1

2017 Newport Liberty Half Marathon – 1:48:45

This post probably should have gone up two weeks ago, rather than today, but I’ve fallen a bit behind.

I love the Newport Liberty Half Marathon. Not really because it’s a particularly amazing race, in fact, large chunks of the the course are on roads and paths that aren’t in the best of conditions. But the race is in my home of Jersey City and parts of the course are along my daily running routes in Liberty State Park and the Jersey City Waterfront. I can walk or run to the start from my house. And I get to enjoy some of my favorite views of Manhattan during the race.

An unfortunate part of the race is it being in mid-September means it can still be hot and humid, as was the case this year. The temperature was warm and the humidity was high.

Being in mid-September also means it’s three weeks before the Chicago Marathon. Last year, I made the mistake of going out hard and PRing and then not respecting my body’s need to recover in the week following. That week was, of course, my peak week for training. This messed me up going into Chicago last year and I felt like I was flirting a little too closely to injury.

This year, with me running Chicago again, I didn’t want to make the same mistake. Additionally, my IT band on my right leg has been bothering me a bit recently. The pain I’m having is fairly common for me late in a training cycle, but I’ve been bad about dealing with it. Typically, as long as I’m on top of it, it’s a non-issue.

So this year, Danielle and I decided to run the race together and take it nice and easy. Between the heat, legs not being in ideal shape, and a marathon coming up, there was nothing to gain by pushing it.

I had 21 miles on the calendar for the day, but because of my IT band, I wanted to ease it up on my body for the weekend and decided to scrap most of my pre-race miles. We ran just over a mile to the start of the race and left it at that.

We met up with friends Dori and Theodora before the race and chatted a bit. When walked over to the start, we saw Mayor Fulop getting ready to run. Danielle and I lined up between the 8:00/mile and 9:00/mile signs and waited for the start.

Once we got going, we did a pretty decent job of keeping ourselves held back and under control. Things were crowded, but runnable. We clocked in at around an 8:40 for our first mile, right where we had wanted to be.

Approaching the second mile, things started spreading out a bit and we grabbed water. Our second mile was around an 8:20.

We continued through Newport and towards Paulus Hook while keeping steady and having fun. Eventually, by mile four and a half, we were passing Liberty Science Center and entering into Liberty State Park. Here, Danielle started to leave me behind a bit. The path narrows for much of the park so it was hard to me to weave through other runners to catch up with her.

Just after getting into to the park, I saw our friend Allison—one of our dedicated cat feeders when we travel—sneak onto the path and start running next to Danielle. Allison wasn’t running the race and was hoping to just do a training run in the park. Bad idea. After minute or so, I was able to catch up and join the conversation before the race turned right down Freedom Way and Allison continued straight.

Danielle and I were running together again as we followed the path along Freedom Way to the south side of the park and around by the Statue of Liberty and the seventh mile marker.

Our splits were reasonably steady in the 8:10-8:25 range, but it was hot and steamy out. A major yuck situation.

Most of the park was fairly uneventful as we did a couple loops through the middle of the before heading along the marina and past the 10th mile marker. By mile 10.5, as we were exiting the park, I lost Danielle behind me. I tried to slow down to let her catch up, but I didn’t know where she was. A quarter mile up, I turned back to look for her as we came around a turn and she threw her arm up to let me know where she was. She was back far enough that it didn’t seem like she’d catch up, so I decided to run my own race for the last couple of miles.

My twelfth and thirteenth miles, along the waterfront, clocked in at 7:40 and 6:40. I didn’t feel like I was running that fast at all, I mostly just felt good. I passed a bunch of other runners, but it wasn’t something I was thinking about.

As I neared the finish, I didn’t kick for it. I just kept the quick pace from mile 13 all the way in.

I downed a few cups of water and then waited for Danielle to cross so we could go grab our shirts and bagels before heading off to brunch.

All-in-all, it was another fun Newport Half. Last year was a PR race, this year was a more leisurely fun race. I’ll take ‘em both.

4

2017 Reykjavik Half Marathon – 1:40:01

I’m still working on a series of blog posts about my recent trip to Europe, but I wanted to do a separate race recap for the Reykjavik half marathon, soooooo here we go!

This race entered my world when I was planning my Europe trip and it fell within the dates I was traveling. I knew I wanted to do a half marathon while abroad, but wasn’t sure which city I’d end up doing it in. In the end, it came down to Reykjavik or Berlin. Since I hope to eventually get into the Berlin Marathon lottery, I figured I should opt for a city with fewer chances for me to race in.

Somehow, this was also my first ever international race which added a nice extra bit of excitement.

