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…

13 Responses

  1. You and Jonathan are both awesome, doing so well in a non-goal race. Inspring! (except, perhaps for that start)

  2. The worse I feel before a race, the better I run.

    Glad you enjoyed yourself, especially once you got some room to run. It seems that things are progressing quite well.

    NYRR races always take time getting used to, particularly compared with our Westchester races where you run to the bathroom, throw your stuff in the car parked nearby, and have plenty of time to get to the start without having to be standing in place for 15 minutes. (The corral system is an improvement.) In 2007, I only made it to the start because a teammate took my baggage for me after an extended wait at the Port-a-San. He, unfortunately, got a late start.

    Entre nous, I thought ultra-guys spit in the face of all adverse conditions. Another shattered illusion. As Churchill didn’t say, “we will fight them on the beaches — as long as the surf isn’t too choppy — we will fight them on the streets — provided there’s not too much traffic — we will never . . ., whatever.”

  3. Wow, I didn’t realize it was such a big (in terms of number of runners) race! Nice stats, especially given that.

    I cannot imagine being in that cold even with my abundant body fat percentage, can’t think how you and particularly Jonathan do it.

  4. Good race Julie, considering the delayed start. Even with chip timing you’re at a disadvantage running through the field rather than racing your opposition from the beginning. 4:33s is good running in the midst of big training weeks.

    Jonathan may have Raynaud’s syndrome. 5F is seriously cold. 32F and my hands are suffering!

    With 1:23 winning, you’re not far away from the pointy end of the field. What place would 1:30 get you?

  5. Congratulations to both you and Jonathan, it sounded like a miserably cold race from other reports I’ve read. A pattern of Top 10 rankings…nice habit to have acquired. :D Job well done!

  6. Joe, I think I’m also one of those “feel lousy, run well” runners. I no longer fret if I don’t sleep well the night before, which is good because I rarely do. And, yes, the NYRR races — even with the new 5,000 participation caps — are still madness to navigate.

    Ewen and Flo — 1:30 would place me solidly in the top 20 women overall and have me flirting with top 10 overall placement. I would like to be there by the spring.

    As for Reynaud’s, J. doesn’t have the weird discoloration that seems a key symptom. I think he just has terrible circulation in his hands. If he has RS, our insurance is crap anyway, so it’s easier to just stick mountaineer mittens on his hands than pay thousands of dollars for that same prescription.

  7. “top 20 women overall and have me flirting with top 10 overall placement. I would like to be there by the spring.”
    Woohoo!! This gives me shivers. I see it happening within your timetable, especially now that “real” marathon training begins (not that your massive basebuilding was chopped liver or anything).

  8. Hi Julie, I am coming to your website via Flo’s. I just wanted to say congratulations to both you and Jonathan. You guys both finished fabulously!!!! I understand cold weather running and it is no fun. I too seem to warm up like a furnace. but to bad my hands have to be icicles first. Keep up the great blog!

  9. Thanks for reading and commenting, Christi. And so the blogosphere echo chamber grows ever louder… ;)

  10. Congrats! And funny how Arien’s name now evokes celebrity status for me – as soon as you mentioned her, I thought, oh, the Nike winner! :)

  11. [...] Race Report: NYRR Manhattan Half Marathon [...]

  12. I have it, but no discolouration – perhaps that’s with severe cases? I try to avoid running in temps below 0C – so afternoon runs in winter (5-10C or so is OK). The doc also told me to keep the body warm – so lots of layers. If the body is hot, the hands do better. Still wear gloves though!

  13. [...] felt sub-par for most of the week. The half marathon last Sunday took a lot out of me and then I spent the early part of the week fending off a cold that Jonathan [...]

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