Monday, March 19, 2012

NYC Half 2012

It would be like hopping out the van on the third leg of Ragnar is what I told myself. Running a half-marathon on zero training and pretty much no running. My last run had been Coogan's, two weeks before. That was a 5k and though I did pretty well, it felt like a tremendous effort for such a short distance and no personal record to show for it. Just to give you a sense of things, a 5k is 3.1 miles, a half-marathon is 13.1 miles.

I did it because I had a spot and had paid for it. It's an expensive race and it's difficult to get in. Plus I'd worked hard to get a spot this year. I got in through guaranteed entry: run four out of five half-marathons in the five borough series. I ran three and had one cancelled on me, so I got my spot. The no training was a combination of plantar fascia issues and winter funk.

Going into it I knew it would be hard, but the route was sweet and I wanted to give it a try. It's not everyday you get to run through Times Square with 7th Ave closed to traffic and fans lined-up to cheer for you.

Plus: I had a a plan. I knew I could run 6-7 miles before things started getting rough. I'd start with a friend from PPTC and hang on to her for as long as possible, that would take me to Times Square. Then there was a fast downhill heading towards the West Side Highway which I'd use to recover. That would take me up to mile 8. Then I'd just have to promise myself I could do two more miles. By then I'd be so close to Canal Street I'd be in awe of what I'd already done and refuse to quit. Plus, once you've done 10 miles, what's 3 more?

It sort of went like that. I held on to my fellow PPTCer for almost five miles. We went out kind of fast and  she went on to finish in 2:09. I was glad I didn't stick by her since that would have been a record for me and yesterday was not a day for records for me.

Shortly after we said goodbye, I connected with a woman who was wearing a Colombian shirt. Turns out she lives near Prospect Park. I found a new running buddy (my first Spanish speaking one!) and a work connection. On 7th Ave I got to see some PPTC teammates cheering. Go team!

Times Square was even more surreal than usual. It's no Verrazano, but the thrill of running through it made me forget my aches for a moment. But it was just a moment. The boost I hoped to get from the downhill recovery didn't come.

Cars on the left, cool people on the right.
I said good-bye to my new friend at the entrance to the West Side Highway, slowed down even more, and cranked up the music. Mile 8 was mostly The Grates telling me that Science is Golden, which I took to mean that I could force my mind to get me to the finish line, and that I was on The Biggest And Largest Adventure Ever. Then by mile 9 Justin Timberlake was whispering all kinds of delicious things in my ear and telling me that I was bringing sexy back. By mile 10 Adele was running in the deep. And it was deep. So deep I had to take a moment to take a picture just for you.

Not sure how I got through the next mile and a half. There was some shuffling, some walking. There might have been some quiet inner whimpering. And then I felt a hand on my back. I didn't know her but she was wearing the same shirt I was.

"Come on, PPTC, you can do it!"she said as she passed me. So I turned my music off and I caught up with her. She is a new member, and her company kept me going all the way until we were within view of the last 800meters sign. By then my quads were cramping and all sorts of things felt like they were going to fall off.

It told her to go. She still had enough juice for a strong finish, while I felt I needed to walk if I didn't want to get hurt. I crossed the finish line shuffling, got my medal, and continued on. I felt like I was just going to topple over while walking on the cobbled streets of the South Street Seaport in the post-finish line area. I wasn't meeting anyone after the race. Everyone else I had knew had finished earlier and I had no close friends who had come just to cheer for me. I was starting to feel a little lost and lonely when I saw the PPTC banners and headed towards them.

Belonging to a club as warm and friendly as PPTC has had a big impact in my running. Speed training with Coach Tony has made me faster and stronger. On days like yesterday when I was struggling so much, being part of PPTC made all the difference. In a sea of thousands of nameless faces, I was part of something, and they were there for me. Couldn't have done it without you, PTTC. Thank you!

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