Half marathon number two of six this season! Yes, last week, I think I said it was five, but…well, now it’s six. Yeah, I added another one into the mix because I have problems. Many problems. Send help.
This weekend’s race was the NYCRUNS Ladies First Half Marathon along Shore Park in Brooklyn. Not only was this my first time running an NYCRUNS race, but it was also, somehow, the first time I’ve ever raced in NYC. Yes, I know. I’ve lived in Jersey City and worked in Manhattan for two and a half years and haven’t actually raced within NYC before this weekend. Weird.
This race, like many of the half marathons that NYCRUNS does is a simple course along the Hudson River made up of two out-and-backs. The first is a shorter one from the start at American Veterans Memorial Pier to just passed the Verrazano Bridge and back. And the second one goes out a bit further before turning around and heading back.
My morning was not as smooth as I would have liked. I spent Thursday and Friday participating in Hack Day at work. It’s a 24-hour hackathon we do a few times year where people get to work on whatever projects and wacky ideas they want. At the end, we present them for voting and a winner is crowned. Typically, there’s usually much junk food and drinking and very little sleep. I slept for 4.5 hours in a conference room Thursday night. I knew this was going to mess me up a bit for Saturday so I got in bed super early on Friday. We’re talking like 7:50pm. I think I ended up closing my eyes around 9pm.
I had a great plan for the morning that involved taking public transit to the start and running two miles before the race so I could get to my scheduled 15 miles for the day. Unfortunately, the PATH Train decided it wasn’t going to follow its own schedule and I had to take a Lyft to the start. Somehow, this resulted in me getting there a half hour earlier than planned, leaving me with time to kill and destroying my perfectly crafted plan. 🙄
The weather was chilly, in the upper 30s and windyyyyy. We’re talking 20mph winds that made it feel bitterly cold. The forecast had rain in it all week, but luckily that stopped before I left the house so at least I had that going for me. Adding rain into the mix would have suuuuucked a bag of old rusty dicks—look, I don’t know why they’re rusty, they just are, okay?
While waiting for registration to open up so I could get my bib and start de-layering for my warmup, I met up with fellow trans runner Allison who was running her very first race as Allison! Exciting! We chatted for a while as I watched the time tick down. Once there was about 25 minutes before the start, I quickly took off all my layers and threw them in my bag. Allison offered to take my bag over to bag check with hers so I was able to just take off from under the overpass where all the runners were sheltering themselves from the wind.
I did an easy mile out down the course to the first marker and turned around to come back. On the way out, the wind was at my back a booster strapped to me. Unfortunately, it was brutal headwind on the back. Still, I was able to get my two miles in and get warm. I got back to the start with about three minutes to go before race time. Basically perfect.
This race was supposed to be a big contrast from the LOVE Run the weekend before. It was really important for me to take this one slowly since I didn’t in Philly. Just a training run. My plan was to run around a 1:45.
It was a small race, 346 runners, so the start wasn’t wild at all. I was able to find some space to run with no issues. Like the week before, I started off faster than planned. Not as fast this time, but a 7:41 first mile. I thought I was running slower based on the feel, but it would turn out I was, in fact, not
From here, I kept things mostly steady until the first turnaround with 7:46 and 7:45 second and third miles. The small field spread out quickly and there just a handful of people out cheering so things were quiet. The only notable part here was a few puddles where the course narrowed a bit. They took up 80% of the path which meant squeezing in a little so there would be enough room for runners in both directions to get by without running through them—they were deep enough to cause some wet feet if you did go through them. But everyone on the course was extremely mindful and courteous. It seemed to be a non-issue overall. Women!
The back part of the first out-and-back sucked with the wind in our faces. Someone yelled out to the woman running behind me that she was in 22nd place overall. I didn’t realize I was so close to the front, but I really didn’t want that to get in my head.
Unfortunately, it got in my head.
