Race Report: NYRR Half Marathon – Bronx

This morning was the second of five half marathons in NYRR’s 2008 “Grand Prix” series — and the last of the series we’ll run this year, probably.

And what a logistical disaster it was! We woefully misjudged the parking prospects in the Bronx and spent 45 minutes driving farther and farther from the race start, searching for a legal parking spot. At last, 10 minutes before race start, we found one — two miles from the start! We’re both usually semi-hysterical before race starts anyway. But this tactical error only magnified the anxiety and testiness. We managed to cover a lot of ground — dogshit-covered and garbage-strewn sidewalks, in most cases — and made it to the start…eight minutes late. Let me tell you, it’s a disheartening feeling to hear the race air horn blow and you’re still three quarters of a mile away from where that air horn is.

A quick trip to the portapotty made our starts even later. But that’s what timing chips are for, right? Fortunately for me, I’d defined the race as not a race, but a marathon pace training run, so I wasn’t overly concerned by the late start. Jonathan, however, was racing this one. Although he was, as usual, a ways ahead of me, we both had the odd experience of running several minutes per mile faster than everyone around us, passing a few thousand people over 13 miles. I felt like Wonder Woman. Now I’m thinking this is an interesting strategy for racing — start 10 minutes late and feel like an olympian.

Anyways…

Pre-race jitters were enhanced by weather reports of 25+ MPH winds. Although winds were an easy 4 MPH at 5AM when we got up this morning, the high winds were on the way, oh, yes they were. The only question was when they’d go full blast. As it turns out, someone turned on the fan at around 9:00AM. The worst winds were along a two mile stretch of Grand Concourse heading west — full on, in-your-face winds with frequent gusts of 40+ MPH. At one point, a major gust gave me what I thought of as my “Nightmare at 20,000 feet” moment — the inability to breath, despite the firehose blast of air. Much like standing on the wing of a jet airplane.

On the plus side, that wind turned into a tailwind on the way back, heading east — and I can see how helpful it was because my splits show that, not only was I running faster but my heart rate dropped by a few percentage points too. If only it had rained; I might have found a way to hydroplane my way through the miles. So, two bad miles, followed by two good ones, then another incredible headwind for mile 13.

The verdict? Despite the high winds I met my goal of holding an average pace of 7:50 – 8:00. Average pace was 7:56 (or slightly under a 3:28 marathon pace). Hoorah! Jonathan did even better, besting his Manhattan Half Marathon time by 50 seconds (and garnering fourth place in his age group). Hoorah!

Other highlights: I did lots of water stop practice and managed to avoid dousing myself, for the most part. Also got the timing right on ingesting a gel right before the stop. I dealt with weaving through hundreds of people well, a skill I’ll need in April as I lap thousands of half marathoners. And I was able to deal with the extremely high winds pretty well, not letting them get to me too much mentally.

For many reasons, I’m glad I decided to use this as a training run rather than racing it all out. I feel fairly confident both about my marathon pacing and about my ability to run in windy conditions. And I’ve saved my energies for next week’s training, which peaks at 93 miles. Zoinks!

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