February 11, 2008

Race Report: Bronx Half-Marathon

I was exhausted all day Saturday, and really not looking forward to the race. I did get myself to run to NYRR and back (~5 miles) in order to register and pick up my packet, which then made me committed. On Saturday night I tried to get to bed early (like, 8 or 9 PM – that’s how tired I was), but was up till 11.

When my alarm went off at 6, I was less than thrilled. Actually, I was in the midst of a dream that I had already run the race, and woke up thinking I now needed to write my race report. I was very disappointed when I realized I still had to run 13.1 miles before I could claim the glory on this blog. Signs that you may be a crazy running blogger #4: you make yourself run races solely so you can post race reports on your blog.

I planned to get ready quickly (I had laid out all my clothes and race stuff the night before) and leave by 6:30 (the Bronx is FAR!). However, thanks to the prunes from dinner the night before (a stupid decision in retrospect), I had some digestion problems that slowed my getting ready process. But by 6:45 I was up and out, armed with a bag full of lots of warm dry things for after the race. I made it to the subway at Columbus Circle by 7, which was fine… except the train didn’t come. There were tons of runners everywhere (identifiable by the chips on their sneakers, the slightly concerned looks on their faces as they kept checking their watches, and the stretching that went on every two mintes). 20 minutes later, a D train finally came and we began the 30 minute ride to the race. In case you’re counting, that means we got off the subway with 10 minutes till the gun.

I kept coming really close to falling asleep on the train – clearly I was pumped and ready to run. I ended up eating my Nutrigrain bar that I had brought for after the race, because I figured food might give me some more energy. It was tasty, but didn’t really wake me up. I chatted with a group of four: two runners, two supporters. The supporters were looking forward to going for coffee while the runners did their thing, which made me think of my mom and how she did that at the Manhattan Half-Marathon and missed seeing me finish. Thinking about that made me realize something: this was the first race I had ever done with no one I knew there (aside from some blogging friends who I hadn’t met and didn’t have plans to meet up with). In the past, I’ve always either known someone running or had someone come to support me, but in this case I was all on my own.

I got off the train and headed for the baggage check area, which was laid out very well. By that I mean that my number happened to be closest to the corral entrance so I knew it would be easy to get my stuff at the end 🙂 I stripped my coat and scarf off, stuffed it in my bag (oops, should have brought a bigger bag for my peacoat), and discovered that I actually wasn’t too cold. Well, that was one thing going well for me.

As I left the corral, I heard the gun go off and the race begin. Oops. I really should have opted for a virtual race, like most of the others doing the 9 on the 9th: Sweetheart Shuffle – then I could have had my race start at 8:04 AM, which is when I actually started. Though let’s face it, if I had been my own race director, I either would have started at 3 PM (the latest time to start running and still finish when it’s light out) or I wouldn’t have started at all. Fortunately, chip timing meant that it really didn’t matter when I started. I took my sweet time walking to the finish line, and then with a few clicks of my iPod, I was off. That wording kind of makes it sound like I was speeding away from the start, so let me clarify: I commenced jogging.

At about mile 0.5, there was a really steep uphill – one of the most intense I’ve run aside from the Ithaca hills. However, it only lasted for about 100 feet, so it made me feel like I could do anything! Then I hit the one mile mark and started getting tired. You mean I have to do 12.1 more of these???

The Bronx was an interesting place to run. I had never been to the Bronx at all before, and I’m not quite sure what I was expecting. Going from the subway to the start, it was kind of rundown and urban – it reminded me of Harlem. Then in the first few miles of the race, it was really residential and reminded me of parts of Troy (holla, Marcy, you know what I’m talking about!). At mile 2, we turned onto the Mosholu Parkway, which was actually kind of what a parkway is supposed to be: a road that has some green, park-like areas next to it. Apparently the Mosholu is a big roadway and it was a big deal that they closed it for us. I feel so special!

Around mile 4, I saw what I thought was a prostitute. I got really excited, because little old sheltered me had never seen one before. She had on what looked to be clothes from the night before: tight jeans, skimpy tank top that stopped at her belly button and allowed some rolls to show, lack of a bra, etc. (She actually reminded me a lot of Luenell from Borat.) However, after seeing the video of the race, I saw her in it and realized that Luenell was apparently just a really slow runner who happened to be wearing jeans and an ill-fitting low-cut tanktop (note: it was NOT a running top – it was a spaghetti-strap tank top with no built in bra). Her unkempt look just came from her obvious inexperience at running.

Shortly after passing Luenell, I saw one of the first photographers. Thinking back to one of my two goals for the race (to look good in the photos), I slowed down to give a big, winning smile. I did another happy smiling pose with my arms raised for the next one, but then for the third photographer I opted to go serious – ignoring the camera and just looking all intense as I ran by. It will be interesting to see how those come out…

I always find miles 7-10 to be the hardest of any half-marathon (“always” and “any half-marathon” up to this point meaning the one half-marathon I’ve run in my life). Up till mile 7, it’s not really a long run, and you’re just kind of going without thinking. And at mile 10, you only have a 5k left, so you feel great knowing you’re almost done. But in between, you’re at that nasty point where you’re getting tired but you’re not almost done. NYRR had given us some PowerBar Energy Gels, which I had never tried before. I know you’re not supposed to try new things in a race, but I brought one (plain-flavored) with me and had it at about 6 miles. I was expecting it to taste disgusting, but it was actually delicious. Why do people complain about these? I want to eat them all the time!

