Sunday, May 1, 2011

2011 LI Half Marathon race report

Minutes before the start
Today's run (LI Half Marathon): 13.1 miles (10:50/mile)

Today's race was a new experience for me in two ways. It was my first half marathon and the longest distance I've ever run. My performance was nowhere as good as I'd hoped it would be, with an overall pace of 10:50, but I don't really care about that. I expected to do better because I thought I'd done all the right things to prepare. I didn't run for the seven days prior to the event, followed my hydration and fueling plan to the letter, started slowly to reserve energy and worked to maintain good running form. But the results speak for themselves.

My greatest concern for today's race was whether my knee had recovered from my last long base run. I'd definitely hurt something on that 8.25 mile run and, even this morning, it was still a little sore.  My knee became a problem about a third of the way in. I'll get to that later.

I arrived early (6:30 AM) but Lot 6 in Eisenhower Park was already halfway filled up. I wore some layers over my race shirt to stay comfortable prior to the race which I stowed in a backpack at the starting point. UPS nicely provided bag transport to the finish line. I brought electrolyte drink in my hand bottle and added some extra salt. I didn't want to use that before the start but I couldn't find any water and I felt dry. Rather than keep searching for water, I got into the very long line for the Port-a-potty's. This is often an issue at races. It seems like everyone queues up behind a group of them but a few never seem to be used. It wouldn't be a popular job but race organizers could do better by managing the bathroom lines and resources. As a result, there were dozens of runners who took it upon themselves to use the fields that paralleled the starting area for relief (below).

Open sourced bathrooms
The race started on time. I brought my iPhone with me and used MotionX GPS because it has a feature that sends emails every 5 mins with a map and your current position. My wife and kids couldn't join me today but they were able to follow my progress this way. I also had my Garmin and I hit "start" as I stepped on the mat at the starting line. The Garmin's distance calibration was really off but the stopwatch feature was accurate. I followed the crowd, taking the first three miles in just over 30 minutes (actual). The crowd kept things tight but it was close to where I wanted to be at that point. I felt good.

I hadn't realized that the course wound back around Nassau Coliseum so I was puzzled to find us going opposite to the direction I'd expected. Before long we spilled out to Merrick Ave. which borders Eisenhower Park to the west. All was going well until I reached Old Country Road and turned right. My knee, which had felt perfect from the start, began to protest. The pains were sharp and I worried that, with nine miles left to go, I could be doing real damage to my knee. I considered dropping out but I slowed down and the pain was reduced to the point where I felt I could continue. I continued to moderate my pace to ensure that I wasn't doing damage.

We ran through downtown Westbury and it was fun to to see it by foot since I'm usually driving it. They've done a nice job revitalizing the storefronts. I had taken a GU Roctane 30 mins before the start and planned to take another gel at 5 miles so I consumed a GU Expresso Love just before we reached Jericho Turnpike. Along the way I'd been taking sips of the electrolyte mix and grabbing water at every station. I think this combination of fuel and liquids helped me most of the way.

I wasn't running fast but I never stopped throughout the entire race. My heart rate was where it should have been and that's another reason why I'm puzzled by my slow pace. I think I did fairly well for the first 10 miles but the last three were very difficult. The segment that we ran on Jericho went well enough and I was glad to turn onto Brush Hollow Rd. because I had fooled myself into thinking the hard part was over by then. We made our way up the on-ramp to Wantagh Parkway which was a tough hill at that point. We followed that highway for about a mile and a quarter and hit another hill before breaking off Old Country Road where the full marathoner's split off to follow their route.

We quickly turned on Carmen Avenue which represented the 10 mile point but less than a mile later I saw the 24 mile marker for the full marathoners and (in my race fog) deduced we were suddenly at mile 12. In fact it was mile 11. At this point I was fading and all the gels, electrolyte fluid and water stops were not helping me the way they had previously. We entered Eisenhower Park 1/4 mile before the real mile 12 and my calves started cramping painfully. I thought for a moment about stopping and decided "not now, not ever." There's nothing wrong with walking in sections but I didn't want to do that because I feared it would drop my heart rate and make it all the harder to resume.

My friend Brian had warned me that the 2+ mile run through Eisenhower Park would seem long and he was right. OMG it took forever to get to the finish line and the last mile felt like running in peanut butter. I kept telling myself "just go, just keep going" and eventually I reached the winding safety cone path that led to the finish line. My heart sank when I saw my finish time. I was hoping to beat 2:06 but I was nowhere near that time.

Oh, this? It's nothing really.
But I finished! I was fairly disoriented as I walked along the post-chute pathway, following those who had finished right before me. I must have looked bad because a race volunteer came over and said "are you alright?" I said yes but I wish she had given me some water. Our line wound past volunteers handing out finisher medals (my first ever BTW)  and into a tent where they handed out string backpack race bags containing fruit and a bagel. I explored the Finish Line Festival but was anxious to return home to see my family. I called my wife and she and the kids were hooting it up, congratulating me. They had just seen me cross the line minutes before on the latest MotionX update. Seconds later the iPhone died due to the GPS drain. Perfect timing.

I got home and was greeted with excitement by my wife and kids. The kids made me great cards commemorating the achievement. I noticed that on my pre-race "To Do" and checklist that my wife had added "Run 13.1 miles" and it was checked off. It was an amazing morning and a new and exciting experience. Will I run another half marathon? Possibly, some day. I have to forget how hard this one was before I do that. Will I ever run a full 26.2? I just can't imagine it!

5 comments:

  1. Congratulations!!!! Sounds like you had to fight a lot off to keep going, I don't know if I could of. I hope you could hear us cheering you on all the way from FL!!!

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  2. Thanks Bill! I know you guys were cheering for me. It was quite an experience. Some tough moments to be sure but once the endorphins kick in (after the finish) all the pain is forgotten.

    Have fun in FL!

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  3. Congratulations on a memorable feat! This is a very well written and inspiring post.

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  4. Thanks Brian. Next year we'll do this one together!

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