What a beautiful day for my first half marathon!
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect morning. The traffic was great, the weather was flawless, and I felt strong.
Well, this is a recap, so let’s do it.
I’m going to write a bit about what I ate. I try not to make what I eat the focus of this blog because what works for me might not work for everyone. Same reason I don’t mention my actual weight: my ideal weight might not be someone else’s, even someone with the same height, age, and other factors. There is no one “right” number of calories or weight or pace or anything for everyone.
That said, I think it’s worth mentioning – it could be helpful for someone else trying to figure out the right combination of things to do before a race, and it’ll also make me remember what the hell I did.
For the record, what I did isn’t the “right” way, it’s just what I did.
I had about 2500 calories a day both Friday AND Saturday – about 600-700 more than usual (although I’ll have 2500 on my long run days). My nutrition breakdown was about the same both days with a focus on carbs:
- Carbs: 59.5%
- Protein: 12%
- Fat: 28.5%
I’ve read that 80-85% of your “carbo-loading” calories should come from carbs. So I guess I was actually under.
I went to bed Saturday a little after 10pm and set my alarm for 4:15am. Naturally, I woke up at 3:45. Also naturally, I had several dreams where I woke up late and realized I missed the race.
At 4:30am I ate half a bagel (3.4 oz.) with a tablespoon of almond butter and a sliced medium-sized banana. Total: 480 calories. This might sound like a lot to eat before a race, but keep in mind I was eating it three and a half hours before the start.
I also had a quarter cup of cold brew coffee with almond milk. I don’t normally drink this but it was in my fridge because my dad had bought it at one point. I only drank it because I thought it might… get things moving. You know. Get it? I am talking about poop. Anyway, it did.
I left at 5:20, giving myself plenty of time to get to the city, park my car, go to Starbucks, check my bag, and get to my corral for an 8am start. Traffic was great. Just like last time, I got from my house on Long Island to to the parking garage on the upper east side in one hour flat.
I went to a different garage this time, and there was no stress or hassle. The only other customer in there was another runner.
It was still dark when I headed out for Starbucks.
I had to use the bathroom again (hooray!) so I was eager to get to Starbucks. There was a slight hiccup when I realized I’d made one mistake in my plans: I wrote down the wrong Starbucks: the one on Lexington and 96th. THERE IS NO BATHROOM AT THAT STARBUCKS.
Luckily I found the correct Starbucks two avenues over on Madison and 96th, where there is a bathroom. I got a tiniest-size-possible black coffee and had a very successful visit to the bathroom. You know those visits to the bathroom that are so productive you give yourself a thumbs up while on the toilet, and then again in the mirror? No? Am I the only one who does that?
The sun started coming up once I got inside Central Park.
On the walk to the park, I ate the snack I brought with me: a half serving of my favorite cereal Cracklin’ Oat Bran, which is about 25 cracklin’ oats. Total: 100 calories.
There were early morning city floofers everywhere.
It was in the upper 30s and partly sunny. This may sound cold, but trust me, especially after the past few weeks of winter, it felt like spring. I decided to wear only one layer on top for the race – a thin long-sleeved shirt I might normally wear as a base layer. The hoodie in the bathroom pic was only meant to get me to bag check. Same with the hat. I did wear gloves for the race, but those came off around mile 6.
Here’s the course: two counterclockwise loops (spanning 110th to 72nd) on the left and then almost a full loop on the right.
I got to the bag check at about 7:20, and the line was LONG. Damn. I’d never checked a bag there before and hadn’t considered this when planning my morning. It moved pretty quickly though, and I’m glad it did because I got to my corral with five minutes to spare – they close them off at 7:50 and then late-comers have to line up at the end of the pack.
I was in corral F this time. I was in H for the 15K I ran last month (based off my own predicted pace), but my actual pace for that race bumped me up for this one. (The faster your pace, the lower down the alphabet you go, with the top athletes in A.)
Here are fellow F’ers trying to keep warm.
There are a lot of people who are faster than me.
I was really happy to be in F. This time I truly felt like I was running with My People. I didn’t feel too slow or too fast. Corrals are a good idea. Kudos to whoever invented them.
The only other thing I had to eat were four Clif Bloks. My plan was to have one right before the start and then one every three miles. Total: 133 calories.
I saw my friend Doug, also in corral F, and we chatted for a few minutes before separating after the start. It was nice to talk to someone and get my mind off of how cold I was.
Before I knew it, the horn sounded, and we were off.
This was a much nicer start than last month’s 15K, which began at the east end of the 102nd transverse. It’s such a narrow passageway that there was bottlenecking all over the place and we were all just shuffling along for the first half mile or so. This race started right on West Drive – a much wider path. So other than a little clumping here and there, we were all moving at a steady clip right out of the gate.
I felt really good right from the start. I actually felt stronger than I’ve felt in other races. I’d like to think this has to do with having eaten more.