Pre-race

The race started Saturday morning at 8:40am and I landed in Iceland at nearly midnight on Thursday night. By the time I got to my Airbnb and to bed, it was just about 2am. This was on top of having been traveling for a week and a half at this point and logging between 15-25 miles on my feet every day between running and sightseeing. My legs were going to be exhausted and there wasn’t anything I could do about it, but I knew what I was getting myself into when I registered for the race.

After doing a couple of stops on my sightseeing list for Reykjavik city on Friday, I made my way over to the race expo. The expo was like pretty much any other race expo; a lot of people and a bunch of brands giving out the same kind of stuff as any other expo. The only difference was it was mostly different brands than I’m used to.

I got my bib and timing chip (yes, a separate timing chip to tie on your shoe), grabbed my shirt, and then did a lap around. I took a bunch of the beverage samples and then made my way for the exit. I’m not a big race expo person. I like to do a lap and see what’s there, but I don’t typically buy things or like to stay long.

The timing chip was one of the plastic reusable ones you tie onto you shoe like we used to use in the US before B-tags became the standard.

I threw my stuff in my backpack and then continued with my sightseeing. I also had booked a beer tasting for that night. 🙃 I wanted to do it after the race, rather than the night before, but the scheduling didn’t really work out with some of the other things I wanted to do. So, yeah, I did a 🍺 tasting the night before.

The tasting was at Ölgerðin Egils Skallagrímsson, Iceland’s oldest brewery. I expected it to be like normal tastings where you get little samples of a few beers and that’s it. No, this was different. As soon as you walk in, they hand you a pint and that glass is never empty, they just keep refilling it every time you get to the bottom. And then you get to try a ton of their other beers. This was the most beer I’ve ever had on a “beer tasting” / “brewery tour” before. It was good, but not ideal the night before a half marathon

After the tasting, I got a couple of Iceland’s famous hot dogs from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsu and hit the bed. I didn’t even set anything out before going to bed. I just crashed.

In the morning, I woke up, threw on my running clothes and made for the door as quickly as possible. I didn’t have to worry about not setting out my clothes the night before because I really didn’t have a lot of options with me.

I had 17 miles on my schedule for the day so I did an easy 4-mile warmup along the water and part of the course and then ended right at the start.

The race

The race started right on time and without a lot of fanfare. The 10k, half marathon, and marathon all started at the same time which made for some crowding, but it wasn’t too bad. There were people standing on the corrals holding up pace signs, but they were in minutes/kilometers and none of the Americans knew how to translate that. Luckily, I have an app on my phone that does all kinds of pace related calculations so it was easy for me to find where to be.

There was no national anthem before the race which made the start all the more unassuming for those of us used to it. They frequently gave warnings for how much time was left, but when the start gun went off, there was no immediate countdown or anything. Not that it matters for anyone not right in the front.

I had lined up to run around a 1:50 finish. I knew I had tired legs and I’d be doing a glacier hike the next day so I didn’t want to push myself. The start was crowded, but I stayed with the pacers for about a mile.

Then, I got antsy.

My legs wanted to gooooooooooo. I started weaving my way up through the crowd. My first mile was an 8:25, but it was my only one over 8 minutes. I was surprised how much my legs were wanting to go, I was feeling good.

Through the first few miles, I just tried not to get too ahead of myself and to enjoy the scenery of such a beautiful city. For the most part, each mile was quicker than the last, but still comfortable.

The weather was cool, about 47º, and sunny with a light breeze, great running weather. I was sweating, but not dripping. I know my body well enough to know I didn’t need to take any water during the race under those conditions. So, I didn’t bother with any of the stops.

The course was pretty flat until the final third of the race. By this point, I had let my body go with whatever pace felt right and I started dropping into the 7:30s for the middle third. By the last third, I was even faster. I was surprised I had it in me, but I went with it.

The hills in the last third were of no concern for my legs. If anything, I sped up on them. Mile 11 was a 7:15 and then 12 and 13 dropped into the 6:50s. I hadn’t run miles that fast in…I don’t even know. That’s nearly PR 5k for me these days, but these miles felt great on my legs. I wasn’t even breathing hard until the final 2/3 of a mile.

From my run the day before and my warm up, I had a pretty good idea of the course in second half so I was able to mentally keep my game on for them and know what was coming up.

As we got to the final few turns, I was finally feeling it. I knew 6:50s weren’t really a sustainable pace for me late in a half marathon, but I did know my legs would just about be able to outlast the course so decided to hang on instead of easing back off a little.

Finally, I came around the final turn and saw the finish. I out-kicked a woman on my left and then a man just in front of her saw me coming and kicked much harder than I had left in me. I cruised across the finish line at 1:40:01. Very happy with my time, but annoyed I didn’t sneak in under 1:40. Still, this was only 21 seconds slower than my PR and it was sort of…easy? I can’t complain!

