Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Race Report: Staten Island Half Marathon

Alright, now that I've gotten my big-picture lessons from yesterday out there, it's time to do a slightly more in-depth analysis of the race itself. Yesterday was unusual because I actually got to the race way earlier than was necessary. Normally I have to jump into the last corral because I don't get to the start until 1 or 2 minutes before the race. Not yesterday. I guess it was one benefit to the race not being in my backyard.

The race was supposed to start at 8:30am and race instructions (which, I know, I'm not normally great at paying attention to) said that the last ferry that would get runners to the start in time was the one that left at 7:30. I figured I'd play it safe and get onto the 7:00am ferry. In order to get down there in time, I planned to wake up at 5:00 and leave my apartment by 5:30. But in all my surprisingly prudent planning, something had to give, so I actually woke up at 5:15 and left around 5:45. To my great surprise, I got all the way down to South Ferry (the Southern-most station in Manhattan) by 6:20 and was therefore able to take the 6:30 ferry and to Staten Island itself by 7:00ish. So yes, I had kind of a lot of time to while away, but it wasn't too bad.

I picked up my bib and t-shirt right away but didn't check my backpack until about the last 15 minutes before the race. It was a little chilly before we started, so I wanted to wait as long as possible before having to take my overshirt off. When I finally did check my bag, it was a relief because along with my race stuff, it contained a box of reGen that I intended to distribute after the race.

As I mentioned earlier, I got to the race early enough that I was even able to enter my corral! Hooray! Normally I don't really care. I've always been at the back of the pack, so I tend to take it for granted that I'll either start at the end or close to it. It wasn't until Sunday when I realized the value in starting at the correct corral. It only took me 2 minutes to make it to the starting mats (normally it takes closer to 10 at NYRR races) and we were off!

This truly felt like a fast half marathon, and I don't even mean because I was running it faster than I normally do. Maybe it was because it was my third time running this exact course and it has stuck in my mind pretty well over the last few years. But we reached the first mile marker very quickly and before I knew it we were at mile 4! Now, before I get into the 5-8 mile out-and-back, let me talk about bridges and overpasses. Running under them is one of my absolute favorite things to do during a race. Why? The hoot and holler! If you ever run a race with enough people, try letting out a nice howl under the overpass. If the running crowd at that race is any fun at all, you'll get a chorus of whoops, cheers and howls back! It's awesome and I may or may not have (definitely) done it under the one overpass in this race. I will say, though, that the orange corral is a much less enthusiastic hoot and holler crowd than the pink, light blue, and purple crowd. Bonus points for pink, light blue and purple!

Not long after that, we hit the beginning of one of the toughest parts of the race. It's a humongous downhill. Now, I'm all for downhills, but my stomach always sinks a little when I know that I'll suffer as much on the way up as I coasted on the way down. It was one of those. The downhill extends almost to the 6 mile marker, after which the course goes flat for the next mile and a half or so, at which point the hill back up begins. It's a tough climb and I was really afraid that I would lose my momentum coming out of that hill. It definitely took me a bit to regain my pace, but I did eventually. The 8 mile marker is not far from the end of that hill and I was happy to see it.

Mile 9 is the point at which runners begin to trace the path back to where the race started, not far in front of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. It was at this point that I was almost certain I was going to break two hours, but I still didn't want to count my proverbial chickens, so I refrained. Until mile 11, that is. At that point, I calculated that even if I ran the next two miles at a 10 minute/mile pace, I would still make it and I felt comfortable enough in that that I began to get excited.

I crossed the finish line as the clock read 2:00:10 and knew that I had run just under two hours, since the clock had been at 2 minutes when I started. I was absolutely elated, as I mentioned on Sunday and I haven't been so excited about an endurance accomplishment in a couple of years.

Oh! I almost forgot to talk about hydration. This race was a bit warm for October and very sunny. I got a nice tan, in fact. The humidity was also high at 75%. Despite these facts, however, I still only stopped at four or five hydration points. I guess I feel like they disrupt my momentum at the beginning of a race. Not really an important factor, but something I thought I'd mention.

So as usual, the Staten Island Half Marathon defied my expectations to become one of my best races of the year. I'll drink (some Diet Coke) to that.

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