second half of the race. For that reason, my music was a great distraction!
I also made sure to stop at every single water stop, even if it added a few seconds or minutes to my finish time. We were lucky to get an overcast, cool day, since there is no shade on Ocean Parkway, but the humidity was out in full force, so I knew I needed to stay hydrated.
I took a peanut butter Gu at mile 5, and after taking a caffeinated chocolate Gu at mile 10, I kicked it into high gear and really tried to hit a fast pace until the end. It hurt like hell, but it was fun to pass other runners and feel like I still had something left in the tank. I was exhausted but still feeling strong!
Somewhere around this point I could tell I wasn’t going to break 2 hours, but I was okay with that. My next goal was to break 2:05 and I knew I could make that happen, since I had run a smart race this far and I wasn’t going to slow down in the last two miles if I could help it.
During mile 12 there was a woman wearing a bright, sparkly tutu holding a sign that said “It’s not Tu-Tu far now!” and that gave me just the push I needed! I could see the Coney Island boardwalk in the distance, and then the big Wonder Wheel and Cyclone roller coaster came into view.
There were a ton of spectators all along the boardwalk right by the finish, and I knew my parents were somewhere in the crowd, but I was too focused on sprinting to the finish to try to find them.
Official time: 2:02:20!
With the last couple of miles at a sub-9:00 min/mile pace. SUCCESS!
I checked my phone after the finish line and saw a tweet from my coach which confirmed what my watch showed – a 6 minute PR!
Right by the water, pretzels, and apples (um, no bagels NYRR? Really?!) I ran into Jen, who had also just run a PR!
Then I met up with my parents by the family reunion area, who told me they tried to snap a photo of me but I was going too fast for them to catch one. I also found Chloe and Lars, and another friend from college, Maxine.
They are super speedy.
After some stretching, we wandered down to the Coney Island boardwalk to see the sights and refuel. It was really chilly at that point, so we didn’t go on any of the rides, or dip our feet in the ocean like I had imagined us doing.
We waited on an absurdly long line, but it was so worth it. It was the best hot dog I have ever had in my life, topped with sauteed onions, sauerkraut, ketchup and mustard, and crinkly fries on the side.
Overall, I had a really great race experience. I felt like I ran a very smart race and finished with a time I’m very proud of. But next time, I want to focus more on taking in the experience on the course and not letting it go by in a blur. I want to be a little less concerned with my pace (because let’s face it, no one is paying me to actually win the race). I also want to experiment with taking Gatorade every few miles instead of just water and energy gels, since I did get a little dehydrated.
But my muscles feel good today, two days later, and I made it through another half marathon training cycle with no injuries, which in itself is a huge victory. I do have a sore throat, and I can’t tell if it’s from breathing in all the springtime allergens while sprinting to the end, or if I’m getting a cold. (Is getting a post-race cold a thing?) Either way, small price to pay for running a major PR.
As for now, I have a massage booked for tomorrow evening: the perfect post-race treat!