Unfortunately, mile 7 started a straightaway on the Grand Concourse. And not just any straightaway – a straightaway that was heading directly into the wind. According to weather reports, the wind was blowing at 20 MPH, with gusts up to 29 MPH. And I was running directly into it. This made it unbelievably tough – there were times when I had problems just moving forward. At mile 10, I checked my time (1:34:13) and subtracted my mile 1 time (11:23) to get my 9 mile time of 1:10:50. However, that doesn’t seem right to me, because if I average my overall time out, I should be at 1:20:42, and I didn’t really slow down after 9 miles. Also, I remember approximately what song I was listening to on my iPod when I hit that, and it was at about 84 minutes of music, so I’ll go with the average time for the Sweetheart Shuffle.

After 10 miles, it got really intense. I was counting on that wind that I had been running into to be pushing me back once I hit the turnaround, but instead, it stopped for a while, and then started coming at me sideways. I was cursing my dress choice (a light track jacket that had a hood which liked to blow in my face with the wind), and trying not to fall over. I was also feeling pretty lonely at this point, so I decided I would call my mom and get her to encourage me while I ran.

I had originally started the race with my phone in the pocket of my track jacket; however, the phone’s weight made the jacket bounce against my body, so I pulled the phone out and stuffed it in between my sports bra and the shelf bra of my tank top. I’ve done this before, and you can’t really tell by looking at me, and I can’t really feel it, so it seems like a good solution, though it’s a bit awkward when I’m taking it out or putting it away. I pulled it out, called my mom, and got a bit of encouragement from her. As I was in the process of rooting around in my shirt trying to find the right layer to put my phone away, I looked up and noticed another photographer. So, there will probably be a picture of me reaching around in my bra – excellent. So much for making my goal of no embarrassing race photos!

My other goal had been to do as well as I did in the Manhattan Half (or better), but that goal fell by the wayside as soon as I started running and realized how tired I was. Galloway method be damned; my mantra while trying to keep going was “walking is for quitters. Walking is for quitters.” It worked – I did not walk, and even managed to do a bit of a sprint at the finish.

The finish:
I came down the home stretch with Blake Shelton’s “In My Heaven” as my soundtrack. It wasn’t the best song for a finish – a little slow for a sprint – but the beat made me feel kind of powerful as I took long strides toward the finish line.

I crossed at about 2:04 gun time, which meant that I was very close to breaking two hours again, and I didn’t know if I had done it or not. Unfortunately, when the results were posted, I found I had just missed the two hour mark, clocking in at 2:01:53. Not a PR, which I had wanted, and I know I should be proud for just making it through despite my exhaustion and the winds, but to be honest, I am a bit disappointed. I will definitely be resting up for Brooklyn in April.

Thanks to Nancy for organizing 9 on the 9th: Sweetheart Shuffle. Agreeing to do that helped make sure I couldn’t back out of what ended up being a good race that I’m very proud to have completed.

Race stats:
Distance: 13.1 miles
Time: 2:01:53
Pace/mile: 9:18
Overall place: 1986/3261
Age group place: 208/426

Other Bronx half-marathon race reports:
Jenny at Triaspirational
TK at Pigtails Flying
Chris at The Budden’s Multisport Blog
Brian at the Internal Pigdog
Julie at Runs Like a Girl
Andy at Running Down a Dream
Doug at Elevene
John at Run Faster NJ


12 thoughts on “Race Report: Bronx Half-Marathon”

  1. Great job making it through the race…I heard the conditions were not ideal!! (I did the Bronx once, back in 05…when it used to be in July and I didn’t feel much love for the course back then…)

    As for the time-don’t be disappointed-remember, you just ran your first half 2 weeks ago and running halfs all out takes recovery-especially when you’re trying to get used to the distance! (I don’t know what NYRR was thinking having Manhattan and Bronx so close together)-plus you just ran a 4M PR last week, you may have been better off just taking this one as a training run, just to get another borough in.

  2. Congratulations on sticking it out! I too felt slightly lonely heading up there–seemed sort of the height of perversity to be taking a cab at 6:45am on a Sunday to the Bronx!–but it was interesting terrain, I like your description.

  3. What a great race report! You had me cracking up from the prostitute to the phone-in-bra bit. Too dang funny. And kudos to you for running another half in the cold. That alone makes you a winner. And great job on being so close to the 2 hour mark. I’d like to get within 5 minutes of two hours on my next (2nd) half mary.

  4. Never tried that with the phone…Pretty sure it would be about the only thing in my sports bra though so why not. Way to finish, that’s what counts!

  5. Wow great job at the race! Did it seem like it was too soonto be running another half marathon? I’m worried about that for Atlanta. Any full marathons planned for this year?

  6. Thanks for all the well-wishes everyone!

    Christine, I felt fully recovered from the first half-marathon, which was good. I haven’t really figured out a full marathon to do yet either. My work schedule can be crazy, so on weekdays I never really get to do more than 3 miles or so. It worked to do that and then do long runs on weekends in order to train for a half, but I don’t think I could get by with one long run a week for a full marathon. We’ll see… I have to keep striving to get better, and distance is definitely one of the best ways to do that.

  7. Ha, ha I had forgotten about Luenell, I also saw her around the same area.
    Prostitute – Yes, Runner – No (even video proof will not change my mind). Scary!
    Great write up, I have to learn how to write about interesting things instead of just my stats…-John

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