The night before I pored over the numbers, trying to figure out what the right strategy was, given how hard I had to push to meet my planned speedwork goals. I fell short on nearly every workout; I couldn’t hit the 1000 meter times, I had some kind of trouble on my tempos every time, I struggled getting in enough mile repeats, had injury scares… I put in the mileage, but this was not a particularly well-executed training cycle.
I opted to write two sets of splits down my arm; one to pace for a 1:49 and one to pace for a 1:45. I didn’t think for a moment I’d ever look at the 1:45 set.
Later, when the finish passed below my feet my body just shut down. I couldn’t breath. Couldn’t walk. Couldn’t see. Couldn’t breathe–I wheezed, my lungs sucking for air and struggling to catch my breath. I could taste salty tears as they slid down my cheeks, and I could hear my sobs as if they were coming from someone else. It was over, and I had no idea how I did.
Back to the night before.
I climbed into bed and tried to sleep, but I tossed and turned. I dozed and had terrible dreams. I slept maybe a total of 2 and a half hours, then woke up around 3:30 am and lay there, my mind racing through all the other stuff, the not-running stuff, and trying to convince me that I suck. I’m no good. Everything I touch goes bad. I kept telling myself it was just the race. I had nothing to fear, and things would be okay if I could just get to sleep. But sleep never came. At 5:30 I decided to get up, half an hour before my alarm.
My corral was only four blocks from my front door, a luxury beyond belief, and in spite of having so little sleep the morning went great, and I found myself hitting the one mile mark nearly a full minute earlier than expected. I was certainly nervous about going out too fast, but I always budget a full minute extra for mile 1, so I went with it and maintained through mile 2. Then at the 5k point I hit the lap button on my watch. I looked down and found my watch crystal covered in condensation so badly I could only see my time since the 5k mark. And trying to figure out how that fit into my calculated splits was just not within the scope of my brain’s capability.
From mile 4 I mentally noted the official clock and calculated out my splits mile by mile, but from what I could tell I was just running too slow, even for my B goal. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Finally at mile 9 I caught up to my friend Juan, whose slow goal was 1:45. I asked him where we were and he wasn’t entirely sure either. “1:45?” I panted. “It’s possible,” he said checking his watch. He didn’t sound very confident though.
“Let’s go get it!” I shouted, skipping the water station, a renewed vigor in my step. If that shit was possible, I was going to have it.
I threw splits out the window. Once we hit the ten mile marker, it was just a 5k left, and I felt confident I could run by feel and budget my remaining energy for a 5k. So I crushed it. I pushed hard and gave it everything I had, then on the last mile I gave it that plus a little more. With 800 meters left Juan said he’d had it, that his ankle was done, but I said no, it was too late in the race to walk. We pushed each other hard to the finish, and I came in just behind him, wheezing and heaving.
Later, when my teammates figured out we could track ourselves on NYRR’s website, I started jumping up and down and shouting “I did it!” when we saw my official chip time was 1:45:31.
The final splits:
1 – 8:40
2 – 8:15
3 – 7:57
4 – 8:02
5 – 8:15 (big hill)
6 – 8:01
7 – 7:46
8 – 7:50
9 – 7:55
10 – 7:46
11 – 7:49
12 – 7:48
13 – 7:43
Why you should run this race:
With over 21,000 finishers this year, the Brooklyn Half is now New York Road Runners’ second largest race, after the NYC Marathon, and was newly sponsored this year by New Balance, creating a totally new “big race” atmosphere.
The expo near Brooklyn Bridge Park was a can’t miss, quite honestly; there was a great lineup of live music and tons of great local food. And since my team, the Hudson Dusters, is made up of hashers, we were very pleased to find varieties from the Brooklyn Brewery and Brooklyn-brewed Sixpoint on tap (I only wish they had it at the finish too).
The course is fast and mostly downhill, with the exceptions of a gradual half-mile climb at mile 2 and a steep, one-mile climb throughout mile 5. Fans are mostly peppered throughout the earlier part of the race in Prospect Park, and even though there weren’t many people along the long, straight dead zone on Ocean Parkway, you can expect some excitement from the sidewalks. The finish in Coney Island is the real gem of this race. Great race photos happen in front of the famous Cyclone roller coaster and Coney Island’s carnival-colored buildings. A common complaint about the finish is the bottleneck that happens near the 400m mark as runners segue from the road to the boardwalk; it slowed me up a little, it’s true, but I thought it was a small price to pay for a finish where you can see the ocean and taste the salt in the air! There was something about racing all the way to the water that really makes you feel you’ve done something amazing!