“I just want to be somewhere around where I was in the fall. Maybe, like, a 1:29.”

That’s what I said to Josh when he asked what I thought I’d run at the NYC Half. Then he gave me an obscure number, as he always does before races. That number was 1:28:15, which would be a 19-second PR for me.

The number didn’t scare me, but I really didn’t think I’d be able to PR for the race. I thought I’d be lucky to break 1:30. It’s not that my training for Boston hasn’t been good. My Boston training has been great, and I do feel myself getting stronger. But I felt so FAST and zippy in the fall. I just really doubted my ability to run the same kind of race here that I did then.

Oh boy. Was I was dead wrong.

I not only ran what I ran in the fall…but the way I FELT was drastically different. From beginning to end, I had an absolute blast. I felt strong and controlled the entire time, and I barely looked at my watch and pace. I was in total cruise control the entire time…I SMILED…I loved the run. I pushed myself but felt comfortable and happy. It was AWESOME!

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^^So enthusiastic. Always.

The one fall race that I didn’t recap on this little blog was the half at Rehoboth Beach, DE. It was more or less a redemption run for me since I was so disappointed at the way I had run at Philly. The Rehoboth race went well and I achieved my two main goals of running a strong, confident race, and PRing. But despite hitting my goals, the run was pretty hard. I worked my butt off the entire race and was gassed by the end. Yes, I negative split, and yes, I had an awesome final 5k. BUT I remember feeling as though I was really WORKING starting mile 3-4. I looked back on my splits from that day, and they were consistently in the mid-6:40s…but I remember that pace feeling HARD.

Well the NYC Half was SO different.

I met up with the group at 6:30 in Columbus Circle. Unlike last year, I was prepared this year with throwaway clothes and pants. We chatted and slowly walked into the park around 7, but because of the masses of people, I ended up losing everyone in the GCR group and found myself alone.  I was eerily calm about it, though, so I quietly walked into the park alone. I took a quick porta potty break (WITH NO LINE. THERE WAS NO PORTA POTTY LINE, PEOPLE. NYRR, YOU WIN AT LIFE.)

There were so many people in the park, but I tried my best to get a little pre-race jog in. As I was trotting along, I came across Jenny, which was awesome, because we had been trying to meet up all weekend! Soon after that, I saw Alex and Matt in their starting corral, and then somehow ran into Kelsey, whom I was really excited to be reunited with. Kels and I made our way up to the corrals. Originally I was super intimidated by my corral (corral 1, wave 1), but after seeing SO MANY PEOPLE, I decided to just go for it, and I hugged goodbye and good luck to Kelsey, who was back 1 or 2 waves.

As I pushed my way to the front, I saw and introduced myself to Meg (Twitter pals FTW!) and positioned myself towards the back of my wave. Despite not really having a warmup, I felt good and calm.

The run

Mile 1 – 6:41

Mile 1 is always a little awkward, and I kept hearing people around me saying that we were slow, but when it ticked by in a 6:41, I smiled to myself because it had felt effortless. I was ready to FLY.

Mile 2 – 6:24

I wasn’t really intimidated by the speedy second mile because it was mostly downhill.

Mile 3 – 6:40

My absolute favorite mile of the race was mile 3. Weird, right?? Most people talk about how wonderful Times Square is. But I LOVED this new revision to the course, which was a short out-and-back in Harlem. I was close enough to the front to see the packs of elites come pounding down the road, and my jaw dropped along with other nearby exclamations of, “wow,” and, “holy shit.” Watching elite runners run is just…really freaking cool. 

I also watched the local fasties whiz by me. I cheered for GCR teammates and also saw Josh, who gave me an approving nod. Then, after reaching the tip of the hairpin turn myself, I turned the corner to just see PEOPLE everywhere. So many people. So many runners.  I loved people-watching as they passed by me, so mile 3 went by really quickly.

Miles 4-6 – 6:48, 6:44, 6:39

Full disclosure: hills terrify me. So I’ve been running a lot of them this winter. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about Connecticut, it’s ridiculously hilly. Everywhere. And the Boston Buildup Series (a series of HILLY local races that start at 10k and go up to 25k over the course of a few months) has really taught me how to climb hills and just work the hill instead of letting it work you.

So when I got to Harlem Hill, it was no sweat. I focused on staying on my toes and pumping my arms. Even still—reaching the top was a huge relief, and I didn’t let a 6:48 mile 4 faze me. “Keep it going,” I told myself.

The West Side Rollers felt like ski bumps compared to the mountains we’ve been facing in the Buildup Series. But by the final hill, I was definitely excited to get out of the park and onto the flat street. Flat roads are my jam!

Mile 7 – 6:35

Well, duh. I’m running in Times Square! Awesome!

Seeing Jocelyn and Beth was great; I was looking forward to seeing them the entire time I was in the park. Thanks for standing out in the cold and cheering, gals!

Mile 8 – 6:45

The windy mile. Started feeling a little tired, but I chalked it up to being fatigued from the wind resistance. (Fun fact: this where, during the 2013 NYC Half, I first felt my hip—now a torn labrum—really start hurting. Awesome, no?)

This was the point where one of the 1:30 pace groups caught up with me, which REALLY confused me. When I run, I don’t really think straight, so it took quite some time to realize that they had started before me. So their net time was going to be a 1:30, while I was pacing to be about a minute faster than them. Duh. Once I figured this out, I stayed with them until the tunnel. Running with the 1:30 group was great, because I knew that if I stuck with them I’d definitely be under 1:30 no matter what. I’ve always been wary of pace groups, but this is the second race where I’ve really enjoyed running with them (the first was during NJM, where I clung to the 3:25 pace group for dear life a majority of the run.)

Miles 9 and 10 – 6:43, 6:43

I told you flat roads are my jam. Once I get into the zone, I’m pretty much like a metronome. Saw the GCR cheer squad in here, which was AWESOME, and definitely gave me a boost. Also slowly took a gel for some extra energy. It’s probably mental, but I felt much stronger in mile 10 (after the gel) than I did during mile 9.

FINAL 5k

6:44, 6:56, ??? (tunnel)

Doops. So the final 5k wasn’t my best. It’s ok. I’m hitting myself now, but I remember thinking that I wanted to be conservative, and make sure I held my pace steady through to the end. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. 

The wind picked up again in mile 12. That sucked. But once in the tunnel it was time to rock and roll. The temperature was a bit higher than outside and the wind was subdued. It felt GREAT. Even thought my Garmin lost connectivity, I felt my turnover speed up, and I felt my pace speed up.

The small hill outside the tunnel wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered it being last year, and I hammered out the final bit of the race with gusto. For a brief second, I thought I might break 1:28 (doing math while running = never a good idea) but after crossing the finish line, all I wanted to do was smile. IT HAD FELT AMAZING, and I was pretty sure I had PRed by a few seconds.

FINAL HALF MARATHON – 1:28:28

I was in complete shock. I haven’t finished a race feeling that great in so long. And I had a new PR to go along with it! I completely exceeded my expectations and had and amazing run. It was such a confidence booster that I REALLY needed. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post: my Boston training has been going well, but I really didn’t think it was going THIS well. Eeep! I can’t wait for 4/21!!!

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