Post race

I grabbed my medal and smiled at my first international medal. It was a small and unassuming medal, which I actually like. I don’t need big giant medals. I grabbed some Powerade and water and then looked for food and heat sheets. There were neither. This was a bit surprising to me. By now, the temperature was still only 54º so heat sheets were necessary, but there were non. Boo! There was also no food to be had which seemed to be not a good idea considering there was also a marathon running as well. But, the finish is down a main street in downtown Reykjavik so it was easy to pop into a place and get some food.

I love this little medal for the Reykjavik Half Marathon! I'm a fan of smaller medals.

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My fresh danish was probably better than anything they would have given out anyway.

I didn’t hang around long because I needed to go shower, rent a car, and get on with my day. I had booked time at the Secret Lagoon, one of Iceland’s hot springs. It was just the thing for after 17 total miles of running!

All-in-all, I really enjoyed this race! It was fun and the city is beautiful. I’m hoping to go back for the marathon some time in the next few years.

2

2017 Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon – 1:47:01

If you’ve been following along on this blog for a while or follow me on Twitter, you know my hip has been all janked up for a little while now. So you might be surprised to see a half marathon recap coming at ya, but here we are.

This was my fifth half marathon this spring and sixth (sorta…depends on if you count the whole runDisney debacle) for the year. It was also, somehow, my first New York Road Runners race even though I’ve lived in Jersey City for two and a half years and have been an NYRR member for over a year. And still, to this day, I haven’t run a race in Manhattan. Of course, this is only true because I DNSed the Shape Women’s Half a few weeks ago because of the very same hip mentioned above.

Pre-race hip stuff

So yeah, let’s talk about my hip for a second and get that out of the way. It’s been bothering me for about two months now and, in the last few weeks, has caused me to barely run at all. I’ve been going to my normal physical therapist at Finish Line PT and started also going to a pelvic floor physical therapist, my friend Abby over at Spear. It’s been helping and I think we’ve started making progress between the breathing and strengthening stuff I’ve been doing at Finish Line and the soft tissue sorcery that Abby has been doing. The second half of last week was starting to feel promising that I was going in the right direction.

I also got an MRI last week which showed absolutely nothing. My orthopedist wasn’t able to find anything diagnosable to worry about which is good because at least there’s no real medical problem (I guess?), but frustrating because I don’t have a diagnosis to work from for treatment. Basically, his advice is to continue doing what I’m doing with physical therapy and keep my running mileage a bit lower. He also said I could run this race if I wanted to.

That all left me super on the fence about the race, but I figured I’d start it and see what happens with the plan to just drop out and hop on the subway to meet Danielle at the finish line if I was in pain.

Expo stuff

The expo for the race was much less an expo and much more a party. It was in Brooklyn Bridge Park, out where some of my Women’s Running photoshoot was. Danielle and I decided to meet up by City Hall on Thursday after work and walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to get there. Despite all the tourists, I think walking the Brooklyn Bridge is something everyone here should do at least once a year.

At the #airbnbbkhalf pre-party

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While there were tons of runners there, it wasn’t overly crowded at all and we were able to get our bibs right away. Unfortunately, they were out of pint glasses, but we probably don’t need any more pint glasses in our house anyway so whatevs.

We likely would have stayed a little longer, but the live music was SO DAMN LOUD. Or maybe we’re just too old now? I don’t know. Either way, it was too loud for our ears…and also we wanted dinner.

There’s my name on the sign thingy!

Race morning stuff

The race starts at 7am in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. If you’re like us and live in Jersey City, that’s tough. You gotta cross two rivers on a Saturday morning using two different subway systems that are both running annoying weekend schedules. But since our friend and neighbor Allison was heading to the race with us, we decided to be lazy and take a Lyft. Still, we had to get up at 4:30am and be out the door by 5:10am to get there with enough time to not worry.

We had the driver drop us off a few blocks away so we wouldn’t risk running into any road closures or traffic. After walking to the starting area, we immediately hit up bag check so Allison could drop off her bag (which had our stuff in it too) and then went through the security line. To our surprise, we didn’t have to wait for either, both were moving along quickly.

We hit some porta potties and then hid under some trees to avoid the cold drizzle. It wasn’t cold out, but the rain that was coming down was. Other than that, it was upper 50s and low humidity, so not bad.

Eventually, Danielle and I made our way to our corral and got in line for the porta potties again. This line might have been the worst part of the day. It was really long and snaking inside the corral—each corral had its own bank of porta potties. Because we were already in our corral, we didn’t have to worry that the start time was getting close while we were still in line.

Waiting.

The race

Unlike any other race I’ve been in, the corrals didn’t separate out the start of the race. Instead, they merely were used for seeding people and then the barriers between them were removed before the race even started. So you could have moved up anywhere you wanted after that. On one hand, this was nice because it kept things moving at the start and it was sort of like a smooth, but organized—albeit crowded—progression of things. On the other hand, it meant there was no escape from the crowding. The really odd thing about the start, though, is that it’s just around a 90º turn out of corrals.