Hitting the second turnaround, I was feeling okay. I felt better than I had in Philly, but I was giving roughly the same effort level. As soon as I looped around the cone for the turn, I was next to a man (there were really only a handful who ran the race at all) who seemed to be running about the same as me. We ran from this point, at roughly 4.75 miles, all the way to mile 9 right next to each other, basically stride for stride. We didn’t say a single word to each other, but there seemed to be an unspoken agreement of us pacing each other. While it worked in terms of keeping me steady, that “steady” was too fast. Through this section, I dropped into a race effort level. I ran 7:23, 7:19, 7, 14, and 7:12 to the last turnaround at mile 9. I really didn’t want to be running this pace for a training run, but I mostly felt good. At this point, it was in my head that this was a small field and I might be able to place in my age group. Dammit, this wasn’t supposed to happen.
I knew I was somewhere around 12, but wasn’t fully sure how many runners were ahead of me. After turning around and starting the final back leg of the race, a woman coming from the other direction yelled “you’re eleven” at me. This really motivated me (dammit). I had slightly dropped the guy I was running with and was on my own here. The wind sucked again, but I didn’t want to increase my effort. I tried to just keep it the same and let my pace suffer however it was going suffer. Miles ten and eleven only lost a few seconds each from where I had been.
I was getting tired in the last 5k. Really tired. The race effort level was catching up to me, especially since it wasn’t planned. Still, I tried to hold strong. I started catching up to the 9th and 10th place women, but didn’t think I’d have it in me to take them both. The tenth place woman seemed to be slowing down a lot and, even though she tried to pick it up to stay with me, I was able to pass her easily. At this point, I was right behind the woman in 9th, but I didn’t think I’d ever be able to get around her. I wasn’t about to fight for it either. If I was truly in 10th place now (assuming the woman who yelled “eleven” was correct), I was pretty happy with that. I didn’t know the ages of these women so I didn’t know if it’d work out for me to place in my age group, but 10th overall was a pretty rad idea!
Somewhere between miles 11 and 12, the 9th place woman started slow a bit. As I made a move to get around her, she started fighting to stay with me, but I was able to hold the pace more than she was. After I passed her, the man I was running with before appeared next to me again. He had briefly passed me somewhere in this section, but couldn’t stay ahead of me. As we came down the last couple of miles, I was ready for the race to be over. My legs were tired and the 20mph wind in my face was not helping at all.
After I got to the last mile, I started watching the pier getting closer and closer and focused on that finish line. I had slowed a bit, but was holding on with what I had. I knew was I was in PR territory now. I didn’t know exactly how much of a PR it’d be, but I knew that was now on the table too.
As we approached the 13th mile marker, I could start to make out the clock and I could see it turn 1:39:00. I knew this was going to be close, but I was running fast enough to just sneak it in under my 1:39:51 PR. I started to kick with what I had left and pulled ahead of the guy next to me and powered across the finish wanting to puke.
I crossed at 1:39:40, an 11-second PR! I was also the 9th woman overall and FIRST IN MY AGE GROUP! It was a small race, but this was the first time I’ve placed in my age group since I transitioned. I would say I was pretty psyched about this, but I didn’t actually know until I was already on my way home from the race. They weren’t announcing placings or doing awards at the race so I hadn’t stuck around for too long afterwards. I changed in a porta-potty and then started heading back to the subway to head home.
I’m mad at myself for running a race effort when I wasn’t supposed to, but I’m pretty psyched at my performance. Even the smallest of PRs is still a PR. And while the wind helped me on the out parts, it was brutal on the backs. It probably evened out in the end. This ended up being a good race effort with decent strategy. I slowed in the last two miles, but I kept mostly even splits through the middle of the race and negative split. It feels like my race-day instincts are reasonably decent. This race ended up being a nice confidence boost on top of Philly the week before.
As for NYCRUNS races, I’m a fan! They’re small, which is a nice bonus around here. The medal and shirt for the race are both super cute and the race was only $50. Really can’t complain about that!