Both the 15K and the half covers most of Central Park’s inner loop. However, the 15K ran from 102nd to 59th. The half ran from 110th to 72nd. The main difference is The Hill. Those who have run the inner loop know what I’m talking about:
This hill came up twice in today’s race: the beginning of mile 5 and the end of mile 9.
The first three miles felt great to me. The first mile was my slowest of the race, I assume because of the small amount of clumping and me just being cautious.
MILE 1: 9:01
MILE 2: 8:48
MILE 3: 8:32
Cool, a little negative split 5K!
The Hill wasn’t all that bad. It’s not as steep as I always think it will be. What made it even better was that the song that randomly came up on my Spotify race playlist while I was running up that hill was none other than…
I adore Kate Bush, but her songs don’t usually make their way onto my running playlists. When I was making this one last night, I figured, what the hell, it has run in the title and I like it.
So thanks, Kate! Your song about running up that hill helped me run up that hill.
Once we were over the hill (actually, hills, as there are a few coming down the top of the west side), it was easy. I’d eaten my second Clif Blok. I didn’t need water or to go to the bathroom. I kept moving. I weaved my way in and out of clumps of runners, usually trying to stay on the right where there always feels like more room.
I wasn’t pushing it as hard as I would in a 5K, obviously, but I was trying to run as fast as I could without feeling winded. I never want to be one of those people gasping for breath. Not because it’s annoying, but because you’re not supposed to be gasping for breath at all. Maybe in the last mile. But throughout the race, no.
I felt good for the second 5K:
MILE 4: 8:28
MILE 5: 8:55 (the hill)
MILE 6: 8:28
Oh, I should mention: the Trekz Titanium headphones I got yesterday worked out GREAT. I really like them. Not once did I feel like they were going to pop out or slip off. The sounds was better and louder than I thought it would be. I’m really happy with them!
At mile 6, the course repeats itself. This was not as tedious as I thought it would be, simply because of the other runners and the crowds and my music and knowing that I was about halfway done.
I wound up eating both of the remaining two Clif Bloks in mile 6. My only food regret is that I didn’t bring more. It might have been nice to have just two more Bloks in mile 9 or 10.
The second time up The Hill was harder. More runners walked it this time. I made it up okay, but I could feel it in my legs. And I don’t remember what song was playing.
Once we were over it the second time, we had less than a full loop to go. Knowing that made the last few miles easier.
MILE 7: 8:40
MILE 8: 8:20
MILE 9: 8:35
At this point, I was hoping for an average pace around 8:30. My Garmin pace for last month’s 15K was 8:35. It was snowing during that entire race and I ran it really conservatively, so I thought it might be possible to beat it.
I stayed pretty steady for the last 5K, but was happy we were getting towards the end. The longest I’ve ever run is 13 miles, and I only did that last week. So my legs were ready to rest. They were on the verge of being sore without actually being sore.
I cranked it for the last mile. Once I saw we passed the number 12, I went for it. I was passing people left and right, weaving my way in and out of clumps of runners. Which I don’t mean to sound like a brag, because if anything it’s a sign that I was probably holding back throughout the race. I had a lot more juice in me, apparently. Now I know.
Again, this distance is new territory for me, so I’m not exactly sure what I’m capable of. Maybe I’m capable of more. Maybe I’ll find out next time.
MILE 10: 8:48
MILE 11: 8:23
MILE 12: 8:42
MILE 13: 7:44
MILE 0.1: 7:33
By the way, I had the biggest shit-eating grin on my face for that last mile. I was going hard, and loving every second of it. I wish my mom could have seen me. I would have loved to tell her about this race. Maybe she could see me. After all, what the hell do I know about the afterlife? I’m an idiot. I don’t know anything. Maybe she wasn’t. Maybe she was. I wished she was.
I “woo-hooed” right before the finish line because I am very cool. I got my finisher’s medal. I took out my phone and started snapping pictures. I could barely feel my fingers and couldn’t see very well and I guess I snapped a couple with total strangers. I didn’t know what I was doing.
Then, super important: I got my snacks!
I asked a stranger to take my picture and she very kindly obliged.
Then I saw my friend Doug again! We ran almost the same pace. We are also the same age. And height. Maybe we are… twins? Is that possible? I need to find out what hospital Doug was born in.
That bagel in my hand is so ready to go in my mouth.
There we go.
After chatting with Doug for a little bit, I went back to the garage, got my car, and headed home. Traffic was good, I was a little sore but very happy, and looking forward to eating lunch.
Thank you to all the NYRR employees, organizers, and race volunteers for an amazing day! NYRR really has their shit together. I’m always impressed by their races.
Wow, this was a ridiculously long post. I should probably hire an editor. I obviously don’t know how to do it myself. If you stuck around until the end, thank you!