Unbeknownst to most of my friends and family, this was my first Brooklyn half. For the last four years of my long-distance running career, I had other plans—Chicagoland for work, and the one time I ran a 200-mile relay race.
So, I was pretty stoked to toe the start line of a race I had heard so much about that also had a tremendous after-party.
My friend Danika and I have similar paces and thus had the same goal—to break the sub-1:40 barrier. Though we don’t live near each other and hardly ran together, we would relay our training and, ultimately, it had gone pretty well.
Come race week, the feeling of excitement completely flew out the window: several colleagues out of the office left me crazed to the point of not leaving my desk to use the bathroom. On Wednesday, we traveled north to Westchester for some personal matters. And then I ate all the bar food. By Friday, still crazed at work, I wanted nothing else to do with this race. I so longed for a Saturday morning sleep-in session where I could run however far I wanted at whatever pace I wanted at whatever time of the day.
Instead, I had a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call.
His Lordship, brother Jeffie and I took a cab to Grand Army Plaza. Although it took us 15 minutes to catch a cab on Park Ave. (where were they??), it was effortless, and we made it to Prospect Park in 25 minutes.
We had a solid 45 minutes to the start, so we warmed up and chatted with friends. I told Danika I didn’t know how I was going to do, though I knew breaking 1:40 was going to be a bit of a challenge. Her feelings were mutual.
We all set off to our respective corrals and waited for the race to begin. Like many of the NYRR races, the corrals leading to the start were a cluster.
And soon we were off.
I’m going to make this quite clear: this course is completely unremarkable. The first half takes place in and around Prospect Park, and the second half takes place on Ocean Bay Parkway. That’s it. Moving on.
In an attempt to perform a negative split, I settled into a manageable pace in hopes of picking it up when I exited the park.
(This is called foreshadowing.)
Mile 1: 7:40.
I saw His Lordship returning from the round-about and gave him a wave. I felt good even though I began sweating buckets from the very noticeable humidity.
The turns we were making around Prospect Park led for serious bottle-necking.
Mile 2: 7:52.
I had some work to do. It was time to pick it up.
Mile 3: 7:29.
Around 3.5, we headed into the park, and I knew I was in for a treat of a hill. I took it easy until I knew I had passed it.
Mile 4: 7:43.
Mile 5: 8:08.
The hill was pretty gradual, and I could hear people around me having a rough go with it. (Including a gentleman who very loudly dry-heaved six or seven times. Guy, just pull over and get a grip.)
Mile 6: 8:18.
Though the hill was now behind me, I felt completely winded and out of it. I kept my sights on the ground and noticed my head weaving in a bobblehead formation. I took half a Gu and some water and hoped for the best. I wished to exit the park.
Mile 7: 7:45.
I praised all things holy when I hit Ocean Bay Parkway. I put my head down knowing two things: A. this was going to be an extremely uneventful straightaway, and 2. I would have to make up quite a bit of time to make the sub-1:40 a reality.
Mile 8: 8:02.
Sub-1:40 not possible, shoot for a PR. (Sub-1:43.)
Mile 9: 8:17.
My quads were burning and I wished for another Gu. I picked up Gatorade at an aid station. It was odd that it didn’t taste horrible.
Mile 10: 8:46.
This was the beginning of the end. I wanted nothing more than to crawl into a subway station and return home.
Mile 11: 9:03.
Mile 12: 9:07.
Danika flew by me. I hoped she was on her way to PR. I picked up my step in an effort to stick with her. In an instant, she was gone.
At 12.5, it started raining.
At 12.75, it started pouring. The cool rain felt delightful on my toasted quads.
Mile 13: 8:46.
Coney Island was now in my sights, and so was a ramp leading me to a boardwalk.
I watched my footing when I hit the boardwalk so not to slip and break anything.
Finish: 1:48:44 (8:18 pace)
Disappointed, I grabbed my medal, gave a couple high-fives to volunteers, and found Danika. I hit the Gatorade table and slammed three glasses. And, for the first time ever, race Gatorade tasted delicious. I realized I was somehow under-fueled for this race, and grew disappointed in myself.
We met up with the rest of our crew at Peggy O’Neill’s. Indeed, they do boast a killer half marathon after-party. One by one, Baker family members and friends came through telling their tales of their race.
Ten days have gone by and I still don’t understand what happened leading up to this. I’ve always been properly fueled for a half marathon. So what happened? Was it stress? Heat? Exhaustion from waking up at 4:00? Did I eat my oatmeal too early?
Have you ever encountered this problem? Feel free to share.. Inquiring minds want to know.