How did I end up in this unfortunate scenario? For once, I did everything right. I went to bed decently early (at 11pm) and woke up bright and early (at 4:30am) the second my first alarm went off! (I had set FOUR alarms to make sure I was up -- didn't want to miss out on this race) I got all my stuff together the night before. Bag was was packed and clothes were picked out, ready to go. I got up, showered, dressed, continuously drank water all morning, and ate 2 mini bagels with pb & honey before dashing out the door. I grabbed a cab to make the most efficient use of my time, and got on an express subway at 96th street. Then, the 3 train ended at Times Square... for whatever god-forsaken reason, that particular 3 train was not making any stops south of 42nd street... grrrrr. Instead of waiting for the next 2 or 3 train, I dashed across the Times Square station and patiently waited for the Q... and waited... and waited. There were other runners, so I thought I'd be okay, but the darn Q train just wasn't coming. I dashed back across the station, back to the 1-2-3 platform, and jumped on the next 2 train headed for Brooklyn. By then all hope was lost of arriving on time.
Needless to say it was a very hectic way to start a race. As I approached the starting line, and saw throngs of runners moving along, I merged right in with the crowd, relieved to finally be on my way. However, the starting line was nowhere in sight; that's when I realized that I had accidentally hopped on the course a couple of yards in! Despite how late I was, I really wanted an official chip time, so I did a quick about-face, jogging around spectators and making my way back to the start, all the way around the barricades, and finally through the corral. There was just a spattering of runners left in the starting chute - in fact, just as I crossed the starting line, I overheard the announcer declare that he was about the pull of the mat! Whew! Just made it!
Amidst the mad dash to pick up my number, I noticed the volunteer handed me a light blue bib number - I made it to the 5000 corral! This is huge, people. Sadly there was no time to celebrate properly, because I had a race to run.
The 5000 number was a great confidence booster, especially because I was actually nervous! It's been 8 months since my last half marathon, and with the exception of my 14-mile leisurely excursion through upper Manhattan 2 weeks ago, I haven't ran more than 10 miles at once since last November. Heck, I haven't even raced at all since December! Glancing at my running log the night before the race was a very bad idea. It just made me realize how pathetic my running efforts have been lately. My regular mileage fluctuates anywhere from .8 miles to 3.5 miles, and I haven't ran more than 9 times a month since November. That is a really scary "training" plan for someone about to run their first half marathon in 3/4 of a year. But I digress.
From the beginning, the race was smooth sailing. The weather was perfect, and I felt great, cruising right along, passing tons of people. (Obviously, I entered the race so far back that I was surrounded by all the 10+ min/mile runners. They clogged up the roadway and really got on my nerves, until I figured out I could pass everyone by staying to the far right... as long as I didn't get trampled by the elite runners who were already lapping us before we even completed the first mile.) At one point I actually got elbowed hard in the forearm as I attempted to pass a throng of slow-moving runners taking up the entire roadway. At another point I noticed one of the JackRabbit employees passing amongst the front runners. I shouted hello and received a peace sign in response. That was pretty cool.
A few observations about showing up late: -- Benefits: there are absolutely ZERO lines to wait in to pick up your number and drop off your bag, and you don't have to wait in the starting corral forever before the start -- Drawbacks: you get stuck behind slow runners, and it is very difficult to gauge your pace by the mile time clocks.
In all honesty, I really had no idea how to prepare for this race. It's been so long since I've raced - I'm out of practice! I had no idea what to wear or how to dress for 70-deg weather and threat of rainstorms. I ended up wearing UnderArmour leggings, shorts, arm warmers, a tank and tee-shirt. It was so muggy and hot, that I quickly realized I was overdressed. The arm warmers and tee shirt came off & were deposited in the bag check. Since the leggings were under my shorts, I was kind of stuck wearing them. There was no time to change, so I prayed that it would be okay. However, about halfway through the race, I was drenched in sweat; it became painfully clear that I would soon get overheated and very uncomfortable. So, I made a spur-of-the moment decision at mile 6, and waited in line at the portapotties to change. It felt like an eternity; I must have wasted at least 5 minutes by stopping to change. Despite that huge setback in time, it was the best decision I've made all day. After I removed the leggings I felt free!
The rest of the race was effortless and enjoyable along the straight downhill 7-mi stretch to Coney Island. Running on the highway was probably the highlight of the race for me. Since I don't drive anymore, being able to go down an entrance ramp and quickly merge all the way over to the left lane was an amazing feeling... even if it was on foot going about 7mph instead of 70mph... We finished on the boardwalk, which was very cool! It was an incredible feeling, feeling the loose boards give beneath my feet, surrounded by crowds and sunshine overhead. Definitely a great way to mark the beginning of summer.
Immediately after finishing, I ran into Cipriana from the RFR JackRabbit campaign - it was like meeting a celebrity. I was actually a little star-struck! I was also on the verge of tears due to my standard fresh-from-the-finish-line overly emotional state. An incredible rush of emotion always overcomes me whenever I complete a particularly challenging race capped off by a stellar finish. I also felt light-headed and my brain would not function properly for a while after finishing, I kept dropping things left and right.
I was supposed to meet up with my friend from CT before the race. Obviously that didn't happen. It would have been awesome if he could have paced me (like we planned), but thankfully I felt great enough to push myself throughout the race. After congratulating Cipriana, I made my way to the "late baggage claim" to retrieve my bag and finally met up with my friend. His legs were trashed after running a PR 5K just 2 days earlier, so we didn't stick around Coney Island for the post-race festivities. It was okay because I had brunch plans in Park Slope anyways.
I'm really curious how I did. I forgot to glance at the clock when I first crossed the starting line, so for the entire race, I really had no idea how I was progressing. I was far too preoccupied with keeping pace and not stopping, maintaining proper form, and passing people, that I couldn't stay focused on the clocks anyway. There weren't any expectations going into this race. No time or pace goals. No racing strategy. It's been so long that I literally had no clue what my pace would be. I'm fairly certain I broke 2 hours though. I dug deep in the last half mile and had an awesome, strong finish. All things considered I am very happy.
This race totally re-affirmed my love for running. I love racing. I love the energy and the excitement. I love half marathons. I love the feeling I get during a race when pushing myself beyond my perceived personal limits. The incredible feeling once I've recovered from a race and realize what I've just accomplished is unmatched. It almost makes you feel invincible. I am already looking forward to the next one.