Monday, May 21, 2012

Guest Race Report: The Brooklyn Half Marathon

Name: Szymon
Hometown: Port Washington, NY
Runner since: 2008
Favorite Recovery Food: Pizza
Favorite Recovery Drink: Water. Lots of it.

The past 5 months have not been great to me when it comes to running. In January, I had an epic cough and enough chest congestion to make me miss running for a month. Afterwards, in early April, I had shin splints, so again, my running volume suffered. On May 7th, I caught something while on little sleep, large running volume and travelling. I did not run at all until May 19th, the Brooklyn Half. Considering on Tuesday I was a definite “no go”, I am very happy that I came out and ran the half. Did fairly well, all things considered.

My half marathon goal has been 1:29:59 (~6:50 min/mile pace). A more conservative goal, I figured, was anything as long as my pace was below 7 minutes per mile. So anything below 1:31:54. Regardless, this was going to be the first half marathon that I actually raced to my maximum abilities. I did not hit either goal, but I did manage to lower my PR by 5 minutes. Here’s how we got there.

I drove from Long Island to Coney Island to park. I woke up at 4:45am, had a coffee, a pop tart, threw a GU into my pocket, but forgot to account for the clusterfuck that was happening at the entrance to the Aquarium parking lot. It delayed me by at least 10 minutes. That meant I’d probably not have time to visit the bathrooms since it put me in the starting area at 6:40am. Fine, I’ll warm up along the course! There must be porta-pottys along the course right? Wrong. Not on the roads around Prospect Park anyways. So I got to the starting line without using the restroom beforehand for the first time ever. Oh, did I mention I forgot to have anything to drink other than coffee in the morning? Rookie mistake. I haven’t raced in a while, but come on. I guess I was going to be drinking a lot in the fluid stations.

I knew all along I wasn’t going to be doing 1:29:59 and really wasn’t even sure what I shape I’d be in. I figure I could maintain a 7:05-7:10 pace all the way. I took my Chocolate Outrage GU (outrageously chocolaty by the way). Gun goes off and I start at 45 seconds on the clock. The first mile went well, I felt I was going a bit fast but felt good. Second mile went well too. I thought I was in a pretty good pacing area as I was going a bit hard but was convinced everyone around me was caught in that too. By the time I finished the first 5k, I felt strong. I was taking fluids, maybe a bit quickly but effectively. I hit 21:38, so an average pace of 6:55. A bit fast, but there were some downhill areas. I knew that inside Prospect Park I’d slow down.

I ran the next 5k in 22:14, that’s a 43:52 (7:02 min/mile) 10k. Not too bad considering. The pace for that split was 7:11 min/mile. Again, considering it was through the hilliest parts of Prospect Park, I was happy. However, this is also the split in which I first felt the shivers and goosebumps. Considering it was in the high 50’s/low 60’s and I was running mostly in the shade maybe this was expected, but I couldn’t stop thinking it was also an effect of my dehydration.

The next 5k took us down some hills and on to Ocean Parkway. I knew I was going fairly fast and expected some slowing down. I knew it was going to be hard because at mile 7 I felt the tiredness a bit. Not a good sign considering I was just half way there. I pushed on down Ocean Parkway, quite a boring part of the race. I ran with this one redhead-bearded dude running in Vibrams. We hit 15k at exactly 1:06. Overall pace 7:04. Split in 22:0 (7:05 min/mile).

After passing the 15k mark I started feeling my fast starting pace and dehydration catch up to me. The shivers and goosebumps continued. Again, I was unsure to the exact reason as this early in the race, I ran through the entire Ocean Parkway segment in the shade. It was a cool temperature but also I expected to be sweating more. Sweat was dripping off my hat so I guess I was ok…ish (I never felt dizzy or weak or lightheaded, so that’s good). Once I hit the 10 mile mark, it was only 5k to go. But each mile started feeling longer and longer. At the fluid stations for mile 10, 11 and 12 I walked for 5-10 seconds when I drank water. I knew I needed to keep on hydrating as I did not want to pass out right after the race. When I hit 20k, the clock said 1:29:04 (7:08 overall). Split: 23:07 (7:23 min/mile). I think mile 12+ was the real killer here as I was essentially jogging compared to my initial pace and people were passing me left and right.

The last 1k was horrible. Took me 5:12 (8:19 min/mile). The 800m left to go sign really did not help me here. It felt like a mile before I saw the 400m left to go sign. Up the ramp to the boardwalk I saw the finish line. I crossed it slowly, raised my hands a bit to pretend I finished strong for the photo and walked on. I went straight for the water, taking it in as much as possible and went for a bagel as I was obviously depleted of sugars as well.

Unofficially, I timed myself at 1:34:30. But on the whole, I missed my goals. So how do I get to 1:29:59?

  1. More Lactate Threshold runs. I have been doing a lot of tempo runs and I think they are the main  reason I can maintain a below 7 pace for a long distance. I’m currently running 4-4.5mi @ 6:40-6:50 pace. I’d like to continue that and do 1 weekly LT @ 6:25-6:40 for 5mi.

  2. Longer long runs. This will come naturally as I am switching to marathon training, but before the half my longest runs were in the 14 mile range. That’s fine, but it did not really put me under considerable glycogen shortage and don’t think I trained my body to deal with it.

  3. More tempo runs. 5mi LT runs are one thing, but maintaining a fast clip for 13.1 miles is not easy. Doing 8-10mi runs at HM pace a few times before the race should be effective to teach my body the pace and train myself to maintain it.

  4. Drink much less alcohol. In fact, cut it out as much as possible. This is a tough one as I love a good beer. Maybe a good start is no beer during the week? The reasons for this are that I may lose a bit of weight, which will help my speed. But mainly, drinking less will help my recovery and allow me to run stronger during my training.
These principles stay true for the marathon so I’ll be working on that for the next 4 months. After the marathon, I’ll try for another half in the winter time. As long as I stay healthy and hydrated, I’m confident I’ll hit my goals then.

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