While the corrals were pretty tightly packed, things broke up quickly after the starting line. There were a lot of people around, but plenty of space to still be able to run without being on top of someone. Though, that didn’t stop some douchedude from literally pushing me out of his way to get by.

Shortly after the start, we saw our friends Michele and Ashley go zooming by together. Michele was helping pace Ashley to a sub-1:40 finish (spoiler: Ashley finished with a 1:39:05!).

Danielle and I had planned to run the whole race together so we were mostly just trying to stick to our race plan of going nice and slow since we’ve both been dealing with all kinds of injury shit lately. That said, our 8:45-9:00 planned pace was nowhere to be found. Our first first miles were around 8:25 and we sped up from there.

The miles ticked by pretty quickly early on. Danielle and I just had fun and, before we knew it, we were at 5k and getting ready to actually run inside of Prospect Park instead of just outside of it.

The park was nice and scenic, but slightly hilly. Not even bad hills, but we don’t have any hills at all in Jersey City. I just tried to keep my effort even while going up or down. The water stop in the middle of the park was the only water I ended up taking the whole race—typically, I don’t take much water for non-marathon races. Of course, it went right up my nose.

While we were running much faster than we had planned to, things felt pretty good. I felt relaxed and comfortable. As we crossed the 10k mat, I remarked about that being the farthest I’d run in the month since the Star Wars Half. My legs didn’t seem phased by it, though. For me, the most important thing was focusing on my breathing like I had worked on in physical therapy. From the start, I had been consciously making sure I was breathing in deep with my diaphragm and exhaling fully (it’s the exhaling part that I’m particularly bad at). This seemed to be working well to keep my core engaged and offload the parts of my hip that’ve been bothering me. Through the 10k I had been 95% pain-free. When there was pain, it would be like a quick sorta sharpish thing that would come on and then I’d realize I’d stopped focusing on my breathing. After a few seconds of breathing properly again, the pain would go right away.

When we came out of the park at mile 7, Danielle said she thought the race was flying by. I agreed, but reminded her that we were just starting the less scenic part of the course that’s like a six mile straight shot down the highway.

However, to my surprise, the highway miles also ticked right off like nothing too! Somewhere around here, we passed Mary Wittenberg, former President/CEO of NYRR, and our friend Samantha, who was cheering.

The highway miles were very uneventful and it seemed like we had just turned onto the highway when we were approaching Coney Island. As we passed the 800M to go sign, I was feeling good and relaxed. My legs had plenty in the tank for miles still. Danielle’s IT band was starting to bother her, though, so we made no push to the finish.

With 400M to go, we had to all crowd in to go up a ramp to the boardwalk. It got a little tight, but it was manageable. And then once we got up on to the boardwalk, the finish line was in sight. Danielle and I cruised across at 1:47:01.

That damn guy’s head behind us!

Post race stuff

After crossing the finish line, we grabbed our medals and then walked for seemingly a million miles until there was water. When we finally got to the water tables, the were crowded and there were only half-filled cups of water. While it wasn’t super hot out, it was still warm enough that most people needed some hydration in their lives and those hard-to-get-to cups of water weren’t going to cut it. Then, like 20 feet past the tables with the cups, they were giving out the food bags which had Gatorade and bottles of water in them. It seemed unnecessary to have the cups of water when they could have just moved the food bags up like 20 feet instead. It would have been much smoother.

#AirbnbBKHalf done! Hip was mostly okay, can't complain.

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After grabbing feed food bags, we tried to take a quick photo in front of the old parachute drop, but some volunteer yelled at us to keep moving. WHATEVER DUDE!

After moving through a bit more, we saw Ashely and Michele again and found out about Ashley’s amazing finish time. Then we made our way over to the beer garden for some beers and to meet up with Danielle’s Gotham City Runners teammates.

Like a couple of fools, Danielle and I each ordered a liter of Flower Power IPA (7.5%) and guzzled them down at 9:30 in the morning on empty stomachs after a half marathon. We both were, uh, quite drunk by the time we left.

That’s not a 16oz cup, that’s a full liter!

Final thoughts

I really liked this race! It was fun and organized well for such a big race. And ending at Coney Island is really nice. If the weather wasn’t on-and-off drizzling, we could have hung out there much longer. I would definitely like to do it again!

I’m glad I was able to run. I was really unsure if I should or not. Less than a week before the race, I told Danielle I wasn’t going to run it because I thought it was going to be a bad idea. But it ended up being fine. My hip was okay through the race and then all day yesterday when we were out and about and walking for like a thousand miles. Like the kind of fine where I completely forgot about it.