Race Report: NYRR Manhattan Half Marathon

I went into this race with no expectations and goals that were on the casual side. No time goals, loose pace goals — basically a race strategy predicated on this concept: run as hard as you can for 13+ miles.

I had my usual terrible night’s sleep before the race, about six hours and two Rozerem pills. I woke up groggy and sporting big suitcases under my eyes. My thighs ached a bit, I had a stiff left achilles tendon, and basically didn’t feel that great. Experience tells me to ignore such things as predictors of race performance. I’ve had days when I’ve felt great and have run like crap. And vice versa. So I ignored how I felt, banished all negativity from my mind, and went in with as good an attitude as was possible in wind chills of around 5 degrees F.

Jonathan decided to run this race, despite his better judgment. He has about 9% body fat and practically gets hypothermic if he so much as watches “Touching the Void.” His hands are especially susceptible to cold and we’ve spent the last couple of years searching for the perfect hand warming solution (and finally found it in the form of Primaloft mittens, insulated liners and disposable chemical hand warmers).

But, enough about cold hands. What about the race?

We got there later than I’d wanted to, as I was scheduled to do four miles of easy running, worked around the race. With a PA system blaring threats of tardy runners being forced to start in the back , I did a truncated warmup of a little over a mile. Then spent 10 minutes trying to locate Jonathan at Baggage — critical since not only did he have the bag with my costume change, but also my racing bib. Found him, changed into my minimal running outfit — thin tights, tech tee, light fleece, thin gloves and thin hat. I retain heat like a wood stove (which is probably why I race so horribly in the summer), so I can get away with very little clothing, and usually end up shedding the hat and gloves after a few miles.

Then, the dreaded potty break. I got in line at a women’s room and it took 10 minutes to get a stall. Women really need to get more efficient at dropping their drawers and getting things done quickly. By the time I got to the start, the race had begun a good six minutes earlier. So I was stuck in a mass of slower runners  and for the first six miles I had deja vu of the Bronx Half last year, when I started 10 minutes late and spent the entire race blowing past people.

So the first half was a drag. I was running wide around the crowd (and getting yelled at constantly by race marshalls for not staying inside the cones). Things cleared out on the second loop of the park and I had room around me.

Despite feeling like warmed over dog food this morning, with the exception of one bad patch after mile 10 when I felt queasy, I felt great during the race and enjoyed running fast. I spent the entire race passing people (always an advantage to starting late). In fact, I passed Mary Wittenberg (NYRR’s president) — finally, finally beating her in a NYRR race by 30 seconds. It’s stupid, I know, because she’s older than I am and, as such, is actually fitter than I am. But she always beats me, so it was fun to pass that milestone today.

Official time: 1:36:06. Not my best time, but I suspect it’s my strongest performance in a half so far, given the course and crowds. I was 9th in my AG, “top 10″ rankings becoming a pattern for me, and 52nd woman overall.

Jonathan managed to get second in his AG despite not having trained for this. He ran it as a fitness evaluation race, since he’s been focused on coming back from a tendon injury sustained over the summer. But he was on the verge of hypothermia when we met up and has vowed to not run any more races in the extreme cold (which may mean I’m on my own for the some of the training run races coming up in Connecticut). He’s also officially decided that he hates running in Central Park for the exact same reason that I love it — the constant ups and downs — and so will not run any more races there.

Today’s race fun fact: The women’s race was won by Arien O’Connell in 1:23 flat. Regular readers of this blog will remember her as being at the center of the Nike Women’s Marathon maelstrom a few months back. Her half is equivalent to a full slightly faster than what she ran in San Francisco — with Central Park being an arguably harder course. So she’s getting faster…

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