43 days to go.
When I look at this countdown, it feels like forever ago that we started training for this race. It’s scary! I can’t believe we’re up to 18 mile long runs already – and what’s scarier is the two weeks I had to take off before this 18M race due to a (cause unknown) hip strain. But here we were, ready to go this past Saturday morning in Central Park, alongside 6000 other future (and former) marathoners.
I have always loved NYRR races – despite the long bathroom lines and the crowded Mile 1’s, their races are always full of so much energy. The Central Park starting lines and the traditional pre-race speech by Peter Ciaccia always gets me nervous and excited. This particular day was no different.
I was particularly nervous since this was a looping route – 3 loops around Central Park, which meant 3 times up Harlem Hills, 3 times up Cat Hill, and 3 times through the rolling hills of the lower park. BUT, my goal was to go in with an open mind and take the race as it went, running each mile as it passed. (See my previous training post for more on this new, positive racing outlook.)
Central Park isn’t unfamiliar terrain to me — I’ve done the MORE Fitness Women’s Half Marathon twice, among countless other NYRR races that loop through the park. Since this tune-up wasn’t exactly a race, I thought this might be a nice way to people watch in the park while moving around. Since I wouldn’t hit the same spot twice without about an hour break in between, my hope was that each loop would be different, with a different scene playing out while we ran.
We got to the start near 102nd street around 6:40 am, 20 minutes before the start, to get our bibs. The race counted towards our 9+1 goal to qualify for next year’s marathon, so we knew we couldn’t quit early with our bibs on! Then we found our pace group – somewhere around a 4:30 marathon time, slightly slower than we aim to run the actual race. We barely made it to our corral – we had about 30 seconds to spare – having underestimated the registration lines for the morning!
Then, we were off….
We were cruising at a solid pace, ahead of the day’s pace group and heading into our actual target pace of a 4:20 26.2. The both of us were keeping the same pace and feeling strong throughout this first loop.
This set of miles is always my toughest, mentally. I battled through and was able to make it without taking a walk break until close to the end of this loop, but the pace definitely started dragging, and my legs were starting to really hurt. I started to feel a particular pain in my right quad that was absolutely unbearable and ended up having to walk up our second Cat Hill scale.
It was during this loop we also both started to regret not having eaten a solid breakfast that morning. We were running on empty, literally, since we had both finished our granola bars and were out of fuel.
CRASH. CITY. Between my leg problems and our combined weakness, we spent much of this loop walk-running. For the first time in training, I was actually keeping the more vocal, positive attitude, and pushing towards the next goals, which surprised me a lot. I continually surprised myself during the last 3 miles when I began to feel down and was reflexively up-talking myself instead of putting myself down.
As always, Mike and I crossed the finish line holding hands — a tradition we’ve begun for races we run together, since we are committed to running these races as a TEAM.
At the end of the day — we learned some solid lessons. Even though we weren’t able to keep our pace the whole time, we finished this run with an overall faster pace than our previous long run (17 miles) 3 weeks before, and felt we put in some decent work, especially after 2 weeks off.
Things to work on in the next 6 weeks:
– Lots more leg strength exercises
– Lots more core strength exercises
– Lots more fueling up before our runs!
Has anyone else experienced tune up runs like this, with so many lessons afterwards? What have you done to stay positive about hitting your pace?