Spring racing season is officially underway and my first big race of the season was this past Sunday as I took to the streets with 21,965 runners for the 2018 NYC Half. I have ran this race the previous 3 years but this year they launched a BRAND NEW COURSE. When the NYRR announced this new course, it wasn’t well received (but that’s because people hate change). I briefly looked at the course outline – maybe too brief because I had the finish line in the wrong place until the race expo *facepalm* – but overall I was excited for a fresh course. The main adjustment I made to my training was to make sure I ended long runs in Central Park on the identical hills that we would face on race day to ensure there were no surprises (AND IM SO GLAD I DID).
Here are my thoughts on the 2018 NYC Half! It’s a little more lengthy than usual since it was a new course in order to share all of the details!
Getting to the Start:
One of the biggest changes was that the race was now starting in Brooklyn and ending in Central Park – making the course a 2 borough race! This obviously adds a little time and preparation to getting to the race. I had originally planned to take the Q train but on Friday night a client offered for me to ride with him and his daughter in their private car. I got up at 5:05, I left my apartment at 5:20 (I waste no time in the mornings – sleep is everything), I took a cab to my clients building, and we departed there around 5:50am. I’m pretty sure we may have taken a scenic route to the start but it was smooth sailing until we got to Prospect Park. The traffic got a little hairy but we hopped out and passed through security in a pretty efficient manner. I do not check a bag so once I was through security I quickly found my G corral and hopped in around 7am. I was extremely happy to find the restrooms were lined up inside of the corrals. While it made navigating the corral itself a little tricky – it allowed all of the runners to actually get in their corrals while waiting for the porta. It was single file lines per porta potty so I waited in line for probably 15 minutes (but since I was in my corral I didn’t particularly care).
I will admit it was COLD and WINDY in the corrals. I think the official race start temperature was 28*. I made sure to have an extra zip up sweatshirt, sweatpants, a mylar sheet, and a hefty bag. My corral was set to go at 7:30 so I took my sweatpants off at 7:29 and I immediately regretted that decision. They did a staggered start so I probably didn’t actually start for what felt like an hour but it was more like 5 minutes. I kept my sweatshirt on for the first mile to allow my body to warm up a little.
I LOVED the course – like LOVED IT! Yes – the old course was definitely a faster/easier course but it was not exciting to run down the West Side Highway to end downtown where all the businesses are closed because the course is ran on a Sunday (it’s a very M-F area of town). The race kicked off with a downhill start on a rocky Flatbush Avenue which carried us to the Manhattan Bridge. While I was at the RunCenter during the week – one of the coaches mentioned that you should feel like a caged animal during those early miles so I kept repeating that to myself to make sure I did NOT to go out too fast. It also helped that Flatbush Avenue was pretty beat up so you had to keep your eyes on the ground to make sure not to wipe out (which I did witness one person do).
Once we got to the bridge I couldn’t wipe a smile off my face because the views were spectacular. I had never ran across this bridge so it was quite a pleasant surprise to see how stunning it was. There was also a NYPD officer that was putting out some contagious energy!! Once over the bridge I knew I wanted to settle into my pace during our trek to the FDR. I’ll be honest I was dreading the FDR miles but once again I was pleasantly surprise. Once we made that left to head North – the views were again fantastic. We were running in the Northbound lanes so we were right beside the water and able to take in the views. At this point my watch went completely crazy and it was beeping at random times. While in the moment I rolled my eyes – it was a great lesson to learn. I could no longer use my watch during the miles (it would say I was running a 3:19 mile pace) so I had to truly listen to my effort instead. I stayed relaxed and we finally hit the left to run up 42nd street.
This was one of those moments that completely caught me off guard. The wind hit us in the face hard and it was a small climb for as far as you could see. I don’t quite remember when the hill finally peaked but when it did I knew the next turn we would be making would be up 7th Avenue so I used that to energize me. I was nervous about running North through Times Square instead of South as the previous course did. But to be 100% honest – I found it to be equally as magical. The crowd support did not disappoint and those city lights make you feel invincible. I once again could not stop smiling and then I looked ahead and realized that we were about to hit a climb again that would lead us up and into Central Park.
This is where I mentally got my mind right. Since moving into the city I have done repeated Central Park loops to prepare myself for moments like this. I knew once I hit the part I would be at mile 9, I would have a portion of the lower loop (rolling hills), see Al just before mile 10 at the Boathouse, and then would dig in for Cat Hill and the last 3 miles. At this point I knew that my race was going even better than I expected and that if I hung in there I could run a solid race. I ran the east side of the lower loop until I hit the 72nd transverse which led me to a quick downhill by the Boathouse which is where I located Al perfectly positioned in his designated cheer zone.
Next up – Cat Hill. It’s just about a 400m climb where I’ve done hill repeats during my training cycle. I knew that after the hill it was a pretty flat course to the 102nd St transverse where we made the left to cut over to the west side. While making the left I got a little boxed in and I had to slow my pace. Instead of freaking out – I took three deep breaths and reminded myself that I could do this. I knew once we ran across the transverse and we made the left on to the west side of the park it was only the 3 Sisters that stood between me and a quick downhill finish. I tried to keep an effort level of around 7/8 on the uphill and an effort of 9 on the downhill. Once I hit the peak of the 3rd sister I looked down and I realized that I could run a sub 1:50. I put on the jets and ran as fast as I fucking could – literally. About 100m left in the race I realized that my effort level was an 11 out of 10 and I knew this was everything that I had. I crossed the finish line with my second fastest time of 1:49:48!
The moment I finished I knew I was going to get sick so I darted to the side line and managed to throw up on the pant leg of a NYPD officer just in front of the Marathon Foto photographer. A medical volunteer was immediately there but I felt totally fine and assured him that it was purely max effort. I then found Michael Capiraso – the president of the NYRR and a friend – gave him a hug – and collected my medal. I collected my refreshment bag and I headed over to see my colleagues at the HSS Recovery Zone. Once I foam rolled and stretched and I walked what felt like 20 miles to Columbus Circle to exit and meet up with friends 🙂
I couldn’t be more proud of my race execution. My long run pace had been slower than ever before – but I also learned that it’s because I truly started to understand effort levels. My easy workouts were easy which allowed me to run my hard workouts hard (hello sub 7 intervals). I did manage to run a negative split race and these are my splits broken down into 5Ks , 26:51, 26:10, 26:11, 25:33, 5:03 for the last .7 mile.
Did you run the race? What did you think of the new course? Share below because I’m interested to hear!